LA Port Drivers Forced to Strike Again

LOS ANGELES-LONG BEACH, Calif.—Wage theft, lousy working conditions and continued company misclassification of port truckers as “independent contractors” not covered by labor law all combined to again force the hundreds of port truck drivers in Los Angeles-Long Beach to strike.


The top demand of the drivers, who voted overwhelmingly on April 25 to walk out, is that the trucking firms recognize them as employees, covered by labor law, and thus bargain with them if and when they select the Teamsters – who are backing their campaign – to officially represent them.


The forced strike began on April 27.  It is the second at the port, the nation’s largest, and over the same issues, since November 2014.  A string of federal and state court and state agency rulings have found that port drivers are misclassified as “independent contractors.”  So far, 56 have won their cases, and the firms owe them $5.5 million in back pay and damages.


The trucking firms misclassify the drivers, who move goods from the two ports to inland warehouses for Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Target and other major retailers, as “independent contractors.”  That means labor laws – including the National Labor Relations Act, minimum wage and overtime laws, and workers comp – don’t cover the drivers.


Misclassification also means the drivers must foot their own bills for everything from gasoline to insurance to repairs, even though the trucking firms, called drayage companies, control their schedules, workload and more. Drivers say that as a result they often make less than minimum wage or even end up owing the companies money.


With one exception — announced just before the walkout began — the firms still refuse to recognize the drivers as “employees” under labor law, with the rights to organize and bargain.


The truckers are also taking their campaign to the Internet, posting a petition for backers to sign demanding Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and San Diego Mayor Robert Garcia ban company profit-making from labor law violations at the two ports.


Source: PAI

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