California port drivers expected to strike on June 19 over misclassification

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | Friday, June 16, 2017

Truckers at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports plan on striking yet again on Monday, June 19. Drivers are fed up with low wages stemming from being designated as independent contractors despite claims of working conditions resembling more of an employee status.

On Thursday, June 15, Teamsters Local 848 held a press conference expressing frustration over misclassification of drivers. Eric Tate, Local 848 secretary-treasurer, applauded the efforts and effects of the Clean Trucks Program started in 2008. However, Tate questioned the unintended consequences.

“But who paid for it?” Tate asked during a news conference. “Not the corporations who own the cargo. The drivers ended up bearing the bulk of the costs.”

Tate explained how employers have been requiring drivers to lease trucks in order to get hired. Trucking companies would then have the drivers sign an agreement saying they are independent contractors despite some driving for the same company for as long as 20 years.

“It’s an age-old scam: The boss deducts all their business expenses out of the workers’ paychecks, leaving them with very little to take home to their families and the corporation don’t pay anything extra,” Tate said.

During the press conference, Tate mentioned the multitude of court cases awarding drivers monetary damages and employee status. Tracy Ellis, a driver formerly misclassified, spoke about the ramifications.

“Drivers continue to work hours over the legal limit because it takes two paychecks just to barely make a living,” Ellis said. “One check to pay the truck expenses and one check for your household to survive.”

Outspoken activist and author Zoe Nicholson said, “Fair wages for fair work is the most basic of rights.”

Domingo Avilos, driver for XPO, noted that port drivers have held a strike more than 15 times over the past four years.

Strikers will picket XPO terminals on Monday and Intermodal Bridge Transport and California Cartage Co. on Tuesday, Tate told Land Line. The strike is expected to last at least throughout the week.

Tate closed the press conference by stating drivers will continue to file lawsuits and to strike because they have no other choice.

“Superheroes never back down from a fight,” Tate said.

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