Women fight sexual harassment at XPO

Women workers from an XPO Logistics warehouse in Memphis traveled to Seattle to demand that their employer be held accountable for sexual harassment that they are experiencing on the job.

The women were joined in Seattle by women’s rights activists and members of the Teamsters union who demonstrated with them at Verizon’s annual shareholders meeting.

Verizon contracts with XPO to operate the Memphis warehouse where a number of Verizon’s products are stored and shipped to customers all over the US.

In April three women at the warehouse filed charges with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charging that XPO supervisors had groped them and made inappropriate and unwanted sexual comments and advances toward them.

A few weeks later, five more women filed similar charges.

“My coworkers and I were sexually harassed all the time with nowhere to turn,” said Lakeisha Nelson, one of the women who filed charges against XPO. “Our warehouse is an essential part of Verizon’s supply chain, and I hope now that we have the ear of Verizon’s CEO and board, that the company will help us end supervisor sexual harassment and misconduct at XPO once and for all.”

Later in the day, Nelson and Tasha Murrell, another XPO employee, met with Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam and two Verizon board members to discuss the charges.

After the meeting, a Verizon spokesperson told USA Today that as soon as Verizon learned of the charges, the company began its own investigation into the matter.

At the Seattle demonstration, Nelson and Murrell were joined by supporters of the TimesUp and MeToo campaigns against sexual harassment.

Prior to the demonstration, prominent activists in the two campaigns wrote a letter to McAdam informing him and the Verizon board about the charges.

The letter was signed by Gloria Sweet-Love, president of the NAACP Tennessee State Conference, Cherisse A. Scott, CEO and founder of SisterReach, Elizabeth Gedmark, senior staff attorney/director of the Southern Office of A Better Balance: The Work and Family Legal Center, Sarah David Heydemann, legal fellow, Workplace Justice National Women’s Law Center, and Gabrielle Carteris, president SAG-AFTRA

James P. Hoffa, general president of the Teamsters, also signed the letter.

According to the letter, most of the workers at the Memphis XPO warehouse are African-American women, and most of the supervisors are white men.

The letter goes on to describe some of the harassment that XPO women workers endure.

“Numerous women told stories of how they and their coworkers regularly faced
disturbing behavior from their supervisors, including aggressive groping and grabbing,
uncomfortable sexual comments, and retaliation for reporting harassment to HR or not
entertaining the sexual advances,” states the letter.

The signees called on Verizon to “hold XPO accountable for the shocking and inexcusable
treatment of its workers.”

In addition to sexual harassment, workers at the XPO Memphis warehouse have other grievances including dangerous working conditions, low pay, having to work shifts that can last as long as 15 hours, and lack of control over their fluctuating hours, shifts, and work week.

They are also angry about the company’s lack of respect toward them.

“XPO management forces workers to remove their bras at the security checkpoint, we see snakes, rats, lizards and bugs,” said Elizabeth Howley, an XPO worker in April. “We don’t have any nurses or defibrillators, and no one is allowed to do CPR, even if certified. A co-worker died and we had to work around her body. We don’t deserve to be treated like this. No one does.”

Howley was referring to Linda Jo Neal, a 58-year old XPO Memphis worker who in October collapsed on the job and died of a heart attack.

According to XPO workers who were on the scene when Neal collapsed, those who tried to help her were warned by supervisors not to do so under threat of disciplinary action.

These conditions have led XPO workers to begin trying to organize a union.

They have received help from the Teamsters who have an ongoing organizing campaign at XPO, one of the biggest and fastest growing logistics companies in the world.

The Teamsters have won union election campaigns at XPO warehouses in Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

But XPO has relied on questionable and possibly illegal tactics to keep from bargaining with the union.

In January, an administrative law judge with the National Labor Relations Board ruled that XPO violated the law when it withheld raises from workers who voted to join the union and required the company to pay the workers millions of dollars owed to them in back pay.

One thing that the Memphis workers have in common with other XPO workers is that the company treats its frontline workers as so many interchangeable parts, as if they were just gears in a machine.

“I am human,” said Nelson at a union rally in April. “(XPO must) treat me as such. Give me that respect.”

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Teamsters confront XPO CEO for ignoring workers

As Bradley Jacobs CEO of XPO Logistics delivered his keynote speech to a conference on global logistics being held in Long Beach, California, he could faintly hear his name being called.

The faint voice grew louder, and as it turns out, it wasn’t a single voice; instead, it was the united voice of 100 Teamsters and their supporters, who had marched into the hotel lobby where the conference was being held chanting, “Bradley Jacobs you can’t hide, we can see your greedy side.”

Some of the members of the group chanting in the hotel lobby were XPO workers who voted to join the Teamsters in union representation elections. Even though XPO workers voted to unionize in a number of election overseen by the US National Labor Relations Board, Jacobs and XPO’s executive management refuse to meet and bargain with the new Teamster members.

The new union workers at XPO say that they unionized because of low pay and the lack of benefits.

“XPO’s Board of Directors just authorized a $110 million stock bonus plan for Bradley Jacobs. Meanwhile, my coworkers and I package and distribute parts for military helicopters to governments all over the world, yet at $12 an hour we can’t support our families without government assistance,” said Monica Abraham, an XPO warehouse worker in New Haven, Connecticut.

Instead of listening to the workers’ grievances, Jacobs ignored them and tried to block their attempts to unionize.

“When we raised concerns with management we were ignored, so we decided to organize,” said Ryan Janota, a freight driver at XPO in Aurora, Illinois. “Instead of respecting our rights, XPO spent a fortune on high-priced union-busting consultants to try and silence us. It didn’t work and we elected to join the Teamsters so Bradley Jacobs will have to listen!”

New XPO Teamster members were joined in the hotel lobby by shorthaul truck drivers at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. They work for XPO, but, according to the workers, the company misclassifies them as independent contractors.

“Because XPO treats us like employees but pays us as ‘independent contractors’ and deducts their truck expenses from our paychecks, there are many weeks when we don’t even earn the minimum wage,” said Luis Meza, an XPO shorthaul driver. “This is abuse and that’s why my co-workers and I have filed lawsuits against XPO.”

The drivers’ suit alleges that XPO has committed  wage theft by misclassifying them as independent contractors.

XPO workers and other Teamsters were joined in the hotel lobby by members of Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice, a faith-based social justice organization and the Los Alliance for a New Economy.

William Carr, a Catholic priest from Los Angeles spoke to Jacobs from the hotel lobby over a bullhorn.

“The Church teaches that worker rights are God-given rights,” said Carr. “These workers are here today demanding to speak to you Bradley Jacobs. You have repeatedly refused to meet with them. You must stop interfering with and begin respecting  the XPO workers’ federally protected right to organize a union. This is a God-given right.”

“What you’re doing is immoral,” said another clergy member who didn’t give his name. “Listen to your workers.”

XPO workers resist anti-union campaign; vote to join Teamsters

XPO Logistics workers in Illinois and Connecticut resisted an intense anti-union campaign and voted in two separate elections to join the Teamsters.

“This is all about us workers standing up to this corporate bully and demanding fair wages, affordable health insurance and an end to the mistreatment,” said Ted Furman an XPO employee at the company’s North Haven, Connecticut warehouse. “XPO’s CEO, Bradley Jacobs, had the audacity to come to our warehouse and tell us we don’t need a union, and then he returned just a couple of days before the election. Well, Mr. Jacobs, we are now proud Teamster members!”

The North Haven warehouse workers on October 13 voted 72-49 to join the Teamsters and became XPO’s first warehouse workers in the US to unionize.

On the same day, XPO drivers in Aurora, Illinois also voted to join Teamsters Local 179.

“Our victory is important to all of us because we have seen how XPO operates since taking over Con-way Freight,” said Cliff Phillips, a driver in Aurora. “XPO is treating us unfairly, denying us any voice on the job and just seems interested in the bottom line. But now we will fight back as Teamsters!”

XPO Logistics is one of the world’s largest transportation and logistics companies. It operates businesses in every link of the supply chain all over the world.

It has been on a buying binge as it tries to capture more of the transportation and logistics market. In 2015, it purchased Con-way Freight, where the Teamsters were conducting an organizing drive.

After the purchase, XPO continued and expanded the anti-union efforts initiated by Con-way.

In Aurora, XPO spent money on a union avoidance company to keep its Aurora site union free.

On the days before the Aurora union vote was taken, consultants from the union avoidance company hopped into the cabs of freight trucks and gave drivers lecutures on the right to work for less by remaining union free.

XPO has used other tactics to prevent workers from joining a union.

In Laredo, Texas, workers at what then was Con-way voted in 2014 to join the Teamsters.

Instead of bargaining with the union, the company went to court to overturn the election.

When XPO bought Con-way, XPO could have withdrawn the challenge and recognized the workers’ union, but the company chose not to.

Unfortunately for XPO, a federal judge in September denied XPO’s request to set aside the Laredo election results.

“The company has tried to do everything to delay and frustrate the workers, but for over two years they have remained strong and united in their fight for a more secure future and a voice on the job,” said Frank Perkins, president of Local 657.

Tyson Johnson, director of the Teamsters Freight Division, urged XPO to halt further efforts to nullify the union vote.

“We demand that the company gets serious about negotiating a contract in Laredo. These workers have waited far too long,” said Johnson.

Shortly after the union victories in Connecticut and Illinois, the Teamsters took advantage of the momentum generated by the pro-union vote and conducted a mass leafletting of XPO work sites.

“The national campaign continues to gain momentum (as). . .workers have realized that the new XPO, which is highly unionized in Europe, needs to be a union employer here in the US, too,” said a posting on the Teamsters XPO Facebook page.

The next union election will take place at an XPO site in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania where 52 drivers will vote on whether to join the Teamsters.

Ryan Janato, an XPO driver in Aurora had a message for the King of Prussia drivers and other XPO workers who want a union voice on the job.

“They said it couldn’t be done. We did it; you can’t be scared of these guys. The union busters come in; they did what they tried to do. It didn’t work. We made a better future for our families and co-workers, and you can do it too. Just believe in your local,” said Janato.