On Monday, truck drivers serving the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports began picketing four drayage companies over accusations of wage theft and employee misclassification. Employees represented by the Teamsters and their supporters have begun picketing company yards in the Los Angeles/Long Beach Ports, marine terminals, rail cars and customer warehouses near the Mexico border.
"Six hundred thousand working men and women in Los Angeles stand behind the port drivers fighting to stop wage theft and [for] the ability to have a voice on the job," said Rusty Hicks, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO in Monday’s press release. “Our drivers deserve a fair day's pay for a fair day's work."
“We are here to make sure that these companies stop their lawless behavior,” said Intermodal Bridge Transport truck driver Hector Flores in Monday’s press release. “They cannot keep engaging in wage theft. We demand re-classification to employees. We know what we are doing is right, and we are not going to stop striking until these companies stop breaking the law.”
Weston LaBar, executive director of the Harbor Trucking Association (HTA), said the picketing teamsters were a minority.
"Not everyone wants to work a nine to five job making a set hourly wage," LaBar said in a statement issued Monday evening. He noted that just a "few hundred of the 14,000 truck drivers" walked off the job. "The majority of the owner-operators in the port prefer to remain independent contractors because they know they have a greater opportunity to make a decent income and they have greater flexibility over the hours in which they work.
LaBar said he was surprised by the timing of the picketing. "I believe now is a horrible time to introduce any slow-downs to the supply chain. Is it really in the best interesest of port drivers to stage labor rallys with teamsters from ports that are already steeling our cargo?"
Port of Long Beach CEO John Slangerup said in a statement released Monday morning that the truck drivers were not on strike, but conducting ambulatory picketing at non-union trucking company sites and they do not foresee a slowdown similar to that of early 2015.
“Dockworkers have reported to work and truckers have been able to enter and exit the affected terminals without delay,” Slangerup said. “We do not expect that there will be any adverse impact to Port terminals or our ability to continue the outstanding progress that everyone has made in recent weeks to clear the congestion backlog and return to normal operations.”
The most recent truck driver strike took place in November of 2014, with drivers at Shippers Transport Express (STE) stating that they had been misclassified as independent contractors. The Department of Labor (DOL) and other judicial entities, including California courts, the California Division Labor Standards Enforcement, Employment Development Department (EDD) and Disability Insurance (SDI) agreed with the drivers, ruling that they were misclassified as independent contractors. STE subsequently re-classified its independent contractors as employees.
The four companies being picketed include Intermodal Bridge Transport (IBT), Pacific 9 Transportation (Pac 9), Pacer Cartage, and Harbor Rail Transport (HRT).
A fifth company, Green Fleet Systems, LLC reached an agreement with the Teamsters that avoided picketing at the Green Fleet Systems facility.
In a press release, the two entities stated that a labor peace agreement had been created, “designed to ensure that Green Fleet’s drivers have an opportunity to exercise their rights under the National Labor Relations Act and, if they choose, to select an exclusive representative for purpose of collective bargaining.”
According to the Teamsters’ press release, port truck drivers haul nearly $4 billion in cargo every day and often receive less than minimum wage. Pac 9 truck driver Daniel Linares said that is why he is striking - to even out the responsibility between the truck drivers and the truck companies.
"We are responsible for everything," said Linares, noting that he has not taken a vacation day in the seven years he's worked for Pac 9. He said they pay for all fuel and transportation costs, which add up to about $600-$700 per week - about half a paycheck.
"We work for seven, eight hours and they just don't care," said Linares. "It needs to be changed."
This article was updated with a statement from the HTA at 5:20 p.m. PST.