American Logistics Archive

U.S. DOL Orders Cal Cartage Warehouse to Repay Workers $3.5 Million

Press Release  — September 18, 2018

Press Contact: Barb Maynard

U.S. Department of Labor Orders NFI Industries’ California Cartage Warehouse to Repay Workers $3.5 Million in Back Wages and Benefits

PORT OF LOS ANGELES/LONG BEACH – On September 13, 2018, the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) announced that California Cartage Company, LLC – owned by National Freight Industries (NFI) and based in Long Beach, California – must pay $3,573,074 to more than 1,400 employees (permanent and temporary) after the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division found the company violated federal contract provisions of the McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act by failing to pay prevailing wages, as well as health and welfare benefits, to employees at NFI/Cal Cartage’s Carson warehouse. Click here to read the USDOL press release.

NFI/California Cartage, based in Long Beach, CA, with warehousing and drayage operations at property owned by the Port of Los Angeles, in Carson, and across the U.S., is one of the largest goods movement companies in America. The California Cartage family of companies was recently acquired by New Jersey-based National Freight Industries and continues to be the largest trucking operation at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach by a wide margin. The company has been the subject of significant regulatory action and litigation due to persistent exploitation of the company’s drivers and warehouse workers serving America’s largest port complex.

  • Click here for a current summary of regulatory action and litigation facing NFI/Cal Cartage.
  • Click here for an up-to-date summary of regulatory action and litigation facing the port trucking industry at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

“This company steals wages from drivers and warehouse workers every day, and they use every trick in the corporate playbook – many illegal, all unethical – to divide workers and slash employee costs: misclassifying drivers as independent contractors, staffing warehouses with permanent temporary employees, paying workers less than the required minimum wage, and forcing employees to toil off the clock. They think they can get away with it because most of us are immigrants, but those days are over – we’re fighting back and taking the fight to NFI’s customers, including Lowes, Amazon, Puma, and others. NFI/Cal Cartage warehouse workers and port truck drivers are united and we won’t stop until we get justice,” said Juan Lara, a port truck driver fighting for his employee rights at NFI’s California Cartage Express division.

“NFI/California Cartage has shown that they don’t care about the law,” said Jose Rodriguez, a warehouse worker at NFI/California Cartage. “They think they can silence us warehouse workers and truck drivers by disrespecting us, making us wait every day to see if we are going to get any work, steal our wages, and retaliate against us for speaking up. We won’t be silenced. This type of wage theft and the company ignoring the laws is why we have gone on strike five times and we will continue to stand up and take action until Cal Cartage follows the law and respects our rights.”

“As a market leader at the ports, NFI/Cal Cartage’s persistent illegal and unconscionable business practices have made it very difficult for companies that have determined that it’s in their best business interest to follow U.S. labor laws to compete and thrive. The USDOL’s determination sends a strong message to workers that standing up for your rights pays off, and to companies that they are not above the law. It’s past time for NFI and other companies to clean up their business model by complying with the rules of the game,” said Fred Potter, Vice President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and Director of the Teamsters Port Division.

###

 Social Media Links

Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Justice4PortDrivers and https://www.facebook.com/WarehouseWorkerResourceCenter/

Port Drivers of LA & Long Beach Regulatory and Litigation Overview

Drivers at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have been challenging their misclassification as
“independent contractors” and exercising their rights as employees. They have been engaging in
collective action at the courts, in their truck yards and at the ports – including 15 strikes in the last five
years – bringing their cases before government agency officials. It is estimated that there have been
legal misclassification claims pursued on behalf of at least half of the misclassified drivers at the port—
either by drivers filing individual wage claims or being part of class action lawsuits.

Upon investigating the facts, multiple agencies and courts at both the state and federal levels have
determined that drivers are, in fact, employees and therefore protected by employment and labor
laws.

Ports regulatory and litigation overview 9.15.18

Regulatory Action and Litigation at NFI

NFI/California Cartage, based in Wilmington, CA, is one of the largest goods movement companies in
America, with warehouses and port trucking operations across the U.S. Referred to herein as “NFI/Cal
Cartage,” this family of companies was recently acquired by the New Jersey-based National Freight
Industries (NFI).1 Previous to this acquisition, Cal Cartage was owned and managed by Robert Curry, Sr.
and his family. NFI/Cal Cartage represents the largest trucking operation at the Ports of Los Angeles
and Long Beach by a wide margin.

View Summary of NFI Regulatory Action and Litigation as of Sept 17, 2018

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders to Lead “Stop Wage Theft on Wheels” Town Hall in LA

PRESS ADVISORY FOR: Saturday, June 2, 2018

PRESS CONTACT: Barb Maynard

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders to Lead “Stop Wage Theft on Wheels” Town Hall in Los Angeles with Low-Wage Workers at America’s Largest Port Complex

Port Drivers and Warehouse Workers to Speak-Out About How America’s Economy is “Rigged” Against the Working Class

(Ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach) – On Saturday, June 2, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders will hold a Town Hall with port truck drivers and warehouse workers who serve the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The event will feature low-wage workers who are calling on elected officials to stop the shameful – and illegal – labor practices pervasive throughout the port trucking and warehouse industries.

WHO:  

  • U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
  • Low-wage port drivers and warehouse workers
  • Fred Potter, International Vice President, Teamsters
  • Eric Tate, Secretary-Treasurer, Teamsters Local 848

WHAT:  Town Hall: “Stop Wage Theft on Wheels,” with low-wage port drivers and warehouse workers

WHEN:   Saturday, June 2, 2018; Event starts at 1:00 PM PST

WHERE:  Shippers Transport Express, 1150 E. Sepulveda Boulevard Carson, CA 90745,

the busiest off-dock truck yard serving the Ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach

The Town Hall comes after the USA Today Network published an award-winning investigative series “Rigged,” which exposed a system of “modern-day indentured servitude” that keeps thousands of workers trapped in poverty and debt.

Despite multiple investigations and lawsuits that found firms guilty of committing widespread wage theft and labor law violations, the series revealed that corporate retail giants and federal agencies continue to turn a blind eye to the persistent lawbreaking by their contractors and subcontractors. These firms illegally misclassify workers as “independent contractors” to evade federal labor and tax laws to boost their profits. As a result, workers are denied their basic rights to minimum wages, overtime pay, and collective bargaining.

To date, the drivers at the port – who handle 40 percent of consumer goods and merchandise imported into the U.S. – have gone on strike 15 times to protest this fraudulent employment scheme. However, government officials have failed to remedy the problem.

At the Town Hall, low wage port drivers and warehouse workers will demand that elected officials at all levels of government – including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti – take immediate action to end exploitation in the port trucking and warehouse industries.

The Town Hall – which will be livestreamed nationally – will be held at the busiest off-dock truck yard serving the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

#  # #

Justice for Port Drivers: With the dedicated support from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, plus many other labor, community, and faith allies, we are fighting to change the port trucking industry so we can win justice for ourselves and our families. More than 75,000 strong, we haul our country’s imports and exports for retail companies, for manufacturers, and for the U.S. Military. We are proud to be professional truck drivers and proud of the service we provide. Without us, America would stop.

Good Jobs Nation: Our mission is to hold America’s politicians accountable to workers by making sure our tax-dollars are invested in corporations that create good jobs – not firms that keep workers in poverty.

LA City Council Vetoes Preferential Operating Agreement

Justice for Port Drivers Press Release

May 8, 2017

Los Angeles City Council Unanimously Vetoes Preferential Operating Agreement Granted to Law-Breaking Trucking and Warehouse Company Approved by Port of LA Harbor Commission

Los Angeles, CA – Today, the Los Angeles City Council, which oversees the largest container port in North America, unanimously vetoed the Foreign Trade Zone Operating Agreement (FTZ) granted by the Port’s Harbor Commission to California Cartage’s warehousing and port trucking operations located on Port property in Wilmington, CA. The FTZ designation provides a clear competitive advantage to NFI/Cal Cartage, the largest trucking and warehousing operation at the port, by providing tax breaks to its retail clients. The Los Angeles Harbor Commission approved the FTZ for Cal Cartage, which was purchased by NFI Industries in October 2017, despite the ongoing pattern of violations of health and safety, employment, and labor laws at the company (see list of legal and regulatory action below).

For the past three years, NFI/Cal Cartage warehouse workers and port drivers have persistently demanded that the LA Harbor Commissioners address the enduring law-breaking at the company’s warehousing and trucking facilities, which are located at 2401 East Pacific Coast Highway, which is owned by the Port of Los Angeles. This site includes the NFI/Cal Cartage warehouse and two related trucking companies, K&R Transportation and California Cartage Express.

“We entrust our City authorities with ensuring compliance with all City contracts, especially when these agreements give corporations like NFI/Cal Cartage a competitive advantage,” said Eric Tate, Secretary-Treasurer, Teamsters Local 848, in a letter to Councilmembers in advance of the vote. “Given the sheer volume of government findings, ongoing investigations, and unmistakable evidence that Cal Cartage is a recidivist law breaker, it is overwhelmingly clear to us that the Harbor Commission failed to ensure that Cal Cartage meets the necessary requirements in the Operating Agreement.”

“Time and again I have told the LA Harbor Commission that NFI/Cal Cartage is breaking the law by misclassifying me as an independent contractor yet they continue to give sweetheart deals to the company,” said Gustavo Villa, a misclassified port truck driver employed by Cal Cartage Express. “I am so grateful that Councilmember Buscaino stepped in to block this sweetheart deal for a company that has shown no regard for the laws of the land.”

“For the past four years, I have worked at the Cal Cartage warehouse and have been outspoken about the unsafe conditions there. There are forklifts that don’t brake and the high heat is a problem. A co-worker got sick because of the over 100 degree heat inside the container and management said to just cover him with boxes,” said Bruce Jefferson, a Cal Cartage temp warehouse worker. “Every job at the ports should be a good and safe job, and I’m glad that the City Council agrees that no special tax breaks should be given to companies that are breaking the law.”

“We should never give incentives, like the Foreign Trade Zone Permit, to law-breaking companies where abuse and pressure to work quickly are common, where faulty brakes on forklifts are left unrepaired, and where truck drivers continue to drive for 18-20 hours per day for pennies,” said Alice Berliner, Southern California Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health (SoCalCOSH). “When the Harbor Commission renewed the NFI/Cal Cartage Foreign Trade Zone Permit, they sent the message that it’s okay to pay workers poverty wages, it’s okay to steal drivers’ wages, it’s okay to allow occupational injuries, and in some cases fatalities, on City property. And most importantly, when the Harbor Commission renewed NFI/Cal Cartage’s FTZ Agreement, it sent the message that the City of Los Angeles condones this abuse. Today’s Council veto of the Agreement reverses this unjust decision and sends a strong message that worker health and safety matters.”

On April 5, 2018, the LA Harbor Commission approved a one-year Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) Operating Agreement with the company. On April 17, 2018, the LA City Council approved a motion filed by Los Angeles City Councilmember Joe Buscaino to assert jurisdiction over the matter, and on May 1, 2018, the Trade, Travel, and Tourism Committee recommended that Council veto the Harbor Commission’s approval of the FTZ agreement. Today, the full City Council voted to veto NFI/Cal Cartage’s FTZ Operating Agreement.

Background: Regulatory Action and Litigation at NFI/California Cartage

California Cartage, based in Wilmington, CA, is one of the largest goods movement companies in America, with warehouses and port trucking operations across the U.S. Referred to herein as “NFI/Cal Cartage,” this family of companies was recently acquired by the New Jersey-based National Freight Industries (NFI). Previous to this acquisition, Cal Cartage was owned and managed by Robert Curry, Sr. and his family. NFI/Cal Cartage represents the largest trucking operation at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach by a wide margin.

Port Trucking Operations

The NFI/Cal Cartage family of companies includes five major trucking operations at the Ports of LA and Long Beach. The four largest – K&R Transportation, California Cartage Express, ContainerFreight EIT and California Multimodal LLC (CMI) – have been facing multiple claims in the courts and government agencies for misclassifying their drivers. In several instances, agencies have already determined that drivers were, in fact, employees. K&R and California Cartage Express operate out of the same property as the Cal Cartage warehouse (described in the following section), CMI operates out of a nearby Wilmington yard, and ContainerFreight operates out of a yard in Long Beach. Combined, more than 600 alleged misclassified drivers work for these companies.

Agency Investigations and Determinations

California Labor Commissioner

Employee determinations:

  • Over the past two years, there have been at least 12 decisions issued by the California Labor Commissioner in individual claims filed by NFI/Cal Cartage drivers working for K&R Transportation, Cal Cartage Express, ContainerFreight, and CMI. All of these claims found that the drivers were, in fact, employees, and not independent contractors. Together, those decisions ordered NFI/Cal Cartage to pay those 12 drivers a total of $1,419,102.62 for Labor Code violations including unlawful deductions and unreimbursed expenses. NFI/Cal Cartage has appealed twelve of these cases, settling eight of them, while one remains pending in Superior Court.

Pending claims:

  • There have been an additional 28 Labor Commissioner claims that drivers have filed against NFI/Cal Cartage, all of which appear to be pending (of these, 15 were filed by K&R drivers and 12 by CMI drivers). 10 of the K&R drivers had their hearings in December 2017, and a decision is pending. There are hearings scheduled beginning May 7, 2018 in the claims of 10 CMI drivers. The total liability for those 28 claims is over $5 million.

California Employment Development Department (EDD)

  • At least four K&R drivers have been determined to have been employees – not independent contractors – by the California EDD in individual benefits determinations.
  • In June and September of 2017, the California EDD filed at least two tax liens against K&R Transportation.

Los Angeles City Attorney

  • On January 8, 2018, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced that his office had filed lawsuits against Cal Cartage Express, CMI, and K&R Transportation for violation of Unfair Competition Law by misclassifying port truck drivers as independent contractors and evade paying taxes and providing benefits to drivers.

Private Litigation

  • In recent years, NFI/Cal Cartage has faced four class action lawsuits in California Superior Court for multiple Labor Code violations, including willful misclassification, unlawful deductions, unreimbursed expenses, unpaid minimum wages, and failure to provide meal and rest breaks, along with violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law. In December 2017, the last pending case settled for $3.5 million and a motion for final approval is scheduled for May 2018. The company recently settled three similar suits.
  • NFI/Cal Cartage also recently settled two “mass action” lawsuits for misclassification and wage theft in CA Superior Court involving 55 drivers.

Warehouse Operations

Cal Cartage Container Freight Station in Wilmington, CA, is a warehouse and freight center on Port of LA property and employs approximately 500 workers, with 80 percent of the workforce being employed through a temp agency. While Cal Cartage warehouse workers once had good paying jobs that provided benefits, they have not had representation from a union in over 30 years and conditions have suffered. Workers are now paid the state minimum wage with little or no benefits (even though they are entitled to a higher wage under the Los Angeles Living Wage Ordinance), and work in health and safety conditions that are deplorable. The company has been cited for serious health and safety violations twice in the past three years, and workers face serious retaliation resulting in unfair labor practices charges and five strikes.

Health & Safety

The warehouse facility has health and safety issues. The building was built in the 1940s and is poorly maintained. Several workers have been hurt just trying to walk around the facility due to potholes and poor infrastructure. The machines, including forklifts, are not maintained and often have faulty brakes and horns—leading to accidents. Workers filed a formal complaint with Cal/OSHA in June 2015, triggering an investigation at the facility. In November 2015, over $21,000 in citations were issued—4 serious and 6 general penalties. It was noted in these citations that the chipped paint at this facility contains lead.

Cal/OSHA reinvestigated the facility a year later, resulting in additional serious citations in November 2016 amounting $67,150 for the warehouse and $51,275 for the staffing agency. Citations included not providing workers with steel-toed boots, not properly attaching shipping containers to the dock, and repeat violations for unsafe brakes on forklifts. The investigation regarding the company’s abatement of these citations is still active. Workers filed a third Cal/OSHA complaint in November 2017, and the investigation is still pending.

National Labor Relations Board

  • On February 28, 2018, Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Ariel Sotolongo issued a decision finding that California Cartage and its subsidiary Orient Tally violated workers’ rights at the 2401 E. Pacific Coast Highway, warehouse, including by engaging in unlawful interrogation, implied threats of termination, and confronting workers in a physically aggressive fashion. This decision ordered the company to cease and desist the unlawful behavior, and was issued following a hearing held in June 2017. The case arose after Region 21 of the National Labor Relations Board issued a March 2016 Consolidated Complaint (Cases: 21-CA-160242 and 21-CA-162991) against California Cartage for unfair labor practice (ULP) charges.
  • In 2016, workers at the same warehouse filed additional ULP charges with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters against California Cartage for several unfair labor practices including then company owner Bob Curry threatening to close the warehouse if workers unionized. These charges are pending.

Private Litigation

On December 17, 2014, workers from the California Cartage warehouse on Pacific Coast Highway at the Port of Los Angeles filed a class action lawsuit alleging millions of dollars in wage theft. The workers, many of whom are paid the state minimum wage and have worked through a staffing agency for years, are entitled to the benefits of the Los Angeles Living Wage Ordinance because the warehouse where they work is operated on City of Los Angeles property. Despite this, the workers at the warehouse have not been paid the applicable living wage rate in the 18 years since the ordinance passed.

Under the City of Los Angeles Living Wage Ordinance, Cal Cartage is currently required to provide each worker with either $12.52 per hour for an all-cash wage or $11.27 per hour plus $1.25 per hour in health benefits and as of July 1, 2017, it will go up to be $12.73 all-cash wage or $11.48 plus $1.25 in health benefits. Further, each worker is entitled to 12 paid days off per year. The law extends the obligation to any staffing agencies that are contracted by Cal Cartage and that directly employ more than 50 percent of the workers in the warehouse facility.

The case is currently in mediation proceedings.

NFI/Cal Cartage’s key customers include: Lowe’s, Amazon, TJ Maxx, Home Depot, Kmart, and Sears, as well as the U.S. Department of Defense.

 

###

Lara Introduces Legislation to Hold Retailers Accountable for Contracting with Companies that Violate Laws

April 11, 2018

Press Release

Media Contact: here

CA Senator Ricardo Lara Introduces ‘Dignity for Port Drivers’ Legislation to Hold Retailers Accountable for Contracting with Port Trucking  Companies that Violate Labor Laws

Ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, CA –California State Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) has amended SB 1402 to eradicate systemic wage theft and labor law violations in California’s port trucking industry that has led to 15 disruptive strikes at America’s largest port complex. The legislation is co-authored by Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) and Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher (D-San Diego).

SB 1402 will order the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) to create a list of port trucking companies that have an unsatisfied final court judgment, an assessment from the EDD or any Order, Decision or Award (ODA) from the DLSE for failure to pay wages, imposing unlawful business expenses on employees, failure to remit payroll taxes, failure to provide workers compensation on employees, or misclassification of port drayage driver employees as independent contractors. This list will be available to every shipper who imports and exports goods through California’s seaports – including retailers like Amazon, WalMart, and Home Depot – so that they are unequivocally aware of which companies are violating the law. If in turn the shipper hires a lawbreaking company, then that entity will be held liable for subsequent wage and hour violations for drivers who haul freight for them.

“Until the major retailers like Amazon, Sony, and Home Depot are held jointly liable for the unconscionable and systemic lawbreaking by their harbor trucking contractors, we will not be able to solve the problem of having thousands of immigrant drivers being treated as ‘indentured servants’ by their employers here at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. With the bold leadership of Senator Ricardo Lara, this will change, paving the way for port trucker jobs to become good jobs,” said Randy Cammack, President, Teamsters Joint Council 42.

“With the introduction of this bill, port drivers like me feel hope that the trucking companies will finally stop cheating us and breaking the law to cut costs. I have gone on strike many times with my fellow drivers to protest our abusive treatment. I have walked picket lines at the entrance of port terminals all day and all night because we no other way to get the rich and powerful corporations like Amazon, Lowes, and Wal Mart to take responsibility for fixing their trucking companies’ exploitative treatment of us. Thank you, Senator Lara, for introducing these important bills that will improve the lives of thousands of port drivers like me.” said Gustavo Villa, a misclassified driver from NFI/California Cartage Express who met personally with Senator Lara in late 2016 to detail the exploitation and abuse drivers suffer at America’s largest port complex. “I am hopeful that Senator Lara’s legislation will help me and my coworkers re-claim our employee rights so that we can stop striking and get back to the business of hauling America’s cargo.”

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.

Private litigation

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)

Port truck drivers march in protest of working conditions

Landline Magazine

March 9, 2018

“Fifty-three years ago, peaceful protesters in Selma began a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in a demonstration to end racial discrimination and secure justice for Americans of color,” Eric Tate, secretary treasurer of Teamsters Local 848, said in a news release. “They were met by a line of officers with clubs and tear gas. The violence that unfolded became known as Bloody Sunday. Here at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Jim Crow racism continues. Economic injustice is rampant. Worker exploitation is a business model.”

Read More

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 

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

Private litigation

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)

###

Social Media Links

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia to take bold action to end lawbreaking at America’s largest port complex

Tonight: 5:30 PM PST in Long Beach, CA

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia to take bold action to end lawbreaking at America’s largest port complex

Long Beach, CA – On Tuesday, Feb. 20, at 5:30 PM, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, with the support of Long Beach Councilmembers Al Austin, Lena Gonzalez, Jeannine Pearce, and Rex Richardson, will make the following recommendations:

  1. Add language to our State and Federal Legislative Agendas to support legislation that improves working conditions for port truck drivers and addresses related issues;
  2. 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
  3. 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.

WHO: Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, Long Beach City Council, misclassified truck drivers, and community allies

WHAT: Long Beach City Council meeting to consider assertive action to protect proprietary interest of the city’s port by cracking down on trucking companies that are breaking labor laws

WHEN: Tuesday, February 20, 2018; 5:30 PM

WHERE: Long Beach City Hall, 333 W Ocean Blvd, Long Beach, CA 90802

###