Truckers block Oakland Port terminal

Starting on August 19, 2013, and for several days after truckers at the Port of Oakland blockaded terminals to protest rule changes that leave them trapped in their trucks waiting as much as 8 hours for loads.

Posted By

Hieronymous
Aug 29 2013 16:10

Share

Attached files

Comments

Chilli Sauce
Aug 29 2013 20:44

That's an interesting sign. Any background?

EDIT: Saw what you posted on the other thread, but still be curious to hear a bit more background.

Hieronymous
Aug 29 2013 22:13
Chilli Sauce wrote:
That's an interesting sign. Any background?

EDIT: Saw what you posted on the other thread, but still be curious to hear a bit more background.

First, these guys are fucked. With the changes at the Port of Oakland's SSA terminal it's gotten worse. That created a backlog and at times truckers have to wait hours and hours to pick up a load (some have reported as long as 8 hours). Despite being called "independent contractors," which was caused by deregulation with the Motors Carriers Act that Carter signed in 1980, they work piece-rate. So they get paid by the load -- and get nothing for waiting. But it gets worse: because it is a secure Customs zone, they can't get out of their trucks, so they have to bring containers to piss in (just like the Hong Kong crane operators who were also recently on strike).

The fucking Teamster piecards know all this, but really only want their dues. They can't legally represent them because the NRLB interprets the Motor Carriers Act as making them independent businesses and collective activity is an anti-trust violation -- and unionization is straight-up illegal. The IRS has actually reclassified some truckers in LA as waged workers and accepted their 1040 tax forms (rather than the 1099 form for independent contracting). The IRS says that an independent contractor has free choice in the: 1. time 2. place & 3. manner that they perform their services. This is NOT true for the troqueros. Shipping brokers define all 3 of those, meaning the drivers are misclassified and are performing waged batch work.

Also, when I was at some of the troquero wildcats in the past -- like the 8-day blockade in 2004 -- the drivers said they "hated" the Teamsters. The union knows it can't legally represent them, but still wanted them to join with a whopping $700 initiation fee and dues of $60 a month. And this is for workers who often don't make more than $10 an hour.

And let's be honest, the Teamsters don't have anything to offer these drivers. They say they'll use the dues money to lobby for legislative change to push for reclassification. The piecards often come bullying them and telling them what to do. Those goons have threatened me and my comrades too, for simply showing solidarity with the self-activity of the troqueros. So to answer your question, the banner is to reaffirm their autonomy and their self-organized ability to fight.

Chilli Sauce
Aug 30 2013 07:27

Good on 'em, that's great.

Incidentally, I was involved in an IWW campaign some years back with truckers in coastal North Carolina. There grievances were almost exactly the same (though their pay lower): misclassification as independents; overnight weighting times, low pay.

Hieronymous
Sep 2 2013 00:21

Just talked with one of the LA/Long Beach trucker organizers, who confirmed another reason the Oakland troqueros hate the Teamsters is because in the 1980s the union partnered with Stevedoring Services of America (SSA) to create a fake company to hire drivers. But there was a catch: out of the 100 drivers working for "Maritech" (not sure of spelling), only 30 would be in the union. The other 70 would do identical work for the same company, but would earn 20% less. Why the fuck the Teamsters would create a class collaborationist company with 2 tiers is beyond me, but it left an extremely negative legacy amongst drivers at the Port of Oakland.

The LA/Long Beach troqueros are really excited because there's a rumor floating 'round saying that with the ILWU out of the AFL-CIO, they can cooperate more closely with the port truckers without any kind of jurisdictional beef with unions in that federation. Doesn't mean they won't tangle with Teamsters in Change to Win, but with the legacy of bloody battles between longshore and Teamsters in the 1930s and immediately after World War II, there is no love lost between those two.

syndicalist
Sep 2 2013 00:20

Could also signal ILWU "march inland" again? That is, organize in the big warehouse sites in the Inland Empire where teamos seem to be agonizing.

Hieronymous
Sep 2 2013 00:31
syndicalist wrote:
Could also signal ILWU "march inland" again? That is, organize in the big warehouse sites in the Inland Empire where teamos seem to be agonizing.

Exactly.

Almost by random chance, I've talked with an ILWU and an independent trucker guy in the last 24 hours and both said this means a return to "industrial organizing."

So when the West Coast container contract for 29 ports expires next year and PMA demands Longview-style concessions, the longshore workers might have class solidarity along part of the commodity chain, from the docks to the logistics and transportation sectors. Also, PMA is poised to go for the jugular with demands like completely eliminating the shipping clerk job category and beginning the process of automating the ports with workerless cranes like in Rotterdam and Hamburg.

syndicalist
Sep 3 2013 23:10
Hieronymous wrote:
syndicalist wrote:
Could also signal ILWU "march inland" again? That is, organize in the big warehouse sites in the Inland Empire where teamos seem to be agonizing.

Exactly.

Almost by random chance, I've talked with an ILWU and an independent trucker guy in the last 24 hours and both said this means a return to "industrial organizing."

So when the West Coast container contract for 29 ports expires next year and PMA demands Longview-style concessions, the longshore workers might have class solidarity along part of the commodity chain, from the docks to the logistics and transportation sectors. Also, PMA is poised to go for the jugular with demands like completely eliminating the shipping clerk job category and beginning the process of automating the ports with workerless cranes like in Rotterdam and Hamburg.

Sortta suspected part of this. The question is how much inroads and how fast will they be made in such a short period of time?

Odd as it sounds (well, most thing from my mouth are), be a curious thing if the ILWU and UE form some for of alliance. Or a bit of a broader alliance somewhat akin to the 1969 American Labor Action alliance which would include Teamsters and SEIU (WU/UNITE-HERE!) if they're seeking to do inland warehousing and limited forms of transportation. I dunno, just speculating. Not sure if the dynamics are even there.

Hieronymous
Sep 4 2013 00:09

Here's a map of the grain terminals, including those of the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association, that are being contested.

Here are some details to explain the players in the grain trade:

The Northwest has nine grain shipping terminals, two on Puget Sound (at Seattle and Tacoma) and seven at ports along the Columbia River (one in Longview, two in Kalama, one in Vancouver and three in Portland).

    • TEMCO (joint venture between CHS and Cargill, the latter being the world's largest grain merchant) operates three Northwest grain terminals – in Tacoma, Kalama and Portland.
    • LD Commodities (France-based Louis Dreyfus is a vital player in the global food chain, is among the world’s top 3 suppliers of wheat and corn) operates terminals in Seattle and Portland.
    • EGT (a joint venture between Bunge North America, the North American operating arm of Bunge Limited; ITOCHU International Inc., a U.S. subsidiary of Japanese trading company ITOCHU Corp.; and South Korea - based STX Pan Ocean, one of the top major bulk carriers in the world) operates a new grain terminal in Longview. It opened officially earlier this year.
    • Kalama Export Company operates at terminal at the Port of Kalama.
    • United Grain Corporation (a subsidiary of Japan-based Mitsui Group) operates a terminal at the Port of Vancouver.
    • Columbia Grain (a subsidiary of Japan-based Marubeni Corporation) operates a terminal at the Port of Portland.

Six of the nine Northwest grain shippers, in a consortium known as the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association, operate under a single collective bargaining agreement with ILWU. The consortium’s current contract with the ILWU expires September 30.

Terminals in Longview and Kalama have separate ILWU contracts. EGT’s Longview terminal opened earlier this year. EGT signed a contract with ILWU to settle a controversial dispute over which union would provide labor to operate EGT’s terminal (in a struggle that involved sabotage and sparked a wildcat strike at other ports in Puget Sound and on the Columbia River). While longshoremen’s hourly wages in the EGT contract are comparable to ILWU’s contract with the Grain Handlers Association, workplace rules in the EGT contract (like 12-hour shifts and managers operating the control room) are much more advantageous to EGT than the rules the Grain Handlers Association terminals currently operate under. The ILWU’s contract with Kalama Export Company (KEC) also includes advantageous workplace rules that don’t apply at Grain Handlers Association terminals.

More than a quarter of all U.S. grain exports and nearly half of U.S. wheat exports move through the Columbia River and Puget Sound grain terminals.

The Northwest’s proximity to Asian markets drives grain exports from the region. Top markets for wheat shipped from Northwest ports are Japan, Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan. Nearly all soybeans shipped from the Northwest are headed to China, and major destinations for yellow corn shipped from the region are South Korea, Japan and China. Middle East markets also are served by Pacific Northwest terminals.

Exports are important for agribusiness that grows grain throughout the Northwest and Midwest. Any interruption (whether by natural disaster or strikes by workers) in loading and dispatching ships would disrupt important Asia-Pacific markets for U.S. grain.

syndicalist
Sep 4 2013 01:36

Thanks for that info