Drivers Keeping the Eye on the Prize
October 18, 2012
Toll Group’s L.A. port drivers have been waging their fight in the name of better working conditions, and the basic dignity and respect they deserve. They might have the battle wounds and mini-victory medals to show for in the topsy-turvy fight, but they’re far from being exhausted. With the prized union contract within sight — and a life or death situation for one driver — the drivers are stepping up their game with public pressure to let Toll know: it’s time to end the hostility and agree to a fair contract now!
In a recent media interview with a national magazine, Eduardo Urrea, a member of the union’s bargaining committee, affirmed the drivers’ strength and resolve: “We’re ready to do whatever it takes to get our contract,” adding that “when they [Toll] do something to harm us, that’s only going to make us stronger and more united than ever.”
The resilience Mr. Urrea speaks of comes in the form of quite a clever tactic: workers are staging noisy “practice” pickets week after week outside of Toll’s warehouse where drivers first deliver cargo loads of clothing for top customers before they are transported to America’s stores. It is a stark reminder of what these new Teamster members are capable of when their rights and future are on the line. And, as the article notes, “practice may eventually lead to perfect.”
Clearly, these workers know something that Toll managers fail to get: it shouldn’t have to be this way. Asking for clean restrooms, fresh water, and a place to sit down on breaks, should never have led any American worker into an outright war with their boss. The idea of well-respected, compensated and safe workplace with an enforceable contract isn’t a pipedream, it resembles reality in Australia. These workers aren’t making outrageous demands, but rather a legitimate request for their global employer to live up to their own baseline standard of “One Toll.”
One L.A. driver, Karael Vallecillo, who has hauled at the ports for a dozen years, knows all too well what it means to fight, and how easily this dispute can be put to rest.
“For well over a year the company has seen us as foes, rather than key partners in their U.S. expansion. When we do well, our company does too,” says Vallecillo. “But right now they are not living up to their end of the bargain. A true ‘One Toll’ would be a game changer in the U.S. But as long as Toll management takes the low road instead of being the industry leader it has the potential to be here, we will keep making our presence known in the community and to customers.”