Archive for February 2010
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Drivers at Hemisphere’s Largest ‘Inland Port’ Join the Fold
By Kari Lydersen
Working In These Times
The 160 drivers who work for Renzenberger in the Chicago suburbs are among the hidden workforce that keeps Chicago’s “logistics industry” humming. These workers shuttle railroad crews among the myriad intermodal facilities and rail hubs in the city’s western suburbs, where goods from across the globe arrive in massive containers and are redistributed throughout the country.
Now the drivers are the newest Chicago-area members of the Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), the independent union famous for the Republic Windows and Doors occupation. On February 1, after a hard-fought organizing drive, the workers voted by a 3-1 margin to unionize with the UE.
The drivers say they are constantly on call, working long and erratic hours often without lunch breaks. (The company’s website says they are required to have nine hours rest after 10 hours of drive-time.)
“[S]ince they’re on call all the time and they don’t get the rest they need,” says UE organizer Mark Meinster, “it’s a safety issue.”
They start at minimum wage and complain they are subjected to unfair and arbitrary discipline, forced to work off the clock, denied due process for grievances and recently had wages cut and frozen. The drivers have no health insurance, paid sick days or holidays.