An Open Letter from America’s Port Truck Drivers on Occupy the Ports

An Open Letter from America’s Port Truck Drivers on Occupy the Ports

Why are companies like SSA Marine, the Seattle-based global terminal operator that runs one of the West Coast’s major trucking carriers, Shippers’ Transport Express, doing this? Why would mega-rich Maersk, a huge Danish shipping and trucking conglomerate that wants to drill for more oil with Exxon Mobil in the Gulf Coast conduct business this way too?

To cheat on taxes, drive down business costs, and deny us the right to belong to a union, that’s why.

The typical arrangement works like this: Everything comes out of our pockets or is deducted from our paychecks. The truck or lease, fuel, insurance, registration, you name it. Our employers do not have to pay the costs of meeting emissions-compliant regulations; that is our financial burden to bear. Clean trucks cost about four to five times more than what we take home in a year. A few of us haul our company’s trucks for a tiny fraction of what the shippers pay per load instead of an hourly wage. They still call us independent owner-operators and give us a 1099 rather than a W-2.

We have never recovered from losing our basic rights as employees in America. Every year it literally goes from bad to worse to the unimaginable. We were ground zero for the government’s first major experiment into letting big business call the shots. Since it worked so well for the CEOs in transportation, why not the mortgage and banking industry too?

Also: How Goldman Sachs and Other Companies Exploit Port Truck Drivers

Astute consumers may know that the rock bottom we see advertised on endless TV and internet commercials are often the result of companies manufacturing their goods overseas, using sweatshop labor where poorly paid workers often toil in dangerous and unhealthy conditions so that we can enjoy the latest electronics, the coolest pair of jeans.

But what many people may not know is that these sweatshop conditions don’t end when those goods hit American soil. Between the dock where the cargo is unloaded and the shelf from which you pluck your treasure, there are several critical lynchpins. One of them is port truck drivers. These drivers (around 110,000 of them in the United States) are responsible for moving approximately 20 million containers a year from the ports to railway yards and warehouses. Drivers operating large trucks are expected to safely haul loads up to 80,000 pounds. It’s a job for professionals, only these professionals are earning poverty wages, sometimes even less than you’d make flipping burgers at a fast food restaurant. Once a middle-class profession, the port trucking (or drayage) industry has now been dubbed “sweatshops on wheels.”

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The shocking truth about the crackdown on Occupy

The shocking truth about the crackdown on Occupy

Oh hell.

The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that “New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers” covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding. Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that “It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk.”

I guess this means they’re scared? The guys in charge, I mean, not just the people getting their rights quite literally stomped upon?

In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette and Washingtonsblog.com reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on “how to suppress” Occupy protests.

At least, finally, it’s getting out that Occupy does in fact have a message… a fairly clear message, despite what the media would have you believe. It’s there. They just don’t want to admit it.

The mainstream media was declaring continually “OWS has no message”. Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online “What is it you want?” answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.

The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.

No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.

When I saw this list – and especially the last agenda item – the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.

Yes, of course. You can protest the issues and form grassroots movements and picket abortion clinics, no problem. You can tilt at windmills ’til the cows come home and nobody gives a damn, because they know you aren’t even pointed in the right direction, so why would anyone be concerned? But when you take aim at the real problem, at the little man behind the Wizard of Oz screen, then all of a sudden we get to see exactly what all that money can buy. Us, I guess, and all the rights and liberties we thought were worth more than mere cash could cover.

45 percent in US struggle to make ends meet

45 percent in US struggle to make ends meet

Nearly half of all Americans lack economic security, meaning they live above the federal poverty threshold but still do not have enough money to cover housing, food, healthcare and other basic expenses, according to a survey of government and industry data.

Come on, job creators, get busy and help out a bit here! Shake us out of our lazy uneducated rut with something to do…

The group also found “that full-time work fails to provide economic security for 25 percent of adult workers,” because of stagnating and falling wages over the last decade.

“A chief cause of economic insecurity is 1970s level wages that fail to cover modern expenses,” it said.

While households with two full-time workers can help boost a family’s economic security, 22 percent of adults with children who work full-time and have a partner who also has a full-time job cannot cover basic needs.

At the same time, 21 percent of homes headed by a college graduate lack economic security.

“In the past, threats to economic security were supposedly clear — dropping out of high school, being a single parent or having a large family. In today’s economy, we cannot assume we know who lacks security,” it said.

…oh. : (

Oakland Occupy Raid

Sources: Massive Occupy Raid Imminent

UPDATE: Oakland camp is in fact being dismantled now.

Oakland has agreed to pay for 700-to-1,000 officers from numerous agencies to be deployed over the next three days, according to an Oakland official who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity. The operation was shaping up as the largest and most expensive police action in Oakland in recent memory.

The cost of the operation could reach $1 million, the official said. Combined with the city’s previous effort to evict the protesters, including at least two violent clashes, cleanup and private security that may be hired to prevent the protesters from resettling on the plaza, the overall cost of Occupy Oakland could reach $5 million, he said.

From Occupy Protests Live Blog | Al Jazeera

Interestingly, the Oakland school board has recently decided to shutter five schools starting next fall, with the goal of saving just $2m.

Portland, Ore., Mayor Orders ‘Occupiers’ Out

Portland, Ore., Mayor Orders ‘Occupiers’ Out

Today, in Portland, Oregon, Mayor Sam Adams ordered Occupy Wall Street protesters in his city to clear out. Their deadline: 12:01 a.m., Sunday. He cited a rise in crime around the encampments that includes multiple assaults and two drug overdoses in two days. He also warned that police will be prepared to arrest anyone who does not leave. This move comes after Adams sent an open letter earlier this week to members of Occupy Portland, writing that their space behind city hall was not sustainable.

This highlights, I think, one of the most difficult aspects to maintaining an Occupy camp. In the spirit of wanting to extend help and compassion to everyone around us rather than cutting off those needing help, Occupiers are tempted to give help wherever its need presents. Earlier tonight, Occupy Reno… while very small… was faced with the urge to give aid to a homeless gentleman across the street. He was diabetic with some severe injuries, and had several cats in a kennel, and Reno’s Occupiers’ first impulse was to suggest that he move into their site where they might help him get medical treatment and find a shelter for the cats.

Occupy Portland has been an inspiration with its determination to feed and shelter anyone needing help, even when those people weren’t part of or interested in the Occupy movement at all. As a result, they’ve opened themselves up to some devastating consequences because… let’s face it honestly… Occupy is not built for that. Occupy Reno, tonight, had to override itself with the knowledge that it is not prepared or equipped for taking in people with physical or mental diseases, or addictions, or the other issues which plague the homeless people around us. Occupy’s purpose is more specific than that and it can’t allow itself to be derailed by outreach programs towards the homeless and neediest that Occupy is not equipped to handle. We aren’t doing anyone any service that way.

Even as small as we are, we’ve already had to clean house a couple times in order to keep ourselves focused on the reason why we’re here. Ultimately with tonight’s homeless gentleman we had to settle for offering some assistance towards the nearest shelter where he might find trained staffpeople prepared to help him get the aid he needs. The message of the protest becomes lost when the hearts of the protesters are distracted trying to perform community services that should be the government’s domain instead… instead of filling in the gaps where the government fails its people, we should be pointing and yelling and shouting about those weak points in outrage instead…. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for other places such as Portland, where their Occupy stance was swayed by wanting to help everyone all at the same time.

A mainstream win for Occupy Wall Street

A mainstream win for Occupy Wall Street

Proof that anger at the financial sector is broad-based: Plans to charge fees for debit-card use are crumbling

Also proof that when enough ordinary littlepeople get mad enough to make themselves heard, it has a very real and immediate effect against the corporate interests which otherwise think they can roll over everyone. I bet the banks are nervous, and I hope that it’s a well-founded fear.

Occupy San Francisco: the teenager who was refused cancer treatment

Occupy San Francisco: the teenager who was refused cancer treatment

Now 18, Istina, from the city of Sisters in Oregon, has spent the past three weeks living in a tent at the Occupy San Francisco protest and says she will stay there indefinitely, despite her illness.

She was inspired to take part in the protest by the refusal of her insurance company to pay for treatment for her chronic myelogenous leukaemia.

She said: “They denied me on the terms of a pre-existing condition. Seeing as I had only had that insurance for a few months, and I was in early stage two which meant I had to have had it for at least a year, they determined it was a pre-existing condition and denied me healthcare.”