Tired of Carrying the Load

Tired of Carrying the Load
David Firestein

As some of you may have heard, last week, the Port of Oakland Truckers Association voted to authorize a strike. Even after that vote, they left open the possibility of negotiation, but when by Friday their demands were not met, they voted to stop work at the Port on Wednesday. Right now, the truckers are facing some pretty daunting odds. They have only one month left before new regulations will essentially put 800 people out of work.

The truckers have gone to the state regulatory commission CARB and asked for help meeting the standards to no avail.

The truckers have gone to the Port of Oakland and asked for the sort of assistance that other ports up and down the west coast are offering to truckers, but again they’ve been turned down.

The truckers have gone to the City of Oakland and asked for assistance from the Mayor and City Council to help sway the Port Commissioners, but from the Mayor all they got was lip service followed by increased antagonism in the form of legal action against them for threatening the flow of commerce at the Port.

They’ve been pushed to a point where asking nicely has given them nothing, not even help with low interest loans that the state actually promised them when the new regulations were passed. CARB has made sure that drivers will not be able to get these loans by refusing to offer the paperwork in other languages or to provide reasonable amounts of time to complete them. CARB is now saying that time is up,and the money dedicated to those loans has been reallocated.

Despite the loans the truckers are still paying off on their rigs, despite the loans they took out just a couple years ago to pay for $20,000 filters that they were told would make them compliant or $40,000 engines that they were told would make them compliant, now they’re being asked to take out more loans to buy new $80,000 trucks or lose the ability to work at the port. And on top of all that, the Port of Oakland hasn’t raised the payment for moving a load in decades. These drivers are making as little as $50-60 a load and trying to support their families in an Oakland where prices are skyrocketing. When a mandate came down saying that wages had to increase, some companies complied by raising the rate by fifty cents. Meanwhile drivers are stuck in endless lines where they are harassed and taunted by companies like SSA, and they’re forced to urinate into bottles because stepping out of their rigs can get them banned from the Port.

Frankly, I probably wouldn’t have attempted all those polite measures before striking back, but the truckers did. I’d also probably be demanding more than they are, but the truckers aren’t. The things they’re asking for are so basic and obvious that it’s absolutely unbelievable that the Port wouldn’t comply. And yet, the Port isn’t. Instead, they’re being told by CARB that if they want the grants that were promised to them, they have to agree not to work at the Port for 3 years. They’re being told by the Mayor’s office that the city will look and see if it has money after January 1st (the day when 800 of them will have already lost their jobs).

In the face of this insanity, what else can the truckers do but strike? For too long they’ve worked in intolerable conditions for substandard wages while the Port and the companies there have made BILLIONS of dollars. The truckers aren’t asking for all the money; they’re only asking to be treated like people and paid a wage similar to what truckers in other ports are making. But they’re tired of carrying the load while everyone else gets rich.

Now the time has come to fight back. This Wednesday, the truckers are taking the last action available to them. They are putting their bodies on the line and risking their livelihoods to get the attention of the Port the only way they can. If you can get to the port on Wednesday morning to help support their lines, that will be helpful. Whether or not you can make it to the pickets, please give what you can to the strike fund. Every dollar helps, but it’s gonna take a lot more dollars than what they have now in order to sustain a lengthy strike, should one happen.

So get your asses down to the port because if the truckers can’t get paid, nobody gets paid.


Posted on November 24, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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