Jobs Can’t Be Good or Green if They’re Not Union!

DATELINE: LOS ANGELES/LONG BEACH - MARCH 20, 2012

Flanked by a large group L.A. port drivers, and opening for L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Sierra Club’s Allison Chin, Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa delivered a thundering keynote last Thursday at the Los Angeles Good Jobs, Green Jobs Regional Conference on the on-going fight to make port trucking a good and green American job.  And he got a second by both environmental champions Allison Chin and the L.A. Mayor!  “We are going to look for every way we can to make sure that independent truckers who are misclassified, who are really employees in every respect of the word, that they get their justice,’’ Villaraigosa told the audience (port drivers and the greenies went bonkers after he dropped that line!). No doublespeak for the mayor either, he delivered that same message at the shippers’ conference in Long Beach a week before.

Despite the drastic reduction of drayage-based pollution at the L.A. ports, Hoffa also echoed Mayor Villaraigosa’s declaration that the fight is far from over, and the Teamsters remain fervently committed to achieving the “blue” goals of this Blue-Green Alliance—delivering good wages, and a voice on the job for drivers. The mayor reaffirmed his administration’s and the city’s commitment to changing the way the port industry treats their workforce, a.k.a. ending the misclassification swindle.

Port drivers continue being treated as second-class citizens, and enduring the third-world like working conditions, whether they’re employees or drivers disguised as “independent contractors.” Case in point: the ongoing driver battle for union recognition at Australian based Toll Group’s L.A. facilities, which has broughtinternational attention, and solidarity from Australia’s powerful Transport Workers Union (TWU), including a vow in L.A. from TWU’s national secretary Tony Sheldon to hold Toll accountable for their disgusting labor practices

For months, Toll Group drivers have been engaged in a fight to achieve dignified workplace conditions, such as access to clean restrooms with running water, and the right to vote for their union without bullying by management, and their union-busting consultants.  Just last week, Xiomara Perez, a port truck-driving mother of three, was fired by Toll after making an emergency pit stop at a McDonald’s to use the restroom. Apparently the company finds not “holding it” completely unacceptable for their hard-working employees that make the $8.8 billion conglomerate profitable.

Well Xiomara isn’t holding back something else either—her story, and willingness to continue the fight. With Hoffa and her fellow port drivers on stage, and both TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon and the L.A. mayor in the audience, Xiomara delivered a heartfelt speech on what they’ve endured to arrive at the cusp of achieving the biggest Teamster victory in the port industry with Toll’s upcoming union election. And guess who has her back? L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

As if Xiomara’s story and the treatment by her employer wasn’t shady enough, she was joined by Carla Campos, a worker from a local recycling facility, American Reclamation, who also described the third-word like workplace conditions she stand against. Like Xiomara, Carla Campos was also fired for flagging health and safety obligations. Based on the successes and framework of the Clean and Safe Ports Campaign, cleaning up the L.A. recycling industry has been the basis of the “Don’t Waste LA” campaign, a blue-green effort to increase the rates of recycling, and set safety and workplace standards.

Two valiant women, mirror image campaigns, and one common goal: cleaning up industry’s act. If L.A. waste doesn’t end up in our backyards in urban landfills, it finds its way to the ports ready for export on trucks being driven by workers like Xiomara Perez.

The message out of the conference is crystal clear: jobs can’t be good or green if they’re not union!

Why let great keynotes go to waste? Watch the full morning plenary of the L.A. Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference