The port division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) are supporting a two-bill legislative package affecting truckers who serve California ports.

Democratic State Legislator Alan Lowenthal is sponsoring a bill to require marine terminal operators to pay air pollution fines for truck drivers that idle their engines while waiting to load. Democratic State Senator Gloria Romero is sponsoring another bill to require all truck chassis to be safety-certified as roadworthy before being sent from the port onto the highway.

George Cashman, the director of the Teamsters' port division, said similar legislative initiatives will be introduced on the East Coast in the next few months.

Waiting time has been a major issue for several years among truckers that serve shipping ports. Owner-operators that serve many of the nation's ports went on strike in 2000 to protest those conditions. Strikes occurred in Vancouver, BC, Seattle, Tacoma, WA, Miami, Los Angeles and Long Beach, CA.

The Teamsters staged a nationwide series of rallies at 16 ports last October 4 in support of port truckers' demands, calling for higher wages, reduced waiting time and fuel surcharges to compensate for higher diesel prices. Though the Teamsters attempted to organize many of the port drivers, a California court ruled that owner-operators cannot be considered employees and therefore are not allowed to bargain collectively, as it would be an illegal restraint on trade.

However, that ruling has not slowed the Teamsters' efforts. The Teamsters joined with the ILWU in an alliance last month to organize port truckers in an effort to make the nation's ports "wall-to-wall union," said Chuck Mack, international vp of the Teamsters and chairman of the California Teamsters public affairs council. "It's no secret that Teamsters are interested in organizing truckers in the ports and have an active program to do so," he said.