More than 120 truck drivers at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports walked off the job Monday morning, organizers said, launching an indefinite protest against what they say are widespread workplace violations.
The picket lines are the largest demonstration yet against several regional truck companies that haul freight from the nation's largest port complex. Drivers argue they are improperly classified as independent contractors, leaving them with fewer workplace protections and lower pay than if they were company employees, protest organizers said.
Unlike previous protests, organizers haven't set an end date. Monday's picket lines, backed by Teamsters Local 848, target three harbor-area companies: Total Transportation Services Inc., Green Fleet Systems and Pacific 9 Transportation.
It is the fourth such protest in the last year. Drivers plan to picket at the firms' trucking yards and then follow the rigs to port terminals. The protests had not disrupted operations at the Port of Long Beach as of 8:30 a.m., a port spokesman said. At the Port of Los Angeles, operations were also unaffected as of 9 a.m., a spokesman said.
The action comes as nearly 20,000 West Coast dockworkers are working without a contract.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Assn., which represents employers, are negotiating a new agreement after a six-year deal at 29 West Coast ports expired July 1.
It wasn't immediately clear if dockworkers would honor Monday's picket lines.
In a joint news release, issued July 1, the longshoremen's union and the maritime association pledged to keep cargo moving until an agreement was reached.
Of Southern California's roughly 12,000 short-haul truckers, only 10% are directly employed by companies, industry experts estimate. In 2008, California started to crack down on trucking companies that misclassified employees as independent contractors.
Currently, the state labor commissioner's office is examining more than 300 claims of wage theft related to misclassification. In 2011, drivers filed just two such complaints.