LOS ANGELES (AP) — Drivers in a long-running labor dispute with three trucking companies at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach began what they said would be an indefinite strike Monday.
The impact on the movement of cargo around the sprawling port complex, the main gateway for hundreds of billions of dollars of trade with Asia, was limited. But the threat of a broader disruption loomed if striking truckers take their pickets from the offices of their employers to the dockside terminals where cranes move containers on and off massive oceangoing ships.
The truckers say the companies have prevented them from unionizing and improperly classified them as contractors — rather than full-time employees — to minimize wages and benefits. They say that their paychecks often register below minimum wage once the cost of renting and maintaining a truck is factored in, and they have filed lawsuits and complaints with state and federal labor agencies to change their status. Companies counter that pay is good and those picketing do not represent the majority of drivers.
On Monday, 120 drivers went on strike against Green Fleet Systems, Total Transportation Services Inc. and Pacific 9 Transportation Inc., according to Barb Maynard, a spokeswoman for a campaign to organize truckers. The three trucking companies have about 400 trucks registered at the Port of Los Angeles — about 10 percent of those that operate on a regular day, port spokesman Phillip Sanfield said.
Both Sanfield and Port of Long Beach spokesman Lee Peterson said cargo was moving normally, though several terminals were closed to honor a holiday that commemorates the killing of several dockworkers during the 1930s, when organizers succeeded in forming what has become a union with huge leverage at the West Coast's 29 ports.