Los Angeles, Long Beach port truck drivers agree to unionization process with firm

Los Angeles, Long Beach port truck drivers agree to unionization process with firm

Port truck drivers wait in line at ITS in Pier G in the Port of Long Beach, as Teamster picketed at rail yards serviced by Pacer Cartage and Harbor Rail Transport. File photo. Long Beach. Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014. (Stephen Carr / Staff Photographer) ¬
By Karen Robes Meeks, The Daily Breeze
The union seeking to represent truck drivers who serve the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and a major trucking firm have struck an agreement that would allow their drivers to decide whether to unionize, organizers announced Tuesday.

Drivers with Carson-based Shippers Transport Express, a wholly owned subsidiary of SSA Marine, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and their supporters plan to host a press conference in Wilmington on Friday to validate their union authorization cards, opening the door for the Teamsters to begin negotiating a contract, according to Justice for Port Drivers and the Teamsters.

Under the agreement, the company chose to move from an independent contractor business model to an employee-based drayage business starting Jan. 1. The independent contractor model has been a sticking point for some drivers at other trucking firms who claimed the model allowed firms to skirt labor laws and avoid paying fair wages.

Both sides also agreed on a neutral process for unionization, including the employer’s promise not to interfere in or influence the drivers’ decision to unionize and the Teamster’s promise not to belittle or disrupt Shippers Transport with picketing or other job actions.

Once a majority of the drivers have signed valid union authorization cards verified by a neutral third-party, Shippers Transport must recognize Teamsters Local 848 as its drivers’ representative.

The general manager for Shippers Transport could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Tuesday’s announcement is a major victory for port truck drivers and their supporters who have fought for more than a year to bring attention to what they say is a need for better pay and working conditions at area trucking companies. Truckers have filed wage theft claims against other firms and organizedstrikes at marine terminals throughout the Harbor Area to bring awareness to their cause.

A report released by advocacy groups this month asserts that two-thirds of the nation’s truck drivers who haul goods from U.S. seaports, including the Long Beach and Los Angeles operations, are misclassified as independent contractors.

Critics, however, say the majority of truck drivers want to remain independent contractors for the flexibility and the ability to own their own trucks and their own small businesses.

Contact Karen Robes Meeks at 562-714-2088.