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Nov
2015
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Week-long Teamsters strike, 27K Signatures Result in Misclassification Resolution at SoCal Ports

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In the span of one week, the labor actions taken by drayage truckers at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach went from 20 people on a picket line to a march on City Hall where drivers delivered 27,000 signatures to Mayor Eric Garcetti. They gained the support of the city council, which voted in favor of a resolution that calls on companies doing business at the ports to obey federal and state labor laws.  

On Monday, October 26th truck drivers at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles began their 8th strike in the past two years, picketing two drayage firms over claims of wage theft and employee misclassification.  Drivers took to the picket line against XPO Logistics, explaining via a Teamsters press release that they were protesting “unfair labor practices, including misclassification and retaliation, harassment, and intimidation for having filed claims for wage theft with the California Labor Commissioner’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.”

The XPO drivers joined drivers for Pacific 9 Transportation who have been on indefinite strike since July over their misclassification as independent contractors.  The drivers of both companies haul goods for companies such as Toyota, Procter & Gamble, Amazon, Walmart, Microsoft and Macy’s.  

The ongoing labor strife at the ports has been part of an industry-wide movement by drivers to be recognized as employees rather than independent contractors.  The Long Beach Post provided background on the difficulties Pacific 9 drivers have faced during the fight:

The picketing comes 18 months after Region 21 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced a settlement agreement with the Pac 9 drivers that paved the way to unionization. In that now-withdrawn settlement agreement, illegally misclassified Pac 9 drivers were recognized as legal employees.

After an extensive investigation, the Region determined there was sufficient evidence that Pac 9’s “independent contractor” drivers are employees and are entitled to federal labor law protections under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). According to the release, as a result, NLRB Region 21 found that Pac 9 drivers have been subjected to unlawful retaliation and threats for exercising their legal rights to organize a union.

Teamsters President James Hoffa joined the protest on Tuesday along with Fred Potter, head of the Teamsters Port Division, and Ron Herrera, Vice President of the Western Region and Executive Director of the National Hispanic Caucus.  Hoffa pledged his support and announced a wider escalation of organizing throughout the supply chain.  A new partnership with the Warehouse Workers Resource Center will help organization efforts throughout the drayage and warehouse industries:

“I bring you the pledge of support from 1.4 million brothers and sisters who support you here today.  The whole country supports you. We will be here until this fight ends. We are just beginning.”

In a Teamsters press release, Hoffa further explained the new partnership with the Warehouse Workers Resource Center:

“Yesterday, I visited with supply chain workers who haul imports and exports to and from the docks at our nation’s largest port, and with the warehouse workers who unpack and reload items onto trucks destined for major retailers like Amazon and Walmart.  Every one of these egregiously exploited workers shared stories of their inhumane working conditions and their determination to fight back, not just for themselves but for all of their supply chain co-workers.”

On Wednesday, the drayage truckers were joined by 40 warehouse workers from California Cartage.  More truckers who claim they are being misclassified by Gold Point Transportation also joined the protest.  This caught the attention of Councilmember Joe Buscaino, whose district includes the Port of Los Angeles.  Buscaino was the co-author of the resolution passed later in the week, which called for “the parties in the dispute to resolve any labor issues proactively to avoid any work stoppages at the Port of Los Angeles.

On Friday the resolution was passed by the city council.  At the most basic level, the resolution calls for offending companies to stop classifying truckers as independent contractors instead of employees.  A 2014 study by the National Employment Law Project found the 65 percent of the nation’s 75,000 port truckers are misclassified, which when tax losses and wage violations are included costs $1.4 billion a year.  

Later that day, the strike came to an end.

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