Citing wages, some port drivers strike at Los Angeles and Long Beach

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | Monday, April 28, 2014

More than 100 port truck drivers participated in a two-day strike that began Monday, April 28, at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to bring awareness to what they call unfair labor practices.

By 6 a.m. Monday, truck drivers and other protestors began picket lines at trucking terminals targeted for their role in disputes over drivers being classified as independent contractors. By 7:30, workers with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union decided not to work on the other side of the picket line.

Barb Maynard, a spokeswoman with Justice for Port Drivers – a Teamsters subsidiary – said the longshore and warehouse union workers walking off the job was a highlight of the day.

“It was really extraordinary to see the (longshore and warehouse) members support the drivers,” Maynard said. “The terminal operator got an arbitrator to tell them they were required to keep working – that’s just the rules of the game. But they were really, incredibly supportive.”

A central rallying point has been the classification of drivers as owner-operators, though many of the drivers work for a single employer at the port and must meet stringent, employee-like standards.

“Unwilling to wait for the lawless industry to transform, drivers are rising up to improve their jobs and rebuild the ever diminishing middle class,” read an announcement on the Justice for Port Drivers website. “Through a series of rulings by the National Labor Relations Board, the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, and California’s Employee Development Department, drivers have found their voice.”

Maynard said the strike – the third such strike at the ports this year – are protesting unfair labor practices. One company the protests have targeted is accused of firing two workers who had complained about labor practices.

“The goal is justice for port drivers,” Maynard said.

The strike’s effect appeared to be hit and miss among those who work at the twin ports.

“There were maybe two dozen picketers at one of our six container terminals,” said Art Wong, a spokesman with the Port of Long Beach.

Wong said the International Longshore and Warehouse Union participation was noticeable.

“But they returned to work by mid-morning,” Wong said. “So trucks were backed up briefly.”

Maynard said the protests would end in the early morning hours Wednesday. Until then, organizers were working with port police to make their voices heard safely and lawfully.

“It’s very orderly, it’s very civil – no one is getting angry or hostile,” Maynard said. “But it’s definitely slowing things down.”

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