Occupy Seattle’s General Assembly met on 3/21/2012 and agreed through consensus on this statement and committed to further action on behalf of port truck workers:
Occupy Seattle, in solidarity with the port truck drivers of Seattle, demands that the Washington state bills HB 2527 and 2395 be passed into law by the anniversary of Cesar Chavez’s birth, March 31st, 2012, or we shall take further direct action in consultation and solidarity with the port drivers.
If necessary we shall call on other Occupys, especially those located in major transportation corridors, to take solidarity actions that they deem appropriate.
Additional history and information on these issues:
Since the passage of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which gave collective bargaining rights to some workers and legalized part of the labor movement in the United States, large populations of workers, such as farmworkers, domestic laborers, and port truck drivers (currently classified as “independent contractors”) have been left in the cold.
Roosevelt, in working for the passage of New Deal legislation, had to capitulate to the white supremacist Southern Senators and Congressmen who were the right wing of the Depression-era Democratic Party coalition. So the labor legislation found a way to exclude Southern Black workers, not by name, but by occupation, so that Southern white landowners could continue to superexploit cheap Black labor at will.
This was at the same time that life under Jim Crow in the South was all but unbearable for Black people, and lynching was endemic and treated as a sporting event by Southern elites. This legacy of white supremacy and inequality of human rights for workers is what we are still fighting to undo in 2012. The US imperialist state put these obstacles to equality of labor rights in place, and we are demanding that it remove them immediately. We also demand that law enforcement officers cease and desist from selectively harassing and ticketing these drivers in retaliation for their support of the independent truckers association.
These workers are bereft of the rights given to “employees” as defined by law. This separation, exploited by the 1% and targeting migrant workers and economic refugees, must end.
This legislative session has the potential to become a landmark session for port truck drivers in the State of Washington. Two bills addressing these problems have been proposed: HB 2527, which would place the responsibility for legal fines levied by law enforcement against unsafe intermodal chassis on the companies which own those chassis rather than on the drivers who are directed to haul them and must work as directed, and HB 2395, which would re-classify port drayage drivers in Tacoma and Seattle from the legal category of independent contractors” to that of “employees”, finally recognizing their rights.
Occupy Seattle expects Washington State to act on these bills before the end of this legislative session. These bills not only set the stage to redress the inequalities affecting port truck drivers, but could set a precedent for sweeping change in how government views the right to union organizing. Occupy Seattle stands in solidarity with port truck drivers, as it has stood in solidarity with organized laborers in past months.
We also call upon the other Occupy movements, especially those located in port cities and major transportation corridors, to inform the state governments under which they live that they fully expect passage of the same legislation enabling port truckers to unionize in all coastal states by the end of 2012.
Occupy Seattle eagerly awaits the passage of these bills . If they are not passed, signed, and enacted by March 31st, 2012 (the birthday of Cesar Chavez), Occupy Seattle will have no choice but to engage in direct action in solidarity with the workers of Washington State, and and to call upon Occupy nationwide to join with us in this action. Direct action has notably won victories for the working class and will again, should state legislators fail to address these issues appropriately. Occupy is ready.