An Old Teamster Dispute is Renewed

A.P. Moller’s offer to run an independent investigation into the murder of Teamster organizer Gilberto Soto was soundly rejected by the labor union. Soto was shot outside his mother’s home in El Salvador on November 5th. He was visiting his family to celebrate his birthday and had extended his stay to look into efforts to organize port drivers in El Salvador and other Central American countries.

Maresk headquarters in New Jersey was the target of union pickets in October after it announced it would move its Central American operations from New Jersey. The company was considering locations in Central America and Mexico for the Central American operation.

Earlier in the year, the Teamsters supported a strike by independent drivers at the Port of Miami protesting working conditions. At that time, Maersk claimed the drivers were independent contractors.

The drivers struck the port on June 28th, but were forced back to work when a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order (see On the Docks, It's Back to Work They Go). Truckers at the Miami port are considered independent contractors and, argued Miami-Dade County officials and Universal Maritime Service, that makes them private companies. Under a 100-year-old law, private companies are not allowed to collude to boycott or raise rates.

In its rejection of the Maersk offer to investigate the union leader’s death, the Teamsters went back four years to remarks by Maersk officials that it said “slandered port truck drivers in El Salvador who were seeking union contracts with their Central American trucking operation.”

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