Thursday, January 10, 2013

Teamster port drivers ratify first contract in 30 years

Casting ballots 
A long struggle by 65 port drivers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach culminated in a historic first contract that raises their pay by $6 an hour, provides paid overtime, sick leave and holidays, a pension plan, a far more affordable health care plan with zero change in coverage, guaranteed shift hours and other job security provisions.

The Long Beach Press-Telegram recognized the importance of the first contract:
In a development union officials say could change the nature of trucking at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, about 65 drivers have reached contract terms with their employer, likely making them the first truckers at the port complex to win a collective bargaining agreement since Congress deregulated the industry three decades ago. 
The drivers, who first voted to align with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in April 2012, haul goods, mainly from the ports to retail warehouses in the Inland Empire, for Australian logistics company Toll Group.
The Australian acknowledged the contract could have far-reaching ramifications:
Toll said yesterday it was pleased with the new pay deal after long negotiations with the truck drivers' union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and that it would improve conditions for all port employees. 
International VP Randy Cammack speaks before the vote
"An important part of the agreement is a commitment from the Teamsters union to work towards improving conditions for all employees at the port," Toll spokesman Christopher Whitefield said.
Jose Ortega, Jr., a single father who drives for Toll, is thrilled with the contract:
Justice…it’s sort of an indescribable feeling, but it is overwhelming and incredible to finally have the American Dream at our reach.
As a truck driver, I wanted the assurance that things would be okay for my daughter if I was injured, that I could take her to see the doctor if she got sick. When we started organizing ourselves, we weren’t asking for anything out of this world. To be treated with dignity. A fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work. Decent, sanitary facilities to make a pit stop, rest, eat…you know, perform our jobs safely. 
But we knew winning basic respect would take a fight at every turn. So when we were afraid to lose our jobs, we asked our allies for help. When we were afraid to take action, we prayed for the courage to speak out. And we always stuck together, and never ever gave up.
Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa commended the drivers for their courage and determination:
Workers everywhere are standing up and saying enough to poverty wages and Toll drivers have demonstrated that working families are ready to bring middle-class wages back to America. 
For too long companies in the global supply chain have gamed the system by undercutting U.S. businesses that actually create good jobs. Toll Group and its drivers have raised the bar for responsible competition, and the Teamsters will not stop until the rest of the nation’s port drivers have a shot at the American Dream.