Teamsters fight back against dangerous driverless vehicles on multiple fronts

After Newsom turns his back on workers and vetoes AB 316, Teamsters take protests to San Francisco, Los Angeles

SAN FRANCISCO – Teamsters, labor leaders, and public safety officials rallied on Oct. 24, 2023, outside the San Francisco headquarters of Cruise, an autonomous vehicle (AV) company operating so-called “robotaxis” in San Francisco, to demand more safety oversight of robotaxi operations just hours before Cruise pulled its entire fleet of driverless cars from public roads.

Speakers at the October rally, including Union firefighters and construction workers, called out a multitude of safety incidents caused by Cruise robotaxis in San Francisco in the months prior to the rally. Cruise robotaxis collided with fire trucks and were implicated in the death of a pedestrian after blocking an ambulance that was transporting a patient to the hospital. The self-driving cars also impeded union members on the job by getting stuck in concrete and blocking waste trucks.

“These companies talk about the public being safer with their cars on the road, but the reality is they’ve made living and working in San Francisco even harder,” said John Bouchard, Principal Officer of Teamsters Local 350. “There’s more congestion, traffic is worse, public safety is worse, and they’re making it difficult for firefighters and police to respond to emergencies.”

The dangerous nature of these driverless cars was made apparent just a few hours later, when news broke that the California Department of Motor Vehicles had suspended Cruise’s permit to operate driverless cars on California streets effective immediately. The DMV announced that a driverless Cruise vehicle had run over a woman in downtown San Francisco after she’d been pushed into the road by a human hit-and-run driver, trapping the woman’s legs under the rear tires of the driverless car and dragging her more than 20 feet before finally coming to a stop.

The DMV also alleged that Cruise withheld footage of the incident captured by the vehicle when the DMV first investigated the crash, contributing to their decision to suspend Cruise’s permits immediately.

Teamsters applauded the DMV’s decision, which finally put the safety of human drivers and pedestrians above the greed of tech corporations. Cruise’s cars are an evident threat to the public and the Cruise corporation’s disregard for safety is appalling.

Since losing their California permits, Cruise removed their driverless cars from city streets across the nation, CEO Kyle Vogt resigned, and Cruise’s parent company General Motors has announced major cuts to funding, leaving the future of the company in question.

However, the fight continues to protect our streets, communities, and jobs, from dangerous autonomous vehicles. Waymo, owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, continues to operate its own fleet of driverless vehicles and robotaxis in San Francisco.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which regulates driverless vehicles in conjunction with the California DMV, granted both Waymo and Cruise permits to expand their San Francisco robotaxi operations in August.

Though Cruise’s permit has now been revoked, Waymo continues to operate these dangerous vehicles with the CPUC’s permission and recently expanded its operations to Los Angeles County. Public records reveal that Waymo has spent nearly $2 million lobbying the state government this year, a massive increase from the year prior.

In November, Teamsters fought back by calling for the immediate resignation of CPUC Commissioner John Reynolds, who served as the lead attorney of Cruise for two years.

“State bureaucrats like Reynolds, who are bought and paid for by the tech industry, have no business making decisions for our communities on an issue as important as this,” said Jason Rabinowitz, President of Teamsters Joint Council 7. “The CPUC’s attempt to inundate San Francisco with dangerous robot vehicles, over the opposition of local residents and leaders, to enrich their corporate masters, demonstrates that these agencies cannot be trusted to protect our jobs and safety, and we must pass legislation to return local control to the people of our cities.”

Joint Council 7 members and leaders have plans in the works to fight greedy tech’s assault on our jobs and communities in the coming months and we urge members to get involved wherever and whenever you can by joining protests, and sharing our Joint Council social media posts regarding AV.