Friday, May 09, 2008

Teamsters have earned their freedom

Issue of federal oversight surfaces in Dems' presidential campaign

The matter of federal oversight of the Teamsters crept briefly into the Democratic presidential campaign this week, when U.S. Sen. Barack Obama told the Wall Street Journal the Justice Department's meddling in union affairs has "run its course."

Later, after Obama backtracked and clarified that he wasn't making a "blanket commitment" to ending oversight, Sen. Hillary Clinton pounced. Will he end the oversight or won't he? Clinton asked, implying that favoring the Teamsters' freedom suggest a softness by Obama.

It's an odd position for Clinton, who is trying to keep her dying campaign alive by citing her appeal to blue-collar working stiffs. Her affinity must extend only to those whose union endorsed her; the Teamsters are backing Obama.

But aside from the political sniping, the issue ought to stay alive. The federal government has had its claws in the Teamsters for 19 years even though it's been nearly a decade since there's been a hint that the Teamsters union is any more susceptible to organized crime than any other labor union.

In fact, under President Jim Hoffa, the Teamsters have been model union citizens. They've purged themselves of mobsters and put in place effective oversight policies.

And yet the Justice Department just can't let go.

The oversight began in 1989 to settle a racketeering lawsuit. It was necessary then. Despite throwing a good number of Teamsters bosses in jail over the years, the union never seemed to get the message that crime doesn't pay.

But it's a different union today. A 1999 congressional report, a Harvard study and an internal audit commissioned by the union all found that the Independent Review Board appointed to keep watch on the Teamsters is no longer necessary.

The only plausible explanation for the board's continued existence is the bureaucracy that has grown up around it. Union members pay $3 million to $6 million a year to keep the board's staff going.

Obama may have been paying back the Teamsters for the union's endorsement when he raised the oversight issue. But he had it right.

The Teamsters union has done what it was asked to do. It has earned its freedom.

The union should be allowed to run its own affairs without the help of government lawyers.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

YRC Worldwide shares fall after analyst cuts to 'Sell'

Shares of YRC Worldwide Inc. dipped Thursday, after a Stifel Nicolas analyst cut the stock to "Sell" from "Hold," saying the trucking company still has a long road to travel before earnings will improve.

"We believe the company has some real difficult operational, financial and competitive issues to overcome before the earnings picture can look much brighter," analyst David G. Ross said in a client note.

Ross also said the stock is now too expensive - having surged 40 percent since the company reported first-quarter earnings on April 24.

The analyst said he is "skeptical" of the company's ability to meet its second-quarter earnings per share expectations, due to a sluggish economy and continuing operational issues. Ross also believes that benefits from a newly ratified contract with the Teamsters union will likely be felt later than the company currently expects.

He added that competition is stiffening in the nation's less-than-truckload segment, where YRC Worldwide is the largest player. FedEx Corp. has expanded its holdings in the sector through acquisitions and a number of smaller players are expanding their businesses as well.

Less-than-truckload, or LTL, carriers fill their trucks from a variety of sources and might re-sort and redistribute it at a company terminal along their route.

Shares of YRC fell 47 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $17.69 in afternoon trading. In the past year, the stock has ranged between a low of $10.99, set in March, and a high of $40.59, hit last June.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Obama Says Teamsters Need Less Oversight

Campaign Talks On Issue Preceded Union's Backing

Sen. Barack Obama won the endorsement of the Teamsters earlier this year after privately telling the union he supported ending the strict federal oversight imposed to root out corruption, according to officials from the union and the Obama campaign.

It's an unusual stance for a presidential candidate. Policy makers have largely treated monitoring of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters as a legal matter left to the Justice Department since an independent review board was set up in 1992 to eliminate mob influence in the union.

Sen. Obama's rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton, has declined to take a stance on Teamsters oversight. During his eight years in office, President Bill Clinton took no action to end the special board. Democratic presidential nominees in 2000 and 2004 -- Al Gore and John Kerry -- didn't address the issue, according to Teamsters officials. Full Story...