Labor interests in California are taking the battle over the job classification of drayage truck drivers to the State Assembly with a bill that would define the drivers who serve ports and intermodal rail yards as employees rather than independent contractors.
The proposed law would, “deem drayage truck operators to be statutory employees for employment purposes." The Assembly Labor and Employee Committee Wednesday passed the bill by a vote of 4 to1 and sent it on to the full Assembly.
The classification of drayage truck drivers is a key issue in the effort by the Teamsters union to organize harbor truck drivers, not only in California but in ports across the nation.
Drivers at most ports are classified as independent contractors, and by federal law unions cannot organize independent contractors. If classified as employees, however, the drivers could be organized.
Labor interests, including those who addressed the legislature's committee Wednesday, charge drivers at California’s ports and intermodal rail yards are being misclassified. Speakers said the drivers do not control how, when and where they work, and many of the drivers work exclusively for the same companies for years.
This has significant implications for the drivers and for state governments across the nation and for the federal government, said Paul Marvy, co-author of the research report for the National Employment Law Center entitled, “The Big Rig: Poverty, Pollution and the Misclassification of Port Drivers at America’s Ports.”
Also, the legislative analysis of the bill, known as AB 950, which is supported by the Teamsters, states the federal and state governments are losing millions of dollars in tax revenue each year as motor companies pay no employment or social security taxes.
The drivers do not have access to workers compensation, are not covered by occupational safety and health laws and they have no protection against employer retaliation or discrimination, the bill states.
Driver classification is one of the issues involved in a lawsuit brought by the American Trucking Associations against the Port of Los Angeles. In that two-year-old case, the port requires that motor carries hire the drivers as employees. ATA is challenging the requirement as a violation of federal preemption law which reserves for the federal government the authority to regulate the rates, routes and services of motor carriers engaged in interstate commerce.
The ATA case has been sent back and forth between the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and is set for another hearing in June at the appellate court. U.S. District Court Judge Christina Snyder stated that the concession requirement may fall under federal preemption law, but she ruled that the port is exempt from the federal statute because it is a market participant. ATA is challenging that ruling.
Alex Cherin, an attorney representing the Harbor Trucking Association of Southern California, said if California approves AB 950, the trucking industry would challenge the proposed statute.