Photo via Port of Long Beach

Photo via Port of Long Beach

The Teamsters Union announced an effort to provide unemployment benefits to truckers working from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in the event of a shut down. There is currently speculation that a lockout may occcur due to the ongoing labor contract dispute between the longshoremen and the Pacific Maritime Association.

Following a port shutdown over President’s Day weekend, the Teamsters Union announced that they would make an effort to provide unemployment benefits to drivers classified as independent contractors if the ports should be shutdown. They are teaming up with the Pacific Gateway Workforce Investment Network and regional community service groups to form a rapid response team located at Teamsters Local 848.

The teamsters maintain that port truck drivers are misclassified as independent contractors by their employers and more than 10,000 drivers could be affected by a shutdown of the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. While they are classified as independent contractors drivers are not entitled to unemployment benefits.

However, the Teamsters Union says that the State Labor Commissioner, Employment Development Department and California courts have all determined that port drivers at some port trucking companies are being unlawfully misclassified and should be considered employees.

“We’re going to make sure that each and every port driver at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach knows that if there is a shutdown they can come here - to get the assistance they need,” said Eric Tate, secretary treasurer of Teamsters Local 848.

A rapid response team will be set up at the Teamsters Local 848 union hall to provide assistance to port truck drivers in qualifying for unemployment benefits, as well as other support services. These services include access to financial planners, food, medical referrals and utility assistance.

The last time ports were shut down for an extended period of time due to a lockout was in 2002 when a 10-day shutdown was eventually brought to an end through an executive order from President George W. Bush. There are already reports that if the current dispute causes a similar shutdown, President Obama may also intervene.

"Our rapid response team will help the more than 10,000 misclassified independent-contractor drivers access financial and other assistance to help them through these tough times," said Tate.