Far from Los Angeles’ centers of power, the harbor seldom gets the attention it deserves as a driving force in the Southland’s economy. Yet decisions big and small made there have an impact on businesses and workers as far away as the Inland Empire.
That’s why a vote by a relatively few harbor truck drivers to join the Teamsters Union is worth some notice. Drivers for the Toll Group, which transports goods in and out of the harbor, voted 46-15 to join the Teamsters Union, reported Coral Itzcalli, spokesperson for Change To Win, a Teamsters-backed coalition of organizations supporting the union drive.
They are a small percentage of the some 10,000 truck drivers working at the harbor. The vast majority of the drivers work as independent contractors who lease their trucks from trucking companies. The Toll drivers are unusual in that they are on a company payroll.
What makes this vote significant, Itzcalli said, is that it is “a big step” in union efforts to organize the independent contractor drivers and negotiate more money and better working conditions for them. This would impact drivers whose routes range from the harbor though the Inland Empire and beyond the state’s eastern boundaries.
The organizing drive began when drivers couldn’t persuade Toll to provide clean bathrooms, cold drinking water and remedy other working conditions the union characterized as “inhumane and unsanitary.” The next step is for the Teamsters to negotiate a contract with Toll.
With this victory, the Teamsters are energized to extend their drive to other trucking companies serving the harbor, possibly triggering disputes that will impact business and workers throughout the Southland.