BROOKSVILLE, Fla. — “The truckers’ convoy in Washington isn’t about masks. The truckers are on strike because they’re not making any money!” That’s what owner-operators Clyde and Everett Sesler told me in a March 20 visit with them. I am running as the Socialist Workers Party candidate for governor of Florida.
Campaign supporters Karl Butts and Glen Swanson and I had come to visit and discuss politics. Clyde and his wife, Frances, along with other members of their family who were farmers, were plaintiffs in the 1998 class-action lawsuit by Black farmers against decades of discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. At that time they got to know and worked with the Socialist Workers Party to help win support among working people for their fight.
“The last crop we have is blueberries, but we are not picking and marketing them anymore,” Frances Sesler said. “They’re just for family and the community now.”
“You can’t bring a ship or a train to Walmart. You need the trucks to carry the produce,” said her son, Everett, referring to the truckers’ convoy. “But the brokers don’t want to pay. They might get $6,000 a load, but pay the trucker $1,800. If the farmers knew how little the driver makes, they’d be up in arms.”
Independent operators face this kind of gouging, while they’re responsible for the bank note on their truck, soaring fuel costs, maintenance and all other running expenses. “Many private truck owners are parking their rigs and going to work for a trucking company instead,” added Clyde Sesler.
“It costs $1,200 to fill my truck with 240 gallons of fuel at $5.30 a gallon today. The truck gets five to seven miles per gallon. It might get you to New York. Then you have insurance and tolls. It costs $125 to cross the George Washington Bridge. If you blow a tire and need a tow truck, that’s $750 to $800,” Everett Sesler said. “Because of the stressful working conditions, many truckers are separated from their wives and have the additional expense of child support.”
The Department of Transportation is always monitoring the truckers and pulling them over for inspection, he said. “If you are missing a cap on a valve stem, they fine you $50. If they catch you taking a detour to avoid a weigh station, they shut you down for eight to 10 hours. You just can’t make a living.”
“While the Canadian and U.S. governments have been treating the truckers like criminals, the Militant has been reporting the truckers’ side of the story, letting them speak for themselves,” I said. “That’s the importance of having a workers’ newspaper.”
Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine
I also brought news of the lockout and strike by 3,000 rail conductors and engineers, members of the Teamsters union, on the Canadian Pacific. I described how the government and big-business media charge that the rail workers are “selfish” and “greedy,” blaming them for disrupting grain transportation in the midst of Moscow’s brutal war against the people of Ukraine.
“What’s needed now more than ever is an alliance of workers and working farmers, both of whom are under attack by the bosses,” I said. “The rail workers are demanding not just wage increases in the midst of soaring prices, but relief from killer, and dangerous, schedules.
“Working farmers also face a crisis today, as prices of fertilizer, pesticides and other necessities are going through the roof,” I added. “They need government-guaranteed costs of production and living expenses for themselves and their families.”
I asked what they thought about the war in Ukraine.
“It’s just senseless killing,” Clyde Sesler said. “But it looks like China might get involved on Russia’s side. Then what’s the U.S. supposed to do?”
“The SWP calls for the defeat of the invading Russian forces and for defense of the independence of Ukraine,” I said. “We also demand that Washington get its troops and nuclear weapons out of all of Europe. They aren’t there to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty — the U.S. military is there to defend the predatory interests of the ruling capitalist families here. The bosses’ government won’t defend working people anywhere.
“The ruling powers in China, Russia, the U.S. and Europe,” I added, “are locked in dog-eat-dog competition with each other for resources and markets, at the expense of all the toilers. We don’t defend their interests. Our class interests are to stand with workers in Ukraine and everywhere against their oppression. With solidarity and protests from working people in Russia, the U.S. and the whole world, the people of Ukraine can defend the sovereignty of their country.”
The family signed up for a six-month subscription to the Militant, and got copies of In Defense of the US Working Class by SWP leader Mary-Alice Waters and Labor, Nature, and the Evolution of Humanity.