Thursday, July 25, 2013

Teamsters fight misclassification at the ports

Organizing port drivers requires the Teamsters to fight misclassification, and we're doing it on several fronts. We're bringing lawsuits against employers, lobbying for state law changes and pressuring regulators to enforce the law.

Josh Eidelson at The Nation shines a spotlight on how the Teamsters fight misclassification of drivers at the ports. He writes: 
A rare union election victory in New Jersey and a battery of wage theft complaints in California represent the latest steps in the Teamsters union’s effort to transform port trucking, a growing industry in which most workers aren’t considered employees under the law...
Port truckers carry freight from the nation’s ports to chains like Walmart and Starbucks. Since trucking deregulation during the Carter administration, most such workers have been classified as “independent contractors,” a growing category of American workers who aren’t legally anyone’s employees. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters alleges that over 80 percent of port truckers are misclassified—wrongly denied “employee” status.
...port truckers charge that their status comes with all the downsides of employment—the companies they work for set their compensation and regulate their work—and little of the upside. Most port truckers pay for their trucks (sometimes leasing them from their bosses) and the fees and upkeep costs that come with them, get paid nothing for the extra time they spend idling in traffic and have no legal right to unionize. Such a “Who’s the boss?” problem has become increasingly prevalent for US workers, as increasing numbers are cast among the ranks of temps, informal workers or independent contractors lacking the legal rights of employees—including collective bargaining.
 Along with Change to Win, Eidelson writes, we:
...attacked the port trucking status quo on multiple fronts: legal charges against companies, lobbying for state law changes and stepped-up federal enforcement and organizing efforts among both drivers with legal unionization rights and those without them.
We also organized drivers for Australia-based Toll Group at the Port of Los Angeles last year and at the Port of Newark last week. Writes Eidelson:
Both campaigns turned ugly; the Teamsters allege Toll fired union supporters in Los Angeles in an effort to intimidate workers. During regular anti-union meetings in New Jersey, said driver Fred Schmitt, “they tried to lie, to discourage us from voting in the union.” But he said that the California victory “made it a little bit easier for us to organize here.” 
After winning the Los Angeles election, the Teamsters accused Toll of dragging its feet in negotiations. Toll and the Teamsters reached a contract deal there after the union mobilized support from Australian union members, mounted “practice pickets” to show their willingness to strike and leafleted to customers of the Toll client Under Armour with a message accusing Toll of “degrading its U.S. workers.”
Read the whole story here