Tomorrow’s Jobs Must Provide for Workers


The state of the workforce is not static. It never has been and technology guarantees that it will not be in the future. But that doesn’t mean all changes should be endorsed or accepted.

A lot of the focus in recent years says been on jobs created as part of the so-called “gig economy.” Apps like Uber and TaskRabbit have created an on-demand workforce. But those are just a small part of the ever-evolving workplace that is jeopardizing the livelihoods of hardworking Americans in the years ahead.

A recent Politico article delves deeper into the matter, identifying how everyone from construction workers to medical transcriptionists has been affected. Increasingly, companies are outsourcing their work. Sometimes that means overseas, but often it means making such positions independent contractors who are paid less with no benefits.

Gone are the workplace protections that have been part of the American full-time labor force. No minimum wage, no overtime, no health insurance. It is situation the Teamsters have seen firsthand in the port trucking industry, and are successfully pushing back on to stop.

More news came earlier this week when Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced he was filing a lawsuit against port truck driving companies for misclassifying hundreds of drivers as independent contractors in an effort to avoid providing benefits and paying applicable taxes.

“We allege these port trucking companies take advantage of hundreds of hardworking drivers, requiring them to pay onerous expenses just to do their jobs, while leaving them without basic benefits and protections – all to boost the companies’ profits,” Feuer said. “It’s wrong and we’re fighting to stop it.”

The separate lawsuits against K&R Transportation, California Cartage Express and CMI Transportation, all owned by NFI Industries, accuse the companies of purposely classifying their drivers as independent contractors in order to avoid paying employee benefits such as unemployment insurance and workers compensation. It also allows them to avoid paying certain state taxes, leaving it to the drivers to cover themselves.

The Teamsters lauded the announcement. “We hope this will send a strong message that not only these companies, but the entire port trucking industry, must stop breaking labor laws,” said Fred Potter, Director of the Teamsters’ Port Division and International Vice President.

This fight is not new. Thousands of drivers at port trucking firms serving the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have filed private lawsuits and wage and hour claims in recent years against illegal misclassification, and drivers have gone out on strike 15 different times.

Americans should not be thrown to the corporate wolves just so CEOs can make even fatter salaries. They deserve to earn a fair wage that allows them to support their families. Job growth does no good if the employment created doesn’t provide a middle-class lifestyle.

That’s what union jobs do, and is why the Teamsters and other labor allies join together with workers to fight for better pay, benefits and retirement security. This nation must never abandon an employment model that provides fairness and dignity to all those who go to work each day. Greater income inequality is not a model of success for this great nation.