Monday, July 7, 2014

LA/LB port drivers escalate fight against wage theft, strike

LA/LB port drivers on their 4th strike 
Fed-up port drivers at the ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach walked off the job this morning to demand an end to wage theft and retaliation for trying to form a union. Ned Resnikoff at MSNBC reports:
California truck drivers at three major transportation companies went on strike Monday morning, demanding an end to purported labor law violations such as misclassification and intimidation. This is the fourth strike initiated by the drivers with the backing of the Teamsters union, but it’s the first without a definitive end date; whereas previous strikes have lasted between 24 and 48 hours, the drivers are now saying the won’t return to work until their demands are met. 
“We were fed up. It just got to the point where the drivers are done,” said Alex Paz, a former driver with TTSI, one of the three firms affected by the strikes. Paz, who was fired in late May, alleges that the firm retaliated against him after he spoke out regarding purported labor law violations. 
Over 120 drivers will be going on strike at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, two of the main supply arteries on the West Coast. Roughly 40% of all imports to the United States go through one of those two ports. The firms affected by the strike are responsible for shipping goods to major retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target.
Port drivers have been winning wage-theft complaints before the California labor commissioner. The Los Angeles Times reported on Friday that 40 drivers were misclassified as independent contractors and awarded $4.3 million in back pay and penalties.

Their employers are fighting back, according to a press statement by the Teamster-supported Justice for Port Drivers campaign:
In a desperate quest to maintain the status quo, company owners are firing, intimidating, and countersuing drivers; countersuing state agencies, filing appeals on trial court decisions; and filing to compel arbitration to stay government proceedings. These companies are continuing to retaliate against their employees for engaging in union and protected concerted activities. They are threatening and otherwise intimidating, restraining, and coercing employees in the exercise of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act.  
Port truck drivers work long hours hauling nearly $4 billion worth of cargo every day, yet often receive paychecks below the minimum wage.