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Striking port truck drivers in Los Angeles.
Striking Los Angeles port truck drivers in November, 2013.
After one- or two-day strikes on previous occasions, more than 120 port truck drivers in Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, have started an indefinite strike to protest being misclassified as independent contractors (a common form of wage theft) and intimidation over their organizing efforts:
Roughly 40% of all imports to the United States go through one of those two ports. The firms affected by the strike are responsible for shipping goods to major retailers such as Walmart and Target.

The National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against one of those firms, Green Fleet Systems, in late June over allegations of intimidation and wrongful termination. But even more so than those charges, the key issue at stake in this dispute is alleged misclassification. The three firms affected by the strike – Green Fleet, TTSI, and Pacific 9 Transportation – classify their drivers as independent contractors instead of employees, meaning they don’t have to pay various benefits.

“When the company misclassifies you, you’re denied Social Security, you’re denied medical, you’re denied workers comp,” said Paz. He and the other strikers argue that they should legally be classified as employees, which would entitle them to those benefits and allow them to unionize.

The drivers are required to pay for fuel and repairs to the trucks, but typically aren't allowed to work for more than one company or to set their own schedules, key determinants of whether a worker is genuinely an independent contractor or should be considered an employee. While the drivers face a tough legal and organizing challenge, they have had a few victories, including unionizing and winning a good contract at one company that does consider them employees.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 11:10 AM PDT.

Also republished by Hellraisers Journal and Daily Kos.

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