Union claims fleet ‘scaring’ drivers from organizing, but is it?

LAVAL, Que. — The Teamsters allege that management at Challenger Motor Freight is trying to scuttle a union drive at the carrier’s Dorval, Que. terminal.

The union claims that "letters were posted behind the glass of a locked billboard … to impliedly (sic) threaten the workers with reprisals if they choose to join a union."

Teamsters Canada says it wants the letters removed and has filed a complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB).

"Challenger violates paragraph 94(1) of the Canada Labour Code by threatening workers with sanctions if they take part in legitimate and legal union activities and interferes with the Teamsters’ organizing campaign and administration of affairs," the union states in a press release.

"Challenger’s management is panicking and is desperately trying to discourage the workers from joining the Teamsters," says Teamsters President Robert Bouvier. "It’s an old tactic used to scare workers."

That appears quite open to interpretation, though.

The Teamsters’ press release does not provide specific details of the company’s comments, but an image of the letter was sent upon request to todaystrucking.com by a union official.

What the posted staff notice actually says is that the carrier continues to receive complaints from employees who say they’ve been contacted at home by a union representative and they demand to know "how the union got their name and telephone number."

The letter, signed by Challenger President Dan Einwechter, goes on to assure employees that any such information obtained by the union is not coming from the company and "will never be shared with an outside party" without permission.

Citing privacy concerns, the letter demands that those who are distributing confidential employee information "cease this practice immediately." And unauthorized distribution of personal or company information "will result in disciplinary action," including possibly termination.

As todaystrucking.com first reported last December, the Teamsters launched a campaign to organize group drivers and owner-operators at Challenger Motor Freight, Elgin Motor Freight, and Lodwick Transport.

Non-monetary and work organization clauses are said to be at the heart of the issue, such as "forced dispatch, seniority (issues), and switch (shifts)."

The union has spent the last several months selling itself to Challenger drivers nation-wide, and a handful of owner-operators, who are also being targeted.

Einwechter strongly denies the majority of workers and drivers are unhappy with the company; he says the union drive is being fueled by the actions of a disgruntled "few."

Anecdotally, there could be some truth to that. Private email exchanges with TT.com editors and casual conversations with a couple of Challenger drivers at the Truck World show in Toronto in April indicate that there are likely plenty of workers who don’t want to be part of the union.

That’s not how the Teamsters see it though. Instead, it claims the company’s alleged intimidation of workers violates employees’ "right to freedom of expression" and "serves only to add fuel to the fire and will surely impact how Challenger workers perceive their employer."

To send its own "message to workers," the union recently parked a tractor-trailer, with bumper-to-tailgate Teamster Canada graphics, in the front of the company’s head office in Cambridge, Ont.

The CIRB is expected to render its decision in the coming weeks.

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