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.

Related Reading:

City Of Cleveland Announces Support For Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street To Host Holiday Bazaar & Skill Share

Student Journalists At OWS Offered Free Legal Advice

LA City Council Agrees With OWS: Corporations Are Not People

Image Credit: Flickr – sebastiankippe


Nancy L.
Nancy L6 years ago

Are you kidding me? What the hell? If these people worked half as hard at looking for work as they do at disrupting others at work, they'd be better off!

Hunter W.
Hunter W6 years ago
Yep. Thanks a lot Occupy! They didn't set up a filter, because they are not organized.

Chad A.
Chad Anderson6 years ago

How powerful when social justice activists come together and unite with workers in support of legitimate demands.

John Kramer
John Kramer6 years ago

There is no need for these protesters to shut down these ports. The protesters have the right to yell, screem and pick it and even curse. They have no right to shut down these ports. It does more harm than good. These protesters are preventing these people from working so they can make money. A lot of jobs will be lost if those ports are shut down.

Lynn C.
Lynn C6 years ago

What a beautifully written letter! They have spoken so eloquently the pain and frustration of so many of us. Maybe OWS and all the rest of us who support them, can make a difference in these peoples lives. I certainly hope so.

Ernest R.
Ernest R6 years ago

@ John M "The big fish stay big as they feed on the small fish. This is Natures way.”
Interestingly enough, where sharks [ the big fish ] thrive, the smaller fish are also in greater numbers. I am not sure what your point was. That a middle class is against nature ? That one man’s salary could never support his family ? In a healthy ocean, you have lots of medium sized fish, at least until the fishermen get there.

Lane Yoshiyama
Lane Yoshiyama6 years ago

The occupy movement has educated me again. Thanks for posting.

Robert H.
Robert Hamm6 years ago

In more recent times unions have been weaker than ever. I don't know what you are talking about. Companies will do damned near anything to eliminate unions from their premises in many cases. They worry about profit…..PERIOD.

I understand the concept of profit. I also understand they will screw over most everyone they can if there is no one watching them.

VERY few unions have been involved in ugly scenarios. And trust me if unions vanish entirely as they have in many companies suddenly there is MANDATORY OVERTIME. LOTS OF IT, because they don't want to hire more people if they can work THIS group half to death.

There has been VERY little union abuse in this country. They are no longer strong enough.
When a company decides to move their operation to a cheaper star then of COURSE a union will fight it. Most of those people do NOT want to move. Thats not abuse….thats protecting the interests of their membership.

Aaron Holmgren
Aaron Holmgren6 years ago

This is not new. Workers in other industries have suffered the same treatment. Corporations force their workers to work as "contractors" in order to get around any labor regulations. Corporations are moving in the directions of forcing every worker to form his own business and work for himself and then form a business relationship with the corporation they work for. There is no minimum wage for a proprietor.

Jason Shepard
Past Member 6 years ago

I'm with Christopher F. on this one. I believe that they should have the right, but NOT be REQUIRED to, join a union. In their heyday, unions did an incredible thing for the American worker -- they increased workplace safety and garnered wages that were livable and proper for the work that they did. Unfortunately, in more recent times, unions have overstepped their bounds and abused their power. The wages they demand are far in excess of what any other worker in America is getting. They attempt to exert their power to eliminate competition by non-union businesses and contractors. This type of behavior is unacceptable.

Unions may well be the best hope for workers like the port truck drivers. Before they take effect, however, there needs to be limits on the union's power, caps on salaries, and so forth to ensure fair competition and it definitely needs to be a "Right to Work" situation where union membership is not required to work.