Teamsters representatives met Saturday in Charlotte, NC, with port truckers and the leadership of several port trucker organizations. Truckers came from Baltimore, Charleston, Norfolk, VA, Houston, Jacksonville, FL, Los Angeles/Long Beach, and Savannah, GA, to discuss the possibility of changing their status from independent contractors to employees in order to join a union and negotiate better pay, benefits and working conditions.
The Teamsters say they will use the information gathered at the meeting to determine the best way to organize port drivers so they can become Teamster members and begin collective bargaining.
The meeting took place even as the Federal Trade Commission is investigating the port truckers' organizing efforts as a possible violation of federal trade laws. The Teamsters called the FTC's investigation intimidation.
"Drivers serving U.S. ports have not had a pay raise in the last 20 years," said Robert Bates, president of the Charleston chapter of the United Container Movers Assn. In fact, as congestion at the ports has worsened, drivers actually earn less because they are able to move fewer containers per day.
Other organizations represented at the meeting were the Baltimore-based United Container/Rail Haulers of America, The Latin American Truckers Assn. of Los Angeles/Long Beach, and the newly formed Texas Truckers Assn. based in Houston. The truckers plan to have another meeting after the first of the year.
In August, Teamsters President James P. Hoffa appointed George W. Cashman to serve as National Port Director, indicating the union's interest in unionizing the nation's estimated 40,000 port truckers.