Truck drivers and warehouse workers who serve the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach began striking Monday morning in front of warehouses serving the ports, protesting the classification of drivers as independent contractors.
A primary picket line formed at 7 a.m. in front of XPO Logistics Inc. facilities in Commerce and San Diego and an NFI Industries Inc. location in Wilmington, said Barbara Maynard, spokeswoman for the Justice for Port Drivers campaign that is supported by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
By 7:40 a.m., workers were also starting to demonstrate at customer and distributor warehouses, including Toyota’s facility in Long Beach, Puma in Torrance and Amazon in Moreno Valley, Maynard said.
The strike has had no effect so far on cargo flow, said Rachel Campbell, spokeswoman for the Port of Los Angeles. XPO Logistics said it didn’t expect any effect on customers or day-to-day operations.
The strike, which is expected to last through Wednesday, is the 16th by the port truck drivers in the last five years. The union contends that the truck drivers have been wrongly classified as independent contractors, rather than employees, and are not paid the wages they are owed.
Cherry Hill, N.J.-based NFI said in a statement that the Teamsters were “looking to force representation” on drivers who “want to continue to be their own bosses and run their own small businesses.”
“We respect their desire to operate as independent business people and not as employees of our companies or the hundreds of other trucking companies that are currently looking to hire employee drivers,” NFI said in the statement.
Greenwich, Conn.-based XPO Logistics said in a statement that the company offers “numerous work opportunities” throughout the state, including full-time employment, temporary work assignments and independent contracts. The company said employee driver opportunities were available in Southern California.
“Drivers have the freedom to choose which work model best suits their needs,” XPO Logistics said.
Fred Potter, international vice president of the Teamsters and director of the union’s port division, said he “can’t say that I’m aware that they have been made aware of these positions,” but said the union contends that the workers are already employees.
“Why would they offer employees an employee job?” he said.
A new California law set to go into effect in January will hold big retailers and trucking companies jointly liable for labor violations related to port drivers. There is a liability exemption under the law for retailers that work with trucking companies whose employees are covered under collective bargaining agreements.