Truck drivers and warehouse workers from companies serving the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports were in the second day of a strike on Tuesday, although port officials said minimal disruption was being felt.
Members of Teamsters Local 848 charge that port and rail drivers at XPO Cartage Inc., part of XPO Logistics Inc., are being misclassified as “independent contractors” to deny them proper compensation and their employee rights.
Drivers are picketing XPO facilities in Commerce, Rancho Dominguez and San Diego, California, as well as America’s largest port complex, the twin ports of Los Angeles-Long Beach, and the Intermodal Rail Intermodal Container Transfer Facility, when XPO trucks attempt to enter marine terminals and the rail yard.
A spokesman for the Port of Los Angeles told Sourcing Journal, “All longshore workers and affiliated unions are working as usual. All cargo terminals are open and cargo is flowing. There is an occasional traffic back-up at terminal gates where pickets are stationed.”
He said there are hundreds of trucking companies that do business at the port complex, and thousands of truckers are moving through the complex on a daily basis. The action this week is targeted at a relatively small number of trucking companies, about a half dozen or so.
“Los Angeles Port Police has increased their presence at terminals so we can make sure that pickets remain safe in heavy traffic zones and can express their First Amendment rights to assemble and protest,” the port spokesman said. “We are also making sure that cargo continues to flow in and out of the gates at the terminal. We’ll continue to do that as long as truckers continue to assemble at the gates or on Port property.”
(Read more on potential port problems: Shipping Issues and Uncertainty Upset Logistics Landscape)
The union said part of what triggered the situation was the goal recently announced by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia of requiring zero emission trucks at the ports by 2035.
“We support clean air, but there was no mention on how this Clean Air Action Plan would impact the drivers. We are concerned about who will end up paying for it,” said Eric Tate, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 848. “The last time they did this in 2008 with the Clean Truck Program, the corporations ended up passing on the cost to the workers by requiring them to lease a truck in order to get hired and illegally misclassifying them as `independent contractors,’ leaving very little for the workers to take home to their families. We don’t want that to happen again.”
The union said 100,000 short haul truck drivers who move containerized cargo on and off the docks of the nation’s seaports and rail yards have been pushed out of the middle class and into deep poverty by the action of many companies to take them off the payroll and turn them into independent contractors.
“Ground zero of this campaign has been the 12,000 port drivers at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, where many have called the big rig trucks that carry the containerized freight we rely on ‘sharecroppers on wheels’ because of the debt peonage system created by misclassification,” the Teamsters added.