Shouts of "What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!" rang out as picketers congested the Evegreen yard in San Pedro on Monday, temporarily blocking up to 50 trucks from entering the terminal.
Around 60 truck drivers and warehouse workers serving the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports began striking terminals across the region Monday morning.
The strike was called by the Teamsters union Local 848 to protest what it alleges is illegal subcontracting, misclassification and wage theft by trucking companies.
The workers began to picket at 6 a.m. at XPO Logistics in the City of Commerce, then expanded to Rancho Dominguez and San Diego. Strikers also followed trucks and drivers as they drove to drop-off points in Los Angeles, Long Beach and the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility, the nearby Intermodal Container Transfer Facility, where shipping containers are transferred between trucks and rail cars.
The picketers spread out across six or seven terminals and caused minor traffic delays for trucks coming in and out of the gates, according to Phillip Sanfield, spokesman for the Port of Los Angeles. Sanfield said there was no noticeable impact to cargo flow.
A spokeswoman for XPO said there was no impact on the company's customers.
This is the 15th strike by the port truck drivers in the last four years. The union contends that the workers are misclassified as independent contractors rather than employees, are not paid for all the hours they work and are forced to lease their trucks under abusive terms.
The strike announcement follows a pact signed June 12 by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia to "move toward the goal of zero emissions" at the ports and establish goals for zero-emission trucks by 2035. The union has complained that the goals don't mention the effect on truck drivers.
"We support the push for cleaner air; our families live here," said Domingo Avalos, a truck driver for XPO. "But the companies pass the burden of the price onto us."
Avalos, 53, said he was striking for justice and respect more than anything else.
"I work 14 hours a day sometimes with no lunch or bathroom breaks," said Avalos, whose income supports his wife, daughter and two sons. "I'm fighting for my own justice, but also for the truck drivers behind me."
Edgardo Villatoro, 55, said that as an independent contractor he often works up to 60-hour weeks and has no benefits or health insurance.
When he came to the company six years ago, he said, XPO had him sign a contract that allowed him to lease his truck toward ownership. But after $60,000 of payments toward the truck, he still doesn't own it, and he feels the pressure mounting with each payment.
Villatoro said a co-worker signed the same contract, but after falling ill for a week and missing work the company terminated his contract and he lost all of his investment in the truck. According to a recent story by USA Today, such leases are common.
"I feel trapped," said Villatoro. "I'm worried about getting sick. Constantly afraid."
The XPO spokeswoman said: "We know firsthand that the majority of owner-operators prefer to work as independent contractors, and we will continue to advocate for their right to do so."
The strike is expected to expand to other companies Tuesday. Barb Maynard, spokesperson for the Teamsters' Justice for Port Drivers campaign, estimates that more than 100 workers will participate.