By Karen Robes Meeks, August 29, 2014
The Rev. William Connor delivers a prayer and blessing on the truck drivers involved in a labor battle against the companies. LA/LB port truck drivers say massive violations have occurred during a cooling off period made in a deal with Mayor Eric Garcetti, who struck a truce with truckers and employers after four days of strikes at port terminals. Truckers argue that companies Total Transportations Services Inc. (TTSI), Pacific 9 Transportation, and Green Fleet Systems have continued and in some cases, escalated retaliatory activity. Compton August 29, 2014.
COMPTON >> Truck drivers who carry goods in and out of the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports said Friday that three harbor area trucking companies violated a truce brokered by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.
State and federal labor regulators also ruled Friday against two of the companies in separate cases.
At a press conference across the street from Total Transportations Services Inc., truck drivers and their supporters contended that Total Transportation, Pacific 9 Transportation and Green Fleet Systems have continued, and in some cases escalated, retaliation despite a July 12 deal with Garcetti, who asked truckers and employers to cool it after five days of strikes at port terminals.
“We put down our picket lines because we trusted Mayor Garcetti when he said that he would investigate the violations that have been going on at our companies,” said Santiago Aguilar, a Pacific 9 driver. “Since I went back to work, Pac 9 has continued to break the law by firing several of my coworkers. The mayor has to do something to stop this because if this continues we’re going back on strike.”
Representatives for the trucking firms declined to comment Friday.
Under the deal, the firms agreed to accept all drivers back to work without retaliation and without being forced to sign away all future rights in new truck leases
In turn, drivers would stop picketing and return to work on their regular shifts so that the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners can have time to look into what drivers say are worker safety issues and unfair labor practices. The commission is expected to report back to Garcetti with its findings.
But truckers said employers reneged on their promise to the mayor, demanding that drivers must sign new leases on the condition that they will drop their wage claims against the company.
“Otherwise, at the end of the month, we are out,” said Hugo Mendez, a driver for Total Transportation.
Carson Councilman Mike Gipson called the companies’ treatment of drivers reprehensible.
“It’s modern-day slavery. ... It should stop now,” he said. “We’re asking this company to stand by what you agreed on with the mayor. No retaliation. Let the workers go back to work.”
After the press conference, a group of drivers and their supporters marched to Total Transportation’s front doors to hand over a petition signed by drivers asking that the company recognize Teamsters Local 848 in bargaining.
Garcetti said in a statement Friday that he called for a cooling-off period so that both sides can “resume normal operations and engage in productive dialogue, not engage in actions against each other.”
“These allegations are very serious and I want to be clear — putting our port operations at risk is unacceptable,” Garcetti said. “Cool off and focus on an agreement.”
Friday’s actions came on the same day the Long Beach office of the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement ordered Total Transportation to give back pay to 14 truck drivers. The state labor department determined that the drivers were employees and not independent contractors and that the drivers were entitled to get back money for fuel and other business costs deducted by the company.
Also, Region 21 of the National Labor Relations Board announced Friday that it is also revoking a March settlement agreement with Pacific 9 and is filing a complaint after the company told drivers that the agreement was not applicable to them. The settlement had been made with the Carson-based company after allegations surfaced that drivers were threatened and interrogated over union organization.
For five days in July, truck drivers and their supporters picketed the three harbor area trucking companies and port terminals in Long Beach and Los Angeles to protest what they say is the trucking firms’ misclassification of drivers as independent contractors instead of employees. They argue that the misclassification allows companies to skirt labor laws and deduct fuel, maintenance and other fees from their paychecks.
The trucking companies have denied any mistreatment or unfairness and countered that the actions were the Teamsters’ attempt to unionize drivers.