Truck drivers spend unpaid hours awaiting assignments from dispatchers, as well as burning up time at vehicle inspections or completing shipping paperwork—time that would be compensated if they were classified as hourly or salaried employees, instead of as contractors.
Tony Sheldon, an internationally known trade unionist and the national secretary of Australia’s Transport Workers Union, recently attended a Las Vegas convention of world labor representatives, hosted by the Teamsters. Capital & Main caught up with him later in Los Angeles.
What if millions of American workers were being denied health insurance, job security and the most basic legal protections, from overtime pay to workers compensation to the right to join a union?
If legendary labor activist Joe Hill were alive today — and some contend that he is — he would have plenty to say about the state of the American worker. And the country, if it listened, would have plenty to learn.
Hill, who was executed in Utah 100 years ago this month, was an unapologetically radical union organizer whose rough-hewn songs and poems matched the brutal working conditions endured by tens of millions of Americans in the early 20th century. While his lyrics might at first sound anachronistic to contemporary audiences, their underlying spirit speaks directly to the experiences of far too many in our often unforgiving 21st century economy.
“Would you have freedom from wage slavery… Would you from mis’ry and hunger be free,” from Hill’s 1913 anthem “There Is Power in a Union,” could easily have been inspired by the thousands of truck drivers who haul goods to and from the nation’s largest port in Los Angeles.
Two days ago, with truck driver strikes expanding at Los Angeles-area ports, Capital & Main shared a conversation with a pair of drivers who detailed safety concerns about a trucking system that imposes long hours and unaffordable maintenance burdens. As the strikes spread among trucking companies and into port warehouses, those safety concerns took center stage with a shocking accident.
On Tuesday afternoon a shipping container slipped from a truck and killed a bicyclist in Carson. The container had struck a railroad bridge, though a witness said that the truck may not have been appropriate for the job.
“I’m assuming that they’re hiring those flatbeds because yesterday it was a flatbed too,” David Alva told ABC7 News. The day before, Alva saw a similar accident that did not involve injuries. “Those containers weigh from 40,000 [pounds] and up. They just strap them on with straps,