Trucking Companies Routinely Misclassify Drivers as Independent Contractors, Denying them Key Benefits and Protections
As truck drivers at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach continue to work without proper personal protective equipment (PPE), the Teamsters Port Division held a free COVID-19 testing site for drivers yesterday.
Priority was given to drivers who work for Container Connection, a trucking company that does not provide drivers with PPE or enforce appropriate procedures to keep workers safe. The testing was done in conjunction with St. John’s mobile clinic.
Port truck drivers are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, and their employers leave them ill-equipped to withstand the financial burden if they do get sick. Since the beginning of the pandemic, port truck drivers have faced dangerous conditions as trucking companies have neglected to provide proper PPE and implement social distancing procedures. At the same time, trucking companies routinely misclassify drivers as independent contractors—denying them such benefits as paid sick leave and employer-sponsored health insurance—and deduct truck payments from drivers’ paychecks.
Teamsters Port Division Director Ron Herrera and Port Division Assistant Director Eric Tate joined at the testing site.
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.
Last 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.
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.
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.