Tuesday, April 28, 2015

More Troubling Labor News at the Ports



By: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director
riversidetransit@gmail.com



A group of California's 16,000 truck drivers who deliver goods to/from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach went on strike Monday according to reports citing "persistent wage theft" because they are classified as independent contractors instead of employees. Trucking companies countered claiming driver pay is good and picketing at the ports did not represent the majority of drivers.

It was unclear of how many exactly walked off the job but any labor slowdown at the ports is significant simply because the region is still recovering from its massive backlog of shipments caused by the dockworkers dispute only a few months ago. Because labor unions have a powerful voice statewide, there is a potential threat if this issue grows unchecked. We don't need this small strike turning into another slowdown in the Inland Empire's logistics and distribution industries.

Like the dockworker's strike, I don't know the details of the trucking dispute; so, I won't take a side. However, both sides need to come to an agreement soon before this spirals out of control, more drivers strike and the economy gets hurt. Any valid points brought up from either side must not be ignored or stonewalled.

As I've mentioned in the past, present-day labor unions continue to serve an important role in our economic system. There's no question all workers worldwide need some kind of protection. The right to freely organize is a proven solution. If organized labor groups operated fairly, they can protect their members by giving them a unified voice in addressing fundamental issues in the workplace which includes addressing workplace safety and holding the employer or governing body accountable to follow the rule of law which includes properly classifying workers. Federal and state law should protect employees by allowing them the right to freely organize.

But as I've said, some unions, especially some in the public sector have bargained with elected officials giving these groups enormous decision making power. That has led to the passage of trivial regulatory rules as state law that obstruct the market economy, bloated salaries and skyrocketing transit infrastructure costs that well exceed the market rates. Governments and employers simply cannot afford to pay these bloated rates without further cutting services or hiking fees or taxes.

The special interest pandering looks like this: The union donates big money to the official if he/she votes for what it wants. The fact that some labor unions have such a tremendous power-grip on California's lawmaking is a disgrace to our democratic republic and I believe that such pandering does not help union workers, especially if employers and buyers take their business elsewhere because of the hard rules which can leave the employee out of work.

While the truck driver's union and employers continue to negotiate, we need non-divisive solutions to this labor madness.

I believe that many Americans are divided on the union debate, but we must all work together to get this financial situation and power-grab under control and propose fair ways to improve working conditions without strangling the economy or taxpayer with trivial rules, cuts, or higher fees or taxes. One proven Economics-101 solution is to incentivize investments and more job growth here at home.

If employers find that their employees have the option to move on elsewhere as the number of job positions go up, especially to a competitor, they will do whatever they can to retain their workforce. That would include raises, expansion of benefits, and better working conditions. Both labor unions and employers should support this position.

That is a fair way to solve this problem.

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