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Strike Hits Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and Cargo Could See Impacts

Truck drivers and warehouse workers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., launched a major strike Monday, but a spokesperson for the Port of Los Angeles told Sourcing Journal that despite some pickets, there was no disruption to cargo.

As of Tuesday morning, pickets are taking place at a centralized location off site and not at the Port of Los Angeles.

During the labor action, some terminals and railyards in the San Pedro Bay Port Complex may be impacted, the port said. “Every effort will be made to minimize any impacts to the flow of commerce and to the communities in and around the Port of Los Angeles. Inconveniences when entering or exiting some facilities may occur.”

The Port of Los Angeles said it will assist in “making sure everyone is able to express their First Amendment rights while also making sure the Port continues to operate safely and efficiently.” In addition, there will be an increased law enforcement presence by Los Angeles Port Police in conjunction with the Los Angeles Police Department and Long Beach Police Department.

The dispute centers over drivers claiming they are being misclassified as “independent contractors,” according to Justice for Port Drivers, which includes members of the Teamsters Port Division. Drivers at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have been challenging their misclassification, and the local union said legal claims have been pursued on behalf of at least half of the misclassified drivers at the port complexes, either by drivers filing individual wage claims or as part of class action lawsuits.

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“Upon investigating the facts, multiple agencies and courts at both the state and federal levels have determined that drivers are, in fact, employees and therefore protected by employment and labor laws,” the group said. “With the dedicated support from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, plus many other labor, community, and faith allies, we are fighting to change the port trucking industry so we can win justice for ourselves and our families.”

The Teamsters union said the workers “are at the gateway of the U.S. supply chain” and will carry out a series of escalating strikes and actions “to build worker power and expose an industry built on exploitation, wage theft and discrimination.”

The labor action will include truck drivers with XPO Logistics serving the ports and nearby rail yards participating in an unfair labor practice strike, along with truck drivers and warehouse workers employed by NFI Industries, the union said. These large logistics companies are targeted because their workers “are misclassified by their companies as independent contractors,” the Teamsters said.

The strike is expected to last three days. Actions taking place involve picketing at company facilities, marine terminals, rail yards, customer warehouse and distribution centers, as well as leafleting at customers’ retail outlets. Actions are also planned by XPO workers in the San Diego area.

The union said port drivers are exercising their rights as employees by engaging in collective action in the courts, in their truck yards and at the ports. The teamsters noted that the California labor commissioner has ordered companies to pay more than $48 million in back pay to drivers.

“However, port drivers still face exploitation at the ports and with the help of the Teamsters Union, will not stop until they are treated with justice, respect and dignity,” the organization said.

Justice for Port Drivers said it is also calling on the companies’ customers, including Toyota and Amazon, “to use their market power to rid the U.S. supply chain of indentured servitude.” The group said this is the port workers’ 16th strike in five years, demonstrating that, “despite the unwillingness of America’s largest port complex to ban law-breaking trucking and warehouse companies from doing business on public property,” port drivers and warehouse workers will not accept the “rampant abuse and illegal working conditions they have endured and contested for decades.”

The local union said XPO Logistics, through and its subsidiaries XPO Port Services and XPO Cartage, have approximately 280 alleged misclassified drivers working for both companies in their area locations and about 160 additional drivers in XPO Cartage’s San Diego facility.

NFI Industries and its California Cartage family of companies includes five major trucking operations at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Justice for Port Drivers said more than 600 alleged misclassified drivers work for these companies.

“This is the Teamsters up to their usual tactics–spreading misinformation in the media and trying to create distractions,” said a spokesperson for XPO Logistics. “The fact is that XPO provides numerous work opportunities throughout California, ranging from full-time employment to temporary work assignments and independent contracts, and drivers have the freedom to choose which work model best suits their needs. If any of our independent contractors would prefer to work as an employee driver, we have employment opportunities in our Southern California locations.”

The spokesperson added that the company does not expect any impact on its customers or day-to-day operations.

NFI said the Teamsters are looking to force representation on the workers “who want to continue to be their own bosses and run their own small businesses.”

“We respect their desire to operate as independent business people and not as employees of our companies or the hundreds of other trucking companies that are currently looking to hire employee drivers,” NFI said.