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Seattle Port Truckers Continue to Fight Poor Working Conditions

February 13, 2012

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About 300 truckers, unionists and supporters protested at the Port of Seattle Monday morning at a rally along the Duwamish Waterway in Seattle. The rally was part of an effort among Seattle port drivers to call attention to poor working conditions and wages as well as safety violations
for which the truckers say they have no control, reports The Seattle Times.

These drivers, with support form the Teamsters union, have been demonstrating for several weeks, resulting in spot trucking shortages in the harbor, says the Journal of Commerce. Some drivers took off from work to attend hearings in Olympia, Seattle's capital, on legislation that would classify drivers as employees of harbor trucking companies.

The drivers, primarily immigrants, complain of having to haul overweight loads in unsafe trailers, a liability the drivers say they have no control over because, as one man told Mynorthwest.com, the port removed the scales used to weigh the short-haul loads. However, the Port of Seattle told the website that "no scales have been removed and the weights are listed on the manifests. It said any issues for the drivers are an issue for the shippers and not the port."

On Feb. 7, reports the Seattle Times, the truckers were successful in their attempts to collect back pay from Edgmon Trucking, a short-haul (drayage) company that withheld January pay in response to the slowdown caused by driver protests.

Some of the strikers already have lost their jobs, because hauling companies' accounts were canceled, driver Yonas Tibebu told the Times.

Seattle Times writer John Talton writes that the House in Olympia passed HB 2395, which grants short-haul truck drivers more of the rights of employees under state law. However, many drivers say they prefer to remain owner-operators, not become employees, reports the Journal of Commerce.

"There's not a lack of sympathy for these hurting drivers among port commissioners," Talton writes. "But they are quickly finding themselves on the wrong side of a moral issue. And a bad outcome could put Seattle on the wrong side of competitiveness."

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