Truckers are protesting independent contractor status, costs to comply with clean air rules
Teamsters union Local 848 has initiated a strike at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach today to protest what they say is misclassification of their employment as independent contractors. Warehouse workers have also joined the strike, which includes about 100 truck drivers, reports NBC 4 Los Angeles.
The truckers are protesting “exploitation by greedy corporations using predatory subcontracting schemes, including misclassifying employees as independent workers in order to lower wages, deny them benefits such as health insurance, unemployment, and workers compensation,” according to a statement.
The strike involves drivers serving California Cartage and XPO Logistics among others and follows an announcement last week by the Mayors of Los Angeles and Long Beach pushing emissions-free ports by 2035. These plans include clean fuels and electric vehicles, which can cost upwards of $500,000 per truck, according to some estimates.
There are 16,000 trucks currently serving the two ports.
Already fighting the battle for employee classification, the truckers and unions are weary of any plans to create cleaner ports, fearing the cost of these plans will be pushed upon the backs of the independent truckers, many of whom are struggling to survive, according to an in-depth USA Today investigative article.
“We support clean air, but there was no mention on how this Clean Air Action Plan would impact the drivers. We are concerned about who will end up paying for it,” said Eric Tate, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 848, told NBC 4. “The last time they did this in 2008 with the Clean Truck Program, the corporations ended up passing on the cost to the workers by requiring them to lease a truck in order to get hired and illegally misclassifying them as ‘independent contractors,’ leaving very little for the workers to take home to their families. We don’t want that to happen again.”
The misclassification issues remains the underlying concern for the truckers and unions. According to the Press Telegram, there have been 875 claims with the California Department of Labor Standards Enforcement division since 2011 claiming misclassification. In 376 of those cases, the drivers were found to be employees and awarded over $40 million back wages and penalties. There are still over 100 cases pending. Others have been settled out of court.
The companies, though, claim that the drivers like the independence of being independent contractors.