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Striking port truck drivers in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles port truckers went on strike Monday. Sarah Jaffe reports:
In total, some 100 port truckers from three different companies—Green Fleet, American Logistics International and Pacific 9 Transportation—walked off the job [Monday] in a coordinated effort to raise working standards. Unlike the truckers at Green Fleet, who are employees, the workers from Pacific 9 Transportation are considered independent contractors. They argue that this is an illegal misclassification because they have none of the benefits of real independence—such as being able to set one's own hours or work for different companies. Meanwhile, their bosses deduct operating costs from their paychecks, something that would be illegal if they were indeed employees. More than 50 Pacific 9 drivers have filed claims with the California Labor Commissioner alleging that this practice has robbed them of more than $7 million in wages. According to the labor federation Change to Win (which is backing much of the port trucker organizing), hundreds of similar claims filed in recent years by port truck drivers have all resulted in “substantial penalties” for the employer. [...]

Paula Winicki, a research and policy analyst for the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, breaks down the costs that Pacific 9 deducted from a single contractor’s paycheck: $125 a week for the lease of the truck, $530.05 in fuel, $50 for repairs, other miscellaneous deductions for parking, insurance, permit and license fees, and more, that with fuel, repairs and lease add up to $962.90. The paycheck for one week after the deductions was $12.90. Winicki notes that these issues are endemic to port trucking companies, so leaving wouldn't help much. And in any case, once they sign a long-term lease for a truck with Pacific 9 or another company , “They’re tied to the company. … If they walk away, they lose a truck— and maybe get sued for breaking the lease agreement.”

Drivers at Pacific 9 have filed claims of wage theft against the company.

Truckers at Australian-owned Toll Group won a union vote and got a good contract in 2011 and 2012, so while this will be a very tough industry to organize and raise standards in, there is precedent for a win.

And more:

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