Striking truck drivers at the largest combined ports on the West Coast put down their picket signs and returned to work late last week – saying they’d won the latest battle in a decades-long war over driver classification.
During the last few weeks, drivers have protested drayage companies that serve the ports over their classification as owner-operators. The drivers complained they weren’t obtaining the wage and labor protections associated with being employees, though company processes and supervisor orders appeared to treat them as employees rather than as owner-operators.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which supported the striking drivers, confirmed the return to work in a news release Saturday.
On Monday, Nov. 17, truck drivers from QTS Inc., LACA Express and WinWin Logistics Inc. joined drivers who had previously walked off the job at Total Transportation Services Inc. and Pacific 9 Transportation. Picket lines caused marine terminals to turn away trucks from QTS, LACA Express, and WinWin Logistics.
The strike expanded the next day as protestors were joined by truck drivers at Pacer Cartage and Harbor Rail Transport – two companies that move intermodal rail freight from warehouses and distribution centers throughout the country.
Negotiations with drivers began for some drayage companies earlier in the week, and by the end of last week only Pacer Cartage and Harbor Rail Cartage remained under protest. By Friday, negotiations with the intermodal companies began and the last pickets were stopped.
Freight movement at the ports, which had created backlogs of ships waiting, may not return to full speed just yet.
Multiple media reports over the weekend said the International Longshore and Warehouse Union broke off its labor negotiations last week. The ILWU, which many have said has been slow to deploy cargo movers at the port, has been working without a new contract since July.
The National Retail Federation renewed its call last week for intervention from the White House on the ILWU negotiations.
“We reiterate our call on President Obama to immediately engage the parties to get them back to the negotiating table,” National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay said, according to a news release. “It’s time the parties accept a federal mediator to help them bridge the gaps and arrive at a new contract. Without a new contract, stakeholders cannot work on addressing the ongoing congestion issues at the ports. We urge the two sides to end the brinkmanship and return to the talks immediately.”
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