Teamster driver Ali Sugule with his family. Sugule is fighting for his job after Eastside For Hire revoked his access to dispatch.

Port of Seattle commissioners spent the better part of their two and a half hour special meeting yesterday discussing a range of issues, including airport expansion and biofuel production, but when it came to taking public comment from drivers who are being exploited at the Port’s expense, they cut matters short.

The reason? They had a luncheon to attend.

“We have a hard stop on this meeting at 11:14,” said Commission President Tom Albro at precisely 11:07 A.M. That gave the public all of seven minutes to testify on critical issues impacting airport workers and the community.

A dozen or so Teamster drivers had been waiting more than two hours to speak out on a range of injustices at the airport.  The drivers had taken precious time away from their workday to express their concerns, but had to leave without testifying when the Commission unexpectedly shut down the meeting. 

“I came here to give testimony because Eastside has been hurting their drivers for a long time,” said Abdirahman Esmayeel after the meeting.

Eastside For Hire is the dispatch company the Port selected to receive the exclusive airport taxi contract last year. “We have to tell the Port to take action immediately. This contract should be cancelled,” Esmayeel said.

Drivers also joined the meeting to express their outrage at Eastside for inexplicably revoking the dispatch services of fellow driver, Ali Sugule. Sugule had criticized the company in public testimony at a Port Commission meeting on August 8.  

“I told them everything that’s going on at the airport, how we are intimidated as drivers, how we don’t have any respect from Eastside. Then they [Eastside] suspended me because they said my car is not legal. I told them, give me evidence, but they declined,” he said.

Sugule’s wife and two-month-old daughter had also waited two and a half hours to testify at the meeting: “I am the mother of five children. This is the only source of income we have as a family, so we need your help.”

The Commission will be announcing the results of an ongoing investigation into whether Eastside For Hire has violated its contract with the Port at their next meeting on September 26.