LOS ANGELES, May 1 (Reuters) - Southern California port truckers seeking recognition as employees rather than contractors ended a strike of freight-hauling companies on Friday after four days of picketing that drew attention to their cause but did little to disrupt cargo shipments.
Several hundred drivers, backed by the Teamsters union, struck four trucking firms they accuse of defying federal and state labor enforcement decisions and a court ruling that the truckers were victims of wage theft through misclassification.
Many drivers end up earning less than minimum wage due to company paycheck deductions for truck-leasing charges and other costs. A typical worker is short-changed by $60,000 or more yearly, union officials say.
The four companies - Pacific 9 Transportation, Intermodal Bridge Transport, Pacer Cartage, and Pacer sister firm Harbor Rail Transport - are among the largest drayage operators doing business in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Their fleets account for fewer than 500 of the 13,600 trucks registered to haul cargo in and out of the L.A.-Long Beach harbor complex.
But the dispute's outcome has implications for hundreds of companies and thousands of truckers serving the twin ports, which rank as the nation's two busiest and together handle 43 percent of all containerized cargo entering the United States.
"For too long, we have been treated like the orphans of the ports," striking IBT driver Hector Flores said in a statement announcing the return to work. "Now we have earned the respect of the marine terminal operators and the world. We won't back down until the boss respects us as well."
Teamsters organizer Barbara Maynard said most terminals turned away trucks from the struck companies to keep picketers from venturing into the dockyards.
As a consequence, she said, containers bound for the companies' customers, including Wal-Mart Stores, Costco and Toyota, were left "languishing on the docks."
Those companies reported little or no effect on deliveries, and port authorities reported negligible waterfront disruptions. Picket lines were confined mostly to truck companies, rail yards and distribution points outside the ports.
"There were some minor delays during the week, but cargo flowed throughout the port complex," Los Angeles port spokesman Phillip Sanfield said.
The strikers also have called on the Los Angeles and Long Beach mayors to pressure companies operating in the city-owned ports to abide by labor rulings in the drivers' favor and recognize the truckers as employees. (Editing by Lisa Lambert)