FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Troqueros Flex Muscles at Long Beach

During the countdown to the May Day immigrant walkouts, transportation industry commentators worried about the impact that immigrant strikes would have on the nation’s ports. Many feared repeats of the 2004 and 2005 strikes by mostly immigrant Latino port truckers (or troqueros), which crippled freight traffic up and down the West Coast.

Troqueros at the nation’s largest port complex, Los Angeles/Long Beach, did not disappoint.
L.A. SHUT DOWN

The thousands of tons of goods that flow from the two combined ports on a daily basis bound for warehouses and retail shelves nationwide came to a near, shuddering halt on May 1. Over 90 percent of the 12,000 truckers that service the port refused to come into work, according to the California Trucking Association. Port terminal operators confirmed that 80-90 percent of truck traffic was halted for the day.

By mid-morning of the next day the port was still only running at 20 percent capacity as drivers slowly trickled back to work. Line haul drivers (who shuttle freight containers over longer routes between ports and rail yards) are also believed to have refused work that day throughout Southern California, further congesting traffic throughout the system. Drivers as far as Las Vegas and Phoenix were also reported to have refused containers along the overland freight corridor to the L.A./Long Beach port as part of the shutdown.

“The work stoppage flowed down the line,’ said Ernesto Nevarez, an organizer who has worked with California port truckers for 20 years. “It didn’t stop because the harbor simply shutdown–it was caused by truckers, by Labor. They made it happen with their own organizing.”

Life on the downward sloping margin-a major cause of previous port walkouts-is once again pushing drivers into action. Drivers who shoulder fuel, insurance, maintenance, and truck finance payments for their most part on their own, while making an average wage of only $11.33 per hour from shippers and other contractors, are working hard just to stay in place.

“It isn’t just about the price of diesel fuel, troqueros haven’t seen cost of living increases since their strike in 1993,” said Nevarez. “Many are working double shifts or a shift and a half to make up the difference.”

The truckers location at a vulnerable point in the over-stretched freight distribution network gives non-union port drivers tremendous power. On May 1, this shop floor power turned into a powerful expression of anger at their own work conditions and solidarity with the immigrant rights movement.
ANGER OVER RAIDS

Indeed some of the impetus for the action came from a familiar source of anger for many immigrant workers-aggressive raids by the ICE. Although many troqueros in the Los Angeles-area have work visas or have been naturalized, they have also seen their share of raids.

Two weeks before May 1, a line of 50 trucks were held up during one such raid. A number of drivers lacking full documentation on their person at the time were pulled out of their cabs and their trucks were towed away.

This incident was cited as one of the reasons-along with the heightened community and media focus on the marches across the country–that drove many of the truckers into honoring the organizing efforts being made by made by a relatively small and informal network of the workers.

“Anger exploded over the raid. Before all this we were expecting at best a 30 percent shutdown of the harbor,” said Nevarez.

A group of about 250 troqueros and community supporters rallied during the shutdown at Banning Park, a local park that has been used in the past as a meeting and organizing point for drivers.

“What the community saw was a real union meeting the way it was meant to be and how it was 100 years ago,” said Nevarez of the Banning Park rally. “A bunch of workers in a big circle all voicing their opinionsA union meeting in the open park, no permits, no stages, nothing.”

More port actions are expected over the summer as gas prices–and troqueros’ frustrations–continue to rise.

CHRIS KUTALIK is co-editor of Labor Notes magazine in Detroit. He can be reached at: chris@labornotes.org .

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

January 17, 2019
Stan Cox
That Green Growth at the Heart of the Green New Deal? It’s Malignant
David Schultz
Trump vs the Constitution: Why He Cannot Invoke the Emergencies Act to Build a Wall
Paul Cochrane
Europe’s Strategic Humanitarian Aid: Yemen vs. Syria
Tom Clifford
China: An Ancient Country, Getting Older
Greg Grandin
How Not to Build a “Great, Great Wall”
Ted Rall
Our Pointless, Very American Culture of Shame
John G. Russell
Just Another Brick in the Wall of Lies
Patrick Walker
Referendum 2020: A Green New Deal vs. Racist, Classist Climate Genocide
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Uniting for a Green New Deal
Matt Johnson
The Wall Already Exists — In Our Hearts and Minds
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Flailing will get More Desperate and More Dangerous
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Three
January 16, 2019
Patrick Bond
Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World
John Grant
Joe Biden, Crime Fighter from Hell
Alvaro Huerta
Brief History Notes on Mexican Immigration to the U.S.
Kenneth Surin
A Great Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons
Elizabeth Henderson
Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion
Jeff Mackler
Trump’s Syria Exit Tweet Provokes Washington Panic
Barbara Nimri Aziz
How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: When Just One Man Says, “No”
Cesar Chelala
Violence Against Women: A Pandemic No Longer Hidden
Kim C. Domenico
To Make a Vineyard of the Curse: Fate, Fatalism and Freedom
Dave Lindorff
Criminalizing BDS Trashes Free Speech & Association
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: The Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Two
Edward Curtin
A Gentrified Little Town Goes to Pot
January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
Robert Fisk
The US Media has Lost One of Its Sanest Voices on Military Matters
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail