Sunday, April 29, 2012

Wishing I could root for my local teamsters

In a few weeks, 1500 pounds of books will be on their way from Michigan to my door. Two pallets loaded with boxes. I have to choose an LTL company; LTL stands for Less Than Load, for shipments that don’t fill an 18-wheeler. I have my LTL shipments held at a trucking terminal for me to pick up, because then the delivery timing is under my control.

Prices are pretty similar between LTL companies, so the choice comes down to how convenient and pleasant the terminal is to work with. Last week I went to three local terminals to see which one I should choose. All three turn out to be non-union companies.

Part of the problem I had last year with the local YRC terminal is apparently related to YRC being a Teamsters company. That led to endless internal disputes about taking responsibility for the shipment damage, pissing matches about how long to delay unloading trailers at the terminal, and strict rules about who is allowed to operate a forklift (rules unrelated to who has the training to safely operate a forklift). These seem really important to the workers and the management, which are generally the two sides to union negotiations. But there’s a third side to the business: the customers. The union doesn’t want to negotiate with the customers, or even take the customers into consideration. And the net result is that a union shop is harder to deal with as a customer.

I don’t want it to be that way. I want the union and the management to say “Hi, customers! We know what you want: reliable shipping, with your delivery handled carefully and safely by trained workers who care about doing a good job. YRC can do that, because we’re a union shop.”

Instead I find myself driving into a terminal that looks like it should be condemned, run by a company that frantically advertises for new drivers on craigslist. And thinking that this would be a far better option than ever dealing with YRC again, because at least this place isn’t a Teamsters shop.

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