Tuesday, May 3, 2011

California Bill Seeks to Make Drayage Drivers Employees, Ban Independent Operators

A bill set to appear before the California Assembly's Committee on Labor and Employment on Wednesday, seeks to make all drayage drivers in the state employees of the trucking firms they work for and effectively ban independent owner operators from working in the state's ports.

The vast majority of more than 15,000 drayage drivers in the state are currently independent owner operators.

Assembly Bill 950, introduced by Speaker of the Assembly Rep. John Perez (D-Los Angeles), would dictate that "for purposes of state employment law (including workers' compensation, occupational safety and health, and retaliation or discrimination) a drayage truck operator is an employee of the entity or person who arranges for or engages the services of the operator."

The bill by Perez, a union organizer and cousin of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, mirrors a recent move by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to attack independent owner operators status as a "misclassification." Teamsters president James Hoffa has repeatedly stated that a primary organizing goal of the Teamsters is to unionize the nation's drayage drivers. Hoffa worked closely with Villaraigosa to develop "employee-only" language in the Port of Los Angeles Clean Truck Program – language that remains in litigation.

Under current law, per-load independent owner operators cannot be unionized, only per-hour employees.

More than 30 labor, environmental, and social justice groups have signed onto the bill as supporters.

"The indisputable reality is that port drivers misclassified as "independent contractors" do exactly the same work as the much smaller group of port drivers who some trucking companies have hired as 'employees,'" the California Teamsters Public Affairs Council wrote in its statement to the bill.

Two-dozen industry groups, representing the vast majority of the intermodal industry in the state and including several groups representing drayage drivers, have tendered their opposition to the bill.

"Rather than address potential misclassification, this bill reaches too far in eliminating a class of drivers and small businesses that represent the dominate model for the drayage industry," the California Trucking Association said in its opposition statement to the bill.