Last week, driver Eddie Osoy, the sole provider for his wife and three young children, was fired from one of the largest port trucking companies hauling cargo on and off the docks at our nation’s largest port complex.
Yesterday at 4 p.m., Osoy and his young family led a delegation of his co-workers into the company announcing their intent to go on strike to protest Osoy’s illegal dismissal, specifically relating to unfair labor practice charges filed today against the company by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters on Osoy’s behalf. Immediately following the delegation, Osoy and his family were joined by his co-workers on a robust primary picket line at the company yard.
Subsequently, ambulatory picket lines extended to major marine terminals at the ports, marking the 13th port truck driver strike in the last two years.
Osoy, like other drivers at Intermodal Bridge Transport, a subsidiary of Chinese-government owned COSCO Group, has been misclassified as an independent contractor by the company. Osoy and his co-workers have filed two class action lawsuits, “mass action” lawsuits covering 34 drivers, and a myriad of wage and hour claims with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.
Osoy and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters claim the company has persistently retaliated against drivers for standing up for their rights, resulting in an April 2016 merit determination by Region 21 of the National Labor Relations Board that IBT has misclassified its workers as “independent contractors.” Critically, the April determination made history in finding that the very act of misclassification in and of itself is a violation of the National Labor Relations Act. The NLRB’s charge will be heard by a judge for the first time at a hearing on July 18, 2016.
The cries of the millions of American workers who are misclassified as independent contractors are reaching a fevered pitch. Spanning employees in the janitorial, e-commerce, entertainment, home care, construction and port truck driving industries, these workers are not only robbed of basic workplace protections like the right to minimum wage, overtime pay, and a safe and healthful workplace, but they are also being cheated out of such rudimentary workplace benefits as unemployment compensation when they are laid off, workers’ compensation when they are injured on the job and the right to form a union.
Port drivers are on the front lines challenging this unfair labor practice by filing claims for wage theft and striking their employers for retaliation. The list of decisions against port trucking companies keeps getting longer and longer:
The California Labor Commissioner has issued more than 300 decisions, awarding more than $32 million in back pay to port drivers subjected to wage theft. There are more than 500 additional cases waiting to be heard.
To date, Superior Courts have upheld every Labor Commissioner decision that has been appealed.
The National Labor Relations Board has issued several complaints against trucking and warehouse companies for trying to silence workers and to prevent them from joining together to improve their working conditions.
Trucking companies have been audited and fined for not paying their payroll and unemployment insurance taxes.