Picketing at the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach (POLA-LB) continued today, as organized groups of harbor truckers move ahead with their campaign to gain union status. Justice for Port Truck Drivers, a group affiliated with the Teamsters, accuses drayage companies of misclassifying drivers as independent drivers. The Teamsters argue that the companies exert enough control over the daily operations of independent drivers to embody an employer-employee relationship. The drayage companies counter that drivers deserve their independent status because they can accept or reject loads, create their own working hours and have no set wages.
The goal of the Teamsters is to have the drivers classified as employees in order to improve their wages and benefits. If the companies agree to hire the drivers as employees, or if the courts or government agencies rule the drivers are employees, they can vote to be organized by the Teamsters, and their future contracts would be negotiated with the help of the union.
Although the picketing continued through Thursday, cargo handling at the port complex has not been affected. Spokesmen for both ports said the picketing was limited to a few terminals, and even at those facilities, the vast majority of trucks were moving freely into and out of the terminals. Longshoremen were working as normal. Protest organizers would like the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) members to honor the drivers’ pickets, but that effort has not been very successful. At times when longshoremen did honor the picket lines, the local arbitrators ruled that the pickets were not “bona-fide”, according to the contract, because the drivers were not members of a union.
The drayage truck registries at the POLA-LB list 600 licensed motor carriers, and more than 14,000 trucks, most of which are driven by owner-operators.