Workers in Transportation Sector Speak Out

Truckers Persist in Building Organizations Needed to Defend Their Rights

Normand Chouinard is a trucker in the retail trade sector.

When we talk about trucking in Canada and the life of truckers, we are speaking about trucking within Canada as well as cross border trucking. What stands out most about the working life of truckers since the beginning of the pandemic is their organizing to give themselves a collective voice. Their insistence that their safety be guaranteed as the condition for the supply chain to be provided with a guarantee has been relentless. They immediately demanded that basic sanitary standards be maintained everywhere and that the necessary arrangements to carry out their work safely be established all along the highways, both at private service points and public rest areas. They have even issued requests to their respective companies to ensure that suppliers, shippers and customers respect the sanitary measures put in place by Public Health authorities.

When the first shutdowns occurred in April/May 2020, there was enormous pressure on the transport workers to move goods at all costs, without measures being taken to protect them. The resistance of the truckers meant that changes were relatively quick and accommodations were made and health measures were taken. Amongst other things, over the past year, the trucking community has worked hard to build advocacy organizations. This was particularly the case in the United States where actions took place everywhere and truckers made themselves heard during rallies in front of various state capitols, and organized an action in front of the White House that lasted nearly 20 days. During these 20 days, the truckers organized themselves to guarantee their needs in food and sanitary measures and they held street discussions and several other activities. The situation is similar in Quebec and Canada. Truckers are stepping up their work to create the organizations that they need to ensure their safety, despite the difficulties posed by the pandemic.

Despite governments adopting some safety measures for truckers, the reality has been that truckers' work rates have been increased to meet the demands for consumer goods that has fluctuated wildly. There is no stability in the pace of their work. On the contrary, the pressure to meet whatever delivery schedules the companies dictate has been greater than ever before. Truckers cannot get proper rest. Now, in the United States, in the name of Bidden's humanitarian causes, all normal regulations which apply to allowable loads and hours of work can be set aside. The situation in both countries has created very dangerous working conditions which have led to several work and road accidents.

U.S. truckers gathered in front of White House May 1, 2020 for an action lasting nearly 20 days

For these reasons, this year's Day of Mourning in Canada had a special character. Truckers commemorated their fallen, their injured, and all those who, during this last very difficult year of pandemic times, have upheld their responsibilities to ensure the constant supply of goods for their communities while fighting relentlessly for their own safety. Among other events, these commemorations included an online event organized by the non-profit organization Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Truckers which hosted a virtual session on May 1. Labour organizations, both national and local, also held Day of Mourning events.

The Day of Mourning and May Day this year were opportunities to reaffirm the main demands of the truckers' movement, which are the uncompromising improvement of their working conditions through the direct participation of transportation workers in the modernization of the Canada Transportation Act and the improvement of all conditions throughout the transportation industry. This includes the right to have a say in the establishment and enforcement of regulations, but, more importantly, the inherent right to define the direction of laws and regulations that affect them, including ensuring their own safety.

(Photos: WF, FTQ, C. Lee)

This article was published in

Voluem [volume] Number [issue] - May 4, 2021 - No. 40

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