Shipping contained? Port driver strike continues at Los Angeles, Long Beach

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | Friday, July 11, 2014

A week of labor protests and public striking by truck drivers has illustrated heightened tensions between some drayage drivers and the companies that contract the truckers at the largest combined port on the left coast.

Backed by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and organized in part by the Justice for Port Drivers organization, truckers, longshoremen and others have protested outside specific motor carrier properties near the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

About 120 truck drivers walked off the job Monday to protest the classification of drivers as independent contractors. The drivers work for Green Fleet, Total Transportation Services Inc. and Pacific 9 Transportation – three motor carriers who move major freight quantities for Walmart, Target and other retail giants.

Lee Peterson, a spokesman with the Port of Long Beach, said picket lines appear to be slowing trucks coming into the three protested terminals. The slowdown’s effect, however, is hard to measure, he said.

“It certainly looks like it’s not as free flowing as it would normally be,” Peterson told Land Line. “You normally wouldn’t have pedestrians at the entrances of these terminals, so there will be some additional stopping and starting that the trucks have to do coming and leaving.”

Port traffic did slow at the three terminals on Tuesday when longshoremen joined the strike in solidarity with the truck drivers. An arbitrator later ordered the longshoremen back to work.

No one has been injured as a result of the pickets or demonstrations, said Peterson. Port police and security have helped ensure protestors may safely exercise their first amendment rights, he said.

“We want to make sure everyone is safe,” Peterson said.

The truck drivers were joined by Tom Morello, Grammy award winner and Rage Against the Machine front man, during a Wednesday picket in front of the Evergreen Container Terminal at the Port of Los Angeles.

“I know these guys are being screwed over, so their struggle is one that has provided me with a lot of inspiration. And their relentless pursuit of justice in the workplace should be inspiring for all working people and all working Californians,” Morello said, according to the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

Morello, who is a member of the Workers of the World union and who is known for songs like “Take the Power Back,” and “Bulls on Parade,” reportedly played a set featuring less volatile tracks. The Press Telegram reported he led renditions of his own “Union Song,” and the late Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”

“It’s an honor to stand shoulder to shoulder here with you today to fight for dignity in the workplace and for justice,” Morello told the crowd, according to the newspaper.

Drivers at several motor carriers that serve the twin ports at Long Beach and Los Angeles have been protesting their classification as independent contractors. The National Labor Relations Board has investigated several companies for retaliation firings and anti-union intimidation.

In recent weeks, TTSI sparked a protest when it informed owner-operators they would no longer be allowed to park their company trucks at the company yard overnight.

Port leaders have no indications of negotiations between drivers and the trucking companies, Peterson said.

Last week’s strike was the fourth work stoppage that port drivers have participated in during the last year. The previous three strikes, however, were limited to 24 or 48 hours.

The Port of Long Beach is preparing for the possibility the work stoppage and protests could roll on into next week, Peterson said.

“It’s hard to tell from our perspective,” Peterson said Friday afternoon. “They have used the word ‘indefinite,’ so that may be an indication. Maybe there is something being worked out we don’t know about.”

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