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On the picket line

June 11, 2004 | Page 10

Los Angeles truck drivers
By Sarah Knopp

LOS ANGELES--About 40 independent truckers met last week in Southgate Park to discuss their upcoming June 7 action. They stood around in groups of five or 10 and debated their options.

Fresh in their memory was their successful April 30 blockade of freeway traffic that shut down of the Port of Los Angeles. They were demanding relief from skyrocketing fuel prices--possibly in the form of subsidies from the Pacific Maritime Association--a living wage and the right to organize a union.

"On the Spanish news, they announced that if we blocked traffic, we would have our trucks impounded and our licenses revoked," Manuel Garibay told Socialist Worker. "But we did it anyway. Basically, we're trying to get unionized so that we can set rates for loads and so that we can get benefits. There are 50,000 independent truck drivers for the ports, and if we could get organized, we would be a force to be reckoned with," he said.

But there are some major obstacles. First, the two unions that have jurisdiction, the Communication Workers of America and the Teamsters, haven't put the resources needed into organizing the drivers. And secondly, because they are independent contractors, the truckers think they would face anti-trust lawsuits if they tried to organize.

"We're demanding an end to these ridiculous fuel prices," said Armando Gonzalez. "Diesel is at about $1.90 a gallon." But Armando's also concerned about the bigger picture. "We want our boys and girls to come home from Iraq," said Armando. "The Iraqi people don't want us there, and families on both sides are going through a lot of heartache. And we want licenses for the undocumented. It's mind-boggling that all this is going on, and we're barely making it week to week."

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