President Barack Obama’s administration is using new “environmental standards” to force independent owner-operator truckers into becoming part of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a union that gave more than $2 million to Democrats in the last two election cycles.
By increasing the number of “green” requirements truckers have to comply with in order to get into some major United States ports — like Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland — the Obama administration and the Environmental Protection Agency are helping push previously independent truckers into companies, which then makes them vulnerable to unionization or, in many cases, forced to join a union. As these aren’t administrative laws from the EPA per se, trucks that don’t fit this new “green” standard, which is meeting at least 2007 EPA emissions levels, are still allowed to operate throughout the country. But each of the major port authorities won’t let them in if they don’t fit the new environmental regulations, which would force many independent truckers out of business if they resist since many truckers depend on business from the ports to survive.
Alex Cherin, an attorney who represents a trucker advocacy group opposed to these forced unionization attempts, told The Daily Caller the Teamsters have been trying to get independent truckers classified as employees of a company for years because “under federal labor law, they [the Teamsters] cannot unionize independent contractors.”
“They [the Teamsters] see this as their window of opportunity,” Cherin said in a phone interview. “They know that most drivers want to stay independent contractors to keep their freedom, but that many can’t afford these new ‘green trucks.’ They want to piggyback their agenda onto an environmental initiative.”
Cherin said the Teamsters has been pushing unionization more and more lately, and it has “really heated up with the ‘green trucks’ program.” He said that the air in Southern California is cleaner as a result of the program, but that this is really a unionizing effort disguised in a “green” initiative.
Americans for Limited Government spokesman Rick Manning said this effort is definitely driven by labor unions, especially since the leader of the Teamsters, Jimmy Hoffa, Jr., is pushing it.
Hoffa, Jr., the current president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and son of the infamously “disappeared” union boss Jimmy Hoffa, alluded to his real intent with the program while advocating on behalf of the new “green truck” rules in a Huffington Post blog.
“We want the trucking companies to buy and maintain clean new trucks,” Hoffa, Jr. wrote in March 2010. “We also want them to pay their truck drivers a fair wage and the employment taxes that go with it. The trucking companies would prefer the federal government protect them from those obligations.”
These new “green trucks” cost more than $100,000 and, to meet the “green” requirements, truckers have to join companies and, by extension, the Teamsters union.
The “green trucks” program, which critics say is all about re-classifying independent truckers as employees of a company, fits in with the Obama administration’s Department of Labor’s assault on the profession as well. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis hired more than 100 new “investigators” for the Wage and Hour division. Those investigators handle, among other things, “misclassification” cases, or seek out independent truckers and other independent contractors to investigate whether they think they should be “classified” as such.
T.J. Michels, a spokeswoman for a coalition of groups in favor of these port policies, including the Teamsters, confirmed for TheDC that they have two major goals with their port policies: clean up the air around the ports and stop “misclassification” of truckers as independent contractors.
“It’s misclassification that’s going on, which allows companies to cheat on taxes and take advantage of workers,” Michels said. “The whole reason the old rigs were polluting in the first place is because the wrong people were paying for them.”
Solis has denied TheDC’s several requests for interviews, as has Labor Solicitor Patricia Smith, who is behind most of the Department of Labor’s forced unionization regulation policies.