About 120 drivers from three transport companies that haul consumer goods from ports in Los Angels and Long Beach have walked off the job with no plans to return, according to MSNBC. The strikers have staged protests in the past year lasting between 24 and 48 hours, but this time they will not give up the fight until their needs are met.
Past and current drivers from the short-haul trucking companies Green Fleet, TTSI and Pacific 9 Transportation, claim the main reason for the strike is mistreatment through misclassification. According to workers, companies seek to avoid paying employees overtime, disallow their rights to minim wage, and block labor law protection simply by labeling drivers as “independent contractors.”
“When the company misclassifies you, you’re denied Social Security, you’re denied medical, you’re denied workers comp,” Alex Paz, a former driver with TTSI, told MSNBC. He and the other strikers argue that they should legally be classified as regular, full-time employees, which would entitle them to benefits and make it legal for them to unionize.
The short-haul trucking industry, known as the drayage business, provides a very important link between the ports and logistics warehouses, and according to thinkprogress.com, skimping on employee’s wages, keeps prices low for retail companies such as Amazon.com and Walmart.
The protested ports in southern California are among the busiest in the world, with 40% of all imports to the U.S. going through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
“Everybody uses those ports… retailing, manufacturing, agriculture,” Jonathan Gold, a supply chain expert for the National Retail Federation, a trade group, told CNNMoney.”They are very important ports and disruptions will be felt far and wide.”
According to a joint report from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) and the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), about 65% of the nation’s port truck drivers suffer from employee misclassification, which is among the most widespread labor law violation in the country.
A company can save roughly $4,000 per misclassified worker per year, according to a 2012 Treasury Department study, by avoiding the federal taxes they would normally have to pay a regular employee.
Trucking companies in the drayage business are notorious for penalizing workers who speak out against mistreatment. According to the NELP, Green Fleet was charged with 50 separate labor law violations last month, which included death threats at pro-union workers.