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Iconic American company shuts down after 99 years

A line of semi-trailer trucks line Enrico Fermi Place, a street minutes away from the Otay Mesa Port of Entry. (Ana Ramirez/The San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)
July 31, 2023

One of America’s largest trucking companies, Yellow, was forced to shut down operations over the weekend, bringing to a halt 12,000 trucks.

Struggling under massive debt following several mergers, the 99-year-old company plans to file for bankruptcy, the Teamsters union said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Nashville, Tennessee-based company, which ships freight for companies like Walmart, Home Depot and others, notified its customers and employees that all operations would stop Sunday afternoon.

The devastating failure eliminated 30,000 jobs, including tens of thousands of Teamsters members. Nonunion employees were also laid off on Friday.

“Teamsters have kept this company afloat for more than a decade through billions of dollars in wage, pension and work-rule concessions,” a Teamsters union spokesman said. “Yellow couldn’t manage itself, and it wasn’t up to Teamsters to do it for them.”

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Shipping disruptions should be limited because many customers shifted their business to rival trucking companies, the Journal reported.

“It’s an incredibly sad situation because there’s the potential that this company that was about to celebrate its 100-year anniversary next year may not be around,” said Yellow board member Chris Sultemeier.

Yellow’s financial troubles intensified this year amid a sharp decline in shipping demand. The company’s cash holdings dropped to roughly $100 million last month from $235 million in December.

As Yellow worked to integrate its western region, the Teamsters union demanded the company renegotiate its contract, which was scheduled to expire in March 2024. Yellow sued the union, accusing the Teamsters of blocking the company’s progress across the country.

Teamsters President Sean O’Brien insisted Yellow’s financial woes were the result of bad management, not the union’s requests.

“We do not want to see any company suffer and go out of business, but at some point in time, we cannot keep sacrificing wages, conditions that our forefathers and foresisters had fought long and hard for in our freight division,” he said earlier this month.