Port of L.A.’s Clean Truck Plan Labor Provisions Struck Down

Photo by Joseph Lapin

A federal judge officially ruled last week that certain aspects of the Port of Los Angeles’ clean truck efforts could not be enforced by the entity, a decision that does not affect the Port of Long Beach’s Clean Trucks Program, but may have implications for labor issues currently brewing at the nation’s largest industrial complex. 

On Friday, the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles upheld previous appeals court decisions and permanently disallowed the Port of Los Angeles from enforcing three drayage provisions written into its 2008 clean trucks plan, including one that would have required local trucking companies to hire their drivers as direct employees instead of as contractors, as is the industry norm. According to industry news sources, the concession requirement was championed by former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who hoped to make it easier for unions to organize harbor truck drivers.

The Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles both adopted the Clean Air Action Plan in 2006, but each port wrote their own concession agreements that would allow them to implement and manage their clean truck efforts. Trucking companies were required to comply with the agreements in order to carry goods to and from the marine terminals. The American Trucking Associations filed lawsuits against both ports’ agreements, saying that many of the provisions fell under federal trade regulations and were unenforceable by the ports. 

In 2009, Long Beach’s case was settled when it was told it couldn’t enforce certain concession requirements such as fees and truck routes, however its agreements did not include the controversial labor provisions struck down last week at the Port of Los Angeles.

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“The Port of Long Beach did not have the same provisions that were contested at the Port of Los Angeles,” said Port of Long Beach representative Art Wong. “Our goal was clean air. So we did not include requirements unrelated to clean air.”

The decision that the Port of Los Angeles can’t force trucking companies to hire their drivers as employees comes the same week that truckers at Green Fleet Systems, which moves goods in and out of the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, staged a 24-hour strike as part of their efforts to unionize. 

About 30 of the company’s estimated 90 truck drivers picketed outside of Green Fleet’s Carson headquarters Monday, accusing their supervisors of illegally dissuading them from joining a union, though there has been no official vote to form one. The group has the backing of the International Teamsters Union, which helped truckers at The Toll Group form the largest successful truck-drivers union at the twin ports last year. 

Some Green Fleet truckers told the Daily Breeze that they enjoy their treatment as a contractor with Green Fleet and do not care to join a union. Nearly 90% of port truckers are classified as contract employees and do not work directly for their employers. 

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Sarah Bennett is a contributor to the Hi-lo and the editor-at-large at the Long Beach Post. She is also a professor at Santa Ana College where she was once a student before transferring to USC to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Sarah has written about music, art, food and beer in local, national and international publications for over a decade. An L.A. native and longtime resident of Long Beach, she is the co-founder of Long Beach Zine Fest and managing editor at theLAnd magazine. She never sleeps.