Driving a truck is a lot harder than most people think. It not only involves being away from home for long periods of time, hours on the road, and having to spend most nights sleeping in the truck, it also involves a lot more physical labor than one might imagine. Drivers are responsible for making sure the cargo is properly secured and may have to load and unload the truck themselves.
Traditionally, all of the hard work and loneliness came with decent pay, so drivers could be able to provide for themselves and their families. These days, transportation companies are making it difficult to earn a decent living from driving a truck, but the job hasn’t gotten any easier.
According to a recent news article for ABC 7 Los Angeles, truck drivers recently walked off the job at Long Beach and Los Angeles ports to protest low wages and employment misclassification, which is costing them much-needed benefits.
Long Beach and Los Angeles ports are among the busiest in the nation, and every container coming off a cargo ship must get put onto a semi tractor-trailer and taken to its final destination. It is a perfectly timed operation, so cargo ships will not have to wait for a space to dock. This requires a coordinated effort with longshoremen working the docks, port security, and truck drivers arriving to receive containers.
Meanwhile, the trucker’s union and the port managers have been engaged in protracted negotiations over fair wages for drivers and proper employment classification. As our Los Angeles employment attorneys can explain, if a worker is classified as an employee, that worker is entitled to receive benefits and overtime pay in most cases. They also end up paying fewer taxes because their employer is responsible for paying half of employees’ Social Security tax, as opposed to an independent contractor, who pays the entire amount through quarterly payments to the IRS.
Many employers will take extraordinary steps to have workers who are employees in every sense classified as independent contractors to save them money and reduce liability on behalf of the company. This has been in the courts many times recently in terms of package delivery drivers. With respect to these truck drivers, hundreds of them walk off work in protest of this economic injustice and as a show of solidarity.
While port officials and shipping companies have said this strike had little effect on port operations, it is hard to believe this is correct. Over a third of all drivers left the job at the same time. As for other claims that are hard to believe, a spokesperson for the trucking industry says most workers would prefer to be independent contractors, because it gives them greater flexibility in the number of hours they work.
When considering United States Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations limit the amount of hours a commercial driver can work each day, it seems this flexibility means a driver can enjoy the “opportunity” to work less, not earn benefits, and pay more taxes.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949.375.4734.
Los Angeles, Long Beach ports truck drivers walk off job over wages, employee status, April 27, 2015, ABC 7 News Los Angeles
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