America’s Port Truck Drivers Respond To OWS
Early Monday morning, Occupy Wall Street protesters in 10 cities participated in a direct action called ‘Occupy The Ports.’ The goal in each city was to disrupt the supply chain that feeds the profits of the 1%.
In the nine cities located along the West Coast, local occupations planned to block all access to and activities in major shipping ports. In solidarity with the port cities, Occupy Denver staged its action at a major Walmart distribution center in Loveland, Colorado.
As some here on Care2 have pointed out, while multi-national corporations may ultimately profit from the goods that arrive in U.S. ports, it’s the rest of use that purchase them. Isn’t blocking the movement of consumer goods and preventing port workers from getting to work harmful to the 99%?
Here’s how the organizers explained Occupy The Ports:
“We are occupying the ports, as part of a day of action, boycott and march for full legalization and good jobs for all to draw attention to and protest the criminal system of concentrated wealth that depends on local and global exploitation of working people, and the denial of workers’ rights to organize for decent pay, working conditions and benefits, in disregard for the environment and the health and safety of surrounding communities. Port workers, particularly port truck drivers, have repeatedly shut down the ports around similar demands of migrant rights and workers’ rights which have not yet been met.”
In response to this act of solidarity, The Coalition for Clean & Safe Ports published an open letter from America’s port truck drivers in which they share their feelings on Occupy The Ports. Here are a few excerpts:
“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 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.
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.
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.”
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.
Click here to read the letter in its entirety.
Image Credit: Flickr – sebastiankippe