Local port truck drivers will walk picket lines at an Otay Mesa Toyota facility Thursday as they and their counterparts in Los Angeles and Long Beach continue their strike against the companies for which they work.
As the strike went into a fourth day, workers and their supporters planned to rally at the Japanese automotive manufacturer’s operation on Siempre Viva Road, just north of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Drivers working at the ports in San Diego, Los Angeles and Long Beach are striking in an effort to end “wage theft” stemming from being misclassified as “independent contractors” rather than employees entitled to normal employee rights and protections. They claim the misclassification allows companies to pay them less than minimum wage, a spokeswoman for the drivers said in a statement.
The failure to pay drivers as employees has created an annual $850 million in liability for the industry stemming from wage and hour violations, according to the truckers. A single driver can end up being shortchanged up to $60,000 a year, the statement said.
The short-haul firms being targeted by picketers are: Pacer Cartage, with offices in San Diego and Commerce; Pacific 9 Transportation, with offices in Carson and Long Beach; Harbor Rail Transport, with an office in Rancho Dominguez; and Intermodal Bridge Transport, with an office in Long Beach.
At noon, drivers for Pacer Cartage and Harbor Rail Transport, both subsidiaries of XPO Logistics, will picket trucks in San Diego hauling Toyota cargo from the Los Angeles/Long Beach port complex intended for Toyota plants in Mexico.
Pacer and HRT’s parent company announced Tuesday it had acquired French transportation firm Norbert Dentressangle for $3.5 billion. Some of the striking drivers questioned whether that money could have gone to underpaid drivers.
“I can’t help but wonder if the reason that XPO has enough cash on hand to buy another company for $3.5 billion isn’t because they are avoiding business expenses like payroll taxes and equipment maintenance by misclassifying us as independent contractors,” Pacer Cartage driver Humberto Canales said.
Canales is among the around 90 drivers at Pacer Cartage’s San Diego location who are still being considered independent contractors.
Last year, the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement awarded seven San Diego drivers $2.2 million, but the ruling was later appealed. A judge has since filed a tentative ruling upholding the DLSE’s decision, according to the statement.
The labor dispute began in Los Angeles and Long Beach three years ago when drivers sued the short-haul companies over the so-called misclassification, and filed various claims and class action suits for wage theft.
Drivers for Shippers Transport Express have since been reclassified as company employees, but other drayage companies have not followed suit.
—City News Service
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