Additional Labor Dispute Threatens West Coast Ports

Additional Labor Dispute Threatens West Coast Ports

LA-PortThe Associated Press reported on July 7, that drivers in a long-running labor dispute with three trucking companies that operate at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach began what they said would be an indefinite strike.

The two ports handle almost half of the nation’s cargo and are the main gateway for imports from Asia.

The dispute is over how Green Fleet Systems, Total Transportation Services Inc. and Pacific 9 Transportation Inc. classify their drivers. These three trucking companies have about 400 trucks registered at the Port of Los Angeles, which is about 10% of those that operate on a regular day, reports the AP.

Drivers claim that the three companies improperly classify the truckers as contractors – rather than full-time employees – to minimize wages and benefits. The drivers also claim that the companies prevent them from unionizing.

The drivers have filed lawsuits and complaints with state and federal labor agencies to change their status.

In a statement made to NPR, Green Fleet Systems, called the strike a distraction, adding that an overwhelming majority of the company’s contractors and drivers are paid well and don’t sympathize with the picketers.

Los Angeles Port Spokeman Phillip Sanfield and Long Beach Spokesman Lee Peterson said cargo was moving normally Monday.

In addition to this news, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union representing 13,600 dockworkers at 30 ports stretching from San Diego to Bellingham, Wash., have been operating without a contract since July 1, when their six-year deal with the association representing shipping lines and West Coast port terminal operators expired.

Late Monday, the Pacific Maritime Association and Warehouse Union issued a joint statement that talks would be suspended until Friday morning – July 11. The statement also said that the contract would be reinstated during the break. Additionally, the two entities said they do not want a disruption in the flow of goods.

Preventing a disruption could be a challenge if truckers picket dockside terminals. Barb Maynard, a spokeswoman for a campaign to organize truckers, said that would happen if trucks from the three companies make those runs, reports AP.

AP also noted that during past trucker strikes, dockworkers stopped working in solidarity but quickly returned when an arbitrator ruled the job action was not permissible under their contract. When no contract is in place, the arbitration process is not in effect. Once the contract expires again Friday, if dockworkers walk, their employers couldn’t force them back to work.

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