Independent truck drivers are staging a protest at the Port of Oakland this morning to bring attention to poor working conditions, including being forced to wait for most of the work day to drop off or pick up cargo.
This morning’s action shut down SSA Marine’s Oakland International Container Terminal, a facility that includes five berths and 10 cranes. KQED’s Cy Musiker reports that terminal is closed, as it was during an August strike by the independent truckers, because members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union refused to cross picket lines. The overall impact on the port operations isn’t clear, though Port of Oakland officials estimate the impact of the two-day August strike was in the millions of dollars.
Members of the Port of Oakland Trucker Association, who can’t unionize, say that since they’re paid on a per-delivery basis, long delays at the port cost them money. They want the port’s terminal operators and shipping companies to pay them for their time. They also want the port and shippers to help pay for retrofitting their trucks to comply with new air-pollution standards.
They laid out their position in a statement Sunday:
In ten years, the pay per cargo load has not increased, while the cost of diesel has more than quadrupled, and costs for truck maintenance have skyrocketed. Despite the long list of grievances the truckers have, which include unsafe working conditions, verbal abuse from terminal employees, a single men’s restroom for all truckers to use, and daily hours of unpaid time spent waiting for a load, they are only asking for three things from the Port of Oakland and terminal owners. POTA’s demands are simple: a Green Emissions Fee, $50 paid to truckers monthly to offset the cost of upgrading trucks to new green emissions standards, an extension for compliance with new environmental standards that will go into effect for owner-operators on January 1, 2014, and a Congestion Fee paid to compensate truckers for hours, currently unpaid, spent waiting for a cargo load, and an increase in pay per cargo load.
Driver Herbert Olivares stood at the gate to Terminal 60 at dawn this morning, and explained what happened last Friday while waiting to drop off an empty container. “I started the line here around 11:50 a.m., and I didn’t get out of the terminal until 4:30 in the afternoon,” Olivares said. “Just one box. I didn’t get paid for the waiting time.”
Truckers also want better access to port restrooms while they wait. One trucker, Mohammed Sam, told Musiker that “we have to pee in bottles because we’re not allowed to leave our trucks.” Sams says the port suspends drivers who violate that rule, which has been imposed as a security measure.
Port Director Chris Lytle has convened seven meetings between truckers, shipping terminal operators, and longshore workers, and has said he’s sympathetic to the trucker’s concerns.
The terminal operators and shipping companies say they’re working to shorten wait times, but they’ve resisted paying truckers for their wait times.
This post is based on reporting by KQED’s Cy Musiker.