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Power at the Ports: Truckers Force Showdowns in Seattle, Los Angeles

A group of port workers in Los Angeles has filed for a rare union election, and another just ended a two-week strike that brought the Port of Seattle to a near standstill.

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“They wanted a fair process and that’s what they were fighting for, but as the shenanigans were becoming more frequent…they assessed their support, they understood that they had a strong majority and…they decided, ‘You know what, we’re ready for this…it's going to be like going through a meat grinder, but we’re going to be strong.’” Michels says labor will push back against the anti-union campaign through solidarity among co-workers, support and pressure from Toll’s unionized Australian employees, and a team of community monitors that will monitor and publicize Toll’s conduct.

These community monitors have no legal authority, and there’s no agreement with the company recognizing their authority. But they’re part of labor’s effort to discourage or expose Toll’s anti-union tactics in the campaign. A clergy delegation attempted to present its own proposed election principles to management at a Toll facility; Toll refused to let the pastors into the building. In a video posted by Clean and Safe Ports on February 6, student Amanda Mendoza says drivers report repeated mandatory anti-union meetings.

After urging a vote, Michels says Toll is now using legal stalling tactics to delay the setting of an election date. Toll workers in Los Angeles and Australia have been communicating regularly over the Internet, and a delegation of Australian workers will be visiting Los Angeles for several days in support of their US co-workers’ election campaign. In Los Angeles, in Seattle and in Australia, workers are wearing wristbands with one message in multiple languages: “Our fight is your fight.”

“It’s a big job,” Perez says. “We are exposed to everything…We are united and strong, and we will take the fight to the end.”

Josh Eidelson is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. He worked as a union organizer for five years. Check out his blog or follow him on Twitter.

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