Technology and the future of trucking—more reasons Teamsters do politics

This month, Working Partnerships USA and the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education released a groundbreaking report entitled “Driverless? Autonomous Trucks and the Future of the American Trucker.”  The author is Steve Viscelli, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania who also spent time as a long-haul truck driver. He captured that experience in a book called The Big Rig: Trucking and the Decline of the American Dream. Steve presented his report findings and signed copies of his book at our Joint Council seminar in June. He also spoke at the IBT Political Coordinators Conference this year. His work is important for every Teamster to see.

As I’ve written before, we hear reports of the “robot apocalypse” everywhere we go. Some people say that upwards of 4 million transportation workers in the United States will lose their jobs to driverless trucks in the next 5-20 years. Elected officials are scrambling on how to respond while tech companies and big business push for deregulation. Nobody is really sure what will happen and what should be done.

This report is the first attempt to get an accurate picture of how technology could impact trucking and our jobs. The good news is, the robot apocalypse is not a given. The bad news is, if we don’t do anything, new technology and automation will continue to chip away at the wages and benefits we enjoy in package delivery, trucking, and other sectors. The biggest threat is a continued growth in the business model of hiring workers as so-called “independent contractors” instead of employees. On that note, please read this issue’s cover story. The Teamsters are fully engaged.

I strongly encourage you to read the report here:

On another note, this November’s election sees an unprecedented six Teamsters running for office from Joint Council 7!  Additionally, our local unions have been busy interviewing candidates for elected office at the local, state, and federal level. We do this to make sure that the people who are elected to represent us actually do their jobs. If we don’t stay involved, we risk electing politicians who will represent our employers’ interests – not ours.

Here are a few examples of why we do politics:

We have an Assemblymember in Kingsburg fighting for more than 500 members of Teamsters Local 431 who are on strike at Sun-Maid Raisins.

In San Francisco, the Board of Supervisors have scheduled a hearing after WeDriveU and Hallcon Transportation brought in scab workers while over 800 members of Teamsters 853 fight for a fair contract.

The legislature sent a bill to the Governor this year, SB 1402, which might finally win our 25-year battle against the practice of hiring port truck drivers as independent contractors instead of employees.

Oakland and San Francisco are pushing Community Workforce Agreements to ensure Teamsters work on all their public construction projects.

And, some of the San Jose City Council members are working to protect Teamsters 350 recycling jobs under the city’s contracts.

Our political power depends on you, our members. That means registering to vote. The voter registration deadline is October 22. You can register online here:

Then, show up to vote—either by mail or at the polls. The ballots are crowded and sometimes people don’t know who to vote for. I encourage to look at the Joint Council 7 web site to see our recommendations!

Finally, we give money to the candidates we support. We are giving extra help to the Teamsters who are running for office. The money comes from our political action fund DRIVE (Democratic, Republican, Independent Voter Education). DRIVE is a voluntary deduction from your paycheck. Please contact your Shop Steward or Business Agent to sign up for DRIVE!

Trish Suzuki Blinstrub, Political Director