Bradley Jacobs was puzzled.
Jacobs, a private equity firm owner and CEO of XPO Logistics, couldn’t figure out why XPO warehouse workers in North Haven, Connecticut wanted to join a union. After all, hadn’t Forbes magazine put XPO on its best places to work list?
So he had his chauffeur drive him to his North Haven warehouse to find out first hand.
The workers told him that they were having a hard time making ends meet on the $12 an hour that Jacobs pays them and that when they or their families got sick, they didn’t have a health care plan to help them pay for expensive medical care.
They wanted to know why they couldn’t have decent pay and benefits.
Bradley, however didn’t have any answers for them and grew frustrated as he heard more questions.
Finally, he blurted out, “If you don’t like it, there’s the door.”
Bradley’s outburst made it clear that he wasn’t interested in the workers’ concerns, so the next day with the help of Teamsters Local 443 in nearby New Haven, they filed a union representation petition with the National Labor Relations Board.
“XPO workers are fed up with the mistreatment and lack of respect from management,” said Daniel Flanagan, secretary treasurer of Local 443. “For far too long, the workers have not been treated fairly.”
And it’s not just the XPO workers in New Haven that are fed up. Workers all along XPO’s supply change are standing up for better treatment on the job.
The day before the North Haven workers filed their petition, XPO truck drivers in Aurora, Illinois filed a union representation petition, other XPO freight workers have already voted for a union, and XPO short-haul drivers in California are fighting to change their misclassification as independent contractors, so that they can have a union.
XPO Logistics, a Fortune 500 company, is one of the largest transportation and logistics companies in the world.
It operates businesses in just about every link of the world’s supply chain. It’s
- the second largest company in the less than full trucking sector (truckloads of between 100 and 10,000 pounds that service several different shippers),
- the second largest warehouse outsourcing company,
- the second largest freight broker, and
- among the top 20 companies in the full load trucking sector.
It also employs short-haul drivers who transport goods from ports to nearby warehouses and drivers who transport containerized freight across the US and Europe.
The one thing that XPO’s businesses have in common is that they try to pay their frontline workers as little as possible and treat them as cost inputs rather than as human beings.
For example, XPO recently purchased another freight company Con-way for $3 billion. After the purchase, XPO shut down seven Con-way terminals and indicated that more closures were on the way, but has kept the former Con-way workers in the dark about their futures.
Prior to the XPO acquisition, Con-way workers in Miami, Laredo, Texas, and Vernon, California voted to join the Teamsters.
XPO’s planned terminal closures has sparked more interest in joining a union among Con-way workers, and the Teamsters have been conducting an outreach campaign to show former Con-way workers how having a union gives them a say in decisions that affect their jobs and livelihoods.
“We joined the Teamsters here in Laredo because we want a strong voice on the job,” said Javier Moreno, a Con-way/XPO worker and new Teamster member. “With all the changes that are under way, we need real strength to protect ourselves and our families.”
Teamsters are also helping XPO short-haul drivers in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
The drivers say that XPO misclassified them as independent contractors. As a result, they don’t receive any of the few protections provided by the US’ labor laws. There’s no minimum wage, no overtime pay, and the workers can’t join a union to bargain collectively. They also have to pay XPO to lease the trucks they drive and pay for their upkeep.
In November, the misclassified drivers conducted a five-day strike.
In January, they filed suit seeking $200 million in damages resulting from their misclassification.
In April an NLRB regional office in Southern California issued a complaint against XPO for misclassifying the short-haul drivers.
The misclassified short-haul drivers,the former Con-way workers facing an uncertain future, and the XPO workers in North Haven and Aurora are the human beings who make XPO’s supply chain work.
They are hoping that through their collective efforts they can force XPO to treat them with the respect and dignity that all those who work deserve.
“We look forward to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with these workers to help them improve their lives and to get the respect and dignity they deserve,” said Tom Flynn, president of Local 179 in Joliet, Illinois, who helped the Aurora drivers organize.