[gangbox] TROQUEROS REVOLT....
TROQUEROS REVOLT....can the California port truckers wildcat strike lead to the reunionization of the freight industry???
TROQUEROS REVOLT....can the California port truckers wildcat strike
lead to the reunionization of the freight industry???
By Gregory A. Butler, local 608 carpenter
On Friday, April 30, 2004, a trucker's rebellion broke out in
The independent owner operator truck drivers who haul seafreight
shipping containers from the docks to "intermodal" terminals operated
by railroads launched a wildcat strike, which shut down all of the
cargo operations at two of the largest seaports in America, Oakland and
Long Beach, as well as the main freight terminals that haul the San
Joaquin Valley's fruits and vegtables to the world, at Stockton,
Lathrop/Salinas and Sacramento.
Now, that rebellion only lasted 10 days, but, a struggle could emerge
from this revolt which, if lead properly and not sabotaged from within,
could possibly lead to the re-unionization of the nation's 920,000 non
union freight drivers and dockworkers...and the other 1.4 million non
union drivers and warehouse workers in America...
A quarter century after these drivers, most of whom are Latino or Asian
and many of whom are immigrants, were abandoned by the International
Brotherhood of Teamsters, stripped of their employee status, forced to
buy their own trucks from their bosses and declared "owner operators",
the port truckers in the Ports of Oakland, Long Beach, Sacramento and
Lathrop/Salinas, and the Union Pacific Railroad intermodal freight
terminal at Stockton, parked their rigs and declared themselves on
The primarly issue is money. Specifically, the drivers, as owner
operators, have to pay for the diesel fuel for their vehicles out of
their wages....and diesel fuel costs have skyrocketed, while the fees
they are paid by the trucking companies has remained stagnant for the
Typically, the drivers are paid $ 50 to $ 200 per trip, depending on
how far they have to haul the shipping container from the dock. They
also recieve a very small fuel surcharge, which doesn't even come close
to covering the $ 2.39 a gallon they pay for fuel.
These prices haven't increased in over 10 years.
Also, the drivers are only paid for the time they are actually hauling
the container from place to place on their truck. They are NOT paid for
the hours they spend waiting to pick up or drop off a container at the
dock or terminal....
After expenses, the drivers typically clear about $ 8/hr in net
compensation...for an 18 hour workday. Their annual net income, after
fuel, insurance, truck payments and other business expenses, is around
$ 40,000 to $ 50,000 before taxes.
The drivers demanded a 30% increase in their rates, a 6% fuel surcharge
increase, $ 35/hr delay pay and $ 50/hr pay when they are dropping off
Beyond that immediate economic demand, the drivers were demanding union
recognition, a collective bargaining agreement, and many of the drivers
are also demanding restoration of the employee status they lost over a
quarter century ago when they were all laid off by the trucking
companies and forced to buy their trucks and become owner operators.
Incidentally, it appears that the union these drivers want recognized
is NOT the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the union that used
to represent these workers until it abandoned them 3 decades ago.....
and has spent the last 14 years trying, halfheartedly and
legalistically, to reunionize them...
In fact, the union that's publicly claimed this strike is a previously
unknown labor organization called the Intermodal Truckers Union...
The 2,000+ strikers in the Port of Oakland also have elected leaders
from among their ranks who, on behalf of the Intermodal Truckers Union,
have been negotiating with the trucking companies, shipping lines, the
Port Authority and the West Coast seafreight industry's area-wide
employers association, the Pacific Maritime Association.
Incidentally, these port trucker strikes happen to be flat out
ILLEGAL..since the drivers are owner operators, and, since they are, on
paper, independent business owners, they cannot legally form a cartel
to raise prices.
Technically, according to the Sherman Anti Trust Act, they are
committing a federal crime by forcing the seafreight industry bosses to
pay them all the same fees for hauling freight..
But, since that Sherman guy isn't around to haul the freight, the
shipowners have been forced to bargain with the drivers, irregardless
of the technical legalities of the strike....
These drivers are a very gutsy group of folks...willing to stand up for
themselves and risk their freedom, and the possible civil forfeiture of
their homes and their $ 500,000+ tractor trailer trucks....
That courage, and the the fact that the trucking companies, railroads
and shipping lines depend on their trucks and their labor to move the
cargo, is what brought the bosses to the table...
The Teamsters Union came into the strike after it started..and below
we'll get into the questionable role that the IBT has so far played in
In Los Angeles, the drivers actually parked their big tractor trailers
right in the middle of Interstate 5, the main highway in that
freeway-dependent town...blocking traffic at the heart of the morning
Those drivers in Los Angeles' massive Port of Long Beach (largest
seaport in the United States) soon returned to work....but, their
brothers and sisters in the Northern California ports of Oakland and
Lathrop/Salinas stayed out on strike for another few days.
In particular, the strikers in the Port of Oakland were oustanding in
their hardcore militancy...on Cinco De Mayo, Wednesday May 5, the
drivers actually threw stones and rocks at the handfull of scabs who
dared to drive across their picketlines... Other strikers cut the
brakeline hoses on the big rigs driven by the scabs, immobilizing them.
Of course, that pathetic attempt at scabbing was but a last gasp by the
employers....since the drivers had already shut down 90% of the
harbor's commerce (only 100 trucks entered the intermodal terminals
that day, as opposed to the typical 1,100 on a normal day).
While the strikers got violent with the scabs at the Port of Oakland,
Union Pacific Railroad had actually already been forced to terminate
freight train service to the ports of Los Angeles, Lathrop/Salinas and
The reason was simple...since almost all of the drivers were striking,
there would be no way for them to unload the seafreight containers off
their trains..which would jam their railroad yards with containers, and
cause a bottleneck throughout the UPRR's freight system.
The shipping lines called the cops on the stone throwing truckers, of
course, who were unable to drive the pickets off.
The shipping lines also tried to end the strike by offering a really
bad settlement, offering to set up a powerless "joint committee" that
would meet every 3 months to talk about the truckers greivances.
The drivers rejected the settlement...but, by Friday, the threat of
court injunctions had intimidated some of the strike leaders in Oakland
and Lathrop to return to work...including Youbert Betady, the main
spokesman for the strikers at Lathrop, who as early as Wednesday was
already back at work hauling containers.
One of the Oakland negotiators for the Intermodal Truckers Union,
Irvinder Dahanda, also publicly called for the workers to return to
work on Monday, May 10, in effect officially calling off the strike.
Unfortnately, this injunction, and the fact that their leaders were not
prepared to defy the court order and keep the terminals shut down, has
caused many drivers to follow the lead of Brothers Betady and Dhanda,
and return to the roads, rather than continuning to strike illegally.
However, unlike a typical American strike, this labor struggle didn't
just come to a clearcut end just because the leaders cut a deal....the
Intermodal Truckers Union is not the formal representative of the
workers, and the union itself apparently doesn't have a typical
authoritarian union leadership structure...so there's nobody in the
union's leadership who can order the drivers back to work...
As the Oakland strike was ending, the Northern California drivers were
joined in struggle by 80 drivers at the Yang Ming shipping lines
terminal in Long Beach, who walked out demanding union recognition.
Leaflets issued by the Yang Ming drivers called for the spreading of
this strike throughout Los Angeles harbor, especially in light of the
fact that a lot of ships and freight trains that were supposed to be
unloaded in Oakland, Lathrop and Stockton are currently bound for Los
While it lasted, the strike was extremely effective, with the vast
majority of the 3,000+ Bay Area port drivers honoring the lines.
Reportedly, no racial divisions broke out among the port
truckers....even though the bulk of the leadership of the strike were
Latino, (evidenced by the fact that many of the leaflets refer to the
drivers by the Spanish term < Troqueros > rather than the English term
"Truckers") White, American Black, African immigrant, Indian and Asian
drivers honored the lines as well.
Meanwhile, as the strike wound down in Cali, on the other end of the
country, Virginia port truckers called a strike of their own, at the
Portsmouth and Norfolk Intermodal terminals. 200+ drivers actually
picketed, with 300+ more honoring the lines and refusing to work
Unfortunately, unlike the open ended Oakland strike call, the Virginia
strike was limited to a 2 day walkout. This time limitation on the
Norfolk strike may be due to the conservative influence of the
Teamsters Union, and in particular the main Teamsters Port Division
organizer in the Tidewater region, Jim Stewart, on the leadership of
the Virginia truck drivers....
Several days after the Oakland strike ended, on May 12, port truckers
in Houston also staged a brief walkout, which, again thanks to the
conservative influence of the Teamsters Port Division, was a brief
strike, limited to only one day...
On that same day, across the country in Tacoma, Washington, 250 owner
operator lumber truck drivers from across Washington State and Oregon
also called a one day strike, and drove their rigs to the Tacoma Dome
for a rally....these drivers, like the Oakland truckers, were also
organized by an independent union...but, unlike the largely Asian and
Latino port truckers, most of these guys are White....
Even as the strike wound down in Cali, according to reports on rank and
file Teamster internet bulletin board TeamsterNet
[ http://www.teamster.net], efforts have been made to contact drivers at
the ports of Seattle, New York/Newark, Balitmore, New Orleans, Miami
and Hamilton, Ontario to spread the strike transcontinentally.
Meanwhile, even though the strike has straggled to an end in Northern
California, the drivers did secure some economic gains by
striking...including a 15% increase in shipping rates paid to the
driver, with a 5% fuel surcharge on top of that...for a total 20%
increase in compensation for the troqueros...
Now, the question is, who exactly organized this strike that, compared
to most strikes in the last 3 decades, was so incredibly successful?
Apparently, the leaflets that called the strike were issued by an
independent, non AFL-CIO affiliated entity called the Intermodal
Truckers Union, which has also reportedly been circulating petitions
among drivers to get the union recognized as their bargaining agent.
The leaders of the strike apparently are also the leaders of this new
Intermodal Truckers Union...
Now, the question is, were these workers supproted by the AFL-CIO union
with nominal jurisdiction over the industry, the 1.4 million member
International Brotherhood of Teamsters???
That's a surprisingly tough question to answer...due to the odd fact
that the Teamsters Union was kindasorta supporting the strike...and was
also kindasorta NOT supporting it...
The director of the Teamsters Port Division, one Chuck Mack, did issue
a couple of statements about the strike...statements that tended to be
That is, Mack would claim to support the strike...but he's refused to
sanction it, nor has the union offered any meaningful material support
from the Teamsters Union for the strikers, such as money or food...and
the union even ordered some of it's members at the Port of Oakland to
openly scab on the strike!!
Also, some of Mack's statements of "support" for the strikers were
dripping with thinly veiled elitism and racism....such as this gem, "I
don't know if it's going to last or not. It's so spontaneous.
Maintaining a work stoppage is extremely difficult when you have people
who are on the lower end of the socio-economic ladder, as these guys
Mixed with the racism of the Port Division was the fear of these
militant workers who the union bosses cannot control, or, as another
Port Divsion official put it "We are not going to lend our name to
something unless we have control over the agenda"...
And the Teamsters Union honcho's prosal to "settle" the walkout is
Mack proposed that the trucking companies set up a "public registry"
where they'd post how much they pay the drivers for diesel fuel.
Mack has also proposed that a committee of academics and other
"independent" so called "community representatives" (none of whom would
be actual truckers, of course) be set up to make nonbinding suggestions
to the trucking companies about how much they should pay their drivers.
Mack gave lip service support to the demand of the drivers to get union
recognition, and their employee status restored...but that was about as
far as he was willing to go on those demands...
Of course, Mack made sure, with every backhanded call for "support" of
the strike, to make sure that everybody knew that, officially, the IBT
had nothing to do with calling the strike.
Mack even went so far as to order Teamsters Union-represented employee
port truckers driving for SeaLogix trucking at the Maersk/SeaLand docks
at the Port of Oakland to CROSS THE PICKETLINE AND SCAB ON THE
Now, the IBT wasn't the only union to scab on the port truckers
The main union on the Oakland Docks, the International Longshore and
Warehouse Union, (ILWU), also orderd it's members to scab.
The ILWU is a communist-led union who's leadership prides itself on
it's radicalism (at least on political issues that have nothing to do
with longshoremen or other port workers), so their scabherding is kinda
shocking..and kinda pathetic..
Oakland Longshore local 10's members were ordered to report directly to
work on the docks, and to cross the Intermodal Truckers Union
picketlines to do so...
The local 10 longshoremen weren't even allowed to TALK to the striking
truckers...and, when they were dispached by the local, the
longshoremen's names were reported to the stevedoring companies..with
the implicit threat that, if they respected the line and refused to
work, they'd be punished...
Now, local 10 is a supposedly ultraradical local in a supposedly
extremely radical union...
ILWU local 10's president, one Clarence Thomas, and it's BA, one Jack
Heyman, speak at anti war rallies (Heyman even got busted by the
Oakland Police Department for his high profile anti war activism), are
vocal supporters of every leftist cause you could imagine...and are
even calling a "Million Worker March" on Washington at election time.
Thomas is also one of the most prominent Black labor leaders in the Bay
Area, and one of the main African American union officials in the
seafreight industry on the West Coast...so you'd especially expect him
to show solidarity with workers of color, like the Asian and Latino
port truck drivers....
But, when it was put up or shut up time, Thomas and Heyman failed the
test of class struggle, and ordered their members to scab...or face
retaliation from the shipping companies..
Clarence Thomas could have been a latter-day A. Phillip Randolph in
this situation, stepped up, and took a stand for the port
truckers....instead, he chose to act like his namesake on the US
Supreme Court, and used legalistic excuses to make his members scab on
The justification for the ILWU's scabbing was the same sorry excuse
that union used during the last 4 port truckers strikes in Cali...the
fear of lawsuits from the employers and their trade association, the
Pacific Martitime Association.
As for the IBT, the union with nominal jurisdiction over these drivers,
the cowardice and open scabherding engaged in by the Teamster bosses is
because the union's leaders fear that, since the drivers are, on paper,
independent businesspeople, any union support for the strike could get
them sued for Sherman Anti Trust Act violations....
Now, of course, the leaders of the Teamsters Union have frequently been
accused, indicted and even convicted of committing criminal acts
(including Mack's predecessor as head of the Teamsters Port Division,
George Cashman, who has been incarcerated in a Federal correctional
facility since July 2003 for letting a trucking company violate the
union contract in return for that firm giving Cashman a payoff and
putting a drug dealing Hell's Angel friend of Cashman on the payroll
with a no show job...)
But, the bosses of the Teamsters Union know very well that, as long as
those criminal acts benefit the employers, and only hurt the workers,
they will not be punished..unless the employer feels the cost of the
payoff exceeds the value of the union contract violation...that's
basically what happened in Cashman's case, and in the many other cases
in the last half century or so where law enforcement has intervened in
the internal life of the IBT.
Of course, if violating the law hurts the bosses, and in particular if
violating the law helps the workers...then there will be hell to pay,
and the risk of legal action is very high..
Also, labor leaders like Chuck Mack see themselves as middlemen between
the bosses and the workers, who's job is to create "class peace" and
"labor management cooperation". Mack and them do NOT see themselves as
the leaders of workers struggles...instead, their goal in life is to
PREVENT workers from fighting back against the bosses..
And, personally, being a middleman between the bosses and the workers
has been very profitable...
Mack, a millionaire who's been a full time union boss since the 1970's,
has 4 seperate full time $ 100,000+ a year jobs with the International
Brotherhood of Teamsters..he's simultaniously Secretary Treasurer of
Oakland Teamsters local 70, President of Northern California Teamsters
Joint Council 7, International Vice President of the Teamsters and
Director of the Teamsters Port Division...
Incidentally, two of those jobs are actually in Washington DC, and two
in Oakland...and, on paper, they're all full time 40+ hour a week
jobs....how he manages to actually perform all those jobs, in two
cities 3,000 miles apart, working, on paper, 160+ hours in a 168 hour
week, is not at all clear..
This may sound like a harsh assessment...
Harsh, but true, unfortunately...
Let's start off by using Chuck Mack's own words to describe the state
of today's Teamsters, and the menatlity of the leadership of the
When Mack was annointed as head of the Teamsters Port Division by
Teamsters General President Jim "Junior" Hoffa back in July 2003
(replacing convicted felon George Cashman, who, as I mentioned above,
had just been sent away to federal prison for extortion, insurance
fraud and labor racketeering...Cashman, who's also a millionare like
Mack, actually got paid for FIVE full time union staff jobs...plus a
job as a director of the Massachusssets Port Authority, MASSPORT,
before he got locked up), here's how Chuck described his mission in his
new union post:
"Our port trucking operations are a disaster, the weak link, the
Achilles heel of the global economy. I look forward to working with the
waterfront unions and industry leaders to make port trucking
dependable, efficient and profitable, and to bring justice and
sustainable wages to the port drivers"
Notice the phrase "our port trucking operations..." as if the drivers
and the trucking companies that exploit their labor are somehow
'partners' rather than antagonists with a fundamental conflict of
And, of course, the intermodal port trucking industry's "efficiency and
profitability", which Mack is so concerned about, comes directly from
keeping truckers wages low..and not paying the truckers for their
waiting time.... and renting trucks and selling insurance to those
drivers under very unequal terms...
We also can see that Mack's main priority appears to be making the
seafreight industry function more efficinetly....and his concern for
improving the wages and working conditions of the drivers is, at best,
secondary to that main pro-business priority.
Also, notice that Mack speaks of "sustainable" wages, and NOT higher
wages...which, in plain English, most likely means as little as the
trucking companies can get away with paying...
Mack's not the only Teamsters Port Division official to think in such a
pro employer way...
Here's how Chuck's deputy, the Port Division's assistant director,
former socialist Ron Carver, described the role of the Teamsters Port
Division to shipping industry magazine "Journal of Commerce", "We have
a history of advocating for our employers"
Beyond the IBT's pro employer "labor management partnership" ideology,
as I mentioned above, the Teamsters Union leadership is terrified of
using any kind of extralegal means of fighting the bosses in the
The Teamsters Union's port trucking organizing efforts are, like most
union organizing drives these days, very lawyer-dominated....
In fact, one of the two leading figures in the IBT's port trucker
efforts in Los Angeles over the last decade is in fact an attorney, one
Jim DeMaegt, a civil rights lawyer affiliated with the National Lawyers
The other main Teamsters man on the docks is actually a tax
accountant...former port driver Ernesto Jesus "Ernie" Navarez..a man
who, like DeMaegt, also has a cripplingly legalistic mentality, coupled
with a mortal fear of using illegal tactics to win workplace
Needless to say, lawyers and accountants usually don't make
particularly good militant wildcat strike leaders....particularly if
those militant wildcat strikes happen to be ILLEGAL...as owner operator
As a pratical matter, the union's paralyzing legalism has prevented the
union from taking any pratical steps to reorganize these
workers...like, for example, doing what the Intermodal Truckers Union
did and calling an areawide strike, despite the Sherman Anti Trust Act
prohibitions on owner-operator strikes.
Notice I said "reorganize"...from the early 1900's til the 1970's,
almost every port trucker in America was a member of the International
Brotherhood of Teamsters.
But, in the 1970's, the companies fired almost every one of these
workers...and then forced them to go out and buy a tractor trailer
truck, and then come back on the job as "independent owner operator"
All told, around 50,000 workers were forcibly deunionized by this
Some of the drivers even ended up buying their trucks from their former
The Teamsters Union did nothing to stop this..and then did nothing to
attempt to bargain for their former members who had been forced to
become owner operators...
These workers lost their pensions, their health coverage and had their
incomes sharply reduced.
In 1988, the Communications Workers of America launches a short-lived
organizing drive among the drivers, as part of a broader campaign to
organize low wage Latino workers in LA (the other main organizing
target was trade show workers at the Los Angeles Convention Center).
There was a strike then too..which, unfortunately, didn't produce a
The CWA soon walked away from the union drive, abandoning the workers.
Then, the Teamsters Union came back in the picture.
Their were 4 major work stoppages that the Teamsters were involved in,
most notably in 1993..
That strike ended up in litigation...with the Teamsters Union's crack
staff of well paid lawyers taking the case all the way to the United
States Supreme Court.
Basically, instead of using an illegal strike to force the shipping
lines, railroads, stevedoring companies and trucking companies to
bargain with the drivers, irregardless of their technical employment
status, the union wasted almost a decade trying to find a legal cover
for a port truckers strike by trying to invent a fictional
"employer-employee" relationship between the self employed drivers and
the seafreight companies...
As late as 2001, the Teamsters Port Division in Los Angeles was having
owner operator truckers file bogus Unemployment Insurance claims
against trucking companies they contracted with..and, then, when the
California Department of Labor inevitably rejected these fradulent
claims, then taking the state and the trucking companies to court to
prove this non existant "employer-employee" relationship...
After those lengthy, costly, and ultimately pointless, court battles,
the union always held back from any serious attempts to lead an
area-wide recognition strike...using the same tired legalistic Sherman
Anti Trust Act excuses for their inaction...
This Teamsters Union obcession with anti trust law violations has been
the main factor that has kept the IBT from reunionizing these
workers....and has been the number one excuse the union's leaders have
used to stop workers from doing the one thing that will enable them to
reunionize..that is, calling out an areawide strike at the ports, and
stopping the freight from moving until the bosses agree to deal with
The Teamsters Port Division's main organizer in Georgia, Jim McDermott,
actually used similar legalistic reasoning to torpedo a strike movement
by port truckers in Savannah 4 years ago....by scaring the drivers into
returning to work with the threat of an anti trust suit...
It's kinda odd that the Teamsters Union leadership were so worried
about breaking the law to help workers.. since the man who ran the
Teamsters Port Division at the time, convicted labor racketeer George
Cashman, apparently spent a considerable portion of his time in the
company of Hell's Angels, South Boston Irish gangsters, drug dealers
and other professional criminals..
In some cases, Cashman's criminal ties led to workers actually being
For example, in two cases, members of local 52 of the Stagehands Union
working on movie sets in New England were, allegedly, beaten by reputed
Cashman associates because they refused to give up their jobs and their
trucks to gangsters....
Cashman also allegedly let trucking companies violate Boston Teamsters
local 25 union contracts if they paid him money, and if they gave no
work jobs (and the health coverage that went with those jobs) to his
It didn't matter to Cashman that legitimate teamsters were sitting home
jobless, with no health coverage, while his criminal buddies collected
teamster paychecks and had their families covered by Teamsters Union
So, breaking the law to HURT workers is OK..but breaking the law to
HELP workers is not..
In the end, Cashman's criminality began to cost the trucking companies
and movie producers more money than they saved by violating the union
This led the bosses to complain to the government..and, since the
business community, as a group, controls the government, this led to
Cashman going to federal prison...
In the end, when the port truckers of California decided to
unionize...they did NOT do so under the leadership of the Teamsters
Union...in fact this job action was in defiance of the IBT bosses....
Instead, they built their own union, the Intermodal Truckers Union, an
organization which apparently does NOT have millionare officials
collecting multiple $ 100,000/yr salaries.
Now, the port truckers weren't the only workers abandoned by the
Teamsters Union during the 1970's..
Far from it...most of the nation's freight drivers were forcibly
deunionized at that time....
I've explored the decline and fall of the Teamsters Union at length on
GANGBOX, at :
Here's a brief summary of that story.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen
and Helpers of America, which was founded in August 1903 as a union of
urban delivery wagon drivers, had originally organized the over the
road truck drivers back in 1936.
That organizing drive started in Minneapolis, where a group of
Trotskyite socialists had led a citywide general strike in 1934 that
unionized the local delivery drivers.
Those socialists had come up with an idea to unionize all the freight
drivers who hauled freight between cities.
Their method was to unionize all the terminals of all the trucking
carriers in a city, and then demand that all the drivers delivering to
that terminal work under union contracts.
Then, they would unionize the terminals those drivers worked out of in
their home city, and then unionize all the drivers that drove to those
That method worked like a charm..and, after 2 years of militant
strikes, they had organized almost every over the road freight driver
in the Upper Midwest..
At the same time, the Teamsters Union organized carriers in the West,
Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and New
England..(although the union used gangster methods in those regions
rather than the mass truckers strikes that the Trotskyites used in the
Great Plains)...which led to most of the industry being unionized by
Those Trotskyite socialists were rewarded for their efforts by being
kicked out of the Teamsters Union just 2 years later...
But, despite that, the industry still ended up being almost totally
By the mid 1950's, 65% of the interstate truckers in America were
members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, working under
one national union contract, the National Master Freight Agreement.
The NMFA, covering over 400,000 over the road drivers, city drivers,
dockworkers, clericals and other teamsters, was one of the strongest
union contracts in America...
Unique among American labor agreements, NMFA lacked a no-strike clause,
and it even allowed members to legally stage local strikes over
greivances for up to 3 days without approval by the union...
However, those good times didn't last for long...
The pro-employer mentality of the leadership of the Teamsters Union had
already started to chip away at the victory that the workers had
As early as the 1950's, Teamsters General President Jimmy Hoffa had
allowed certain companies to sign inferior union contracts, (so called
"White Paper Agreements") that forced their employees to work for lower
pay and under inferior conditions...
In many cases, employers had to pay for the privilige of having
inferior contracts....in one case, a trucking company was required to
rent it's trucks from Jimmy Hoffa's wife in return for a sweetheart
Of course, to engage in such labor racketeering activity, Hoffa had to
come to an understanding with the Mafia..and, in fact, the wiseguys
came to control many Teamsters Union locals, as well as many of the
union's pension funds, including it's largest, the Central States
As is customary in the world of racketeering, the mobsters got a cut of
the payoffs as well...
However, the payoffs to Hoffa and his associates began to cost the
trucking companies more than what they saved with the sweetheart
contracts...so, the bosses complained to the government (a government
which, after all, their class controls)..and the feds arrested,
indicted, and, after several trials, convicted and incarcerated Hoffa.
After Jimmy Hoffa went to prison, General President Frank Fitzsimmons
continued to chip away at the NMFA.. signing more and more white paper
Drivers did try and rebel against these givebacks...most notably in
April 1970, when the truckers forced the union to call all 400,000
Teamster freight drivers out on the first national strike in the
union's history. That strike was centered among drivers in Ohio,
Chicago..and on the docks in Los Angeles.
The Ohio truckers even went so far as to engage in running gun battles
on the highways with scabs, the Ohio State Police and even the Ohio
Incidentally, the national guardsmen who massacred 4 anti war
protesting college students at Kent State University on May 4, 1970 had
spent the previous month engaging in what amounted to guerrilla warfare
against armed Teamsters Union roving pickets on the highways in and
around Cleveland...that's why they had live ammo in their rifles, and
were so quick to open fire on civilians.
Beyond that dramatic episode, Teamsters all across the country had a
generally high level of militancy..they were quick to use their legal
right under NMFA to call 3 day strikes over greivances....and it was
becoming harder and harder for pro employer Teamsters Union officials
to sell out workers to the companies..
Due to that bubbling militancy in the unionized truck terminals, during
the negotiations for the 1976-79 NMFA, unionized trucking companies
demanded the right to become "double breasted"...that is, to have the
right to set up non union subsidiaries.
Teamsters General President Frank Fitzsimmons agreed to let the
trucking companies do just that....in the form of a clause to the NMFA
called the 'Special Commodities Rider".
The Special Commodities Rider said that unionized trucking companies
could set up non union subsidiaries to haul fresh fruit from farms to
railroad terminals, cannery plants and grocery warehouses. The excuse
was that, supposedly, the unionized trucking companies could not
compete with non union independent truckers who were hauling that type
of cargo..and needed to go non union to compete for that work...
Almost immediately, every unionized trucking company set up "double
breasted" subsidiaries..alter ego companies that would use the Special
Commodities Rider to operate non union. All of the "Big Four" less than
truckload carriers, (Consolidated Freightways, Roadway Express, Yellow
Freight and ABF) had huge non union subsidiaries....CF and Roadway
actually carried more freight non union than union.
The smaller NMFA carriers followed suit, including airfreight carrier
Airborne Express, which ended up being about 90% non union.
Truckload carrier Schenider became almost entirely scab..with only 2
small Wisconsin-based divisions, with less than 250 drivers, staying
union...and the remainder of the company's 10,000 drivers and
dockworkers being transferred to the company's vast non union
Needless to say, the non union carriers did NOT limit themselves to
only hauling fresh fruit!!!!
Sadly, the leadership of the Teamsters Union did absolutely NOTHING to
resist the scabification of their industry...
Certainly, they were upset to lose all those members, and all that dues
income, and the political influence that went with the power they had
But, the Teamsters Union's bosses didn't dare to launch a national
strike to stop the deunionization...
This was due to the fact that they feared unleashing the power of their
members...which would, among other things, probably jeapordize their
control over the union. Also, such a massive strike would threaten the
trucking company bosses..and even the capitalistic system itself...and
that would be the last thing that the International Brotherhood of
Teamsters' business unionist leadership would want...
The flood of non union freight hauling that began with the 1976 Special
Commodities Rider turned into a deluge in 1978, when the Carter
Administration deregulated freight.
Prior to deregulation, the Interstate Commerce Commission set freight
routes and rate structures, and limited how many companies could
operate in the industry.
After deregulation, ANYBODY could get an ICC number and haul interstate
This led to an epidemic of trucking companies going non union. Many
went even further, firing their drivers, selling trucks and trailers
and insurance to those drivers, and then contracting with those
"independent" drivers as owner-operators..
That's exactly how the trucking companies that hauled seafreight went
from being almost 90% union in the early 1970's to being over 90% non
union by the end of the decade...
The seafreight trucking companies simply fired all of the teamsters who
hauled seafreight, leased them trucks and chassis, sold insurance to
them, and then contracted with them to haul seafreight containers as
What did the Teamsters Union do to stop that abuse???
NOTHING....absolutely nothing at all...
Of course, none of the other waterfront unions did anything either....
The two longshoremen's unions, the communist-led International
Longshore and Warehouse Union on the West Coast, Alaska and Hawaii and
the gangster-controlled International Longshoremen's Association on the
East Coast, Gulf Coast, Great Lakes, Mississippi Valley and Puerto Rico
were content to have their members work side by side with non union
drivers...they did absolutely nothing to try and stop this blatant
That wasn't that surprising with the ILA, which had been a racketeer
influenced and corrupted organization for most of it's existance, but
it was kinda shocking that the radical ILWU just turned around and let
this blatant massive labor abuse go unpunished...
Needless to say, the Teamsters, ILA and ILWU set the tone for
aquiesence to union busting...
Inaction, passivity in the face of attack and letting open scabherding
go without a fight was the name of the game from the other waterfront
unions too; nothing was done by the sailors unions; National Maritime
Union, Seafarers International Union and Sailors Union of the Pacific,
or the ship's officers unions; Marine Engineers Beneficial Association
and International Union of Masters Mates and Pilots or the unions that
represented waterfront maintenance workers; the International
Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, International Brotherhood of
Boilermakers and International Association of Machinists
Of course, as I pointed out above, the Teamsters Union didn't do
anything about deregulation either....the only attempt they made to
"struggle" against deregulation was to try and bribe Senator Howard
Cannon (R-NV) to vote against the bill..and all they succeded in doing
was getting a bunch of Teamsters Union officers indicted....including
Frank Fitzsimmons' sucessor as general president, Roy Williams...
Not surprisingly, the Teamsters Union imploded as a freight
union...with it's freight membership shrinking from over 400,000 in the
early 1970's to less than 80,000 today..less than 20,000 of whom are
actually covered by NMFA.
The loss of the freight sector was part of the overall decay of the
IBT...the union shrank from 2.3 million members in 1975 to barely 1.4
million members today...
And, to a large degree, the Teamsters Union has ceased to be a truck
drivers union....around 700,000 Teamsters work in industries that have
little or nothing to do with the trucking business...factory workers,
government employees, police officers, secretaries, printers, cannery
employees, brewery workers, airline pilots, performers at Disney World,
Of the remaining approximately 700,000 road-related teamsters, 230,000
of them drive or load trucks for UPS, and around 400,000 are delivery
drivers or warehouse workers for supermarkets...
If it wasn't for those two groups of teamsters, the International
Brotherhood of Teamsters would be almost totally nonexistant as a
These days, the largest less-than-truckload (LTL) freight carrier in
America is non union....Federal Express' FedEx Freight division.
Interestingly enough, a lot of FedEx's expansion as a freight company
came because they purchased the non union subsidiaries of union
trucking companies...Yellow Freight Systems' Saia and Jevic, and
Roadway Express' Viking and Roadway Package Systems.
And, the company that was once the largest union LTL freight company in
America, Consolidated Freightways, has gone out of business as a union
Of course, it's non union ConWay Express divisions are still going
strong...together running a nationwide cargo network that covers all 48
NationsWay also closed it's union division...with barely a week's
notice to the drivers..(many NationsWay drivers hauling on the East
Coast found out they were jobless from all news radio or their CB's)
but the Denver-based company's non union subsidiary, NFI, is still in
business..as is, of course, the Colorado Rockies, the Major League
Baseball expansion team that was purchased by NFI's owner as NationsWay
was supposedly going "bankrupt"...
CCC, a Detroit-based carrier that was unionized by Jimmy Hoffa and
Frank Fitzsimmons in the 1930's, also closed down it's union side,
leaving it's non union side, Crete, in business.
Preston and A-P-A Transport went completely out of business.
Meanwhile, another group of trucking companies, the carhaulers, decided
to bust the Teamsters, and deunionize their 15,000 workers.
Allied, Ryder, Leaseway and JHT, the main firms in that market segment,
all have non union subsidiaries, and have been actively shifting work
from their unionized operations to their non union divisions. They've
been joined by UPS Logistics, the non union subsidiary of the largest
Teamster employer in the country, United Parcel Service, a firm that
employs 230,000 teamsters in it's package hauling division.
The carhauling firms have been working hand in glove with General
Motors, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Mack Trucks, Navistar
and Freightliner Trucks in agressively laying off teamsters and
Also, naturally, DaimlerChrysler uses scab carriers to haul cars from
it's non union plant in Alabama, as do the other non union automakers
(Nissan in Tennessee, Toyota in Kentucky, BMW in South Carolina and
Honda in Ohio).
The carhaulers have also agressively deunionized their operations that
haul imported new cars from the Canadian and Mexican borders, and from
These unionbusting firms have also been actively assisted by another
AFL-CIO union, the International Association of Machinists, which has
been signing sweetheart contracts with some of the double breasted
The Teamsters Union has done next to nothing to stop this...besides
filing pathetically ineffective lawsuits and a few local strikes here
Also, the United Auto Workers has stood idly by while unionized
teamsters are replaced by non union drivers at UAW-represented auto
plants...and the ILA and ILWU have allowed these firms to use non union
drivers to haul imported cars from the docks in Los Angeles, Oakland,
Houston, New Orleans, Savannah, Norfolk, Baltimore and Newark...
Today, only 7,000 of the nation's 15,000 formerly IBT represented
carhaulers still work under Teamsters Union agreements..and that number
is getting smaller every day...
Besides it's involvement in non union carhauling, UPS also has used non
union labor in it's core package business...specifically, they use non
union owner operators to suppliment it's unionized "feeder driver" -
the tractor trailer drivers who haul packages between UPS service
Of course, the Teamsters Union has done nothing to stop this....
Basically, the nation's freight industry has become essentially non
union..and no trucking company in America hauls all of it's freight
with union labor...
The Teamsters Union has launched organzing efforts, of
course...currently, the Teamsters have an NLRB election campaign at US
Freightways' USF Dugan subsidiary...
USF is a double breasted company, with it's New Jersey-based USF Red
Star and Chicago-based USF Holland divisions operating union..and the
rest of the company non union.
But, the Teamsters have been having one terminal at a time Labor
Department elections at USF Dugan, and, of course, like all NLRB
campaigns, it quickly became bogged down in one lawsuit after
Hopefully, the drivers and dockworkers at USF Dugan will suceed in
But, based on the IBT's freight industry track record in the last
decade...I wouldn't bet on it...
Unfortnately, the last two major Teamsters Union NLRB trucking industry
election campaigns, at Central Freight and Overnite Express, were
Drivers and dockworkers at Central Freight's huge Irving, Texas
terminal approached the Teamsters 4 years ago, seeking unionization.
Central is one of the main carriers hauling manufactured goods up and
down Interstate 35 between the factories of the Midwest and the
maquiladora sweatshops of Northern Mexico.
Their terminal at Irving, Texas is the largest freight barn on the
Unfortunately, that organizing drive was lost in large part due to the
perception of thuggishness that hovers around the boss of the Teamsters
Union in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Local 745 President Tyson Johnson.
Like the other Teamster bosses we've met in this article (Chuck Mack
and the incarcerated labor racketeer George Cashman) Johnson is a
millionare, who has three seperate six-figure salary union staff
jobs...head of local 745, Assistant Director of the Teamsters Freight
Division, and International Vice President.
And, like Chuck and the imprisoned George, it's highly probable that
Tyson only works one of those gigs....the others appear to be six
figure no show no work jobs....in Johnson's case, he lives in the DFW
metropolitan area, where his local 745 spot is based...but the other
two positions are actually domiciled in Washington DC..
Also, Tyson Johnson's supporters allegedly have beaten up teamsters who
support the union's dissident caucus, Teamsters for a Democratic Union
Some of those alleged beatings have allegedly happened in a tunnel
under the loading dock at the Yellow Freight Systems terminal in
Irving....which just happens to be ACROSS THE STREET from the Central
After local 745 dissidents complained about the alleged beatings on
rank and file Teamsters internet bulletin board Teamster.Net
[ http://www.teamster.net], persons claiming to be Tyson Johnson's thugs
actually made posts to Teamster.Net BRAGGING about carrying out the
assaults on teamster dissidents in the tunnel under the loading dock at
YFS's Irving, Texas terminal...
Now, it was high union milage rates and hourly wages, superior union
benefits and the protection of union work rules at Yellow Freight
Systems which first attracted Central Freight drivers and dockworkers
to the union..
But, once the Central Freight workers found out about the alleged
beatings of drivers and dockworkers by persons who were supposedly
supporters of Tyson Johnson...that support turned to revulsion...
The Teamsters lost that NLRB election at Central Freight very
badly..the workers at Irving overwhelmingly rejected Tyson Johnson's
local 745, and only a small isolated group of city drivers and
dockworkers 1,000 miles away at Central's tiny Las Vegas terminal voted
for the IBT...
Organizing Central Freight could have been the key to reunionizing the
freight industry, since so much of the American less-than-truckload
(LTL) freighthauling industry is involved in hauling freight from
Mexican factories along the Rio Grande
FedEx Freight, ConWay Express, JB Hunt, Overnite, and US Freightway's
non union side are all major players in that market alongside Central
Freight, and there is a huge concentration of 30,000 non union
warehouse workers in Laredo, Texas who unload freight off Mexican
trucks and load it onto American vehicles...
The non union truckload carriers, companies like CL England and
Schneider, also carry a lot of their cargo along the "NAFTA corridor"
too...and that segnment has basically become 99% non union since the
Special Commodities Rider and deregulation...
Organizing Central Freight could have been the key to unionizing those
workers...and the failure at Central Freight now guarantees that the
Teamsters Union will NOT be organizing that very strategic group of
freight workers any time soon....
As pathetic as that was, it wasn't as humiliating as the Teamsters
Union's defeat at Overnite Express (OVNT)...
Overnite was one of the few trucking companies that managed to evade
unionization during the Teamsters Union's massive national freight
organzing drives during the 1930's...
OVNT stayed non union because it was a family owned company, and the
firm's paternalistic owners went out of their way to cultivate a sense
of "family" among the workers...
That all changed when the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) brought out
OVNT in the early 1990's.
Gone was the "family atmosphere" and the sense the workers had that
OVNT management knew them and cared about them as individuals..
In it's place was the same brutally militaristic labor discipline that
UPRR had used in it's railroad operations since the 1870's...where
maximizing ton/miles and minimizing labor costs was priority one, and
the men and women who moved the freight were expendable objects of
production, rather than flesh and blood people...
The culture shock of their work environment changing almost overnight
from a "family" type situation to an industrial boot camp caused many
of OVNT's 8,000 road drivers, city drivers and dockworkers to approach
the Teamsters Union about organizing their company back in 1994.
Close to 2,000 of those workers became active supporters of the IBT...
The union's support was confined to the drivers and the loading dock
workforce, the men and women who's conditions had most deteriorated
since the UPRR takover...
The Teamsters Union had especially strong support from the drivers and
dockworkers at the company's 4 main terminals, Memphis, North Atlanta,
Dallas and Miami.
Unfortunately, the company's 3,500 clericals, security guards and
mechanics remained as anti union as they'd been when OVNT was a
On paper, that would seem to be the best time for them to go
union...especially since the Teamsters Union had a reform president,
one Ron Carey, and Teamsters dissident caucus Teamsters for a
Democratic Union (TDU) had become the main political influence on the
The old Teamsters Union leadership had been ousted by the US Department
of Justice...mainly because their corruption had become too costly for
the business community, who wanted a compliant union, but were tired of
making payoffs to get union givebacks...
TDU cooperated with the government takover, and were able to ride to
power on the feds' coattails..
The "New Teamsters" under Carey and TDU also put a heavy emphasis on
organizing the unorganized.
The Carey administration had totally revamped the IBT's organzing
program, centralized the international union's organizing staff, and
fired all the cronies, gangsters and unemployable relatives of union
officials who had dominated the ranks of international organizers under
previous administrations and repaced them with competent and militant
But, although Carey's organizers were both competent and militant, they
were also bound to a legalistic and basically business unionist view of
They could have led those 2,000 workers out on a recognition strike
against OVNT. They also could have perhaps suplimented that walkout by
placing Teamster pickets around UPRR's intermodal terminals (which
would cripple UPRR's railfreight operations, both by causing teamster
drivers to refuse to drop off and pick up freight from the terminals,
and by causing UPRR's own unionized locomotive engineers, conductors
and freighthandlers to refuse to work behind IBT picketlines).
However, that would have caused a national uproar, and also would have
involved mobilizing tens of thousands of teamsters, as well as the
8,000 drivers and dockworkers at OVNT, into union activism....
And that kind of mass movement of workers makes business unionists very
uncomfortable...even those business unionists like Carey and TDU who
claim to be "militant"...
In particular, the Trotskyite socialists from a group called Solidarity
who, behind the scenes, run TDU have always been scared to death of
mobilizing mass movements of workers...
Instead, TDU has relied on backroom deals with "reform" union bosses
like Ron Carey and the lawyers of the US Department of Justice to aid
their drive to come to power in the Teamsters Union..
So, instead of leading the OVNT workers into a quick, and probably
victorious, struggle, the Teamsters organzing department started the
lengthy, tedious, legalistic and employer dominated process of filing
UPRR immediately deployed batallions of some of the finest
management-side labor lawyers in the world to defeat the IBT
petitions...or at least bog them down in litigation forever...
And bog the Teamsters down they did...
Among UPRR's legal manouvers was to try and force the Teamsters to
include the pro management security guards, clerical workers and
mechanics in the bargaining unit with the fiercely pro union drivers
and dockworkers...with the intent of making sure the IBT lost the NLRB
Also, the IBT was forced to file seperate NLRB petitions at every
single one of OVNT's 138 terminals in the Continental United States..a
manouver that cost the union a lot of money, and tied down a lot of
organizers and a lot of lawyers in endless legal wrangling with OVNT's
managers and UPRR's attorneys...
Meanwhile, at the terminals, OVNT's line supervisors started a ground
attack on IBT supporters..
And I do mean ATTACK...
Overnite management actually went so far as to set up an armed anti
union employee group which can only be described as a Colombian-style
death squad - OVNT SWAT.
OVNT SWAT was a violent militaristic group, as it's name would
imply....SWAT, of course, is the acronym for the most malevolent,
agressive and racist branch of the Los Angeles Police Deparment, the
Special Weapons and Tactics unit...
OVNT SWAT commenced violent physical attacks on pro Teamster workers in
the terminals, in a very blatant and public manner, even going so far
as to operate a website that publicized and glorified their attacks on
Of course, the Teamsters Union never even dreamed of arming and
organizing their own members to defend themselves against OVNT SWAT's
death squad-style attacks...
Now, admittedly, that's kinda radical...
But, even short of taking up arms against the UPRR's death squad, the
Teamsters Union didn't even use informational picketing, to let the
world know that Overnite was having it's pro union employees beaten up
by thugs on the job...
The union never even tried to get the police or the Justice Department
to go after OVNT SWAT..
That's ironic, since TDU was always quick to bring the government and
the law enforcement community into the union's internal political
affairs....that's actually how they came to power in the union..
Despite that willingness to have law enforcement fight their internal
union political battles..TDU and the Carey administration were
reluctant to CALL THE COPS ON THE BOSSES...even when pro union workers
were being beaten by a management-controlled terrorist group.....
Nor did TDU or the Carey administration try to launch a "Corporate
Campaign" or any kind of publicity campaign whatsoever against Overnite
Express and/or Union Pacific Railroad..
Again, TDU were always quick to use their ties with liberal journalists
to expose their political opponents in the union..but, they were
unwilling to LAUNCH A MEDIA CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE BOSSES...even when the
bosses were carrying out terrorist attacks on pro union workers...
Again, TDU and the Carey administration were business
unionists...militant reform business unionists, but business unionists
nonetheless...and they were politically incapable of leading the
workers in a full-blown attack on OVNT or UPRR..even when the company
had actually launched an armed attack against them, and therefore, the
Overnite Express union organizing campaign was doomed to defeat under
During this reign of management terrorism at Overnite Express, over
1,100 pro Teamster Overnite employees were fired by Overnite
Typically, a beating by OVNT SWAT goons would precede their firing..and
then the victim would be the one that got fired for fighting, while the
thugs would keep their jobs!!!!..
That included a 68 year old pro Teamster woman dockworker who had her
arm broken by OVNT SWAT thugs in the ladies room at the Memphis
terminal...and was then immediately fired by the terminal manager for
supposedly starting the fight, while her assailants went unpunished!!!
Needless to say, the Overnite organizing drive came to a schreeching
halt..except for 5 years of motions, depositions, NLRB hearings,
federal court appeals and other lawyerlike bullshit....
By 1999, unionism at Overnite was all but dead..
However, there was a new administration at the Teamsters Union...
The same federal courts that had enabled Ron Carey to be elected as
Teamster president in 1991 had kicked him out of office in 1998..
His sucessor was Jim "Junior" Hoffa, a labor lawyer from the suburbs of
Detroit who was the son of legendary Teamsters General President Jimmy
Hoffa, who we met above.
After his release from federal prison in 1971, Hoffa the elder staged a
short-lived campaign to return to the general presidency of the IBT,
which came to a sudden and violent end when he disappeared in 1975, and
was presumed to have been kidnapped and murdered by the Mafia...
Now, 20 years later, Hoffa's son had come to claim his father's throne.
Junior Hoffa didn't even pretend to be a union reformer...and much of
his support came from the same gangsters who, allegedly, had his dad
Junior Hoffa wanted to "resolve" all of the outstanding labor disputes
the union had with employers, by settlling them on whatever terms the
bosses wanted....even if that meant completely selling out the
Junior Hoffa ended up calling a strike at OVNT in 2000..which Carey
should have done back in 1994, when the union could have actually
However, there was still some pro-labor sentiment among the terrorized
Overnite drivers and dockworkers, and about 1,000 of OVNT's 8,000
truckers and loading dock employees actually respected the picket
Junior Hoffa, of course, was even more timid and pro management than
Carey was.. So, no effort was made to shut down OVNT's powerful parent
company, Union Pacific Railroad...
Even the most limited picketing of UPRR intermodal terminals would have
caused the railroad's locomotive engineers, conductors and
freighthandlers to walk off the job..and it would also have caused the
many teamsters who haul freight into and out of those terminals to
refuse to stop there...
Since UPRR is the largest freight railroad in America..and it is the
main railroad connecting Chicago to Los Angeles and San Francisco, and
it's also the main freight link between Houston and the West Coast as
well, shutting down Union Pacific would basically shut down the entire
economy of the United States west of the Mississippi River in a matter
of a few days...
Junior Hoffa was terrified of leading such a struggle...so he merely
asked UPRR to carry no extra OVNT trailers on their intermodal railroad
cars..that is, they could carry the same amount of Overnite freight
they did before the strike, but no more...
In return, Junior Hoffa prevented teamsters from picketing UPRR's
Despite having one hand tied behind their back by the Teamsters Union
bosses, the 1,000 Overnite Teamsters who actually struck, and the
thousands of other teamsters who came out to aid their picketing,
In Miami and Memphis, the strikers actually sabotaged many OVNT trucks
and trailers, and even fired on scab drivers in some cases..and, at
most of the company's other terminals, Teamster ambulatory pickets
followed the OVNT city drivers, and picketed whatever business they
made a delivery or a pickup at..
Thanks to the militancy and agressiveness of the OVNT Teamsters, and
the teamsters from other companies who came out to assist in the
picketing, the OVNT SWAT terrorist group was unable to attack any
strikers, or even to defend scabs or Overnite vehicles against attack
by strikers...basically, the cowardly bullies of OVNT SWAT were forced
into inaction and retreat...
This shows that, if Carey had even TRIED to mobilize Teamsters to
resist OVNT SWAT in any way at all back in 1994, the wannabe death
squad would have quickly folded and retreated.
Instead, the union let their supporters be attacked with impunity, and
offered no organized resistance at all...which led to 55% of their
supporters at OVNT, 1,100 workers, being assaulted and fired....
However, despite the militancy, there was still the fact that around
7,000 OVNT workers scabbed...and the fact that Overnite Express' parent
company, Union Pacific Railroad, was not targeted at all, and operated
without any disruption...
Initially, OVNT cancelled service at many of the smaller terminals,
especially those located in areas with high concentrations of Teamsters
Union members, like Long Island, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Ohio and
Chicago, where ambulatory pickets caused a number of customers to
terminate their relationship with OVNT... They even shut down one of
the 4 key terminals in the company, North Atlanta, which was the target
of heavy picketing by Georgia Teamsters local 728
OVNT shifted the scabs from those terminals to maintain service on the
all-important NAFTA Corridor, and in particular to keep the Memphis and
Dallas terminals going at full capacity...
Also, since OVNT SWAT's goons had been intimidated, immobilized and
driven off the field by the Teamsters Union's ambulatory pickets, UPRR
hired a whole lot of security guards specially trained in
strikebreaking.... Those guards escorted their city trucks, to protect
them from picketing and/or attack...
That cost UPRR a hell of a lot of money in the short term...but, in the
long run, it worked...
OVNT stayed in business, the freight kept moving, the strike gradually
lost it's effectiveness, (even after the Teamsters locals in Canada
belatedly joined the strike after 8 months) and, after a year, the
Teamsters Union officially called it off....and left the IBT's legal
staff to continue with the lawsuits, many of which date back to the
original 1994 organizing drive, and have dragged on for almost 10
As for the 1,000 strikers...the Teamsters Union helped them find other
jobs and they've moved on...
Today, besides the port trucker campaign, of course, the only Teamsters
organizing drive in progress in freight is the NLRB petition campaign
at USF Dugan that I described above....
The Teamsters Union is a shrinking union, also...and they're only
keeping the membership figures up by absorbing unions from completely
unrelated industries, like the railroad's 36,000 member Brotherhood of
Locomotive Engineers and the printing industry's 140,000 member Graphic
Communications International Union...
And, of course, almost all of the strike activity by truckers is
happening outside of the International Brotherhood of
Teamsters......and certainly all of the serious strikes (that is, the
ones that go beyond token one or two day "protests" or "work
stoppages") are being initiated by truckers organizations outside of
the Teamsters Union...
This isn't really that surprising...considering the Teamsters Union's
28 years of retreat and defeat in the freight industry...
There's also the fact that, thanks to many years of the IBT's
degeneration into a miscellaneous workers union, and Teamsters Union
organizers signing up anybody with a pulse and a social security
number just to keep membership numbers inflated, even if their employer
had nothing to do with the freight business, and the union's signing of
sweetheart contracts with many of those miscellaneous employers, many
freighthaulers do NOT see the Teamsters Union as a truckers union
As one freight driver, who is actually a Teamsters Union member, put
it, the Teamsters Union is now "...consisting of everything from DPW,
airlines, package delivery and soda jerks. Trucking and construction is
no longer an integral part of this union anymore. Sad."
Not surprisingly, many freight drivers who are interested in
reunionizing the industry do not see themselves doing so under the
banner of the Teamsters Union....which is why independent unions like
the Intermodal Truckers Union have sprung up...
And that is actually a positive development...
The Intermodal Truckers Union happens to be a very struggle oriented
union at the moment. This is in large part due to it's lack of a
bureaucracy, and a network of well paid union bosses who haven't sat
behind the wheel of a truck in years, if they ever even drove a truck
The ITU's leaders are all working truck drivers (many of the press
interviews that were conducted with them after the strikes ended were
done via cell phone as they were actually in their trucks working), as
is the case with all of the other independent truckers unions..
Port of Oakland spokeswoman Marilyn Sandifur described them, and the
organization they lead, as "...a grass-roots movement.."
This has proved very frustrating to the shipping companies, who are
used to dealing with a Lincoln Town Car driving BA in a suit...
As one seafreight company executive put it "It's chaos. They have no
Or, in the words of a secret memo from American Port Management
Services to seafreight users that was obtained by port truckers and
posted on the internet, "The work action has no apparent leader"...
Now, that's not really true, of course..the work action DID have
leaders...just the leaders were actual truck drivers, instead of
professional union bosses...a situation which the trucking companies
have not dealt with in about 70 years or so...
This is a positive...a workers organization led by ACTUAL
WORKERS...it's a huge step forward from the Teamsters Union...
Now, if these various independent truckers groups were to get together,
and use the tactics they have so successfully deployed on the Oakland
docks on a national basis, and above all if they maintain their
independence from the leadership of the International Brotherhood of
Teamsters, they would probably be able to reunionize the trucking
industry..and, more importantly, build a union that could be far better
than today's Teamsters Union....
However there is always the danger that their organization, whatever
form it might take, might decay into what the International Brotherhood
of Teamsters has become...a deeply undemocratic business union, with
grotesquely overpaid union bosses, many of whom allegedly have deep
ties to organized crime, which has the federal government deeply
intervened into the union's leadership structure and has ceased to
function as an industrial union for freight workers and has decayed
into a catch-all union many of who's members labor under sweetheart
Now, why did that end up happening to the Teamsters Union???
Is it because of the IBT's leaders being bad people???
Actually no, it's not that simple (despite the fact that at least some
IBT leaders actually ARE very bad people...degenerate scumbags like
convicted labor racketeer George Cashman come to mind here)
Is it because of the mafia influence???
No, that's just a symptom of a broader disease...
Is it because of the federal government intervention???
Again, that's just a symptom of a bigger problem....
And that problem is something called Business Unionism....
Business unionism is an ideology based on the false concept that
workers and bosses have common interests, and that unions should build
"partnership" between labor and management.
The Teamsters Union's leaders have long been followers of business
unionism...we can see it in that comment from Chuck Mack that I posted
above, that he belives in making the port trucking industry "more
competitive"...and former socialist Ron Carver's even more disgusting
comment that the main purpose of the Teamsters Port Division is to
"advocate for our employers".
Union bosses like Mack and Carver see advocating for the trucking
companies, and helping them be more efficient and competitive, as a far
higher priority than helping port truckers get higher wages and
restoration of their employee status...
Thanks to business unionism, the Teamsters Union has never fought to
get truck drivers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act...so truckers
are not eligible for minimum wage, or OT after 8 hours in a day and 40
hours in a week....and it's legal for trucking companies to not pay
drivers for any of their non driving work (waiting time, loading,
unloading, filling out paperwork, inspecting and repairing their truck
Thanks to business unionism, the Teamsters Union let their industry be
de-unionized without a fight...
Thanks to business unionism, the Teamsters Union's main "organizing"
strategy for the last half century has involved signing sweetheart
contracts covering workers who have little or nothing to do with
trucking, instead of trying to reunionize the union's core
Thanks to business unionism, the Teamsters Union sends lawyers to
prevent strikes by the handfull of drivers who actually try, against
the odds, to join the union..and, when those workers strike on their
own, the Teamsters Union's officials stand in the way of the strike and
try to obstruct, mislead and even break these strikes...even going so
far as to order teamsters to cross these truckers picketlines...
No wonder that most truckers who wish to unionize do NOT see joining
the Teamsters as a viable option....
Now, is there an alternative to the sellout Teamsters Union?
Well, the drivers themselves have built organizations that could be the
nucleus for an alternative.
Independent truckers unions, run by ACTUAL TRUCK DRIVERS, instead of
six figure sellouts in Lincoln Town Cars, unions that appear to be
extremely democratic, as well as very brave and militant on the
That's a good start...but, those organizations need an ideology to
guide them, so they don't degenerate into what the International
Brotherhood of Teamsters has become.....
And, that same ideology can also serve as a guide for those in the IBT
who wish to rebuild their union along class struggle-oriented
lines...in particular, those teamster dissident organized in TDU...
That ideology is called "Revolutionary Unionism".
I've explained the ideology of revolutionary unionism on the GANGBOX
website before, at :
and on the GANGBOX listserv, at:
Basically, revolutionary unionism recognizes the fundamental fact that
workers and bosses have a fundamental conflict of interest, that is
innate in the capitalistic system.
As long as we live in a society ruled by bosses, workers and employers
will be deadly enemies..there is no room for "partnership"....what
benefits them hurts us, and vice versa...
Specifically, in trucking, the carriers would prefer to pay by the mile
or by the trip, rather than by the hour, and they'd like to pay as low
a milage or trip rate as possible. They'd also like to have their
drivers do all the non driving related labor for no pay...including
loading, unloading, waiting time, delays, paperwork and inspection and
maintenance of the vehicle....
Also, the carriers prefer if the driver supplies the truck, and the
trailer, and they also prefer to have the driver covering all
truck-related expenses out of their own pocket, including truck
payments, insurance, fuel, maintenance costs ect..
And, the trucking companies also would prefer if the drivers buy and
finance and insure the truck through the trucking company
itself...which is yet another source of profit for the companies.
The trucking companies also have no desire to provide the drivers with
any sort of benefits or pension, in fact they don't even want to pay
basic bare bones social benefits like social security, workers
compensation, unemployment insurance or disability for the drivers.
By contrast, the drivers would prefer to be paid by the hour, and be
compensated for all time worked, including waiting time, loading,
unloading, delays, time spent filling out paperwork and time spent
fixing and inspecting the vehicle..and to recieve OT after 8 hours in a
day and 40 hours in a week...
Also, drivers would prefer that the employer supply the truck and the
trailer, and take responsibility for all truck-related expenses,
including paying for the truck itself, insuring it, and supplying it
with diesel fuel and paying to maintain and repair the vehicle...
And, of course, the drivers want all the basic social benefits that go
with being a statutory employee in this country, such as social
security, UI, workers comp and disability coverage...as well as the
expanded social benefits that customarily go with union membership in
the USA...employer financed family health insurance and a pension
Basically, the trucking companies want to keep as much of the freight
rates they charge their customers as they possibly can, and pay out as
little as possible to the drivers... The carriers also want to make the
drivers use their wages to cover all of the business expenses that
arise out of running a trucking business
And, actually, the source of all of the profits of trucking companies
is the labor of drivers and other freight workers...after all, it's the
workers that haul the freight....but, the company gets to keep the
money that the shippers pay to have that freight hauled....
That's called 'exploitation of labor'...that is, the workers generate
the income, but the bosses get to keep the money, and pay out as little
as possible of that money to the men and women who's labor actually
generated that money....
That's the basis of the capitalistic system right there...and that's
the reason that workers and bosses are enemies, not "partners"....
Until workers get strong enough, and well organized enough, to overturn
this capitalistic system, and replace it with a socialistic or
communistic system ruled by the workers..where we as the working class
benefit from all the economic value we create, instead of that value
being expropriated by a bunch of rich guys who did nothing to earn
it...we are going to have to fight to take as much of that income we
generate as possible away from the bosses who take it away from us...
Specifically, in the freight industry, as the truckers have already
figured out, it's necessary to fight to get their employee status
restored, and to be paid for all hours actually worked, and to, of
course, recieve as high a rate of pay as possible..and further to move
towards an hourly wage for all hours worked, and to have all business
expenses covered by the trucking companies, rather than by the
The truckers have also figured out for themselves that the only way to
do this is by striking, shutting down the wheels of commerce, and
keeping the freight from rolling until they recieve justice, and making
damn sure that nobody takes their jobs and scabs on the strike..and
using any means necessary to stop the scabs.
But, as important as those tactics are...and they are vital, as any
worker who's been sold out in a strike probably already knows...the
independent truckers need to go beyond that....
They need to expand the Intermodal Truckers Union into a national
organization..while retaining it's grassroots democracy and
Above all, it's vital that they organize the entire port trucking
sector..and reach out to their employee trucker brothers and sisters
who drive or handle freight for the non union LTL and truckload
carriers...in particular, the folks who haul freight along the NAFTA
Corridor from the Midwest to Laredo, Texas..
Also, it would be necessary for a national independent truckers union
to reach out to their brothers and sisters who haul freight in the
other two countries in the NAFTA zone...that is, Canada and Mexico...
This is essential because Canadian drivers already haul in all 48
states of the Continental US, American drivers also haul freight across
all 10 Canadian provinces, and Mexican drivers currently haul in those
areas of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas that are adjacent to
Mexico..and very soon, Mexican drivers will be permitted to haul cargo
throughout the Continental US just like the Canadian drivers are...
This means that trucking is one unified North America-wide
industry....and truckers should fight for one continent wide pay
scale...with truckers from the Yucatan to the Yukon all getting the
same wages and benefits....
The only way to do that, of course, is for American drivers to help the
Canadian and Mexican drivers build their own independent truckers
unions in their countries while they simultaniously build a national
truckers union here in the USA..
Considering the fact that many of the California port truckers are in
fact recent immigrants from Mexico, they are in a perfect position to
spearhead just such a transcontinental cross-border organizing campaign
in their industry
Now, it is possible to build a national union like that in the trucking
industry, and keep it as democratic and driver-led as the Iintermodal
Truckers Union is in California...
That would probably involve having a union led by delegates, elected by
their fellow drivers, and serving a strictly limited term...I would
suggest 1 year for local delegates, and 3 years for national delegates,
with the terms being non re electable..that is, it's back to the road
when you're term is up
Where possible, those delegates should be part timers, staying on the
road when they aren't on union business...and being paid driver's wages
when they are working for the union.
Of course, the delegates who would serve full time would have the same
income the drivers have when they are in union office, with none of the
perks of office that Teamsters Union BAs have...that is, no Lincoln
Town Cars, no expense accounts and no multiple salaries.....
And, of course, that union would need to be guided by the principles of
revolutionary unionism, and be dedicated to fighting to improve the
income and conditions of the truckers, and struggling against the
trucking companies, by any means necessary...
A national Truckers Union structured along those lines would be capable
of organizing the nation's 920,000 non union freight drivers and
dockworkers...and the other 1.4 million non union local truck drivers
and warehouse workers across the country...and would also be capable of
helping the Canadian and Mexican drivers in organizing themselves into
similar unions in their countries..
Also, once these 2,320,000 workers are organized into an independent
Truckers Union...they would also be in a position to pressure the
Teamsters Union into a merger...a merger which, of course, would have
to involve transforming the Teamsters Union along revolutionary
unionist lines, and ousting the current business unionist bosses of the
Teamsters Union from power...
Or, if that wasn't possible, it might be possible to encourage the
80,000 freight drivers, 230,000 UPS workers and 400,000 warehouse
workers to secede from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and
join with the Truckers Union..
Considering the spirit, militancy, tactical inovativeness, courage and
agression that the California port truckers have shown, they are more
than capable of spearheading such a campaign if they chose to do so,
and hopefully they will...
Thats it for now.
Be union, work safe.
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