Oakland a No-Go Zone For Frustrated Shippers

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Oakland

Protesting independent truck drivers have shippers avoiding the Port of Oakland like the plague. The flow of trade was shut down cold and nothing moved anywhere for days. Ships “are now either pulling up anchor to go to another port or skipping the port.” Despite the growing fiasco, alleged Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has been missing in action all week.

Oakland truckers defy classification

Administrators at the Port of Oakland tried to corral angry protesters into “Free Speech Zones,” so other workers can unload the crates. That idea didn’t go over real well with the tempestuous truckers who blockaded the port since July 18. The state came up with an onerous “gig worker” law which has been in legal limbo until now.

All the independent contractor truck drivers must be considered employees, and provided benefits, overtime and other protections. Nobody likes the idea and it will put the trucking industry right out of business. Nobody has figured out how to get all those containers from the ships to the trains without trucks. Meanwhile, train workers aren’t real happy with their situation, either.

Strikers say the bill’s classification requirements are unreasonable and will negatively impact around 70,000 truckers, accounting for two-thirds of port truckers in California,” Everstream Analytics explained in a statement to their clients. As confirmed by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, their workers are ready to work in Oakland but can’t do it because of the truckers.

Every day, ILWU workers are getting up at 5 am to drive to the dispatch hall and fill jobs at the port but when they get to the terminals, the trucker protests are creating conditions which make it unsafe for workers to pass through the gates and do our jobs.

Over 450 of their members are complaining because they couldn’t do their duties. “They don’t get paid when they don’t get in.” Most of these dock workers are considering the pay cut a donation to the cause of the truckers.

ILWU workers want to work and move cargo, just like we have every day even during the worst days of the pandemic. We are in favor of AB5, not against it. But we’re not going to put our members in harm’s way to pass through the line of truckers.” Oakland may be the center of the controversy but the damage is spreading fast.

Supply Chain Heat Map

CNBC has a nifty interactive graphic they like to call the Supply Chain Heat Map. It shows the labor dispute is heating things up offshore. “The impact of this lack of labor can be seen in both the import container wait times and vessels waiting at anchor.” Insiders note that as of July 23, “import containers are sitting at the Port of Oakland for more than two weeks.

Josh Brazil, vice president of supply chain insights at Project44, isn’t thrilled with those numbers. “Due to a lack of intermodal capacity, dwell times exceeded 10 days even before the AB5 protest. Those containers will now spend even more time in port due to the restrictions against independent truckers.

MarineTraffic monitoring of the congestion shows the “amount of container volume waiting to get into the port at anchor has tripled.” There are consequences in the real world. “That wait has some ocean carriers now pulling up anchor and leaving.

Oakland

Those parts you were waiting for are leaving with them. “We are already seeing vessels skipping Oakland. Comparing vessel schedules one week ago versus today, expected arrivals until the end of August have already dropped 16%.

Sailing down the coast to Long Beach isn’t much of a solution to the problem. All the other ports are getting backed up, too. “Both the ports of LA and Long Beach have been battling increased rail container congestion for months. Port officials have been asking BNSF and UP for more equipment to move out the containers. The wait for a rail-bound container for the Port of LA is around seven days; Port of Long Beach is at nine days.

Then, there’s the export side of things to consider. “The Port of Oakland, which is a major export port of U.S. agriculture, has had a history in recent months of being bypassed by ocean carriers due to congestion.” American goods are stuck in warehouses.

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