Port Drivers for Toll Group Vote to Unionize

April 13, 2012

Toll Group in Southern California will now be one of the few U.S. harbor fleets with drivers that are unionized after a 46-15 vote last week to join the Teamsters union. The election was sanctioned by the National Labor Relations Board.

Teamsters organizers said Xiomara Perez, a union supporter, was unfairly fired for taking an emergency bathroom break. (Photo courtesy Clean and Safe Ports)

The Toll drivers are employees who drove company trucks, so the Teamsters are legally allowed to organize them.

"Our victory means we are finally getting closer to the American Dream. If we can win, I know other port truck drivers across the U.S. can unite just like we did," said Orlando Ayala, who has hauled at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach for nearly 10 years.

Toll Group, based in Australia, moves brand-name fashion imports in Los Angeles and Long Beach. Drivers for the company complained of inhumane and unsanitary working conditions. They brought complaints to management on Oct. 27, 2011, with a petition of more than 1,000 signatures. There were charges of unfair filings as retaliation, according to the union. The NLRB eventually filed a formal complaint against the companyl.

In January, Toll Group issued a statement saying Toll had been successful in having the three most serious allegations dismissed by the NLRB or withdrawn by the union. At the same time, the company said, "Like many companies, we appreciate the value of unions and are happy to work with them if our employees collectively choose to join. We are committed to behave openly and honestly and expect the unions to do the same."

The Teamsters have been working for several years to organize port drivers, but in most cases, the drivers are independent contractors that can't be unionized. Because of this, the Teamsters have been pushing for laws that target "misclassification" of employees as contractors.