The Teamsters union, as part of its national strategy to organize harbor truck drivers, has taken on Toll Global Forwarding, charging that the company is using national labor law to delay a vote among drivers to join the union.
The Teamsters on Thursday calling upon a professor of labor studies, a Catholic priest in Long Beach, a senior official with the Transport Workers Union of Australia and two local drivers to press the case for unionization of Tolls’ 74 truck drivers in Southern California.
In some respects, the Teamsters’ efforts at Toll are a continuation of its strategy to highlight what it charges are low wages, poor working conditions and harassment of drivers in the harbor trucking industry.
“If ever there was a group of workers that need a union, this is it,” said Nick Weiner, the Teamsters’ port campaign director.
However, the Toll effort also differs somewhat from its national campaign in which the Teamsters are attempting to have owner-operators classified as employee drivers so they can be unionized in accordance with national labor law. Independent contractors can not be organized by a union.
The Toll drivers that seek to be unionized in Southern California are employees who drive company-owned trucks, so there is no legal impediment to organizing them, Weiner said.
The Teamsters charged that Toll is using National Labor Relations Board regulations to delay a vote among the workers. The NLRB process is fraught with bureaucracy that allows savvy employers to delay a vote for months, if not years, said TJ Michels, spokeswoman for the Teamsters-affiliated Change to Win.
Drivers at Toll said they are ready right now to vote for union representation. “They’re saying, ‘Bring it on,’” Michels said.
A Toll spokesman at its U.S. headquarters in Carteret, N.J., said questions for the company have been submitted to Tolls’ international headquarters in Melbourne, Australia.
Toll’s U.S. operations have grown rapidly through a series of acquisitions of trucking and logistics firms. In Southern California, its customers include high-fashion apparel firms with time-sensitive delivery requirements.
In Australia, Toll has a reputation as being a union-friendly company that pays middle-class wages and offers good worker benefits, said Michael Aird, senior official with the Transport Workers Union of Australia. Toll has 12,000 unionized employs in Australia, he said.
Aird said labor union officials in Australia have met with Toll executives there and urged a “one Toll vision” for its global operations. In the U.S., Aird said, the Australian union wants Toll to “take the high road” with its harbor truck drivers.