On October 21st, 2013, an organized group of Port Truckers based in the Port of Oakland, in collaboration with local labor activists, stopped work and picketed gates at the Port in protest of their working conditions. Oakland, as usual, responded with vast numbers of riot police who pushed the picketers illegally out of crosswalks and threatened them with arrest.
That seems only to have persuaded other truckers - wary of protests - which side they should be on, made the already protesting truckers even more determined and bent them all in more radical directions.
So it was, afraid after years of broken promises their demands were still not being taken seriously, seventy or so cabs, truckers within, decided to make their presence known - and very much heard - by invading downtown Oakland. They circled City Hall block making hella noise, with horn blasts just outside Mayor Jean 'Twoface' Quan's office. Supported by local activists banging pots and beating drums, the noise demonstration went on for at least an hour.
Port Truckers are in an almost impossible position. Unable to bargain collectively because they are considered independent contractors, they have nonetheless been powerless in "contract" negotiations with Port authorites who have basically set the rules of engagement on a "Take it. Or else." basis for years.
- They have been without an increase in their pay rate haul a load for ten years.
- They have had to upgrade their trucks with new pollution control equipment, taking out large loans to do so with insufficient financial assistance from the Port of Oakland.
- They are forced to wait indeterminate amounts of time - sometimes an entire morning or afternoon, waiting for a load, and are uncompensated for their wait time.
- While they wait, they cannot turn off their engines and therefore burn fuel they must pay for, contributing to the pollution of West Oakland and the planet.
- Until recently, while so waiting, THERE WERE NO BATHROOM FACILITIES THEY COULD USE. LEAVING THEIR CABS WAS, AND MAY STILL BE, AGAINST PORT REGULATIONS, OR RIDICULOUSLY RESTRICTED. (You do the math).
Here is a detailing of their issues from October 20th: Open letter to the community from Port Truckers.
Continue on for the photo/video/tweet essay of yesterday's demo with a supporting-actor role played by none other than the Oakland Police.
The days's activity started with a press conference. One Port Trucker at the mic and one to his right.
Press conference over: time to make some noise while waiting for the trucks to roll in.
Truckers going in. Media still here. Chants: Hey Hey, Mayor Quan— Alyssa (@alyssa011968) November 13, 2013
Don't you think you've done them wrong? pic.twitter.com/k8RuSzI2Hl
Dave, taking some time out from Saving the Berkeley Post Office, leads the chants.
Lies and tricks will not divide! Workers standing side by side. Hella of trucks coming. pic.twitter.com/0LH61WntB1— Alyssa (@alyssa011968) November 13, 2013
And they've arrived!
trucks comijng onto 14th st., blaring horns. This is pretty fucking spectacular.Memories of past OPD brutality, "we ask for help, not jail"— Jaime Omar Yassin (@hyphy_republic) November 13, 2013
Trucks lined up on 14th St. Oscar Grant Plaza is to the right. The Mayor's office is at the top right.
More and more trucks gathering in a #truckblock . This is what real worker's power looks like— Jaime Omar Yassin (@hyphy_republic) November 13, 2013
Below are supporters with cabs in the background. I'm in the middle in white. I must have just convinced the guy behind me to hold the blue banner you can barely see (you can see it in an earlier picture). I'd been holding it for twenty minutes and my arms were desperately seeking a replacement! It reads
Oakland Supports the Port Truckers!
Not all the truckers' supporters are battle-scarred protest veterans!
And then... The Oakland Police enter. Stage Right. Extreme Right.
All was going along smoothly,then the cops decided to intervene. For no apparent reason they singled out one or two truckers whom they decided to issue a ticket to for "protesting and honking."
Something the cops didn't expect happened.
A guy in a suit looking for a job was one of the first people to wade into the middle & demand his release/he exchanged #'s w/driver— Jaime Omar Yassin (@hyphy_republic) November 13, 2013
Watch and listen (starting about 1:00 minute in) as the daughter of a port trucker starts telling the police off, telling that that these truckers are protesting for their kids, kids who need a good education and a shot at a better life; that's all they want.
OPD stoppd two truckers and told them they were arrested. Strength of crowd chanting "let them go", led by weeping daughter, dearrested them— Jaime Omar Yassin (@hyphy_republic) November 13, 2013
People chilling. Apparently all ended well. I didn't see any tweets of further police interactions or other problems.
Let's hear it for the workers!
And for those who get to fullfill childhood dreams.
Also, ICYMI: I got to honk the air horn on a big rig yesterday. Childhood dream fulfillment level unlocked.— lauren riot (@laurenriot) November 14, 2013
You might think a honkload of trucks invading downtown Oakland would be newsworthy. But this is almost the only report of what happened you will find on the Intertubes. The Oakland Tribune has nothing (or at least a search on the website for 'Port Truckers' turned up nothing about yesterday's events).
A Google News search on "Oakland Port Truckers" turned up a single article by KCBS, which gave no details of the action, only this one sentence:
A convoy of trucks circled Oakland City Hall during Wednesday's lunch hour as Mayor Jean Quan and air regulators met with members of the Port of Oakland Truckers Association over upcoming pollution rules.I haven't seen any updates today on any progress in negotiations. Stay tuned. Who knows where honking truckers will turn up next.
Susie Cagle (@susie_c) drew the awesome "I Support Oakland Port Truckers Wildcat Strikes" graphic.
Alyssa (@alyssa011968) for the pictures and tweets.
Others are identified in their tweets.
— OakTruckerSolidarity (@TrckerSolidrity) November 15, 2013