AFL-CIO President John Sweeney last week joined a rally of striking owner-operators and supporters at the Port of Seattle.
Sweeney pledged the support of the 14-million-member labor federation to the cause of the independent truckers who are trying to unionize. He accused transport companies of denying workers the right to organize in the midst of a booming U.S. economy.
More than 100 of these truckers stopped work last Tuesday. The truckers are protesting the pay-per-load system, which means they can sit without pay for hours while waiting for long container turnaround times.
Teamsters officials say they have signed membership cards from about half of the 1,000 drivers at the Port of Seattle and the Port of Tacoma, but they need more to seek a representation election.
Strikers targeted Seattle Freight Service with the rally Thursday because the company, one of about 35 that serve the port, allegedly fired two truckers Tuesday for their participation in the labor action. About 250 truck drivers and supporters attended the rally, at which Sweeney spoke. This weekend, the Teamsters targeted four more companies with informational pickets.
The Port of Seattle reported last week that all its terminals were operating, though probably at a slower pace because of the dispute. The Port of Tacoma experienced some disruption in moving containers between waterfront terminals and warehouses.
Thursday night, union officials held a meeting with port representatives. Apparently the talks were positive, according to a spokesperson for the Teamster-backed Seattle Union Now, which is coordinating the truckers' action with Teamsters Local 174.
A similar action at the port of Vancouver, British Columbia, has shut down the port for more than three weeks.