Long-haul trucker Freddle J. Bartlett, glowering through his tired bloodshot eyes, reluctantly counted out three $20 bills to pay a $50 unloading fee and handed down the cash from the 10-foot height of his tractor-trailer cabin window to a man dressed in a white plastic safety hat and white smock streaked with dried animal blood.
Bartlett, his voice carrying the distaste he felt for the man collecting the money, gruffly snarled in his Southwest Virginia twang, "Ya aa a got change for a 20? I get $10 back."
The man, known in trucking jargon as a "lumper" told Bartlett he would ld ld ldhave to get the change himself. Bartlett took back one of the $20 bills, but was given a receipt for $50 anyway. A few minutes later, a different "lumper" came up to the truck and gave Bartlett a $10 bill and took the $20 bill. The deal was completed.
After a jarring 15-hour drive from Chicago to Safeefefefway Stores' Landover distribution warehouse, Bartlett had been told he would have to pay $50 to have Safeway's 600 lamb carcasses weighing 34,351 pounds unloaded from his truck.
It was Safeway's meat but none of the company's 1,275 Teamster Union warehouse employes are required to unload the dozens of trucks that daily bring perishable merchandise to the company's huge warehouse.
So Bartlett, and truck drivers like him, say they are forced to hire one or several "lumpers", men who do not work for Safeway but who swarm around the company's warehouse docks unloading trucks for set, non-negotiable fees. These fees come out of the truck driver's pocket.
In two days of congressional testimony this month before a House small business subcommittee, independent truckers and two officials of the Interstate Commerce Commission charged that:
Truckers hauling perishable meat or produce are forced to pay exorbitant cash rates to "lumpers" at receiving warehouses nationwide or face long delays or violent retaliation of they insist on unloading their own trucks.
The transactions between truckers and "lumpers" are always in cash, are rarely reported for tax purposes and receipts issued to truckers by "lumpers" often bear false names.
Receivers of perishable goods, such as large supermarket warehouses, allow the "lumpers" to operate to avoid hiring additional laborers.
Edward Bill, an investigative agent of teh ICC, told small business subcommittee Chairman Rep. Neal Smith (D-Iowa: that he had been investigating the "lumper" situation in San Francisco for the past 1 1/2 years.
"During that time I became well aware that there is a large amount of violence associated with these practices, particularly if an independent trucker refuses to pay or hire these unloaders," Bill said.
"He is then subjected to physical abuse, his equipment gets damaged, tires get cut and frequently he lays over in town two or three days and misses an outbound load, which is expensive."
Independent truckers who own tractor-trailer rigs must bear the brunt of unloading costs, said Bill.Truckers who work for large trucking firms are reimbursed for "lumper" fees by their companies.
Trucking firms then raise rates to reflect the "lumper" fees. The shippers in turn, increases charges to purchasers, such as large supermarket chains, said Bernard Gaillard of teh ICC's small business assistance office.
"It all comes right down to the consumer," Gallard said in a telephone interview. "You and me. It's a pervasive system. (Lumper) operate everywhere" in the nation.
In testimony before the subcommittee, Theodore E. Brooks, president of the Maryland Independent Truckers and Drivers Association, charged that "lumpers" are part of a system "that has worked over the years."
"This lumper situation is a good way for the shipper or the receiver to avoid having to pay workmen's compensation, union benefits and so on" by not having to hire additional laborers, Brooks told the subcommittee.
Lewis R. Teeple, assistant director of ICC's bureau of investigations and enforcement, testified that "lumpers" exist coast-to-coast "in almost every phase of trucking."
"We don't know whether there is collusion between the warehouse people and the lumpers but we have reason to believe that there may be collusion between the warehouse operators and the lumpers," Teeple said. "They just have cozy relationships."
One trucker, Joe D. Martin, said he was "brutally" beaten and stomped inside his trailer by three "lumpers" at a Safeway warehouse in Richmond, Calif., in March 1976. A safeway spokesperson, Felicia del Campo, confirmed tre incident.
Before the beating, Martin told the House panel, "I went to Safeway management for permission to unload my own truck. They refused. The receivers were under orders not to receive from anyone but (a lumper) from (Teamster) Local 315."
After he insisted that he wanted to unload his truck, Martin said, Safeway warehouse operators finally allowed him to pull up to the dock and unload. After he had unloaded half the truck and was deep inside the trailer, three lumpers came in behind him, knocked him down and jumped on him.
"I yelled for help," Martin said, "but not a sould came in to help." Martin said one of the men told him, "We'll kill you."
Since that incident, del Campo said, Safeway has "not allowed lumpers to come onto our property (in Richmond) by themselves." They must stand outside the gate, she said, where truckers hire individual "lumpers" and are then taken back outside the gate when the trucker leaves.
There have been other incidents of "lumpers" threatening truck drivers, del Campo acknowledged, but "it is not common."
Another Safeway spokesman, Ernest Moore, when asked about the "lumper" situation at the company's warehouse in Landover, originally said they were not allowed on the compound at 1501 Cabin Branch Rd.
"(The lumpers) make a deal with the driver outside the compound," Moore said. "We have nothing to do with it and our warehouse people have nothing to do with the lumpers."
When told, however, that a reporter from The Washington Post had ridden into the compound, gone into the warehouse and saw a Safeway warehouse employe, Curtis H. Bennett, make arrangements to have "lumpers" unload Freddle Bartlett's lamb carcasses, Moore responded, "I'll be damned. Well, someone violated our policy on that. I'll want to check before I go any further on that. Let me call you back."
At 9:10 a.m. Wednesday, Bartlett pulled into the Safeway warehouse compound, tired and short-tempered after the long drive from Chicago. He parked his refirgerator tractor-trailer alongside other trucks waiting to be assigned a bay on the unloading dock.
Accompanied by a Post reporter, Bartlett went into the building, past groups of "lumpers" in white blood-smeared smocks and white safety helmets unloading carcasses of "swinging beef" from other refrigerated trucks.
In the shipping clerk's office, Bennett asked Bartlett. "Do you want to unload the truck or do you want the unloaders to unload it? It's a $50 to unload," Bennett added.
Bartlett put up a mild protest. "I've got 600 carcasses of lamb weighing 34,000 pounds and the going rate is $1 per thousand pounds, I should pay $34," Bartlett said.
"It doesn't matter if its 100 carcasses or 600 carcasses," Bennett told Bartlett. "It's $50. Now, do you want the unloaders to unload it?"
Bartlett stared at Bennett and Bennett smiled at him. Bartlett was tired and he knew if he tried to unload the trailer by himself it would take four hours. He had also noticed, he later said, that Bennett had not yet assigned him an unloading bay.
"OK," Bennett said as he walked out of the shipping office toward "lumpers" unloading other trucks. "I'll get'em."
Bartlett and the reporter walked back outside the building followed by a "lumper."
The "lumper" walked up to Bartlett's window and shouted, "You know about the unloading charge?" Bartlett shouted "Yeah" down at the "lumper" who then stepped in front of the truck, and indicated Bartlett could pull into unloading bay 107.
As the trailer was being unloaded, Bartlett looked down at the receipt the "lumper" had given him and said, "I don't know who this guy is or if this is his right name. Ask him: No, I better not ask him anything. I just want to get this truck unloaded and get out of here."
The lumper was later identified as one who regularly works the Safeway docks, according to company spokesman Moore.
Contrary to what he had said the first time, Moore later said that Safeway provides smocks, safety hats and identification badges to "lumpers" who regularly work at the Landover warehouse. "It's for the convenience of the lumpers and for the convenience of us," Moore said.
They are allowed to work on the warehouse docks, Moore continued, "so we can expedite the unloading.But no, they are still not Safeway employes."
Asked whether there have been charges of kickbacks to Safeway employes by "lumpers" or threats to drivers by "lumpers," Moore said, There is absolutely no evidence of any of that."
Baltimore FBI head agent George Quinn said his office had investigated charges of threats to drivers at Safeway's Landover warehouse from late 1975 to early 1976. "Our investigation did not substantiate that truck drivers are being forced to pay," Quinn said.
"I've been here about a dozen times in the past two years," said Bartlett, "but I've never been threatened.I'm too tired to unload myself after a haul from Chicago, so I just pay.
"I'm luckier than some of the other drivers," he continued. "The money I pay here for unloading and at other places all over the East Coast I get back from the company I work for."
Bartlett works for Bonney Motor Express Inc., headquartered in Windsor, Va., not far from where he lives. Bonney's president, Olin Cooper, "told me to be sure I had a fistful of money when I came here this morning," Bartlett said. CAPTION: Picture 1, Long-haul truck driver Freddie J. Bartlett had to pay $50 to have his cargo handled at a Landover warehouse. By Charles Del Vecchio - The Washington Post; Picture 2, Safeway Stores' Landover warehouse: The company says it does not allow "lumpers" to solicit inside the compound. By Charles Del Vecchio - The Washington Post