Last week I testified before the Los Angeles Port Commissioners in support of the independent port truck drivers on behalf of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (C.L.U.E.). These drivers almost all of whom are immigrants are required to lease their trucks from the trucking firms, pay all the expenses and are paid on miles driven regardless of how long they have to wait in the port to be loaded. The result is that they often work for less than $80 for a 12 hour day, and if "their truck" suffers a breakdown, the truckers can end up owing the trucking company money. I testified that this is not only illegal but immoral, amounting to indentured servitude.
As I sat there in that large and well appointed council chamber, I heard trucker after trucker testify to this injustice. And then, I heard the people of the port community testify on their behalf as well. Everyone of them would preface their remarks with a lineage: "I am a fifth generation San Pederian, my ancestors came from Italy, Bosnia, Croatia, Greece." It was as if those who ancestors immigrated to the port, were standing in solidarity with the next generation of immigrants who came to work hard and make a living.
I was unsure of where the Port Commissioners stood on this issue. Finally, after the public comment period closed, the commissoners spoke. Three of the five echoed their concern for the drivers; a bold move given that the shipping and trucking companies paid for much of the infrastructure that these commissoners depended on.
I realized that at the end of the day, it is the grace of a place that has been home to some of these families for generations that inspired the commissioners to speak out on behalf of the truckers. While it remains to be seen if anything will change, I could feel grace abounding in that room. Hope abides.
With Grace and Grit, John