13 july 2014

LONG BEACH >> Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti brokered a truce Saturday between truck drivers and their employers after five consecutive days of strikes that temporarily shut down terminals and created cargo delays.

Both sides agreed to Garcetti’s request for a “cooling off” period, with the drivers voting unanimously Saturday. The companies agreed to accept all drivers back to work without retaliation and without being forced to sign away all future rights in new truck leases. Drivers will return to work on their regular shifts.

“Following the city’s meetings with both sides, the Teamsters have agreed to pull down their pickets and enter a cooling off period to allow the harbor commission time to investigate the serious allegations regarding worker safety, poor working conditions and unfair labor practices,” Garcetti said in a statement. “Business at the port is back to normal, and the city will facilitate a dialogue among the parties in the weeks ahead.”

On Thursday, more than 40 drivers and union and community supporters had swarmed the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners meeting urging them to intervene.

In response to the health and safety issues raised at that meeting, Garcetti announced late Thursday that he was directing the harbor commission to investigate the allegations and report back to him.

At issue is what the protesters say is the trucking firms’ misclassification of drivers as independent contractors instead of employees. Protesters say that allows the companies to sidestep labor laws and deduct fuel, maintenance and other fees from their paychecks.

The trucking companies have denied any mistreatment or unfairness and have maintained that the picketing, legal battles and other actions are attempts by the Teamsters to unionize truck drivers.

“We are grateful to L.A. Mayor Garcetti for meeting with us and hearing our concerns,” said driver Carlos Martinez with Total Transportation Services Inc. “We have accepted his request for a cooling off, but if the companies retaliate against us again, we will immediately go back on strike.”

“We look forward to answering whatever questions the mayor or harbor commission may have,” said Alex Chernin, who represents the three trucking companies — TTSI, Green Fleet Systems and Pacific 9 Transportation Inc. “The fact remains that our drivers are among the highest paid in the industry and an overwhelming majority do not want to be unionized.”

Port truck drivers and their supporters had been picketing businesses and terminals since Monday. On Tuesday, the picketing caused three terminals at the Port of Long Beach and Los Angeles to shut down for up to two hours after longshore workers honored the pickets.

An arbitrator later ordered longshore workers to return to work. On Wednesday, Grammy Award winner Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine performed several songs before joining the picket line at Evergreen Terminal.

Source: http://www.presstelegram.com/business/20140712/striking-la-long-beach-port-truck-drivers-agree-to-cooling-off-period