Union Power in Peoria: APWU 10 Roads Express Workers Strike to Defend Their New Union!

December 5, 2022

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10 Roads interview - Anthony White and Rich ClayAn exhibition of true worker power, solidarity, and courage was on display recently from 10 Roads Express drivers in Peoria, IL. After a swift union organizing campaign and an overwhelming union election victory with a 53-10 “APWU Yes” vote, drivers went on strike less than 48 hours after their victory. The strike was a powerful worker-led protest against the unjust retaliatory termination, by 10 Roads Express, of one of the main union leaders, Donna Gramm. 

Since mid-September drivers concerned about worker harassment, unjust discipline, and the possible loss of full-time jobs, have been working with APWU lead organizer Rich Shelley and organizer Lori Cash to unionize their workplace. The drivers formed an organizing committee (OC), went through OC training, attained a super-majority on union authorization cards, and filed for a union election with the NLRB within two weeks of their meeting with APWU organizers. The speed of their organizing campaign was a testament to the workers’ desire to unionize and one of the quickest campaigns in APWU history.

Donna Gramm, described by several coworkers as an outspoken woman, had previously led a petition effort to protest the company's unjust firing of another driver. That petition campaign, along with Donna Gramm’s leadership skills on the petition drive, helped encourage the workers to form a union for job protection and to address their many concerns.

The drivers were confident they would be victorious prior to the vote count on Nov. 29, 2022. One driver accurately told a 10 Roads Express management official that he “was going to vote yes, and it was going to be a whoopin’.” The overwhelming 53-10 vote count in favor of unionizing was a terrific victory and the drivers were ecstatic over the outcome.

The drivers faced their first test of their new union when management unjustly terminated Donna Gramm the next morning in clear retaliation for her union activity and the outstanding union victory. As part of the new and rising militancy of the working class, the drivers were not going to let their leaders and their newly formed union be attacked. They deliberated with each other and the APWU organizers, and “hit the bricks,” withholding their labor in a one-day strike.

Along with due process for Ms. Gramm, the drivers were fighting for the respect of their newly formed union. According to driver Anthony White, “If the company feels that she violated company policy, they should take her back and give her due representation. If they feel they should investigate it, fine investigate it, as long as they do it in accordance to having a union, and we are a union right now…” The strike ended after the company agreed to apply “just cause” protection and a grievance procedure, up to and including arbitration, in relation to any discipline issued to Donna Gramm. Winning their major demand, the drivers returned to work with their heads held high having taken a principled and victorious stand of union solidarity.

“The strike and the union vote were resounding wins for these drivers and the entire labor movement and are an inspiration to us all,” said Support Services Director Arrion Brown.

“I congratulate the Peoria, IL 10 Road Drivers on their outstanding union victory and welcome them into the APWU” declared APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “Their powerful actions of union solidarity now sets the foundation for building a strong local union and a strong contract campaign as negotiations for a first contract begin in the near future.”

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