The Teamsters’ ongoing push to unionize XPO facilities was supposed to feature a government-ordered revote in Kansas City, Missouri, beginning this week.
But in an odd twist and for reasons that aren’t particularly clear, no revote is taking place. And the decision not to proceed appears to have come from the union.
Sources with both the union and XPO (NYSE: XPO) confirmed that a “do-over” from a July 2020 vote, in which the Teamsters were defeated in their representation effort, did not start this week. The revote was to occur after the Teamsters prevailed in raising objections with the National Labor Relations Board regarding XPO’s conduct prior to the vote last year.
A spokesman for the Teamsters told FreightWaves about the new election: “There isn’t a vote taking place at this time.”
Sources close to the union said the Teamsters had withdrawn their petition because they believed the revote might fail, as the first vote did. However, the Teamsters spokesman said the revote will take place “at a later date on the workers’ timeline.”
The original vote had a close outcome: 63 voters in favor of the XPO workers being represented by the Teamsters, 67 against and seven who cast what the NLRB described as “challenged ballots, a sufficient number to affect the outcome of the election.”
In the NLRB order from last month requiring a new election, the agency said the Teamsters filed 30 objections over XPO’s “conduct.” The process ultimately resulted in the challenged ballots being opened, and the final tally was 66 votes in favor of the union and 71 against.
Ultimately, the lengthy process with the NLRB to deal with the 30 objections came down to one objection, which charged that a supervisor at XPO “coerced, restrained and interfered with employees” and “threaten[ed] employees with job loss and disciplinary reprisals because of their support for [the] Teamsters.”
The charges involve allegations that an employee, identified in the NLRB decision only as Harnden, told a small meeting of workers that a manager, Michael Smith, had raised in a private conversation the possibility of the Kansas City facility being closed if the Teamsters won the representation election. The Teamsters charged that Harnden was silenced and escorted from the room when he discussed what Smith had said in a meeting with other employees.
Early rulings in the NLRB process favored XPO. But the decision from last month, signed by William Cowen, the NLRB’s acting regional director of the region and subregion that includes XPO in Kansas City, concluded that XPO’s version of what occurred with Harnden’s discussion regarding closure, and how the company dealt with Harnden’s statements at the meeting, did not accurately represent what happened.
Cowen concluded that Smith had told Harnden that a “yes” vote on unionization could lead to the Kansas City closure. “I find that Harnden did not misrepresent what Supervisor Smith said,” Cowen wrote.
Given the tight margin on the election, the issue that faced the NLRB was whether the disclosure of the threat to close Kansas City “was sufficiently disseminated to enough employees to have reasonably tended to interfere with the employees’ free and uncoerced choice in the election,” Cowen wrote.
Because Harnden relayed Smith’s message in a meeting that was estimated to have five to 10 employees in the room, “the dissemination of the threat of closure to … employees was sufficient to have impacted employees’ free choice,” given that whatever number was in the room was equal to or more than the election’s tight margin.
The new vote was to begin with mail ballots being sent to employees on Monday. Sources said those ballots may have gone out before the new election was canceled.
Counting of the ballots was to be completed by Jan. 10. One notable difference between the July 2020 election and the now-postponed vote: New employees who were on the payroll period immediately before the notice of the second election would have been eligible to vote in round 2.
The Teamsters have had a groundbreaking year in efforts to unionize XPO facilities, negotiating first-ever contracts in Miami and Trenton, New Jersey, and winning representation at an XPO facility in Albany, New York. But the union also has seen earlier victories at XPO operations turn into successful decertification drives.