May 1 strike plans include truckers

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Independent owner-operator Armando Gonzales was among the truckers who shut down in 2004 to protest fuel price increases. On May 1, he and other truckers plan to shut down their trucks again, as part of a larger effort to protest a federal immigration bill.

The resident of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., is among those calling for a general nationwide “Day Without An Immigrant” strike, across all industries, to protest HR 4437, which the U.S. House approved in December. The bill would make being in the country illegally, or assisting an illegal immigrant, a felony. A softer version of the bill stalled in the U.S. Senate earlier this month.

“The pulse of the population is right for this,” Gonzales says. “It’s a really hot time. HR 4437 is an attack against Hispanics in general.”

A group of truckers calling itself the Los Angeles Troquero Collective (“troquero” is Spanish for trucker) advocates the strike in hopes of bringing about immigrant amnesty, the right of all truckers to unionize and a 25 percent salary increase. The collective has distributed fliers asking truckers to shut down and gather at ports, rail facilities and truck stops May 1. A large trucker protest, for example, is scheduled for May 1 in Banning Park in Wilmington, Calif., near the Port of Los Angeles.

Most of the truckers planning to participate in the May 1 shutdown are Hispanic owner-operators, says Gonzalez, a linehaul trucker who was among those arrested in 2004 for blocking a California freeway with parked trucks. He plans to join other truckers May 1 at the Citadel outlet mall in Commerce, Calif.

Ernesto Nevarez, a Wilmington, Calif., tax preparer whose clients include many truckers, says it’s important that all drivers have a sense of solidarity “rather than having truck drivers split along racial lines.”