Teamsters Focuses on Organizing the Logistics Industry

This post hits close to home – like really close – since Columbus, Ohio is flush with logistics industry companies, warehouses, airports, and thousands of freight trucks. That’s what you get with “greater access to the US market within a 10-hour drive than any other major metro.” And the floundering Teamsters Union wants a piece of the action.

The Teamsters once has 2.1 million members at its peak in 1976. Then motor carrier deregulation took effect in 1980 and its membership shrunk to 1.4 million (today). Interestingly, deregulation accounted for the elimination of about 400,000 members, which means other than those, Teamster membership has stayed rather consistent for the past 40 years.

The Teamsters want to rebuild, though, and have expanded its organizing efforts to reach workers at logistics companies outside the union’s traditional niches of trucking, parcel, and airline. Its strategy will be focused primarily on transportation and the global supply chain. In other words, per one Teamster rep, the Teamster organization plans to hit companies from the supply chain’s first mile to the last.

One major challenge the Teamsters have is capturing a worker universe that is geographically dispersed and market fragmented. Thus, the union is focused on supporting workers who claim they’ve been misclassified as contractors even though they operate in a de facto manner as employees.

This movement will be interesting to watch. It comes at a time when nationalist movements in the U.S. and Europe may reshape international trade patterns and disrupt supply chains around the world. Further, the push for automation both on the road, in terms of autonomous vehicles, and in the warehouse and distribution centers put workers’ jobs in jeopardy. Could the Teamsters be chasing a dying industry? Are they about to spend millions of their members’ dollars on an industry that is unable to be organized, a la the SEIU’s botched Fight for $15 campaign? Thankfully, I’m based in the heart of the logistics industry and will have a front-row seat for the show!

Matt Austin owns Austin Legal, LLC, a boutique law firm based in Ohio that limits its representation to employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can call Matt at (614) 285-5342 or email him at Matt@MattAustinLaborLaw.com.

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