William Wonder, an Overnite driver from Indiana, was shot and seriously wounded outside of Memphis, TN, shortly after 5 a.m.Tuesday. Overnite called for the union to stop its picketing of the company, which has been going on since Oct. 24, saying the violence was "out of control." (See story.)
"We extend our heartfelt concern to the injured driver and to his family and pray for his speedy recovery," said James P. Hoffa, president of the Teamsters Union. However, he said, there is no evidence that the shooting was connected to the union's strike action.
Teamsters spokesman Tom Harmening told RoadStar, "We have no reason to believe [the shooting] is connected with the picketing. We have not had any drivers shot at during a time of not picketing down there. We've had a lot of ambulatory pickets, following the trucks out of the Memphis terminal; it's been a trouble spot for us, and with this, the violence escalates beyond what we think should ever, ever be allowed."
The Teamsters union says Overnite is the one to blame for the violence. "While this is has been the most peaceful freight strike in history, Overnite Transportation has exhibited a propensity for inciting violence," says a Teamsters press release. "Overnite employees carrying guns, knives pulled on union supporters, Overnite security running ambulatory pickets off the road, Overnite drivers speeding out of gates at dangerous rates of speed, and Overnite workers attacking strikers and inciting fist-fights. Just last week, the Teamsters' Local in Memphis was shot up with 26 bullets from a small caliber weapon."
The Teamsters' unfair labor practices strike against Overnite, now in its sixth week, has caused freight volumes to drop an average of 6%, according to the company. Some Teamsters locals claim that figure is much higher.