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How a trucker strike could affect the industry

02.25.2020 - 12:37 PM Comments: 0

Strikes among workers have long been an effective way to enact change in the workplace, as they have proven time and again that workers still have a semblance of power.

In one of the most recent examples, workers at General Motors made some major strides in the right direction after going on a six-week strike, which cost GM $2 billion in lost production, according to Vox.

Workers managed to secure pay raises, factory investments, improved temp transitions, and they kept their healthcare. While they did have to make some concessions as well, they were ultimately better off for having gone on strike.

While that strike had an enormous effect on the economy, it does not come close to what could transpire if strikes were to occur throughout the trucking industry.

However, trucking strikes are largely seen as a difficult task, for a variety of reasons. According to Business Insider, though, it may come down to one important factor: a lack of unionized workplaces.

To build a cohesive movement and mobilize workers, they not only need constant access and exposure to necessary information but also the ability to organize tactically. Without the unifying voices of union leaders to guide workers, it ultimately becomes increasingly difficult to build a mass movement.

Let’s put this into perspective: currently, only about 2 percent of the 3.5 million truckers in the industry are unionized and Teamsters memberships amongst truckers have dramatically dipped from just over 2 million to 75,000 in the present day.

For the most part, the enormous shift in unionized truckers is due to carriers working long and hard to make sure that their employees do not unionize. Though instead of raising wages or offering more comprehensive benefits, they instead choose to just let go of workers who try to unionize, amongst other efforts.

In addition to that, the closing of over 600 unionized trucking companies has only exacerbated the problem. And with carriers only looking increasingly vulnerable early this year, this may not get any better.

Nonetheless, while a strike is unlikely to happen, there are signs that show that a mass movement amongst truckers could be successful if it managed to come to fruition.

In the 1970s ununionized owner-operators managed to cause some ruckus with a nationwide strike that spanned upwards of a month. The strike had serious effects in plenty of cities, including Chicago, St. Louis, and Ohio. 

Unhappy with price hikes to fuel, limited fuel supply, and proposed changes to speed limits, a trucker by the name of J.W. Edwards decided to leverage the power of his C.B. radio to protest.

Edwards decided to cause a blockade on I-80 and was swiftly joined by others in a display of solidarity. While the initial strike would not lead to much change, the independent truckers soon realized that they had to organize in order to be successful.

This led to the creation of the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which is still around to this day. The creation of OOIDA among other trucker associations then culminated in yet another major strike.

Whilst the strike would end with rampant layoffs, deaths, and product shortages, it ultimately was a win for independent owner-operators, as truckers gained significant concessions. 

Would the same success transition to contemporary times? Who knows, but considering how important trucking is to the national and international economy, it could have quite an impactful effect.

The fact is, trucking is intertwined with nearly every other industry. Someone has to deliver gas, food, equipment, and other crucial materials and products.

By halting productivity, it would send enormous verberations throughout the United States. The moment it affects people’s pockets, it will become a national conundrum and issues within the industry could be addressed on the terms of workers.

Recently, truckers did actually try to set up a strike, but it turned out to be a complete failure. 

In an effort to protest regulation such as the ELD mandate and hours of service, truckers created the “Black Smoke Matters,” group. While it amassed 15,000 members on Facebook, only a few dozen folks showed up to physically protest.

Could that be taken as a sign that strikes as a whole just aren’t effective in the trucking industry? Perhaps, but until unionization makes its way back to the mainstream of the trucking industry, we’ll never truly know.

So, what do you think? Is it possible to organize a successful strike in the trucking industry? Let us know in the comments or on social media!

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