Employee truck drivers represented by the Teamsters union announced a contract agreement this week with the Toll Group in Southern California that increases their pay $6 an hour and includes benefits provisions such as paid overtime, sick leave, paid holidays and more affordable health insurance.
The contract has attracted attention in the harbor drayage community in Los Angeles-Long Beach as most harbor trucking companies contract with owner-operators. Independent contractors are paid on a per-trip basis, and their agreements with drayage companies normally do not include paid benefits.
Toll’s business model is based on employee drivers. Employee drivers are able to join a union, whereas independent contractors, by law, are not able to organize. The contract was reached after months of negotiations between the drivers represented by the Teamsters union and Toll.
According to a statement from the union, driver wages increased to $19 an hour from $12.72, with wages scheduled to increase 50 cents an hour each year of the three-year contract. Overtime pay begins after a driver works 40 hours in a week.
Drivers are now automatically enrolled in the Teamsters’ Western Conference Pension Trust 401(k) retirement plan. Toll will contribute $1 an hour per driver until 2014 and $1.50 beginning in 2015.
More drivers will now be able to afford to participate in Toll’s health care plan, according to the statement. The company will pay 95 percent of the premium for individuals and 90 percent for family coverage. Payments by drivers who previously paid $125 a month for individual coverage and $400 for family coverage will drop to $30 for individual coverage and $150 per month for family coverage.
Drivers will also receive seven paid holidays, three paid personal days and six paid sick days each year.
Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said the Toll contract in Southern California sets the bar higher for the harbor drayage industry at ports across the country. “Toll Group and its drivers have raised the bar for responsible competition, and the Teamsters will not stop until the rest of the nation’s port drivers have a shot at the American Dream,” Hoffa said.
Despite the success of the Teamsters in organizing the Toll drivers, most of the harbor truck drivers across the country are independent contractors. Alex Cherin, who represents the Harbor Trucking Association in Los Angeles-Long Beach, said some of the HTA member companies have employee drivers represented by unions, but most do not.
Cherin said the HTA supports the concept of freedom of choice in which each drayage company and its drivers choose the model that works best for them.
The HTA in Southern California, and the American Trucking Associations nationally, opposed an attempt several years ago by the Port of Los Angeles to mandate the use of employee truck drivers as part of its clean-trucks program. After years of litigation, the courts ruled that an attempt by a state or local entity to mandate the use of employee drivers violates federal pre-emption law.