Majority of Truck Drivers Report Declining Pay as Illegal Misclassification as Independent Contractors Squeezes Income Further
(SAN PEDRO, Calif.)— Truck drivers who are struggling amid declining cargo volume and dangerous working conditions as a result of COVID-19 lined up Thursday to receive a helping hand from their fellow drivers at a food bank organized by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Trucks were loaded with boxes of food as well as masks, which many trucking companies have failed to provide their employees. The food bank was organized in partnership with the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, Labor Community Services, and the Los Angeles County Food Bank.
According to a recent survey of Los Angeles port truck drivers, 82 percent of drivers say they have no paid sick days and 84 percent do not have health insurance through their job. A full 70 percent do not feel that the company they drive for is doing enough to keep them safe at work. In April, 68 percent reported less pay over the previous month as cargo at the ports have dropped and wait times have increased.
Even during a global pandemic, truck drivers at the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach continue to be illegally misclassified as independent contractors, leaving them without access to affordable health insurance, paid sick leave and other workplace protections. The Ports have the power to ensure the trucking companies are law-abiding partners, and Mayors Garcetti and Garcia can provide the Ports with that guidance. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters urges them to do so.
LONGSTANDING ILLEGAL MISCLASSIFICATION LEAVES TRUCK DRIVERS VULNERABLE
The vast majority of port drivers were already illegally misclassified as independent contractors prior to the pandemic, leaving them vulnerable to trucking companies that force drivers into debt and routinely deduct truck payments from their paychecks. Additionally, port truck drivers do not feel safe at work, as trucking companies and the ports fail to take necessary precautions, and drivers fear for their health as they are forced to choose between insurmountable medical bills or going to the doctor for a check-up. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters has long stood with misclassified drivers in their fight for fairness and for the wages and rights they deserve.
Earlier this month, truck drivers who work at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach circled their trucks around the Port of Los Angeles administrative building and delivered a petition demanding greater protections amid the COVID-19 crisis. The drivers’ demands include: proper PPE, paid sick leave, immediate cash assistance, free COVID-19 testing, social distancing procedures, and a suspension of payment requirements related to truck loans and leases.
Full text of petition delivered by drivers
Port Drivers Need Protections and Paid Leave ASAP!!!
To: Port of LA and Port of Long Beach Harbor Commissioners
We port drivers at the Ports of LA and Long Beach are fed up with how careless the ports continue to be with our safety. As drivers we move truck-loads of goods from the ports to warehouses and come into contact with a wide variety of people, equipment and facilities. We are worried about our own safety and that of our families. We are worried about how we will continue to pay for our trucks, insurance costs and our family expenses without our regular income.
We are considered “essential workers” but we are treated like garbage. We share phones, speakers and other equipment when we check in at the port terminals but there isn’t any protective gear such as gloves or masks provided. Many of us are immigrants and we work hard so that people all over the country have the things they need on the store shelves and so our hospitals get the medical equipment they need.
We demand and deserve for our survival that the following is done immediately:
- Provide drivers cash assistance right now including access to unemployment and other payments to replace our lost income.
- Make sure we can take paid leave so that we are able to stay home when we are sick and take care of our families.
- Suspend all payment requirements for truck loans, leases and insurance.
- Provide free Covid-19 testing and treatment for all drivers because most of us do not have health insurance.
- Provide us masks, gloves and other personal protective gear.
- Wipe down and disinfect the speakers, phones and other shared equipment after each person uses it.
- Provide hand washing stations, hand sanitizer, and clean bathrooms at all port facilities.
- Enforce social distancing at the ports.