Truckers meet to plan

Published 10:39 pm Sunday, January 18, 2009

By Staff
Cite grievances against company
Staff Writer
A group of truckers gathered Saturday in Jamesville to plan how to protect drivers in a new union. They will continue meeting today.
The truckers, who pull containers and logs for businesses including Weyerhaeuser Company, are pushing for a number of concessions from the company, and they say they’ve been targeted for layoffs.
The United Truckers Union is planning to affiliate formally with the Industrial Workers of the World’s Industrial Union 530.
The union had considered formal ratification this week, but decided to make the move a lower priority after drivers were fired, said the Industrial Workers of the World’s representative, Bill Randel, in a phone interview after the meeting’s first day wrapped up.
Randel attributed a relatively low turnout at Saturday’s move to fear of company retaliation, particularly because there aren’t many jobs in the region.
According to a union press release, about 15 truckers have been let go by Bridge Terminal Transit Inc., and another two are gone from Dunn Trucking.
Moore said he was one of the truckers laid off by BTT, a Charlotte-based company that hauls for Weyerhaeuser.
Phillip Roberson, who was also let go, disagreed with Moore’s wording.
Moore said the company justified the move, which was backed up by a formal letter from the Director off Operations at BTT’s Norfolk, Va. office, as business-related because of low volume at a facility in New Bern.
Randel called the reasons the company gave for many of the firings “stupid.”
Moore said his boss at BTT was not supportive of the union.
Roberson said company officials don’t know which drivers are union-affiliated, but they do have some idea.
Randel said company efforts have been targeted around New Bern, where the union first formed and is strongest.
Randel said his group plans to fight back by being louder and more visible than ever.
The union is looking to coordinate with other truckers and with longshoreman in an area stretching from Savannah, Ga., to Norfolk, Va. Randel said BTT’s parent company is already in a fight with longshoremen farther north.
Longshoremen are workers who move cargo on and off of ships at ports and many of them are part of long-established unions.
Randel said BTT would be a particular target of the movement now.
The union launched a brief work stoppage last month. At that time, company officials said they would meet with union representatives. But a union official said Saturday that hasn’t happened.
The company’s list of demands included job security for truckers if the company changes trucking contractors, more consistent payment of safety bonuses, pay for cleaning containers, a fuel surcharge, pay for time spent waiting in line and regular meetings with management.
Randel said his group is looking to unionize all types of truckers. He compared the contract drivers’ lot to that of sharecroppers years ago.