Unlike Teamster drivers employed by the ports, owner-operator truckers work under contract to trucking companies. They are paid a flat fee for each container moved, regardless of time or distance.
One driver told a major Seattle newspaper, the Post-Intelligencer, that he gets $37 to haul a container between the port and local railheads. With delays, the trip can take three to four hours.
More than 450 of the 1,000 owner-operators at the Puget Sound ports have signed Teamsters membership cards, according to union representatives. The union has been trying to organize the drivers at the Washington ports for almost two years.
Port authorities said the job action would have little immediate impact but could eventually cause some delays. Teamster drivers and other unionized workers serving the port have expressed support for the owner-operators, but there were no plans to join them in the walkout.
Owner-operators with similar complaints have been on strike at the Port of Vancouver, BC, for almost a month. The strike has affected the port to the point that some shipping companies were looking to move their operations. Union officials say that the Teamsters in Vancouver have reached a tentative settlement in the dispute.