In their continuing bid to be recognized as employees and organize for better pay and working conditions, owner-operators at ports across the country are staging demonstrations this week.
Most of these rallies are a follow-up to demonstrations held Jan. 31 at six Eastern ports, where drivers presented a Port Trucker Bill of Rights to port authority and local government officials.
Organized by the Teamsters union, this week's rallies will start in Houston today, followed on Wednesday by one in Boston. On Feb. 18, Friday, demonstrations will be held in Jacksonville, FL, Savannah, GA, Charleston, SC, Baltimore and Detroit.
Truckers in Los Angeles-Long Beach will present the Bill of Rights to officials at the two ports, then will drive to downtown Los Angeles to do the same with city officials.
Port drivers say long wait times are eating into their per-container pay, and the recent high diesel fuel prices has cut into their scant profits even more, especially in the Northeast.
Separate protests occurred last week at New Jersey's Port of Newark and at southern Florida ports.
The New Jersey rallies started Thursday and attracted an estimated 1,000 drivers or more. They continued through Friday and are expected to continue today in Newark and in Elizabeth, NJ. Truckers are scheduled to meet with shipping lines and trucking industry leaders at 9 a.m., and the demonstration is scheduled to continue until 1 p.m. Sam Cunninghame, executive director of the New Jersey Motor Truck Assn., has asked the owner-operators to choose three representatives to meet with the association's Bi-State Harbor Carriers Council.
On Friday, truckers were driving around the Newark port at about 5 mph, according to published reports. Maher Terminals, the port's largest terminal operator, said it was handling about half the trucks it normally does. Unlike the Teamsters-organized rallies scheduled for this week, the New Jersey protests were planned by independent owner-operators, but the union quickly stepped in to help.
The Miami action, characterized as a wildcat strike by the Miami Herald, idled shipping at the port Thursday. Trucker strikes at Port Everglades in south Florida reportedly turned violent, with shots fired at trucks and other trucks vandalized at warehouses.
Photo: Truckers protest at Port of Newark last week. Photo by Bette Garber.
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