Half-Mile Move Prompts DHL Demand: ‘Re-Apply for Your Job

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(This article appeared in the September/October 2006 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

Bill Manley, Director

Shipping giant DHL is closing down a processing center near Allentown, PA, and opening a new facility, also near Allentown, PA. In fact, the two workplaces are a half-mile apart, which has not prevented the company from asking approximately 400 employees to fill out new job applications.

“Why must I reapply for a job I’m already doing — just because they’re changing the name?” Jasen Muth, a 48- year-old forklift driver asked a reporter for the Allentown Morning Call.

“All it is,” he said “is that they are changing the letters outside from ABX to DHL.”

Muth feels like he has been working for DHL since 2003, when the international delivery company bought out his previous employer, Airborne Express, and renamed it ABX Air, with headquarters in Wilmington, OH. The parent company then declared that Muth and his co-workers were ABX employees.

Virtually all of ABX’s business (98 percent, according to company financial statements) comes from DHL. And with DHL opening a new processing center, it wants the workers who have been getting ABX paychecks while sorting DHL packages for the last three years to reapply to DHL for their jobs.

“All DHL is doing is moving these jobs a half-mile. These are the exact same jobs,” said Rich Shelley, an APWU member who is helping to coordinate a union organizing drive at the much larger ABX plant in Ohio. In the Morning Call story, ABX spokeswoman Beth Huber said much the same thing. “Basically, it’s not shutting down. It’s moving.” Huber said ABX would not be involved. “Since we will no longer be running the facility, it’s up to them.”

DHL is concerned about possible union activity and has been putting out anti-union literature in addition to passing out “employment packages,” asking that employees fill them out and return them if they wanted to be working for DHL when the new year begins.

“The package included a drug test,” Shelley said, “and paperwork refers to several possibilities for why an employee may not be ‘eligible’ for work in the new facility.”

“Simply put, there are no guarantees,” the APWU organizer said. “The company [DHL] retains total power and ignores the Allentown City Council, its mayor, and other local leaders who have been asking for a fair transition.”

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