The following post includes excerpts of a graded class project I wrote for a non-profit fundraising class on the questionable ethics of non-profits. I received an “A”.
The topic was an analysis of the WIT organization and I will be publishing more such graded paper excerpts in the coming weeks.
I hope you will take the time to consider my observations.
The Women in Trucking Organization (WIT), is designated as a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit.
Mission: Women In Trucking was established to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the trucking industry.
The organization website states they are an active group that finds opportunities to promote the accomplishments of women in the industry. While the organization states the mission is to represent Women, membership is open to both Men and Women who currently work in the industry or those seeking to enter it.
The WIT website states that supporting the organization helps them to provide needed resources to encourage Women to become employed in the trucking industry, and that membership dues will “help motivate” the transportation industry to look at any obstacles that might prevent Women and Men from entering and remaining in trucking. Some of the items mentioned that WIT has determined to be obstacles are restroom facilities at loading docks and ergonomically designed truck cabs.
In a recent article the President of the WIT organization stated that she would not come between drivers and carriers. (Jakl, 2013)
Here is a comment I moderated on a very old blog last week from a women attempting to enter trucking. (Click here to read the post)
“I was a female driver with CRST 12-14-12 thru 1-6-2013. My co-driver attempted to rape me. The company made us share a motel room when the truck broke down. I ask for my own room and was denied. The company was on his side. Not only did he attempt to rape me, he made very bad choices as a driver, was involved in a hit and run, pulled the tandem bar on me while I was under a Hazmat load, etc, etc. After I reported, he was allowed to run Solo. CRST is a team company. Great reward for him.”
My conclusions are that obstacles for women are not ergonomically designed trucks but rather entry level driver training facilities and these are the questions that I have:
1. How is the WIT organization helping women overcome obstacles when females entering trucking are experiencing this conduct from carriers that are corporate members/sponsors?
2. Why would the WIT organization encourage women to enter an industry that refuses to address intelligent solutions for sexual harassment, especially when the very same carrier mentioned above has just emerged from multi-million dollar allegations?
3. How does the leadership of WIT justify that in 2011 it collected over $257,000 in revenue and list salaries of over $140,000, an increase of $13,000 from 2010 when the accomplishment section or their IRS 990 lists questionable achievements?
4. Why does WIT insist on promoting themselves as an advocacy group to one side of the industry? , the side that carries the pocketbook while knowing that women like the one who wrote this comment are still experiencing difficulty at carriers that they refuse to drop?
The existing culture for Women that work in trucking is that they are often overlooked for their achievements. In addition, Women in other sectors of the industry such as in-house support personnel tend to work against one another, often vying for male acceptance rather than building a strong network of collaboration of their own. The entire industry relies on the truck drivers who are the people that are willing to do the hardest work. They are often dehumanized by the industry, at shipping and receiving facilities and by the general public who has not been educated on the service performed for them by these hard working Men and Women. The job of the over the road truck driver is an isolated existence, they rely on the in-house supply chain communications but there exists predominately adversarial management and a culture of cliques. This is where the “obstacles” exist. This longstanding climate of mistrust between the driver population and in-house operations is why the trucking industry remains divided.
I believe each organization who claims they are helping the industry should perform a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) and they should recognize that this industry is filled with opportunists. The name of the game seems to be “exploit anyone not sophisticated enough to know the difference”. Some may say “That’s Capitalism Baby!” but I say that’s no way to effectively run a supply chain in the 21st century when everyone else is talking about sustainability, fair trade, corporate social responsibility and human rights.
The isolation is not limited to the truck drivers though. The ethical dilemmas seem to be ingrained in an industry that lives in a world of its own. Only when their dirty laundry falls out to reach main stream media where real life outrage occurs does anyone take any action. It’s a bubble of dysfunction where it seems to be fine to burn one another UNLESS the community outside of trucking finds out about it, or you do it to someone in your same pay grade.
To encourage women to enter the industry as truck drivers without a clear path success makes no sense, or anyone to enter it for that matter with the current training atmosphere. Migrant workers get more respect and better treatment and they actually have real advocacy groups whereas truck drivers do not. Women entering trucking for decades have been reporting that they were told in order to pass driving tests they must have sex with instructors. Badgered for sex from co-drivers, left stranded or pushed to test out after when they report sexual misconduct. This forces determined women to go it alone when they have not met all the skills they need to operate the equipment and this can lead to accidents.
Without any standards for sponsorship, corporate members of the WIT organization simply stick their head in the sand in believing there is a resource for women that really does not exist. For “sophisticated” drivers, the WIT logo has come to mean that the corporate membership really does not care to improve their standards. That they are not listening to the driver concerns or they would know that all they are supporting is two significantly growing salaries and declining driver support for the organization.
An analysis of the external environment and the publics to be served that would be attracted to encouraging qualified drivers; including encouraging women to apply are many. Entry level female truck drivers need an advocate because they are targeted to enter trucking but they are not properly informed nor prepared for the operation of the equipment and the intense, intimate living conditions that will be expected of them to survive from two to six months. Many leave the industry not because they were unable to drive the truck, but because they were placed in an unsafe situation by the employer who is not held accountable. Those who make it past their first year often make excellent qualified and conscientious drivers.
Veteran women truck drivers and females in the industry must recognize that today there is a need to come together rather than work against one another. They must also recognize that what is going on in some of the training carriers may be hidden from them and if they took the time to learn about these corporate cultures they would be much more sympathetic. This is why networking is important among the women of the industry. It is not acceptable to tell a female to remain silent when they are experiencing abuse and allow the abuser to simply disappear back into the population. This is irresponsible.
Trucking carriers and related equipment and services who wish to encourage women in the industry should do better research on what they are supporting if they wish to reach the driver population. If the drivers mistrust the organization why would they trust yours when you are associated? When public sentiment pressures WIT to act on sensitive topics they often make a statement they are taking action but once the dust settles nothing happens. This is a sign of a complacent industry that wants to see a surface appearance but not change. The initial strategy of WIT seems to have been to act as a catch all for everything that is female in the industry. To place potential donors and target markets in a position where if they do not support WIT, they do not support Women in the industry. This is a narrow vision but it made for an effective fundraising strategy. The early objectives of the WIT organization were to assemble every entity and/or individual associated with the industry and place them on the defense. “Are you for Women in Trucking?” with such vague parameters it seems as though it was easy enough to follow up with a fundraising pitch.
Lack of meaningful communication in different levels of the industry is a factor on why this same pitch remains ineffective for mobilizing much driver support although industry related corporate target markets are eager to show support of Women. Conflicts of Interest as defined in “The Non-Profit Times” states that the appearance of a conflict can be as detrimental as an actual conflict where a “…financial interest is able to influence decisions…” (Non Profit Times) this rule of thumb does not seem to affect WIT because the insulation of criticism in a divided industry that does not generally hear from the human capital which is the truck drivers.
This includes truck manufacturers, trailer equipment, and other business owners that have products and services for sale that might benefit truck drivers, their end users.
It is understandable that target fundraising sources may have no reason to question the integrity and ethics of WIT or not understand that they do not represent all women in the trucking industry, nor a significant number of women in any section of the industry for that matter. Mistrust and poor relations between truck drivers, fleet management, trucking leadership executives, trucking media, other trade publications and lobby groups have created an optimal position for WIT to insert themselves in order to capitalize for fundraising purposes. Upper echelons of the trucking industry should recognize that there is a changing of the guard occurring and it is more practical with the advent of social media to require marketing dollars be spent for purposes that actually provide some value to their organization to reach the drivers. The voice of the drivers is now heard thanks to social media which was not possible before. The executive circles where the attitude of “us versus them” persists must be addressed for any improvement to the unacceptable 100% turnover rate that would be laughable in any other industry.
Truck drivers demand more action from those who proclaim to be advocates for them; especially when those self-proclaimed “advocates” are drawing a high five digit or six digit salary by peddling the truck driver image around in promotional materials.
The National Council of Nonprofits – Ethics and Accountability in the Non Profit Sector states that “…the greatest threat to the not for profit sector is betrayal of public trust…” (National Council on the Non Profits, 2013) unfortunately the public has little clout in the trucking industry which seems to operate using a scaled down ethics value system.