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  November 18, 2013

Striking LA Truckers Target Walmart Supply Chain

Independent trucking contractors go on strike for the first time in decades, protesting unfair labor practices.
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Robert Pollin is Distinguished Professor of Economics and Co-Director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He is also the founder and President of PEAR (Pollin Energy and Retrofits), an Amherst, MA-based green energy company operating throughout the United States. His books include The Living Wage: Building a Fair Economy (co-authored 1998); Contours of Descent: U.S. Economic Fractures and the Landscape of Global Austerity (2003); An Employment-Targeted Economic Program for South Africa (co-authored 2007); A Measure of Fairness: The Economics of Living Wages and Minimum Wages in the United States (co-authored 2008), Back to Full Employment (2012), Green Growth (2014), Global Green Growth (2015) and Greening the Global Economy (2015).


JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

Hundreds of truckers in Los Angeles took part in what's being reported as the first strike by independent contractors in decades. The truckers at Green Fleet Systems, American Logistics International, and Pac 9 deliver goods for retail giants like Walmart and Forever 21.

The Real News reached Nick Weiner, who is the national campaign director for Justice for the Port Driver campaign, and he's supporting the nonunion workers on strike.

DESVARIEUX: So, Nick, can you briefly explain the difference between independent contractors and traditional employees?

DESVARIEUX: That was Nick Weiner, the national campaign director for Justice for Port Driver campaign, who joined us from the picket lines in the Port of Los Angeles. We also contacted Green Fleet, but they declined to comment.

Alright. We just heard a report from the picket lines over there. And now joining us to unpack all this is Bob Pollin. He is the founder and codirector of the PERI institute at UMass Amherst.

Thanks for being with us, Bob.


DESVARIEUX: So, Bob, we just got a report, like I said, from the picket line, where truckers are striking. Can you just unpack for us what this actually means in a broader context, a national context? We're seeing not just retail and fast food workers on strike now. Now we're seeing truck drivers who are really a part of the supply chain.

POLLIN: Well, yes. I mean, I think it's very important that we're seeing the Walmart workers, retail workers, we're seeing fast food workers, and now we're seeing truckers going out on short-term strikes because--why? Because their conditioned have deteriorated. The union strength is weak, so without the formal role of the union behind them, their bargaining power has worsened. And they see the inequality that has arisen in the country, after all. Since the recession ended in 2009, 95 percent of all the income gains has gone to the top 1 percent. The real wages of workers has stagnated or declined. They're below where they were 40 years ago in real inflation-adjusted dollars. And so that's what is driving these strikes. And it is very important that it has now moved on to truckers, who have been badly exploited and need this kind of pushback.

DESVARIEUX: Do you think these type of protests and strikes are effective?

POLLIN: Well, they're better than not doing them at all. I think it's very important that working people are starting to raise their voices and demand better conditions, fighting for a higher minimum wage. I mean, the struggle for a $15 minimum wage did at least yield something. In California is passed a $10 minimum wage starting in 2016. Now, that's not good enough, but if there hadn't been the fight over the last several months and arguing in behalf of the $15 minimum wage, we wouldn't have the biggest state in the union passing a $10 minimum wage. That's how politics works.

And the point is that working people do deserve better conditions. It's important that they fight for their rights, because otherwise they're getting kicked around by both parties, including the Democrats--most Democrats, Wall Street Democrats. And so this is a very positive development.

DESVARIEUX: Alright. Bob Pollin, thank you so much for joining us.

POLLIN: Thank you very much for having me.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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