Truckers, unionized and non-unionized, came together last Monday to picket Port Metro Vancouver because of concerns over "intolerable economic conditions." While the standard pay for B.C. truckers is $23 an hour, truckers moving cargo for Port Metro Vancouver are paid a meager $15.59 an hour and many of them do not have a union to represent them. According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives living wage in Metro Vancouver is no less than $19.62 an hour.
In a statement released on Sunday, the Port stated, "Facing the prospect of continued disruption of port operations by disgruntled container truckers, Port Metro Vancouver is taking immediate steps to enhance the safety of the port for working truckers." Port Metro Vancouver filed a lawsuit against the United Truckers Association, claiming that striking workers damaged property and threw rocks, although no charges have been laid.
We would like to remind the public of similar accusations made against the Santa-Coal protesters who staged a peaceful protest at the Port Metro Vancouver offices last December. Afterwards, Port Metro Vancouver released a statement falsely claiming that the protesters threw coal at workers. The Port asserted then that its concern was for the safety of workers, but now they would paint all striking workers with the same brush.
The legal tactic being adopted by the Port (suing in civil court) can lead to the criminalization of workers' right to protest. This is what the Province of B.C. did on behalf of the American Sea to Sky developers, when they wanted to remove financially inconvenient protesters from the Eagle Ridge Bluffs. As a result, activist elders Betty Krawzcik and Harriet Nahanee were charged and jailed for contempt of court. In spite of the court's knowledge of Harriet's frail health, she died after two weeks in a Surrey detention centre.
To criminalize protesters is to subject them to systemic violence.
We recognize that these actions against striking workers are part of a concerted effort by Port Metro Vancouver to criminalize and defame opposition to its exploitative activities. It is clear that the Port acts not in the interest of workers or even the public, but in the interest of moneyed private investors.
Corporations and their subservient government agencies, with their unsustainable economic agendas, rely on the ability to exploit human labour and natural resources. The struggles of workers and the struggles of environmental justice are linked, as government and corporations rely on the weakness and complicity of labour to push through exploitative resource extraction projects.
As grassroots activists who understand that the rights of all workers and communities need to be aligned with the defense of our air, water and earth, we condemn all efforts to criminalize protest, whether of labour, environmentalists or Indigenous land defenders. We condemn all attacks against unions and demand that both the rights of workers to fair livelihoods and public grievances about destructive resource exports be taken seriously by Port Metro Vancouver and the BC provincial government. We encourage people to show their solidarity with striking workers by joining the picket at Port Metro Vancouver.
Rising Tide: Vancouver Coast Salish Territories is a grassroots environmental justice group committed to fighting the root causes of climate change and the interconnected destruction of land, water and air. We ground our work in decolonizing principles, recognizing that environmental injustice stems from discrimination, domination, and violence through colonial occupation and expansion with the help of capitalist and imperialist institutions.
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