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Truckers Strike At 2 Calif. Ports, Larger Labor Dispute Looms

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Truckers Strike At 2 Calif. Ports, Larger Labor Dispute Looms

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Truckers Strike At 2 Calif. Ports, Larger Labor Dispute Looms

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And at the nation's largest port here in Southern California, short-haul truck drivers are one day into a strike they say will last indefinitely. It's the latest protest against three large trucking companies that operate at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. And the strike comes as a much larger labor dispute looms. NPR's Kirk Siegler reports.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: Handling almost half of all the nation's cargo, the ports in L.A. and Long Beach are the main gateway for imports from Asia. A lot of the shipping containers end up on these idling trucks. The short-haul truckers bring the goods from here to nearby rail yards and distribution centers for companies like Costco, Forever 21 and Skechers.

BYRON CONTRERRAS: We're in this to win.

SIEGLER: About 80 percent of all the truck drivers at this port are like Byron Contrerras. They work as independent contractors. And according to union leaders, that means they have little workplace protections and work dangerously long hours for low pay. Plus they have to maintain their own semi's.

CONTRERRAS: This is my fourth time going out on the strike. And I'm going to be out on the picket line as long as it takes for Greenfleet to get the message that they can't keep trampling our rights.

SIEGLER: In a statement, Greenfleet, one of the three companies targeted, called the strike a distraction - adding that an overwhelming majority of the company's contractors and drivers are paid well and don't sympathize with the picketers. Still, it's a sensitive time at west coast ports. Nearly 20,000 dockworkers are working without a contract as their union continues to negotiate a new labor agreement. A six-year deal with west coast longshoremen expired July 1. And with things already a little tense, it's not yet clear whether those dockworkers might honor the truckers picket lines in a show of support. Kirk Siegler, NPR News.

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