Long-haul food truckers knowlingly violate federal regulations prohibiting them from paying cash unloading fees to "Lumpers" because they fear possible violence or long delays in delivery of perishable commodiates if they do not pay, the House small business sub-committee was told yesterday.
In almost two hours of testimony focusing on the fees and activities of lumpers at Safeway's Washington regional warehouse in Landover, sub-committee chairman Rep. Neal Smith (D-Iowa) also revealed that a lumper boss was murdered inside the warehouse in a dispute over fees for lumpers. These are unemployedmen men who hang around warehouse receiving docks and unload merchandise.
"There was more than $620 in cash found" in Walter U. Coleman's pockets at the time of the murder, Smith said. Coleman was stabbed by another lumper, Joseph M. Mallory, "because of an argument over who would work and what the pay would be for lumpers," Smith added.
Smith also said that truckers are put into an intolerable position with the Internal Revenue Service when paying lumpers unloading fees in cash that they cannot document. A $50 fee per truck for unloading meat is carged at Safeway's Landover warehouse, then spilt among lumpers and "there is a question as to whether it is reported for income tax and Social Security tax purposes," Smith said.
None of Safeway's 1,275 Teamster Union employes at the warehouse are required by the company to unload the hundreds of trucks that make up to 1,500 deliveries a week to Landover. Instead the company allows about 39 lumpers, men who do not work for Safeway, to swarm around the docks unloading trucks for non-negotiable fees that come out of the truck drivers' pockets.
Truck drivers yesterday and in previous testimony bedore the subcommittee said they cannot get unloaded if they do not pay the lumpers of, it if they insist in unloading themselves, face long delays.
During yesterday's testimony, two Safeway officials from the Landover warehouse denied that they forced truckers to hire the lumpers, but three truck drivers and a truck company official said they were forced to hire lumpers in violation of ICC regulations.
Richard Smith, Safeway's Landover warehouse manager for the past 10 years, said the company is charged an unloading fee by the meat supplier. It is not therefore, Safeway's responsibility to unload the meat at its warehouse, he said.
Safeway's Smith also said he was not "aware of any threats or coercion made by lumpers to force the drivers to hire them." Truckers who want to unload their own trucks are "given a dock and use of any equipment needed just as fast as a driver who hire lumpers."
Under questioning by Rep. Smith, warehouse manager Smith said Safeway does not pay the lumpers any salary, is not responsible for workmen's compensation if they are hurt and does not withhold any Social Security taxes from the fees lumpers charge drivers.
"Back then (the lumper fee) was $40." Burch recalled. "I wasn't able to pay the money. One time I was here for four days" before he was able to arrange to have a shipment of meat unloaded at Landover.
His trucking company told him they would not reimburse him so he called the meat company. They sent a representative to Safeway with the $40 fee four days later. After the companys' representative paid, Burch said, it took the lumpers just 45 minutes to unload his truck.
On other occasions Burch said, he paid the $40 unloading fee directly to the Safeway receiving clerk. Safeway warehouse manager Smith testified that the company "takes no part" in the financial arrangements made between drivers and lumpers.
Andrew Funk, a truck driver for 21 years from Poplar Grove, Md., said he has unloaded a meat delivery at Safeway by himself only once. "If you put up a kick . . . (Safeway dock officials) will pull you out (of the truck lineup) and make you wait to the last man," he said.
Subcommittee staff investigator John O'Bierne said after the hearing that the murder of lumper boss Coleman occurred in November 1970 inside the locker room of the Safeway warehouse.
Safeway warehouse manager Smith and a warehouse receiving supervisor, Curtis H. Bennett, testified yesterday that there are no lumper bosses in Landover.
Investigator O'Bierne said that in the murder trial of lumper Mallory there was "testimony that Coleman was getting kickbacks from other lumpers to allow them to work."
Mallory refused to pay the kickback, got into a fight with Coleman because he was not allowed to unload trucks and then stabbed Coleman to death. Mallory pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, O'Bierne said.