LOS ANGELES, April 27, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On Monday, April 27, 2015, port truck drivers serving the nation's largest port complex began a strike of four major drayage firms serving the twin ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, where a crippling slowdown in early 2015 sent shock waves through the U.S. economy. Primary picket lines are now up at company yards in the greater Los Angeles area and in San Diego, and truckers and their supporters are picketing company trucks at marine terminals, rail yards, and customer warehouses as far away as the US/Mexico border.
In a breaking development, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Port Division and Green Fleet Systems, LLC, issued the following joint statement this morning, which avoided a strike at that company:
"We are pleased to announce that Green Fleet Systems, LLC, and the Teamsters Union have entered into a comprehensive labor peace agreement designed to ensure that Green Fleet's drivers have an opportunity to exercise their rights under the National Labor Relations Act and, if they choose, to select an exclusive representative for purpose of collective bargaining. This agreement also allows for the orderly conduct of business and insures that Green Fleet's loyal customers will continue to receive their deliveries timely and without interruption."
Striking drivers are picketing the following companies:
Intermodal Bridge Transport (IBT)
Pacific 9 Transportation (Pac 9)
Pacer Cartage (LA region and San Diego)
Harbor Rail Transport
Additionally, drivers and their supporters are picketing company trucks as they enter marine terminals at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, rail yards throughout the region, and customer warehouses as far east as Mira Loma and as far south as the U.S. Mexico border.
"We are here to make sure that these companies stop their lawless behavior. They cannot keep engaging in wage theft," said Hector Flores, Port Truck Driver, Intermodal Bridge Transport (IBT). "We demand re- classification to employees. We know what we are doing is right, and we are not going to stop striking until these companies stop breaking the law."
"We had no choice but to go on strike again because my company is continuing to violate the law. The courts have ruled that I am an employee and that their illegal deductions from my paycheck must stop. But they keep fighting me so I am fighting back," Humberto Canales, Port Truck Driver, Pacer Cartage.
"Six hundred thousand working men and women in Los Angeles stand behind the port drivers fighting to stop wage theft and the ability to have a voice on the job. Our ports are the economic engine for our region. Our drivers deserve a fair day's pay for a fair day's work," – Rusty Hicks, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.
Since drivers last struck in November 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has joined the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), California courts, the California Division Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), Employment Development Department (EDD), and Disability Insurance (SDI), in ruling that drivers are misclassified as "independent contractors." As a result of the U.S. DOL ruling, major drayage company Shippers Transport Express (STE) reclassified its "independent contractors" as employees.
The Shippers drivers' victory has inspired other misclassified drivers to escalate their demands to be recognized as employees and end the wage theft. In their fight to hold onto an illegal business model, company owners are continuing to harass, intimidate, and coerce drivers.
Additionally, the drivers have launched a national petition asking Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia to ban law-breaking for profit from the ports.
LA and Long Beach port truck drivers, fed up with toiling in the shadows of one of America's greatest economic machines, began fighting back in 2012 by suing their bosses for wage theft and misclassification as "independent contractors." In 2013, driver – facing harassment, retaliation, and intimidation for concerted union activities, began striking to protest labor law violations.
Fall 2012: The Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) held a legal workshop that resulted in the filing of hundreds of wage and hour claims with the California Department of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). Drivers also have filed individual and class action lawsuits for wage theft.
The industry now faces an estimated annual liability for wage and hour violations of $850 million in California alone. These unlawful deductions can add up to $60,000 or more per year for a single driver.
Each time the government (the DLSE, California courts, and/or Federal courts) have made a determination that these deductions are illegal, employers are liable for reimbursing drivers for this full amount.
August 2013: Facing retaliation for their claims and concerted union activity, truck drivers working for Green Fleet Systems (GFS) – both employee drivers AND misclassified "independent contractors" – went on strike.
November 2013: Drivers at Pacific 9 Transportation (PAC 9) and American Logistics International, joined Green Fleet drivers in their second strike.
April 2014: Drivers at GFS, Pac 9, and Total Transportation Services Inc. (TTSI) went on strike.
November 2014: As drivers at GFS, Pac 9, and Total Transportation Services Inc. (TTSI) prepared to go on strike, GFS and the Teamsters entered into confidential discussions. Drivers from Pac 9 and TTSI went on strike, and were joined throughout the week by drivers from Pacer, Harbor Rail Transport (HRT), QTS Inc., LACA Express, and WinWin Logistics. By the end of the strike, the Teamsters and all struck companies were in confidential discussions.
Port truck drivers work long hours hauling nearly $4 billion worth of cargo every day, yet often receive paychecks below the minimum wage. These professional drivers, who transport imports from American seaports for companies like Walmart, Home Depot, Target, and Polo/Ralph Lauren, are on the front lines of the fight to end wage theft through misclassification as "independent contractors." Unwilling to wait for the lawless industry to transform, drivers are rising up, to improve their jobs and rebuild the ever diminishing middle-class.
Contributions can be made to Labor Community Services AFL-CIO, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) affiliated with the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. Contributions can be made online via PayPal at www.laborcommunityservicesla.org, or mail a check made out to "Labor Community Services" and include "Justice for Port Drivers Hardship Fund" in the memo. Checks should be mailed to:
Labor Community Services AFL-CIO 2130 W. James M. Wood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90006 ATTN: Justice for Port Drivers Hardship Fund