Explaining Southern California's economy

LA ports: Labor strife and what it means to you

(FILES) A cargo ship stands on Long Beac

Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images

A cargo ship stands in Long Beach harbor, California, in 2012.

The potential for a major work stoppage looms over the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and more than a hundred truck drivers for three companies that move cargo in and out of the ports have gone on strike indefinitely.  

That's a small number: As many as 12,000 truck drivers serve the two ports at a given time.

But there's always the possibility that unionized dockworkers at the two ports could choose to honor the drivers' picket lines. That happened briefly on Tuesday morning, when members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Workers Union walked off the job in response to the striking truck drivers' pickets for two hours. 

That shut down two terminals at the Port of L.A. and one in Long Beach, at least until a federal mediator stepped in and said the longshore workers had to return to work under the terms of their contract with the Pacific Maritime Association. 


Proposed insurance rules bad for ridesharing companies' bottom line

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The California Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to vote on a proposal Thursday changing the insurance requirements for companies like Lyft.

One of the reasons ridesharing companies are able to charge significantly less than taxis is that up until now, companies have been able to shift much of the liability and cost of insurance to their drivers, who then shift it to their insurance companies, which often don't know they're insuring a car for hire.

That lucrative business model could begin to change if the California Public Utilities Commission [CPUC] approves a set of new regulations, which it's scheduled to vote on Thursday.

“Insurance is an important piece for us, no doubt,” Uber's Head of Global Operations, Ryan Graves, told me Tuesday night, while declining to say whether Uber supports the proposal or not. “We’re going to work with the commission to try to understand what structures are reasonable and my hope is that they understand that reality as well, and we find something we’re mutually agreeing upon.” 


Los Angeles/Long Beach port truck drivers launch strike with no planned end

containers maersk ship port of los angeles long beach san pedro

Photo by Izabela Reimers via Flickr Creative Commons

Truck drivers for three companies that move cargo in and out of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach launched a strike early Monday morning, with the support of organizers of the Teamsters union the drivers are hoping to join.

The strike involves 120 drivers for three transport firms including Total Transportation Services Inc., Green Fleet Systems and Pacific 9. The drivers have staged strikes and labor actions in the past year, but this is the first time they've walked off the job with no plans to return.

The drivers say the companies have become increasingly hostile to their efforts to organize and form a union. The companies, say the striking drivers, have retaliated by intimidating and even firing some drivers, as well as countersuing drivers who filed complaints. 

"Companies don't really like it when you fight for your rights," said 45-year-old Byron Contreras of Lakewood, who has worked for almost three years as a driver for Green Fleet Systems.  "We'll be out here as long as it takes," he told KPCC during a phone interview outside the LBCT Terminal at the Port of Long Beach. 


'Midnight Rider' indictment: Sarah Jones' death highlights safety on the set challenges

Safety For Sarah PSA Part 1

Admin.Sarah.PSA (via YouTube)

A YouTube video showing support for Sarah Jones, who was killed on the set of "Midnight Rider" by a train.

Prosecutors in Georgia have indicted the filmmakers of “Midnight Rider" on charges of involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass in the death of Sarah Jones. The 27-year-old camera assistant was killed by an oncoming train in February, when she was preparing a scene on a railroad bridge. Six others were injured.

The tragedy has highlighted the motion picture industry's attempts and struggles to keep film locations safe for the people who work on them. It has rallied actors and below-the-line crew workers around a push for greater emphasis on location safety.

In a public service announcement launched earlier this week, actors Paul Dano, Heather Locklear and Jinhee Joung appear with makeup artists, directors of photography, production assistants and craft service workers.  All stare silently into the camera holding slate cards with messages like "We are all Sarah," "Safety for Sarah" and "Never forget. Never Again." The video has brought more traffic and expressions of support  to the "Slates for Sarah" Facebook page and Twitter feed.


What does California get in return for $100 million in film and TV tax credits?

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David McNew/Getty Images

The California Film Commission has selected 26 productions this year to share in the state’s $100-million film and TV tax credit program. They include 11 feature films, 13 TV series, and two made-for-TV movies. 

The winners were selected by a lottery from among 497 entrants.  

“As part of their application, they have to include a projection of how many crew they will hire, how many cast members they will hire, and how many background actors they will hire,” says Amy Lemisch, executive director of the California Film Commission. 

Universal's remake of “Scarface” was one of the film productions to be selected for the credit. Its projected crew size is 250 people. 

B-E-T’s series “Being Mary Jane” also won, and is projecting 120 crew jobs.   The numbers aren't final, and a production can't claim its tax credit until it's completed and producers have sent a record of expenditures with an audit for review.