There were protests and a big rally by drayage drivers and their supporters trying to unionize three port trucking companies today
in the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, but major container terminals continued to operate fairly normal, with only some delays of trucks going in and out of their gates due to pickets.
Members of Justice for Port Truckers, part of the Port Division of the Teamsters, plan to continue what they're calling an unfair labor practice strike over the weekend.
“Absolutely, this is going strong and we are not going to stop until the companies do the right thing,” said Barbara Maynard, a spokeswoman for the group. The drivers claim they've been misclassified as independent operators instead of employees.
The truckers are targeting three companies: Green Fleet Systems, Total Transportation Services Inc., and Pacific 9 Transportation. In addition to picketing their truck terminals, the drivers have been picketing in front of containers terminals at the two Southern California ports.
Maynard said there were anecdotal reports of trucks being turned away from some of the terminals by the protesters. On Friday, there were pickets at the APL, Evergreen and Yusen terminal in Los Angeles. the International Transportation Service in Long Beach Container Terminal and Total Terminals International in Long Beach.
But port officials said they were unable to confirm reports of trucks being turned away.
Green Fleet, one of the companies being targeted in the protests, said “an overwhelming majority of contractors and drivers affiliated with Green Fleet don't want these groups involved in their work.
"Green Fleet will continue to service its customers and pay its drivers some of the best rates in the industry while doing so," the company added.
The Long Beach Press Telegram
reported that drivers for Green Fleet and Pacific 9 gathered on Thursday to speak out against the Teamsters' organizing effort, saying they wanted to remain independent operators
The protests in Los Angeles and Long Beach have drawn attention away from the ongoing negotiations by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and employers represented by the Pacific Maritime Association 400 miles to the north in San Francisco.
The ILWU-PMA negotiations resumed Friday afternoon, but as of 5 p.m. (Pacific Time) there was still no word if any significant progress had been made toward reaching agreement on a contract to replace the one that expired July 1. That pact covers 20,000 longshoremen working at 29 West Coast ports, including Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation's busiest port complex.
ILWU and PMA said on July 1 that “cargo will keep moving” while they continued to bargain without extending their contract. They did put their contract in place for three days this week, from 8 a.m. Tuesday to 8 a.m. Friday morning, as ILWU officials pursued a contract covering grain elevator workers. But there was no indication this afternoon whether they would extend the contract once again.
That may yet turn out to be important, because without a contract there is no arbitration procedure if management and labor have a disagreement. That turned out to be critical early Tuesday when ILWU members at some Los Angeles and Long Beach terminals honored picket lines set up by Teamster drivers. An arbitrator, however, ordered them back to work.
On Friday, when the contract extension expired, there was concern ILWU members might once again decide to honor the Teamster picket lines.
That did not happen during the day shift Friday, and one long-term observer, who asked not to be identified, expressed doubt that it would, saying the ILWU might be subject to a lockout by employers and they don’t want the Teamsters' agenda driving their negotiations.
Another waterfront labor observer, Peter Hall of Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, said "the Teamsters and ILWU have a history of both collaborating in organizing efforts, and also of watching each other's jurisdictions jealously.
"The reasons why the ILWU members might honor a Teamster picket line at this time include... that they have supported the current trucker organizing drive and also the related green port initiatives. The no-crossing picket line tradition is important to ILWU members, and this could be a way to indirectly pressure the ILWU-PMA negotiations. On the other hand, the ILWU has sent a public message it does not want a disruption or a breakdown in their current negotiations, and it may be hard to know whether the strike/picket lines are spreading and serious," he said.