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May
2015
21

L.A. County Board of Supervisors Considering Heightened Action to Combat Trucker Wage Theft, Misclassification at Ports

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)


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On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted in favor of taking a closer look at allegations of wage theft and misclassification among drayage truckers at the city’s ports. The claimed violations led to a strike between April 27th and May 1st, which ended with no resolution.

Misclassification leaves drivers without important labor protections and keeps them on the hook for many expenses associated with their trucks. Expenses that the large companies they work for would otherwise be responsivle for.

One of the drivers, Daniel Linares, said that some weeks he actually owes his employer money. A representative of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters argued that many of the drayage companies routinely issue negative paychecks due to expenses stemming from fuel, truck leases, repairs, and insurance.  He labeled the drayage companies as “sweatshops on wheels.”

For their part, the Board of Supervisors agreed to consider a number of actions which would benefit the drivers.  Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas argued that the county could do more to ensure that workers were not being exploited: “We need to take an appropriate stand for fairness and justice in the workplace.”

Additional analysis was requested by the board to determine the actions they can take. A report is due back to them within 60 days. 

The preliminary actions that can be taken to help the truckers include:

— educating trucking company owners about their obligations;
— serving as a referral agency for drivers who believe they have been misclassified;
— partnering with federal and state agencies to pool resources; and
— supporting pending state legislation intended to resolve the issue.

Since joining the fight for port drivers’ rights, the Teamsters union has helped many misclassified drivers navigate the legal system.  According to the county, 550 complaints of misclassification have been filed with the state Labor Commissioner’s Office in the past three years.  So far, the Labor Commission has issued 113 rulings in favor of the employees and ordered companies to pay nearly $5 million in back wages.  However, 46 of those rulings, totaling $3.9 million in back wages, have been appealed by the trucking companies.

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