After hearing testimony from exploited workers at LA’S Port, City of LA’s Trade, Travel, and Tourism Committee approves motion to explore solutions to end “modern day sharecropping” at Port of Los Angeles
Port of Los Angeles, CA – After 15 strikes, more than 1,000 claims for wage theft, numerous lawsuits, a national exposé unequivocally validating port workers’ demands for justice, and a global backlash to the abuse of Amazon warehouse workers and drivers in light of the announcement that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos now has the “single largest personal fortune on the planet,” misclassified port truck drivers and warehouse workers experiencing wage theft, racism, and discrimination on Port of LA property provided emotional testimony to the City of LA’s Trade, Travel, and Tourism Committee. After hearing the pleas of the workers and community supporters, the Committee unanimously adopted the motion, which now moves to the full City Council for a vote. A vote is anticipated in approximately two weeks.
“It is not acceptable for companies to be profiting off people who are being exploited on public property. We are going to do everything we can to help,” said Council Member Joe Buscaino.
“I remain haunted by the first gentleman who spoke tonight. The stories we’ve heard are moving and appalling and disgusting. This is modern day sharecropping,” said Council Member Mike Bonin. “It is incumbent on us to do whatever we can to try to fix this.”
On October 13, 2017, Los Angeles City Councilmembers Joe Buscaino (CD15) and Bob Blumefield (CD3) publicly recognized that “all workers that contribute to the operations at the Port of Los Angeles be afforded a safe work environment, fair wages, and guaranteed rights and benefits,” specifically introducing legislation to:
“Review the conditions of leases of any trucking or warehousing companies operating on port property;
“Report on the feasibility of denying access to companies that are in violation of local, state, and federal laws, including labor and employment laws; and developing alternative solutions than can be implemented to enhance the employee rights of Port truck drivers and ensure that trucking companies comply with labor and employment laws;” and
Direct the Bureau of Contract Administration “to investigate and report back on wage theft claims due to minimum wage and paid sick day violations by trucking companies operating on Port property.”
The motion was referred to the City’s Trade, Travel, and Tourism Committee, as well as the Economic Development Committee. On Tuesday evening, November 28, 2017, Los Angeles City Councilmembers Joe Buscaino and Bob Blumenfeld convened a Special Meeting of the Trade, Travel, and Tourism Committee to hear firsthand accounts of the systematic exploitation of the port drivers and warehouse workers who handle cargo from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
The abusive working conditions at the Ports of LA and Long Beach have drawn considerable attention across the county. Unfair employment practices were exposed in USA Today’s “Rigged” investigative series. More recently USA Today uncovered how Federal agencies “helped fuel labor abuse” by contracting with companies guilty of labor infractions. In Congress, legislation has been introduced targeting working conditions at Ports, and US Senator Bernie Sanders has called on President Trump to sign an Executive Order ending exploitation of port truck drivers.
Recent reports show that Amazon’s “last mile” drivers are among the most exploited. “Near the very bottom of Amazon’s complicated machinery is a nearly invisible workforce over two years in the making tasked with getting those orders to your doorstep. It’s a network of supposedly self-employed, utterly expendable couriers enrolled in an app-based program which some believe may violate labor laws. That program is called Amazon Flex, and it accomplishes Amazon’s “last-mile” deliveries—the final journey from a local facility to the customer.”
In England, the “brutal” working conditions of Amazon workers have been exposed. The Mirror reports: “Alan Selby went undercover at the firm’s Tilbury warehouse in Essex where ambulances are regularly called and where workers face the sack if they fail to pack at least two items per minute.”
Target’s trucking contractor ordered by judge to reclassify contract drivers as employees; judge rules that misclassification is an illegal scheme to stop drivers from forming a union and drivers must be reclassified
Ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, CA –An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) has issued a decision in the case based on charges originally filed in 2015 by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters alleging violations of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by Intermodal Bridge Transport (IBT), specifically to stop drivers from exercising their right to form a union to improve their wages, benefits, and working conditions. The charges filed by the Teamsters included an allegation that misclassifying workers as “independent contractors” is in and of itself a violation of the NLRA. On November 28, 2017, Administrative Law Judge Dickie Montemayor issued a detailed ruling in which he agreed with the Teamsters that “misclassifying employees as independent contractors” is an “unfair labor practice” and a violation of their rights under the NLRA (which only covers employees, not legitimate independent contractors).
The ALJ ordered the company “within 21 days after service” (Nov. 28, 2017) to “cease and desist” from “misclassifying employees as independent contractors,” “interrogating,” threatening,” and “coercing” employees. The company is ordered to rescind in writing any company documents such as predatory lease agreements that “purport to classify employees as independent contractors,” and to post a notice stating “WE WILL NOT misclassify employees as independent contractors.”
The ALJ’s ruling comes after multiple strikes by drivers at IBT, claims for wage theft, a class action lawsuit, and a national exposé unequivocally validating port drivers’ demands for justice. In fact the company lost an account with one its customers, Michael Kors, purportedly due to the prolonged labor dispute.
“Every day, I move containers filled with products destined for Target, Amazon, or General Electric from the docks to local warehouses, where they begin their journey to homes across the country. I’m proud to be a vital part of our local and national economy but Intermodal Bridge Transport has made it increasingly difficult for me to make a living by illegally, and immorally, classifying me as an independent contractor instead of an employee. As a result, I am saddled with debilitating costs – everything from fuel to insurance to the lease for the truck are deducted from my paycheck leaving me with barely enough to get by – and deprived of my essential rights as a worker and a human being. With this ruling, justice has been served and the company can no longer deny me my employee rights.”
Intermodal Bridge Transport (IBT) – a subsidiary of COSCO Group, which is owned by the Chinese Government – specializes in the movement of containers and trailers from major ports and inland railroad hubs to customers. The company is headquartered in New Jersey and has operations at the Port of New York/New Jersey, as well as at the Ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Charleston, and Savannah. There are about 85 misclassified drivers working for IBT’s operations at the Ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, where IBT is among the top 20 port trucking companies in terms of cargo movement. IBT’s main customers include , Target, General Electric, Trek Bicycle, Sony and Amazon.
IBT’s misclassification of its drivers has been under scrutiny by government agencies, which have found upon investigation that IBT drivers are employees, not independent contractors. In addition, IBT is facing significant liability from several private legal actions related to misclassification. The California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) issued a decision on April 20, 2017 on wage claims filed by three IBT drivers, determining them to be employees – not independent contractors – and therefore owed a total of $127,835. IBT has appealed these decisions, which are now pending in CA Superior Court. IBT is also facing a major pending class action lawsuit filed by drivers alleging wage theft and illegal misclassification. In addition, at least 40 drivers have filed separate individual and “mass action” claims in California Superior Court against IBT for the same violations of the California Labor Code, which also remain pending.
Port truck driver fired for telling story of 20+ hour days hauling cargo; Amazon warehouse worker experiencing racism, abuse on Port of LA property to testify at special LA City Council committee meeting
Port of Los Angeles, CA – After 15 strikes, more than 1,000 claims for wage theft, numerous lawsuits, a national exposé unequivocally validating port workers’ demands for justice, and a global backlash to the abuse of Amazon warehouse workers and drivers in light of the announcement that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos now has the “single largest personal fortune on the planet,” misclassified port truck drivers and warehouse workers experiencing wage theft, racism, and discrimination on Port of LA property will have an opportunity to testify before the City of LA’s Trade, Travel, and Tourism Committee.
WHEN: Tuesday, November 28, 2017; 6:00 PM PST
WHAT: Special Meeting of the City of Los Angeles Trade, Travel & Tourism Committee
WHERE: Port of Los Angeles Commissioners Meeting Room, 425 S. Palos Verdes Street, San Pedro, 90731
City/Port of Los Angeles
Los Angeles City Council Members Joe Buscaino and Mike Bonin
John Reamer, Director, City of LA Bureau of Contract Administration
Representatives from the Port of LA and LA City Attorney’s office
Justice for Port Drivers
PRESS ADVISORY: Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Press Conference at U.S. Capitol Oct. 26
On Heels of National Exposé Into Illegal Subcontracting Schemes Exploiting Truck Drivers at America’s Largest Port Complex…
Drivers, Teamster Leaders to Join U.S. Representatives Napolitano (D-CA) and Nadler (D-NY) to Announce Legislation to Fix Broken Employment System, Empower Local Ports to Reduce Environmental Pollution, Mitigate Traffic Congestion, Improve Highway Safety, and Improve Efficiency
Washington, D.C. – On Thursday, October 26, 2017, United States Representatives Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32) and Jerrold Nadler (NY-10) will be joined by six port truck drivers from the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, and New Jersey, along with representatives from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol House Triangle to announce legislation to fix the broken employment system exposed in the USA Today “Rigged” series and to empower local ports to reduce environmental pollution, mitigate traffic congestion, improve highway safety, and improve efficiency – without putting the burden on the backs of the truck drivers.
Some of the misclassified drivers in attendance will include those profiled in “Rigged,” including Rene Flores, who was fired the day after the story appeared in USA Today, and Guillermina Velasquez, who filed a claim for wage theft with the California Labor Commissioner on October 20, 2017.
WHEN: Thursday, October 26, 2017; 9:00 AM EST (6:00 AM PST)
***Note: Press conference will be livestreamed on Facebook @Justice4PortDrivers.***
WHAT: Press conference to announce legislation to fix broken employment system, empower local ports to clean the environment, and improve safety and efficiency.
Tired of wage theft, nonexistent benefits and dangerous working conditions, a group of truck drivers from California and New Jersey and union leaders of the Teamsters demanded Wednesday to Congress measures to correct “the conditions of slavery” that thousands of drivers they face daily in ports throughout the country.
In statements to La Opinión two of the truck drivers, Mexican Guillermina Velázquez of Long Beach, California, and Salvadoran Carlos Orellana of New Jersey explained that they traveled to Washington to offer testimony to lawmakers about the abuses that occur in the sector for many years and that, in their view, only “fill the pockets” of large corporations.
Guillermina Velázquez, a truck driver from Long Beach, said the work is hard and dangerous, and little is gained. “It’s hard work, that causes us to neglect our family, our home.” We came to correct the misclassification that we are ‘owner operators’, because we are not,” said Velazquez, who emigrated from Mexico City to Long Beach 26 years ago.
“Companies typically pay per move, and if they pay us $200 per move, that takes 6 to 8 hours. We end up working 12 to 18 hours, it’s not a normal day, and it’s a dangerous job, because we do up to 240 miles a day, “said Velázquez, 45.
Much of the problem is that companies employ truck drivers as subcontractors or “independent contractors” to avoid giving them benefits, sick days, pensions, legal and labor protections, as well as forcing them to rent trucks and pay insurance out of their own pocket.
As a result of the lease to own agreement, a common practice is that if a truck driver earns $ 150 a day and has to pay $ 140 for expenses associated with the truck’s daily rent-including fuel, repair, and maintenance, you only have $ 10 left as payment.
The misclassification means that the truck drivers work practically in conditions of slavery, with days of 12 to 18 hours a day, six days a week, with low salaries and no medical coverage.
Velázquez suffered extreme fatigue at the CMI company, where she worked for 12 years, and resigned last year. She now has a good job with the Hudd company, but wants her case to serve as a call to action. The companies, which also have lobbyists in Congress to protect their interests, get juicy contracts with department stores to transport products to the consumer or to various federal government entities, either to transport military equipment or cargo from the National Post Office.
“It is not easy or safe work: they travel long distances, sometimes under rain or snow, and with little rest,” said Orellana. “I stopped working because I started having back problems and I do not have health insurance. I’m living off my savings, I’m holding on as much as I can, if not, I will have to travel to El Salvador to take care of my health and if something serious happens to me, may God find me confessed, “said Orellana, 56.
“Truck drivers do important work in the economy, and we need to be treated as employees, not contractors,” Orellana said, noting that an average salary for truck drivers is $ 28,000 a year. A June investigation by the USA Today newspaper sounded alarms about employer abuses against port truckers, and served as a guide for a number of legislative measures.
The Office of the California Labor Commissioner has awarded compensation to more than 400 drivers from ports over $ 40 million for late payments due to labor law violations. In addition, both the California Department of Economic Development and the New Jersey Department of Labor have awarded at least 50 port drivers unemployment and disability benefits that were denied to them.
But, according to the Teamsters union, conditions of abuse continue, and that explains in part why, last June, about one hundred truckers in Los Angeles went on strike, their 15th strike since 2013.
TWO PALLIATIVE MEASURES
The truckers’ visits came on the eve when Democrats lawmakers Grace Napolitano of California and Jerrold Nadler of New York will introduce bills, which this newspaper had access to, and that establish mechanisms begin to strengthen the labor protections of truck drivers.
The first measure, by Napolitano, is entitled “The Ports Drivers’ Rights Act of 2017”, and aims to correct the growing problem of low wages and poor working conditions of truck drivers working in the ports of the country.
That measure calls for the creation of a working group of 15 experts, including trade union leaders and consumer protection groups, and lawyers specialized in financial matters, to assess the legality of rental agreements signed by truck drivers and their salary impact. The group must submit a report within one year with recommendations to reform the sector. The second, by Nadler, is called the “Clean Ports Act,” and provides regulations to improve the air quality of the 87 million Americans who live and work in port areas.
That measure calls for the introduction of regulations in port facilities to reduce environmental pollution, traffic congestion, and improvements in road safety.
LITTLE FAITH IN CONGRESS
Fred Potter, one of the vice presidents of the international transportation union, Teamsters, and director of the port division of that group, accompanied truckers on their visits to lawmakers but, he told this newspaper, he has little faith that Congress can actually correct the injustices of the sector.
Potter believes that the measures presented tomorrow “do not correct the problem, but are one of several steps necessary to get labor justice for these employees.”
For the union leader, the current scheme is a “failed business model” because it subjects truckers to “near-slavery conditions,” and the Teamsters’ priority is to organize them.
“They have nothing independent, many times these drivers end up owing to the company that hires them. Employers are clearly violating wage and hourly laws, and we want the government not only to enforce laws but to improve protections, “Potter said.
Los Angeles Business Journal – California Cartage Co., the largest drayage firm at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, has been acquired by NFI Industries Inc., the companies announced this week. Terms of the deal were undisclosed. Founded in 1944, Long Beach-based CalCartage provides the transport of goods over short distances, warehousing and distribution, customs examination, and brokerage services. NFI is a national drayage and goods transport company based in Cherry Hill, N.J.
Labor Notes – Truck drivers seem to have re-entered the public consciousness in 2017—but today our understanding of the occupation is far from the freewheeling “cowboy of the highway” image of the 1970s. It’s also no longer synonymous with “Teamster” or even seen as a desirable job.
These days most talk about truckers centers on self-driving vehicles and the prospect that more than three million professional drivers will be replaced by robots. Business writers excitedly write about how this “cost-saving” technology lies just around the corner, only briefly pausing to consider the social crisis that would be created by laying off so many workers.
Money CNN – Major U.S. labor unions are organizing truck drivers to help with relief efforts in Puerto Rico as the island continues to grapple with the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria last week.
The Teamsters union and the AFL-CIO, a federation of more than 50 unions, are working together to recruit truckers to travel to Puerto Rico and help distribute a stockpile of relief supplies. Thousands of shipping containers full of food, water, and medicines were sitting unused at Puerto Rico’s Port of San Juan.
American Journal of Transportation – The Pacific Merchant Shipping Association (PMSA) criticized a new proposed “Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP)” by the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach stating it proposes costly initiatives that will further erode the competitiveness of the two ports. In a September 18th letter, PMSA noted: “Over the past decade, diesel particulate matter emissions are down an incredible 87%. Even more astonishing, DPM (Diesel Particulate matter) is down 96% for trucks and cargo-handling equipment, the primary focus of this Clean Air Action Plan Update. This leaves 4% of remaining emissions that the CAAP Update proposes to reduce at a cost of $14 billion; a cost that undoubtedly understates the true costs of the CAAP and a cost that puts at risk the 1 in 9 jobs in the region that have made the San Pedro Bay ports the economic engine of Southern California.”