Floyd Tausaga, of Teamsters Local 848 / Photo by Barbara Davidson

Long Beach City Council Tidelands and Harbor Committee To Hold Hearings on Port Driver Misclassification

Port of Long Beach, CA – In February, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, with the support of Long Beach Councilmembers Al Austin, Lena Gonzalez, Jeannine Pearce, and Rex Richardson, made the following recommendations, which were unanimously approved by the Long Beach City Council:
 
  1. Add language to the City’s State and Federal Legislative Agendas to support legislation that improves working conditions for port truck drivers and addresses related issues;
  2. Direct the City Attorney to work with the California Labor Commissioner’s and Attorney General’s Offices to explore options to support regulatory enforcement efforts; and
  3. Request the Harbor and Tidelands Committee and the Long Beach Harbor Commission to hold hearings on the trucking crisis and misclassification of employees at the ports with the goal of finding solutions that protect the Port of Long Beach’s proprietary interests.
 
Today, the first of two hearings of the Harbor and Tidelands Committee will take place at the Port of Long Beach starting at 3:00 PM. The Port of Long Beach is the second-busiest seaport in the U.S., after the Port of Los Angeles, which it adjoins. The twin port complex is the site of 15 disruptive truck driver strikes over the last four years as misclassified “independent contractor” drivers have demanded their rights as employees.
 
WHO: 
  • Long Beach Councilmember Lena Gonzalez
  • Fred Potter, Port Division Director, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
  • Other participants to be named
WHAT:
Long Beach City Council Tidelands and Harbor Committee Hearings on Port Driver Misclassification
 
WHEN:
  • Thursday, May 24, 2018; 3:00 pm
  • Thursday, May 31, 2018; 3:00 pm
WHERE:
Port of Long Beach Maintenance Building Meeting Room
(near the Queen Mary)
 


Background

Drivers at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have been challenging their misclassification as “independent contractors” and exercising their rights as employees. They have been engaging in collective action at the courts, in their truck yards and at the ports – including 15 strikes in the last four years – bringing their cases before government agency officials. Upon investigating the facts, multiple agencies and courts at both the state and federal levels have determined that drivers are, in fact, employees and therefore protected by employment and labor laws. Outlined below is a brief summary:
 
Misclassification and Wage Theft Claims
 
Labor Commissioner claims
Since 2011, port truck drivers have filed at least 890 claims with the CA Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). Of those, the Labor Commissioner’s office has issued determinations in at least 400 cases, finding that drivers were, in fact, employees and therefore owed over $45 million in stolen wages and penalties. There are many cases awaiting hearings. Approximately 350 cases filed appear to have been settled prior to hearing or were transferred to court or private arbitration.
 
Private litigation
Drivers have also been exercising their rights as employees through the court system. Drivers at virtually every market-leading company at the ports have joined class-action suits for misclassification and wage theft, with more than 45 such suits filed. Several of these cases have recently settled, although the persistent misclassification leaves these companies vulnerable to new claims. In addition to the class action suits, drivers have also filed dozens of individual or “mass-action” suits involving multiple plaintiffs.
 
Labor Code violations
All of the above cases – DLSE claims, along with class action, “mass-action,” and individual lawsuits – are seeking to address violations of the California Labor Code, including unlawful deductions and unreimbursed expenses, and failure to provide meal and rest breaks. Recent cases also include damages for unpaid “nonproductive” hours worked, such as time spent inspecting trucks, under a new CA piece rate law (AB 1513). Most of the private suits include other causes of action, including willful misclassification and violations of the CA Unfair Competition Law.
 
Agency Enforcement and Employee Determinations
In addition to the courts and the DLSE, other state and federal agencies have found port drivers to be employees upon conducting investigations into labor, employment, and tax laws. These decisions include the following:
 
Federal government action
  • National Labor Relations Board (NLRB): In 2017 an Administrative Law Judge for Region 21 of the NLRB found Intermodal Bridge Transport (IBT) drivers to be misclassified and that this misclassification is a violation of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Additionally, Region 21 of the NLRB has made merit determinations that drivers from at least five other major port trucking companies were employees – not independent contractors.
  • US Department of Labor (DOL): The DOL conducted an investigation of a market-leading port trucking company for misclassification, which resulted in a 2014 consent judgment and order in which the presiding federal judge found the company’s California drivers to be employees and ordered it to reclassify them (Thomas E. Perez, v. Shippers Transport Express, Inc., Case No. 2:13-cv-04255-BRO-PLA).
 
California state government action
  • CA Employment Development Department: The California Employment Development Department has issued individual employee determinations in the cases of at least 45 port drivers.
  • CA Attorney General: Between 2008 and 2009, the CA Attorney General filed lawsuits against six area port trucking companies, five of which were settled. The sixth suit, against Pac Anchor, is moving forward following a unanimous 2014 ruling by the California Supreme Court that found that that the case was not preempted by federal law. The US Supreme Court declined to review that decision in 2015, clearing the way for the original case to proceed. A trial is scheduled for August 2018 (The People of the State of California v. Pac Anchor, Case No. BC397600).
 
City government action
  • Los Angeles City Attorney: On January 8, 2018, the Los Angeles City Attorney filed lawsuits against three port trucking companies owned by NFI/Cal Cartage, whose trucking enterprise is the largest at the Ports of LA and Long Beach, for violating the Unfair Competition Law (UCL) by misclassifying port truck drivers as independent contractors, evading their obligation to provide benefits to drivers and pay relevant taxes (The People of the State of California v. CMI Transportation, Case No. BC689321; The People of the State of California v. K&R Transportation, Case No. BC689322; The People of the State of California v. California Cartage Express, Case No. BC689320)
 
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PRESS ADVISORY FOR: Thursday, May 24, and Thursday, May 31, 2018


Justice for Port Truck Drivers

PRESS CONTACT: Barb Maynard, 323-351-9321 barb@actnowstrategies.com

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