Port Truck Drivers Strike Again

by Jana Ritter - Published: 11/17/2014

On Friday, Los Angeles and Long Beach port truck drivers lived up to their words and again went on strike to fight for their rights as full time employees. They plan to continue the strike until the matter is settled, regardless of what it means to the upcoming holiday season.

Mad Drivers

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Best-case scenario is that their employers will finally give them the full time status, pay and benefits they seek and business will go on as usual. Worst case scenario, is that the employers will maintain their position, the port truck drivers will continue to strike, the longshoremen will stop unloading cargo, ships will pile up in the harbor, and retail stores will be short of goods during their busiest time of year. Or the prices will take a serious hike for goods that end up being shipped by air.

L.A. port director Gene Seroka and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti had organized a meeting on Friday to get drivers, Teamster organizers and trucking companies together to talk things out and keep goods flowing. But the results of that meeting have yet to be heard.

In the meantime, one Lynwood truck driver gave L.A. Times reporter, Steve Lopez, a clear picture about where the striking port drivers are coming from. The truck driver describes how he reports for duty every morning at 6 a.m., never knowing whether he'd get work for that day or not. In addition to no guarantees of work, he has no vacation time, no healthcare or other benefits and yet he's forced to be under contract to one company and can't take the truck he's been leasing from them and work for anyone else.

"I can stay at the ports for four hours, five, six, and maybe be there all day for one load, and then get just $50," he said. Of course, there are other days where the pay is much better but the bigger problem is that he must put in countless hours for which he's not compensated at all.It’s basically the same song and dance since the port truck drivers were convinced by the mayor to end their strike last May.

What used to be a standard full-time employee position, many companies began classifying as independent contractors in order to cut labor costs and increase profits. Then, when the ports made expensive clean-energy trucks mandatory, the problem became even worse. Drivers were hit with truck leasing costs, insurance and other expenses deducted from their paychecks, and being required to pay for their own gas and repairs, basically putting them below minimum wage.

Martin Davis is one of the rare employers who has kept his loyal truck drivers full time employees. "They need to pay a living wage to these guys," he said. Yes, it may be a very competitive industry, but "the problem is not the peasants, it's the king."

Is this problem mainly with port truck drivers or does it extend to other areas of the industry?