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Seattle port truckers are demanding respect



For 10 days now, hundreds of truck drivers at the Port of Seattle, many of them African immigrants, have been refusing to haul their loads in protest of low pay, work and truck safety issues, and their misclassification as independent contractors. They are organizing themselves and fighting for basic work rights that most Americans take for granted, and they are doing it despite U.S. labor laws that don’t recognize their freedom of association.

Two of them came to Olympia to share their stories with Washington State Labor Council delegates Thursday and to urge solidarity with their struggle for basic rights. You can find out more about their issues as port truckers and elected officials gather at a Town Hall meeting hosted by King County Councilman Joe McDermott and Port Commissioner Rob Holland from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 11 at the Teamsters Hall, 14675 Interurban Ave. S., in Tukwila.

This week, the truckers took their protest to one of their employers’ doorsteps to demand unpaid wages. Edgmon Trucking eventually handed out the paychecks. Check out the recent news coverage:

► In the Seattle Times — Port truckers stay off work to protest labor conditions — Short-haul truckers along the Seattle waterfront are starting to organize and act politically, after years of merely grumbling about their low pay and working conditions. This week, about 200 drivers have stayed off the job instead of delivering containers to the BNSF Railway yard in Sodo, according to several participants in the slowdown.

Waterfront truckers are typically classified as “independent contractors” and paid $40 to $44 per load. After spending money to insure and maintain their aging trucks, drivers average around $30,000 a year net income. They are not allowed to use restrooms at the port gates, and say they are sometimes called the N-word or animals.

► From KING-5 TV — Independent truckers go after companies they say owe them money

► In the Seattle Times — A belated payday for protesting Seattle port truckers

► In the Seattle Times — Boiling point at the port (Jon Talton column) — Today, cargo is barely moving. It’s a compelling human story. I listened to the plight of these drivers, many of whom are immigrants, trapped in low-wage jobs. Many walked off the job in protest and the trucking companies allegedly withheld their paychecks. The Teamsters and the port have been at odds over this for years, port officials saying they have limited ability to micromanage the private drayage companies on wages.

Get more up-to-date coverage at the website of the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports.

Also, visit the website of Puget Sound Sage, which is organizing a solidarity rally for the port truckers at 9 a.m. Monday, Feb. 13 at the Spokane Street Bridge Fishing area.

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!