Toll’s Low Blow Backfires: VIPs Vow to Back Sacked Mother

March 19, 2012

The response has been unanimous: outrage, disbelief and anger. The story of Xiomara Perez, the female truck driver who was fired after making an emergency stop to use a McDonald’s bathroom is causing quite a buzz, and it ain’t letting up.

If you are just now catching up, the mother of three was on her route and was struck with a stomach spell so she made a pit stop for 10 minutes to relieve herself and got back on the road an delivered the company’s load on time. It’s awfully suspicious her managers would even know that she pulled over at the McDonald’s, unless illegal surveillance was at play, but three days later, her Australian-based employer Toll Group cited a company policy that trumped common practice (and U.S. Department of Transportation safety regulations), said she was prohibited from making any emergency stop, and showed her the door.

Toll’s egregious attempt to weed out this workplace leader is already backfiring on the global transportation giant. For starters no one is buying the idea that this pro-union supporter was actually fired for a legitimate reason, and secondly no one thinks firing an employee for needing a restroom is a legitimate reason.

And that’s why Xiomara is making international headlines and some very powerful people are intervening on her behalf.

As was reported in the Australian Associated Press story “LA Mayor Backs Truckies Battling Toll,” yesterday she delivered “an emotional address to a high-powered group of US politicians and union officials,” including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa, Transport Workers Union National Secretary Tony Sheldon, Sierra Club’s Alison Chin, and former California State Treasurer Phil Angelides.

The mayor vowed to help, days after the Sunday business pages reported the Australian ambassador to the U.S. had been briefed. Xiomara told the two union leaders who have partnered with U.S. and Australian rank-and-file transportation workers alike to help Toll workers around the globe get a fair go:

“They’ve harassed me time and again, and now Toll has really humiliated me. I knew something was going to happen once that big-shot man that our local managers take orders from, Andrew Ethell, flew all the way out from Melbourne to hold a mandatory meeting to intimidate us for wanting to join the Teamsters. Next thing you know I’m fired! Using the bathroom, union busting, it’s all the same to him. Why is he picking on me?  What has this man got against me and my co-workers? We’re just a small group of truck drivers who work hard for our company even in horrendous working conditions. We just want to do our jobs in peace and have a better life for our families. They may have fired me but they can’t keep me silent. I have friends in high places now too, thanks to union leaders like you and all the Teamsters and TWU.”

The TWU’s involvement has now led to the union, which represents 12,000 Toll transportation workers, to threaten Toll with intervention with Fair Work Australia, the Financial Review reported. Meanwhile, Xiomara filed another unfair labor practice charge at the National Labor Relations Board. She and her co-workers were already successful in getting the labor agency to issue a complaint against Toll’s unlawful violations of federal law.

As the The Daily Kos explained, It is illegal for a company to fire a worker for trying to join a union, but it happens all the time. The company doesn’t admit that’s the real reason for the firing, of course. It’s just that coincidentally someone who’s been an outspoken union supporter gets fired for a common practice that doesn’t typically draw any disciplinary action, let alone firing.”

Toll’s low blow prompted Xiomara’s co-workers to deliver a letter to make it clear they were only more united and determined to stick beside her – and together:

            … Toll fired her to send us a clear message about what happens to workers who speak out in support of the union. Well, today we write to tell you that the only message that is clear to us is that:  We need our union now!

            When a worker can be fired for making a quick stop to use the restroom or grab a quick snack to avoid feeling faint while being behind the wheel of a 18-wheeler,  we know it’s time for our union.

The call for Toll to end its retaliation against its employees has also come from community supporters who sent over 5,000 email petitions into the inboxes of Corporate Affairs head Andrew Ethell and those he directs.

Said Michael Aird, Senior Official for the Transport Workers Union after he led a fact-finding solidarity mission to Los Angels with three of Toll’s unionized truckies from Sydney: “The behavior by Toll is truly shocking. We know Xiomara was sacked for wanting a union, and any worker that must endure management who fires a woman for needing to make a pit stop clearly needs one.”

No kidding. This story isn’t over, we’ll continue to report more.

 

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