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.”
Supply Chain Dive – Growing concern over transport driver welfare is another link in the chain of transparency. Supply chain abuses generally bring to mind underpaid factory workers in third world countries, but the reality is that they happen everywhere. One that’s come to light here and overseas affects truck drivers, many of whom become entrapped in employer schemes and misclassification. Lawsuits regarding misclassification are becoming increasingly common, as evidenced by United Van Lines and California’s Pacific 9, which not only prove costly in settlement fees but also in lost business as customers choose to disassociate with the brand.
The federal gasoline tax has lost much of its effectiveness for funding freight transportation projects, and US Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., is suggesting again that a tax on surface freight transportation is needed if the country is to meet its huge infrastructure development needs. Lowenthal, a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, represents the district in which the Port of Long Beach is located. He has introduced the National Multimodal and Sustainable Freight Infrastructure Act, which would impose a 1 percent excise tax on ground transportation of freight. The bill, which includes provisions for a grant program, would deposit all revenue into a freight trust fund, and a lock-box feature would ensure the money is used only for designated purposes for freight moving by truck and rail.