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Port of Oakland Protest Update

| August 19, 2013
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Truck Driver J.R. Coleman talks (left, holding sign) with Michael Villeggiantes, the president of the Local 10 Longshoreman's Union. (Deborah Svoboda / KQED)

Truck driver J.R. Coleman (left, holding sign) talks with Michael Villeggiante, president of Local 10 of the longshoremen’s union. (Deborah Svoboda / KQED)

Update 2:30 p.m.  From the Port of Oakland website:

All Port of Oakland maritime facilities are now fully operational.

Port staff worked throughout the morning in close collaboration with local law enforcement to maintain access to maritime facilities. Despite 10-20 protesters at four locations  – OICT East and West gates, Ports America, and the AMPCO truck parking facility — ingress and egress was maintained at all facilities except OICT.

Currently all protesters have cleared away from all facilities and ILWU has returned to work at OICT.

Update 10:10 a.m. Isaac Kos-Reed, the port’s director of external affairs, told KQED’s Paul Lancour that independent truckers continued their protest this morning, showing up at a parking facility at the port, two gates at the Oakland International Container Terminal and one gate at the Ports America Terminal. Oakland police and other law enforcement were on hand to keep traffic flowing, Kos-Reed said.

However, at the international terminal, ILWU labor declared unsafe conditions and stopped working, triggering an arbitration process. After the protesting truckers agreed to halt their protest, Kos-Reed said, the longshoremen went back to work.

As we reported yesterday, tension between truckers and and longshoremen has been high, with the truckers complaining about mistreatment by the latter. One protesting trucker told KQED that “they don’t give us the dignity we deserve. They pretty much treat us like trash.”

Chris Lytle, the port’s executive director, told KQED that the reported abuse is “certainly a real issue.” He said he and senior terminal officials met with drivers last week, telling them that they should seek out terminal management if they felt they were being mistreated, rather than get into an altercation. Lytle said the truckers at the time were satisfied with that solution.

The other issue that the independent operators are upset about: long “turn” times at the port — truckers have complained about waiting up to eight hours to pick or up deliver goods. The independents are paid by the load and say the backlog has cost them thousands of dollars. Both the port and truckers have blamed the backlog on a transition among port operators last month that combined three separately run terminals into one.

As reported by the Oakland Tribune earlier this month, the backlog has occurred at the terminal controlled by SSA Terminals. From the Trib …

ILWU Local 10 President Mike Villeggiante laid the blame squarely on SSA, which last month took control of the affected terminal complex. He said the company took two berths out of operation at a time when cargo volumes have increased.

But Chris Lytle, the port’s executive director, told KQED’s Julia McEvoy that the amount of time it takes to complete a load has been steadily improving, hitting just about an hour on Friday. He said that on Thursday and Friday, the terminal logged 4,700 gate moves. “That’s as busy as almost any terminal in the country gets,” he said. “You can’t do that and have each move take six to seven hours.

“They’re thinking back to the way it was two and three weeks ago,” Lytle said, “and not the way it is today.”

The Contra Costa Times has a good report on the dispute, adding this wrinkle:

Making matters worse, truckers aren’t allowed to leave their trucks once in line at the terminals because of safety concerns.

Drivers caught outside their trucks are levied $50 fines, (trucker Cesar) Parra said …

Drivers said they outlined their complaints in a letter last week to Mayor Jean Quan, but nobody from the mayor’s office had responded. The port’s executive director, Chris Lytle, met with truckers Monday to discuss their concerns.

Update Tuesday 9:50 a.m. Ted Goldberg of KCBS Radio is tweeting on the port protest.

Update Tuesday 8:10 a.m.

We have a call out to the port now.

Update 6 p.m. From the port’s website:

Protest activities in the Port area have subsided for the day but may resume tomorrow. The Port is meeting with protesters to hear their concerns as well as share the concerns of the Port and its customers. Tomorrow, Oakland Police will again be in the Port area to actively maintain access to all terminal gates throughout the day. As of 5:00 pm today, the Port understands that all the terminals intend to be open for normal business tomorrow.

Update 4:15 p.m. All but one of the five terminals at the port were able to conduct at least some type of operation today, but the situation was “fluid” and sometimes terminals were closed and sometimes they were open, according  to port spokeswoman Marilyn Sandifur. At one point all the terminal gates were blocked by protesting truckers, but Oakland police later came to the scene to make sure that trucks could get in and out of the terminals, Sandifur said.

Update 2:15 p.m. From the Port of Oakland website:

Please be advised that protest activities affected maritime operations at Port terminals this morning. While this situation remains fluid this afternoon, Oakland Police is in the Port area and is working on keeping gates to marine terminals accessible. Gate access is available for PAOH, TraPac, Ben E. Nutter and Howard terminals. OICT gates are closed for the rest of the day. We will keep you updated as additional information becomes available.

Update 12:25 p.m. The port now says Oakland police are on the scene to ensure that the terminal opens.

Update 11:45 a.m. Chase Thomas reports that there are now 20-25 protesting truckers, on foot, still blocking the terminal. He says their main complaint is mistreatment by port workers. More on that below …

Original post

At least 50 independent truckers, frustrated with a backlog at the Port of Oakland and what they say is mistreatment by port workers, are blocking at least one entrance to the facility this morning. A spokesperson for the port says one terminal is closed. She said three other terminals are “intending to do business today” and that the situation is “fluid.” The port is the fifth largest in the nation.

Truckers have said they’ve waited up to eight hours to pick or up deliver goods. Truckers are paid by the load and say the backlog has cost them thousands of dollars. Both the port and truckers have blamed the backlog on a transition among port operators last month that combined three separately run terminals into one.

As reported by the Oakland Tribune earlier this month, the backlog has occurred at the terminal controlled by SSA Terminals. From the Trib …

ILWU Local 10 President Mike Villeggiante laid the blame squarely on SSA, which last month took control of the affected terminal complex. He said the company took two berths out of operation at a time when cargo volumes have increased.

But Chris Lytle, the port’s executive director, told KQED’s Julia McEvoy this morning that the “turn time,” how long it takes a trucker to complete a load and leave, has been steadily improving, hitting just about an hour on Friday. He said that on Thursday and Friday, the terminal logged 4,700 gate moves. “That’s as busy as almost any terminal in the country gets,” he said. “You can’t do that and have each move take six to seven hours.

“They’re thinking back to the way it was two and three weeks ago,” Lytle said, “and not the way it is today.”

Lytle confirmed that truckers were also mad about what they describe as abusive longshoremen at the port.

“Yes, it’s certainly a real issue,” he said. He said he and senior terminal officials met with drivers last week, telling them that they should seek out terminal management if they felt they were being mistreated, rather than get into an altercation. Lytle said the truckers were satisfied with that solution.

But protesting trucker Jorge Esparza told KQED’s Deb Svoboda today that “we’re only a number, and they mistreat us. They don’t give us the dignity we deserve. They pretty much treat us like trash.”

Esparza said it’s been taking him as long as 7½ hours to pick up a load, and that truckers have been losing their trucks because of the delays.

Another trucker, J.R. Coleman, said the waits have been two to seven hours.

Lytle said the protest would be counterproductive. The damage from shutting down a terminal, he said is,”really, really serious,” as shippers could lose confidence in the port. “Shippers are looking for consistency, for service,” he said. “When you have a disruption like this, shippers make the decision not to come back. There are a lot of other gateways that these shippers can move their goods across.”

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  • eaadams

    . [deleted]

  • Pual

    Truckers need a truckers union

  • john

    Hey Pual, you ever heard of the teamsters?

  • jj

    These Independent contractors don’t want to work under the constraints of a union. They are Independent for a reason. They influence the other truck drivers with threats of violence.