By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Truckers who haul freight from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach will go on strike against four ground-shipment companies on Monday, a Teamsters union official said, in a move that could revive labor tension at the nation's busiest cargo hub.
Delegations of drivers planned to notify the companies of their intent to strike at 6 a.m. Pacific time, with picket lines going up immediately at the companies' truck yards, Teamsters spokeswoman Barb Maynard told Reuters.
The strikers also plan to picket marine terminals, rail yards and other locations where the companies dispatch trucks, Maynard said.
The truckers accuse the companies of wage theft by illegally misclassifying them as independent contractors, and the drivers demand to be treated instead as employees with the right to union representation.
Roughly 500 truckers in all work for the four companies - Pacific 9 Transportation, Intermodal Bridge Transport, Pacer Cartage, and a Pacer subsidiary, Harbor Rail Transport - with many of those drivers expected to take part in the strike, Maynard said.
The outcome of the dispute has implications for hundreds of companies and thousands of truckers in Southern California serving the twin ports, which handle 43 percent of containerized goods entering the United States.
About 500 port truckers have filed wage claims with state labor officials accusing their companies of misclassifying them as freelancers and charging them to lease the trucks they drive.
The state has ruled on at least 56 such claims so far, siding in every case with drivers in awarding them back wages and penalties, the Teamsters say.
Thousands more drivers have yet to file claims, and port trucking companies in California could be liable for wage and hour violations of up to nearly $1 billion each year, the labor-backed National Employment Law Project has estimated.
In January, truckers won a $2-million judgment against Pacer Cartage in a misclassification suit supporters say could bolster class-action litigation against other firms. But Pacer has said it would appeal the decision.
It was not immediately clear how disruptive Monday's actions might be. A series of such strikes last year caused little disarray at the ports.
The action comes as West Coast port cargo traffic returns to normal after months of slowdowns over a dispute between shipping companies and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. That dispute was resolved in February, with a five-year labor accord.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)