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California Port Truck Drivers Request Investigation of Employer for Violating LA Minimum Wage Law

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Barb Maynard

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Kara Deniz

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(LOS ANGELES) – Port truck drivers employed by NFI Industries subsidiary California Cartage Transportation Express, commonly known as “Cal Cartage Express,” today filed minimum wage violation claims with the City of Los Angeles Office of Wage Standards. These claims allege that Cal Cartage Express – a trucking company with approximately 100 drivers within the NFI/Cal Cartage group of companies that together comprise the largest trucking operation at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach – violates Los Angeles’ minimum wage laws by failing to pay the LA minimum wage and failing to provide paid sick leave days. The company is currently operating without a permit or lease on City/Port property in Wilmington, Calif., following the LA City Council’s revocation of the permit over serious concerns of labor violations and resulting labor disruptions.

The claims filed allege that NFI/Cal Cartage Express, on average, fails to pay drivers at least one hour a day, every day. This is the result of their misclassification by their employer as “independent contractors” and a piece-rate payment system that fails to compensate workers for required duties done outside of the piece-rate movement. Such duties include conducting daily inspections, cleaning, repairing, painting containers, completing paperwork and filling up gas tanks – all duties for which they are not compensated. Additionally, the company does not provide any paid sick days to its drivers. For these reasons, NFI/Cal Cartage Express drivers are requesting that the Los Angeles Office of Wage Standards conduct a company-wide investigation to ensure that the approximately 100 port drivers employed by the company are being properly paid for their work as required by the city’s laws.

“I have worked exclusively for Cal Cartage Express for the last 10 years, driving 300 miles a day, 6 days a week, hauling containerized borax for the company’s biggest customer, Rio Tinto, from Boron, California, to the ports. Every day, Cal Cartage directs me to perform work on the property that they lease from the port and they refuse to pay me for my time. That’s wage theft and it’s a violation of city law. I’m sick and tired of it, so today I filed a claim with the City of LA to make sure I get what I have earned,” said Jesus Maldonado, a misclassified port truck driver for NFI’s Cal Cartage Express.

“Sitting in a truck for long hours – more than 300 miles a day for the last 13 years hauling borax for the company’s biggest customer, Rio Tinto – led to painful kidney stones. Not only did NFI/Cal Cartage refuse to give me any sick leave, but because they don’t provide health insurance I had to go to El Salvador for surgery. No one working at the Port of LA, particularly on City of LA property, should have to endure what my family and I did – it’s wrong, and it’s illegal. That’s why I’ve filed a claim with the City of LA to make sure that no other drivers have to go through what I went through,” said Jose Garcia, a misclassified port truck driver for NFI’s Cal Cartage Express.

NFI Industries’ port trucking subsidiaries, which despite being prominently featured in an explosive USA Today series for cheating drivers, was acquired by NFI in 2017. The new owner, NFI, continues to face multiple claims in the courts and government agencies for misclassifying port truck drivers as “independent contractors.”  The continued violations have led to repeated labor disruptions at both the trucking and warehousing operations, which recently led the Los Angeles City Council to revoke NFI/Cal Cartage’s lease. For example:

  • Agencies, including the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) and the California Employment Development Department (EDD), have determined that NFI’s port truck drivers are in fact employees. At NFI/Cal Cartage Express alone, there are currently 14 pending claims at the DLSE for $5.2 million in wage theft violations.
  • In January 2018, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer sued three of the five NFI/Cal Cartage trucking companies, K&R, CMI, and Cal Cartage Express, for violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law by evading paying taxes and misclassifying port truck drivers as independent contractors.
  • In NFI’s warehouse division, NFI/Cal Cartage has also faced scrutiny from government agencies:
  • In 2018 the US Department of Labor (DOL) fined a Cal Cartage warehouse in Carson $3.5 million for failure to pay federal prevailing wages.
  • The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued an administrative law judge decision against the NFI/Cal Cartage warehouse in Wilmington.
  • California’s health and safety agency, Cal/OSHA, has repeatedly cited the warehouse for health and safety violations.

Nevertheless, the company is still operating on port property without a lease. Click here for more details on NFI/Cal Cartage’s record as a law-breaking company.

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