As the War on Workers in American Wages On…
February 19, 2014 – The Big Rig Overhaul, a report released today by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), and Change to Win Strategic Organizing Center (CTW), exposes an illegal business model that pervades the U.S. port trucking industry – misclassification of drivers as “independent contractors.” This industry-wide scam has transformed once good, middle-class union jobs into “sweatshops on wheels,” whereby so-called “independent” drivers are victims of massive wage theft and systematically denied bedrock labor protections and workplace benefits.
More than 75,000 U.S. port truck drivers haul goods such as Skechers shoes, Walmart televisions, and Home Depot lumber from U.S. seaports to railheads and retailers’ distribution centers. The research presented in The Big Rig Overhaul confirms with startling clarity that the “dire working conditions” of port truck drivers are directly related to their misclassification as “independent contractors.” The authors conservatively estimate that misclassified drivers are victims of wage theft “amounting to $5,072 per driver per month,” concluding that “total quantifiable costs of misclassification nationally – tax losses plus wage and hour violations – run to $1.4 billion annually with non-quantified costs likely exceeding the figure significantly.”
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters’ Port Division has been leading the fight to stop the war on America’s port truck drivers. In California alone, the Teamsters have helped more than 100 drivers file individual claims for wage theft with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), and supported misclassified drivers at one company – Pac 9 Transportation – who engaged in an historic Unfair Labor Practice strike in November 2013, claiming harassment and intimidation related to their DLSE claims. Two misclassified drivers who haul shoes for Skechers were unlawfully fired in January for filing claims for wage theft and have filed Unfair Labor Practice charges against their employer.
“Port trucking companies that misclassify their drivers are facing huge liabilities for their illegal schemes and are desperate to reduce their exposure,” said Fred Potter, International Vice President at Large and Director of the Port Division, International Brotherhood of Teamsters. “In desperation, they are harassing, intimidating, and even firing drivers who have filed claims with the government. The industry will be held accountable; the days of a lawless industry are over.” We look forward to the day when the port trucking companies that misclassify their drivers modernize their business practices to comply with local, state, and federal laws and respect the rights of their employees.”
The Big Rig Overhaul blows the lid off the port trucking industry-wide scam that amounts to billions of dollars in stolen back wages and lost tax revenue. As a result of the misclassification scam, port trucking companies are currently liable for an estimated $850 million in stolen wages per year in California alone. Nationally, the total cost of lost tax revenue, compounded with violations of wage and hour laws soars to $1.4 billion annually.
A collaboration of the National Employment Law Project, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy and the Change to Win Strategic Organizing Center, The Big Rig Overhaul calls for the passing of the Payroll Fraud Prevention Act, the Clean Ports Act of 2013, and the Fair Playing Field Act of 2012, believing the legislation will in part, remedy legal conditions of employee misclassification and the resulting toll on working people in America. The report details the legal and economic ramifications of misclassification in port trucking, but also profiles working port truck drivers, taking a closer look at the impact on hard working families.
“We work long hours for these companies and we put our life on the line for low pay while they are accumulating millions in profits,” said Daniel Linares, a misclassified port truck driver working for Pac 9 Transportation in California. “I’m tired of the injustice of the industry. We are the future homeless because we get nothing for retirement. They are getting their money and leaving us behind.”
Eric Tate, Secretary-Treasurer, of Teamsters Local 848, a Teamster local that is entrenched in the fight for justice for port drivers, often hears of the harsh reality for port drivers. “We represent port truck drivers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach who work for the Toll Group,” said Secretary-Treasurer Tate. “Since becoming the first group of port drivers to win a union contract at our ports in over 30 years, unionized Toll drivers are not only better able to provide for their families, but have increased productivity at Toll. Our members are proof that treating hard working people with dignified working conditions with employee status is better for both business and working families.”
The Big Rig Overhaul is officially released to the public February 19, 2014, with a forward by Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and former Chief Economic Advisor to Vice President Joe Biden. The report’s authors and Mr. Bernstein held a national press conference announcing the report’s release, including an inside-the-industry look from misclassified drivers from the ports of Los Angeles and Savannah, and a visual presentation provided on the web.
For more information, log onto www.JusticeforPortDrivers.org.