Teamsters Use Occupy Protest to Drive Home Message

The Teamsters union played no active role in organizing the Occupy movements that attempted to shut down West Coast ports on Monday, but the union has certainly been capitalizing on what it views as a perfect opportunity for focusing attention on conditions experienced by some drivers.

In an “Open Letter from America’s Port Truck Drivers,” four drivers from Seattle-Tacoma, Oakland and Los Angeles-Long Beach said the Occupy movement is capturing the hearts and minds of many working people because the movement focuses on basic economic fairness.

The drivers, self-described as one mother and three fathers, said that after paying for fuel, insurance, truck registration and lease costs, it is difficult to earn enough money to support their families.

On the other hand, the drivers don’t want to leave the business they love so much. “We want to work and do not have a safety net. Many of us are tied to one-sided leases. But more importantly, why should we leave? Truck driving is what we do, and we do it well,” they stated.

The drivers said they would rather stick together and transform the harbor drayage industry from within. Their answer is to support the strategy of the Teamsters union, which is to attempt to legally change their employment classification from independent contractors to employee drivers,

Independent contractors, by law, can not be unionized, but direct employees can be unionized.

“We drivers have a saying. We may not have a union yet, but no one can stop us from acting like one.”

In an indication that the drivers already have the support of the Teamsters, they concluded, “The bothers and sisters of the Teamsters have our backs. They help us make our voices heard.”

-- Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at bmongelluzzo@joc.com. Follow him on Twitter @billmongelluzzo.

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