POLB, POLA Truckers Agree to Neutral Unionization Process, Employee-Based Business Model

On Friday, January 9 at 10:00AM the results of a union authorization review, an agreement that will better equip Carson-based Shippers Transport Express, a wholly-owned subsidiary of SSA Marine, to resolve major port driver issues, will be announced.

According to a news release sent out Thursday, January 8, months of productive dialogue between Shippers Transport Express and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the union seeking to represent the employees, has produced a "historic agreement to modernize drayage operations that the parties predict will improve efficiency and stabilize the workforce while respecting drivers' rights to decide whether to form a union."

According to Barbara Maynard, spokeswoman for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the trucking industry as a whole has become too fragmented to function properly, while forming a union will help professionalize and stabilize the workforce.

Maynard explained, "Roughly 30 years ago, basically the trucking industry as a whole was deregulated. It led to, and over time it sort of collapsed into what it has become today, a really, really fragmented industry with independent contractors basically being used as employees, but being classified as independent contractors. And it's a very chaotic, very slow-moving, very inefficient industry."

Alongside forming a union, taking the drivers in-house and making them legitimate employees will put the shippers into a unique position to create a more modern, more efficient and more professional trucking company, said Maynard. According to the news release, effective January 1, 2015, shippers converted from an independent contractor business model to an employee-based drayage business. All drivers were notified of the change on November 24, 2014, and were invited to apply for employee jobs by December 8, 2014.

"So the hope and the expectation is that shippers are really leading the way in the industry. Being a wholly-owned company of SSA Marine," she continued, "which is one of the biggest terminal operators, they're a company that can really lead the way... so it's a great step, not only for the company but legally for the drayage industry as a whole."

On Friday, January 9, the truckers, who have already signed union authorization cards, will attend tomorrow's neutral process facilitated by Father Wil Connor, Pastor Emeritus, St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, Long Beach and witnessed by the Teamsters and company representatives, to validate said cards. The cards will be reviewed and compared to the list of employee drivers that the company has provided for the occasion, according to Maynard, so that at the conclusion of the ceremony, an announcement will be made as to whether the majority of the workers have voted to become Teamsters.

"There's been a lot of media stories about all the congestion at the port, some of that has to do with what's going on with chassis, some of that has to do with what's going on with the IOWU, and some of it has to do with this inefficient trucking system," said Maynard.  

The first step is switching the industry from an independent contractor model to an employee-based business model, the second step is unionizing effectively in an effort to professionalize and stabilize a work force that will be properly trained and have the ability to grow and function efficiently.

"We believe that both the employer and the Teamsters believe that when you have a unionized workforce it's a more stable workforce," she concluded.

Both sides agreed to participate in this neutral process for unionization, required by The Labor Relations Act, meaning Shippers Transport Express has agreed not to interfere in the employees' decisions regarding unionization, has agreed not to use intimidation, threats or reprisal, promise of benefits or other conduct or speech to intimidate or coerce drivers to influence their decision on whether to join or be represented by the Teamsters.

The Teamsters have also agreed not to disparage Shippers Transport Express or disrupt the workplace through strikes, picketing or other job actions. Shippers Transport Express has, lastly, agreed to recognize Teamsters Local 848 as the drivers' official bargaining agent upon verification by a neutral third party that a majority of the drivers have signed valid union authorization cards.

According to the news release, upon validation, shippers and the company’s drivers – newly represented by Teamsters Local 848, will begin negotiating a collective bargaining agreement for wages, benefits, and working conditions.

Confirmed guests at the authorization of the union cards by faith leaders include Rabbi Jonathan Klein, Executive Director, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE-LA); Father Wil Connor, Pastor Emeritus, St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, Long Beach; Kevin Baddeley, General Manager, Shippers Transport Express; Fred Potter, Director, Port Division, and International Vice President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters; Eric Tate, Secretary-Treasurer, Teamsters Local 848; and lastly, drivers from Shippers Transport Express and other port trucking companies.

Local and state elected officials, as well as members of the United States Congress, have been invited to monitor this process.

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