The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the busiest U.S. trade complex, were struck by about 120 truck drivers protesting low wages and their employers’ refusal to let them join a union, a spokeswoman said.
The strikers represent less than 1% of the more than 12,000 short-haul truckers who serve the ports, said Barbara Maynard, spokeswoman for Justice for Port Truck Drivers, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters’ group seeking to organize the drivers.
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“It’s not a big percentage, but trust me, these 120 drivers will have a big impact,” Maynard said by telephone.
Long Beach officials saw no evidence of a walkout or disruption, according to Lee Peterson, a spokesman. Informational pickets were set up at the Los Angeles facility, said Phillip Sanfield, a spokesman. The combined complex accounted for 61% of trade volume on the U.S. West Coast last year, according to the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shipping lines.
According to Maynard, three companies, Green Fleet Systems LLC, Total Transportation Services Inc., and Pacific 9 Transportation Inc., improperly classified the drivers as independent contractors to reduce wages and benefits.
The employers retaliated against drivers leading the effort to join the Teamsters, firing some, intimidating others and taking legal action, she said.
Rancho Dominguez-based Green Fleet 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,” said a statement from Alex Cherin of the public-relations firm of Englander, Knabe & Allen.
A person who answered the phone at Total Transportation Services, also in Rancho Dominguez, said only President Victor LaRosa, who is not available this week, could comment on the walkout. A woman who answered the phone at Carson-based Pacific 9 said company officials had no immediate comment.
The ports, which share the San Pedro Bay, are the largest of 29 U.S. West Coast facilities, where almost 20,000 unionized dockworkers have been working without a contract since July 1.
The International Longshore & Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association are negotiating a new agreement following the expiration of the previous six-year contract. A 10-day lockout occurred in 2002. Craig Merrilees, a union spokesman, didn’t return a phone call seeking comment on whether the dockworkers would honor truckers’ picket lines.