Jacksonville Truck Drivers Join Strike Against Private Mail Haulers
03/24/2005 - APWU truck drivers who work for a private mail hauler in Jacksonville, FL, have joined a strike that began Tuesday in Des Moines and Kansas City, KS. Seventy-nine members of the union’s First Coast Local began striking at 7 a.m., March 24, with a picket line in front of the Mail Contractors of America (MCA) terminal.
Like the union members in Des Moines and Kansas City, they are protesting working conditions the company imposed in September 2004. They have been working without a contract since September 2003.
“We will stay out until the company goes back to the old conditions or comes to the negotiating table where we can negotiate a fair contract,” said APWU First Coast Local President Russ Gallion.
“We were tired of working under the imposed conditions,” he said. “When we saw that Kansas City and Des Moines went out, we decided to go out along with them.” The issues in dispute in Jacksonville are similar to those at stake in Des Moines and Kansas City.
MCA switched health insurance carriers, Gallion said, resulting in an increase in insurance premiums for the Jacksonville truck drivers from $140 per week to $284 per week for family coverage.
The company also denied the truck drivers pay for rest breaks they are required to take, as it did in the other cities. The unpaid breaks will cost the trucks drivers thousands of dollars a year, the local president said.
Gallion echoed the concerns of strikers in Des Moines and Kansas City, noting that MCA instructs its drivers to leave loaded mail trucks unattended – sometimes for hours at a time. When trucks are passed from one driver to another while in route to distant locations, the drivers are told to leave the trucks in commercial parking lots – with the keys in the ignition, he said. The practice jeopardizes the safety of the mail, Gallion said. “The Postal Service has an obligation to protect the mail and they should not hide behind a private hauler.”
Only three mail trucks left the MCA terminal today, Gallion reported. On a normal day approximately 24 trucks would go out, he said. According to strikers, several drivers who were hired to replace them turned away when they saw the picket line.
APWU field organizer Mark Dimondstein said the company is trying to crush the union. “This strike is protesting a long list of unfair labor practices,” he said.
“We support our striking union members 100 percent,” declared APWU President William Burrus. “They are engaged in righteous struggle to protect their livelihood and their future. I urge APWU locals to support them financially as well as on the picket lines if they are able.”