According to a report posted today on the Fort Smith, AR-based TimesRecordOnline website, a federal judge in Little Rock yesterday dismissed the lawsuit filed by Arkansas Best Corp. against fellow trucking firm YRC Worldwide (NASDAQ: YRCW),. The filing was in response to the most recent contract YRC inked with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT). ABF sought $750 million in damages in the suit.
The TimesRecordOnline said that after a four-hour hearing, U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright dismissed the suit on the grounds that ABF and YRC had separate contracts with IBT.
“They were separate bargaining units, separate bargains, separate contracts," Judge Wright said in her ruling. "ABF failed to establish that it was in fact a signatory to the contract."
Arkansas Best’s largest subsidiary, ABF Freight System Inc. (ABFS), had argued in its suit that IBT and YRC had violated the National Master Freight Agreement, The TimesRecordOnline report noted..
That collective bargaining agreement has long covered most unionized trucking employees in the U.S. and now appears broken beyond repair. A Dow Jones Newswires report posted today said the legal challenge was to “labor concessions critical to struggling YRC Worldwide’s survival.”
IBT ”hailed” the ruling that ABF Freight System does not have standing to sue YRCW Worldwide Inc. and the union in court, in a news releases issued by the union. The Teamsters represent 25,000 workers at YRCW and 7,000 at ABF.
“We have said all along that ABF took itself out of the National Master Freight Agreement and therefore has no right to bring the suit,” said Brad Raymond, IBT general counsel. “The bench dismissal should send a strong message to ABF that its attempts to interfere with the contractual arrangement between YRCW and its Teamsters-represented employees must end.”
“ABF needs to realize that it cannot circumvent the negotiating and ratification process through the courts,” said Tyson Johnson, director of the Teamsters National Freight Div.. “We negotiated with ABF in good faith earlier this year, reaching an agreement that was overwhelmingly rejected by its employees.,,” He added that “this decision is the best possible outcome for Teamster members at both companies.”
ABF states on its special legal-actions website that it is “disappointed in this outcome and continue to believe that our November 1 lawsuit is strong. We are reviewing the Court’s ruling and considering next steps including possibly an appeal of the decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.”