With declining numbers and unpopular friends (read: ACORN), labor unions are constantly looking for new sectors of the American work force to unionize–those that are structurally non-union, legally non-union, and those who have just been flying under the radar. With revenue down, American labor depends on finding and unionizing these untapped laborers.
There are complications inherent in this pursuit. Some industry structures or legal framework do not allow them to unionize easily. So unions seek to change the structure–and America’s ports are the target.
Under the guise of cleaning up LA’s port, the Port of Angeles’ Clean Truck Program almost included a concession that would mandate that independent truckers (the bane of union’s existance) would be required to join a trucking company. These concessions were backed by labor and labor-friendly environmental groups. According to these groups, independent truckers are guilty for the dirty air because they have more older trucks than companies.
Supporters of the independent truckers have argued that singling them out is not only unfair, it is a transparent attempt to unionize the truckers. In a large company, said truckers would be wildly more organizable for the Teamsters. Read more in the LA Times.
The other port that has the focus of unions is the Port of Seattle. Two Seattle Port Commission candidates have received at least $220,000 from unions. Here what the Seattle Post Intelligencer collected:
A front group called Port Reform, promoting election of Holland and Vekich, has received $146,000 from unions plus about $20,000 of in-kind contributions, a chunk of it from a national labor outfit called “Change to Win.” […] The Washington Teamsters Legislative League has given $25,000 to Port Reform. The Drive Committee, Washington, D.C.-based political arm of the Teamsters Union, has delivered another $25,000. The Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees are the largest giver, at $40,000. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, out of San Francisco, has put $20,000 into Port Reform. The Service Employees International Union, Washington State Council, has given $10,000. An equal sum has come from the SEIU’s Local 6, which represents workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Unions have directly given about $30,000 to Vekich and Holland, with more going to Vekich. Add up unions’ contributions to Port Reform, and to the two candidates, and donations from union members, and the total tops $220,000.
Why so much money through so many different routes, all ties to labor? The Seattle Post Intelligencer continues:
As unions renew efforts to organize workers, the Puget Sound region has become a testing ground for new tactics. “I know that one priority of ‘Change to Win’ is organizing independent contractor truckers at ports around the country,” said Adam Glickman, spokesman for the SEIU. That includes Seattle, where a lot of independent, non-unionized truckers take cargoes away from the port. Harbor truck drivers are a national organizing target for “Change to Win.”