Actually we have a toehold in Mass. There the regional -- and probably most liberal -- NLRB has ruled again that FedEx's "independent contractor" Home Delivery drivers are in fact employees. We have an election there Oct. 20.
The main thing is for liberal shareholders -- all liberals, for that matter -- to tune in to organized labor's issues. If there is a strike in your community, support the strikers. Don't cross the line. Tell the strikers you support what they are doing; tell management that you support the strikers too. When it starts effecting the bottom line, corporations will start to pay attention.
We also rally outside shareholder meetings when we have active campaigns, such when we took American school bus drivers to discuss their issues with UK-based FirstGroup. We also rallied at United Technologies shareholders meeting when our workers were striking Sikorsky Aircraft.
But you are right, rallies and proxy votes alone are not going to get the job done. We need broad grassroots support to make a difference. That's what happened with the anti-apartheid movement. Union issues have to become everyone's issues. And they truly are: health care, decent wages, workplace safety, highway safety, retirement security, national security.
Actually, the Teamsters are doing exactly that. We are using the millions of dollars in our pension funds to pressure companies into living up to their images. I'm away from my PC right now so I'll post a link to our Capital Strategies Dept later today.
We're working on it. There is a Teamster posting on DailyKos and the Union is experimenting on YouTube and Care2. But what is really needed is for members to get out there and post. There are a few and we hope to grow those numbers through education and as younger workers join the union. If we could get members across the country blogging enmasse, then we amplify our message online.
Like you, the Teamsters are working to get the word out about an international project that up until a few months ago was barely even spoken about. (I also find it interesting that the first bloggers to write about the NAFTA superhighway project were conservatives. Where are the progressives on this issue?)
The story was written by an investigative journalist who went to Mexico to talk to the drivers who could be rolling up our highways if the Bush Administration has its way. These drivers told the reporter of abhorrent working conditions, poorly maintained trucks, excessive hours on the road and drugs used to keep them working.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not casting aspersions on these drivers. They are doing what they must do to feed their families and to stay alive. I blame the trucking companies - some American-owned - that exploit these hard working and poorly paid individuals.
But so far, our best defense against unsafe trucks and unregulated drivers has been the Murray-Shelby Amendment. Here's what we wrote in our magazine:
Bipartisan Measure has Protected U.S. Highways
Five years ago, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters lobbied for and passed legislation in Congress to protect U.S. drivers and the traveling public from unsafe Mexican trucks. The measure, known as the Murray-Shelby Amendment, was introduced by the bipartisan team of Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL). After much debate, the Senate voted that summer to include the language in the annual appropriations bill for the Department of Transportation.
"The provisions on Mexican trucks contained in this bill is a common-sense compromise between the laissez-faire approach of the administration to let Mexican trucks in and check them later, and the strict-protectionist approach of the House to keep Mexican trucks out and not check them at all," Sen. Murray said after the vote. "This bill is neither protectionist nor discriminatory, as some Senators have desperately claimed."
Earlier in 2001, the Bush administration had called for the opening of the U.S.-Mexican border under the rules of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). However, the Murray-Shelby Amendment established a series of requirements that the Department of Transportation (DOT) must meet in order to ensure thorough inspection and regulation of Mexican trucking companies. Until DOT is able to prove that it has complied no funds can be spent to certify Mexican carriers to operate in the United States.
We continue to lead the fight in Congress and elsewhere that only trucks and truckers that meet U.S. safety and regulatory standards be allowed to cross our borders.
But I must say that I find it quite ironic that a Republican Congress that approved a 700-mile fence along our border with Mexico and billions of dollars to make our own ports more secure would open the floodgates to Mexican trucks that, as our magazine story uncovers, are regularly hijacked and whose drivers are routinely intimidated and exploited. Just consider the possibilities of what could roll unchecked across our borders.
I have to be careful here because our legal department tells me that our sponsorship of Breaking Blue forbids me from directly endorsing candidates.
Honestly, I am not familiar with the candidates you mention. (No FEC violation here.) And, with all due respect, I would venture to guess than an NCDem is not too familiar with California Assembly candidates either.
But this is a common misperception that many who judge unions fall into. They believe that international unions are a single entity, an engine that drives a long train of members to the polling place. This simply isn't true. Our union is made up of more than 450 local Teamster unions. If you add in the lodges and locals of our newly merged Rail and Graphics Communications conferences we have more than 1,200 locals. Each of these locals is fully autonomous. They make their own decisions based on the votes and opinions of their members. These members also elect leaders who represent them in regional, state and national advisory and governing bodies. The bodies can advise and inform, but like our locals, our members have minds of their own.
Most of our members do vote Democratic, but not all do. The California Teamsters Public Affairs Council endorsed two Republicans. But they also endorsed nearly 90 Democrats. A union's endorsements reflect the values and issues important to its members. We're not just talking about rosy campaign promises here. Teamsters also look at past performance, broken promises and inaction. Frankly, neither party has been singing "Solidarity Forever" in the state house or Capitol.
Like I said, I don't know this candidate nor am I familiar with his adversary. I am not trying to make a case for one candidate or another. Nor am I privy to the facts or opinions that led to this endorsement. (Satisfied FEC?) But, what good would it do our members if they just gave their votes away wholesale to a single party? We would probably see less action on issues that are important to us.
So before you start blaming unions for supporting Republicans because they are Republicans, perhaps you should examine the progressiveness of your Democrat.
The first is working together against common enemies - the solid waste industry, for one. In fact for the past year, the Teamsters have been working with grassroots organizations as well as international environmental groups to stop or stall the building of neighborhood transfer stations and mega-landfills.
Part of the problem has been the privatization of the waste industry. Again, what was once a mostly public service has been taken over by corporate interests who exploit not only their workers but also the communities in which they do business.
Our research has shown that these large solid waste companies disproportionately locate transfer stations in minority and poor neighborhoods. Residents are forced to breathe high levels of particulate matter, the exhaust from hundreds of idling trucks, and other pollutants. Often, low paid sanitation workers face dangerous conditions at work and when they return to their neighborhoods at night.
Mega-landfills are another tragedy waiting to happen. Waste Management and others are doing everything they can to cram more trash into existing landfills or create new ones to bury trash from multiple states.
Second, as engineers and entrepreneurs develop new eco-friendly technologies, create union jobs. Don't just concentrate on giving options to those in the cubicles and office suites. Look at who is manufacturing the equipment, installing it, maintaining it, and demand that these workers be unionized.