(Editor’s note: The following is an official statement of Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President)
If we are to believe Dubai Ports World’s most recent claims, America has avoided a major threat to our national security now that the United Arab Emirates-owned company has announced its planned sale of its holdings in the US. However, we should not deceive ourselves into believing that our ports are safe.
The security gaps from unchecked containers, inadequate fences and too few Coast Guard cutters patrolling our harbors need to be addressed, as well as port trucking operations. The current system relies on hundreds of contractors and small motor carriers, making it nearly impossible to track who is going in and out of ports. Under these conditions, no one takes real responsibility for properly checking and training drivers.
Port drivers are forced to work long hours for little pay. As long as the majority of the 100,000 drivers who haul containers from the ports to their final destination are in or on the thin edge of bankruptcy there can be no real port security in the United States.
Impoverished truck drivers are vulnerable to blackmail. No amount of infrastructure improvements will compensate for the security vulnerability caused by the exploitation of the intermodal truck drivers who are primarily hired and paid by foreign steamship lines to perform work in this country.
The solution is for drivers to work as employees of companies that are carefully screened and regulated by port authorities. This would ensure security requirements are met. It is time we took port security seriously and take the necessary steps to protect our ports to the same degree we protect our airports. (International Brotherhood of Teamsters)