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Truckers Block Port in Protest
Truck drivers block access to the Oakland International Container Terminal in a protest that began at 5am Monday morning. Drivers feel they have not been treated with respect or dignity by port workers. Wait times have been extreme, as much as 8 hours for a load.
Oakland police worked to re-open the terminal. Protesters continue this morning with Oakland police facilitating movement at each entrance.
Cesar Parra is one driver in the blockade. More than 100 drivers participated in blocking the port gates. “We are not allowed even to go to the bathroom,” said Parra. Safety concerns require drivers to stay in their truck once they are in line. Drivers can be fined $50 for being outside of their trucks.
“The drivers are treated as less than human beings,” said Gloria Stockmyer of Stockmyer Trucking. “Nowhere else in America would we accept people getting treated the way these guys get treated at the port.”
Long waits cut into profits of independent contractors, who are paid by the load, not by the hour. Long waits have been a recurring issue for this port. Drivers made a blockade in 2004.
Recent changes including extending the yard, using a different numbering system and consolidating five berths into one terminal has made it harder for longshoremen to find containers.
Melvin MacKay, a former longshoremen’s union president, said, “Everything is slow now because we are not acclimated to the system.”
On the contrary, SSA Marine Senior Vice President Bob Watters said the terminal has been making turnarounds in the same amount of time as it was before the consolidation. “It is unfortunate that a small fraction of the trucking community … is inconveniencing all the port’s customers and workers,” he said.
“We understand it is important for trucker turnaround time to be as short as possible,” port spokeswoman, Marilyn Sandifur, said. “We’re working with our partners to see what other steps can be taken to make this happen.”