Tuesday, July 8, 2014

LA-Long Beach Truckers Go On Strike

By Mark Edward Nero

Truck drivers from three drayage firms in the greater Los Angeles area went on strike the morning of July 7 over claims of unfair labor practices at the adjoining ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

About 120 truckers working for Rancho Dominguez-based Green Fleet Systems and Total Transportation Services Inc., and Pacific 9 Transportation of Carson have walked off the job for the fourth time in about a year. However, unlike the previous labor actions, which were scheduled to run a finite amount of time – usually 24 to 48 hours – the current strike is indefinite, with the drivers saying they have no plans to return unless their demands are met.

Those demands include being designated as employees, rather than independent contractors, wage increases and the ability to unionize. The group organizing the strike effort, Long Beach-based Justice for Port Truck Drivers, says that it also wants an end to “Unfair labor practices” by the three trucking companies, including alleged harassment of drivers participating in labor organization efforts.

“In a desperate quest to maintain the status quo, company owners are firing, intimidating and countersuing drivers; countersuing state agencies, filing appeals on trial court decisions; and filing to compel arbitration to stay government proceedings,” Justice for Port Truck Drivers claims in a prepared statement released as the strike began. “These companies are continuing to retaliate against their employees for engaging in union and protected concerted activities.”

However, the Harbor Trucking Association, which represents trucking companies near the ports, has blamed the labor unrest on the Teamsters, which has been trying for years to gain employee status for the drivers so they would then be eligible to join the union.

In a statement issued through the Harbor Trucking Association, Green Fleet said the Teamsters and other outside interest groups don’t represent the majority of its drivers and that independent contractor status offers drivers flexibility and the opportunity to own their own small businesses.

“The fact is that an overwhelming majority of contractors and drivers affiliated with Green Fleet don't want these groups involved in their work,” the statement said in part.

The strike has not gained the support of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union, which so far has not honored the truckers’ picket lines. During a 48-hour strike in late April, about 100 ILWU dockworkers refused to cross the truckers’ picket lines, but were eventually ordered back to work about five hours into the picket by an independent arbitrator citing the ILWU’s collective bargaining agreement.