Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Marathon Medals from China - delayed by California truckers strike

The strike by workers at a major running shoe factory in China earlier this year, supplying Adidas and Nike, showed how the relatively low-tech sport of running is nevertheless linked to global supply chains of labour and money. I guess everyone knows that most running shoes and clothes are made in China, or elsewhere in Asia. Must admit though that I hadn't considered that the same applies to running medals, but of course it does.

As Runners World reports: 'Though marathoners travel 26.2 miles to earn their finish medals, the medals themselves often have a much longer journey to the finish line. In the case of the  Santa Barbara Veteran’s Day Marathon, the race medals were shipped from China to California’s Port of Long Beach, where ongoing labor disputes have caused backups. As a result, there were no race medals to be presented as runners crossed the finish line November 7'.

Getting the medals to races requires not just the work of people in the medal factories but of those transporting them from the place they are made to the finishing line. The ongoing dispute at the ports in Los Angels and Long Beach, which has involved strikes and slow downs,  relates to the working conditions of truck drivers. According to one report: 'The three transport companies—Total Transportation Services Inc. (TTSI), Pacific 9 Transportation, and Green Fleet System—classify drivers as “independent contractors” and “business owners” in order to skirt wage, hour and collective bargaining protections provided to most regular employees. The companies also sharply reduce their costs by foisting the expense of fuel, truck maintenance and health insurance onto the drivers themselves, who, to add insult to injury, are forced to pay the companies fees to lease the trucks they drive'.

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