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Mexican long-haul trucks take to U.S. highways today, angers Teamsters

Despite a protest rally from Teamsters, a speech from Jim Hoffa Jr. and bi-partisan Congressional members, Mexican long-haul trucks will take to U.S. highways today.

Safety standards and the threat of losing more than 100,000 truck driver jobs was not enough to sway the Obama Administration’s decision to allow Mexican trucks, approved through a North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) pilot program, to gain access to U.S. and deliver their goods.

Using a Russian roulette analogy for Mexican truck safety standards, Hoffa said it would take a serious car accident to get Mexican trucks off the highways.

“This pilot program will be a fiasco, just like the last one was,” Hoffa told roughly 100 Teamsters at a San Diego border rally. “You know it’s trouble when the very first carrier that DOT approves is axed because of safety concerns. Department of Transportation (DOT) has never been able to verify the safety of Mexican trucks. That’s why the Teamsters for 17 years kept the border closed to a permanent program that would let any Mexican truck travel anywhere in the U.S.”

San Diego Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter Jr. and Democrat Bob Filner voiced their bi-partisan support of the Teamsters and vowed to continue the fight in the halls of Congress. “It’s about American jobs,” Hunter told the rowdy crowd. He also said the Mexican drug cartels would find a way to take advantage of the new trucking arrangement with America.

Rep. Filner agreed and added that “lives will be lost. I just hope it isn’t a school bus full of children.”

Another fear American truck drivers voiced concerned about was the loss of union wages. While many union truck drivers earn $250 for a trip from the border to Los Angeles, Mexican drivers could charge as little as $50 for the same trip.

Traditionally, the Teamsters have provided good-paying blue collar jobs for drivers throughout the country something they contend will be put in jeopardy if this pilot program is expanded. “The whole idea is to tear down the Teamsters,” said Richard Middleton, Vice President for the Teamsters International Western Region.

The new program will also affect local independent truck driving operators. Jose Escott, of Yucipa, California explained that he immigrated, legally, in 1987. “I gave up my Mexican passport and worked very hard to earn my business. I oppose this NAFTA program. It will kill the American spirit that I love and it will export trucking jobs to Mexico.”

Hoffa wrapped up the questions by pointing to the unsafe driving conditions south of the border. “This is not a level playing field. There were 10,000 hijackings in Mexico last year. What American truckers are going to put their lives on the line to deliver flat-screen TVs in Mexico?”

“We’ve had enough of this madness,” he finished.

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© Copyright 2011 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.

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