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Road Outrage: California Truckers Denied Fair Wages and Benefits

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In the wake of a USA investigation, California Labor Lawsuits have been filed against Trucking Companies, but it all started with Mayor demanding zero emissions by trucks

Los Angeles, CAFor more than a decade, the Port Trucking industry has exploited its workers. In a year-long investigation, USA Today revealed that truckers are forced to work up to 20 hours per day and uneducated immigrants are easy targets. Although these drivers have been classified as independent contractors, the city of Los Angeles has filed three California labor lawsuits against port trucking companies for violating state laws.

Misclassified Drivers

The lawsuits filed against three companies-- CMI Transportation, K&R Transportation California and Cal Cartage Transportation Express, and held by California Cartage—demand that "This abuse, this disgraceful exploitation has to stop,” City Attorney Mike Feuer said on January 8, and reported by USA Today Network three companies, CMI Transportation, K&R Transportation California and Cal Cartage Transportation Express, are held by California Cartage.

According to the complaint, “In a scheme to increase their profits—by unlawfully evading their obligations to provide benefits, pay relevant taxes, and absorb various operating costs—Defendants have misclassified their drivers as independent contractors, rather than employees.” And further as a result of this misclassification, these companies fail to “Properly Pay all of the California taxes owed”.

The lawsuits state that these companies controlled drivers’ schedules and tied them to an expensive truck lease, which would classify them as employees rather than independent contractors.

California Environmental Law Trigger for Driving Truckers into Debt

Ironically, it all started with the Port imposing a clean-air plan that included zero-emission trucks by 2035. A California law in 2008 required trucking companies serving state ports to replace old trucks with new, cleaner rigs. But for drivers, clean air rules would cost them plenty. The Press Telegram reported last September that trucking companies and drivers worried about emissions-cutting fervor and they lobbied to ensure that the ports don’t force costly zero-emission vehicles on them too soon.

Some trucking companies, such as the three currently facing lawsuits, forced their drivers—independent contractors-- into lease-to-own contracts that they couldn’t afford and didn’t understand (the majority of drivers are uneducated immigrants). When drivers got sick or fell behind on payments, trucking companies fired them, took their trucks and tens of thousands of dollars they had paid toward buying them. And then they leased the trucks to other drivers. Naples Daily News reported that drivers who managed to keep their jobs often wound up owing money to their employers – essentially working for free. And USA Today reporters identified seven different companies that have told their employees they owe money at week’s end. They compiled accounts from more than 300 drivers, including sworn labor dispute testimony, and they reviewed contracts that have never been seen by the public. These contracts have now been submitted as evidence in the labor complaints. The reporters went even further: They matched the trucking companies with the most labor violations to dozens of retail brands, including Target, Hewlett-Packard, Home Depot, Hasbro, J.Crew, UPS, Goodyear, Costco, Ralph Lauren and more.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said these three trucking companies have relegated many of the drivers to poverty despite long hours of work. The USA Today reporters interviewed some drivers who were forced to work up to 20 hours a day and if not they were punished with no work or they were fired. Sometimes they owed money to the boss, they went bankrupt and lost their homes. And they have families.

“Denying workers fair wages and benefits to pad profit margins is unacceptable, and we will not stand for it in Los Angeles,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday. “I fully support the City Attorney’s action against these unfair practices.” According to the Press Telegram(November 2016), Garcetti urged local ports to accelerate their goals for cleaning up pollution and go further in their efforts to make the country’s largest seaport zero emission by 2035. Clearly, he didn’t anticipate the repercussions.


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