First-Rate Truck Drivers, Second-Class Citizens, & Third-World Conditions
September 9, 2011
“We are not second-class citizens, we are first-rate truck drivers….Don’t the men and women who keep the economy moving deserve a shot at the American Dream?”
Yes, Karael Vallecillos, you do. But currently, this Los Angeles father with 11 years of experience as a professional port truck driver and his co-workers aren’t even allowed to use their company’s bathroom.
Karael works long hours away from his family in what the Labor Department calls one of the nation’s Top 10 dangerous occupations. He and his co-workers have filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), alleging that their Australian-based employer Toll Group, a global logistics carrier for popular fashion and athletic brand Guess? is interfering with their legal right to form a union.
Karael was recently interrogated by management for hours for a routine traffic citation – ubiquitous in the transportation industry – simply because they knew he and his co-workers began organizing. And why wouldn’t they? Toll Group, a powerful and highly profitable powerhouse, subjects its truck drivers to inhumane treatment, including foul-smelling outhouses that lack running water and are rarely cleaned. “We just want our hard work to be valued.”
The charges, which range from intimidation, harassment, and retaliation on behalf of seven employees, came two days after an overwhelming majority of the roughly 75 truck drivers at Toll Group’s Southern California facilities attempted to present 59 signatures to top management on a petitionthey created to indicate their desire to collectively bargain to end their deplorable working conditions.
Community advocates, clergy, local residents, and labor, environmental and public health activists, liken their working conditions to the Jim Crow laws that governed the post-slavery South until the mid 1960’s.
“I never would have imagined, in 2011, that a foreign company would force their U.S. workers to use separate, unequal outhouses. The stench and unsanitary conditions are so appalling, the drivers are better off relieving themselves outside. Female drivers don’t even have that option — they must put themselves at risk for infection by holding it,” said Father William Connor of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Long Beach, CA, who accompanied the drivers in their rebuffed attempt to calmly appeal to their employer’s top brass. “I am deeply concerned that management respect the drivers’ right to decent working conditions and a living wage. The Church cares deeply about economic justice, which applies to the Toll situation.”
Father Connor added that he was disappointed that Toll’s Vice President of West Coast Operations, Rich Nazzaro, dismissed the workers’ pleas. The Pastor Emeritus vowed to work with Eric Tate, the secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 848 – the truck drivers’ choice for a bargaining representative – to support the workers’ efforts to unite.
You can help Karael and his co-workers achieve justice on the job, too. Click here to sign the solidarity petition, and forward to your friends and family who stand for dignity and respect in the workplace too.