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American Shipper

Teamsters try to tie port Prop-1B funds to truck plan vote

Teamsters try to tie port Prop-1B funds to truck plan vote

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters is attempting to tie more than $1 billion in state bond funding for Oakland and Long Beach port projects to those ports' officials adopting a union-backed plan to turn port drivers into employees.

   Barry Broad, legislative director of the California Teamsters Public Affairs Council and a well-known state capitol lobbyist for the union, urged a state commission Feb. 21 to defer action on any Proposition 1B-funded projects proposed by the two ports until they adopted the Teamsters' plan.

   Speaking during an Oakland meeting of the California Transportation Commission, Broad also warned the commissioners the Teamsters would 'be urging the legislature not to appropriate the Proposition 1B money until such plans were in place.' Broad summarized his comments in a written response to an American Shipper request.

   The Teamsters' threat comes just days after Port of Long Beach commissioners voted unanimously to approve a port truck replacement plan that does not include the employee-only mandate. In adopting the plan, which seeks to reduce port-generated pollution by replacing nearly 17,000 trucks servicing the port of Long Beach and Los Angeles by 2012, the Long Beach commissioners broke ranks with their Los Angeles counterparts over the employee-only mandate.

   Los Angeles port officials, who have yet to vote on the portion of the plan containing the employee-only language, have indicated they will move forward to require all trucking firms servicing Los Angeles port facilities hire only per-hour employees and not per-load independent contractors.

   Broad said his comments specifically omitted Los Angeles because the port is 'on-track to adopt the clean trucks plan' supported by the Teamsters.

   The Port of Oakland, which is also developing a similar truck replacement plan, has not to date included employee-only language in their initial outlines.

   Industry experts regard the employee-only mandate as a precursor to Teamster unionization of the port drivers, an effort that has been unsuccessful in past years at the Southern California ports where more than 80 percent of the drivers are independent owner operators.

   The Teamsters have made organizing truck drivers at the nation's ports part of the union's national platform and a primary near-term objective.

   Teamsters President James Hoffa, Jr. personally presented the union's employee-only plan to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa last summer. It was subsequently adopted into the original Southern California truck plan that was developed jointly by Long Beach and Los Angeles officials and announced last April.

   At stake for Long Beach and Oakland port officials are hundreds of millions of dollars in state bond money the ports have requested from the Prop-1B Traffic Corridor Improvement Fund. California voters approved the $20 billion bond measure in November 2006, with $3.1 billion allocated toward port infrastructure, security and air quality programs.

   Oakland officials have requested more than $440 million in Prop-1B funds from the CTC, while Long Beach port officials have requested $650 million, according to CTC documents. These numbers do not include requests made with or through other agencies, such as a $158 million request for a rail bridge project that services both the Long Beach and Los Angeles port.

   Long Beach and Oakland officials, while not addressing the Teamsters threat directly, said both ports' requests for funds through the CTC were critical for the Bay Area and Southern California regions.

   'We remain committed to submitting trade corridor improvement project to the CTC that will support economic growth and improved air quality for our region,' said Port of Oakland spokesperson Marilyn Sandifur.

   Long Beach officials said they were confident the truck plan approved by their commission on Tuesday would significantly improve the regional air quality and eventually see a modern fleet of trucks servicing the port.

   'Our proposals for Prop. 1B funds are for clean trucks, security improvements and roadway, rail and bridge projects that are urgently needed and will benefit the two ports, and the entire region,' said Art Wong, Port of Long Beach spokesman.

   CTC officials said that while they consider public comments such as Broad's, they do not have much impact in the near-term on CTC actions. 'These are political issues that will be resolved at the legislative level and that we do not get involved in at this point in time,' said CTC Deputy Director Andre Boutros.

   'If the legislature chooses to enact laws that would direct the commission to do certain things,' Boutros said, 'we would certainly go along with those directives.' ' Keith Higginbotham

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