Teamsters Will Take Care of Truckers if Ports Shut Downby Jana Ritter - Published: 2/20/2015
Once again labor disputes have all but shut down the major West Coast ports and this time it’s between dockworkers and their employers. Companies are refusing to pay their employees extra and the workers have slowed their productivity rate as a pressure tactic costing everyone an estimated $2 billion dollars a day. For truck drivers, the slow down has meant waiting up to eight or nine hours for cargo, but the Teamsters say that a shut down will entitle them to unemployment benefits.
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Following the port shut down that occurred over the President’s Day long weekend, the Teamsters announced that they would assist in providing unemployment benefits to drivers classified as independent contractors if the ports shut down again. Helping port truck drivers to resolve the labor dispute, which occurred last year about the misclassification of truck drivers as independent contractors, the Teamsters say that more than 10,000 drivers will be affected by the potential shutdown of the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.
They are teaming up with the Pacific Gateway Workforce Investment Network and regional community service groups to form a rapid response team, should the shut down occur. Again pointing to the rulings of the State Labor Commissioner, Employment Development Department and California courts determining that port drivers at some port trucking companies are being unlawfully misclassified, the Teamsters Local 848 says it will ensure they receive employee rights.
“We’re going to make sure that each and every port driver at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach knows that if there is a shutdown they can come here - to get the assistance they need.” says Teamsters Local 848 secretary treasurer, Eric Tate. He is referring to a rapid response team that will be set up at the Teamsters Local 848 union hall and in addition to providing assistance to port truck drivers in qualifying for unemployment benefits, they will provide other support services such as access to financial planners, food, medical referrals and utility assistance.
"Our rapid response team will help the more than 10,000 misclassified independent-contractor drivers access financial and other assistance to help them through these tough times," Tate adds.
It’s also important to realize that the effects of this standoff go far beyond the Los Angeles and Long Beach Ports. Already the Ports of Oakland and Seattle have been experiencing a "significant cargo buildup" where numbers of vessels a day are awaiting berths at marine terminals. Ships are arriving late and off schedule largely because of delays at previous stops in Southern California.
The last time an extended port shut down occurred due to a lockout was in 2002, when a 10-day shutdown was finally forced to end by President George W. Bush issuing an executive order. Reports have indicated that President Obama is also prepared to intervene should the current port labor dispute result in a shutdown.