Rigged Shell Game in Port Trucking Exposed
While several trucking companies have come into compliance with labor laws in order to avoid the crushing financial weight of misclassification liability, many others have pursued shell games in an attempt to hide assets to avoid paying anything owed to their drivers, as we reported in a previous blog post.
The latest twist in the battle over port driver classification was exposed by a new installment in the USA Today Network investigative series, “Rigged: Shell games. How trucking companies that cheat drivers dodge penalties.“
Now that the schemes to hide assets and evade government officials have been laid bare, how long can several high-profile trucking companies at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach – such as Fargo Trucking, Container Connection and Superior Dispatch – continue to avoid accountability despite final court judgments? Further, will port officials continue to look the other way and claim they have no power to prevent law breaking companies from doing business on public property?
The wage claims keep piling up: Seven drivers from CMI, a subsidiary of Cal Cartage (recently purchased by NFI industries) recently filed wage claims totaling $1.1 million in stolen wages – an average of $153,150 per driver. With a never-ending stream of drivers filing wage claims, who will step in to fix the root cause of these claims that have created uncertainty over the future of the drayage industry?
And so does the liability: The California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement also just issued yet another decision finding drivers to be employees – not independent contractors. The decision orders back pay and penalties of a total of $383,662 to three drivers at K&R Transportation (also a subsidiary of NFI/Cal Cartage).
New federal legislation introduced: Meanwhile, politicians in Washington, D.C. are voicing concerns over the working conditions of port drivers described in the USA Today “Rigged” articles. Last week, U.S. Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Grace Napolitano (D-CA) introduced two pieces of legislation that could impact port drayage operations. They reintroduced the Clean Ports Act which would empower port authorities to enact requirements to reduce pollution, congestion and improve efficiency. They also introduced the Port Drivers Bill of Rights, which would establish a task force to investigate truck lease arrangements viewed as predatory. While these bills may not become law quickly, they demonstrate that the issue of port driver classification is not going away anytime soon.