Truckers Strike in Bayonne Hits Boiling Point

The Jersey Journal
By: William Wichert, Journal Staff Writer
April 28, 2004

An ongoing truckers strike at a Bayonne concrete company is getting ugly, with union members claiming the company's owner deliberately ran two of them over, and a non-union driver claiming that one of the picketers cut off his truck and forced him off the road.

Union members day they will take their complaints to City Hall next week if the company continues to refuse to reopen contract talks.

The 13 drivers walked out of Duramix Concrete Corp. on 22nd Street near Route 440 on April 1, and continued to picket yesterday holding up signs and yelling "scabs" at the people no driving those trucks.

The five-year contract between the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 560, the union representing the Duramix strikers, and the company expired on April 1. A last-minute attempt to negotiate a new contract was made the day before, but talks between the two sides dwindled in subsequent weeks.

Agents from the Newark office of the National Labor Relations Board are currently investigation identical charges made by the union and the company, said an NLRB representative. The union made its charge accusing Duramix of a "failure to bargain" on March 24 and the company issued the same claim on April 6.

Tony Valdner, a union business agent who has been leading the negotiations, said officials from the Federal Medication & Conciliation Service met separately with him and Duramix representatives on Monday, but the two sides have not returned to the bargaining table since the strike began.

Vincent Alessi, owner of Duramix, refused to comment on the matter and several calls made to his attorney were not returned.

"(Alessi) refused to negotiate," Valdner said. "All my local is looking for is a sit-down to negotiate area standards."

Valdner said the union wants to bring the salaries of the Duramix workers closer to the standard wages paid to employees of other concrete companies in the area.

Valdner said his union had been trying to arrange a meeting with Alessi for six weeks. On March 31, the day before the contract was to expire, Alessi finally met with union officials and was presented with a proposal that included a salary ranging from $32 to $34 an hour, Valdner said.

Chris Ponczek, a union shop steward who attended the meeting, said "(Alessi) looked at it, didn't even get to the second page, and threw us out."

On April 5, the picketers saw several vans full of non-union employees drive into the facility. Ponczek said there haven't been any confrontations between the union and non-union drivers. He said he wonders how they can stomach driving to work through a picket line, but "I guess it's a dog-eat-dog world."

The situation grew more tense on April 5, when several picketers said they were hit by a Land Rover being driven by Alessi.

Tommy Harrison and four other union drivers said they were picketing at a construction site at Monmouth and Grand streets in Jersey City at about noon in anticipation of a Duramix delivery.

Harrison said Alessi pulled up to the site's gate and then deliberately drove through the picket line, hitting Harrison and Timmy Ponczek, Chris Ponczek's brother.

"I couldn't jump out of the way. (Alessi) lifted me up onto the hood," Harrison said. "He jammed the brakes and that's how I flew off the hood."

Shelley Stangler, the attorney representing Harrison and Timmy Ponczek, said she is investigating a possible civil lawsuit against Alessi. "There is negligence here," she said. "This Mr. Alessi goes lowing through the gate and ends up hitting union workers."