Port truck drivers urged the Harbor Commission Friday to take steps against companies they allege have been misclassifying them as independent contractors, stealing wages and firing dozens of workers in retaliation, while the Port of Los Angeles’s top official promised solutions are on the way.
Truck drivers told Harbor Commissioners they were ready to begin striking again, saying they have been retaliated against by their employers even after they stopped picketing this summer at the request of Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Amilcar Cardona was fired by Green Fleet Systems, which had been employing him as an independent contractor. He returned to work today — as an employee, this time — thanks to a court injunction, but he said the mistreatment continues and demanded the mayor and harbor officials take action.
“I wanted you to be aware that very soon we will go on strike,” he said. “I am asking, please do something, because the court has already decided I am an employee.”
Representatives for the trucking companies were not immediately available for comment.
Harbor Department Executive Director Gene Seroka, citing his own family’s affiliations with the Teamsters and union organizing, said at the meeting he understands the drivers’ plight and promised that “we will find ways to help.”
He said the port benefits if workers are paid fair wages, “so we’re in alignment on that.”
The Harbor Department has been working with city officials and the mayor to come up with “plausible solutions,” Seroka said, and there have been discussions with truck drivers about “alternative solutions, of which I think we will have some momentum on in the weeks ahead.”
Garcetti brokered a “cooling off” period this past summer between the drivers and their employers, Green Fleet Systems, Total Transportation Services, Inc. and Pacific 9 Transportation.
He also instructed the Harbor Department to look into the trucker drivers’ allegations. Harbor officials said today a report on that review is expected to be ready by December.
Commissioner Patricia Castellanos voiced sympathy for the truck drivers, saying “this continues to be an outrage that this is still happening … and that drivers are still having to experience these conditions,” which includes workers taking home negative paychecks.
“As far as I can tell, these drivers respected that cooling-off period for the last few months,” by not picketing the port’s terminals and not going on strike, “yet during that same period, I also understand 35 drivers have been fired in retaliation for their activities,” Castellanos said.
With the court battle that ultimately resulted in two workers returning to work today taking nine to 10 months to complete, “I cannot in good conscience ask these drivers to be patient,” Castellanos said.
“It is very clear that the actions that their employers are taking is what’s causing them to take even further action,” she said.
— City News Service