Union, Allies Continue Fight on Behalf of Workers
XPO Logistics is an American company headquartered in Greenwich, Conn. The company’s CEO is Bradley Jacobs, who is notorious for buying companies, consolidating them by cutting worker wages and benefits, and then sells the company off to gain a hefty profit. His game plan is simple; Jacobs flips companies for personal gain at the expense of middle class and low wage workers, whose lives are ruined at the end of the day. And XPO is Jacobs’ latest but also his largest project.
Within the last couple of years, XPO became one of the largest transportation and logistics service companies in the world. Here’s how large this company is: XPO expands across 32 countries that include the United States, Europe, and Asia, employs over 95,000 workers in almost 1,500 locations around the globe and serves in every division. Here’s the breakdown:
Less-than-Truckload (LTL) – handles small packages and freight that can be broken down into units
Last Mile – home delivery service and it’s built into the company’ supply chain
Supply Chain – provides all-around product support to customers
Global Forwarding – the ability to ship products anywhere with no restrictions on size, weight or mode
Intermodal – or drayage presence in every key port and gives the capability to move freight door-to-door
Freight Brokerage (FTL) – similar to LTL but carries larger and heavier packages that cannot break down into units
Warehouse – stores, packages, distributes and tracks products for customers in its supply chain
So, what does all this mean? Well, because they’re virtually in every sector and operate around the globe, XPO is the only company that can manage, package and distribute products from start to finish. No other company has that type of capacity. Yet, despite all of that visibility, Jacobs and the company itself are virtually unknown. Bradley Jacobs and XPO might be unknown, but their customer list is quite the opposite.
For starters, not only is the list over 50,000 strong, it includes some big names like Verizon, DHL, Nike, Disney and Amazon—big-time customers with big-time reputations to uphold and millions of people to keep happy.
You see, Jacobs and XPO are far from upstanding. Jacobs will cut every corner he can with no regard for anyone else’s livelihood if it means more dollars in his pocket—from hiring union busters to intimidating workers, cutting health insurance while raising the cost for coverage, outsourcing, sub-contracting or eliminating jobs completely, stealing millions of dollars in workers’ wages, to even letting a woman die on a warehouse floor. Why? Because packaging iPhones for Verizon was more valuable than her life.
Bradley Jacobs and XPO are the epitome of corporate greed and the reason why unions are needed.
Which is why XPO workers throughout the 32 countries and the unions who represent them are fighting back against XPO’s constant oppression and worker abuse by banding together to create an international coalition to take on the company’s anti-worker, antiunion stance.
International Coalition to Fight XPO’s Anti-Labor Practices
In July 2017, the International Workers’ Transport Federation (ITF), which represents over 16.5 million workers in 654 transport workers’ unions in 148 countries worldwide, created an XPO global leadership task force with the Teamsters and the European Workers Transport Federation (ETF) with a simple goal in mind: for XPO to be held accountable for their labor violations throughout the world.
Here are just a few of the endless and inhumane labor violations by XPO.
In Spain, pregnant women in warehouses are known to hide their pregnancy until the last moment, because those who are pregnant are not reallocated adequately to safe jobs. They are visibly made to do jobs like standing in the middle of the warehouse all day counting pallets.
In France and Belgium, XPO is delaying the payment of overtime while women workers are not given promotion opportunities, even if they are already doing the same job as men who are recognized as specialists, which results in pay inequality.
In the United States, the NLRB found XPO guilty of misclassifying and unjustly firing workers, 13 federal charges filed against XPO for sexual harassment and a wrongful death suit, after a woman working at an XPO-operated warehouse in Memphis, Tenn. Packaging and distributing Verizon products, died after being denied medical attention.
The Horror in Memphis
To put things in perspective, it’s important to lay out the demographic in the Memphis warehouse. XPO management is majority white male while the workers are predominantly African-American women. There are multiple off-duty police officers from the Memphis Metropolitan Police Department, Mississippi’s Olive Branch Police Department, along with private security, acting as security in the warehouse. There are at least six safety managers assigned to different sections and multiple workers who are CPR certified. There are also close to 20 different temp agencies operating within the warehouse, which leaves a lot of the women workers vulnerable and susceptible to intimidation, harassment and abuse. And on Oct. 17, 2017, that abuse cost the life of one woman.
These are the facts.
Shortly after the morning shift started, Linda Neal went to her XPO supervisors multiple times asking to leave work or take a break because she wasn’t feeling well. XPO denied every single one of her requests and forced her back to work.
Less than an hour later Linda Neal passed out on the warehouse floor hitting her head so hard there was a puddle of blood next to where she laid. That puddle of blood would not be cleaned up for two days.
Workers immediately rushed to Neal’s aid to perform CPR, however, before they were able to get to her XPO supervisors stopped them and told them to get back, don’t touch her or you’re terminated.
At this point, one would think to call 911. No. Not only did XPO not call 911 for help, neither the safety managers nor off-duty police officers rendered aid. Instead, they proceeded to make the workers continue working around Linda Neal’s body while supervisors proceeded to hold a 30-minute meeting over her body on whether to call 911.
The 911 call would come 56 minutes after Neal passed out. The 911 call would not be for help. The 911 call would be for DOA—dead on arrival.
XPO waited an hour to call for help while forcing workers to continue working around her body. They did not call Neal’s family, a co-worker of hers had to. And when Neal’s son Dean Turner arrived at the warehouse, a man who introduced himself as the vice president of XPO told him that his mother died “very, very peacefully” and there was nothing they could do to help her.
But there was.
When the medical examiner’s report concluded, it found that Neal was having a heart attack. She could have been saved.
A day after her death, Neal’s fellow XPO co-worker Tasha Murrell-Bohanna made a call to the Teamsters for help. Three days later the Teamsters were on the ground, but only to find out her death wasn’t the only unfathomable incident taking place behind XPO’s doors.
Throughout the following days, weeks and months, the Teamsters interviewed numerous women and obtained multiple records that include the medical examiner’s report, the initial police report, the 911 call and the horrific treatment the workers endure every day.
Again, here are the facts.
The Teamsters used the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain the 911 call that showed it was not made for 56 minutes and the call was not for emergency help, it was for a DOA
Medical examiner’s report concluded Neal died of a heart attack
It was learned that Neal had previously passed out at work at least twice before due to exhaustion
Her son Dean Turner stated that she complained to him and her family on a daily basis about the warehouse infrastructure: no air conditioning or heat, ceiling falling in, the overall filth of the warehouse and other complaints
After conducting multiple interviews, it was found that workers passing out from exhaustion, overheating and dehydration is a common issue in the warehouse
No ventilation system in the warehouse and workers are not allowed to wear jackets
Ceiling is coming down and has hit people in the head in the warehouse, which also has mold, dust, snakes and spiders
Multiple accounts of sexual harassment/discrimination
Fires occur from forklifts, and management does not evacuate the building
Making women take their bras off to work, grabbing women, making unwanted sexual advances
Multiple women had miscarriages in the warehouse as a result of being worked to exhaustion, the most recent occurring within the last few months
Because of Murrell-Bohanna’s brave decision to come forward, she empowered women like Lakeisha Nelson, Elizabeth Howley and numerous others to come forward and tell their stories. And slowly, one story became five, and five became 13. One by one, women shared stories of sexual harassment, discrimination, abuse and losing their unborn children, all at the hands of XPO’s inhumane practices and policies.
“I feel proud that I made the step to expose XPO for their wrong and unethical practices,” Murrell-Bohanna said. “We do have people in this world who care about equality, and I stand here today to say to all XPO employees our voices are heard.”
Linda Neal’s death and the stories from the women inside XPO’s warehouse sparked outrage and generated support and actions from major women’s advocacy groups and civil rights organizations at the national level. Organizations like the National Women’s Law Center, A Better Balance and the NAACP all rallied around the workers by writing joint letters with a list of demands to XPO and Verizon, providing legal representation and speaking out at events.
“In the beginning, I truly didn’t think things would happen like this, or this fast,” Nelson said. “Knowing we have changed so much in such little time is amazing. To have other locations reach out and speak out against violations they endure is empowerment all in itself. Tasha made that call and changed lives around the world.”
International Coalition and Shareholder Meetings
In May 2018, seven months after that fateful day in the Memphis warehouse, Murrel-Bohanna and Nelson attended Verizon’s shareholder meeting in Seattle. It was at the shareholder meeting where they addressed Verizon’s CEO and Executive Board of Directors with one ask—a pledge that they would conduct a transparent and independent investigation into XPO’s practices and demand better treatment and policies. And the women were not alone in their fight.
ITF General Secretary Steve Cotton issued a letter to Verizon leadership demanding they take action by conducting an independent review to eradicate harassment and discrimination in Memphis, following Linda Neal’s death and multiple sexual harassment charges filed against XPO.
Those demands from Cotton and the ITF for XPO to come to the table and address the issues of XPO workers were denied. Verizon, on the other hand, shared their concern and remains open to fulfilling the demands.
Verizon accepted the demands from the XPO warehouse workers and immediately wrote a letter to XPO stating, “We will be monitoring XPO’s actions in response to this matter closely, and it will inform the basis of any decisions Verizon makes regarding the future of our contractual relationship with XPO.”
Then, on May 15, 2018, the international task force sent a union delegation representing five countries to XPO’s United States shareholder meeting. The union delegation that represents XPO workers from across Europe and the United States asked the company to seek answers about the death of Linda Neal and to address the growing number of sexual harassment charges filed in the United States. However, the lack of answers XPO gave were mindboggling. XPO denied all allegations of wrongdoing and Jacobs and the board of directors kept their backs to the union speakers throughout the shareholder meeting.
Following XPO’s shareholder meeting in the United States, the international task force once again sent a union delegation to XPO’s shareholder meeting in Lyon, France to renew the call for XPO to address issues workers face including gender discrimination, sexual harassment and dangerous working practices.
During the meeting in France, a protest outside the hotel also took place coordinated by the three French unions representing XPO workers, as well as a three-hour strike at XPO facilities across France. But XPO showed the same lack of empathy and response to any of the issues raised and refused to address the growing concern of outside groups—and the support is growing stronger by the day.
The fight for justice, the fight against the corporate greed of XPO, the fight for workers’ rights, for workers’ dignity and respect, will not stop.
Check out the XPOexposed Facebook page or check out @Teamsters on Twitter and Instagram. Use the hashtag #WeAreXPO.