For the fourth time within a year, truck drivers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have gone on strike. The drivers allege that two hauling companies, Total Transportation Services Inc. and Pacific 9 Transportation, have been retaliating against workers challenging their company-defined status as independent contractors, or who have expressed pro-union sympathies. At the heart of the drivers’ complaint is the charge that the two companies have broken the letter and spirit of a cooling-off agreement brokered by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti last July.
That agreement, which called on trucking companies to take back strikers without retaliating against them, had ended a weeklong walkout by the drivers over the issues of job classifications and working conditions.
At a waterfront press conference held today in Wilmington, Teamster union activist Alex Paz told listeners, “We are fed up with the injustices committed by companies that haven’t gotten the message yet” about the need to honor the cooling-off agreement.
The nine-day strike by International Longshore and Warehouse Union clerks at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has tentatively ended with a new contract with the Harbor Employers Association. If approved by the union’s membership, the pact will expire in 2016.
It was tempting to joke that the strike was a case of deja vu all over again – if the stakes weren’t so high for the port clerks’ Local 63. The sticking point was the outsourcing of jobs offsite, an issue that many thought was resolved with the local’s 2007 contract with port employers. Technology has made such job migration possible – and desirable — for shipping companies and terminal operators. Since the ILWU’s historic pivot in 1960 toward accepting labor-saving mechanization in exchange for greater member benefits and job security, the union has shown a consistent ability to accept and adapt to technology – even while that acceptance has reduced its membership.