More port truckers strike at the twin ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Spring weather across much of the country likely sparked conversations of changing seasons and global warming at workplaces on Monday.

Along the largest twin port complex in the U.S., however, water cooler topics must have included striking container drivers at yet another drayage company.

Drivers working for XPO picketed against the company Monday, Feb 29. The drivers joined protests already underway by drivers for Pacific 9 Transportation.

Barb Maynard, spokeswoman for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, told Land Line Now both groups believe they’re victims of job misclassification and wage theft.

“At XPO, the company has been trying to force the drivers to sign new lease agreements that effectively waive their right to fight back on this misclassification issue,” Maynard told Land Line Now. “That’s why the drivers are so angry. They’re not interested in signing these new lease agreements.”

Drivers working for XPO took part in multiple protests and labor actions in conjunction with the Teamsters last year. Drivers have been striking against Pacific 9 Transportation since last July.

The Justice for Port Drivers organization says XPO’s SEC filings for 2014 included an accounting for liability related to driver misclassification.

“XPO discloses that during the fourth quarter of 2014, the company established a reserve for the estimated probable loss with respect to certain lawsuits related to misclassification,” according to a document posted to JusticeForLAPortDrivers.com. “The company estimated that given the recent adverse decisions, there is a possibility that a loss may be incurred in excess of the reserved amount. However, there is no mention in their filings of any plans to avoid future liability by reforming their business model and properly reclassifying their drivers as employees.”

XPO recently made news when the company bought Con-way Transportation’s less-than-truckload business for $3 billion. In early February, the company announced it was laying off 190 employees and shutting down seven terminals. XPO also runs large intermodal and drayage operations.

In December 2015, the California Labor Commission ruled in favor of Pacific 9 drivers in a separate misclassification and wage theft case. Thirty-eight drivers were awarded $7 million in stolen wages. Truckers weren’t allowed to work with their older trucks and were required to lease a newer one though a larger carrier that could guarantee the trucks met emissions standards under California’s Clean Truck Program.

The Pacific 9 drivers were classified as independent contractors while being bound to long-term lease purchase truck contracts. Along with weekly truck payments of $125, Pacific 9 drivers paid for all fuel, maintenance, insurance premiums and sometimes parking fees. Deductions to paychecks included permits, license fees, road taxes, inspections, registration and port entry fees. The Labor Commission also found the carrier had not provided drivers with legally mandated 30-minute meal breaks and 10-minute rest breaks.

Maynard acknowledged the December victory for Pacific 9 drivers Monday, but said drivers from the motor carrier were striking because the battle isn’t over.

“Yes, the drivers did win the ruling,” Maynard told Land Line in an email. “However, the company has still not paid them, and they’re continuing to do business at the port. So the strike goes on.”

Speaking generally about labor issues, Port of Long Beach Chief Executive Officer Jon Slangerup told Land Line last week that port freight numbers have been strong lately and reflected labor peace.

Several work stoppages by dockworkers slowed port traffic in 2014 and 2015 before agreements were reached last year.

“It’s a non-issue,” Slangerup said, referencing dock workers specifically.

“Certainly longshore workers were really focused on demonstrating their value,” Slangerup said. “It’s bad for everybody when there are labor disagreements or interruptions.”

Land Line Now News Anchor Reed Black and Land Line Magazine Editor-in-Chief Sandi Soendker contributed to this report.

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