by Nate Jackson Living check to check is hard enough. Giving up those checks because an employer is mistreating you is even harder. But that’s exactly what Seattle port truck drivers did this month.
The Seattle port truck drivers three-week walkout brought them some big wins, but it also showed how deep the problems run at the Port of Seattle.
The Port of Seattle is our port. The people of King County own the land where our port operates, and the people of King County elect the port commissioners who set up the rules. But lately the Port has failed to do its job. The commissioners who are supposed to oversee our port are looking the other way while the big companies take advantage of truck drivers, airport workers, and many others.
Forgetting its roots?
The Port was created in 1911 to oversee the seaport and eventually the airport. It was designed to counteract the abuses that big companies were hurling on workers at the time. Back then, people were not able to get their products moved without jumping through hoops and paying heavy fees to the for-profit companies that had a stranglehold on the emerging shipping industry.
The people of the region waged a long organizing fight and eventually won a historic vote to create the publicly owned and operated Port. The idea was that a publicly-controlled Port could streamline operations, develop a strong regional economy, and protect workers from big business abuses.
The Port has in fact played a central role in the region’s development, and the jobs that the seaport and airport create are vital to our region. Some would even call the port the lifeblood of our local economy.
But the Port needs to do more to live up to its mission and do right by the people who work at our seaport and airport. The Port of Seattle’s own Office of Social Responsibility says in its mission statement:
"The Port's Office of Social Responsibility engages stakeholders to inspire commitment and ensure that all port business actions are conducted within a framework of socially responsible values such as fairness, inclusion, openness and economic development for all."
As the Port truck drivers helped reveal, right now the Port of Seattle is simply not doing enough to make sure that the jobs created by our port are good jobs that provide living wages, reliable schedules and the ability for workers to organize for better working conditions.
Every job at our port should be a good job. It’s a fight that port truck drivers can win, and it’s a fight that airport workers and others can win too. It’s a fight for basic fairness, and the Port of Seattle should be on our side.