Source: Long Beach Press Telegram
City News Service
LOS ANGELES — Mayor Eric Garcetti planned to meet this afternoon with officials from Total Transportation Services to discuss a labor dispute between the short-haul company and Los Angeles/Long Beach port truck drivers, who allege they’re being misclassified as contractors when they should be paid as full-time employees.
Garcetti’s staff was scheduled to meet with another trucking company, Pacific 9 Transportation, which is also being targeted in the port driver’s strike, mayoral spokesman Yusef Robb said.
A third trucking company, Green Fleet Transportation, resumed a “cooling-off” period with port drivers Thursday, Robb said.
Dozens of truck drivers from the two short-haul firms, which serving the Los Angeles/Long Beach port complex, were spending a second day walking picket lines to protest what they call management violations of a cooling-off period brokered by Garcetti.
Alex Cherin, a spokesperson for the two companies, declined to comment on the port drivers’ allegations.
Phillip Sanfield, spokesman for the Port of Los Angeles, said as of 8 a.m., more than 30 protesters were stationed at the APL, Evergreen, China Shipping and NYK terminals.
Port of Long Beach spokesman Lee Peterson said 20 “Teamster picketers” targeted three of the port’s six cargo terminals. The picketers were at truck entrances for Pier G, Pier F and Pier T container terminals, he said.
The terminals were operating, but some trucks lines were longer than usual due to the picketing, Peterson said.
Garcetti said Thursday that Total Transportation Services officials “agreed to sit down with our office and the Teamsters to find a way to get its operation back to work.” Garcetti also called on Pacific 9 Transportation “to come to the table, as well.”
“It is in everyone’s best interests for these operations to continue,” said the mayor, who is leading a trade mission to Asia starting Saturday. Harbor officials will accompany Garcetti on the 12-day trip to China, South Korea and Japan.
“Port truck drivers are a critical link in our global economy and they deserve quality working conditions,” Garcetti said. “I appreciate those trucking companies who are having an honest dialogue about the issues that have led to the job action this week.”
Barbara Maynard of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters said the drivers went on strike in July “to protest severe and continuing labor law violations — the drivers’ fourth such strike in a year.”
“After five days of picketing that dramatically impacted port operations … Garcetti brokered a ‘cooling off’ period, which included a critical agreement by companies to accept all drivers back to work without retaliation,” Maynard said. “Despite commitments to Mayor Garcetti, the companies have dramatically escalated retaliatory activity, clearly violating the terms of the cooling-off period.”
The alleged retaliatory moves include the firing of 35 drivers by Total Transportation Services because the drivers refused to withdraw their claims for “wage theft,” and “a dramatic increase in illegal deductions” from driver paychecks by Pac 9 Transportation, Maynard said.
Drivers have long complained that trucking companies classify them as independent contractors instead of employees, leaving them with lower pay and benefits.
Some drivers said they expected the backing of longshoremen at the port, which likely would give the truckers’ job action teeth, but the longshoremen did not immediately say if they, too, would walk off the job.
Longshoremen joined truckers on picket lines in July, but an arbitrator ordered them back to work, saying the walkout was a violation of their labor contract.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents thousands of West Coast dockworkers, is in the midst of contract negotiations with terminal operators and shipping lines, which have accused the union of slowing down cargo operations at ports. The union has denied the accusation.
Garcetti also commented Thursday on that labor dispute, saying he was “in close contact” with the dockworkers union and Pacific Maritime Association, which represents management, “as they negotiate their West Coast contract.”
“I am pleased they are continuing their negotiations in a way that allows work to continue and cargo to move at our ports,” he said.
Sanfield said 11 cargo ships were anchored off the Southern California coast this morning, unable to get into the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports due to a slowdown in operations, “pretty much status quo” to Thursday when there were 13 ships in the queue.
Sanfield explained Thursday that such delays are “highly unusual as normally there are no ships waiting for berths,” and that it now takes “a few days” before ships can get into the ports. The harbor department is “working around the clock” on solutions, he said.