Port truckers misclassified as contractors awarded nearly $1.3 million in lost wages – Daily News

on Apr18
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Ten truck drivers who haul cargo at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have been awarded nearly $1.3 million by the California Labor Commissioner for lost wages due to being misclassified as independent contractors.

The April 10 decision from the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement orders K&R Transportation to pay the drivers for unpaid wages, unpaid meal and rest breaks, and illegal paycheck deductions based on claims filed in 2017.

K&R, a division of California Cartage which was acquired by National Freight Industries in 2017, has until April 25 to either appeal or pay the drivers the amounts owed. If it fails to do either, the decision will become final. And if final judgments go unpaid, K&R’s customers could be held liable for future claims under California’s new joint liability law, Senate Bill 1402.

The average payout

The drivers, who haul goods for Best Buy, Puma, and Lowe’s, will receive varying awards. The highest individual payout is $243,578.33 while the average is $128,562.90.

“We’re happy that the California Labor Commissioner has recognized the injustices we’ve experienced at the hands of K&R Transportation,” driver Hector Zelaya said in a statement. “They’ve taken advantage of us for far too long and it will not stand.”

Representatives with K&R, California Cartage and NFI could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

Based in Wilmington, NFI is one of the largest goods movers in America, with warehouses and port trucking operations across the U.S. The NFI/Cartage family of companies includes five major trucking operations at Southern California’s twin ports.

Eric Tate, secretary/treasurer and principal officer with Teamsters Local 848, which represents more than 500 port truck drivers who have become unionized workers, doesn’t expect K&R to willingly pay up. NFI/California Cartage, he said, doesn’t work that way.

“Every company they own that does business out of the ports operates the same way,” he said. “Even after they pay off lawsuits they continue to break the law.”

A history of labor issues

In September 2018, California Cartage was ordered to pay $3.57 million to more than 1,400 workers after a U.S. Department of Labor investigation revealed it had failed to pay its workers a fair wage.

In recent years, there have been seven labor strikes among the company’s workers, and in November 2018, six trucker drivers for the company filed minimum-wage violation claims.

Teamsters Local 848 has been trying to unionize the company’s warehouse and trucking employees, a push that ultimately prompted California Cartage to announce it will close its Wilmington warehouse in July. As of January, the facility employed about 800 people.

The company said it had been willing to allow employees to vote on whether to unionize and was involved in lease negotiations with L.A.’s Harbor Commission for months. But the Los Angeles City Council unanimously revoked its lease at the site in October and ordered the Harbor Commission to include provisions in the future lease that would prevent labor disruptions

Sid Brown, NFI’s CEO, laid blame on the Teamsters.

“We have been fighting, with the help of our employees, for the past four months to negotiate a deal to keep this facility open long-term,” Brown said in January. “This is not the outcome we wanted. Because of the Teamsters’ efforts, we now have been left with no other option but to shut down the Wilmington operation.”

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