Thursday, February 07, 2008

"We want to make it clear that there is a political price for doing this."

Teamsters' ads call for firing of U.S. transportation chief

End to cross-border truck program sought

February 7, 2008

By Paul M. Krawzak
San Diego Union-Tribune
Copyright 2008

WASHINGTON – The Teamsters have launched a blistering radio and direct-mail campaign calling for the ouster of U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, whom they blame for continuing a program that allows Mexican trucks to travel throughout the United States.

The campaign marks the latest effort to end the controversial, five-month-old cross-border trucking project promoted by the Bush administration.

In the radio ad, which will begin running today on the self-described “progressive” Air America radio network, the blaring of a horn and sound of a crash precede a call to “fire” Peters. The ad says that Peters has ignored a law passed last year to end the program. The ad is expected to run for one week.

The closest Air America affiliate station to San Diego listeners appears to be KTLK-AM in Los Angeles, according to the network's Web site.

Teamster leadership said it is firing off 250,000 letters to union members who live along the U.S.-Mexican border or haul freight, in an effort to generate opposition to the program.

The union also is targeting Peters in her home state of Arizona, where the transportation chief has been mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate in 2010.

“Part of what we want to do is make it clear that there is a political price for doing this,” said Teamsters spokeswoman Leslie Miller.

Brian Turmail, a Department of Transportation spokesman, was dismissive of the attack.

“It's the kind of thing you do when the facts aren't on your side,” he said. “Considering the source, it's pretty ironic.”

The administration refused to end the pilot program after Congress passed a law to deny funding for it. Administration officials said a loophole in the law allows existing programs to continue.

Opponents have filed suit in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to stop the program. Oral arguments are scheduled for Tuesday.

Several lawmakers who oppose the trucking program looked into the possibility of a congressional lawsuit against the executive branch, but they were advised by attorneys that it would be unlikely to succeed, they said.

Opponents contend that the administration has failed to ensure that Mexican drivers meet the same safety standards as U.S. drivers, creating a danger on the nation's highways.

U.S. officials counter that every Mexican driver must pass a safety audit before joining the pilot program.

The administration views the pilot project as the first step toward a wider opening of the border to trucks from both nations, a move it says is required under the North American Free Trade Agreement. Both nations' economies will benefit, it says.

Paul M. Krawzak: (202) 737-7688;

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