Photo: Port of Long Beach

Photo: Port of Long Beach

Port truck drivers from a major drayage firm serving the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have been reclassified as employees and joined the Teamsters Union.

Prior to the start of the year the drivers for Shippers Transport Express, a wholly owned subsidiary of SSA Marine, were classified an independent contracts. In November, all drivers were notified that the company was transitioning to an employee-based business model on Jan. 1, and were invited to apply for employee jobs.

Eighty-eight out of 111 employee drivers signed union authorization cards, with the union now beginning the process of negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with their employer.

“This historic agreement represents an important step in drivers’ efforts to reform the drayage industry, and demonstrates clearly that labor and management can work together constructively to find solutions to challenges facing the industry and to the injustices facing the drivers,” said Fred Potter, director, International Brotherhood of Teamsters Port Division. “As Teamsters, Shippers’ drivers will now begin the hard work of negotiating a first contract to assure that they earn a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work.”

According to Kevin Baddeley, general manager, Shippers Transport Express the company’s transition to an employee-based business model is a crucial step in the drayage industry’s efforts to modernize, make the ports more efficient. He also believes other trucking companies serving the port complex may follow Shippers Transport Express’ move.

“On unionization, we took a neutral position because we respect our drivers’ right to form a union,” he said. Through our productive dialogue with the Teamsters, we anticipate we will be able to improve operational efficiencies and stabilize our driver workforce.”

The Teamsters have been embroiled in a series of strikes against more than half a dozen trucking companies serving the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach. They feel fleets wrongly classifying them as independent contractors rather than employees, in order to keep labor costs down and not have to provide benefits, a sentiment that is not universally shared by truckers there.