With less than 24 hours before the April 11 fuel boycott in Chehalis, WA, was set to begin, Sherrie Bond, the event’s organizer and OOIDA member, said the response she had received this week has been overwhelming.
“Things are really hopping here today, I’ll tell you,” she told Land Line on Thursday, April 10. “This is turning out to be bigger than I hoped for, which is wonderful news.”
Sherrie Bond and her husband, Bob, are log haulers and are feeling the squeeze of high diesel fuel prices and low-paying loads. They have planned the fuel boycott for Friday, April 11, in Chehalis, WA. The aim is to bring together everyone from a wide spectrum to protest record-high fuel prices and to direct national mainstream media attention to this issue.
The boycott will begin in the predawn hours Friday at Exit 72, west of Interstate 5 in the overflow parking lot that the local frozen food plant in Chehalis uses for their trucks during harvest.
“What I would like to see is a bunch of little spot-fires like this one just catch flame so that Congress has to address this issue,” she said.
Bond said they have invited their congressional delegation in the state of Washington to attend the boycott. They will also be passing out information that includes the phone numbers for members of Congress and the President. She said they want people to call and voice their concerns about how diesel fuel prices are affecting them as consumers, as truckers and as business owners who are having to pass their high fuel costs along to their customers.
Attendees will also be asked to sign a letter addressed to President Bush in the hopes of making him “aware of the large cross section of people who are being impacted by these high prices.”
“We’re going to collect signatures and have everybody sign it and we’ll be taking photos that we’re going to include with the letter so that he can see that across the board, everyone is being affected,” Bond said.
Over and over again, she said, she has heard from people who say, “If things are so bad, why don’t you just quit.”
“Well, you can’t just quit,” Bond said. “The truck has already made another batch of bills for you that you have to make payments on the next month, so you run so you can pay those bills and then you have more bills. You just have to keep going.”
Record-high fuel prices and low-paying freight have forced many owner-operators to either park their trucks until economic conditions improve or shut down their trucks for good recently.
Five years ago, she said there were 2,500 registered log trucks in the state of Washington. That number is down to just 785 now, in part because log haulers have been unable to negotiate their own hauling fees with the loggers, but instead depend on fees set by the loggers and the timber companies.
“Attracting drivers is getting to be almost impossible,” she said “We’ve got a 20-year disparity in wages, and it’s hard to find drivers that are willing to work for poverty-level wages where we can’t even offer them insurance, benefits or retirement.”
The Bonds are passionate about this issue because they both grew up in little timber towns in the Northwest.
“It’s very much a part of our blood,” she said. “My dad was a third-generation logger, and Bob’s family was the same way. They are log haulers. Bob’s been doing this since 1958. It’s all he’s ever known.”
Her goal with the fuel boycott is to gain national attention to the truckers’ plight.
“They are the working backbone of this country, and they deserve more respect than what they are getting,” she said. “They just want to earn a living and support their families.”
– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer