Another Day, Another Strike by Truck Drivers at the Port of Long Beach

Fidel Gonzalez, who drives for XPO Logistics, shares his grievances.
Fidel Gonzalez, who drives for XPO Logistics, shares his grievances.
Twitter/Justice4PortDrivers

One wonders if there is a lonely crate of widgets at the Port of Long Beach that's been waiting to get picked up all year given all the labor unrest there this year.

Oh yeah, if it's Tuesday it must be another strike--what is that, three this year alone?--by truckers who haul stuff to and from cargo ships at one of the busiest ports in the country.

Notes From the Underground Economy: Are companies at the Port of Long Beach cheating truckers out of their rightful wages?

Along with their colleagues at the Port of Los Angeles, some Long Beach truck drivers went on strike starting at 6 a.m. Monday over "unfair labor practice" and being "misclassified as independent contractors," according to Barb Maynard of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

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If that has a familiar ring to it, that's because the drivers imposed strikes for the same reasons in April and July.

Believing that they should be considered employees of Greenwich, CT-based XPO Logistics and Pacific 9 Transportation of Carson rather than independent contractors, these drivers have filed claims for wage theft with the California Labor Commissioner's Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, Maynard said.

Workers "misclassified as independent contractors" are "robbed of basic workplace protections like the right to minimum wage, overtime pay, and a safe and healthful workplace," Maynard added.

Officials with the companies had no comment. Shipping terminals remained open despite the strike, and worker picketing only caused a few disruptions to ground traffic, according to Port of Long Beach spokesman Art Wong, who noted the strike was directed at a very small percentage of the about 1,000 different trucking firms that serve port terminals.

Short-haul drivers have gone on strike several times at the port since 2013--or as long as the Teamsters have sought union contracts with the companies that are only possible if the drivers are classified as employees.

To bring a national spotlight to the strike this go-round, Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa is scheduled to join local union forces in support of the drivers later this week.

But the strike is expected to have no where near the effect on port operations compared with the West Coast dockworkers' action (or lack thereof) earlier this year that led to some ships sitting parked in the water off Long Beach for days or rerouting to other ports.

A show of solidarity by dockworkers could deliver a blow to the port but American labor law makes that difficult with respect to the truckers' picket lines. Then again, the dockworkers denied they were engaging in a slowdown several months ago, so who knows?

Also worth pondering is why anyone in the biz wants to upset truck drivers these days given the huge demand for them among logistics companies--such a demand that cargo that would have been loaded onto trucks in years past is being moved by rail ... often to places where containers will have to be picked up by short haulers. It's the circle of life, Simba!

We'll see who blinks first--at least until the strike next quarter, of course.

Email: mcoker@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!


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