California port truckers end strike after 5 days

Truck Drivers Protest Outside of Los Angeles City HallSouthern California port truckers ended their workweek-long strike at Los Angeles City Hall on Friday, armed with signed petitions and recent newspaper editorials of support.

The drivers, along with the Teamsters union representatives and community leaders, delivered the petition carrying 10,000 petition signatures to Mayor Eric Garcetti. The petition, also handed to Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia,  asks them to “end indentured servitude” at the ports the cities oversee. The 15th strike in four years, they protested at XPO Logistics, Intermodal Bridge Transport and California Cartage Co., as well at some of their subsidiaries.

Participants frequently mentioned USA Today Network’s year-long investigation into the issue and supportive editorials published by the network and in the Los Angeles Times. The USA Today investigation concluded that drayage companies treat IC as indentured servants.

The publication also published an opinion submitted by the California Trucking Association. A 2015 study of 2,500 California independent owner-operators found 75 percent of earn more than employee drivers and have a net median annual income of more than $55,000 annually, the CTA stated.

USA Today countered that the association commissioned the research, using data not available to outsiders that included long-haul truckers.

The truckers say they work as employees but are compensated as independent contractors regarding pay and benefits. They also bear the brunt of costs of their trucks complying with the port emissions program launched in 2008, the truckers claim. The Teamsters announced the strike after LA and Long Beach announced expanding that program, eventually to requiring zero-emissions trucks by 2035.

The current program was championed by ex-Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who joined port protesters Thursday. The former union organizer and candidate for next year’s governor race wants the ports to return to its original mandate, which had barred independents from regularly working the ports. Long Beach dropped that requirement following negotiations with the American Trucking Associations, but LA did not.

In a statement to CCJ last week, XPO says it will continue to use independent contractors in its LA-area drayage operations. “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 company said in a statement.