Striking drivers and warehouse workers from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach delivered a petition calling on L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti to aid in their goal of getting companies to classify drivers as employees and not independent contractors.
A five-day strike by truck drivers and warehouse workers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach culminated in a rally on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall on June 23, followed by striking workers delivering what they say was nearly 10,000 petition signatures calling on the mayors of Los Angeles and Long Beach to help end the practice of drayage truckers being classified as non-employees by the companies that they work for.
The labor action was just the latest in more than a dozen that have been held at the port complex the last few years as workers attempt to gain recognition as employees by the companies they work for, instead of being treated as independent owner-operators or contractors.
“I went on strike for my family, to put a stop to the mistreatment,” said one disgruntled worker, Victor Gonzales of California Cartage Warehouse. “The Port of Los Angeles must be a better landlord and take responsibility for what’s going on here. Both the port and Mayor [Eric] Garcetti know what’s happening on port property – they need to demand Cal Cartage change and follow the law.”
Truck drivers and warehouse workers, with the support of Teamsters Local 848, went on strike from June 19-23 to protest what they said has been years of injustice and wage theft by their employers.
Because they are classified as independent contractors, workers are not eligible to receive most of the benefits afforded to employees, such as a minimum wage, overtime, health benefits and workers’ compensation.
However, the Harbor Trucking Association (HTA), which represents trucking companies near the ports, has blamed the labor unrest on the Teamsters, which has been trying for years to gain employee status for the drivers so they would then be eligible to join the union. HTA has argued the Teamsters and other outside interest groups don’t represent most drivers and that independent contractor status offers drivers flexibility and the opportunity to own their own small businesses.
Over the course of the five days, striking workers held rallies and the Long Beach and Los Angeles city halls, and picketed the two ports, as well as at third-party logistics provider XPO Logistics and other employers.
“One of the most insidious corporate schemes is to misclassify employees as independent contractors to dodge payroll taxes, lower wages, avoid paying benefits to workers, and to evade the laws that protect American employees,” said Fred Potter, vice president, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and director of the Teamsters Port Division. “Ground zero in the fight to end toxic subcontracting is the Teamster-led fight to restore employee rights – including the right to become Teamsters – to approximately 12,000 non-union drivers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach who are misclassified as independent contractors.”
Drivers just completed their 15th strike in past last four years, according to the Teamsters. However, according to the Port of L.A., disruptions to cargo flow during these labor actions, including last week’s, have been minimal.