Photo courtesy of Justice for Port Drivers.
UPDATE | Port of Long Beach (POLB) truck drivers currently awaiting a ruling from the California Labor Commissioner on their wage and hour claims have entered their 11th week on strike against their employer, Carson-based Pacific 9 Transportation (Pac 9). The workers claim $6 million total has been withheld from them in wage theft.
Tuesday morning protesters, including Pac 9 employees, Shippers Transport Express and Eco Flow Transportation employees, continued to picket at the company’s yard in Carson and conducted “ambulatory picketing” at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and at customers’ warehouses and distribution centers, according to the release.
PREVIOUSLY : Port of Long Beach Truck Drivers Wait for Court Ruling, Enter Week 10 of 6th Strike Against Employer
9/14/15 at 10:43AM | Thursday, September 10 concluded a historic six weeks of testimony in back-to-back individual hearings of 38 independent contractor port truck drivers who claim they've been misclassified, many of whom have been on strike against their employer, Carson-based Pacific 9 Transportation (Pac 9), six times in the last two years.
The individual hearings, which began on July 27, were set before the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), during which the drivers provided evidence of more than $6 million in Wage Theft.
Today, Monday, the drivers striking at Pac 9’s truck yard in Carson are joined on the picket line by drivers from recently unionized drayage companies, Shippers Transport Express and Eco Flo Transportation.
“Last year, the DLSE ruled that three of my co-workers are misclassified and ordered Pac 9 to pay them a quarter million dollars in back wages and penalties,” said Daniel Linares, misclassified Pac 9 driver on strike, in a statement.
He said the drivers have every reason to believe that DLSE will pass a similar ruling for them and “are eager for the court ruling as our strike continues.”
Pac 9 hauls cargo on and off the docks for retail giants including Hewlett Packard, Costco, Microsoft, and Foot Locker. The aforementioned hearings were held despite the company’s efforts to stay them, according to the release. Pac 9 filed two separate and unsuccessful motions in Superior Court to appeal the rulings where they were ultimately unsuccessful, allowing the drivers’ to be heard.
This escalation in legal activity comes 18 months after Region 21 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced a settlement agreement with the Pac 9 drivers that paved the way to unionization. In that now-withdrawn settlement agreement, illegally misclassified Pac 9 drivers were recognized as legal employees.
After an extensive investigation, the Region determined there was sufficient evidence that Pac 9’s “independent contractor” drivers are employees and are entitled to federal labor law protections under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). According to the release, as a result, NLRB Region 21 found that Pac 9 drivers have been subjected to unlawful retaliation and threats for exercising their legal rights to organize a union.
“The owners of Pac 9 violated their own settlement agreement with the NRLB and they’ve continued to steal my wages,” said Pedro Martinez, striking Pac 9 driver, in a statement.
“Enough is enough, so I’m on strike indefinitely,” he concluded. Martinez is currently working at Eco Flow to provide for his family during the strike.
“All of us drivers at Eco Flow and at Shippers Transport Express support the striking drivers at Pac 9,” said Jose Alvarado, a Teamster driver now at Eco Flow Transportation, in a statement.
Alvarado added that for these companies to be successful, every single port trucking company must comply with the employee-based model.
During the 38 drivers’ testimonies, evidence was presented to the Hearing Officer of more than $6 million in Wage Theft, including unlawful deductions, unreimbursed expenses, and unpaid meal and rest break premiums, not including liquidated damages, interest, and waiting time penalties, all of which will be determined in the final decision, adding an additional liability to Pac 9 of at least $2 million.
According to the release, in the coming weeks, the Labor Commissioner’s Office is expected to issue a decision determining whether or not the drivers are employees and how much they are owed by Pac 9.
“Pacific 9 drivers are courageously paving the way to transforming a broken industry,” said Father William Connor, the pastor Emeritus of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Long Beach and president of South Coast Interfaith Council, CLUE, in a statement.