Teamsters battle DOT over cross-border trade

WASHINGTON: The Teamsters recently launched a campaign that aims to stop the Department of Transportation (DOT) from allowing Mexican trucks to cross the US border.

WASHINGTON: The Teamsters recently launched a campaign that aims to stop the Department of Transportation (DOT) from allowing Mexican trucks to cross the US border.

The campaign includes a blog, www.firemarypeters.com, which refers to the DOT secretary and is intended to encourage Teamsters to complain to Congress. The site also allows members to print out campaign-related signs and other materials to display on their trucks.

The group is conducting extensive media outreach to anti-NAFTA media personalities, such as CNN's Lou Dobbs, and is also paying for radio ads in the southwestern US.

In addition, a huge banner hanging in one of the Washington Metro stations reads: "Fire Mary Peters" in red letters across a photo of the DOT secretary. The Teamsters hopes the unwanted attention on Peters will get the secretary to change the DOT policy.

"Since Washington is a very incestuous town where everyone knows one another, we're trying to make this an inside-the-Beltway story, so that Mary Peters would be embarrassed," says Teamsters communications coordinator Leslie Miller. "We also want this to be a story outside the Beltway, with truckers."

The Teamsters also held a rally outside a San Francisco court of appeals on February 12, while arguments were being presented on the merits of a lawsuit against the program.

DOT director of public affairs, Brian Turmail, said tactics like those of the Teamsters help give PR an "undeserved bad name."

"This would almost be amusing if it weren't for the sad fact that they're trying to do everything possible to prevent US consumers from benefiting from cross-border trade," he said.

Congress voted last year to close the US border to Mexican trucks, but the Bush administration has continued to permit their travel into the US.

The Teamsters claims Mexican trucks pose a general hazard to US drivers, while the DOT says studies show that Mexican trucks are as safe, or even safer, than US trucks.

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