Local Christian-Faith-Based Clergy and Other Supporters of Warehouse Workers Show Their Support for the Teamsters Union in Front of California Cartage

13 Apr

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Dozens of people, from the faith-based Christian community and other allies of the Teamsters union, prayed and walked in procession carrying a large wooden cross on Tuesday, April 16, in the “Stations of the Cross at the Port,” at seven sites near the warehouse and trucking facilities in Wilmington of the California Cartage Company, likening Christ’s crucifixion to the working conditions and management’s alleged mistreatment of the port’s warehouse workers.

Clergy and Laity for Economic Justice (CLUE) organized the event.  Each site represented two of the 14 stations with the last site being used to present management a letter stating the grievances the workers had with the company.

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Rev. Scott Fritz; Photo by Barry Saks

At the first site, Rev. Scott Fritz of Trinity Lutheran Church, welcomed those present and linked the crucifixion to support of the warehouse workers by saying, “Today we gather to commemorate the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. At the same time, we proclaim the modern-day wounds and injustice that workers at the ports experience daily.”  Rev. Fritz then introduced Rev. Michael Eagle of Grant African Methodist Episcopal Church Long Beach.

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Rev. Michael Eagle; Photo by Barry Saks

Rev. Eagle introduced the first two stations and echoed Rev. Fritz’s linking the crucifixion with support for the warehouse workers.  Then Rev. Eagle introduced Manuel Rios, who told his story as a port driver.  Rios spoke in Spanish.  Grecia Lopez-Rios, who is on CLUE staff, translated for Rios.

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Manuel Rios; Photo by Barry Saks

Rios said he had worked at K & R, which is one of the subsidiaries of California Cartage, for 23 years.  He said (as an owner-operator,) he was responsible for paying for all the costs for his rig, those costs were deducted from his pay and he never received overtime, workers compensation or health insurance, in which he worked 14 hours each day.  He added management was disrespectful to the drivers by humiliating them; if the drivers complained about the humiliation, management would prevent the drivers from working for two or three days; and when the union was trying to recognized, management threatened to close the warehouse if the workers unionized.

At each of the other stations except for the last two, the Christian-faith-based leaders linked the crucifixion to support of the warehouse workers.  Besides the Christian-faith-based leaders showing their solidarity, Alicia Morales from the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition and Ann Burdette, who identified herself as a parishioner at Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church of Long Beach and active in Long Beach United spoke briefly declaring their solidarity with the warehouse workers.

At the last two stations, CLUE led a delegation of the Christian-faith-based leaders and other union supporters into California Cartage, which was the same entrance workers leave or enter when a shift changes, to deliver a letter to management, stating CLUE’s support for union rights and the alleged violation of labor laws by California Cartage.

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Bishop Bonnie Radden; Photo by Barry Saks

Bishop Bonnie Radden, of the Refiner’s Fire Fellowship United Church of Christ, was the spokeswoman for the delegation.  She stated the delegation was there to discuss the injustices that have occurred to the workers and “we know these workers will triumph.”  When leaving, several of the clergy, including Bishop Radden, said to the workers coming in that they were there to support them.  The delegation left chanting, “The workers united will never be divided.”

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Javier Rodriguez dragging the Cross; Photo by Barry Saks

One participant was Javier Rodriguez, who identified himself as an organizer for the Teamster international.  Rodriguez said the event was to show the clergy and the community the “poor” and “bad” conditions the workers work under, and to show the workers they have support of clergy and the community.  He estimated about one-third of the people there were either organizers for the union or supporters who work inside.

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Victor Gonzales; Photo by Barry Saks

One union supporter, who has worked at California Cartage for eight years, was Victor Gonzales, 55.  Gonzales said he took time off time from work to be there.  He said he wasn’t worried about being harassed for his pro-union activity because he is such a hard worker.  He said, “They (management) love me in there.”  He said the activist workers inside are getting support from the Warehouse Workers Resource Center.  He said because of threats to expose those who are felons or those who are undocumented and threats to close the warehouse down, the majority voted against being represented by the Teamsters.  Gonzales said by sending delegations, of from four to 20 people, to air their grievances with management during their breaks the activists have been able to win some gains like water breaks and better respectful treatment by managers to more microwave ovens.

California Cartage management was unavailable for comment.

 

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