U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders Leads “Stop Wage Theft on Wheels” Town Hall at Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach Trucking Yard
Port Drivers and Warehouse Workers Speak Out About How America’s Economy is “Rigged” Against the Working Class
(Ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach) – On Saturday, June 2, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders held a Town Hall with port truck drivers and warehouse workers who serve the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The event livestreamed to a large national audience in both English and Spanish, featured low-wage workers who are calling on elected officials to stop the shameful – and illegal – labor practices pervasive throughout the port trucking and warehouse industries; U.S. Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-44); Los Angeles City Councilmember Joe Buscaino, (LA-15); as well as local and national Teamster officials.
The Town Hall comes after the USA Today Network published an award-winning investigative series “Rigged,” which exposed a system of “modern-day indentured servitude” that keeps thousands of workers trapped in poverty and debt.
Despite multiple investigations and lawsuits that found firms guilty of committing widespread wage theft and labor law violations, the series revealed that corporate retail giants continue to turn a blind eye to the persistent lawbreaking by their contractors and subcontractors. These firms illegally misclassify workers as “independent contractors” to evade state and federal labor and tax laws to boost their profits. As a result, workers are denied their basic rights to minimum wages, overtime pay, and collective bargaining. To date, the drivers at America’s largest port complex – who handle 40 percent of consumer goods and merchandise imported into the U.S. – have gone on strike 15 times to protest this fraudulent employment scheme.
Even though many elected officials have tried to stop port trucking companies from breaking the law, too many companies are evading these efforts by playing shell games, cheating workers out of millions in pay, and hurting our communities. After years of strikes and legal claims, elected officials have courageously stepped up to try and help these workers:
- Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia made ending port driver misclassification a priority in his State of the City address and unanimously passed a resolution that instigated hearings.
- The Long Beach City Council Tidelands and Harbor Committee just held two hearings on this issue to come up with recommendations.
- State Senator Ricardo Lara introduced legislation that will hold the giant retail corporations accountable for wage theft by their harbor trucking contractors.
- Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has condemned misclassification and endorsed Senator Lara’s bill, “Dignity Back in the Drivers Seat”.
- Los Angeles City Councilmember Joe Buscaino led a successful effort to repeal the foreign trade zone tax breaks for a warehouse located on port property that had had labor and safety complaints.
- The Los Angeles City Attorney used the state’s unfair competition laws to sue three of the largest port trucking companies taking advantage of workers by deliberately misclassifying their drivers.
Nevertheless, as USA Today showed, too many of these companies continue to take advantage of port drivers and warehouse workers. Drivers still need help from elected officials to stop the law breaking at the ports.
Thus, at the Town Hall port drivers and warehouse workers demanded that elected officials at all levels of government take immediate action to end exploitation in the port trucking and warehouse industries.
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Justice for Port Drivers: With the dedicated support from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, plus many other labor, community, and faith allies, we are fighting to change the port trucking industry so we can win justice for ourselves and our families. More than 75,000 strong, we haul our country’s imports and exports for retail companies, for manufacturers, and for the U.S. Military. We are proud to be professional truck drivers and proud of the service we provide. Without us, America would stop.