Two days ago, with truck driver strikes expanding at Los Angeles-area ports, Capital & Main shared a conversation with a pair of drivers who detailed safety concerns about a trucking system that imposes long hours and unaffordable maintenance burdens. As the strikes spread among trucking companies and into port warehouses, those safety concerns took center stage with a shocking accident.
On Tuesday afternoon a shipping container slipped from a truck and killed a bicyclist in Carson. The container had struck a railroad bridge, though a witness said that the truck may not have been appropriate for the job.
“I’m assuming that they’re hiring those flatbeds because yesterday it was a flatbed too,” David Alva told ABC7 News. The day before, Alva saw a similar accident that did not involve injuries. “Those containers weigh from 40,000 [pounds] and up. They just strap them on with straps,
Sometimes the conventional narrative the media tell about a news story feels so wrong I can’t stand it — but I don’t know why until the story’s over. The recent coverage of the labor dispute at the West Coast ports — including Los Angeles and Long Beach — is a case in point. News reports focused on the long, drawn-out negotiation process as an economic disaster waiting to happen, and blamed the entire situation on those dastardly workers and their unions.
The narrative included several key arguments: A union slowdown at the ports was causing a backlog of shipping containers carrying everything America buys, putting all importers at risk and causing a plague on American shoppers. There would be long-term economic damage to our region as a consequence. With the eventual opening of the widened Panama Canal, shippers would skip the West Coast and head to other ports.
Why are the port truck drivers on strike? It is well known that the U.S. economy relies in part on jobs generated or networked around the imports of manufactured commodities. The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach form a nexus of the global supply chain, where multinational corporations focus on every opportunity to keep labor costs low and profits high. One of the unrecognized links in the global supply chain is the port truck driver.
Port truck drivers play a pivotal role in the distribution of goods that makes them a critical piece of the profit puzzle. Professional drivers work long hours hauling nearly $4 billion worth of cargo every day from American seaports for companies like Walmart, Home Depot, Target, Costco and Polo/Ralph Lauren. Yet they often receive paychecks below the minimum wage, and on occasion, end up owing money to the firms that hire them.
Due to the privatization policies of the Nixon-Reagan era,