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'Sweatshop-on-wheels amendment' – Wal-Mart wants truckers on 16-hour shifts


He’s in the pocket — Boozman’s taken almost $100K from Wallyworld and its employees to pass legislation for the company’s anti-worker agenda. Public Citizen’s Joan Claybrook says tired truckers threaten the safety of those around them on the roads

Wal-Mart is shooting to keep those prices low, no matter what. First, violations of wage and hour laws, then landing in court with sexual discrimination suits, and, sickeningly, paying its workers so little that they are forced into state-funded health plans — it goes on and on.

The latest outrage is a bill in Congress, being pushed by retailers like Wal-Mart to allow drivers of 18-wheeled, lethal weapons to drive 16 hours. How on earth does this make any sense, other than to fatten the bottom line of companies? It certainly shows no regard for the safety of people on the road. Truck drivers are already falling asleep at the wheel. It should be noted that the sponsor of this amendment has received nearly $100K in campaign contributions “from Wal-Mart and its employees.” (CNN):

Rep. John Boozman, an Arkansas Republican whose district includes Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, is sponsoring a bill that would allow a 16-hour workday as long as the trucker took an unpaid two-hour break. The proposal is expected to be offered as an amendment during debate over the highway spending bill on Wednesday.

“Truckers are pushing harder than ever to make their runs within the mandated timeframe,” Boozman said. “Optional rest breaks will reduce driver layovers and improve both safety and efficiency.”

Current rules limit drivers’ workdays to 14 hours, with only 11 consecutive hours of driving allowed, union leaders and safety advocates say. That gives truckers three hours to eat, rest or load and unload their trucks. Critics of the proposal accuse Wal-Mart of trying to fatten its profits by forcing truckers to spend more time waiting at the loading dock without getting paid.


Joan Claybrook, president of the safety advocacy group Public Citizen, said drivers could end up starting their workday at 8 a.m. and quitting at midnight. “This is a sweatshop-on-wheels amendment,” Claybrook said. “The last thing we need is for tired truckers to become even more fatigued and threaten the safety of those around them on the roads.”

The current rule had been struck down in federal court because it didn’t take into account truck drivers’ health. In October, Congress reinstated the rule for one year. If the Boozman proposal is adopted, it would retain the 16-hour workday regardless of any new rule.

Nearly 5,000 people were killed in large truck crashes in 2003, and those vehicles were three times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than passenger cars, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding