Some of the employee drivers of Green Fleet Systems in Southern California launched a 24-hour strike against the company on Monday, charging that management is using harassment techniques to dissuade them from joining a union.
The Teamsters union is expected to join a rally in Carson, Calif., Tuesday afternoon, according to Barb Maynard, a spokeswoman for Justice for LA Drivers. The demonstration began at the evening shift on Monday and will conclude Tuesday with a rally at the Green Fleet headquarters.
Targeting individual trucking companies with employee drivers appears to be one of the more recent strategies of the Teamsters union in its campaign to organize harbor trucking companies at U.S. ports.
Another strategy is to charge individual companies with alleged misclassification of harbor truck drivers, most of which are owner-operators, as independent contractors. Those lawsuits attempt to demonstrate that the motor carriers exert as much control over the drivers as if they were their employers.
Also, organized labor has supported proposed legislation in states such as Washington and New Jersey, and in Congress. Those bills would make it easier for unions to organize harbor truck drivers.
The Teamsters union in 2008 threw its support behind the Port of Los Angeles clean-truck program, which included a concession requirement that motor carriers serving the port must hire drivers as direct employees. Unions, by law, cannot organize independent contractors. Most harbor trucking companies nationwide contract with owner-operators.
Coincidentally, a 2008 lawsuit filed by the American Trucking Associations against the clean-truck plan was concluded Monday when a U.S. District Court in Los Angelespermanently enjoined the port from enforcing certain concessions in its program, including an employee-driver mandate.
The court stated its ruling followed recent decisions by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court striking down those concession requirements.
Since unions can legally organize employee drivers, such as those who work for Green Fleet Systems in Southern California, the Teamsters union appears to focusing on this strategy to a greater degree, especially in light of Monday’s U.S. District Court ruling.
The Green Fleet effort follows a similar campaign that was launched last year at the Toll Group facility in Southern California. The Teamsters organized Toll’s employee drivers, and earlier this year, the union announced it had concluded a contract with Toll. The new contract increased the drivers’ wages by $6 to $19 an hour and included medical coverage and pension benefits, the Teamsters stated.
Green Fleet said it pays its drivers by the task, or movement, based on standards. The average rate paid to drivers over the past eight weeks was $19.27 per hour, with an average five-day work week of 44 to 49 hours.
Some of the Green Fleet drivers have filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board, charging the company with harassment and intimidation techniques. The NLRB investigated Green Fleet and issued an unfair labor practice complaint, alleging the company broke federal law with retaliatory anti-union actions, Maynard said.
Alex Cherin, executive director of the Harbor Trucking Association of Los Angeles-Long Beach, said the NLRB has dismissed some of the drivers’ claims, and others are pending.
Cherin said Green Fleet employs about 90 company drivers. Maynard said about 30 of those drivers demonstrated at the company’s yard on Monday. Cherin said the number was about 15.