One hundred twenty port truck drivers, responding to a mediation initiative from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, agreed to end their strike Friday evening and are returning to work today. The Unfair Labor Practice walkout, which had no fixed end date, began June 7 against three harbor trucking companies (Green Fleet Systems, Total Transportation Services Inc. and Pacific 9 Transportation) that port haulers allege commit wage theft, engage in workplace retaliation for union organizing and misclassify their drivers as “independent contractors” rather than company employees.
The five-day strike was unprecedented for its length – and for the bad publicity it splashed on the three companies, which have also been on the losing end of a string of labor court and National Labor Relations Board rulings regarding their treatment of truck drivers. The strike saw the brief shutdown of several marine terminals, an impromptu concert for the strikers by protest rocker Tom Morello and a secondary protest in Manhattan Beach aimed at the Skechers shoe company,
Throughout the course of the L.A./Long Beach port driver strike, Capital & Main will be running photos from the marine terminals and truck yards where drivers and their supporters have gathered.
One hundred twenty truck drivers who haul freight to and from the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach went on an Unfair Labor Practice strike Monday against the three companies they work for. The work stoppage, which has no announced end date, was called to protest alleged retaliation by Green Fleet Systems, Total Transportation Services Inc. and Pacific 9 Transportation, as well as the drivers’ long hours and low wages. Perhaps more important, the strikers are motivated by their determination to end the companies’ practice of classifying drivers as “independent contractors” – a status that allows the firms to treat their workers as second-class citizens and to avoid contributing payroll taxes to the state and federal governments.
If you’re wondering what all the fuss is about down at the ports of L.A. and Long Beach, where drivers have been on an Unfair Labor Practice strike since Monday, think Nike during the 1990s. Remember the barrage of news stories and reports about the horrendous conditions endured by workers at plants run by Nike contractors? Remember how the company tried for years to distance itself from the practice of its contractors, even though it had the power all along to put an end to the exploitation?
The same story is unfolding right now in Southern California, where multinational retailers are refusing to take responsibility for the egregious abuses of their contractors. A case in point is Skechers, which recently supplanted New Balance as the nation’s fifth-largest athletic footwear brand.
Based in Manhattan Beach, Skechers is experiencing enormous growth in sales and profits. In the first quarter of 2014,
Skechers, one of America’s largest footwear companies, can run, but it can’t hide.
A report released Wednesday by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), Out of Step: How Skechers Hurts Its California Supply Chain Workers, exposes the company’s troublesome labor practices. It is not a pretty sight.
The report reveals the mistreatment of the workers who deliver Skechers’ products — primarily shoes, apparel and luggage — from ports to warehouses to retail stores around the country and around the world. In doing so, Out of Step also exposes the huge gap between Skechers’ carefully crafted image as a hip retailer, which has led it to become a $1.8-billion corporation, and the reality of a company for whom truck drivers and warehouse workers labor under harsh, stressful, and exploitative conditions.
Skechers recently overtook New Balance to become the fifth-largest athletic-footwear brand in the country.