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Port Truck Drivers
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Port Trucking:
The Broken Link in America's Supply Chain
Heavy-duty trucks hauling containers of imported goods fill the highways between America’s seaports and retailers’ distribution centers and U.S. military bases. Driving these 80,000+ pound big rigs safely requires great skill, patience, and concerted effort. The port trucking industry, however, clings to an unlawful business model that rewards their retail clients with low drayage rates yet inflicts untold harm on:

  • The air quality of harbor communities;
  • The safety of drivers on regional highways; and,
  • The welfare of port truck drivers and their families.

Trucking companies’ pervasive misclassification of drivers as 
“independent contractors” is in violation of state and federal 
labor laws. This scheme, which has benefited from lax enforcement, 
robs our schools, public safety and criminal justice services, and 
even our military services of necessary funding.

It is industries like port trucking that have directly led to a wage crisis in America. The ranks of low wage workers are rapidly expanding, and the income gulf between the wealthiest Americans – like the Waltons of Walmart and the Greenbergs of Skechers Shoes – and the everyday worker is getting wider with each quarterly economic report. Across America and at our nation’s seaports, low wage workers are rising up and demanding change.

How the “Independent Contractor” Scheme is creating poverty in America

Like many U.S. jobs that have deteriorated, port truck driving was once a stable, middle-class, union job. With trucking deregulation 30 years ago, a shadowy network of contract trucking companies that illegally classify their company drivers as “independent contractors” was born. Port trucking wages alone fell 30 percent from 1980, when independent contracting was rare, to 1995 when it was dominant.

Business consultants encourage the use of independent contractors over employees, routinely stating that a company can reduce costs and increase profits by 30-40 percent by avoiding classifying worker as employees. But with port trucking, the savings are even greater. Using independent contractors allows trucking companies to shift the vast majority of the cost of doing business – truck leases, insurance, fuel, maintenance, etc. – onto the backs of the drivers. Simply put, port driver misclassification defrauds drivers, local economies, and public coffers.

Today, 82 percent of port truck drivers are misclassified by their employers as independent contractors. The vast majority would be considered employees under common legal definitions. Independent contractor drivers:

  • Report average net incomes 18 percent lower than employee drivers.
  • Are two-and-a-half times less likely to have health insurance.
  • Are nearly three times less likely to have any form of retirement benefits.

The independent contract scheme has driven down wages for employee drivers. Despite the professional skills and qualifications required to perform the duties of a port truck driver, even employee drivers – who are roughly 18 percent of the industry – do not receive professional wages or benefits. After working 50-60 hours a week, drivers struggle to support their families, and many qualify for government assistance and are forced to use public medical services.

Restoring port truck driving to a quality job: the myth behind the cost

Port trucking companies move enormous amounts of goods through the American supply chain. In 2011, $1.73 trillion worth of imports and exports – more than 11 percent of the total U.S. GDP – were shipped through U.S. seaports and hauled off-dock by port truck drivers. 

An industry trade association spokesperson was recently quoted as saying that the American consumer could not afford the cost of improving the wages of port truck drivers. That is a myth that is based in rhetoric, not in reality. The cost of drayage is a drop in the bucket for the giant retailers who own the cargo. Lifting port drivers out of poverty add just 4/10ths of a penny onto the cost of a $75 pair of shoes.

The Broken Supply Chain
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El Transporte Portuario:
El Eslabón Roto en la Cadena de Suministro de los Estados Unidos

Camiones pesados transportando contenedores de mercancías importadas llenan las carreteras entre los puertos de los Estados Unidos y los centros de distribución de los minoristas y las bases militares de los Estados Unidos. Conducir estos camiones de 80,000 libras con seguridad requiere mucha habilidad, paciencia y esfuerzo. La industria del transporte portuario, sin embargo, se aferra a un modelo de negocio ilegal que premia a sus clientes minoristas con bajas tasas de acarreo e inflige un daño incalculable en:

  • La calidad del aire de las comunidades portuarias;
  • La seguridad de los choferes en las carreteras regionales y,
  • El bienestar de los choferes del puerto y de sus familias.

La mal clasificación de choferes como “contratistas independientes” por compañías de transporte es una violación de las leyes laborales estatales y federales. Esta estafa, que se ha beneficiado de la aplicación laxa, roba nuestras escuelas, seguridad pública y servicios de justicia penal, e incluso nuestros servicios militares de los fondos necesarios.

Son industrias como el transporte portuario que han conducido directamente a una crisis salarial en América. Las filas de los trabajadores de bajos salarios se están expandiendo rápidamente, y el golfo de ingresos entre los estadounidenses más ricos - como los Walton de Wal-Mart y los Greenbergs de Skechers Shoes - y el trabajador cotidiano es cada vez más amplia, con cada informe económico trimestral. A través de América y en los puertos marítimos de nuestro país, los trabajadores de bajos salarios están exigiendo cambios.

Como la estafa de " Contratistas Independientes " esta creando pobreza en América

Al igual que muchos puestos de trabajo de Estados Unidos que se han deteriorado, conducir un camión del puerto fue una vez un trabajo de unión estable de clase media. Con la desregulación de la industria de transporte hace 30 años, nació una red oscura de empresas de transporte por carretera de contrato que clasifican ilegalmente sus conductores de la compañía como "contratistas independientes”. Los Salarios de choferes del puerto cayeron 30 por ciento desde 1980, cuando la contratación independiente era rara, hasta 1995, cuando era dominante.

Asesores y consultores empresariales alientan el uso de contratistas independientes sobre los empleados, de forma rutinaria que indica que una empresa puede reducir los costos y aumentar las ganancias en un 30-40 por ciento evitando la clasificación de los trabajadores como empleados. Sin embargo, con el transporte portuario, el ahorro es aún mayor. Utilizando contratistas independientes permite a las empresas de transporte desplazar la mayor parte del costo de hacer negocios - arrendamiento de camiones, seguros, combustible, mantenimiento, etc. - sobre las espaldas de los choferes. En pocas palabras, la mal clasificación de choferes del puerto defrauda a los choferes, las economías locales, y las arcas públicas.

Hoy en día, el 82 por ciento de los choferes del puerto están mal clasificados por sus empleadores como contratistas independientes. La gran mayoría se considerarían empleados bajo definiciones legales comunes. Choferes contratistas independientes:

  • Reportan ingresos netos con un promedio de 18 por ciento más bajos que los choferes que son clasificados como empleados.
  • Tienen dos veces y - una-mitad menos probabilidades de tener seguro de salud.
  • Son casi tres veces menos propensos a tener algún tipo de beneficios de jubilación.

La estafa de los contratistas independiente ha reducido los salarios de los choferes empleados. A pesar de las competencias y calificaciones profesionales requeridas para llevar a cabo las funciones de un chofer del puerto, incluso los choferes empleados - que son más o menos el 18 por ciento de la industria - no reciben salarios o beneficios profesionales. Después de trabajar 50 a 60 horas a la semana, los choferes tienen dificultades para mantener a sus familias, y muchos califican para la ayuda del gobierno y se ven obligados a utilizar los servicios médicos públicos.

Restaurando la conducción de camiones del puerto a un trabajo de calidad: el mito detrás del costo

Compañías de transporte portuario mueven enormes cantidades de bienes a través de la cadena de suministro estadounidense. En el 2011, $1,730 mil millones de dólares en importaciones y exportaciones - más del 11 por ciento del total del PIB de EE.UU. - fueron enviados a través de los puertos marítimos de los Estados Unidos y fue transportado fuera de muelle por los choferes del puerto.

Un portavoz de la asociación de la industria, fue citado recientemente diciendo que el consumidor estadounidense no podía pagar el costo del incremento de los salarios de los choferes del puerto. Eso es un mito que se basa en la retórica, no en la realidad. El costo de acarreo es una gota en el mar de los grandes minoristas que son dueños de la carga. Sacar a los choferes del puerto de la pobreza añadiría sólo 4/10 decimas de un centavo en el costo de un par de zapatos de $75
Justice for Port Drivers News
April 1, 2014

With the February release of the the Big Rig Overhaul authored by the National Employment Law Project, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, and Change to Win Strategic Organizing Center, the campaign to make America's seaports Clean and Safe is rolling fervently forward. The exhaustive report, which drew tremendous media coverage, enumerates how the port trucking industry and their retail clients like Skechers Shoes and Walmart are illegally misclassifying the vast majority of America's port truck drivers. 

This illegal scheme exacerbates income inequality, perpetuates chronic air pollution, and makes our roads dangerous to drive. Importantly, the report concludes that the industry is cheating port truck drivers and taxpayers out of more than $1.4 Billion a year in stolen wages and unpaid taxes.

"With this update of the Big Rig report, we begin to see something you don't see nearly enough these days: a beginning of a story about economic justice, as cases against misclassifying employers are being brought and being won," wrote Jared Bernstein, Sr. Fellow, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and former Chief Economic Advisor to Vice President Joe Biden in the report foreword. "This emerging justice did not materialize out of nowhere. It is coming from working people teaming up with labor advocates to fight for a basic right provided them by US labor law: the right to proper classification as an employee of a company, not an 'independent contractor.'"

Highlights from the Ports of LA/Long Beach 

Port drivers for Pac 9 Transportation claimed a tremendous victory when Region 21 of the National Labor Relations Board concluded that all Pac 9 drivers have been both unlawfully retaliated against and are employees of the company, not "independent contractors" as Pac 9 illegally misclassifies them. After an extensive investigation, Region 21 validated the drivers' charges and recognized their right to be classified as employees. The company reached a settlement agreement that generated a tremendous amount of news coverage, agreeing to post a damning notice at the worksite. Further, the California Employment Development Department has ruled that Pac 9 misclassifies drivers and is liable for unpaid employer taxes and penalties. In protest of Pac 9's unfair labor practices, drivers went on strike last November.

Shippers Transport Express, Inc. - owned by marine terminal giant SSA Marine - is facing two major lawsuits resulting from the company illegally misclassifying and stealing from its drivers. First, the US Department of Labor has sued the company for paying drivers below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Second, a private lawsuit alleging wage theft under California state law was recently granted class action status. Both cases go to trial in August. But tired of their abusive conditions, a majority of drivers have been organizing for justice and demanding management recognize their rights to come together and improve their working conditions NOW! 

At Green Fleet Systems, company drivers who are fighting to form a Union have been enduring relentless harassment and intimidation from the company's Union Busters. Management has also been encouraging a few anti-Union drivers to harass pro-Union drivers, leading to an altercation that resulted in a police report.

In hopes of achieving a neutral environment, last week drivers met with Jim Dear, Mayor of the City of Carson where the company is located. Mayor Dear listened attentively to the drivers' stories and pledged to take supportive action.

Drivers at Total Transport Services, Inc., (TTSI) presented the company with a petition demanding they immediately stop retaliating against drivers for standing up for their rights. TTSI drivers are united to improve working conditions, defend their rights, and fight for their right to be recognized as employees.  

On March 15, the Cultural Alliance of Long Beach hosted the grand opening of the moving exhibition, "From Solitude to Solidarity: A Port Truck Driver's Odyssey." The gallery featured the personal journey of Toll Group port driver Beatrice Rios-Nava. Rios-Nava organized and won the first Union contract for Los Angeles and Long Beach port drivers in more than 30 years. The exhibit included Beatrice's photographs, art works from the Boys and Girls Club of Wilmington, and the theater performance "The Air We Breathe." The exhibit represents the story of the thousands of port drivers who serve the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Residents and activists of the LA harbor communities showed their support and commitment to winning justice for port drivers.  

Highlights from the Port of Savannah
On March 20, the Savannah City Council voted unanimously in favor of a resolution in support of Port Truck Drivers. This victory came on the heels of the introduction in the George State House of two new senate bills fighting worker misclassification. Drivers and supporters held a press conference at the state capital attracting supporters and the attention of regional news media. 

Savannah port truck drivers Carol Cauley and John Jackson, along with Teamster Local 728 Organizing Director Ben Speight, were hosted by radio show host Rick Smith. 

Highlights from the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma 
Port drivers serving the ports of Seattle and Tacoma are continuing to come together to build the Drivers' Alliance to fight misclassification and improve working conditions for port drivers. Along with their supporters, Sea-Tac drivers are working to introduce new legislation into the Washington House of Representatives to end misclassification and win justice for Seattle and Tacoma port drivers.

Highlights from the Ports of New York and New Jersey
At the Ports of New York/New Jersey, the Coalition for Healthy Ports hosted a mayoral forum aimed at getting good jobs and clean air to the forefront of the Newark Mayor's race. With more than 400 residents, activists, and campaigners in attendance, candidates Shavar Jeffries and Ras Baraka spoke out against port trucking misclassification and in favor of a clean truck program at the Port of New Jersey.

In Carteret - headquarters of the Toll Group's east coast operations - drivers and mechanics are negotiating their first Union contract with management (they voted to become Teamsters in 2013). Facing contentious bargaining in which management is proposing wages cuts, workers are building international solidarity with their Toll brothers and sisters in both Los Angeles and Australia. 

After a recent practice picket, New Jersey Toll drivers celebrated another win when they brought Toll back to the negotiating table, stayed off deductions for Long Haul drivers, and succeeded in getting their coworkers back to work.