by Nate Jackson For more than a week, hundreds of truck drivers at our seaport have stopped working to protest unfair treatment, unsafe work conditions and their lack of workplace rights. They are putting their livelihoods on the line because they know that fighting together is the best way to win a brighter future.
These short-haul truck drivers are one of the engines behind economic strength of the Port of Seattle. They have critical jobs moving containers from ports to terminals, getting the goods we need from the shipping lines to the retailers and factories. But they labor in the background, working for low pay, many living check to check.
After years of sub standard treatment, unsafe working conditions and disrespect in the workplace, the shutdown at the Port of Seattle was sparked by more than 100 of these drivers who went to the State Capitol in Olympia last week to speak up for better work conditions. They talked about unsafe loads and a lack of basic employee rights that allows companies like Edgmon, one of the largest port companies, to mistreat them.
Then, when they reported to work the next day, they were harassed, threatened, retaliated against, and insulted to the point that they decided enough was enough: they weren’t going back to work until things got better.
Since then, the work stoppage has only grown. Containers are piling up, rail yards are quiet, and the companies who do business at the port are getting scared.
Of course, big corporations always get scared when workers bring attention to poor working conditions and take action together to stand up for their rights. Some companies like Edgmon even try to punish their workers. Apparently in retaliation for the action of the drivers, Edgmon had been withholding checks unfairly.
The workers wouldn’t stand for that. On February 7th, hundreds of drivers, mostly East African immigrants, pressured Edgmon by peacefully gathering in mass outside the administrative offices.They spoke to the media, the police and anyone who would listen about the latest wrong from Edgmon.
The drivers know that this is an important first step. Through collective action they had a victory, but they are hungry for more change. They’re just getting started.
That’s why we need to support them. Let’s stand together because every worker deserves to be treated with respect and have the ability to earn a living that let’s them take care of their families without unnecessary risk.
They won’t be ignored again.