I thought, when I first heard that Occupy Oakland was going to shut down the Port of Oakland, that it was just another example of the Occupy movement trying to affect corporate America. Well, it turns out there’s a bit more to the story than that.
As explained in this excellent AlterNet article, and an open letter from drivers for the Port of Oakland, ever since the deregulation of the port trucking business (drayage) in 1979, the port truckers have been in a downward spiral. To avoid paying payroll taxes, or any other of the normal costs associated with a trucking business (such as emissions testing and compliance for the trucks), the trucking companies either sold the trucks to the drivers, or leases them to the drivers at exorbitant rates, and classified the drivers as independent contractors, not employees. To date, the trucking companies have gotten away with this blatant misclassification of employees as contractors.
Read the open letter of some drivers from the Port of Oakland
How Goldman Sachs and Other Companies Exploit Port Truck Drivers — Occupy Protesters Plan to Shut Down West Coast Ports in Protest (AlterNet)
I first read about the plight of the truck drivers in this article by Reverend John Helmiere, a United Methodist minister, on his beating and arrest by Seattle police while participating in the blockade of the Port of Seattle by Occupy Seattle.
Finally, if you live near the coasts, you probably are aware of your nearest port and perhaps have heard about the conditions there. If you live in the interior of the U.S., don’t be complacent that these issues don’t affect you. First, almost all goods sold in this country (unless made in the USA, and even then components probably come from overseas) come through a port on their way to a store. So you are benefiting, in the form of lower prices, in almost every aspect of your daily life. Secondly, are you so sure there isn’t a port near you? I live almost 800 miles from the nearest coast, and yet the nearest port is only 580 or so miles (about one day’s drive) away. That’s practically in my neighborhood. Are these evil practices of these trucking companies affecting your neighbors?
- Occupy Activists Try to Shut Down West Coast Ports (alternet.org)
- Occupy shutdown costly for Oakland port (mercurynews.com)