By Ernesto Arce, May 24, 2016
Dozens of freight handlers at the port of Los Angeles lost their jobs at the end of April after California Cartage, one of the nation’s largest drayage companies, dropped its temporary staffing agency. The company asked workers to reapply with Core Employee Management, a new agency, but many fell through the cracks.
Ernesto Arce has more from Los Angeles:
[Ernesto Arce]: Michael Munoz, an organizer with the Warehouse Workers Resource Center, says Cal Cartage didn’t actually fire anyone, it pushed them out.
[Michael Munoz]: “Come May 1, anywhere between 70 to 100 people actually didn’t get in for a bunch of different reasons. They told people, ‘Well, you have a problem with your social security number,’ or ‘You have a problem with your background check,’ or ‘Your application is still not processed,’ or ‘We actually have no record of you.’ The agency never called to resolve the issue so a lot of those people actually wound up getting a job somewhere else.”
[Ernesto Arce]: The labor center has been supporting Cal Cartage workers for two years now. Back in December 2014, it helped workers file a lawsuit against the freight handling company for violating the Los Angeles Living Wage ordinance. Staff complained about unfair scheduling, not being paid for showing up to the port when there was no work, and for a myriad of safety issues.
Sergio Hidalgo loads and unloads containers. He says the job is unpleasant and supervisors entertain fierce competition among workers.
[Sergio Hidalgo]: “It’s probably the worst thing ever. We’re trying to outdo each other and stuff but it’s one of the worst places to work ever. Just the really unsure feeling if you’re gonna make it home because the way everyone drives is brutal. The thing is no one ever really complains but you can see everybody. They have that grimace when they’re working.”
[Ernesto Arce]: Hidalgo says favoritism and retaliation exacerbate a rowdy workplace. As a temporary worker, he shows up to the work site without a guarantee that he’ll work that day.
Munoz with the labor center, says the company is increasingly relying on temp staffing. He says it’s retaliation for the lawsuit and a letter signed by workers asking for respect.
[Michael Munoz]: “At any point in time you can have up to 70% of the workers here who are actually employed by a temp agency. And temp is actually a misnomer cause you have people here for 14 years but they were still considered temps, the perma-temp issue. One of the main messages is that we want everyone direct. This whole thing about transitioning from one temp agency to another all it does it fracture the workforce.”
[Ernesto Arce]: An attempt to get comment from Core Employee Management officials on site at the port of LA was met with a threat of arrest for trespassing on private property. Cal Cartage was unavailable for comment.
Worker advocates say it’s difficult to estimate how many workers were displaced by the staff agency switch but say hundreds of workers are impacted by ongoing poor work conditions.