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TheStreet Open House

Truck Drivers Clinch New Power With First Union Contract At L.A. Ports; Collective Workplace Action Cited As Key To Winning 50% Hourly Raise, Retirement, And Real Health Care

Additional Background

The landmark contract caps over two years of struggle for union recognition that workers took online, to the truck yard, and in the LA streets; they zig-zagged to other U.S. seaports to shore up support, and even continent-crossed to meet their Aussie union workmates who stood in solidarity at their joint employer's doorstep.

In so doing, this group of Latino immigrants became an unlikely symbol of hope for their underpaid counterparts – union and not-yet-union, working in an adopted homeland as well as American-born workers – who must endure low-wage jobs in other profitable sectors in the U.S. food, retail, and global supply chain industries.

"We may work in the warehouses, but we all put in long and hard hours to make the big corporations rich, while we struggle to keep food on the table. Port truck drivers are our friends, our neighbors. They are even like our co-workers," said Javier Rodriguez, who works for Walmart's Riverside County warehouse subcontractor, NFI. "They are proof that having a good job in the supply chain is more than a dream if we dare to unite together, and demand a better future for our children."

The victory is also being celebrated across the Pacific Ocean where the Melbourne-based Toll Group employs some 12,000 of Australian drivers united in the Transport Workers Union (TWU). The members view their U.S. counterparts as their "workmates" and have supported the port drivers from Day One to ensure that as Toll enters new global markets, the company replicates the constructive labor-management relations that made it so profitable Down Under.

"We couldn't be prouder of our mates in America. From the beginning we said 'your fight is our fight' and today we say your victory is our victory," said TWU Acting National Secretary Michael Kaine. "The standards of fairness and respect for workers should be upheld by Toll no matter where they operate. The message to industry is clear, in this global economy workers and unions across continents are already in alliance with each other and we will continue to support one another until we have a strong voice in our workplaces everywhere."

The newly-inked contract with the Teamsters further gives another shot in the arm to the movement of port drivers fighting to overcome "misclassification" – illegally denying workers W-2 employment and benefits, a scam that keeps the American Dream out of their reach. Workers are coming forward with evidence for state and federal authorities as part of a coast-to-coast multi-industry crackdown on employers who disguise their employees as independent contractors to evade taxes, commit wage & hour violations, and quell unionization. The controversial practice is widespread in the deregulated trucking sector.

See here for an infographic and a summary of the contract. For more background on the Toll drivers' campaign for justice, visit their website . Information on the blue-green coalition behind the nationwide movement to drive up worker standards and clean up U.S. seaports can be found here: www.CleanAndSafePorts.org .

SOURCE International Brotherhood of Teamsters

Copyright 2011 PR Newswire. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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