After five days of active picketing that dramatically impacted trucking companies and the marine terminal operators that continued to allow the trucks of struck companies into their yards, misclassified “independent contractor” drivers from XPO Logistics, Intermodal Bridge Transport (IBT), and Gold Point Transportation ended their strike on October 30. Drivers from Pacific 9 Transportation remain on strike indefinitely. Amazon warehouse workers employed by Wilmington-based California Cartage also ended their strike with the support of the Teamsters.
“It is obvious to us that the retailers and the terminals that are supporting low road trucking companies that illegally misclassify their employees as “independent contractors” by doing business with them have little regard for workers rights. We call on the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, America’s retailers, and the terminal operators to stop doing business with law-breaking companies. The Teamsters are committed to stopping the misclassification of workers, and will continue to support the port truck drivers on the front lines of ending wage theft.”
— Fred Potter, International Vice President and Director of the Port Division, International Brother of Teamsters
Friday morning, 14 new drivers filed “wage and hour” claims valued at $3.5 million with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE); including one driver at RPM Transportation who presented evidence of $450,000 in wage theft over a three-year period. There are an additional 19 DLSE claims in the process of being completed and filed. Prior to this new development, the DLSE was reporting:
- 705 wage and hour claims filed with DLSE.
- 155 orders, decisions, or awards (ODA) in such claims. Of these, all unappealed claims readily available (113 of the 155 ODAs) were deemed misclassified by the DLSE, which ordered a combined total of $12 million in back wages and penalties.
- Average award per driver: $110,000.
- Estimated potential liability: $60+ million for the 550 pending claims.
Further, there are at least 21 pending class action lawsuits covering 3,000 current and former misclassified port truck drivers, and both the U.S. Department of Labor and the California Attorney General have filed misclassification lawsuits against major California port trucking companies. The National Employment Law Project (NELP) estimates the total annual industry liability for misclassification of port truck driver in California alone is nearly $1 billion per year.
The strikes ended with a victory at Los Angeles City Hall, where the City Council unanimously adopted a resolution that calls on all companies who conduct business at the San Pedro ports complex to “comply with federal and state employment and labor laws and provide them with the same wage and benefits protections afforded to all employees in our city,” and encouraged “all vested parties to resolve any labor issues proactively to avoid any work stoppages at the Port of Los Angeles.” Additionally, a delegation of striking drivers delivered more than 27,000 petitions to L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office (the petition is also aimed at Long Beach Mayor Eric Garcia and delivery will take place next week).
MISCLASSIFICATION: As America’s lowest wage workers are beginning to see justice with a $15 hourly wage on the horizon, the cries of the millions of American workers who are misclassified as “independent contractors” are reaching a fevered pitch. Spanning employees in the janitorial, e-commerce, entertainment, home care, construction, port truck driving industries these workers are not only robbed of basic workplace protections like the right to minimum wage, overtime pay, and a safe and healthful workplace, but they are also being cheated out of such rudimentary workplace benefits as unemployment compensation when they are laid off; workers’ compensation when they are injured on the job; and the right to form a union have a voice on the job – a voice that allows workers to gain respect, dignity, and the ability to bargain collectively for better wages and working conditions.
Misclassification robs workers of these rights. As “independent contactors,” workers do not have the ability to engage in group activity to protest and resolve workplace issues. Further, misclassification deprives workers of protections afforded “employees” under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Port drivers are on the front line challenging this unfair labor practice by filing charges with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that misclassification itself violates the NLRA (as does retaliation for filing wage and hour claims”).
WAGE THEFT: Employees illegally misclassified as independent contractors are also victims of pervasive wage theft that robs workers of billions of dollars a year. Misclassifying drivers enables trucking companies to shift their business expenses on to the backs of low wage workers who are controlled by the trucking company that employs them. Predatory truck lease schemes bind drivers to their employer. Companies deduct the cost of diesel fuel, insurance, maintenance, parking, even the cost of printing paychecks, leaving drivers with very little or even negative paychecks. Studies have shown that the average port truck driver is subject to $4,000 per month, or $48,000 per year, in wage theft. Without the ability to fight back at their workplace.
TAX FRAUD: Misclassification doesn’t just hurt the workers and their families – it hurts us all through pervasive and wide scale tax fraud that robs our schools, our roads, our public safety services of billions in vital resources.
THE FRONT LINE: On the front line of the fight to end the misclassification/wage theft scheme are the professional truck drivers at our nation’s largest port complex – the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, who haul everyone’s cargo, including Amazon, Costco, and Proctor & Gable. Nearly one-half a trillion dollars in goods per year flow through these ports – more than 40 percent of U.S. imports and exports – yet the men and women who haul these containers on and off the docks to nearby rail yards, distribution centers, and warehouses are denied employee rights. By striking and filing unfair labor practice charges port drivers are fighting back!
Social Media Links
- For more information on the port truck drivers’ campaign: www.JusticeForPortDrivers.org.
- For more information on the warehouse workers’ campaign: www.warehouseworkers.org
- Follow us on Twitter @PortDriverUnion and @wwunited
- Like us at www.facebook.com/Justice4PortDrivers