National retailer JC Penney (NYSE: JCP) has stopped using Oak Harbor Freight Lines to ship its merchandise in the western United States. This decision comes on the heels of a report by the International Labor Rights Forum, which found that Oak Harbor Freight Lines has violated international labor rights standards. Teamster members employed by Oak Harbor Freight have been on strike since September 22 because of violations of federal labor laws that protect workers’ rights, such as coercing and threatening employees, and making unlawful changes to working conditions.
Oak Harbor is a trucking firm headquartered in Auburn, Washington, and is one of the largest regional freight carriers in the Northwest. The report (http://www.laborrights.org/labor-rights/1863) found that:
* African-American and female replacement employees working at Oak Harbor have suffered discrimination in their work assignments;
* Oak Harbor’s decision to permanently replace its employees was a tactic to interfere with a legitimate union’s attempt to bargain a new collective agreement;
* Oak Harbor hired a subcontractor, Jim Rexroat, who has used unethical and unlawful business practices, including deceptive hiring practices and failing to pay workers the wages they were promised; and
* Oak Harbor’s decision to eliminate health coverage for its retired employees is incompatible with the ethical principles to which the company claims to adhere.
In response to the workers’ strike, now in its 12th week, the company unilaterally stopped paying for health care benefits for current workers and retirees.
Other retailers, after learning of the workers’ rights violations, also fired Oak Harbor. The retailers include REI, Urban Outfitters and Gap.
“We are pleased that JC Penney has made the socially responsible decision to cease working with a company that has so blatantly violated workers’ rights,” said Tyson Johnson, Teamsters International Vice President and Freight Division Director. “We will continue to take our message to Oak Harbor’s customers and bankers until they stop these abuses. Oak Harbor should be willing to negotiate with our workers in good faith and allow for a dignified retirement.”
The Teamsters Union was founded in 1903 and represents 1.4 million hard working men and women in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.