On the Picket Line

Teamster truck drivers protest ABF, TForce and Yellow bosses

By Ilona Gersh
May 29, 2023

SAUK VILLAGE, Ill. — Some 100 Teamsters rallied here May 11 in the parking lot of a huge ABF Freight terminal, 35 miles south of Chicago. The union is in negotiations with two trucking companies, ABF and TForce Freight, and talks will start soon at Yellow trucking. The three companies employ about 40,000 Teamster drivers.

The union’s last strike against the trucking bosses was in 1994, when 75,000 Teamsters went out for three weeks, the longest national trucking strike in its history.

John Murphy, Teamsters freight division director and chief negotiator, told the rally the union’s goal is to “get everyone into the $30-an-hour range.” He got applause when he added, “If we don’t have a contract ratified by the members on June 30, we will be on strike.”

The national contract at ABF expires that day. TForce Freight’s contract expires a month later.

Yellow Corporation bosses just filed a change-of-operations notice to reorganize work rules and seniority. Their contract doesn’t expire until next March. They want to merge their seniority lists and restructure jobs to make truck drivers work on the dock as well as drive. Yellow, which posted a fourth-quarter loss of $15.5 million, says that these changes are necessary for them to compete with nonunion outfits.

Murphy noted on a member call that the union gave Yellow “literally billions of dollars in wage and pension concessions” in the last contract. Drivers there are paid $5 an hour less than at ABF.

When COVID-19 hit, the company stopped paying health care or pension contributions for four months, until it got a $700 million bailout loan from the federal government, he said.

“Bottom line, members: We have given, and given, and given, and this company has not demonstrated that it can do a good job managing itself,” Murphy said. “The concessions stand is closed.”

“I’m tired of concessions,” Darnell Jackson, who picks up loads at ABF, told the Militant. “We’ve taken pay cut after pay cut. Because of that, I make only $3 an hour more than 17 years ago when I started.”

“Wages have to keep up with inflation,” said Robert Hunt, another ABF driver. “I voted for a strike. We have to stand together. Some working people don’t realize that red and blue don’t matter, both the Republicans and Democrats are screwing us.”