Independent truckers who haul containers in and out of six eastern ports will rally today to protest skyrocketing diesel prices and demand that their industry adopt a Port Trucker Bill of Rights.
The owner-drivers who move containers arriving at ports and railheads have seen diesel fuel prices jump 20 to 60 cents in the past few weeks.
"Steamship lines routinely secure fuel surcharges for themselves but leave port truckers hanging out to dry," said Teamsters President James P. Hoffa. "American and Canadian port truckers need a fuel surcharge to compensate for the huge increase in diesel fuel prices over the past twelve months. And they need a system to monitor the surcharge to ensure that it is actually passed on to the drivers. Local port authorities would be required to establish such a system under our Bill of Rights."
Other issues covered by the Teamster Bill of Rights include the abolition of mandatory unpaid work, safe and road-ready container chassis, safe and properly labeled containers, whistleblower protection, provision for health insurance and pension benefits, and the right to form a union.
Protests are planned in Jacksonville, FL; Savannah, GA; Charleston, SC; Baltimore, MD; Boston, MA; and Detroit, MI.
"Our ports regulate a wide range of activity, but stop short when it comes to the treatment of port drivers and the related public safety issues," said Tony Fernandez, president of the United Container Movers Assn. in Jacksonville. "With rising fuel prices, port drivers shouldn't be forced to choose between new retreads on their tires or food for their families."
Port truckers' efforts to organize have been hampered by laws that prohibit independent contractors from forming or joining a union. A recent court decision in Los Angeles confirmed that port truckers are contractors and not employees.