Workers quit Teamsters, cross picket line

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A walkout Monday night at Oak Harbor Freight Lines sites in three states by union truckers did not generate much support in Idaho. A spokesman for Oak Harbor Freight said 10 of 23 union members at the company's Meridian site had resigned from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters by midday Tuesday and had returned to work.

Officials with Teamsters Local 483 in Boise did not immediately return a call seeking comment, although a woman who answered the phone at the union's office confirmed that 10 members had resigned in order to cross the picket line.

The union issued a statement Tuesday saying members had walked off the job in response to the company's efforts to bully and intimidate workers. The statement said the National Labor Relations Board is investigating several allegations of labor law violations by the company, including coercing and threatening employees and making unlawful changes to working conditions.

Oak Harbor spokesman Mike Hobby said the walkout was staged after the union received the company's "last, best and final offer" on a new five-year contract. Truckers have been working without a contract since their previous deal expired last Oct. 31, Hobby said.

He said the union called for the walkout without presenting the final offer to its members.

Hobby said one of the sticking points during the negotiations had been Oak Harbor's proposal to offer a company-administered health care plan through Blue Cross and Blue Shield that would have replaced a plan offered by the Teamsters.

"The funny thing about it is that our employees in Boise were already on our plan," Hobby said.

Tyson Johnson, Teamsters' international vice president and freight division director, said: "If these negotiations are any indication of the company's approach to collective bargaining, then I am concerned that Oak Harbor's customers will experience service disruptions up and down the West Coast in the coming days."

Oak Harbor Freight Lines provides trucking delivery services to some of the largest companies and government agencies in the country including the Gap, REI, JC Penney, GM, Chrysler, Whirlpool and the state of Washington.

One Oak Harbor customer in Boise said he did not expect to be affected by the work stoppage. Tom Chelstrom, manager for the REI at 8300 W. Emerald, said the store had already received its stock of fall and winter outdoor gear.

"If this had happened in August, it might have been a different story," Chelstrom said.


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