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CA Port Drivers Vote to Join Teamsters Local 848, Company Oddly Appears to Think It’s Cool

Newly organized Teamsters at the post-vote press conference

Newly organized Teamsters at the post-vote press conference

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On Friday, 88 of the 111 port truckers working for Shippers Transport Express voted to be represented by Teamsters Local 848. The vote represents a major victory for the misclassified drayage truckers at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach who have been participating in work actions for over a year.  The union can now help the truckers negotiate a new contract.  

The move comes just days after Shippers Transport Express agreed to change their business model and recognize the truckers as employees instead of independent contractors.  

The agreement also called for both parties to be neutral throughout the unionization process. Management promised not to interfere while Teamsters reps suggested they would not “belittle or disrupt” Shippers Transport Express by picketing or organizing worker actions.  The agreement also calls for union authorization cards to be validated through a neutral third party. 

A press conference announced the organizing win, after which Shippers Transport Express’ General Manager Kevin Baddeley told the Press-Telegram, “This is the future of the industry, I think.  I think we’re just the first. I’m OK with it. It’s what the drivers want.”

Baddeley further explained his company’s stance to CBS Los Angeles:

Shippers’ transition to an employee-based business model is a crucial step in the drayage industry’s efforts to modernize, make the ports more efficient and reduce congestion at the ports and on our freeways.  On unionization, we took a neutral position because we respect our drivers’ right to form a union. Finally, through our productive dialogue with the Teamsters, we anticipate we will be able to improve operational efficiencies and stabilize our driver workforce.”

Fred Potter, International Vice President-At Large for the Teamsters, spoke after the press conference. He credited the workers perseverance for their victory:

“This historic agreement represents an important step in drivers’ efforts to reform the drayage industry, and demonstrates clearly that labor and management can work together constructively to find solutions to challenges facing the industry and to the injustices facing the drivers.  As Teamsters, Shippers drivers will now begin the hard work of negotiating a first contract to assure that they earn a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work.”

Many of last year’s trucking industry worker wins signaled stronger changes of similar outcomes in other battles. Julie Gutman-Dickinson, an attorney representing the truck drivers, also called the agreement “historic” and predicted it would set off a wave of change in the industry:

“I believe other companies will follow to avoid huge legal liability from their unlawful ‘independent contractor model’ and to avoid strikes and debilitating labor disruption,” she [told the Press-Telegram]. “Many companies are starting to recognize that it is through modernizing to adopt an employee model, a neutral unionization process and working collaboratively with drivers, the Teamsters and the port, that they will be able to move cargo more efficiently and effectively, stay in business and thrive.”

Shippers is the second Los Angeles/Long Beach drayage company to be organized by the Teamsters. Toll Group was the first.

California Senator Ricardo Lara weighed in on the unionization vote:

“I congratulate the Los Angeles and Long Beach port truck drivers on their decision to unionize. Their talents and dedication help make the greater Los Angeles area function. Now they can fight for equitable pay and good working conditions, while advancing the business of the ports – it’s a win-win,

A recent advocacy group report showed two-thirds of the nation’s truck drivers who haul from U.S. seaports are misclassified as independent contractors. “Trucking used to be one of the backbones of America’s blue-collar middle class,” said Jared Bernstein, senior fellow for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and former chief economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. “But deregulation and deunionization and misclassification has significantly reduced the quality of jobs in the sector.”


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