.

Truck Drivers Picket at Port of Long Beach

They want companies they work for to treat them like independent contractors and not employees.

Port of Long Beach. Patch file photo.
Port of Long Beach. Patch file photo.

Originally posted at 8:32 a.m. July 7, 2014. Edited with new details.

Truck drivers protesting what they call unfair labor practices went on strike today, refusing to work for three trucking companies serving the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

The strike was organized by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters' port division, which is looking to unionize drivers working for Green Fleet Systems, Pac 9 and Total Transportation Services Inc. Union officials said the companies misclassify truck drivers as independent contractors, contending the truckers should be treated as employees.

Some of the companies have lashed out in "fierce retaliation" against those who challenge the companies, union spokeswoman Barb Maynard said.

The "widespread, indefinite unfair labor practice strikes" that began this morning at truck yards and marine terminals were called after relations between the trucking firms and drivers grew particularly "nasty," according to Maynard.

Previous strikes -- there have been three others over the past 11 months -- lasted 24 to 48 hours, but no time limit was set for the strike that began today, "reflecting dramatic escalation from prior actions," she said.

More than 100 drivers from the three targeted trucking companies are on strike, according to Maynard, who said all three companies shut down operations.

The companies ship goods for shoe manufacturer Skechers; retailers Walmart, Target, Costco and IKEA; as well as designer brands Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren, according to Maynard.

It was unclear if the strike affected the shipment of goods manufactured by or bound for those particular companies and retailers.

Long Beach and Los Angeles port officials said the strike's impact was "minimal," and they have yet to receive reports of picketing or other disruptions.

They added that some terminals were closed due to an un-related labor holiday known as "Bloody Thursday," which is observed by longshoremen in memory of violence that broke out during a maritime strike in San Francisco on July 5, 1934.

The three trucking companies targeted by the strike represent roughly 400 out of the approximately 11,000 truckers that typically operate at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, port officials said.

Rep. Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro, joining truckers and union officials at a news conference earlier today, said she supports the drivers' "fight for the right to negotiate fair wages, medical security and respect on the job."

"You deserve to work in safe conditions and earn a fair and honest wage that will help feed you and support your families," she said.

In a statement released through Alex Cherin, a spokesman for the Harbor Trucking Association, Green Fleet called the strike a "distraction" and the work of "outside interest groups" who have "again decided to block the rights of these drivers to go to work and earn a living."

"Time and time again every segment of the industry has rejected the efforts of these groups and their agenda," according to the company.

An "overwhelming majority" of truck drivers working for Green Fleet "don't want these groups involved in their work," the company contended.

"Green Fleet will continue to service its customers and pay its drivers some of the best rates in the industry while doing so," the statement said.

Maynard said that while most Green Fleet drivers are employees, some of the independent contractors they do retain were fired after they filed complaints with the state alleging wage theft.

--City News Service


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