HERE WE GO! TOLL DRIVERS’ MOMENT HAS ARRIVED
April 11, 2012
After a year long uphill battle to gain union recognition, a fight that’s played out in two continents, L.A. Toll Group drivers will finally get the opportunity to cast their votes today to be represented by the Teamsters. Last evening they stood together with their community supporters and other Teamster members in a heartfelt “election send off” outside of Toll’s Wilmington yard, and today they hit the voting booths collectively donning their “Si Se Puede” t-shirts with the chance to make history.
Like the superstars they’ve become amongst the port driver network, and an inspiration to community members, one-by-one Toll Group drivers walked into a wave of applauses, and the echoing of “Si Se Puede!” chants awaiting them outside of the Toll yard last evening. Driver leader Orlando Ayala delivered a heartfelt speech on the looming election, and absolute importance to their future, and the on-going fight for port drivers nationwide. With heart in hand, he also thanked the community members and Teamsters from various locals who have been in their corner from Day 1 fighting and advocating alongside the drivers for dignity and respect.
And the love is mutual. Members from various environmental and community organizations snapped pictures with drivers, and personally offered kind words. A cadre of members from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) were also notably in attendance, including ILWU Local 13 vice-president Bobby Olvera Jr. who gave a thundering speech of encouragement. U.S. congress member Janice Hahn put a capstone on the send-off with motivational words, in addition to the blistering letter she sent to Toll management urging them to end their retaliatory campaigning against drivers.
The next 12 hours just might be longest, and possibly the most nerve-wracking, as Toll management is down to its “final ball possession.” The last time the L.A. Toll drivers collectively wore a union-supporting t-shirt to work, and participated in a gathering of unity outside of Toll facilities, 26 drivers were suspiciously laid-off less than 48 hours after the action. The vast majority of these drivers were later reinstated due to tremendous pressure, but Toll clearly showed the type of muscle its willing to flex, and its outright brazenness despite local, and international media covering the fight, and at the risk of tarnishing its reputed brand in Australia.
So today, anything goes, and only magnifies the signification of last night’s gathering in the face of blistering fight that will crown a winner at nightfall. Will drivers come out as the newest members of International Brotherhood of Teamsters, or will Toll Group unleash a final blow to a group of port drivers who’ve had the audacity to attempt to rock the port industry from coast-to-coast. One thing is for certain; L.A. Toll drivers have given it all they have in this fight, and haven taken plenty of licks as well. Delivering their own knockout against the $8.8 billion global company will not be an easy task, but has the potential to deliver the biggest victory for American port drivers in 30 years. Just ask the non-Toll port drivers who showed up last night expressing their support and excitement to be next!
Toll drivers, and all port drivers’ moment has indeed arrived. Stay tuned for the election result.