Thursday, May 5, 2011

Port trucking: A good reason for corporate reform

Port drivers rally in Los Angeles in March.

There are so, so, many reasons we need to reform the way corporations are allowed to operate these days. Almost too many to count. But here's a start: port trucking.

California Assemblyman Sandre Swanson explains the problem in a tremendous op-ed in the Oakland Tribune:
Port trucking companies cling to a business model of illegal subcontracting known as "employee misclassification" to force individual drivers to pay for expensive clean and alternative-fuel vehicles, fuel, maintenance, insurance and all other costs of doing their company's business.
Drivers mislabeled as "independent contractors" are paid low, nonnegotiable wages and are denied protections and benefits that most workers receive from their employers including workers' compensation, disability, Social Security and the minimum wage. Meanwhile, the companies skirt state and federal payroll taxes.

Consequently, licensed professionals clock 60- to 70-hour work weeks in dangerous conditions to transport goods from our shores to America's stores.

An estimated 20,000 California port drivers routinely haul loads weighing up to 80,000 pounds -- including hazardous materials -- but are unable to report safety concerns, such as faulty equipment or federal hours violations, without suffering retaliation or termination.
He supports a bill, Truck Driver Employment and Public Safety Protection Act, to protect drivers as employees of their companies under California's workplace and safety laws.
Because if it's your job to safely command a vehicle carrying 40-foot containers full of clothing, electronics and food on residential streets and highways, you shouldn't earn a minimum wage. But The Big Rig, a study by employment law experts, found that on average these workers earn just $28,783 a year, before taxes.

Gaming the system, Goldman Sachs' Wall Street style is not welcome at our trade hubs, one of the state's most valuable economic engines. The Truck Driver Employment and Public Safety Protection Act will ensure cleaner, safer, fairer and legal commercial activity to boost quality job creation.
Read more about the campaign to reform port trucking companies here.