PRESS RELEASE: Tuesday, February 21, 2018
Misclassified port truck drivers declare the time for change is now; Long Beach City Council unanimously adopts Mayor Garcia’s recommendations to end lawbreaking at America’s largest port complex
Long Beach, CA – On Tuesday, the Long Beach City Council unanimously approved a bold set of recommendations from Mayor Robert Garcia to protect the proprietary interest of the city’s port by cracking down on trucking companies that are breaking labor laws. The recommendations included:
- Add language to our State and Federal Legislative Agendas to support legislation that improves working conditions for port truck drivers and addresses related issues;
- Request City Attorney to work with the California Labor Commissioner’s and Attorney General’s Offices to explore options to support regulatory enforcement efforts; and
- 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.
“We need you to use your authority to help us fix this broken system by banning companies that are breaking the law. It’s the only way to hold the retailers who are exploiting this broken system accountable,” Gustavo Villa, a misclassified driver for NFI/California Cartage Express, told the Long Beach City Council. “Thank you, Mayor Garcia and council members for hearing us and for stepping forward to demand change. On behalf of my co-workers and my family, the time for change is now.”
“Teamsters Local 848 now proudly represents more than 500 truck drivers who haul cargo on and off the docks of the Port of Long Beach, nearly all of whom work for companies that have determined that it’s in their best business interest to follow U.S. labor laws. These companies are being under-cut day in and day out by companies like NFI/Cal Cartage, XPO Logistics, and Intermodal Bridge Transport – and hundreds of others – that are profiting off of our ports, the people’s ports, by exploiting mostly immigrant drivers,” said Louie Diaz, Vice President, Teamsters Local 848. “These companies’ customers – giant retailers like Target, Home Depot, and Amazon – are aiding and abetting these lawbreakers by continuing to contract with them for drayage when they know, without a question, that they are illegally exploiting these drivers…often in violation of their own Code of Conduct. The gig is up. The time for action is now. Change is past due!”
“The painful stories of exploited workers expose the greed and devaluation of life at the port, all in the name of profits. Their inhumane business practices show the ugly side of human nature, and faith leaders will forever worry about the fate of these workers, the plight of them, the working poor, just as the prophets did,” testified Rabbi Jonathan Klein, Executive Director, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE). “Mayor Garcia and esteemed council members, I’m hoping for a unanimous vote. Please take the concrete actions and steps to hold trucking companies accountable for violating the most basic of labor laws; the laws that create the structure for our society that allows us to have a functional society. These laws must be observed, otherwise we just end up with lawlessness.”
Overview of Misclassification and Wage Theft Claims (updated 2/15/18)
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 376 cases, finding that drivers were, in fact, employees and therefore owed over $40 million in stolen wages and penalties. There are approximately 150 pending claims awaiting hearings. The remaining approximately 350 cases filed appear to have been settled prior to hearing or were transferred to court or private arbitration
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 30 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 April 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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