By Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa
Published in the Huffington Post, March 30, 2017
A few years ago, no one had ever heard of XPO Logistics. But today, after borrowing billions of dollars to buy up and attempt to integrate freight and drayage companies, warehouses and other pieces of the global supply chain, XPO is acclaimed as one of the largest transportation companies in the world. And its CEO, Bradley Jacobs, is lauded by some as an industry titan.
But there is a monumental speed bump on Jacobs’ limousine ride to the top of the logistics industry: the haunting specter that Jacobs’ workers across globe are beginning to organize and fight back—together! In the U.S., workers at XPO are eager to build a union with the Teamsters. The company’s response is to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in an ongoing effort to deny these workers their federally protected right to organize.
In 2015, XPO bought Con-way Freight for $3 billion. XPO’s revenue has grown to more than $15 billion, but rather than investing in the workforce to provide stability, the 19,000 employees of Con-way Freight face inadequate health insurance that costs them more and more each year, no retirement security, and no voice on the job.
Warehouse workers at XPO in the U.S. are poorly paid: workers in North Haven, Conn. package and distribute parts for military helicopters to governments all over the world, yet are paid about $12 an hour. They cannot support their families without government assistance. To fight back, North Haven workers recently voted to become Teamsters.
XPO’s port drayage drivers are misclassified as independent contractors forced to pay for their own truck, insurance, parking, maintenance and fuel. Some drivers end up with checks for zero dollars at the end of the week. This has led to government investigations and multiple wage theft lawsuits that have the potential to cost the company tens of millions in stolen wages. XPO managers retaliated against port drivers, along with other unfair labor practices, resulting in drivers making the courageous decision to go on strike five times at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in California.
Meanwhile, XPO’s board of directors recently rubber-stamped a plan that could enrich Jacobs with more than $100 million worth of stock per year—an industry leading giveaway even as Jacobs’ salary was raised 481 percent over the last couple of years. This, and the way XPO treats its workforce, neatly illustrates the reason for growing income inequality in the U.S.
Jacobs, facing increasing discontent from his workers, has repeatedly attacked the Teamsters, most recently at an industry conference where he said that the union was “out of control.” Jacobs has tried to drive a wedge between the Teamsters and European unions with whom he claims XPO has “cordial, respectful, courteous” relations.
That assertion flies in the face of XPO’s recent labor strife in Europe. In France, an estimated 40 percent of the XPO supply chain workforce affiliated with the union CFDT went on strike in April 2016 at 20 of the company’s 75 locations in the country. Workers struck after XPO broke its promise to not lay off workers for at least 18 months after it purchased Norbert Dentressangle.
In Spain, a XPO worker went on a 10-day hunger strike to denounce his misclassified status as an independent contractor, which denies him the right to join a union. And there is a long-standing, ongoing controversy over the working conditions of thousands of warehouse workers XPO manages for its client ASOS at a large facility in the United Kingdom.
Jacobs’ business record is to flip companies like real estate speculators flip houses. He buys companies, builds revenue through acquisition, slashes the workforce, cuts benefits, and sells the final entity for a huge profit. There is no thought of the interests and futures of workers and their families.
The truth is, the Teamsters are out of Jacobs’ control. Workers are standing up against this greedy, global giant around the world. When Jacobs attacks the Teamsters, it is an attack on all workers who are united in this fight. Our overseas allies, the International Transport Workers Federation, stands with the Teamsters in this battle against global greed. Fifteen unions representing XPO workers in nine countries have declared their willingness to take on XPO. We are one union family and will not be torn apart.