Barbara Ehrenreich has a great post over at The Nation, Truckers Hit the Brakes.
Until the beginning of this month, Americans seemed to have nothing to say about their ongoing economic ruin except, "Hit me! Please, hit me again!" You can take my house, but let me mow the lawn for you one more time before you repossess. Take my job and I'll just slink off somewhere out of sight. Oh, and take my health insurance too; I can always fall back on Advil.
Then, on April 1, in a wave of defiance, truck drivers began taking the strongest form of action they can take: inaction. Faced with $4-per-gallon diesel fuel, they slowed down, shut down and started honking. On the New Jersey Turnpike, a convoy of trucks stretching "as far as the eye can see," according to a turnpike spokesman, drove at a glacial 20 miles per hour.
Owner operated truckers, organized via CB radio and internet, are staging highway revolts across the country- taking over all lanes and crawling for miles, getting arrested, or just simply idling in enormous groups on the highway. Kind of like the truckers version of a sit-in strike.
Their goal? Reduce the price of diesel fuel. At $4/gallon, they cannot survive. Ehrenreich says that of all the truckers that she spoke with, they all knew that Bear Stearns got $30 billion bailout over the course of a weekend. Hello, my thoughts exactly. Our speed of a sloth government gets all miraculous for Bear Stearns while the rest of the sky is falling and they're like, oh well.
And kids, truckers have clout. 70% of goods in the US travel by truck. If they want to do a sit-in on the I95, it's no joke. And their clout is not lost on them.
We were able to survive a writers' strike, but a trucking strike would affect a lot more than your viewing options. As Donald Hayden, a Maine trucker put it to me: "If all the truckers decide to shut this country down, there's going to be nothing they can do about it."
More importantly, the activist truckers understand their protest to be part of a larger effort to "take back America," as one put it to me. "We continue to maintain this is not just about us," JB--which is his CB handle and stands for the "Jake Brake" on large rigs-- told me from a rest stop in Virginia on his way to Florida. "It's about everybody--the homeowners, the construction workers, the elderly people who can't afford their heating bills... This is not the action of the truck drivers, but of the people." Hayden mentions his parents, ages and 81 and 76, who've fought the Maine winter on a fixed income. Missouri-based driver Dan Little sees stores shutting down in his little town of Carrollton. "We're Americans," he tells me, "We built this country, and I'll be damned if I'm going to lie down and take this."
Check out Truckers and Citizens United for more info.
- "Big Rig Jig" photo by BURИBLUE via flickr