group of independent truckers walked off the job at the
Port of New Orleans April 14 to demand higher pay and better
working conditions. Port officials said April 16 the walkout
appeared to have caused a cargo volume drop of 40 percent, The
participating truckers are short-haul drivers who carry
containers and other port cargo between local wharves,
warehouses and railroad yards.
Executive Director Gary LaGrange told the paper: "We
are sympathetic to both sides … these are tough times.
The truckers are trying to clothe their children and put
food on the table. The best solution is more business for
them coming from more ships in the river."
Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator
Independent Drivers Association, said, "It's easy
for unaffected parties to express sympathy, but that doesn't
pay anybody's bills. The economic situation for port drivers
is abysmal in virtually every port in the country. Truth
is, freight commodities are shipped from the other side
of the world for next to nothing.
say drivers are frustrated is putting a really nice face
on how they feel. The reality is, they either stop working,
or they leave the industry. In fact, that's what's happening
right now -- hundreds of thousands of truckdrivers have
left in the past 28 months."
full number of truckers honoring the stoppage is unknown,
the paper noted, because the truckers don't have a union.
Moreover, an association formed by about 350 local truckers
this year disbanded last week after lawyers told the group
that organized work actions by independent truckers could
violate federal and state antitrust laws.
walkout came a week after officials with the now-defunct
New Orleans Truckers Association said they were postponing
any job action until they consulted with labor lawyers
and gave trucking firms more time to respond to their demands
for higher wages and other concessions.
said the walkout was spontaneous. A number of the strikers
emphasized that each trucker made an individual decision
to walk out; it was not part of any organized plan.
independent contractors, the truckers are not allowed by
law to join labor unions and are not covered by laws that
protect striking union members. Each trucker works as a
contractor for one of about 20 local trucking firms that
provide dispatching services and act as middlemen between
the drivers and shipping companies. The truckers are responsible
for buying and maintaining their rigs, purchasing most
of their fuel, and paying their own insurance and licensing
can't afford to run my truck at the rates we are getting," said
Chalmette, LA, trucker Henry Doyle, one of the participating
drivers who spoke to the newspaper. "I'm out here
as long as it takes."
attorney Murphy Foster III of the Louisiana Motor Transportation
Association, a state trade organization that represents
trucking firms, said the group was evaluating the protest
to determine whether the work stoppage was legal.
they got together and collectively said, 'We need to strike
carriers to get higher wages,' then that could cause legal
problems for the truckers," Foster told the paper. "We
haven't decided anything about that, but it is an issue
time and wages key issues
have complained about sitting in line for hours at a time
at port docks waiting for shipments to be loaded and unloaded
from their rigs. The long waits cut the number of hauls
truckers can make and reduce their earnings.
officials and dock operators have said they are working
on the problems. They say cargo will flow more smoothly
when the port opens a new containerized cargo terminal
this summer at the site of the old Napoleon Street Wharf
along the Mississippi River.
striking truckers said April 14 that wages were at the
core of their unhappiness.
Venson, a 29-year veteran trucker from New Orleans, said
local drivers made about $45 a haul 20 years ago. Now,
drivers make $30 to $35 a haul, he said.
drivers have been forced to absorb higher costs for fuel,
insurance and truck maintenance while getting little or
no help to cover those costs from trucking firms, he said.