The attempt by port truck drivers working in Southern California for the Australian-owned Toll Group to join a union has reached the retaliatory firings stage: Xiomara Perez, one of only two women among the 75 truck drivers working for Toll in Southern California, was fired on March 9 for having taken an emergency bathroom break days earlier.
It is illegal for a company to fire a worker for trying to join a union, but it happens all the time. The company doesn’t admit that’s the real reason for the firing, of course. It’s just that coincidentally someone who’s been an outspoken union supporter gets fired for a common practice that doesn’t typically draw any disciplinary action, let alone firing. Companies do this because it removes a leader from the workplace and intimidates other workers who might support the union, and because the penalties for doing so are laughably small. So it’s no coincidence that Xiomara Perez, who exactly fits that description, was targeted (PDF):
On Tuesday March 6th, Xiomara was driving to Rialto with a cargo load andbegan to feel slightly ill, thought she might throw up, and thus made an emergency detour. As a professional driver, Xiomara adheres to U.S. Department of Transportation regulations that require any hauler to pull over if they feel faint, fatigued, etc. – in other words, truckers must use their best judgment to protect their own safety, the public, and the merchandise they carry. She found a McDonald’s she was familiar with where she could freely use the restroom and get a sandwich to settle her stomach to continue her workday. She instantly felt better and got back on the road; the safety diversion took roughly 10 minutes at the most.
A male supervisor quickly questioned her, via radio, about why she had stopped; “Already feeling intimidated, and reluctant to disclose private information about her body functions to a male manager, she made an excuse in order to instead contact a female human resources supervisor.” But when she got back to Toll after delivering her cargo, supervisors inspected her clothes and truck—apparently nothing less than vomit splattered all over would have justified her 10-minute bathroom break. Three days later:
Toll fired Xiomara, citing an unreasonably restrictive work policy prohibiting employees from stopping – even to use a restroom – when delivering a load. Xiomara had asked for the policy in writing but was denied. Many of her co-workers say it is common practice to stop to use the restroom…
A group of Xiomara’s coworkers (PDF) is sending Toll a letter calling for her reinstatement and the Teamsters have filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.
Let the Toll Group know its truck drivers aren’t the only ones who are outraged by this firing. Sign our petition calling on the Toll Group to reinstate Xiomara Perez, let truck drivers take bathroom breaks, and stop intimidating union supporters.