JA Frate drivers, dock workers strike against Crystal Lake company over new contract

More than 80 Teamsters have walked off the job at freight company known for its work with veterans

Drivers and dock workers, represented by Teamsters Local 710, picket outside JA Frate's Crystal Lake headquarters on Thursday, June 13, 2024. The unionized drivers are striking after negotiations over a new contract broke down.

About 50 JA Frate drivers stood outside the Crystal Lake headquarters holding picket signs reading “On strike” and accompanied by a union inflatable rat Thursday morning. The unionized drivers are striking after negotiations over a new contract with the company have turned sour.

JA Frate drivers are represented by Teamsters Local 710, which represents more than 13,500 workers across the Midwest. The union has been in negotiations with JA Frate on a new contract since April, Teamsters Secretary-Treasurer and Principal Officer Michael Cales said.

“It has been difficult,” Cales said. “The union presented many different proposals that the company hasn’t taken seriously.”

JA Frate CEO Jill Dinsmore said the company is “bargaining in good faith” and has always supported their drivers. She declined to comment any further.

Top priorities for the union include improved working protections and overtime pay, with health care as the most “serious priority,” Cales said. More than 80 drivers and dock workers are walking out of the job, and the strike affects all JA Frate terminals including McHenry, Waukegan, Elk Grove Village and Belvidere, according to the union.

Many cars honked as they drove past JA Frate headquarters along Pyott Road where the picketing drivers gathered. One JA Frate driver wore a shirt that read “Most underpaid drivers in the world,” written in marker.

JA Frate drivers have not gone on strike in recent contract negotiations. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic, drivers have felt like they weren’t being recognized as frontline employees, Cales said.

“We believe we need to be recognized as essential workers,” he said. “During the pandemic when everything shut down, we pulled through the front lines.”

More than half of JA Frate’s shipments are Uline products, according to union members and officials. The company has won Uline’s Carrier of the Year Award – Illinois Branch multiple times, according to the JA Frate website.

JA Frate has been a strong local pillar in the community by supporting veteran organizations and hiring veterans. The logistics company’s “Green to Gold” program trains veterans to become certified drivers, and the company has multiple memorial trailers dedicated to military service personnel from McHenry County who were killed in action.

Union workers decided to strike after JA Frate proposed a final offer that was “clearly unacceptable,” Cales said. It is “up to the company” how long the strike will last as the union waits to hear from JA Frate on reopening contract negotiations. If the strike continues, the union will start “reaching out to local figures” for support, he said.

“Hopefully we can sit back down and the company will take our proposals seriously and we can get back to work,” Cales said.

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