The Teamsters said Monday that they had shut down operations at three drayage companies servicing the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach that employ about 400 drivers, but it was unclear whether the protests would widely affect container terminal operations at the ports after the International Longshore and Warehouse Union announced a three-day suspension in labor talks late in the day.
At a press conference called by Justice for Port Truckers, part of the Teamsters Port Division, speakers said about 120 drivers are participating in the strike against Green Fleet, Total Transportation Services, Inc., and Pacific 9 Transportation.
The Port of Los Angeles said that cargo operations at its terminals had continued with "minimal impact" from what the Teamsters are terming an "unfair labor practice” strike.
"There have been a handful of informational protesters at two Port of Los Angeles container terminals, but there has not been a disruption in cargo operations," said the Port of Los Angeles in a statement.
Two terminals in Los Angeles and four in Long Beach were closed Monday because of an International Longshore and Warehouse Union holiday.
Barbara Maynard, a spokesman for the protesting drayage drivers, said the picketing this morning was confined to the the truck terminals of the three companies, but if trucks left those locations for the port, pickets would follow them to marine terminals and set up picket lines there.
Last fall, ILWU protesters briefly honored a picket line put up by
drayage drivers, but returned to work when an arbitrator ruled the
picket line was not bona fide.
However, it was not clear what would happen if drivers from the three companies went to the marine terminals in the two ports and threw up picket lines today.
The ILWU contract with employers, represented by the Pacific Maritime Association, expired on July 1. While the two sides have said they will continue to bargain and that "cargo will keep moving, and normal operations will continue at the ports until an agreement can be reached," the fact that there was no contract extension meant arbitration provisions were no longer in effect when Monday's protests began. But late Monday, the PMA and ILWU announced they were suspending their negotiations for 72 hours "while the ILWU attends to an unrelated
negotiation taking place in the Pacific Northwest."
The PMA and ILWU added that they had agreed "to extend their previous six-year contract, which expired
Extending the contract would apparently re-institute arbitration, and assuming ILWU members walked off the job in order to honor a drayage driver picket line, an arbitrator might once again rule that the drayage drivers had not formed bona fide picket lines.
However, it was not clear what might happen if, for example, picket lines were thrown up before the ILWU's suspension of negotiations.
In a statement, Green Fleet said it "is discouraged to learn that outside interest groups have again decided to block the rights of these drivers to go to work and earn a living. Time and time again, every segment of the industry has rejected the efforts of these groups and their agenda. It is unfortunate that once again we must wait out what has become a distraction.
"The fact is that an overwhelming majority of contractors and drivers affiliated with Green Fleet don't want these groups involved in their work. Green Fleet will continue to service its customers and pay its drivers some of the best rates in the industry while doing so."
Striking truckers spoke at at a Monday press conference that was also attended by members of the Farm Workers Union and U.S. Rep. Janice Hahn, D-Calif., who said drayage drivers are "stuck at the bottom of the economic ladder because of long-standing unfair economic treatment."
She continued, "The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are by far the largest job and wealth generators of any port complex in this country. Everyone working in goods movement deserves to benefit from the wealth at our nation's ports. Transportation-related jobs that handle this valuable cargo should be good paying local jobs to fuel the economic growth and prosperity throughout Southern California."
Justice for Port Truckers said, “These unfair labor practice strikes are the fourth such strikes in the past 11 months and are a dramatic escalation from prior actions, which, like many other low-wage worker strikes over the past year, were 24-48 hours in duration.” It said the current strike would be “indefinite” and “widespread.”
The Teamsters complained, “These escalating actions come as the drayage industry is growing increasingly desperate and retaliatory, doing everything it can — including unending retaliation in flagrant violation of U.S. labor laws — to hold onto a business model that relies on independent contractors."
Alex Paz, a port truck driver who emceed the press conference, said he was fired from his job after he filed for wages before the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.
He said drayage companies are retaliating against drivers.
"We are standing up for our rights; we won't back down," he said. "We have come out of the shadows, and we are staying down here until the industry changes and until they stop breaking law, until they stop firing us, harassing us, and intimidating us."