Could Washington state soon reclassify port truckers as employees?

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 1/31/2012

Port truckers, including owner-operators, in Washington state would be reclassified as employees in a bill moving through the statehouse.

The House Labor and Workforce Development Committee voted Monday, Jan. 30, in favor of a revised bill that would deem drayage truck operators, as well as any owner-operators going onto a port, to be employees of companies that “directly engages the services.”

The original bill would have affected all port operations in the state. A change made in committee limits the changes to the ports of Seattle and Tacoma.

OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Joe Rajkovacz said the effort is similar to a 2011 California bill to effectively ban owner-operators from the ports. The bill has been sidelined since last summer.

“The Washington state bill is a variation of the Teamsters attempt in California. The Washington bill doesn’t outright ban owner-operators from ports, but it would allow the state Department of Labor to reclassify independent contractors as employees if they transgress onto port property,” Rajkovacz said.

He also noted that truckers affected by the proposal would extend beyond drayage haulers.

“Understand this will affect people well beyond the ports. The bill would also reclassify ag haulers, such as those hauling hay and apples, through the ports.”

Supporters of the Washington state bill – HB2395 – claim that drivers at ports and intermodal rail yards in the state are being misclassified. As a result, they say the state is missing out on tax revenue that would normally be paid by employees.

The Washington Trucking Association has referred to the effort to meddle with interstate commerce as a violation of federal preemption.

Prior to the 8-5 committee vote to advance the bill, Rep. Cary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee, summed up how opponents feel about the bill.

“(The bill) changes the fundamental way trucking is done. That gives us a lot of concern,” Condotta told lawmakers.

If approved by the House, HB2395 would move to the Senate for further consideration.

OOIDA will soon issue a Call to Action to Washington members, encouraging truckers to contact their state lawmakers about the legislation.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Washington, click here.

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