“Oakland Port Protests Highlight Truckers’ Plight”
by Sunita Sohrabhji
India-West, Dec 16, 2011
Thousands of “Occupy” protestors took to the streets Dec. 12 near the Oakland, Calif., ports to highlight the brutish working conditions of the nation’s truck drivers, who work as many as 70 hours a week for low pay and no benefits.
Similar protests were held the same day and the following morning at ports throughout the West Coast, including Long Beach and San Diego in California; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle and Tacoma in Washington. The movement is called “Occupy Wall Street on the Waterfront.”
Indian Americans — predominantly Punjab natives — make up approximately one-third of truck owners and drivers in California. There are more than 32,000 Indian American truck drivers nationwide, according to various reports.
The West Coast port protests were primarily directed at large corporations such as Goldman Sachs who own trucking companies, but also indirectly targeted Indian American trucking company owners.
Valerie Lapin, spokeswoman for the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports, told India-West, “Truck drivers are definitely part of the 99 percent. They are such a clear example of those who are being exploited.”
Trucking companies are skirting their responsibilities by misidentifying truck drivers as independent owner operators, asserted Lapin, adding that this allows companies to get away with not offering health benefits to their employees, along with varied rates of pay, which can sometimes be as little as $30 per day.
Trucking company owners also pay no social security taxes for their workers, who are not protected by health and safety laws though they work in dangerous jobs. Continue reading