Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

Short-haul drivers serving the Los Angeles/Long Beach port complex and the port of San Diego began a strike Monday targeting four companies doing business at those locations.

The firms being targeted by picketers are: Pacific 9 Transportation, with offices in Carson and Long Beach; Harbor Rail Transport, with an office in Rancho Dominguez; Intermodal Bridge Transport, with an office in Long Beach; and Pacer Cartage, with offices in Commerce and San Diego. The truckers did not immediately say how long the job action would last.

The drivers also announced that “11th hour negotiations” had resulted in a “comprehensive labor peace agreement” between the Teamsters union and the Green Fleet Systems drayage firm. Details of that agreement were not disclosed.

About 200 of the estimated 500 drivers associated with the four companies were on the picket lines today, and the job action expanded to cargo terminals later. Some secondary picketing targeted specific trucks as they arrive at other locations.

Truck drivers have been fighting drayage firms, which transport goods over short distances, since 2012 over being classified as independent contractors rather than employees entitled to employee rights and protections.

In a statement, drivers said that since a strike last November and a subsequent U.S. Labor Department ruling, a major drayage company, Shippers Transport Express, reclassified its independent contractor drivers.

“The Shippers drivers’ victory has inspired other misclassified drivers to escalate their demands to be recognized as employees and end the wage theft. In their fight to hold onto an illegal business model, company owners are continuing to harass, intimidate and coerce drivers,” according to the statement.

“Unwilling to wait for the courts to rule as they did in the Shippers case, the drivers have launched a national petition asking Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia to ban lawbreaking for profits from both ports,” the statement says.

Garcetti spokesman Jeff Millman said the mayor and city officials “appreciate those trucking companies who are having an honest dialogue” about its issues with their employers. He also said about 800 trucking companies serve the ports with about 13,700 trucks, “so there are plenty of trucks and drivers to keep commerce flowing.”

Port of Long Beach CEO Jon Slangerup said “dockworkers have reported to work and truckers have been able to enter and exit the affected terminals without delay,” adding he does not believe there will be any “adverse impact” to efforts to reduce congestion at the ports.

Slangerup said the port does not “employ or contract with the drivers … but we respect the rights of the drivers to picket.” He said Harbor and Long Beach police were “monitoring the situation and they are keeping the roadways accessible to all who want to do business at the port.”

The drivers drew support from Rep. Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro, who represents the harbor area and visited the picketers.

“I stand in solidarity with our local port truck drivers who are on strike demanding a long-overdue end to wage theft and unfair employment practices,” she said.

Drivers who are “misclassified” as independent contractors by their employers are “routinely overworked and underpaid,” Hahn said. And even though there has been progress in the courts supporting the drivers, “unfair practices continue,” she said.

“Today I am proud to stand with our local port truck drivers to demand an end to this once and for all,” Hahn said.

—Staff and wire reports

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