Oakland Port Strike Results in Suit Against Truck Driversby Jana Ritter - Published: 11/04/2013
In what organizers are calling a “major escalation,” the City of Oakland has filed suit against two owner-operator truck drivers for alleged participation in a work stoppage at the Port of Oakland on August 19th of this year that severely affected many businesses. Attorney Dan Siegel will appear for them at court today in a preliminary hearing.
The first strike led to many more truckers shutting down the port a second time with pickets on the morning of October 21 and followed with a major slowdown for a second day when local port truckers refused to work and staged pickets at the SSA terminal, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan requested a meeting with representatives for the Port Truckers to persuade them to return to work.
Mayor Quan asked for 10 days in which to pull together a meeting to discuss Port Truckers' demands with Port commissioners, legislators, and members of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), but has not contacted them since to schedule such a meeting. Instead, 11 days later, at least two representatives are being sued for unlimited damages exceeding $25,000. Worse is that Port of Oakland truckers are some of the lowest paid port drivers in the country. This fact was brought to Mayor Quan's attention for the first time, when she met with some of the same representatives being sued, in late October.
“The Mayor promised to help these truckers, then turned around and sued them. It's negotiating in bad faith; it's a betrayal,” said Elizabeth Flynn, a West Oakland resident who supported the truckers' recent wildcat strike. Oakland residents and activists supported the truckers during the October 21 shutdown at the port, bolstering their picket line at the SSA terminal, where they say conditions are the worst. “Mayor Quan has the authority to call off this lawsuit and return to the bargaining table. It seems like she wants them to go back on strike, I mean, what other options do they have?”
Over 200 truckers, their families, and local supporters gathered this weekend at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in the Port of Oakland for a cookout. Local port truckers and ILWU members addressed the crowd, and nearly $1000 was raised for a strike fund in case of another strike or work slowdown. Independent operators are legally prohibited from forming a sanctioned union, but many Oakland owner-operators have formed the Port of Oakland Truckers Association to organize and bargain for better conditions and compensation.
It is still unknown what support will be offered to the two truck drivers in the hot seat over the whole ordeal.