Southern California dock worker defies ILWU, calls for joint action with protesting port truckers
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Nearly a week ago, the City of Oakland and the Board of Port Commissioners filed an intimidation lawsuit against truckers in California who are fighting a determined fight to obtain the Bill 5 (AB5) exemption. ) of the California State Assembly. The purpose of the lawsuit is to outlaw the truckers’ protests and send a message to the 22,000 West Coast longshoremen that they would face the same treatment if they went on strike.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) has kept dockworkers on the job for more than a month since their contract expired and is urging its members to cross the picket line for truckers. The ILWU is working closely with the Biden administration, including US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to prevent a strike.
An emergency injunction would allow city officials to order mass arrests of protesting truckers. Fearing such a crackdown could provoke broader opposition from port workers and other workers, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Delbert Gee said Monday he would need more time. before making a final decision, FreightWaves reported.
The shipping industry publication also reported that more than 100 dockworkers refused to cross picket lines in an act of solidarity in defiance of the ILWU.
George, a nine-year ILWU member, said FreightWaves“We are working without a contract at the moment, so we support the owner-operators and understand what they are trying to do.”
Videos speak World Socialist Website broadcasts on TikTok calling on dockers to stand up for truckers have been viewed nearly 19,000 times. Workers left comments including “United we stand” and “There are no truckers without port workers, and there are no port workers without truckers. They must come together and fight!
The WSWS spoke to an occasional dock worker in San Diego who also goes by the pseudonym Jose to protect himself from retaliation.
Jose expressed his solidarity with the striking truckers and denounced the lawsuit. “It’s stepping on your First Amendment rights. Protest is a God-given right of man. The way America is, you know, I don’t think they want to uphold this particular amendment.
Highlighting the punitive fines the workers would face if the lawsuit were granted, Jose said: “They put them through a court battle, you know, but you don’t have the money to fight it. The little man has no money to fight in court.
California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Democrats are apparently pushing AB5 to protect workers who are “misclassified” as independent contractors, such as Uber drivers. But the measure also threatens the livelihoods of 70,000 truck owner-operators who haul the vast majority of cargo from ports in the state. They would either have to start their own business at immense personal expense or become employees of a trucking company. The vast majority are immigrant drivers, and many are the sole service providers in their homes.
The Teamsters union, which has long colluded with trucking bosses to roll back conditions for union drivers, supports AB5 only because it cannot organize “independent contractors”.
The bill was introduced by Lorena Gonzales, who recently resigned from the California State Assembly to become leader of the California Federation of Labor.
The Teamsters are “trying to attract truckers,” Jose said. He called for dockers and truckers to unite and form independent grassroots committees to unify their struggles. “Drivers should be organized so that they are not pulled all over the place.”
He denounced the tiered employment system accepted by the ILWU, which reduces casuals to at-will employees without guaranteed hours, job security or rights at work.
“The daily work of a casual is a gamble. Most are not trained regularly and may not have used particular machinery, such as large tractors, for five years. You can be fired for making a single mistake.
Jose appealed to his fellow longshoremen to support truckers, especially casuals who are overworked. “We really have all the power as casuals because we’re the ones who go out and do the majority of the work.”
Tens of thousands of workers have been exempted from AB5, including manicurists, lawyers, writers and rideshare drivers. But Newsom has doubled down on efforts to ensure truck drivers do not receive an exemption.
Independent truckers face very difficult conditions, including constant pressure from shippers to cut costs, longer working hours and higher diesel prices, insurance and loan repayments. But the Democrats’ legislation has nothing to do with improving their conditions.
Rather, AB5’s sole purpose is to place drivers under the control of big business – and especially corporate unions – to impose work discipline on drivers who play a crucial role in the supply chain. This is especially important as the Biden administration escalates its reckless military confrontations with Russia and China.
Truckers have shown solidarity on several occasions. Last year they led a mighty defense of Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, who risked a vindictive sentence of 110 years in prison for a tragic road accident caused by a failure of the brakes of his semi-trailer. A wildcat strike by drivers halted virtually all commerce to and from Colorado, forcing the judge to reduce the sentence to 10 years. Preventing similar disruptions is certainly on the minds of AB5 proponents.
The World Socialist Website calls on stevedores and truckers to join forces and organize independently of unions, which are beholden to corporations and tied to the Democratic Party.