Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Truckers Picket Southern California Ports

By Mark Edward Nero

Truck drivers who haul goods to and from the ports in Long Beach, Los Angeles and San Diego began an “informational picket” the morning of April 27 in response to a long-simmering labor wages dispute involving the Teamsters and four Southern California drayage companies.

The four companies picketed during the day were Harbor Rail Transport, which is based near Los Angeles; Long Beach-based Intermodal Bridge Transport; Pacer Cartage, which has offices in San Diego and in Los Angeles County; and Pacific 9 Transportation, which has offices in the LA County cities of Carson and Long Beach.

The protest is the latest in a series of job actions that the truck drivers, supported by the Teamsters, have taken against harbor-area trucking firms. There was also a series of short-term strikes and pickets at the LA and Long Beach ports in 2013-14.

The truckers have contended that they should be classified as employees by the companies they work for, rather than independent contractors. The reclassification would possibly mean increased wages and health benefits. For years, the Teamsters union has worked to gain employee status for the drivers so they’d be eligible to join the union.

Of the estimated 500 drivers associated with the four companies, about 200 walked picket lines Monday morning and more were on hand during the afternoon for secondary picketing at port terminals.

Terminals at all three ports remained opened Monday morning, a point that Port of Long Beach Chief Executive Jon Slangerup wanted to make clear.

“Dockworkers have reported to work and truckers have been able to enter and exit the affected terminals without delay,” Slangerup said Monday morning about his port. “We do not expect that there will be any adverse impact to port terminals.”

The Harbor Trucking Association, which represents trucking companies near the ports, said last week when it was becoming clear when the possibility of picketing was rising, that the pickets would come at a “horrible” time, since some ports are still trying to dig out from a backlog of cargo containers built up last fall and winter during a labor dispute between terminal operators and longshore workers.

“If they want to be a part of the real solution perhaps they should suspend these efforts until we get closer to a normal flow of cargo in the San Pedro Bay,” Trucking Association Executive Director Weston LaBar said. “We don't want to put any more jobs in our region in jeopardy.”

The Teamsters did not initially make it clear how long the picketing would last, but previous demonstrations at the LA and Long Beach ports lasted anywhere from one to three days.