Monday, April 27, 2015

DRIVERS STRIKE, LA, LONG BEACH PORTS

Drivers strike at Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach

The truck drivers are targeting four companies for now, but may expand the strike, according to Teamsters spokeswoman Barb Maynard.

   Drivers who work for drayage companies serving the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach went on strike Monday morning.
   Teamsters spokeswoman Barb Maynard said the drivers are specifically striking Pacific 9 Transportation, Intermodal Bridge Transport, Pacer Cartage, and Pacer subsidiary Harbor Rail Transport.
   In a breaking development, the Port Division of the Teamsters and another drayage company, Green Fleet Systems, siad they have "entered into a comprehensive labor peace agreement 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."
   The agreement avoids a possible strike against Green fleet and "allows for the orderly conduct of business and insures that Green Fleet’s loyal customers will continue to receive their deliveries timely and without interruption,” the Teamsters said.
   Drivers from those companies voted on Saturday to go on strike against the companies, which collectively employ around 500 drivers in total. Maynard said she expects hundreds to participate in the action and that drivers from other companies could join the strikes.
   The Teamsters have long asserted that drayage drivers at some companies are being misclassified as independent contractors.
   Maynard said picket lines would be put up at the offices of the companies, and that drivers would also do “ambulatory picketing” at marine terminals, rail yards and customer warehouses where they do not set up actual picket lines, but picket individual trucks as they arrive at those locations. “It’s an important nuance because that makes it a legal picket,” she said.
   Customer warehouses as far east as Mira Loma and as far south as the U.S. Mexico border will be targeted.
   The truckers are accusing their employers of wage theft by illegally misclassifying workers as independent contractors, and say they want to be classified as employees with the right to union representation.
   Drivers are also planning a march on Wednesday in downtown Los Angeles to a Union Pacific Railyard.
   Drivers seem well aware of the havoc a strike could cause at the nation's two largest ports, noting a "crippling slowdown in early 2015 sent shock waves through the U.S. economy" when the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and employers were at loggerheads over a new contract that is still pending ratification from ILWU membership.
   The group Justice for Port Truck Drivers said of the strike, "Since drivers last struck in November 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor has also come down on the truckers' side. In addition to the California courts and the State of California, the DOL has ruled that port drivers at Shippers Transport Express must be reclassified as employees rather than 'independent contractors.' The Shippers drivers’ victory has inspired other misclassified drivers to escalate their demands to be recognized as employees and end the wage theft. In their fight to hold onto an illegal business model, company owners are continuing to harass, intimidate, and coerce drivers."
   The group has also launched a national petition asking Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia to "ban lawbreaking for profit from the ports."
   Art Wong, a spokesman for the Port of Long Beach, said the port would monitor the strike in order to ensure safety and make sure drivers who want to access the terminals can do so.
   Weston LaBar, executive director of the Harbor Trucking Association, a group that represents drayage companies in Southern California, said of the announcement, "We are not surprised that the Teamsters are looking to picket. What I am surprised of is the timing of it. The ports are working diligently to dig out from the backlog due to congestion, which was compounded by labor issues. I believe now is a horrible time to introduce any slow-downs to the supply chain.
   "Is it really in the best interest of port drivers to stage labor rallies with Teamsters from ports that are already stealing our cargo?" LaBar asked. "This is certainly not in the best interest of our supply chain or the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Maybe this is just my thinking, but 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. We don't want to put any more jobs in our region in jeopardy."
   “I think it is absolutely ridiculous. I understand their issues, but this puts another black eye on the ports of LA and Long Beach and does not help rebuild the trust in the ports. All these kinds of issues continue to have impact on the reliability and predictability of the ports,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation.