Initial Step

“Sounds like the truckers are getting their act together.” That’s how we ended our last commentary. It was wishful thinking, of course, but less than two hours later we heard that a Southern California trucking company had just joined the Teamsters Union. That announcement was like a ray of sunshine breaking through the ominous dark clouds brought on by ever-increasing port and supply chain congestion.

Last fall Chuck Mack complained about the industry’s failure to act upon its most serious failing: “Conditions are so bad that the turnover rate among these port drivers exceeds 150 percent per year as they recycle in and out of the industry,” he said. “It’s perplexing why no one is stepping up to the plate. Everyone is afraid to make the first move.” Chuck has finally seen someone make that first move. “This is the initial step to re-establish the Teamsters in America’s ports,” were Chuck’s words concerning Monday’s announcement that Maritech Leasing will use Teamsters drivers to haul containers to and from the LA/Long Beach port complex. This “initial step”, taken by a relatively small harbor trucking company, will prove to be one of the most important events in our lifetimes. Samuel Gompers, you’ll recall, stressed cooperation between management and labor, rather than strike actions, as a means of advancing the cause of unentitled workers. This initial step will grant the same kind of entitlement that management enjoys in container port operations. Keep reading.

Let’s hear something further from Samuel Gompers though. This is why he labored:

• “To protect the workers in their inalienable rights to a higher and better life;
• “To protect them, not only as equals before the law, but also in their health, their homes, their firesides, their liberties as men, as workers, and as citizens;
• “To overcome and conquer prejudices and antagonism;
• “To secure to them the right to life, and the opportunity to maintain that life;
• “The right to be full sharers in the abundance which is the result of their brain and brawn, and the civilization of which they are the founders and the mainstay.
To this the workers are entitled. The attainment of these is the glorious mission of the trade unions.”

“Entitlement” is what was so important to the founder of the AFL, and “entitlement” is what we had in mind whenever we mentioned our “in-house” delivery system. Our “in-house” delivery system calls for full-time, salaried drivers. We’ve insisted upon that from the beginning. For a number of years now Michael Belzer has been speaking out against the “low wages, long hours, piece work and unsafe working conditions” imposed upon drivers by those now in authority. We share his concerns and are dedicated to the attainment of the goals spelled out by Samuel Gompers. Those goals have yet to be attained, however, because the road to those ends has yet to be traveled. The “initial step” on that road has just been taken by the Teamsters and Maritech. Here’s what happens next.

More drivers will be enrolled by Teamsters. Our patented systems will be installed in ports, and will require large numbers of union driver-employees. Each of these driver-employees will become shareholders in our patented facilities. “Entitled” shareholders. Mr. Gompers would have liked that.