Several of the nation's biggest trade associations have fired a warning shot across the bow of the Port of Los Angeles, urging it to cease lobbying efforts to change a federal law that could greatly affect the way cargo is hauled into and out of the nation's seaports.

The warning came Tuesday in a letter signed by 24 groups representing U.S. retailers, agricultural interests, apparel and textile firms, trucking groups and logistics officials. It's a response to the port's recent hiring of Atlanta-based Gephardt Group to try to change part of the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act to help reduce air pollution at the port.

Federal law considers the truckers who haul freight at the port to be independent owner-operators who have no collective bargaining rights and can't join forces to raise pay rates. It also forbids governments from regulating the prices, routes or services of a trucking company. The trucking group and the signers of the letter say changing the law would make it easier for unions to organize truck drivers at the port while American businesses are struggling.

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