It’s an occupational hazard that I have become inured to many kinds of outrages and injustices. It now takes a special sort of chutzpah to really get my attention. Enter Toll Group, an Australian logistics company that has recently been on a bit of a buying spree, and now owns a trucking company at the ports.
Last week, I had the pleasure of standing with Toll drivers as they rallied to demand their rights. Like the right to use a clean toilet, or to have someplace clean to sit and eat lunch. Clean toilets and a lunchroom are both things that exist at Toll, mind you —Toll simply doesn’t allow its drivers access to these facilities. Drivers have access to separate facilities: port-a-potties, and the cabs of their trucks.
So drivers have been organizing with the Teamsters. And last week, a few hundred of us were out in the streets at the Toll facility near the ports. Drivers — who had previously been rebuffed when they tried to bring their concerns to company management — were joined by environmental activists, community activists and labor and religious leaders, under the banner of the Coalition for Clean & Safe Ports. A delegation attempted to deliver a petition to the company, but management locked the gates and prevented anyone from going inside.
At the same time, Toll drivers had partnered with their Australian counterparts to confront the company at home. The company CEO, not unexpectedly, blew off the workers’ concerns. And then 26 drivers were summarily dismissed.
When they showed up for work on Saturday, these drivers were told, simply, that their services were no longer required. They were handed a final paycheck — dated the day of the rally — and a packet with unemployment forms. The company, apparently trained in the intricacies of U.S. labor law, denied any connection between the layoffs and the driver rally.
I’m not going to accuse company management of being a bunch of heartless, lying, lawbreaking jerks. Well, okay, I won’t accuse them of being lying lawbreakers, at any rate. That, presumably, will be for the National Labor Relations Board to decide.
In the meantime, send an email to the company demanding the workers’ reinstatement.