Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Monday dismissed the convoy of anti-COVID-19 mandate truckers that descended on the Washington, DC area last month as a ‘few extreme voices.’
The ‘People’s Convoy,’ an offshoot of a similar protest in Canada, does not represent the transportation driver workforce as a whole, the official told Yahoo Finance just after an event touting progress in the industry at the White House.
During the interview, Buttigieg was asked about a video captured by the Daily Beast in which a member of the convoy called for the street bearing the message Black Lives Matter be ‘tar and feathered.’
‘I don’t want a handful of people to be viewed as if they somehow speak for an industry, because the good name of the transportation trucking workforce is worth a whole lot more than than a few extreme voices,’ Buttigieg answered.
Roughly 300,000 truckers leave the profession every year, according to the Department of Transportation.
During his interview Buttigieg conceded that one of the issues driving the shortage was a lack of diversity. A majority of the anti-lockdown truckers in Washington, and a majority of the entire workforce, are white males.
Buttigieg said during a Monday interview that one of the ways to ease the trucker shortage was to increase diversity in the industry
‘I do agree that this country and this industry, frankly, needs to do more to include and support women, to include and support drivers and workers of color,’ he said.
‘As a matter of fact, we set up a whole body of experts that is just going to work on this issue of women in trucking and making sure that they’re supported, making sure that they’re safe, making sure that the way that training works and the way the parking and arrangements and stops works is going to help them and support them.’
He said the same would go for workers of color.
‘Not only is this a matter of basic fairness and justice and the right thing to do, but just as a matter of economics, this country cannot afford to leave any talent on the table,’ the Biden secretary said.
There were about 80,000 open trucking jobs at the end of 2021, according to trade group American Trucking Associations.
Trucks account for at least 70 percent of US freight transport each year, meaning the labor shortage is fueling a strained supply chain that was plunged into chaos by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He touted the trucking industry’s success with President Joe Biden roughly a week after the so-called People’s Convoy left Washington, DC
The anti-COVID mandate demonstration clogged up roads in Virginia and Maryland for more than three weeks
During his remarks touting progress in the industry on Monday, Biden also highlighted the steps in his Trucking Action Plan unveiled late last year to fill the sector with well-trained workers.
Standing between two trucks on the White House south lawn, the president said: ‘All of you here today are people our economy should be built around because you all — you all are the people who literally make it run. That’s not hyperbole. You literally make it run.’
Biden’s remarks came just days after People’s Convoy cleared out of DC after causing headaches for drivers on the roads in Virginia and Maryland for more than three weeks.
The group failed to get the federal emergency declaration over the COVID-19 pandemic overturned, nor did it accomplish any of its other states demands.
Dozens of truckers and supporters who had been camped out at the Hagerstown Speedway in Maryland departed elsewhere, some apparently headed to California.
‘All of you here today are people our economy should be built around because you all — you all are the people who literally make it run. That’s not hyperbole. You literally make it run,’ Biden told truckers on Monday
‘We’re not done here. But we’ll go to California and raise awareness on this along the way and hopefully gain more people like we did on our way here — and then once we stop this, we will come back to finish this job,’ People’s Convoy co-organizer Mike Landis said to a crowd last week, according to the Washington Post.
But that was after they saw some high-profile endorsements from members of Congress, including Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who met with protest organizers and delivered remarks to the demonstration.
The movement sprung up after a similar protest, dubbed the Freedom Convoy, clogged Ottawa’s roads in a bid to get Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to lift all COVID-19 mandates in the country.
Residents of the Canadian capital complained of the noise pollution and stress of near-constant honking as drivers and their supporters parked in city streets.
That protest has also ended, but not before spreading through most of Canada’s major cities in at least some form.