Port of Oakland reopens following daylong shutdown

July 17, 2013 6:13:16 PM PDT
The Port of Oakland reopened Wednesday night after a daylong closure. Union employees refused to work following the death of port worker Joy Daniels. But their tribute has angered a lot of people and it put the port operations behind.

We're told this is a tradition that dates back to the 1930s, when Longshoremen would stand down for 24 hours after a member died on the job.

Daniels suffered a medical issue while driving a tractor. She died later at a local hospital. And though it looked like it at first, her death was not from an accident.

In this case, according to union officials, the 45-year-old Suisuin City woman died of a seizure and heart attack, natural causes that were unrelated to her work.

"An accident on the job, we shut down for 24 hours to investigate the accident and to also mourn our losses," LIWU Local 10 President Mike Villeggiante said.

"Everyone is just very saddened by this tragic news," said Port of Oakland spokesperson Robert Bernado. "Our thoughts are with the family during this difficult time. It is definitely a somber mood right now because of this."

Many truck drivers, however, were surprised when the Port of Oakland didn't open. Some of them drove all night to be there. They figured out, through word of mouth, that it was closed because of Daniels' death.

"They should have notified the companies that deliver here or pick up here, then in turn they could have told us," truck driver Bob Gutierrez said. "But no, nobody said nothing."

Many of them then sat, waiting to see what would happen next.

"It could be all day, 24 hours, we don't know, we just gotta wait," truck driver Art Duran said. "So right now I'm just waiting on my dispatcher to call me and see what he says."

Los Angeles-based driver Jurgen Vonkrieger wondered if a daylong shutdown is appropriate in this case, leaving hundreds of truckers stuck on the street, losing hundreds or thousands of dollars in income.

"It's a very touchy subject, you know as far as something like that, but in my opinion it's a little extreme," Vonkrieger said. "I mean, maybe a couple of hours or so, but a full shift?"

"They're losing money, customers are pissed off because they're not getting their cargo, and also on top of it, some of the steamship lines, the ocean carriers, are charging penalties for every container that sits outside," truck company owner Bill Aboudi said.

The coroner's office says they aren't investigating the Suisun City woman's death because it appears she died of natural causes.

The port had initially been expected to reopen at 7 p.m. But late Wednesday afternoon the Port of Americas announced it would open a gate at 5 p.m. to all truck drivers wishing to drop their containers.

(Bay City News contributed to this report)


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