LOS ANGELES-LONG BEACH (PAI) – Short-haul truckers at the nation’s largest port, Los Angeles-Long Beach, again had to strike over terrible working conditions and employer exploitation, starting November 14. The strike spread to railroads that feed the port.
The truckers called the strike against two of the big firms that hire them to serve the port, where they take loads away from the docks to inland warehouses. The truckers demand that the firms, drayage companies Pac9 and TTSI, treat them and pay them as “employees,” not as “independent contractors.”
Making the workers employees would let the Teamsters organize them under labor law, and open the way to economic gains. The drivers also demand an end to company harassment, intimidation and use of union-busters.
The L.A.-Long Beach port drivers are one of many groups of low-wage workers nationwide – Walmart workers, warehouse workers, fast-food workers, restaurant workers – who launched mass movements for decent wages, working conditions and the right to organize without employer interference. Unions, led by the Teamsters, the Service Employees and the AFL-CIO, aid those movements.
The truckers say that making them employees would protect them legally and give them leverage to demand “a fair wage for every hour worked,” including company-mandated waiting time. As employees, the firms could not force drivers to shoulder business expenses – such as diesel fuel, insurance and repairs. “And it would end wage theft,” the drivers said.
The drivers also demand coverage under basic U.S. workplace protections, such as safety and health rules, disability insurance, workers comp and unemployment insurance. Under federal law, firms do not have to pay workers comp, Social Security or jobless insurance for “independent contractors.”
The drivers took their strike to the ports’ intermodal rail yards on November 19, the Teamsters reported. Two carriers, Pacer Cartage and Harbor Rail Transport (HRT), dispatch the ports’ cargo to and from warehouses and distribution centers nationwide.
The port drivers followed non-participating trucks from Pacer and HRT to customer locations, including the rail yards, and picketed the trucks working there, the union said. The day before, truckers at three other L.A.-Long Beach port firms, QTS Inc., LACA Express, and WinWin Logistics, joined the drivers’ strike, for the reasons the other truckers cited.
“We are sick of being trampled upon and mistreated,” Humberto Canales, a misclassified Pacer “independent contractor,” told the union. “We are joining the fight and coming out of the shadows to demand our rights as employees to provide a better future for our families.”
Added Harbor Rail driver Alfredo Reyes: “These companies have gotten away with this scam for too long. It’s time to make a change,” added Harbor Rail driver Alfredo Reyes.
“The fight in Long Beach is ground zero for ending wage theft,” said Teamsters Vice President Fred Potter. “We see the change: Public officials are calling companies to tell them to comply with the law. We, the 1.4 million members of the Teamsters, stand behind these port drivers.”
Photo: Truckers in Los Angeles-Long Beach walk a picket line at the port after being forced to strike, again, protesting their classification as “independent contractors” and exploitation by trucking firms. The walkout spread to intermodal railroads serving the port. Teamsters photo via PAI Photo Service.