Oakland Port Truckers Vote to Strike Wednesday
Port of Oakland Truckers Association (POTA) members voted unanimously late Friday evening to stop work at the port on Wednesday, November 27. They’ve met with city, state and federal regulators, terminal managers, and Port of Oakland officials many times since their August 19 work stoppage, but have not made any gains on their demands. On November 13, truckers met with Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, Deputy Mayor Sandré Swanson, Port Executive Director Chris Lytle, as well as California Air Resources Board (CARB) members, expecting to bring offers of an extension from CARB or funding from the City and Port, but were forced to return to their membership without any offers to present.
“The Mayor said she was going to help us, but during the meeting she seemed more interested in her phone than in what we were saying,” said POTA board member Jorge Esparza.
On January 1, 800 port truckers who will lose their jobs when new state regulations go into effect, preventing them from working at the port. The majority of truckers have purchased new trucks, which cost between $50,000 and $80,000, and many are applying for microloans to pay loan payments on upgraded trucks just to keep working. One of POTA’s demands is a green emissions fee – a tariff on each container, imposed on terminals by the Port of Oakland, paid to truckers to offset the costs of meeting state regulations.
POTA demands include a congestion fee of $50 per hour after the first two hours truckers spend waiting in line to pick up a load, to compensate them for work that is currently unpaid and to encourage terminal efficiency. They are also demanding a rate increase, their first in nearly 10 years. Finally, the association is pushing for transparency in CARB’s relationship with the Port of Oakland, specifically in the enforcement of regulations outlining minimum efficiency of terminal operation.
“If they won’t give us an extension or money for upgrades by January, it only makes it more important that we get the green emissions fee, congestion fee and rate increase we’re demanding,” said Roberto Ruiz, a trucker at the port. “We have so much debt and we can’t afford the monthly payments that we have to make just to keep working.”
It’s unclear how long truckers plan to stop work at the port. The holiday season is typically a very busy time for container ports, and the Port of Oakland is no exception.
“They didn’t even want to meet with us until we stopped working, but we need more than meetings. They don’t care about people, they just care about money, said Ruiz. “We don’t want to stop working, we need to make a living, but this is the only thing they respond to.”