Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Striking Port Truckers Return to Jobs

By Mark Edward Nero

About 120 truck drivers who had been picketing the dual ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles in protest of alleged unfair labor practices were back on the job as of July 14.

The drivers picketed from July 7 to 11 as part of a protest against three trucking companies, Rancho Dominguez-based Green Fleet Systems and Total Transportation Services Inc., and Carson-based Pacific 9 Transportation. The drivers’ demands included being designated as employees, rather than independent contractors, wage increases and the ability to unionize.

The Long Beach-based group that organized the strike is known as Justice for Port Truck Drivers, but 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’d then be eligible to join the union.

Last week’s truckers’ strike was the fourth time in about a year that the drivers picketed the ports. However, unlike the previous labor actions, which were scheduled to run a finite amount of time – usually 24 to 48 hours – the latest labor action was planned to be indefinite, with drivers saying they had no plans to return unless their demands were met.

The end came when Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti convinced the labor action’s organizers to agree to a temporarily halt the strike for a time while the drivers’ complaints are investigated.

“Following the city’s meetings with both sides, the Teamsters have agreed to pull down their pickets and enter a cooling off period to allow the Harbor Commission time to investigate the serious allegations regarding worker safety, poor working conditions and unfair labor practices,” Garcetti said. “The city will facilitate a dialog among the parties in the weeks ahead.”

The strike’s organizers said in a statement that the three trucking companies have agreed to accept all truckers back to work “without retaliation and without being forced to sign away all future rights in new truck leases.” Drivers will also return to work on their regular shifts, according to the statement.

“While the drivers wanted to continue the strike, they agreed to a cooling off period because Mayor Garcetti personally committed to them that he will thoroughly investigate the serious injustices the drivers presented and take strong action,” Teamsters Vice President and Port Division Director Fred Potter said.