One of the biggest truckload carriers in the country has taken a small step toward unionization at a business that isn’t part of the parent company’s long-haul operation.
This week, the United Food and Commercial employees union won a vote to represent 26 workers at three New Jersey sites run by ECM, a mostly one-way trucking service that will be 80% owned by Werner after a 2021 takeover. The main places of business are in Cinnaminson, Hamilton, and Piscataway.
Leader of the unionization push at UFCW Local 152, Mike Thompson, said that 17 people voted for unionization, 8 voted against it, and 1 didn’t vote.
As of December 31, 2017, Werner’s 10-K report said that it had 10,249 drivers, 693 mechanics and repair workers, 1,610 “office associates,” and 1,748 staff at Werner Logistics, its internal 3PL, and other non-trucking activities. 26 people work for ECM.
Werner CEO Addresses Unionization Concerns in Perso
Thompson said that the union problem was still important enough at Werner that CEO Derek Leathers went to New Jersey before the vote to talk to the workers in person about why they shouldn’t join a union. Werner’s spokesperson confirmed that the meeting took place in person.
Thompson told a logistics news site that the success at Local 152 was the first time a unionization drive at ECM had been successful. He also said that the UFCW represents drivers for Sysco (NYSE: SYY), a company that distributes food.
The UFCW website also has information about how public transportation workers can join a union. Few truck drivers are part of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). The website has a drop-down menu called “Who We Represent” that lists a number of different types of businesses, but the shipping field isn’t one of them.
Werner Representatives Acknowledge Worker Conditions
“Werner representatives said the biggest thing they didn’t know was the [worker] conditions,” Thompson said. Two years ago, they didn’t know there were problems and all they could say was “we’d like a second chance, business as usual.”
When asked why the workers finally joined a union even though they had never done so before, Thompson said, “I think there was a feeling that there wasn’t enough respect.” They don’t get much time off, and the benefits they do get aren’t worth what they cost. Then they went to bed and thought, “I wonder if I can do better.”
Werner Management Engages with Unionization Attempts
When a logistics news site asked the Werner spokeswoman about their unionization attempts, she said, “Management engaged immediately.”
Thompson and the Werner representative didn’t answer the question of whether or not the UFCW will use the vote as a starting point for more gathering efforts in the future.
Both the representative and the part of Werner’s 2023 10-K that was sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission say that the company doesn’t have any more unions.
The ECM website says that they offer freight and transportation services. But at the time of the purchase in 2021, most of the company’s truckload operations were “one-way,” and the business as a whole was called a regional carrier.
ECM’s Regional Truckload Carriers and Sales Figures
At the time of the deal, ECM’s regional truckload carriers, ECM Transport and Cheswick, had a total fleet of about 450 trucks. Motor Carrier Services of Pennsylvania is a branch that runs a fleet of about 50 trucks.
One-Way Truckload is a part of ECM’s Transportation Truckload Services business unit, which is in charge of reporting earnings. Before the deal, ECM made $108 million in sales in the year 2020. In the first half of 2022, the TTS segment as a whole brought in about $375 million, and the One-Way Truckload sub-segment brought in about $360 million.
Werner said that the average number of miles traveled in TTS during the second quarter was 604.
Werner CEO Discusses ECM Acquisition on Conference Call
Werner held a conference call with investors to talk about the company’s results for the second quarter of 2021 soon after the ECM purchase was announced. During this call, Leathers talked about how happy ECM employees were in light of the rapidly growing trucking markets and high turnover.
Leathers stated on the call that he is pleased with the progress of the ECM acquisition. He emphasized the thorough due diligence, careful approach, and cautious decision-making process of Werner, which has been validated so far. The driver morale and driver retention have shown significant strength. The customer front is also the same. At the moment, we feel like we have some momentum with ECM. The conversations we are having are focused on growth, rather than retention or attrition.
Unionization Talks and Attempts Begin at Werner
Thompson said that unionization talks and attempts began in June, and that the speed with which the union vote passed was never seen before.
Local 152 President Brian String stated that they are eagerly anticipating the negotiation of a first contract that acknowledges the employees’ dedication and their significant contribution to the company’s achievements.
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