May 17, 2004
On Friday, April 30, the Los Angeles Times reported that about 10,000 big-rig drivers stayed away from work at three major California shipping ports. The truckers shut down about 85% of the ports' traffic. To publicize their problem, some hung signs on their rigs – "The rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer" – and used the trucks to slow down freeway traffic near the ports.
These are short-haul truckers, who contract with container shipping companies to take goods in and out of the Oakland, Los Angeles and Long Beach ports. What the shipping companies pay was barely enough to cover costs – before the jumps in the truckers' diesel fuel expense. What the truckers pay for diesel has increased by 40% since the first of the year. They are staring bankruptcy in the face.
While the protests were for only one day at Los Angeles and Long Beach, the Port of Oakland truckers also stayed off work the following Monday, causing some worry at manufacturing plants like GM's, that depend on just-in-time shipments of material.
The truckers showed their ability to organize and to publicize their problem. They have thrown out a warning flag against the big shipping companies that exploit them. It remains to be seen, what they may decide to do next.
One thing is sure: every working person is being hurt by the price hikes on fuel. Everyone has an interest in pushing the prices back down.