Skip to main content

good jobs clean air signs
Port truck drivers' fight to organize doesn't begin or end on Dec. 12 (Coalition for Clean & Safe Ports)

While the unions that currently represent workers at the port of Oakland are not supporting today's attempts to close west coast ports, six truck drivers involved in the Clean & Safe Ports campaign have written an open letter on today's action. Their take doesn't offer a clear yes or no to support for today's action. Rather, it asks the protesters and the media to be aware of the workers at the ports and to consider their role at the ports as well as the role of the corporations:

We are inspired that a non-violent democratic movement that insists on basic economic fairness is capturing the hearts and minds of so many working people. Thank you “99 Percenters” for hearing our call for justice. We are humbled and overwhelmed by recent attention. Normally we are invisible.

Today’s demonstrations will impact us. While we cannot officially speak for every worker who shares our occupation, we can use this opportunity to reveal what it’s like to walk a day in our shoes for the 110,000 of us in America whose job it is to be a port truck driver. It may be tempting for media to ask questions about whether we support a shutdown, but there are no easy answers. Instead, we ask you, are you willing to listen and learn why a one-word response is impossible?

They detail both their pride in their hard work and the abuses they face stemming from lack of environmental and safety regulations, from misclassification and more—the many ingredients that force truck drivers to pee into bottles and work for a pittance.

And they ask for help in and attention to their struggle, which they have been fighting and continue to fight, struggling to get a fraction of the attention today's Occupy protests will get:

We would rather stick together and transform our industry from within. We deserve to be fairly rewarded and valued. That is why we have united to stage convoys, park our trucks, marched on the boss, and even shut down these ports. [...]

But we believe in the power and potential behind a truly united 99%. We admire the strength and perseverance of the longshoremen. We are fighting like mad to overcome our exploitation, so please, stick by us long after December 12. Our friends in the Coalition for Clean & Safe Ports created a pledge you can sign to support us here.

We drivers have a saying, “We may not have a union yet, but no one can stop us from acting like one.”

Struggle against corporate bad actors and the dominance of corporations in our economy and political system is desperately needed. Let's make sure the voices of workers are front and center in that struggle.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 12:44 PM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Daily Kos.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  how about (0+ / 0-)

    we all try more to find out what the actual numbers are here before deciding 'our side' is right and lobbing accusations of bad faith? one side gets a few people who agree with them to make a statement, the other side counters with the same, and then they sit back and accuse each other of sucking.

    not helpful to anyone, not productive for anyone. the argument seems to me to be from the OWS side that the rank and file are with them, that it's not a strike that the union could legally participate in and otherwise they would, but there has been tacit support, but there's no real way to prove this. the argument from this diary seems to be that a statement by 6 truckers represents all truckers and that OWS are deliberately jabbing labor in the face.

    really?

    no proof of anything statistics-wise on either side. I'll throw each of you a bone. to OWS - this will not damage the 1% very much, if at all. to Dkos/Labor - I'm supposed to feel bad for someone who makes $350 a day (!!) missing one day of work?

    can everyone take the hyperbole down a few notches? neither OWS nor Labor Unions are trying to "destroy" anyone. please stop accusing each other of shit no one is trying to do.

  •  Let's keep it rather simple: (10+ / 0-)

    seems to me that the port shutdown provided a pretty big platform for truck drivers to have their say.

    How much would they be heard otherwise?

    Food for thought.

    More and Better Democrats

    by SJerseyIndy on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 01:15:57 PM PST

    •  That is the point (10+ / 0-)

      they are classified as contract labor meaning at will employment where they are making less than minimum wage and working 12+ hour days. They are silenced due to desperation so Occupy is doing what the established unions should have done long ago but have been legally prevented from doing so.

      Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

      by Horace Boothroyd III on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 02:07:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  How exactly does (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        fcvaguy, OnlyWords, Mindtrain

        a one day action by a bunch of people not involved in the conflict change anything?

        For the  people who've appointed themselves the guardians of working people who they apparently believe are incapable of acting on their, a one day action helps them feel better about themselves.

        Come tomorrow, they may feel better about themselves, but the drivers will be dealing with the same old shit that they always have. And they'll be disenfranchised to top it off.  How many of the people that the media will be interviewing will actually be drivers?  At the end of the day Occupy is stealing these guys voice because they story is no longer about them. It's about Occupy, and the reasons for the protest matter less to Occupy than the protest itself.

        http://www.economicpopulist.org

        by ManfromMiddletown on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 03:37:08 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Middletown... look the fact is that many people (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mollyd, gustynpip, congenitalefty

          especially those in their middle earning years with children... they can NOT afford... or think they can't... to stand up for their rights that have been crushed more and more over the decades.

          No one in the Occupy movement is full of themselves and thinks they are saviors of the working class. They are occupying and marching to compliment the efforts and aspirations of the working class and the unions.

          As for disenfranchisement... people who work 6am to 6pm do NOT get to vote anyway... in many states and jurisdictions. The polls do not have worker-friendly hours and absentee early voting is suppressed like hell.

          Your rational is not logical IMO. And generally I agree with the majority of your writing.


          Bridge Closed: Republican Tax CUTS At Work

          You just gonna stand there and bleed
          Or you gonna do something about it?

          by bronte17 on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 03:59:53 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I beg to differ (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            OnlyWords
            No one in the Occupy movement is full of themselves and thinks they are saviors of the working class.

            Carefully read the comments in this diary and Laura's last diary. Its stunning in the arrogance and condescension it reveals about some self-professed OWS supporters.

            To wit one example just two comments above yours:

            Occupy is doing what the established unions should have done long ago but have been legally prevented from doing so.

            And an example from the other diary, start reading this thread here. Its jaw-dropping in its ignorance, hubris and arrogance, all wrapped up in one ugly ball:

            http://www.dailykos.com/...

            •  and no one on the other side of the debate... (0+ / 0-)

              is being arrogant?  

              Arrogant people are everywhere, it's life.

              •  What other side? (0+ / 0-)

                I thought we were all part of the 99%?

                •  Answer the question. lol (0+ / 0-)
                  •  I did (0+ / 0-)

                    From what I can see, the people on the other side of this argument don't think that in this case, OWS is representing the best interests of the 99%. I understand the the argument for closing the ports, but I don't think it had full support of the unions. And, the argument is rather circuitous - that there are certain companies in the ports that aren't treating workers right, and those companies are owned by Goldman Sachs. I think there are more direct actions that the 99% can relate to - like Move Your Money Mondays - which has been really successful and something people can actually relate to with respect to the corrupt bankers.

                    Another example - today - OccupyDC protested Hal Rogers office on Capitol Hill over abortion funding in DC. I'm all for protesting Hal Rogers and I'm all for standing up against the abuse that DC residents get since they are the only US citizens who do not have representation in Congress. And, I'm pro-choice. But, aren't many of the 99% pro-life? I don't think this is a 99% cause, or a cause which relates to economic justice, corporate personhood, or the corruption of money in politics.

            •  And what is wrong with that statement (0+ / 0-)

              that you have highlighted?

              It goes along with what I said... the Occupy movement complements the unions and labor movement.

              Occupy can do things that unions cannot or would prefer not to do, but really don't mind someone doing it if it furthers their cause.

              Finally, yeah, my brush was too broad when saying "no one," but generally speaking the Occupy movement isn't attempting to take over or crush the voice of labor. Not remotely.


              Bridge Closed: Republican Tax CUTS At Work

              You just gonna stand there and bleed
              Or you gonna do something about it?

              by bronte17 on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 08:04:37 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  Typical argument from someone who thinks (0+ / 0-)

          it's best to sit back and do nothing but hope things improve.  

          Rather than Occupy "stealing these guys voice", it's given them a voice.  How many people would have read that letter without today????  

          Your statement that "the reasons for the protest matter less to Occupy than the protest itself" is such a bunch of bullshit, it's not even response worthy.

          "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

          by gustynpip on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 04:59:44 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Gustynpip (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            fcvaguy, Mindtrain

            How many people who read the stories about this action will have any idea what the issue for the drivers is?

            Do you?

            Moreover, this port action wasn't even planned to be about the condition of the drivers.

            Do you even know what the situation was that the action to occupy ports was called for in the first place?

            http://www.economicpopulist.org

            by ManfromMiddletown on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 05:05:07 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yes it was. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Diebold Hacker
              Moreover, this port action wasn't even planned to be about the condition of the drivers.

              That is how this all got started. I've been publishing this link at least once a week for a month as have other Kossacks.

              Truck drivers on ports in southern California were fired in a union busting attack when they attempted an organizing campaign. Workers, especially in the Latino community, are organizing a “stay away” to withhold labor on December 12, the day of Our Virgin Of Guadalupe. Occupy LA voted to also blockade the SSA ports, owned by Goldman Sachs. In solidarity, Occupy Oakland voted unanimously to expand this call to all of the West Coast ports.

              Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

              by Horace Boothroyd III on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 05:21:21 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Thanks. The hand-wringing concern is getting old. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Horace Boothroyd III

                How many divisions does OWS have?

                by Diebold Hacker on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 05:33:09 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Ha (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  katiec

                  they always have some concern that they have to address-repeatedly.

                  I just wish they would come out and say what they really mean instead of trying to snipe around the edges.

                  At least it is entertaining for those that want to read pie fights.

                  Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

                  by Horace Boothroyd III on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 05:48:48 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Yes (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Jeff Simpson, Mindtrain

                    Tell it to Andreas Cluver:

                    We're extremely supportive of the message of Occupy Oakland, and we did come out to support the Nov. 2 general strike, but we're not behind this one," Cluver said. "When working people aren't involved in the decision on whether to shut down their jobs at the port, that's problematic. And we weren't consulted. Losing a day of wages is hard."

                    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/...

                    or, Ellis Goldberg:

                    "The 99 percent is nonconfrontational," said Ellis Goldberg, a marketer who has organized Occupy protests in Dublin and San Ramon. "You don't use a bat to get your point across, and this port action is a bat. It's going to hurt innocents - in this case, port workers and truckers."

                    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/...

                    or Hai Ngo:

                    "The Occupy people handed out flyers to us, but never asked what we thought before they planned this," Ngo said. "I will lose about $350, and at holiday time that hurts. It's just a waste of our time and money, and won't accomplish anything."

                    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/...

                    •  You've got 3. Here's 5: (0+ / 0-)

                      We are the front-line workers who haul container rigs full of imported and exported goods to and from the docks and warehouses every day.

                      We have been elected by committees of our co-workers at the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle, Tacoma, New York and New Jersey to tell our collective story. We have accepted the honor to speak up for our brothers and sisters about our working conditions despite the risk of retaliation we face. One of us is a mother, the rest of us fathers. Between the five of us we have 11children and one more baby on the way. We have a combined 46 years of experience driving cargo from our shores for America’s stores.

                      We are inspired that a non-violent democratic movement that insists on basic economic fairness is capturing the hearts and minds of so many working people. Thank you “99 Percenters” for hearing our call for justice. We are humbled and overwhelmed by recent attention. Normally we are invisible.

                      Today’s demonstrations will impact us. While we cannot officially speak for every worker who shares our occupation, we can use this opportunity to reveal what it’s like to walk a day in our shoes for the 110,000 of us in America whose job it is to be a port truck driver. It may be tempting for media to ask questions about whether we support a shutdown, but there are no easy answers. Instead, we ask you, are you willing to listen and learn why a one-word response is impossible?

                      We love being behind the wheel. We are proud of the work we do to keep America’s economy moving. But we feel humiliated when we receive paychecks that suggest we work part time at a fast-food counter. Especially when we work an average of 60 or more hours a week, away from our families.

                      There is so much at stake in our industry. It is one of the nation’s most dangerous occupations. We don’t think truck driving should be a dead-end road in America. It should be a good job with a middle-class paycheck like it used to be decades ago.

                      We desperately want to drive clean and safe vehicles. Rigs that do not fill our lungs with deadly toxins, or dirty the air in the communities we haul in.

                      Poverty and pollution are like a plague at the ports. Our economic conditions are what led to the environmental crisis.

                      You, the public, have paid a severe price along with us.

                      Why? Just like Wall Street doesn’t have to abide by rules, our industry isn’t bound to regulation. So the market is run by con artists. The companies we work for call us independent contractors, as if we were our own bosses, but they boss us around. We receive Third World wages and drive sweatshops on wheels. We cannot negotiate our rates. (Usually we are not allowed to even see them.) We are paid by the load, not by the hour. So when we sit in those long lines at the terminals, or if we are stuck in traffic, we become volunteers who basically donate our time to the trucking and shipping companies. That’s the nice way to put it. We have all heard the words “modern-day slaves” at the lunch stops.

                      There are no restrooms for drivers. We keep empty bottles in our cabs. Plastic bags too. We feel like dogs. An Oakland driver was recently banned from the terminal because he was spied relieving himself behind a container. Neither the port, nor the terminal operators or anyone in the industry thinks it is their responsibility to provide humane and hygienic facilities for us. It is absolutely horrible for drivers who are women, who risk infection when they try to hold it until they can find a place to go.

                      The companies demand we cut corners to compete. It makes our roads less safe. When we try to blow the whistle about skipped inspections, faulty equipment, or falsified logs, then we are “starved out.” That means we are either fired outright, or more likely, we never get dispatched to haul a load again.

                      It may be difficult to comprehend the complex issues and nature of our employment. For us too. When businesses disguise workers like us as contractors, the Department of Labor calls it misclassification. We call it illegal. Those who profit from global trade and goods movement are getting away with it because everyone is doing it. One journalist took the time to talk to us this week and she explains it very well to outsiders. We hope you will read the enclosed article “How Goldman Sachs and Other Companies Exploit Port Truck Drivers.”

                      But the short answer to the question: Why are companies like SSA Marine, the Seattle-based global terminal operator that runs one of the West Coast’s major trucking carriers, Shippers’ Transport Express, doing this? Why would mega-rich Maersk, a huge Danish shipping and trucking conglomerate that wants to drill for more oil with Exxon Mobil in the Gulf Coast conduct business this way too?

                      To cheat on taxes, drive down business costs, and deny us the right to belong to a union, that’s why.

                      The typical arrangement works like this: Everything comes out of our pockets or is deducted from our paychecks. The truck or lease, fuel, insurance, registration, you name it. Our employers do not have to pay the costs of meeting emissions-compliant regulations; that is our financial burden to bear. Clean trucks cost about four to five times more than what we take home in a year. A few of us haul our company’s trucks for a tiny fraction of what the shippers pay per load instead of an hourly wage. They still call us independent owner-operators and give us a 1099 rather than a W-2.

                      We have never recovered from losing our basic rights as employees in America. Every year it literally goes from bad to worse to the unimaginable. We were ground zero for the government’s first major experiment into letting big business call the shots. Since it worked so well for the CEOs in transportation, why not the mortgage and banking industry too?

                      Even the few of us who are hired as legitimate employees are routinely denied our legal rights under this system. Just ask our co-workers who haul clothing brands like Guess?, Under Armour, and Ralph Lauren’s Polo. The carrier they work for in Los Angeles is called Toll Group and is headquartered in Australia. At the busiest time of the holiday shopping season, 26 drivers were axed after wearing Teamster T-shirts to work. They were protesting the lack of access to clean, indoor restrooms with running water. The company hired an anti-union consultant to intimidate the drivers. Down Under, the same company bargains with 12,000 of our counterparts in good faith.

                      Despite our great hardships, many of us cannot — or refuse to, as some of the most well-intentioned suggest — “just quit.” First, we want to work and do not have a safety net. Many of us are tied to one-sided leases. But more importantly, why should we have to leave? Truck driving is what we do, and we do it well.

                      We are the skilled, specially-licensed professionals who guarantee that Target, Best Buy, and Wal-Mart are all stocked with just-in-time delivery for consumers. Take a look at all the stuff in your house. The things you see advertised on TV. Chances are a port truck driver brought that special holiday gift to the store you bought it.

                      We would rather stick together and transform our industry from within. We deserve to be fairly rewarded and valued. That is why we have united to stage convoys, park our trucks, marched on the boss, and even shut down these ports.

                      It’s like our hero Dutch Prior, a Shipper’s/SSA Marine driver, told CBS Early Morning this month: “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

                      The more underwater we are, the more our restlessness grows. We are being thoughtful about how best to organize ourselves and do what is needed to win dignity, respect, and justice.

                      Nowadays greedy corporations are treated as “people” while the politicians they bankroll cast union members who try to improve their workplaces as “thugs.”

                      But we believe in the power and potential behind a truly united 99%. We admire the strength and perseverance of the longshoremen. We are fighting like mad to overcome our exploitation, so please, stick by us long after December 12. Our friends in the Coalition for Clean & Safe Ports created a pledge you can sign to support us here.

                      We drivers have a saying, “We may not have a union yet, but no one can stop us from acting like one.”

                      The brothers and sisters of the Teamsters have our backs. They help us make our voices heard. But we need your help too so we can achieve the day where we raise our fists and together declare: “No one could stop us from forming a union.”

                      Thank you.

                      In solidarity,

                      Leonardo Mejia
                      SSA Marine/Shippers Transport Express
                      Port of Long Beach
                      10-year driver

                      Yemane Berhane
                      Ports of Seattle & Tacoma
                      6-year port driver

                      Xiomara Perez
                      Toll Group
                      Port of Los Angeles
                      8-year driver

                      Abdul Khan
                      Port of Oakland
                      7-year port driver

                      Ramiro Gotay
                      Ports of New York & New Jersey
                      15-year port driver

                      How many divisions does OWS have?

                      by Diebold Hacker on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 06:22:56 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

              •  Amazing you don't even (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Jeff Simpson

                know what the protest you're supporting is about.

                The reason that the  ILWU and Occupy got into it in the first place is because Occupy decided to insert itself into the long running dispute about the workers at the Longview terminal, which ILWU members did occupy as the result of a labor dispute earlier this year.  It wasn't about California, it was about Longview EGT.

                Facing hefty fines for illegal picketing, union longshore leaders this week rejected a call from Occupy Oakland protesters to shut down West Coast ports Dec. 12 in support of the union's dispute with the owners of the new EGT grain terminal at the Port of Longview.

                Occupy Oakland protesters announced Tuesday on their website that their general assembly had passed a resolution calling for a "mass mobilization" of various Occupy movements on the coast to shut down all commercial activity at all ports.

                Robert McEllarth, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, said the union appreciates the support but hasn't authorized the shutdown.

                "Only ILWU members or their elected representatives can authorize job actions on behalf of the union, and any decisions made by groups outside of the union's democratic process do not hold water, regardless of the intent." McEllrath said in a written statement.

                http://www.economicpopulist.org

                by ManfromMiddletown on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 05:46:19 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  stop the personal attacks (0+ / 0-)

            you have no idea what manfrommiddleton thinks is the best course of action.

            And what makes you think unions didn't have a voice before Occupy? And pray tell, what did OWS accomplish for workers today that their respective unions have never been able to accomplish. Please post the new contract.

      •  Do you know how condescending to unions (3+ / 0-)

        this sounds?

        Occupy is doing what the established unions should have done long ago but have been legally prevented from doing so.

        So, after today's actions, are there now hygiene facilities in the ports which are available for truckers to use? Were union contracts and terms renegotiated?

  •  As a Union Steward, I suggest that the ILWU (13+ / 0-)

    is telling their people to NOT cross picket lines because they have a legal basis to refuse to cross a picket line, but are not legally allowed to take part in a strike that is not related to workplace grievances brought by the Union itself.

    In other words, if they want to support the strike, legally the only action they can take to support the shutdown is to tell members "DON'T CROSS THE PICKET LINE" and say it loud enough and often enough that the strikers get the hint to

    SET UP PICKET LINES
    so We Union People don't get fired for being part of a wildcat strike.
    HINT HINT WINK WINK NUDGE NUDGE

    I would bet that most if not all of we Union people are thrilled that this is going on, and looking for an opportunity to help.

    For those following this in other diaries, yes, this is the third diary I have made this comment in.

    Just your average every day Autistic hillbilly/biker/activist/union steward with an engineering degree.

    by Mentatmark on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 01:41:13 PM PST

  •  It's strange that OO decided to do this without (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fcvaguy, Mindtrain

    clear support from the unions. Maybe there's more under the surface there.

    •  It's not strange at all. (3+ / 0-)

      Not in the very least. My understanding is that there is quite a bit of support in the rank and file but the leadership, well, they are not in a position to support the protest.

      Capitalism may be our enemy, but it is also our teacher. --V.I. Lenin equalitymaine.org

      by commonmass on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 04:37:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  As soon as a union withholds support (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fcvaguy, OnlyWords, Mindtrain

      The "bosses" are declared part of The 1%™ and therefore the enemy. That's the way this brainless frame works. Likewise, any criticism emanates from The 1%™ and so on.

      On the surface the 1%/99% thing is a useful shorthand for income inequality, but used in this way it's a self-sealed conspiracy theory.

      •  Kinda like any criticism of unions, democrats, (0+ / 0-)

        or Obama originates from Republicans.

        I suppose the Democratic Party and Daily Kos are engaged in "brainless fram[ing]" and consist of "self-sealed conspiracy [theories]," too.

      •  I was just thinking that (0+ / 0-)

        Union leadership is now part of the 1%.

        •  They are legally prohibited from supporting this. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          katiec

          That's all. They may well be personally in favor of it, as are many of the rank and file. But they can't legally say so. Why is this a difficult concept?

          How many divisions does OWS have?

          by Diebold Hacker on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 05:39:14 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Its a difficult concept (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ManfromMiddletown

            because all day today, I've read accounts from truck drivers who are AGAINST this action.

            •  Funny, I've read the opposite. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              katiec, pot

              How many divisions does OWS have?

              by Diebold Hacker on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 06:19:03 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  Here ya go. Might want to read up. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              docmidwest, FG, pot

              We are the front-line workers who haul container rigs full of imported and exported goods to and from the docks and warehouses every day.

              We have been elected by committees of our co-workers at the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle, Tacoma, New York and New Jersey to tell our collective story.
              We have accepted the honor to speak up for our brothers and sisters about our working conditions despite the risk of retaliation we face. One of us is a mother, the rest of us fathers. Between the five of us we have 11children and one more baby on the way. We have a combined 46 years of experience driving cargo from our shores for America’s stores.

              We are inspired that a non-violent democratic movement that insists on basic economic fairness is capturing the hearts and minds of so many working people. Thank you “99 Percenters” for hearing our call for justice. We are humbled and overwhelmed by recent attention. Normally we are invisible.

              Today’s demonstrations will impact us. While we cannot officially speak for every worker who shares our occupation, we can use this opportunity to reveal what it’s like to walk a day in our shoes for the 110,000 of us in America whose job it is to be a port truck driver. It may be tempting for media to ask questions about whether we support a shutdown, but there are no easy answers. Instead, we ask you, are you willing to listen and learn why a one-word response is impossible?

              We love being behind the wheel. We are proud of the work we do to keep America’s economy moving. But we feel humiliated when we receive paychecks that suggest we work part time at a fast-food counter. Especially when we work an average of 60 or more hours a week, away from our families.

              There is so much at stake in our industry. It is one of the nation’s most dangerous occupations. We don’t think truck driving should be a dead-end road in America. It should be a good job with a middle-class paycheck like it used to be decades ago.

              We desperately want to drive clean and safe vehicles. Rigs that do not fill our lungs with deadly toxins, or dirty the air in the communities we haul in.

              Poverty and pollution are like a plague at the ports. Our economic conditions are what led to the environmental crisis.

              You, the public, have paid a severe price along with us.

              Why? Just like Wall Street doesn’t have to abide by rules, our industry isn’t bound to regulation. So the market is run by con artists. The companies we work for call us independent contractors, as if we were our own bosses, but they boss us around. We receive Third World wages and drive sweatshops on wheels. We cannot negotiate our rates. (Usually we are not allowed to even see them.) We are paid by the load, not by the hour. So when we sit in those long lines at the terminals, or if we are stuck in traffic, we become volunteers who basically donate our time to the trucking and shipping companies. That’s the nice way to put it. We have all heard the words “modern-day slaves” at the lunch stops.

              There are no restrooms for drivers. We keep empty bottles in our cabs. Plastic bags too. We feel like dogs. An Oakland driver was recently banned from the terminal because he was spied relieving himself behind a container. Neither the port, nor the terminal operators or anyone in the industry thinks it is their responsibility to provide humane and hygienic facilities for us. It is absolutely horrible for drivers who are women, who risk infection when they try to hold it until they can find a place to go.

              The companies demand we cut corners to compete. It makes our roads less safe. When we try to blow the whistle about skipped inspections, faulty equipment, or falsified logs, then we are “starved out.” That means we are either fired outright, or more likely, we never get dispatched to haul a load again.

              It may be difficult to comprehend the complex issues and nature of our employment. For us too. When businesses disguise workers like us as contractors, the Department of Labor calls it misclassification. We call it illegal. Those who profit from global trade and goods movement are getting away with it because everyone is doing it. One journalist took the time to talk to us this week and she explains it very well to outsiders. We hope you will read the enclosed article “How Goldman Sachs and Other Companies Exploit Port Truck Drivers.”

              But the short answer to the question: Why are companies like SSA Marine, the Seattle-based global terminal operator that runs one of the West Coast’s major trucking carriers, Shippers’ Transport Express, doing this? Why would mega-rich Maersk, a huge Danish shipping and trucking conglomerate that wants to drill for more oil with Exxon Mobil in the Gulf Coast conduct business this way too?

              To cheat on taxes, drive down business costs, and deny us the right to belong to a union, that’s why.

              The typical arrangement works like this: Everything comes out of our pockets or is deducted from our paychecks. The truck or lease, fuel, insurance, registration, you name it. Our employers do not have to pay the costs of meeting emissions-compliant regulations; that is our financial burden to bear. Clean trucks cost about four to five times more than what we take home in a year. A few of us haul our company’s trucks for a tiny fraction of what the shippers pay per load instead of an hourly wage. They still call us independent owner-operators and give us a 1099 rather than a W-2.

              We have never recovered from losing our basic rights as employees in America. Every year it literally goes from bad to worse to the unimaginable. We were ground zero for the government’s first major experiment into letting big business call the shots. Since it worked so well for the CEOs in transportation, why not the mortgage and banking industry too?

              Even the few of us who are hired as legitimate employees are routinely denied our legal rights under this system. Just ask our co-workers who haul clothing brands like Guess?, Under Armour, and Ralph Lauren’s Polo. The carrier they work for in Los Angeles is called Toll Group and is headquartered in Australia. At the busiest time of the holiday shopping season, 26 drivers were axed after wearing Teamster T-shirts to work. They were protesting the lack of access to clean, indoor restrooms with running water. The company hired an anti-union consultant to intimidate the drivers. Down Under, the same company bargains with 12,000 of our counterparts in good faith.

              Despite our great hardships, many of us cannot — or refuse to, as some of the most well-intentioned suggest — “just quit.” First, we want to work and do not have a safety net. Many of us are tied to one-sided leases. But more importantly, why should we have to leave? Truck driving is what we do, and we do it well.

              We are the skilled, specially-licensed professionals who guarantee that Target, Best Buy, and Wal-Mart are all stocked with just-in-time delivery for consumers. Take a look at all the stuff in your house. The things you see advertised on TV. Chances are a port truck driver brought that special holiday gift to the store you bought it.

              We would rather stick together and transform our industry from within. We deserve to be fairly rewarded and valued. That is why we have united to stage convoys, park our trucks, marched on the boss, and even shut down these ports.

              It’s like our hero Dutch Prior, a Shipper’s/SSA Marine driver, told CBS Early Morning this month: “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

              The more underwater we are, the more our restlessness grows. We are being thoughtful about how best to organize ourselves and do what is needed to win dignity, respect, and justice.

              Nowadays greedy corporations are treated as “people” while the politicians they bankroll cast union members who try to improve their workplaces as “thugs.”

              But we believe in the power and potential behind a truly united 99%. We admire the strength and perseverance of the longshoremen. We are fighting like mad to overcome our exploitation, so please, stick by us long after December 12. Our friends in the Coalition for Clean & Safe Ports created a pledge you can sign to support us here.

              We drivers have a saying, “We may not have a union yet, but no one can stop us from acting like one.”

              The brothers and sisters of the Teamsters have our backs. They help us make our voices heard. But we need your help too so we can achieve the day where we raise our fists and together declare: “No one could stop us from forming a union.”

              Thank you.

              In solidarity,

              Leonardo Mejia
              SSA Marine/Shippers Transport Express
              Port of Long Beach
              10-year driver

              Yemane Berhane
              Ports of Seattle & Tacoma
              6-year port driver

              Xiomara Perez
              Toll Group
              Port of Los Angeles
              8-year driver

              Abdul Khan
              Port of Oakland
              7-year port driver

              Ramiro Gotay
              Ports of New York & New Jersey
              15-year port driver

              How many divisions does OWS have?

              by Diebold Hacker on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 06:24:28 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  there's plenty of nuance to go around (4+ / 0-)
    But we believe in the power and potential behind a truly united 99%. We admire the strength and perseverance of the longshoremen. We are fighting like mad to overcome our exploitation, so please, stick by us long after December 12....We drivers have a saying, “We may not have a union yet, but no one can stop us from acting like one.”

    Präsidentenelf-maßschach; Warning-Some Snark Above"Nous sommes un groupuscule" (-9.50; -7.03) "Sciant terra viam monstrare."

    by annieli on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 04:38:49 PM PST

  •  Oakland marching back to port now, seems .... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    4Freedom, gustynpip, shaharazade

    like a couple thousand are marching.

    Lots of union signs from what I could see.

  •  As indicated by Cable shows on these Sea Ports (0+ / 0-)

    The pace workers have to maintain is already intense. Yet Ship builders keep driving for larger vessels but will still need to be unloaded&reloaded at the same pace.

    Response: If you "got it" you wouldn't be a republican

    by JML9999 on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 04:58:03 PM PST

  •  Thank you for this. All NPR had to report today (0+ / 0-)

    was one French truck driver who was pissed at losing a days work. Nice to read more.

    Tracy B Ann - technically that is my signature.

    by ZenTrainer on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 04:58:12 PM PST

  •  Let's remember many union leaders have not (0+ / 0-)

    represented the workers for decades.

    "Be convinced that to be happy means to be free and that to be free means to be brave." - Thucydides

    by JasperJohns on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 05:04:54 PM PST

    •  Let's remember that unlike Occupy (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fcvaguy, leoklein, Mindtrain

      labor unions are democratic organizations, responsible to their members, who have been fighting the things that that Occupy has latched onto in the past few months for many decades.

      Let's stop pretending that showing up for a protest puts you in the same position to speak for workers as the leadership that has earned the vote of a majority of their membership.

      http://www.economicpopulist.org

      by ManfromMiddletown on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 05:10:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Never made any representation of such... (0+ / 0-)

        But when did labor support any other Union other than their own immediate self-interests? Who is supporting the CDW as they get the shit beat of of the by Verizon? Any one stepping up to the plate? Who was supporting the Boeing machinists?

        Labor is like most of our society. What can you do for me and f*ck the other guy.

        In my time labor was not intimidated. That's no longer the case. So despite your protestations my reard for labor leaders in today's world is nil.

        "Be convinced that to be happy means to be free and that to be free means to be brave." - Thucydides

        by JasperJohns on Tue Dec 13, 2011 at 11:53:22 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  If you want to support labor (0+ / 0-)

          struggles at least get the name of the union you're supporting right.

          When you don't you confirm to everyone who actually knows what the deal is that you're an ignorant fucking hipster trying to get your cache off struggles you don't know shit about.

          http://www.economicpopulist.org

          by ManfromMiddletown on Tue Dec 13, 2011 at 02:21:05 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I appreciate the nuance (4+ / 0-)

    Some of the other diaries on this shutdown did nothing to acknowledge the pain this action might cause workers. Instead they got caught up in the rhetoric of "the rank and file supports us" (sort of).. I have a cousin who is a truck driver, and today he is losing a days wage plus expenses, right around the holidays. I imagine opinions of workers run the whole spectrum - from full throated support, to support in concept but not particulars, to opposition. There is no monolithic "rank and file". I appreciate the depth of thought the letter writers provided, and the important perspective they offer. And to correct some misinformation - there has been a long fought, concerted effort to highlight and improve the plight of the truckers. OWS is a late player to this.

    •  exactly (0+ / 0-)
      Some of the other diaries on this shutdown did nothing to acknowledge the pain this action might cause workers.

      Exactly. With one exception - Laura's first diary on the subject today.

      •  For which (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        fcvaguy, Mindtrain

        a lynch mob gathered to to tear Laura apart.

        Ironically, the labor vertical and Laura's writing, as I understand it, are attempts to highlight labor issues that many here had felt where being overlooked.

        What's most irritating is that the people who are exorcised about this today because it relates to Occupy have no idea that the struggles they are tapping into have been going on for years, and will go on long after they've lost interest.

        Let's see who among the people all over this today because Occupy is involved give a shit in 6 months.

        http://www.economicpopulist.org

        by ManfromMiddletown on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 05:57:43 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Billingham CA -- protesters have chained.... (0+ / 0-)

    themselves to the traintracks.  Ok, I'm not that brave.

  •  Every march I've been on (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    katiec, Radical def

    including the solidarity with WI ones have had union members in attendance. Teachers, nurses, and lot's of longshoremen. Leadership iis another matter. Here's a statement form the Portland Occupier in regards to all you who are concerned for the unions.

    http://www.portlandoccupier.org/...

    2:31 PM – A bit of clarification on how a port works, in case you were interested: the workers get paid when the ships get loaded and unloaded. They will be loaded and unloaded. Just not today. The workers will get paid. In the meantime, the corporate investors in the Port lose profit. For all of those anti-Occupy trolls that seem to have suddenly become pro-union: congratulations! And don’t worry, the ILWU won’t lose out on ships to unload! We can all celebrate that!

    This is from The Occupied Oakland Tribune...
    http://www.westcoastportshutdown.org/...

    The labor movement is historically weak with unionization at an all-time low. Mass workers’ strikes in various industries would be a welcome development, but in the meantime rank-and-file members of the Teamsters, SEIU, Berkeley and Oakland teachers’ unions and many non-union workers are organizing for the West Coast Port Shut Down, as are at least twenty “Occupies” at ten different ports. With the current state of the labor movement, many militant actions may occur outside of union officialdom, but that does not make it the work of outside agitators who have no interest in workers’ democracy. In fact, many of us hope our actions, which have the active support of many rank-and-file union members, are a precursor toward a stronger union movement.

     

    •  forgot my other link (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      katiec, Radical def

      from Alter Net

      http://www.alternet.org/...

      How Goldman Sachs and Other Companies Exploit Port Truck Drivers — Occupy Protesters Plan to Shut Down West Coast Ports in Protest
      Companies are profiting off the backs of port truck drivers, a class of exploited workers who are a crucial lynchpin in our economy.

      But what many people may not know is that these sweatshop conditions don't end when those goods hit American soil. Between the dock where the cargo is unloaded and the shelf from which you pluck your treasure, there are several critical lynchpins. One of them is port truck drivers. These drivers (around 110,000 of them in the United States) are responsible for moving approximately 20 million containers a year from the ports to railway yards and warehouses. Drivers operating large trucks are expected to safely haul loads up to 80,000 pounds. It's a job for professionals, only these professionals are earning poverty wages, sometimes even less than you'd make flipping burgers at a fast food restaurant. Once a middle-class profession, the port trucking (or drayage) industry has now been dubbed "sweatshops on wheels."

      They are calling it Wall Street on the Waterfront for good reasons including the plight of the truckers and people who unload the ships full of cargo made by workers globally who are a  slave labor work force that they can exploit and move on.  This is a global  movement and the ports of entry are a good place for workers to show solidarity globally. Free trade, like free market is fair game.  

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site