Monday, June 3, 2013

300 learn how to cheat a worker at Teamsters' forum for Savannah port drivers

(UPDATE: CORRECTS 2nd graf to indicate meeting was in Savannah, sted Atlanta.)

Savannah port drivers told nearly 300 people on Saturday how their employers cheat them of wages and benefits by calling them "independent contractors."

Teamsters Local 728 hosted a community forum for the drivers in Savannah as part of the union's continuing battle against the misclassification of drivers.

The drivers told news reporters, elected officials and government authorities about their adverse working conditions as contract workers for trucking companies. They explained they are full-time employees in everything but name. They said they have to jump through hoops to take a day off, even though they're supposed to be independent.

The Savannah Morning News detailed how the current situation leaves many drivers in difficult straits when it comes to caring for themselves or their families. Carol Cauley, who drives for C and K Trucking, said:
I can’t afford to go to a doctor. I can’t afford the stuff I transport daily.
And driver John Jackson painted an equally grim picture, according to WSAV:
They classify us as independent contractors but control [us] pretty much as an employee. They tell us what to do, they tell us what they are going to pay us.
Several drivers explained how they are responsible for all of the costs of operating their rigs, which can add up quickly. One driver said while he grossed $61,000 last year, in the end he only pocketed $22,000 after fuel, maintenance, repairs.

Fred Potter, Teamsters' international vice president, said trucking companies are exploiting workers:
These independent truckers are underpaid and undervalued. They call you employees when it suits them and then call you independent contractors when it suits them. The port drivers are the new sharecroppers on wheels. Ports have replaced the cotton fields.
The good news is the drivers' plight did earn the interest of at least one state lawmaker. State Sen. Lester Jackson said the Georgia legislature could intervene to make a clearer distinction of what makes someone an employee rather than a independent contractor. He also said he would like truckers to meet with the Chatham County legislative delegation.

And Larry Benjamin, assistant director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s labor wage and hour division in Savannah, said he would like to meet with drivers to develop test cases that might more clearly allow them to challenge their treatment and classification by the trucking companies.

Attendees share their grievances during Saturday's forum.