An American company is recruiting long-haul truck drivers from India with the goal of placing them with U.S. trucking firms.

The Teamsters Union strongly opposes the plan by Gagan Global LLC of Garnerville, N.Y.

Teamsters Union spokesman Galen Munroe told WND the plan “is yet another example of corporations exploiting a visa program to replace highly trained, hard-working Americans with cheap labor from overseas.”

Gagan Global has contracted with the Indian state government of Andra Pradesh and its Overseas Manpower Consultancy to run a training school in the Asian country.

Gagan Global CEO Philip Gagan told WND a first batch of 200 Indian truck drivers has been recruited to attend the school in preparation for work in the U.S.

“We are recruiting Indian truck drivers,” Gagan confirmed to WND. “We are very demanding on our requirements to get into the school. The requirements are that you have to have five years of heavy driving experience on tractor-trailer trucks, you have to be HIV-negative, have a clean police record, verifiable references that the government in India can verify.”

What about the ability to speak English?

“The Indian truck drivers have to be able to read and understand English,” Gagan explained. “We like them to speak English. They all speak pigeon-English, mostly what they learned in schools.”

How does Gagan Global know that the Indian drivers will be able to read road signs or communicate with other drivers on the road?

“We know that if they can read English and understand what they are reading,” Gagan told WND, “then we think they can learn enough English in the four-months training program to be able to be productive in the U.S.”

Gagan argued that the reason he created the company was to address the growing shortage in the U.S. for long-haul drivers.

“There’s a massive shortage of long-haul truck drivers in the U.S.,” Gagan said. “Long-haul truck drivers get home four days a month. There just aren’t enough Americans who want to do that kind of work.”

A May 2005 study conducted for the American Trucking Association argues that there is “already a shortage of long-haul heavy-duty truck drivers equal to about 1.5 percent of the over-the-road workforce, or about 20,000 drivers.”

The driver shortfall is projected to reach 114,000 by 2014. Another 219,000 new truck drivers “must be found to replace drivers currently of ages 55 and older who will retire over the next 10 years and to replace those in younger groups who will leave the occupation.”

Teamster Union spokesman Munroe strongly objected. In an e-mail to WND, he wrote:

While there is currently a shortage of long-haul drivers, the problem lies with corporations like Gagan Global that are championing the race to the bottom for American workers. If corporations would treat their employees fairly and offer competitive wages with decent benefit packages, this shortage would disappear.

Gagan Global is in the process of applying to the Department of Labor to get H-2B visas for the Indian drivers. H-2B visas are designed to be issued only when there are no qualified and willing U.S. workers available for the job. Gagan acknowledges that no H-2B visas have yet been issued to Indian truck drivers training in India with his company.

Regarding the issuance of H-2B visas, Munroe wrote WND:

Gagan Global has twisted the intent of the H-2B visa program to fit their desire for a fatter bottom line. The assertion that there are no American workers who are willing to take long-haul truck driving jobs is absurd. It would be more accurate to say they do not want to be exploited by taking poor-paying, long-haul jobs at nonunion companies.

On the company website, Gagan Global explains why Indian drivers are suitable to help address the shortage in long-haul drivers:

We also found that while the average long-haul truck driver makes between $50,000 and $90,000 a year, these truck drivers make far less, and work a whole lot more. So what we have here are people who are never shy of work, extremely friendly and cooperative, and most of all, tough guys who are more than up to handling the American trucks.

Why is Gagan Global so sure the Indian drivers will be able to be successful on U.S. highways? The company website explains the Indian drivers “on an average, have anywhere between 10 and 25 years of experience driving trucks for a living. These drivers have driven long-haul trucks in extreme conditions and terrain and on roads that are anything but like the freeways in the U.S.”

The economic incentive for the Indian truck drivers is obvious. Gagan explains:

These [Indian truck drivers] want to work. They want to get into their trucks and work every hour that they are legally allowed to work. They only have a one-year period, plus a one-year extension under their visa to work here. Then they have to go home for six months and apply for a new visa. The Indian truck driver can earn in a day in the U.S. what it may take two months to earn in India. They don’t have families here and they don’t care about time-off. If the Indian drivers come here work hard, they can go home with maybe $100,000, which is five lifetimes of money back home in India.

Gagan explained to WND that his company’s goal was not to undercut U.S. truck drivers:

We’re not here to take jobs away from Americans. If they drive for a Teamster organization, they will join the Teamsters. Our Indian drivers have to come into a company and be paid exactly what the American drivers are being paid in that company. They have to receive every benefit and they have to be treated exactly the same. We want them to get the highest paid jobs they can get. We have rejected as clients a couple of companies that have approached us because they want to hire them as trainees and pay them about half as much per mile as they pay U.S. drivers.

The Teamsters’ Munroe objected to Gagan Global’s program, concluding, “It is time for American companies to invest in the American workforce. Outsourcing will only quicken the demise of the middle class.”

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