Teamsters Attempted Trucker Unionization Means Higher Consumer Prices

Fred Wszolek
July 10, 2013

Truck drivers who service the twin ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, California are under pressure. After nearly six years of quietly laying the groundwork for a massive campaign, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters has a message for port drivers – it’s time to join the labor movement and pay union dues.

Organized labor already looms large at the twin ports. The International Longshore Warehouse Union represents the dockworkers and was the driving force behind the eight-day strike at this labor stronghold last December.

If the Teamsters have their way, they will soon be adding the truck drivers who handle the transportation of goods to and from port terminals, rail yards and storage facilities in the Inland Empire. Because these individuals are independent contractors and not company employees, federal law currently prohibits them from forming a union.

But that hasn’t stopped the Teamsters. Last year, they successfully convinced a group of formerly-independent drivers to haul goods for the Australian logistics company, Toll Group. About 65 drivers are now organized Toll Group employees and are compensated as such, receiving standardized wages, health care benefits and access to a pension plan.

The Teamsters are convinced that the example set by the Toll Group employees will convince the other truck drivers at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports to join their ranks. So far, though, they haven’t been successful.

Luckily for Big Labor, they have the government to lend a hand. Under pressure from the Teamsters, state and federal regulators have begun to audit port trucking firms. In an interview with the Daily Breeze, Harbor Trucking Association executive director Alex Cherin said that “the government audits have been disruptive, especially to smaller trucking firms … both California and federal investigators tend to use a ‘shotgun’ approach in which they blindly investigate firms, many of which have done nothing wrong.”

Sound familiar? The developments with the Teamsters dovetail with recent news that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has been specifically targeting and auditing conservative groups. Now government officials are helping union organizers with unwarranted audits of independent trucking firms. Unfortunately for trucking firms and their contractors in California, it is unlikely to end there.

The Golden State is one of only four states in which Big Labor is actually exempt from stalking laws, meaning union bosses and their organizers are immune from prosecution when engaging in acts during labor disputes which fall under the stalking statute, such as harassment and intimidation, to name a few.

In addition, the California Supreme Court recently ruled that non-union employees have no right to object to the disclosure of their personal contact information – another advantage to the Teamsters effort.

This begs the question, if union membership was so beneficial for employee, why would it be necessary to give every advantage to the labor bosses trying to forcibly organize and expand their ranks at the expense of worker freedoms and privacy?

The answer is that in many cases, employees are not best served by union affiliation and would prefer not to be a part of a collective bargaining unit. A nationwide poll released in conjunction with National Employee Free Choice Week (June 23-29), found that more than 33 percent of individuals who are currently in a union would opt out of membership if they could keep their job and not face a penalty for doing so.

In California specifically, more than 36 percent of those polled would choose to leave their union behind. Combine that with the fact that union membership in the United States has been on a steady decline since the middle of the last century, reaching an all-time low of 11.3 percent in 2013, and you begin to understand why the Teamsters are having to go to such great lengths to try and force drivers at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach into the union.

No matter what the Teamsters say or do, they can’t deny the fact that the tide has turned against union bosses. And if you think this is just another business versus labor fight that doesn’t affect you, think again. If you’ve ever shopped at an American retail store for food, lumber, household goods or clothing, chances are some of what you purchased came through the port in Los Angeles. And if the Teamsters get their way, you’ll pay more during each and every trip to the store. Independent contractors at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach should take note and work to protect themselves from the bullying and harassment that union organizers will attempt to inflict. Instead, they should come together and continue to communicate to union bosses that they choose to work independently.

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AZ Daily Sun--Coconino Voices: PRO Act legislation would hurt local businesses

— 05.13.2021 —
By: Julie Pastrik Arizona businesses and workers have had an incredibly challenging year given the economic slowdown that followed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. However, local businesses and industries across the state are resilient and on the road to a strong recovery that will mean more jobs for Arizona workers and increased economic development to strengthen our communities. That is, as long as Congress does not move forward with potentially devastating legislation that would hurt local employers and employees alike while impeding our state’s economic recovery. Unfortunately, some members of Congress seem determined to do just that by pushing through the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. As harmless as the name may sound, the PRO Act would have serious repercussions for local businesses, particularly smaller ones, while undermining long-standing rights for employees and threatening the growing gig economy that has helped provide much-needed income for so many during this time. Arizona is fortunate to have leaders like Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema, who have both refrained from joining the vast majority of their Democratic colleagues in cosponsoring the PRO Act. In a slap in the face to Arizona workers, the PRO Act removes one of the most fundamental rights a worker has when it comes to voting in elections to determine whether to unionize: the secret ballot. Instead, workers could be forced to sign union authorization cards in front of other employees, their employer, or union organizers. This bill would also destroy workers’ right to privacy by allowing unions access to personal information, including their home address and personal phone number. If that doesn’t open the door to union intimidation and harassment, I don’t know what does. As if that was not bad enough, the PRO Act would create major new challenges for Arizona businesses, making it harder for them to create jobs, expand in their communities, and even keep their doors open. It would redefine what it means to be a “joint employer” under national labor law, greatly complicating existing relationships between franchisors and franchisees as well as between business owners, contractors, subcontractors, and vendors and suppliers. At the same time, it would interfere with attorney-client confidentiality and make it much more difficult for small businesses to secure a legal advice on labor issues. Particularly harmful during these times, the PRO Act would apply a failed policy from California to national labor law by using the “ABC” test to determine whether a worker is an independent contractor or employee. This makes it much harder to qualify as an independent contractor, threatening the freedom and flexibility that tens of thousands of Arizonans find in independent contracting and gig economy work. Ultimately, the PRO Act is bad public policy that only works for union leaders to inflate their falling ranks while threatening workers’ rights, undermining small businesses, and jeopardizing a growing part of our economy. This is not a good solution for Arizona, and Senators Sinema and Kelly should stay firm and not cosponsor this misguided legislation.
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