September 9, 2023

New union at Werner/ECM New Jersey operations files complaint with NLRB


The relationship between the newly elected union and a Werner Enterprises subsidiary is off to a rocky start.

Local 152 of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, voted in late last month to represent 26 workers across three locations of Werner subsidiary ECM Transport, on Wednesday filed an unfair labor action charge against ECM with the National Labor Relations Board

Although the details in the charge are not available on the NLRB website without a request under the Freedom of Information Act, FreightWaves has obtained a copy of the charging letter through the union.

The complaints made by the UFCW are not lengthy but their significance may be in how rapidly they were filed — less than two weeks after the union representation victory on Aug. 24. That may not bode well for a contract to ever be agreed upon by the union and ECM/Werner. 

When the workers at ECM voted to be represented by the UFCW, it was the first union at Werner (NASDAQ: WERN).

In the letter, UFCW said workers who voted in favor of the union saw their hours reduced and regular shifts were eliminated. By not engaging with the union on the changes, the UFCW said that “the conduct constitutes a failure to bargain with the union,” citing a section of the National Labor Relations Act.

Mike Thompson, the vice president and director of organizing with the union, said the actions only have occurred at ECM’s facility in Cinnaminson, New Jersey. The workers who voted in favor of the union came from Cinnaminson as well as Hamilton and Piscataway, New Jersey.

“Since the election, they are sending drivers home or just telling them to stay home,” Thompson said in an email to FreightWaves. “The company has cited losing customers and the holiday. If that was the case, it would affect other terminals and it hasn’t.”

Drivers on site “can see loads in other yards that normally come to them” and the drivers among various facilities can see that there is volume at other facilities that have not voted in the union, Thompson said. “The company is punishing them for exercising their rights and we hope the labor board will address this.” 

Werner, in a comment emailed to FreightWaves, said “It is unfortunate the union filed a ULP. The charge is completely without merit. We have and will continue to comply with our legal obligations.”

ECM is a regional truckload carrier that Werner acquired in July 2021. The unionization drive by the UFCW at the small concentration of workers was considered significant enough by Werner that CEO Derek Leathers made a personal visit to meet with the workers in New Jersey. 

By being a regional truckload carrier, the ECM employees work out of a particular depot, similar to an LTL company, which makes unionization possible. Over-the-road truckload carriers are considered far more difficult, if not impossible, to unionize.

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