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It began with peeing in a bottle.

You might think that in this day and age, unless you are a wage-slave in FitzWalkerstan, you get to go to a bathroom while on the job with reasonable regularity.

Not so for the Port of Oakland's truckers. At least until very recently. Having their industry deregulated and having become thereby effectively disempowered, unable to form a union or bargain meaningfully because they are "Independent Contractors,"  these truckers found themselves waiting in lines for up to eight hours for a load, restricted by Port regulations from leaving their cabs. (1)

And that was only the worst of it. No increases in compensation for the last decade. No respect from Port authorities. Regulations on air quality imposing massive financial burdens on the truckers without just compensation, putting them deeply in the red. And knowing that they were being forced to pollute the planet and especially the air kids in West Oakland breathed because they are not allowed to turn their engines off while waiting.

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They tried making their voices - and horns - heard.

It didn't get through:

Regrettably, there has been no agreement reached on any of the items that we raised. In fact, there have been no offers of any kind that we could present to our membership. The City of Oakland has started legal proceedings against two of our members while claiming to be working to bring us solutions. The inaction of all parties addressed in this letter lead us to believe that there are no intentions to agree to any of the items that we need.
It's enough to make one ready to consider the "or else" part of your plan.

The word went out of few days ago. Now the "or else" is happening.

This morning, at 5:00 AM, Port Truckers set up picket lines at various terminals at the Port of Oakland.  With the International Longshoreman's and Warehouse Union Local 10 members voting last week to respect their long-held position not to cross picket lines, community activists, labor supporters and Occupiers lending a hand, and City and Port officials vowing to prevent "illegal work stoppages" the stage is set for a clash. One arrest of a community picketer has been tweeted and police seem to be aggressively attempting to keep berths open.

Here's how it is unfolding:

(Twitter maven @alyssa011968 and Kossack Alyssa is not feeling well - according to her tweet. We do not have her vigilant messaging keeping everyone up to date. We go with what we have...)

Updates and tweets will continue below.


Oakland Port Truckers Solidarity FAQ.

(1) If I understand correctly, in the last couple of months Port officials have placed a few port-a-potties in places accessible to the truckers. That this simple act of decency and common sense took decades to agree to is indicative of the absurd positions Port officials have taken when "negotiating" with the Port truckers.
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7:58 AM PT: Oakland Port Truckers and the 99% Maintain Roaming Blockade of the Oakland Port.

On the morning of Wednesday, November 27, 2013, the Oakland Port Truckers held a strike and picket line to shut down the Port of Oakland. The Oakland Police Department, in numbers more than 50 armed with guns and clutching batons, moved a standard picket line out of a series of roads connecting the port to the city streets. Acting as the armed force of the corporate power structure, the Oakland Police pushed and shoved each picket line that was formed by workers again and again to allow the trucks of corporations of the likes of COSCO and EVERGREEN to travel in and out of the port.

The truckers and their allies moved around the police to a new piece of the roadway time and time again to block the movement of business as usual, bravely defying the Oakland Police Department and slowing the movement of the Oakland Port's business.

Oakland Port Truckers were disappointed by Longshoremen and other union workers who they believed had previously stated would stand in solidarity with them. One longshoremen accused the truckers of being "occupiers," and having "no right to be here." Some saw this as the classic strategy of those in power to pit the people against each other, worker against worker.

The truckers are still picketing, moving to new pieces of the roadway and are calling for their allies to come out in solidarity. (Written at 7:38am)

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10:12 AM PT: MEDIA ADVISORY. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Wednesday, November 27, 2013.


Oakland, CA – Truckers working at the Port of Oakland will begin a major work stoppage this morning in protest of unsafe working conditions and unfair labor practices by terminal owners and Port of Oakland management. “We want to put an end to inhumane treatment. We need safer conditions and better compensation,” says port trucker Isaiah Thompson. This will be the third work stoppage this year.

As independent contractors, port truckers cannot join or form a traditional union to bargain, but as conditions continue to deteriorate on the Port, they have organized themselves into a group they are calling the Port of Oakland Truckers Association (POTA). POTA board member Jorge Esparza addressed a crowd of POTA truckers late Tuesday night, “I don’t care how you came to this country, if you flew, if you drove, if you ran, but I know you didn’t come here to be treated this way.” The vast majority of truck drivers on the port are immigrants.

There are many types of truck drivers who work at the Port of Oakland, but POTA is comprised of local, owner-operators and independent contractor truckers who live in the Bay Area. In previous work stoppages, other types of drivers have crossed their picket lines, but this time they are hoping employee drivers and out-of-area drivers from other cities and states will support them. “Shorter lines and more efficient terminals mean better working conditions for all the truckers at the port, and better air quality for Oakland,” said port trucker Roberto Ruiz. “All of us truckers breathe the air here and all of us sit for hours inside the terminal with no bathroom. The changes we are asking for will help all the drivers here at the port.”

During negotiations, representatives of POTA pushed for an extension of the CARB-enforced January 1 deadline to acquire trucks built in 2007 or later in order to continue working at the port. In addition, they requested grant funding to help 800 at-risk truckers offset the financial burden of costly truck upgrades required by current law. CARB denied these requests and claimed the deadline could not be extended and available monies had already been reallocated.

To encourage efficiency at the port, POTA demands include a congestion fee of $50 per hour after the first two hours truckers spend waiting in line to pick up a load. The association is also asking for an emissions fee of $50 per load for all Port of Oakland truck drivers to help offset the costs of buying and maintaining CARB-compliant trucks. Finally, the association is demanding transparency in CARB’s relationship with the Port of Oakland, specifically in the enforcement of regulations outlining minimum efficiency of terminal operation.

Port truckers will begin their work stoppage coinciding with the start of the Longshoremen’s morning shift, when the terminal gates open to trucks.  They are asking for supportive community members to join them at the Port of Oakland at 5am.

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11:29 AM PT:

Oakland, CA – Truckers working at the Port of Oakland began a major work stoppage this morning in protest of unsafe working conditions and unfair labor practices by terminal owners and Port of Oakland management.

Primary pickets were set up at the four SSA terminal gates beginning at 5am, but due to violent police action, lines began migrating between gates to prevent arrest and detainment of picketers. At least one person picketing was struck by the vehicle of a terminal employee crossing the picket line, and as of 10:30am, there were 5 arrests. Those arrested were cited and released. One police officer was injured when a car crossing the truckers’ picket line ran over his foot.

“The police were pushing us off the picket lines even though the judge said it’s illegal. After last time when they hit people with batons, people were afraid, but they kept moving to hold the lines,” said local port trucker Jose Gomez.

Despite some short lines in the morning, trucker traffic was down by 90%. “Normally, at this time of day the SSA gate has lines of trucks going all the way down the street in both directions, with trucks waiting in the center lanes as well. Today the lines were very short and mostly outside drivers,” said Gomez, “It’s important because SSA has a lot of ships coming in today and they are not going to be able to get trucks to take the loads.”

“When the local drivers won’t work, the port won’t work. Even if we are not the majority group of truckers servicing the port, we do the majority of the work,” said Roberto Ruiz, another local driver.

Some truckers who crossed picket lines today claimed they faced retaliation from their companies. During the last work stoppage, notoriously bad trucking dispatch company GSC charged their drivers illegal demurrage fees for honoring picket lines. When drivers refused to pay, they found deductions in their pay checks. While some long-distance truckers and employee drivers crossed picket lines, the vast majority of independent contractor truckers picketed or refused to take loads today. “In my company, there is no one working,” said Jonas, a local driver. Another driver claimed only one person from his company chose to work today.

At 10a.m. most of the supporters, media and police trickled out, while more truckers gathered at the primary SSA trucker entrance and resumed pickets on their own. Without the heavy police presence that accompanied activists and supporters, they were able to hold the picket lines at SSA. Whether local port truckers will continue the work stoppage after today is unclear.

11:44 AM PT:

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Port Truckers pickets cause traffic backup at Port of Oakland this morning.

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2:25 PM PT: Not sure what this means. Bad or good?

Originally posted to jpmassar on Wed Nov 27, 2013 at 07:27 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Hellraisers Journal.

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