Truck drivers picket at Port of Oakland

Hundreds of truckers at the Port of Oakland walked off the job Monday over issues with what they have called unfair conditions.

A nonprofit group called the Port of Oakland Truckers Association represents about 350 truckers who have joined together in a fight against port management.

Most of the group members refused to work Monday, with many picketing at the port entrances, group spokesman Cesar Parra said.

The truckers are unable to form a union, as they are independent contractors and not considered port employees.

The group is demanding a raise to offset a $50 monthly “green emissions fee” that is used to upgrade equipment to new emissions standards along with an extension to comply with new environmental standards, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

Parra said the drivers are asking for more pay and more time to comply with the standards. Ideally they are looking for a two-year or longer extension or at least one additional year to get equipment into compliance, he said.

He said although only a small portion of the roughly 5,900 truckers who work at the port are striking today, the group has received support from many other drivers.

He said members of the Occupy movement have also come by the port today to share their support for the striking truckers.

Port officials said in a statement, “we empathize with the truckers serving the Port of Oakland,” however they called the work stoppage “counterproductive.”

They said the compliance extension is part of regulations that have been in the works since 2007.

According to the port, more than 71 percent, or approximately 4,250 trucks that serve the port, are already in compliance with the exhaust requirements.

Other demands from the truckers include payment of a congestion fee that would compensate trucks that have to wait unpaid for a load and an increase of payment for cargo loads.

Port officials said to help truckers comply with clean truck standards the port has contributed $5 million to a total of $38 million from partner agencies including Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the California Air Resources Board and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Parra said previous meetings with port management have been unproductive.

“Every time we have a meeting with them, they give excuses,” he said.

He said management hasn't provided any “solid solutions,” but the truckers group is willing to sit down at another meeting following the strike.

Truckers said they were returning to the port to shut down the evening shift. They are asking for the public to join in the ongoing protest at the SSA Terminal at 1717 Middle Harbor Road in Oakland.

Port officials said they had “no clear indication of whether there will be picketing activities” Tuesday morning.

Parra said the truckers are prepared to continue striking another day.

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