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February 7, 2012 at 12:38 PM

A belated payday for protesting Seattle Port truckers

A loud but peaceful protest in Kent ended happily Tuesday morning, after Edgmon Trucking handed out two dozen paychecks to drivers in the midst of a Port of Seattle labor dispute.

The drivers, mostly immigrants from East Africa, have declined to work their normal shifts hauling containers at the Port of Seattle since Thursday. Organizers say 400 truckers at several firms are participating — or rather, nonparticipating — in the waterfront slowdown. The goal is to bring pressure for higher pay, better vehicles, and collective bargaining rights in the coastal port-trucking business, as described in this news article last fall.

About 100 drivers chanted in the parking lot of the Kent small business founded by Bob Edgmon, who recently has flourished as a country-western singer.

According to truckers there, and Teamsters-affiliated union activists supporting them, Edgmon and another firm delayed January checks in retaliation for the slowdown. But office staffers handed the checks out Tuesday at the rally. Adrienne Calderon, dispatch manager, said the checks were ready Friday but one trucker asked to collect those on behalf of the group, and she declined.

Port Commissioner Rob Holland, who backs improved working conditions for West Coast truckers, showed up at the protest. In an interview, he said some customers are getting their containers late because the trucker walkout has slowed dock operations.

The belated payday caused some truckers to smile and dance, others to grumble about the lingering issue of low pay rates of $40-$44 per load, and insurance deductions of roughly $600 a month. ”

We can’t afford to drive on the streets,” said driver Yared Abebe.

Comments | More in Business/Technology, General news | Topics: Port of Seattle, truckers

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