Port work­ers be­gin strike

Pick­eters protest­ing truck­ing firms de­lay traf­fic at L.A., Long Beach ter­mi­nals.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Jack Flem­ming jack.flem­ming@la­times.com

Pick­eters protest­ing truck­ing firms de­lay traf­fic at ter­mi­nals in Los An­ge­les and Long Beach.

Shouts of “What do we want? Jus­tice! When do we want it? Now!” rang out as pick­eters con­gested the Eve­g­reen yard in San Pe­dro on Mon­day, tem­po­rar­ily block­ing up to 50 trucks from en­ter­ing the ter­mi­nal.

Around 60 truck driv­ers and ware­house work­ers serv­ing the Los An­ge­les and Long Beach ports be­gan a strike at ter­mi­nals across the re­gion Mon­day morn­ing.

The strike was called by Team­sters union Lo­cal 848 to protest what it al­leges is il­le­gal sub­con­tract­ing, mis­clas­si­fi­ca­tion and wage theft by truck­ing com­pa­nies.

The work­ers be­gan to picket at 6 a.m. at XPO Lo­gis­tics in the City of Com­merce, then ex­panded to Ran­cho Dominguez and San Diego.

Strik­ers also halted trucks and driv­ers as they drove to drop-off points in Los An­ge­les, Long Beach and the In­ter­modal Con­tainer Trans­fer Fa­cil­ity, the nearby In­ter­modal Con­tainer Trans­fer Fa­cil­ity, where ship­ping con­tain­ers are trans­ferred be­tween trucks and rail cars.

The pick­eters spread out across six or seven ter­mi­nals and caused mi­nor traf­fic de­lays for trucks com­ing in and out of the gates, ac­cord­ing to Phillip San­field, spokesman for the Port of Los An­ge­les. San­field said there was no no­tice­able im­pact to cargo flow.

A spokes­woman for XPO said there was no im­pact on the com­pany’s cus­tomers.

This is the 15th strike by the port truck driv­ers in the last four years.

The union con­tends that the work­ers are mis­clas­si­fied as in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tors rather than em­ploy­ees, are not paid for all the hours they work and are forced to lease their trucks un­der abu­sive terms.

The strike an­nounce­ment fol­lows a pact signed June 12 by Los An­ge­les Mayor Eric Garcetti and Long Beach Mayor Robert Gar­cia to “move to­ward the goal of zero emis­sions” at the ports and es­tab­lish goals for ze­roe­mis­sion trucks by 2035. The union has com­plained that the goals don’t men­tion the ef­fect on truck driv­ers.

“We sup­port the push for cleaner air; our fam­i­lies live here,” said Domingo Ava­los, a truck driver for XPO. “But the com­pa­nies pass the bur­den of the price onto us.”

Ava­los, 53, said he was on strike for jus­tice and re­spect more than any­thing else.

“I work 14 hours a day some­times with no lunch or bath­room breaks,” said Ava­los, whose in­come sup­ports his wife, daugh­ter and two sons. “I’m fight­ing for my own jus­tice, but also for the truck driv­ers be­hind me.”

Edgardo Vil­la­toro, 55, said that as an in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tor he often works up to 60-hour weeks and has no ben­e­fits or health in­sur­ance.

When he came to the com­pany six years ago, he said, XPO had him sign a con­tract that al­lowed him to lease his truck to­ward own­er­ship. But af­ter $60,000 of pay­ments to­ward the truck, he still doesn’t own it, and he feels the pres­sure mount­ing with each pay­ment.

Vil­la­toro said a co-worker signed the same con­tract, but af­ter fall­ing ill for a week and miss­ing work the com­pany ter­mi­nated his con­tract and he lost all of his in­vest­ment in the truck. Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent story by USA To­day, such leases are com­mon.

“I feel trapped,” Vil­la­toro said. “I’m wor­ried about get­ting sick. Con­stantly afraid.”

The XPO spokes­woman said: “We know first­hand that the ma­jor­ity of owner­op­er­a­tors pre­fer to work as in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tors, and we will con­tinue to ad­vo­cate for their right to do so.”

The strike is ex­pected to ex­pand to other com­pa­nies Tues­day. Barb Maynard, spokesper­son for the Team­sters’ Jus­tice for Port Driv­ers cam­paign, es­ti­mates that more than 100 work­ers will par­tic­i­pate.

Mark Boster Los An­ge­les Times

A TRUCK DRIVER try­ing to exit the XPO Lo­gis­tics yard in the City of Com­merce ar­gues with a pick­eter.

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