Monday, December 12, 2011

Port drivers have this to say about Occupy the Ports

In NY, an Occupy the Ports news conference was held with a translator who speaks Squid.

Today the Occupy movement is trying to shut down West Coast ports to show how a Goldman Sachs company exploits port workers and destroys the environment. Goldman Sachs, aka "the great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity," owns a stake in the largest cargo terminal operator in the U.S.

According to the twittersphere, the ports of Oakland, Long Beach and Portland are at a standstill. Neither the Teamsters nor the longshoremen's unions officially support the direct action. Four port drivers, in an open letter, explained how they feel about the shutdown:
It may be tempting for media to ask questions about whether we support a shutdown, but there are no easy answers. Instead, we ask you, are you willing to listen and learn why a one-word response is impossible?
Poverty and pollution are like a plague at the ports. ...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 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. 
There are no restrooms for drivers. We keep empty bottles in our cabs. Plastic bags too. We feel like dogs. An Oakland driver was recently banned from the terminal because he was spied relieving himself behind a container. Neither the port, nor the terminal operators or anyone in the industry thinks it is their responsibility to provide humane and hygienic facilities for us. It is absolutely horrible for drivers who are women, who risk infection when they try to hold it until they can find a place to go. 
The companies demand we cut corners to compete. It makes our roads less safe. When we try to blow the whistle about skipped inspections, faulty equipment, or falsified logs, then we are “starved out.” That means we are either fired outright, or more likely, we never get dispatched to haul a load again.

Even the few of us who are hired as legitimate employees are routinely denied our legal rights under this system. Just ask our co-workers who ... were axed after wearing Teamster T-shirts to work. They were protesting the lack of access to clean, indoor restrooms with running water. 
...The brothers and sisters of the Teamsters have our backs. They help us make our voices heard. But we need your help too so we can achieve the day where we raise our fists and together declare: “No one could stop us from forming a union.” 
In solidarity, 
Leonardo Mejia
SSA Marine/Shippers Transport Express
Port of Long Beach, 10-year driver
Yemane Berhane
Ports of Seattle & Tacoma
6-year port driver 
Xiomara Perez
Toll Group
Port of Los Angeles, 8-year driver 
Abdul Khan
Port of Oakland
7-year port driver