So far, port drivers in California have filed more than 500 complaints of wage theft related to misclassification, according to the state Department of Industrial Relations. The agency said 32 drivers have won decisions against 13 trucking firms, securing $3.8 million in wages and penalties.Misclassification is rampant in the trucking industry, and is part of a deep dive in truck driver wages in recent decades:
Organizers notched a victory last month when Pacific 9 Transportation, a major trucking company, agreed to post notices acknowledging the workers' right to organize.
Since Congress deregulated the industry in the 1980s—when a unionized truck driver made today’s equivalent of $44.83 an hour—about two-thirds of the nation’s 75,000-odd port truck drivers have become independent operators. And now, “independence” has become shorthand for earning less: Owner-operators make an average of $28,000 a year. That’s $7,000 less than employee drivers, who are paid by the hour and typically receive more comprehensive benefits. [...]That means companies aren't paying unemployment insurance, workers compensation, or payroll taxes, cheating their workers and the government alike and using those illegal means in an unfair competition with companies that follow the law.
The Teamsters argue that many of these “independent contractors” shouldn’t qualify as such at all for the purposes of the Internal Revenue Service. Because most trucking companies don’t allow their drivers to work for other companies at the same time, and largely dictate how the job is done, state courts and labor departments have found scores of cases in recent years where drivers were misclassified as contractors when they really should qualify as employees.