Introduction: This is the first in a series of interviews with class conscious proletarians regarding important and key issues and struggles. It is the opinion of People’s Voice News that it is best to report the words and sentiments of the masses in their pure and unadulterated form, to ensure that the depth of the people’s knowledge and their rage at the class enemy is made perfectly clear. We do not agree with everything expressed in this piece.
Com. T: As an American trucker, how does the industry treat you? What do you want the public to know about your life, your industry, and your position in the chain of things?
Com. S: The American trucking industry treats truckers, especially those of us who are BIPOC, like slaves. Sure, we get paid, but it’s piecemeal wages. We only get paid for every mile. So being stuck in traffic, having low miles, sitting in the dock, etc. equals little pay. If the truck breaks down, that equals a low paycheck as well. We aren’t paid detention until we’ve already been sitting in the dock for two hours. Companies force us to use split shifts. We work 50-100+ hours a week, which, again, we’re only paid per mile, not for fueling the truck, inspections, being the security for said vehicle, etc. I want people to know that we matter as well, we work extremely hard and we’re destroying our bodies to keep this country running and your fridges full. If we stopped, if we actually were able to organize nationwide, we could really hurt the government and corporations nationwide, and honestly we’d hurt a lot of fellow workers as well. Lastly I want to say it’s hard to keep a family fed and pay bills even with what we make and we ALL need to fight for a higher minimum wage, for everyone. My Grandfather, who was a trucker like me, was able to buy a house, two cars, have a wife, three kids, AND buy his own truck eventually and drive under his own authority as a company driver. You can’t do that now.
Com. P: “If you aren’t rolling, you aren’t making a profit” is a common mindset in the industry. This means we have to always be focused on moving freight to have any sense of job security. This is why you hear of truckers putting off going home to see their family or taking time off to address health issues. There is essentially no work-life balance. Your work is your life, and that means anything that affects your work starts to deeply affect your life.
Com. CP: My work as a truck driver is not characteristic of the industry as a whole. As a unionized truck driver in an industry that has seen rapid decline in unionization rates, it leaves me in a relatively privileged position in the industry. Starting my working life as a warehouse employee for the company I still work for definitely highlights the disparate working conditions for different work classifications. It also emphasizes the privileges my current position holds. Truck drivers are largely subject to tight schedules, long stretches without seeing family, dismal pay, and pay schemes that encourage unsafe behavior that put the driver and the general public at risk. The situation for truck drivers is bad and only getting worse as the industry becomes less and less organized and more subject to the threat of automation.
Com. T: What is the primary issue impacting you and your colleagues in the industry?
Com. S: The primary issue in my opinion is the insane amount of how the value of our wages deteriorated. In 1980, $40,000 was closer to $120,000 in today’s money. We’re still getting paid $40-50,000 as company drivers. That’s ridiculous. Now they’re hiring kids straight out of school so they can continue to low-ball us. Not the kids’ faults because they’re naive but it really screws all of us. We need our wages over $120,000 a year, and we need to be paid for every minute on the damn truck.
Com. P: I’d say the primary issue OTR truckers face is the lack of guaranteed pay, which results in a lack of any sense of financial security, and is what allows these issues in both retention of worker benefits and of worker labor itself to persist. I am classified as an independent contract and get paid per load, as many truckers are. But even those who are classified as employees and get paid per mile run it the same issue: we have to be moving freight to be making money.
Com CP: Trucking is consistently rated among the most dangerous professions in the United States. This is due to a variety of reasons. The pressure upon truck drivers to continue to drive even when conditions are poor is exerted by your shippers, receivers, and dispatchers. Most truck drivers are paid not for their time, but for miles driven; so, highways shutting down during inclement weather or an equipment failure directly impacts a driver’s income. This directly motivates unsafe driving behavior and involves hours each week of unpaid labor from truck drivers. According to the government, however, it is always the fault of the driver when accidents occur. This blame-shifting results in structural immunity for the employers to encourage dangerous and reckless working conditions.
Com T: Everybody’s talking about the convoy that’s been raising hell in Canada for the past few weeks. What’s your take, as a truck driver? What do you think of the Government declaring a state of emergency for the first time in history? What do you think the class position of these people are and what’s your reading of the average trucker’s politics?
Com. S: My take on Canada is that it’s not surprising that it’s gotten this bad. The RCMP is a joke when it comes to policing other colonizers. All of those crybabies are ridiculous. I wonder how many were veterans and forgot that they had to get a ton of mandated shots as well. As for how it has shut down the border and finally caused the current reaction shows that Leftists need to learn how to speak to people in layman’s terms, not use buzzwords, and fucking do shit like this. Everyone is tearing each other apart because of different political lines which aren’t even a big concern at this fucking moment. Canceling each other and splitting. We need to fucking get our shit together because at this point, if we don’t, we’ve already lost to these fascists and reactionaries. As for the Canadian Government declaring a state of emergency for the first time, I never knew that until you told me. But it is unprecedented in Canada and shows what can happen. The class position of truckers is a mixed bag. Most of us, from my experience, are ex felons, veterans. Mostly working class, and in some cases petit-bourgeoisie. Truckers are a mixed bag of lumpenproletariat, proletariat, and the rare petit bourgeois trucker who has multiple (2-3) trucks and hires other people to drive them for him as well as drive for himself. That being said, we all see we’re getting screwed, we all are not politically correct, some of the most disgusting people, humor wise and a lot are misogynistic bastards. The one thing we can agree on for the most part is our wages. Avoid using Communist jargon, and just get them working for exactly what they want and you could get a lot behind you. We want action, not words and arguments over stupid shit that doesn’t impact us.
Com. P: The ones who are able to sit for weeks on end in their own trucks they bought with their own money are not necessarily the most proletarian in their mindset or reasoning. Their reaction is more out of a perceived violation of their individual freedoms than any sort of class solidarity with their fellow truckers. This is sadly a natural result when the “end goal” of a career in trucking is getting your own truck and “being your own boss”. You develop a petit-bourgeois mindset in an attempt to survive the burnout most people experience from being grounded down by the current work environment of the industry, a mindset that is thoroughly endorsed by the wealthy capitalists who own the mega-carrier companies since they know it will openly keep the labor market fragmented.
Com. CP: Truck drivers are largely divided into two categories, those who own their truck and those who do not. While you don’t need to be rich to buy a truck, you do need to be financially stable and work consistently throughout the year with little home time. Taking several weeks off, risking the impounding of your truck, and being arrested over a vaccine most Canadians have already gotten is not the action the majority of truck drivers are capable of taking, much less want to take. Directing the very real anger that many truck drivers have into supporting a reactionary movement that does not meaningfully address the primary problems facing drivers is a textbook way to divide and conquer. The Canadian Government’s state of emergency isn’t something that should be supported, though we shouldn’t delude ourselves with the bourgeois-liberal argument of precedent-setting behavior. Even since the declaration of the state of emergency, these demonstrations have been treated far kinder than a genuine left-wing protest movement in Canada, for example, the G20 Toronto summit protests in 2010. Those who are capable of protesting in the manner I described above are undoubtedly at the very least petit-bourgeois who are capable of owning at least one truck and missing out on the income from trucking for several weeks. However, at least among White American truck drivers, there is a strong sense of support for this protest movement. Nevertheless, the traditional image of the American Truck Driver, as a middle-aged White American is not reflective of the profession as a whole. In fact, non-white and immigrant truck drivers make up a significant proportion in today’s truck-driving industry. The politics of company drivers, with a clearly established antagonistic contradiction with their employer, holds a far greater capability of resisting the tendencies of the petit-bourgeois owner-operators.
Com. T: What do you think is the best path for the American working class movement to incorporate more workers, including truck drivers, into it? We’ve seen much activity from workers at Amazon, Starbucks, etc., what would lay the basis for a grassroots working class movement among truck drivers?
Com. S: A grassroots working class movement for truckers would be an extremely difficult thing to do. We are all in our own trucks, we rarely talk except at rest stops, and we’re kept off the yard so it’s difficult to organize. For us to have a tangible working class movement among us, we’d need red unions and mass orgs going to truck stops, helping truckers out with meals, conversation, and we’d need insane amounts of money for the legal help we’d need, to be able to use company trucks for nationwide strikes and more.
Com P: As for how this all could change for the better, I feel it can not come from any one area within the trucking industry, maybe not even from within it. External pressure creates internal change. Having some of the biggest freight suppliers in the industry (WalMart, Amazon, the big four meat companies of JBS, Perdue, Smithfield, and Tyson, etc etc) shifting from profit margins to providing a basic standard of living for their workers would encourage the same in trucking. Brokers couldn’t play truckers off one another and instead would have to provide better pay and benefits to their drivers. If everyone is getting a plate at the table, no one needs to fight over scraps.
Com. CP: The American working class movement must make significant effort to recognize the specific concerns of various sections of workers in order to truly understand what can motivate workers to collective action. So often one group of workers blames another for its position, whereas if we built on the interconnectedness of all labor. For example, in warehouse work it is necessary to organize the support of not just warehouse workers, but also office staff, pickers, packers, forklift operators, truck drivers and retail sales workers. They are all connected together in the process of exploitation, the sooner progress is made in this sphere the sooner workers can be organized. As opposed to the service and e-commerce sector, truck driving in the United States has a very long and entrenched history of unionization. However, in the recent period, truck drivers’ unions either were forcefully disbanded, or were captured by reactionary petit-bourgeoisie. It means that rather than focusing on galvanizing newcomers to organize, efforts should be put into disseminating revolutionary literature among the union members while simultaneously capturing union leadership positions. This is due to the fact that truck driving unions, such as the International Brotherhood of Teamster, are often led by reactionary corporatists, while their rank and file members have potential to be a revolutionary force. In a way, rather than unionizing, fostering revolutionary movement among truck drivers and working to steer the existing structure leftward may be a way of resolving the contradictions between the reactionary leadership and the revolutionary mass.
Com. T: What is your advice for our readers and organizers overall? What should we stop doing and what should we do more of? How can we build a really worker oriented Communist movement in the United States that is worthy of the name and that can really seize the time, as Elder Seale said long ago?:
Com. S: My advice is to actually go out and talk to regular working people at their level. Don’t go off on people immediately just because someone voted for orange dipshit or said something insensitive or politically incorrect. Of course there are limits to that as well. Don’t take bullshit. We also need to stop tearing each other apart for fucks’ sake, and colonizers and men need to step and listen when BIPOC and Women are telling them that they’re fucking it all up. The Left has to fight the societal and cultural contradictions within their orgs and talk to people. It’s as simple as that. We working people don’t want magazines, newspapers, brochures, polemics, etc. We want conversation, we want to laugh and joke, we want to bitch about our problems with a drink, cigarette, or other vice at hand. And working people want tolerance while they’re learning. Don’t be a dick and chew someone or write them off when they slip up. The “American” Left cancels people for the smallest transgressions. Fucking stop, talk to, teach, and actually work with people. And you’ll get somewhere.
Com. P: Building connections can help, just cause a lot of us are lacking any meaningful social interactions when out here. Someone who listens to our concerns earnestly could go a long way, but it will take time to make those connections. Advocating for more “rights” for truckers can help win them over as well. Truckers have all the responsibilities of hauling essential goods, yet none of the protections from the State when something goes awry. We are liable for anything that happens to the cargo, to any of our equipment, and to any other vehicles even if determined not at fault. The stress of worrying if your career is gonna end because someone in an SUV doesn’t know how to merge safely onto the highway during adverse weather conditions is doing no favors for anyone driving out here. Education about trucking life and even how different driving a truck is versus driving a car could help. People would yield more to trucks if they knew a vehicle hauling 80,000 going 65 mph physically can not brake in a safe manner as quickly as a car can. Advocating for better road amenities in any national infrastructure bill, like more rest areas or encouraging retailers to prioritize truck parking in their lots, would go a long way to winning over many truckers regardless of where they stand politically. Really it’s gonna come down to changing the average outlook of truckers. We aren’t all angry old colonizers who voted for Trump, (though they definitely exist). It’s a very exploited industry with hard working people who take a lot of bullshit on their chins cause they are desperate for something better in their lives. Learning about those issues and developing viable strategies to alleviate them for us is what’s gonna create a paradigm shift in the industry from one ruled by mega carriers to something better, like worker owned and operated co-operatives who prioritize the livelihood of their drivers over their quarterly earnings. That’s the key first step if you want to begin incorporating one of the most vital links in the global supply chain into any emerging labor movement: showing us how a better future for all of us is not only possible, but even well within our grasp.
Com. CP: I think one of the Achilles heels in communist organizing is the dogmatic unwillingness to engage and capture the existing power structures for revolutionary gains. Not saying electoralism is revolutionary, nor is entryism, but oftentimes, revolutionaries are dogmatically allergic to making use of union and tactical engagement with electoral politics to get revolutionary ideas before the masses, instead, hyperfocusing on more mobile and clandestine operations, “sexy” actions, that oftentimes don’t generate anything besides unnecessary arrests, minor property damage, and criminal cases. In 1934, Minneapolis Teamsters, whose membership consisted of many Communists, brought all business within the city to a halt. Of course, we’re not in 1934, but it’s good to study our history and use all weapons at our disposal tactically to help develop the movement. The fundamental strength of the communist movement is its ability to reveal people’s enslavement to the system and to provide the way for one’s own emancipation, through building the Party and waging armed struggle/cultural revolution until Communism. We have to build the three weapons, the Party, People’s Army and the United Front. In truth, these would be quite easy to accomplish with discipline, since the contradictions of the late-stage capitalist system in the United States produce a steady stream of disillusioned workers and youths who could serve as recruits and party cadres. However, the propaganda machine of said late-stage capitalism makes the first line of action–that is, the education about one’s slavery–much harder to accomplish. The clear and present problem facing any communist movement in the imperial core is to create a strong and believable vision for a communist future, one that could compel the masses to organize for Communism in our time.
As we have seen, it is important for Communists to recognize where working class people currently are, and also to understand the stratification within industries. We must heed Com. Lenin’s admonition and call for Communists to go lower and deeper among the masses, and unite with the masses of proletarian truckers and others involved in the logistics industry. This is a critical sector of the imperialist economy, and will be of strategic importance. Imagine a blockade of truckers organized not for reactionary anti-vaccine and settler revanchist efforts, but in support of a proletarian uprising such as we saw in several cities during the Minneapolis rebellions of two years ago. Communists must, every day, lay this groundwork, visiting and providing propaganda at truck stops. Reactionaries have already done this, we mustn’t abandon a trench of struggle to them. There is work to be done at all times, and every worker won over to the active cause of the proletariat and committed to the reconstitution of our Party is a victory. – Com. T