Owner-operators hauling containers at 16 ports in the United States and Canada are staging rallies today to protest high diesel prices, low wages and lengthy unpaid delays.

Organized by the Teamsters Port Division, the protests will consist of informational picketing and rallies, similar to what was seen in California last week, including what Teamsters spokesman Ron Carver predicts will be some "pretty raucous protesting." In New Orleans and Portland, Ore., Teamsters will deliver a copy of the union's Port Truckers Bill of Rights to port administrators> -- a document that has been delivered to many other ports during protest rallies earlier this year.
Rallies will be held at the ports in Baltimore, Boston, Charleston (S.C.), Chicago, Detroit, Hampton Roads/Norfolk (Va.), Jacksonville (Fla.), Long Beach (Calif.), New Orleans, Oakland (Calif.), Portland (Ore.), Savannah (Ga.), Seattle-Tacoma, Newark (N.J.), Houston, Philadelphia, and Vancouver, British Columbia.
The Teamsters are calling for the government to continue to use the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to help lower the price of diesel, much as it uses interest rate adjustments to control inflation. Drivers want 100% of fuel surcharges passed through to the driver, higher wages, and fewer unpaid hours waiting in line to pick up cargo.
"As the months go by, drivers in more ports are signing on, and forming groups and associations affiliating with the Teamsters," says Carver of the union's efforts to help organize the drivers. "Conditions just keep getting worse; that's why it's growing. Despite info from the PR flack, in virtually every port in the country conditions are worse than they were a year ago. The drivers are convinced that they're going to need collective bargaining if they're ever going to get ahead."
That feeling is confirmed by Jim Stewart, a spokesman for the truckers protesting in Savannah, who will be protesting alongside the road outside the main container port gate, much as they did over Labor Day weekend.
"We're going to be informing the public and the press, letting everybody know … that nothing has changed. Our port has let it be known that they have made all these fantastic changes that are so great for the truckers, and it's a worse mess than it was before."
The rallies are being held in conjunction with protests worldwide organized by the London-based International Transport Workers' Federation. The protests in other countries will focus on demanding an end to the excessive operating hours that put truckers and those they share the highways with in danger from driver fatigue.
Caption: Port drivers in Savannah protested over the Labor Day weekend.