Daily demonstrations had been held here for two weeks to show support for the union. But the sidewalks were empty today. Local 769 opened a hiring hall here September 17 to organize the 1,700 independent truckers in the area and force the shipping firms to register with the Teamsters before dispatching owner-operators to haul containers at the Port of Miami, Port of Everglades, and local rail yards.
Last week the Teamsters hiring hall dispatched 500 drivers to new jobs, the union flyer said. The hiring hall is open, its working, its effective and it produces good jobs for good drivers. Hundreds of drivers now have the dignity and respect you only get under United States Labor Law when youre an employee owner-driver…. They dont want you to have any rights, any protection, or any security. But most of all, they dont want to have to bargain with the Teamsters union and give you better pay and benefits. We understand. No boss wants to treat his workers like equals. No slave owner ever wanted to end slavery.
Jose Abré and Aubrey Travieso signed up with the Teamsters two weeks ago, at the beginning of the union-organizing drive. Most of the 500 truckers had to cancel individual contracts with shipping companies to sign up with the union, effectively quitting previous jobs.
The union offers medical insurance for the whole family, including dental and vision, Abré told The Militant. We dont earn enough to take care of our families. We get paid $55 for each load and generally do two trips a day. Its not enough.
Without the union sometimes they say theyll pay $50 for a trip, but when you present the bill of lading they pay maybe $20 or $30, added Travieso. With the union they have to sign what theyll pay and not change it.
The carriers have to work with open books, Sandro Lerro, a truck driver and Teamsters organizer, said in an interview at the union hall. The lease agreement says we get 70 percent of the gross on a load. But if you ask how much the gross is they just fire you. Federal law says you get a copy of the contract you sign, but most times you dont. Without the union you have no protection. Plus, costs are high. A long haul to Tampa, for example, takes 13 hours or so roundtrip and they pay $500. But gas is $350, plus taxes and maintenance. Maybe the driver ends up with $50.
While talking with the drivers, a number of workers came into the union hall to sign up.
Several companies have offered drivers who had signed with the Teamsters $600 for a trip to Tampa if they would come back without the union, Lerro pointed out. We urged them not to take the bait. Also we have a lot of calls today at the union hall from truckers who dont work at the port, but want to know about the union.
Lerro and other drivers said the degree of success in organizing here will have implications for truckers across the country. A week earlier, the union had told the press it plans to open a similar hiring hall in Charleston, South Carolina, within three weeks.
The whole coasts eyes are on us, Lerro said. What happens here is an inspiration for Charleston and all the way up.
As we shook hands on the way out of the union hall, he added, All the truck drivers in the nation want this to win, because we have plans to organize from here to New Jersey.
The Teamsters hiring hall in Miami can be reached at (305) 836-5995.
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