UPDATE: Stiffed Arrow drivers want answers

| 12/28/2009

Monday, Dec. 28, 2009 – Nearly 1,400 stunned former Arrow Trucking drivers received grim news just three days before Christmas that the Tulsa-based company was “suspending operations.”

At that time, many of these drivers were stranded far from home after their fuel cards were turned off, and their only instructions were to turn in their trucks to the nearest Freightliner or International truck dealership.

Now that many have recovered from the initial shock, these same drivers are dusting themselves off and clamoring for any information they can find out about how to get their money from their former employer.

Mary Bebout, supervisor of Labor Compliance for the Oklahoma Department of Labor, told Land Line on Monday, Dec. 28, that timeliness is key when submitting a wage claim form.

“We want them to claim the gross amount of money they are due pretax,” Bebout said. “We can’t do any expense reimbursement. I know many of them are out money on the road, but we can’t do expense reimbursements – wages only.”

For drivers who have had their paychecks bounce, Bebout said they can claim their insufficient fund fees they have been charged from their banks on the form under miscellaneous items.

Bebout said most importantly, the forms must be notarized and physically mailed to her office. Forms that are faxed in or e-mailed will not be accepted.

However, she added that even after all of the information has been submitted, there is no guarantee the affected drivers will ever be reimbursed the money that is owed to them.

“We can’t guarantee collection. What we will do is attempt to collect,” she said. “The problem is that at any time the employer files bankruptcy, we have to stop wherever we are in the process. The procedures we have to go through can be lengthy at sometimes and the end result is not always going to be getting them paid, unfortunately.”

For former Arrow drivers who live in Oklahoma and need to file for unemployment benefits, Lynda Baird, who heads Oklahoma’s Rapid Response services, said two meetings have been planned in Sapulpa, OK, on Tuesday, Dec. 29. Sessions are scheduled to start at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the Central Technology Center in Sapulpa.

“We are going to bring a lot of information to these folks verbally and put this information in their hands,” Baird told Land Line on Monday, Dec. 28. “We are going to work with them to help them transition from where they were at Arrow to possibly a very good job and help them get by in between jobs if they have any.”

Baird said Arrow drivers who live out of state need to head to their local workforce center to start the unemployment benefits process. She said she is aware that some drivers were living in their trucks and have no permanent address, but if they want to receive unemployment benefits they have to have either a post office box where information can be sent or a bank account for direct deposit.

“In Oklahoma, we don’t offer paper checks anymore, so they will either have to have a bank account for direct deposit or an address where we can mail a debit card,” she said.

She said Arrow Trucking is “definitely out of compliance” with the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act that requires employers provide their workers with 60-days’ notice of a massive layoff.  

As the head of Oklahoma’s Rapid Response team, she received no prior notification that Arrow was shutting its doors.

“This company offered nothing. They sent nothing and they offered nothing,” Baird said. “I tried to communicate with them in numerous ways, but received nothing either by telephone or mail from Arrow.”

She said under the federal WARN Act, drivers are supposed to receive 60 days’ pay if prior notice isn’t given. However, she said many companies find their way around doing this because of an “unforeseeable circumstances” clause that was included in the law.

“This is just a tragic thing; it’s horrible. I just can’t believe that a company would do this to their people. It’s just so sad,” Baird said.

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer