Press Releases

Australian Transport Giant Toll Group Re-Launches Anti-Union Crusade On Its American Workforce On The East Coast

CARTARET, NJ– U.S. workers responsible for safely hauling loads out of Toll Group’s New Jersey facilities filed charges with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), alleging that their Australian-based employer Toll Group is interfering with their right to form their union.

The charges filed by the drivers, which include surveillance, coercion, and making threats, arrive just as the New Jersey workforce is able to begin casting their vote in their historic union election. Toll drivers in New Jersey have received tremendous support from labor organizations, elected officials, and labor and community groups, including:

More than 100 groups and individuals have signed a petition supporting the Toll drivers’ effort to form a union, and many of these organizations have written letters of support directly to the workers.

The move by Toll Group, dogged the previous two years by similar board charges and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) complaints, signals the company’s return to negative campaigning on its workforce.

Just six months ago, the company temporarily dropped its anti-union crusade after it failed miserably in the company’s quest to stop Los Angeles drivers from forming a union at their worksite. The drivers, who affiliated with International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 848, successfully pressured the company into signing a game-changing union contract early this year. The contract signing, which indicated an end to the tumultuous dispute that played out both in the U.S. and Australia, was heralded as a welcome change in Toll’s U.S. labor relations—until today.

“This is a company that says it cares about safety. But it’s forcing all the local drivers to go to so-called “safety meetings” where there’s no talk about safety at all. All they do is try to scare drivers about the union. They say things some of us know just aren’t true – like it’s going to cost drivers hundreds of dollars if we go union,” notes John Lambert, Toll Local Driver serving the Port of New Jersey.

The company’s latest moves come as a shock to Teamsters Local 848 Secretary-Treasurer Eric Tate, who served on the Toll contract negotiation team on behalf of the Los Angeles drivers. The contract promised to consider rewarding their L.A. drivers with greater pay if the Teamsters can unionize drivers at nearby companies, and was seen as the company finally embracing a pro-organized labor stance in the U.S.

“I thought Toll and the Teamsters had moved past such a confrontational relationship, particularly since L.A. Toll drivers have been working harder and are more productive than they have ever been. Unfortunately, Toll’s response has been to hire its own in-house union-buster!” states Eric Tate, Secretary-Treasurer, Teamster Local 848.

Secretary-Treasurer Eric Tate has demanded a formal retraction and public apology from Toll’s Human Resources Director, Richard Pacheco, who is using captive audience meetings to reach drivers with slanderous anti-union statements.  In one meeting, Pacheco declared that Teamsters Local 848, the local union representing Toll’s L.A. drivers, fined one driver $2,500 and two others $1,500 for “talking bad about the union.”  Both claims are false, and now the subject of potential legal action if Pacheco does not retract or apologize by June 21.

“If Toll is not against unions, why did they hire a new HR Director that lists “union avoidance” as one of his skills? At the last mandatory meeting – where they try to intimidate drivers into voting against the union – I called him out on the things he was saying and he couldn’t back them up. Instead of a straight answer, the meeting was cut short. Is he just making stuff up?,” notes Fred Schmidt, a Toll Local Driver serving the Port of New Jersey and New York.

Mail voting for the Toll’s New Jersey workforce is scheduled to end July 15 for long-haul drivers, and local drivers out on vacation or leave, and the in-person voting for Local drivers is set for June 28, 2013. Drivers’ pleads for the company’s neutrality in their quest to form their union has gone ignored.

For more background on the Toll drivers’ campaign for justice, visit their website.

Press Contact: Barb Maynard, 323-351-9321, (U.S. Pacific Standard Time (California))