L.A. port truck drivers strike

Drivers seek recognition as employees

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) — Striking port truckers seeking recognition as employees rather than as independent contractors for their companies picketed a rail yard on Wednesday as they called again on the mayors of Los Angeles and Long Beach to weigh in on drivers' behalf.

Hundreds of drivers launched a strike on Monday against four trucking firms they accuse of defying federal and state labour enforcement decisions and a court ruling that found the truckers had been victims of wage theft through misclassification.

Many truckers end up earning less than minimum wage due to company paycheck deductions for truck-leasing charges and other costs that can leave a typical driver short-changed by $60,000 a year, according to Teamsters union officials backing the strike.

The four companies — Pacific 9 Transportation, Intermodal Bridge Transport, Pacer Cartage, and Pacer sister firm Harbor Rail Transport — are among the largest drayage operators doing business in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Those companies represent fewer than 500 of 13,600 trucks registered to haul cargo in and out of the harbor complex.

But the dispute's outcome has implications for hundreds of companies and thousands of truckers serving the twin ports, which rank as the nation's two busiest and together handle 43 per cent of all containerized cargo entering the United States.

One company, Shippers Transport Express, agreed to formally hire its drivers and negotiated a union contract with them last year. Another, Green Fleet Systems, reached a "labour peace agreement" with the Teamsters this week.

But Pacer insisted after losing a misclassification case in January that such claims are without merit and vowed to appeal.

Speaking at Wednesday's rally outside a Union Pacific yard, several striking truckers urged Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia to press companies operating in the city-owned ports to abide by labour rulings in the drivers' favor.

The Teamsters also have organized a petition drive seeking intervention by the mayors, who have been silent on the issue since the strike began.

The truckers' strike comes as West Coast port traffic is just recovering from months of slowdowns stemming from an unrelated labour dispute that snarled trans-Pacific trade and reverberated through the U.S. commercial supply chain.

Picketing in the truckers strike has been confined mainly to truck and rail yards outside the ports, with little or no cargo disruptions reported so far.

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