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Where is the convoy to support workers in the trucking industry?

REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

The so-called Truckers for Freedom Convoy was supportive of truckers in name only. It offered no real support to working-class truckers. 

If the organizers of the convoy were truly concerned about the everyday problems that working-class truckers face, the issues centred within the convoy would be entirely different than what we currently see.

Aside from wasting a whole bunch of fuel, the main outcome of the convoy was a further consolidation and promotion of the far-right within the anti-vaccine movement. White supremacists have been a key part of the anti-vaccine and pandemic-denial movement since the beginning of the pandemic. What we are seeing now is a culmination of the last two years.

Their demands are doomed to fail, and that is the point. Even if they are successful in removing the mandates in Canada, the USA also has the same mandate so the end result is the same. They will fail in their goals, and look like the victims while garnering support.

The organizers of the convoy used the small percentage of disgruntled truckers to further their own goals. None of the event organizers are affiliated with the trucking industry, while the vast majority of truckers are vaccinated.

Unvaccinated truckers affected by the new federal vaccine mandate for cross-border travellers were exploited, used as an attention grabber in order to mobilize broader support in furthering the organizer’s anti-vaccine (and anti-democratic) ideology.

Truckers face real issues, and vaccine mandates aren’t one of them

Wage theft is a major problem for workers in the trucking industry. By illegally misclassifying workers as independent contractors, an entire system of wage theft has been allowed to flourish throughout Canada.

The Toronto Star’s recent investigative report described how Employers of trucking companies can “save” up to $15,000 per year, per trucker with this shady practice. Companies are able to cut costs on payroll taxes, basic labour protections, and other legal obligations.

According to the report, there have been over 4,800 complaints to Employment and Social Development Canada for a variety of reasons, wage theft being one. While truckers make up less than one-fifth of federally regulated industries, they file complaints to the department at a staggering 12 times the rate of other industries.

Even since adding new penalties for violations, “the federal labour department hasn’t issued a single fine to trucking companies for such violations, data shows.”

The law on misclassifying trucking workers as independent contractors is clear. According to Deena Ladd, of Worker’s Action Centre:

Ladd said the workers have been misclassified. “If you look at legislation, it is very clear as to how you define a worker and how you define an independent contractor.”

She said the employer controls how much they get paid when they work, how they work and supplies the tools of the trade.

“The contract is null and void because they are not independent contractors. It doesn’t matter what I sign. If you employ me as an independent contractor but I am a worker, that contract is null and void,” Ladd said.

According to Manan Gupta, publisher of Road Today, there’s no shortage of issues for workers within the trucking industry. This includes labour shortages, inadequate road infrastructure, exploitation of newcomers by companies, poor training, and new workers not knowing their employment rights

Sometimes, workers don’t have adequate access to necessities such as washrooms. This was especially true during the pandemic when public businesses were shut down. 

In addition, when workers fight for wages that they are owed, bosses may retaliate by filing lawsuits. Instead of paying unpaid wages that can add up to tens of thousands of dollars, bosses are willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars to defend themselves in court. 

Even during the pandemic while truck drivers were deemed essential, truckers weren’t immune to wage theft. Some had to resort to small-scale strikes and demonstrations to get what they are owed. With the sheer amount of media attention that the covid-convoy is receiving, shouldn’t this issue be front and centre if the convoy was truly about truckers?

A convoy with ulterior motives

Knowing that workers within the trucking industry face real problems like wage theft, where is the protest for workers? Aside from vague slogans of “we support our truckers,” there was no material advocacy for truckers working conditions at the protests.

This is not a surprise, obviously. The truckers were simply used as a spectacle to draw focus toward a broader anti-vaccine movement that was intrinsically tied to far-right activists from the beginning. 

Manan Gupta, publisher of Road Today seems to be aware of this:

“It is only a fringe group of truckers, which are being highlighted through this convoy and they are being aided by other political vested interests, most of which is anti-Trudeau and anti-Liberal Party sentiment,” Gupta said.

Prominent conservative politicians such as the recently ousted Erin O’Toole, along with Pierre Poilievre and interim leader Candace Bergen have shown that they have no problems linking arms with supporters the convoy. While they have denounced individual acts of violence and vandalism within the protests, they have simply ignored the most distressing aspect of the convoy: the ties to the far-right.

While conservatives claimed to support the truckers, the question remains: What would have been their response if the truckers were demanding unionization, better working conditions, or ending wage theft? Either way, the plain fact is that the convoy was not about supporting truckers at all.

Wage theft is a major problem for workers in the trucking industry, yet the organizers of the so-called Truckers for Freedom Convoy are completely silent about this.

How can the organizers and supporters of the convoy claim to support truckers, when they simply used them as a spectacle to draw attention to anti-vaccine and far-right ideology?

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