Wednesday, September 11, 2013

NJ Gov. Christie: misclassifying workers is okay

This week New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have helped the state crack down on the misclassification of workers in the trucking industry.

By killing the legislation (A1578/S1450), Christie gave his blessing to employers that deny basic employee rights to port truck drivers and cheat the state out of tax revenues through willful and widespread misclassification.

Teamsters International Vice President Fred Potter said in a statement:
Governor Christie has demonstrated time after time that he does not care about New Jersey’s working families. He is leaving New Jersey behind by doing the bidding for law‐breaking trucking companies that willfully misclassify drivers to avoid paying employer taxes and to push the most basic cost of doing business onto the workforce.
The problem of misclassification in the trucking industry is well-documented. It's part of an industry-wide effort to keep workers out of the middle class so companies can rake in more profit. But it's also a problem that -- thanks in part to Teamster action -- is finally being addressed in many states. The Coalition for Healthy Ports points out:
Across America, the trucking industry is being modernized as states crack down on the misclassification of truck drivers. A worker misclassification law was recently signed in Illinois and another one is expected to be signed in New York.
And port truck drivers are not waiting for new laws to assert their rights as employees. In California over 500 claims have been filed with the CA Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (CA DLSE) by port truck drivers who say their companies have misclassified them.
At a time when so many agencies and Legislatures are moving in the right direction on worker misclassification, Governor Christie’s veto is in the wrong direction.
Thousands of port truck drivers in the U.S. are wrongly classified as owner-operators. Drivers are often required to buy or lease their own trucks from companies and pay for their upkeep. But they are denied "employee" status despite the fact that the companies control their compensation and regulate their work. This means the workers are not allowed to form a union and the companies avoid paying millions in taxes.

Teamsters have been leading the fight for workers' rights and against misclassification in the industry, using lobbying, lawsuits and organizing to bring dignity to drivers. In July, Teamsters successfully organized Toll Group drivers in New Jersey following an historic organizing victory at Toll in Los Angeles. And just a few weeks ago Teamsters organized a powerful one-day strike at the Port of LA.

But with anti-worker politicians like Christie at the wheel in New Jersey, there's still a lot of work to do to stop the war on workers in port trucking and beyond.

Christie also used this week as an opportunity to attack workers in the building trades by gutting prevailing wage provisions in the New Jersey Economic Opportunity Act of 2013. That's a blow to construction workers whose employers won't be required to pay prevailing wages even while they receive tax credits from the state.

The struggle continues.