Hundreds of truck drivers at the Port of Seattle walked off the job last week to protest unsafe working conditions and other abuses—and they're still staying off the job. The Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports reports that, at the port:
Containers are normally stacked only two or three high. Now every stack climbs to four or five units tall. The chronically congested, seemingly endless terminal lines are gone, replaced by skimpy truck queues maybe 10 or 11 rigs deep. Ships that look as lonely as they are large can be spotted from Highway 99, idling in Puget Sound. Those are the ocean liners that can’t unload cargo or receive exports because there are too few drivers to move the shipments. Several trucking companies have gates closed or chains around their fences to yards that are normally only locked at night.Last week, drivers went to speak to the state legislature in Olympia about the safety problems they face:
Drivers were supported by Washington state troopers who also testified before state legislature representatives of the chronic dangers in the state’s drayage industry. In 2011 alone, 58% of cargo vehicles were deemed unsafe by authorities, according to Capt. Jason Berry, who said that at one point in the last year, 80% of the entire fleet at the port was prevented from operating due to disrepair, according to reports.Drivers are typically misclassified as independent contractors rather than employees, shifting many of the costs and risks of working onto the workers, who don't control their schedules or what loads they haul and don't own much of the equipment they use, which often leaves them paying fines on equipment owned by their employers. The state legislature is considering "bills that would shift more responsibility to the companies that subcontract the drivers."
In retaliation for going to speak in favor of that legislation, at least one worker, Demeke Meconnen, was suspended for refusing to haul a dangerously overweight load.