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Labor: Bloody Strike

2 minute read

It was just past midnight when the two big tractor-trailers, loaded with cheese and butter, pulled out of a terminal in Birmingham, Ala., to start on the ten-hour, 365-mile run to New Orleans. At 2:45 they were barreling along Alabama Highway 5 when a cream-colored car passed them, raced on to a junction, turned and sped back. From the car a shotgun was fired point-blank at the cab of the lead truck, critically wounding Driver Charles Warren, 31.

It was the latest in a series of bloody episodes that have marked a twelve-week strike by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters against Alabama’s Bowman Transportation Co., a medium-sized trucking concern. Turning down the union’s demands on wages and working conditions, the firm hired non-Teamster drivers. Since then, Bowman trucks have been shot at more than 70 times in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina; four drivers besides Warren have been wounded. More than 20 trucks have been fired at whilelaboring up a steep grade on U.S. Highway 278 near Piedmont, Ala.; it has come to be known as “Bullet Hill.”

Teamster officials deny that the union is behind the battle of the buckshot. “We don’t condone any violence,” says Robert Cook, president of Atlanta’s Teamster Local 728. “A scab is one of the lowest-down humans there can be, but I’m against anybody shooting at anybody.” Still, eight striking Bowman Teamsters have been arrested since November. And last week Sam Webb, president of northern Alabama’s Local 612, was indicted for assault with intent to kill in the Warren shooting.

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