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. [...]Drivers at Pacific 9 have filed claims of wage theft against the company.
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.”
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.
- Service and patient care workers will be holding an unfair labor practices strike at the University of California on November 20. The university tried to block the AFSCME members' strike, but the state Public Employment Relations Board affirmed their right to strike.
- Lest we forget, the development of Healthcare.gov was largely outsourced to private contractors.
- The Washington, DC, city council may have failed to override Mayor Vincent Gray's veto of the Large Retailer Accountability Act, but that doesn't mean it's game over for a living wage:
D.C. Working Families, a local offshoot of the national group Working Families, is pushing for a ballot initiative that would require a minimum wage of $12.50 an hour by 2017, as well as a minimum wage of $8.70 for tipped workers.
- It looks likely that Massachusetts activists have collected enough signatures to get a minimum wage increase and earned sick leave on the ballot in 2014.