The Strange Tale of Obama, The Teamsters, The Sierra Club—And Those Cheap, Dirty, Dangerous Mexican Trucks
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March 21, 2011

[Previously by James Ryan: Brown Herring: J.T. Ready And His "Neo-Nazi" Border Patrol]

Even in the midst of a recession, you can't help but notice the many signs plastered on the back of semi trucks proclaiming that they are "now hiring qualified drivers". Truck driving is one of the few remaining private sector jobs widely available to American citizens that do not require a college degree, six figures of debt and a lifetime of interest payments.  

But now, even that is about to end—thanks to that great friend of organized labor, Barack Obama. Although the Teamsters Union backed Obama in the 2008 election, Obama has thrown them under the bus truck.

Not only was Teamster support beneficial to Obama in the general election, the Teamster endorsement gave him a crucial boost amongst blue collar whites at the end of February 2008, in the midst of a heated primary campaign against Hillary Clinton. This endorsement went a long way towards dispelling the image of Obama as a tool of the "Prius-driving, latte-drinking" crowd, as the president of the International Association of Machinists put it.

Nonetheless, in a meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon earlier this month, President Obama quietly reached an agreement that would allow Mexican trucks to operate in the United States despite concerns over safety, the environment, and American jobs. [Obama, Calderon Lift U.S. Ban on Mexican Trucks, Retaliatory Quotas, Bloomberg, March 3, 2011]

Even Mexico's refusal to extradite Julian Zapata Espinoza, the suspected murderer of U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement Agent Jamie Zapata, did not stand in the way of Obama's handout to Mexicans. [U.S. and Mexico agree on trucks, easing tensions, By Christi Parsons and Peter Nicholas, Los Angeles Times, March 4, 2011]

Teamsters President James P. Hoffa has protested that "We simply don't believe U.S. taxpayers should pay to let more Mexican companies depress American workers' wages", citing the $500 million cost of an inspection program for the trucks. "We don't want drugs and violence coming north", adds Hoffa, "And we don't want dangerous trucks driving along our highways. We don't think Mexican law enforcement officials can guarantee the safety of their trucks and drivers, especially when they're consumed with a violent drug war". [On the Wrong Road Again, By James P. Hoffa, Detroit News, January 11, 2011]

"Simply unbelievable", added Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, "for all the president's talk of helping small businesses survive, his administration is sure doing their best to destroy small trucking companies and the drivers they employ".

Adding insult to injury, the cost of the Electronic Onboard Recorders required for the Mexican trucks will be paid for by American taxpayers. Not only will American truckers have their jobs destroyed, they will have to pay the Mexicans to do it. [U.S. would buy EOBRs for Mexican trucks, By Brian Straight, FleetOwner.Com, March 10, 2011]

The environmental lobby is another group Obama has gleefully betrayed. Although the Obama Administration has claimed that the trucks will be required to meet American safety standards, no mention of them meeting American environmental standards can be found in the agreement.

Juan Carlos Munoz, president of Mexico's National Chamber of Motor Transport of Freight, recently claimed that any requirement that Mexican trucks adhere to the same environmental standards as American trucks would effectively shut them out of the market. Discussing American clean-energy technologies required for American truckers by the EPA, he said that Mexican companies "do not have sufficient capacity to supply the diesel suitable for these new technologies", and that, if held to these requirements Mexican truckers would be unable to "ever enter the United States, at least not in the next 20 years".

Like the Teamsters, environmental groups such as the Sierra Club (which joined the Teamsters in a 2007 lawsuit to block Bush's "pilot program" to allow Mexican truckers to operate in the U.S.) were crucial backers of Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary, on the basis of "his strong record of support for clean air." Then, in the general election, the Sierra Club launched "a massive mobilization of thousands of members around the country for the campaign-on the phone, on the ground, on the airwaves and online, spreading the message that as President, Barack Obama will lead America into the clean energy future and that we support his plan to solve both our economic challenges and the challenge of global warming at the same time", according to Allison Chin, President of the Club.

Even the bare-bones safety inspections supposedly mandated by the law may not actually take place. The Bush pilot program was panned across the ideological spectrum—from a WorldNetDaily report  that "the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration test for English proficiency" consisted of asking Mexican truck drivers questions in Spanish, to the Teamsters' citing reports from the left-wing Center for American Progress that "there also is widespread consensus that current staffing is far from enough when it comes to protecting the border".

Hundreds of safety violations were documented.

In the TV world, unsuccessful pilot programs never see the light of day again. But in the world of U.S Government border policy, unsuccessful pilot programs are turned into permanent policy.

The Mexican government claims that the agreement is necessary for "equitable treatment" under NAFTA. But American truckers are unable to operate in Mexico, due to the Mexican government's inability to provide security for them.

This is a strange tale. Obama's dismissal of the interests of two core groups of traditional Democratic supporters shows his commitment to globalism outstrips any traditional alleged interests of the left—such as protecting the environment, labor unions,  and working class Americans.

Obama's action can't even be explained by his classism and disdain for American workers, because middle to upper class Americans are the main constituency of the environmental movement.

There is only one possible conclusion: Obama is looking for any opportunity to punish Americans and reward the Third World —even if it dismantles his own party's base.

James Ryan (email him) is an intelligence analyst who lives and works in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

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