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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Labor & Workers
5 Things You Never Knew You Didn't Know About Oakland's Port Truckers
Oakland Port Truckers have been working to improve working conditions and compensation, most notably by staging a wildcat strike and subsequent work slowdown. These are some things you might not have thought to ask, but you ought to know about these Port Truckers.
1. They are some of the lowest paid drayagers in the country. The truckers last pay raise per load was almost 10 years ago, and the raise before that also came 10 years before. The Port of Oakland is the 4th largest port in America, yet it still hasn’t put changes into effect that other major ports have implemented to increase pay, decrease congestion, and reduce emissions.
2. Their trucks all meet green emissions standards set for all California trucks all the way up to the year 2020. It’s the Port Of Oakland specifically that has new green emissions mandates going into effect on January 1, 2014. So after the New Year, 800 drivers' trucks will be considered “clean” in West Oakland, and “dirty” inside the port. The Port Commission has the power to influence an extension on this deadline, but they have yet to do so.
3. 3. Port truckers are the only group required to fully comply with new green emissions standards by 2014. Despite the fact that some of the worst polluters on the port are cranes and transtainers, (machines that load cargo boxes,) super-terminals like SSA (owned by Goldman Sachs) are only required to makes these machines compliant at a rate of one per year. These companies can afford to bring their equipment up to the highest available environmental standards and protect the lungs of people in West Oakland, but they choose to comply as slowly as they are legally allowed so that they can continue to project billion-dollar profits and meet projections. West Oakland residents are collateral damage for corporate profits, while truckers are blamed. One of the demands of truckers is for a flat fee per load, paid by terminals, to offset the cost of new loans they are taking on to meet new emissions standards. Terminals that refuse to make themselves more efficient force truckers to wait, burning fuel, yet the burden is on truckers to take out new loans to meet emissions standards, rather than on the terminals to keep lines moving and reduce idling time. Port workers, including truckers, are exposed most to the polluted air from cranes, transtainers, and long lines. They want air at the Port of Oakland to be clean as much, if not more, than anyone else.
4. They are at the mercy of the terminals. Long lines pile up as truckers come to pick up loads, but because some terminals, notably SSA, refuse to hire more longshoremen for relief work or purchase new equipment to keep up with demand, they face waiting times of 3-8 hours for a pick-up. These terminals are owned by billion-dollar multinational corporations who have the funds to decrease congestion, and therefore air pollution, and enable truckers to run more loads in a day and make more money, but they choose not to. Port of Oakland Executive Director Chris Lytle oversaw many changes, including fees paid to truckers, grant funding for emissions compliance, and operation changes to improve efficiency at the Port of Long Beach, but he has not brought those changes to Oakland.
5. When all is said and done, if Oakland Port Truckers get their demands met, they will be barely breaking even. You heard right. There’s no cost of living increase, no inflation increase, no diesel-is-outrageously-expensive increase, all they are looking for is compensation for time spent waiting and to share the burden of green emissions compliance. Long lines mean truckers have to take less loads, seriously affecting their income. One of the primary demands is for a “congestion fee,” a fee paid by the terminal to truckers forced to wait more than 2 hours for a load. Expecting truckers to sit for hours without pay, burning diesel at their own expense, while waiting for a load is the equivalent of wage theft. This problem is particularly bad at the SSA terminal, which recently acquired the APL terminal and the TTI Terminal, which brought congestion to an all-time high, limiting pay for truckers and costing them lots of money. The “green emissions fee” they are asking for is a $50 fee paid on each box they haul to help with the cost of upgrading their trucks to new standards. When truckers most recently upgraded their trucks, they each had to take loans of about $20,000 to pay for new filters. Most truckers are also paying loans on their trucks, which range from $50,000 to $80,000. The new green emissions standards would force them to purchase either new engines, or new trucks, taking out additional loans of $20,000 to $80,000. A $50 per box fee would approximately add up to a new loan payment for truck upgrades. These demands exist solely to keep truckers working, and keep them from losing even more money.
To support the Oakland Port Truckers Strike Fund, please use this link. Work slowdowns and stoppages put a lot of strain on truckers, most of whom have families. Consider making this your profile picture on social media, as truckers continue to organize to their demands met: