Truckers call for nationwide port strike
by Bill Mongelluzzo
The JOURNAL of COMMERCE
June 23, 2004
LOS ANGELES - Truckers are again calling for a nationwide strike to
protest high fuel prices and working conditions at the nation's
ports. The strike, slated for the week of June 28-July 4, coincides
with the start of the peak shipping season (schedules).
The movement appears to be a loosely-coordinated effort by harbor
truck drivers from California to the East Coast to pressure shipping
lines to pay higher diesel fuel surcharges. In flyers printed in
English and Spanish, the drivers also cited poor working conditions
at the nation's ports and a recent court decision that will open the
border to Mexican truck drivers under the North American Free Trade
At the same time, the Teamsters issued an open letter to the
steamship industry urging lines to compensate drivers for high fuel
costs or face a "long hot summer on the docks."
The Teamsters for several years have been attempting to organize the
mostly independent truckers at the nation's ports. But the union
denied it is behind the calls for a strike, said Chuck Mack,
director of the Teamsters Port Division.
Mack said the union is urging shipping lines to address the root
causes of driver discontent. Drivers need higher pay, compensatory
fuel surcharges when the price of diesel spikes and compensation
when the drivers wait in line at marine terminals or when they
shuttle containers inside marine terminals.
"The level of frustration among drivers is high," Mack said. "All it
takes is a spike in fuel costs or delays at the terminals to set
Union officials met June 14 in Washington with port drivers and
local leaders from 18 ports from Los Angeles-Long Beach to New York-
New Jersey to discuss the fuel situation. Following the meeting,
Teamsters President James Hoffa in a statement warned carriers
that "without a swift response drivers are likely to park their
trucks until conditions improve."
Truckers in May shut down the Port of Oakland for a week, and there
were scattered demonstrations in Los Angeles-Long Beach, Houston and
Hampton Roads, Va.
"They have no way to address these issues so they take job actions.
They stop working," Mack said.
Harbor truckers in the past week have been distributing flyers at
ports on the West, Gulf and East coasts calling for a nationwide
strike beginning next Monday.