In a week filled with commemorations of the 1963 March on Washington led by trade union leader A. Philip Randolph, workers are taking action. The true character of discontented workers shines through in the best of the American spirit when words lead to action and action leads to change. Just as union dockworkers in Gdansk, Poland took the first step in the march to bring down the Berlin Wall and the oppression of Eastern Bloc communism so do these workers take the first steps in tearing down the wall between management and labor so skillfully erected by union busters and their political allies. There is no justice without organization and there is no freedom without solidarity.
In that spirit truck drivers at the Port of Los Angeles are on a 24-hour Unfair Labor Practice strike today against their employer, Green Fleet Systems, at the start of yesterday’s 5 p.m. shift. They are striking to protest harassment and intimidation by company management.
Striking port drivers set up picket lines at the Green Fleet warehouse in Carson, Calif. Teams of strikers in cars are following trucks driven by scabs and picketing them when they deliver at customer warehouses and distribution centers -- including Skechers’ state-of-the-art national distribution center in Moreno Valley, Calif.
“This is dangerous work that we do. GFS management says that we are professional drivers, but they do not treat us professionally,” said Jose Rodriguez, a driver at Carson-based Green Fleet Systems. “We deserve to have respect on the job as well as fair benefits and a pension. This is a fight against exploitation, in every job I have worked I have been exploited and treated without respect, and that needs to stop.”
Drivers filed charges with Region 21 of the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB investigated Green Fleet and issued an Unfair Labor Practice complaint alleging the company broke federal labor law with retaliatory anti-union actions. Rodriguez works hard driving for GFS so he can support his wife and two sons, now in college. The company has spent thousands of dollars on union-busters and publicists to intimidate Jose and his coworkers. It allows anti-union workers to put posters in their cars that depict the pro-union workers as donkeys.
“I feel that is very disrespectful, we should be treated with more respect at work,” Rodriguez said.
"The port truck drivers who went on strike tonight are everyday heroes, leading the way for more one hundred thousand port drivers around the country who are fighting for a decent wage that sustains their families, for affordable healthcare, and for a secure retirement," said Bishop Bonnie Radden of Refiner’s Fire Fellowship of UCC church. "Our prayers are with them and their families as they take this noble stand and fight for justice."
Though the striking Green Fleet drivers are employees, the vast majority of port truck drivers across the United States are classified as “independent contractors” and don’t have the same rights as employees to form a union. Companies also misclassify employees to avoid paying taxes, to shift business expenses to drivers and to avoid paying drivers for all hours worked. Drivers classified as “independent contractors’ in California are filing wage and hour claims estimated to amount to millions in lost wages.