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Labor Board Alleges Violations at California Ports

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a complaint Wednesday against Universal Logistics Holdings (ULH) and its affiliated business enterprises in what the Teamsters union described as a landmark victory for the rights of truck drivers who work at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which has struggled with cargo congestion.

In the course of its investigation against the ULH-affiliated companies, the NLRB said it found more than 20 violations of federal labor law, notably that ULH-affiliated Universal Intermodal Services (UIS) allegedly violated the law by terminating its workforce of unionized drivers shortly after their union election victory in December 2019. The company was then charged with unlawfully transferring work from the recently unionized facility to drivers misclassified as independent contractors at ULH-affiliated Southern Counties Express, the complaint alleges.

The complaint, based on charges filed by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Port Division, also named ULH and its affiliates operating at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach as a single integrated business enterprise constituting a “single employer” and “alter egos” under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

“The NLRB complaint makes clear that the Universal group of companies is one single entity that has been violating the law at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in a blatant effort to trample on employees’ fundamental right to form a union, using its misclassification of drivers as independent contractors to further this goal,” Ron Herrera, Teamsters Port Division director, said. “We cannot allow any corporation, no matter how big or powerful, to ignore the law, especially during a pandemic that has devastated essential workers and their communities.”

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The NLRB’s complaint sets a trial date of June 14 for charged violations of federal labor law, including suspending and terminating two lead union supporters in retaliation for their union activity shortly after they began exercising their rights to organize a union, terminating or laying off all Roadrunner company drivers in retaliation for and to prevent union activity.

The charged violations also include terminating or laying off all Universal Truckload company drivers in retaliation for and to prevent union activity, reducing drivers’ hours and pay after their union election in retaliation for their Union activity and without bargaining with the Union, and failing and refusing to bargain with the Union for a first contract and over a multitude of mandatory subjects of bargaining.

The complaint also charges a range of other violations of the NLRA, such as unlawful interrogation, soliciting grievances and promising benefits, discouraging employees from filing charges with the NLRB, refusing to provide the union with information it is required to provide and dealing directly with unit employees.

The Teamsters has also requested that the NLRB petition the federal district court to order Universal to reinstate the allegedly wrongly discharged employees, re-establish the unionized bargaining unit and bargain in good faith for a fair collective bargaining agreement. Through trial, Universal will also face liability for more than a year of back pay for over 60 former Universal Intermodal Services, Roadrunner and Universal Truckload employees terminated in retaliation for their union activity, according to the union.

Earlier this week, truck drivers working at another ULH-affiliated company, Container Connection, filed a Cal/OSHA complaint alleging a systemic failure to protect drivers and demands that Cal/OSHA conduct an immediate on-site investigation of their workplace and investigate Container Connection’s lack of a Covid-19 Prevention Program, according to the Teamsters.

Region 21 of the NLRB is also currently investigating unfair labor practice charges recently filed by the Teamsters against ULH/Container Connection for allegedly misclassifying workers as independent contractors and is part of the same ULH single integrated enterprise as Universal Intermodal Services and Southern Counties Express.

Universal Logistics Holdings did not respond to a request for comment from Sourcing Journal.