Workers at risk amidst pandemic by company’s failure to implement proper safety measures
Galen MunroeEmail: [email protected] Phone: (202) 439-7427
Ahead of the XPO Logistics annual shareholder meeting Thursday, current and former XPO workers from France; Spain; San Diego; and Kansas City, Mo raised their concerns about widespread worker abuses amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and pressed for a series of urgent corporate governance reforms.
While XPO remains open and highly functioning amidst the pandemic, continuing to play a critical role in the global supply chain as one of the world’s largest logistics providers -- and the second largest in both the U.S. and Europe -- workers claim the company has failed to implement enhanced safety measures on the job. According to firsthand worker accounts, there have been coronavirus-related deaths among XPO workers, increasing health and safety concerns and a lack of consistency of implementation and effectiveness in the company’s COVID-19 response.
In an effort to bring XPO’s mismanagement and lack of worker protections to light, XPO workers today addressed shareholders directly on a webinar hosted by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters for company investors. Workers on the webinar called on shareholders to engage the board of directors on implementing transparent and consistent workplace safety practices that protect workers; protections for workers who speak out on safety and health concerns; hazard pay and benefits to all workers in the XPO system including those they misclassify as non-employees; and concrete efforts to apply shared sacrifice in executive pay practices.
“Now more than ever, XPO needs to prioritize protecting its workforce, its business and its customers and enforce strict supply chain standards,” said Ken Hall, General Secretary-Treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. “It’s critical that we not only make sure XPO board chairs are independent from management but that they are empowered to effectively oversee the senior executives, set reasonable compensation for the executives and serve as the investors’ voice in business strategy.”
Last month, the Teamsters sent a letter to investors urging shareholders to vote against the “excessive” pay given to the company’s CEO, Bradley Jacobs, who received a mega-equity award of over $25 million; and in favor of the Teamsters’ resolution to appoint an independent director to the role of board chair – a role currently held by CEO Jacobs. Both proposals have received the support of leading proxy advisory firms, ISS and Glass Lewis.
"XPO’s failure to align executive pay with the company’s overall performance has resulted in excessive payouts that are not in the best interest of shareholders," said New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. "The New York State Common Retirement Fund will be holding XPO’s directors accountable for failing to align pay with performance, and we encourage shareholders to support our proposal asking XPO to consider ESG issues like worker safety when determining executive compensation."
The stark pay gap between frontline workers and XPO management is not new for the company, with XPO having been on the defense of numerous class-action lawsuits related to employee wages and misclassification of workersover the last decade. However, amidst the coronavirus outbreak, workers are ramping up calls on XPO to protect them and their essential work, as coworkers test positive and fall severely ill from the virus at increasing rates.
Workers have raised concerns about a lack of PPE, gloves, and sanitizing wipes for misclassified drivers; paid sick leave for workers; no access to health insurance or free COVID-19 testing; and insufficient information around workplaces protections and safety measures to prevent the virus. Additionally, some misclassified intermodal drivers have reported that if they get sick, their contracts are terminated and they are fired, while others’ loads have significantly decreased with their work schedules being cut down to one day a week.
“I was a truck driver for over 30 years making low wages and lacking benefits due to misclassification before XPO fired me without cause right at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jose ‘Chema’ Rodriguez, an XPO driver in San Diego, CA. “I am continuing to actively fight and speak out to end misclassification at XPO San Diego and throughout the industry because my family and working families everywhere deserve a better life.”
"Jacobs’ characterization of the company's response as 'so far, so good' is clearly challenged by the workers’ accounts, which collectively reveal a too slow, too little response and one that ignores the realities facing XPO workers on the frontlines,” said Ken Hall, General Secretary-Treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.