Intermodal trucking drivers working as independent contractors for four firms serving the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach today struck the companies. At issue are allegations that the firms illegally classify the drivers as independent contractors rather than company employees and deny them the benefits typically paid to company workers.
According to Justice for Port Truck Drivers, an advocacy group, drivers are picketing Intermodal Bridge Transport Inc.; Pacific 9 Transportation; Pacer Cartage, and Harbor Rail Transport. XPO Logistics Inc., the Greenwich, Conn.-based freight broker and third-party logistics provider, controls the latter two companies. The strike against Pacer extends to the San Diego area, according to the advocacy group. An industry source confirmed the action against the XPO units. Officials of the other two companies were unavailable to comment.
According to Phillip Sanfield, a spokesman for the Port of Los Angeles, the four companies being targeted account for 472 out of about 13,700 trucks that operate at the twin ports, which make up the country's largest port complex. Sanfield said earlier today that there has been virtually no impact on operations at either port. He said he was unaware of what form the picketing was taking.
Today's action comes on the heels of a vote taken on Friday to determine whether a strike should take place. Drivers working for multiple drayage firms at the port complex have battled employers for three years over the worker-classification issue. Since then, there have been several driver strikes against various local drayage firms.
Transportation companies and independent contractors across multiple modes have been embroiled in a nationwide multiyear battle over the workers' job-classification status. California has become a pivotal battleground state in the dispute; last August, a federal appeals court panel in San Francisco ruled that a class of 2,300 California-based drivers who worked for FedEx Ground, the ground-delivery unit of Memphis-based FedEx Corp., from 2000 to 2007 were classified as contractors when they should have been considered employees under state law. The case was remanded to a federal district court in California for further action. FedEx Ground did not appeal the ruling.
FedEx Ground said at the time of the ruling that since 2011 it has only contracted with incorporated businesses that treat their drivers as employees. The panel thus rendered a decision on a business model that is no longer in use, the company said.
Today's action comes slightly more than two months after the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) agreed on a tentative five-year contract, ending months of acrimonious negotiations that allegedly led to a worker slowdown, which nearly paralyzed operations at the 29 West Coast ports where ILWU represents workers.