February 11, 2019
New England Motor Freight Inc. (“NEMF”) and its affiliated debtors filed for bankruptcy in the District of New Jersey. NEMF provides less-than-truckload transportation services; its debtor affiliates also provide, among other things, truckload carrier services, equipment leasing, third party logistics services, transportation brokerage services, and non-vessel operation common carrier operations between the US and Puerto Rico. Collectively, the debtors employ approximately 3,450 full-time and part-time employees, of which 1,900 are members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO and are covered by collective bargaining agreements. While the company generated gross revenues around $370mm in each of the last two fiscal years, it filed for bankruptcy to effectuate (a) an orderly liquidation of the majority of its business and (b) the sale of its truckload and third-party logistics businesses (which, together, account for approximately 9% of the company’s revenues). The company has approximately $57.1mm of vehicle financing debt exclusive of interest and fees and another $30.4mm in outstanding letters of credit.
Interestingly, the company notes:
While the company’s operations were profitable for decades since the current ownership group acquired NEMF in 1977, the Debtors have suffered a downward trend over recent years, which was exacerbated in late 2018 by the unexpected loss of key accounts, the shortage of drivers, a new Union contract with onerous retroactive terms, and the L/C Lenders’ ultimate unwillingness to restructure the Debtors’ letters of credit obligations under terms acceptable to the Debtors.
And, here, more on the union situation:
Changes and competition within the industry have had an ongoing negative impact on the Debtors’ revenues. The Debtors’ workforce is made up of approximately 3,450 full-time and part-time employees. The Union workforce consists of approximately: 1,425 truck drivers, and 475 dock workers, for a total of approximately 1,900 Union employees. The non-union workforce consists of, approximately: 145 truck drivers at Eastern, 600 part-time workers (primarily dock workers), and 805 other employees, for a total of approximately 1,550 non-union employees. Employee costs for the Debtors are, in the aggregate, substantially above industry norms. Most of the LTL companies competing with the Debtors operate under non-unionized conditions. At the same time, there has developed an industry-wide shortage of drivers, putting the Debtors, with an aging fleet of vehicles, at a severe disadvantage. (emphasis added)
Given the company’s proximity to New York, its relationship with Amazon Inc. ($AMZN), and the role of unions in the ultimate break-up between New York City and Amazon (which happened a day later), we thought this story was particularly intriguing.
Jurisdiction: D. of New Jersey (Judge Sherwood)
Legal: Gibbons P.C. (Karen A. Giannelli, Mark B. Conlan, Brett S. Theisen) & (local) Wasserman, Jurista & Stolz, P.C. (Donald Clarke, Daniel Stolz)
Financial Advisor: Phoenix Management Services LLC (Vince Colistra)
Claims Agent: Donlin Recano & Company (*click on the link above for free docket access)