Los Angeles Labor Union Strike Affects … Savannah?

July 8, 2014 7:30 am

by Jon Richards · 9 comments

Normally, we wouldn’t have anything to say about a strike at the Port of Los Angeles. Apparently, the truckers who move goods from the port to their destination complain they are being classified as contractors instead of employees.

However, truckers at the Port of Savannah are also threatening to do the same thing.

Union officials said that the issue comes down to pay for work where a full-time employee would make considerably more than an independent driver – this despite the union’s claim that drivers haul $4 billion worth of cargo per day. Union officials are calling this classification illegal.

The local union will be holding a demonstration involving local drivers on Tuesday morning from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. The event is expected to accompany a press conference at the ports authority headquarters in Garden City.

What do full time employees get that independent contractors don’t? We’re guessing Obamacare or company insurance coverage for one. And don’t forget the Teamsters Union, which gets one more dues-paying member for every trucker who becomes an employee of one of the trucking companies.

Chris Huttman July 8, 2014 at 10:03 am

How dare these guys want benefits for doing this important work? The glory of being part of such an important port to Georgia should be compensation enough!

I’m headed to Galt’s Gulch where everyone knows that if you’re lucky enough to have someone paying your salary then you should be grateful, since it has nothing to with selling your labor.

Ellynn July 8, 2014 at 11:10 am

They are not looking to unionize at this point here in Savannah. Yet.

What the teamsters are doing is trying to strengthen the enforcement of existing laws that the federal govenerment enforces for all employers. They form these legal agreements to help non-union workers and indepenedents have legal standings for case law to help any future teamster suite or arbitration. The current agrrement in DC with taxi drivers is an example. The drivers can’t unionize, but the union can help then sue the federal labor relation board.

In this case the teamsters want to point out that some (not all) of the contracting companies are breaking some federal labor law on what classifies as a full time employee. The compainies bennifet by having them as contractors – they don’t have to pay their portions of workmen comp, taxes, social security and so on. Plus in some cases they keep the actual empoyee numbers under 100 and then they don’t have to follow a whole list of other federal labor rules, like maternity level. The teamers are pointing out what indepenant compainies are breaking the rule and technically defruading on paying their taxes in the hope that if they have enough legal full time employees the company by law then has to put up a sign that states the workers have the legal right to vote for a union. That is what happened in L.A. the companies had to post the signs and the drivers started looking at unionizing.

Port drivers are paid in most cases by the distance and time they have to move a load. Most drivers are moving containers less then 40 miles to warehouses (think the Walmart distubution center in Statesboro). If they get slowed down, they are losing money. A few months ago the main tracking computer at the port gate went down for over 5 hours two days in arow. There were alot of truckers sitting and missed their second or third load of the day. That can be 1/4 of your expected weeky income. In many cases the driver is looking for income stablity. Most don’t have any idea how much they will make on any given month. Companies don’t want to have the additional cost to have them on payroll, so the teamesters are exploting that gap and giving themselves an opening.

Harry July 8, 2014 at 6:37 pm

Can not most port truck drivers under IRS guidelines not be considered independent contractors if they use their own tractors? Or do they generally use company tractors?

Ellynn July 8, 2014 at 8:34 pm

And there is where one of the many grey areas of who is an independent and who is employed under the federal labor regs is being exploited by the teamsters. My info for Savannah is from two of my friends who are port drivers, so this is their experiance unless I state otherwise.

And just a reminder, my 73 year old mama is technically a union thug (NEA), as are large numbers of my family in nursing, county workers, and manufacturing trades in midwestern states. My family might not all agree on unions (like the cow hearders), but not a one is a teamster, and many of them (mainly the steel and aerospace members) have a deep dislike for the teamsters in general even before they left the AFL-CIO to form the Change to Win Federation, which seems to be causing the heatburn in the port driver world.

Some large scale companies (not many ) have their own trucks to lower liability or if they are going to move a shipment without unloading it, some have requirements for the type of trucks or hook ups the driver needs to own to move speciality containers (like refrigerated, or pressure controlled units). Example, I personally know that Target uses both types of port drivers, employed and independant. Most of the owner/operators (like my friends brother) are moving containers from the port to local Target warehouse. I don’t know how they contract them. Their employed on the payroll with beni drivers are mainly the pick up and go drivers. The container unit leaves the port yard to far off upper midwestern warehouses on long haul routes and GPS locaters and such. They haul back other stuff Target wants moved.

Another grey area are the logistic companies that have contracts with owner/operators. My pal is under contract for one of these companies. His rig, but by his contract he can only haul for that company and has to haul when they tell him (with in the federal labor driving time limits or so they say…). He can only refuse a load so many times in a quarter before they can canncel his contract. He’s driven with a broken rib to make sure he could have the days off for his brothers wedding out of state. He stays with the company because he has some assurance of having steady loads. He averages 13 hauls a week, but the week of the gate shutdown, he only made 9. He is under his wife’s family health plan through her job (that they pay for him and their three children.) Insurance and retirement is not an issue for him, having a stable income to plan long term is.

This does not even include the port movers who move a cantainers from the crane to a yard using special trucks that other people own, never even leaving the port grounds…

At what point does a work contract become an employment agreement? (This is beyond my scope of knowledge – it’s more a retorical question…). In the case of the logistics driver, he would love to be on a payroll with a few perks. He’s a good old Georgia born republican who has no interest in being in a ‘Hillary loving union’ But he would like a few sick days, and hourly pay for laods that go past the expected time of hauling because he and his truck are stuck for 5 hours in a port traffic jam beyond his control. If drivers and the port can just find a middle ground…

Harry July 8, 2014 at 9:18 pm

From a tax angle he’s much better off as contractor. He can deduct expenses, so reducing his income subject to self-employment tax and income tax.

drjay July 9, 2014 at 3:03 pm

i know everyone has their sob story and all, but from what i have seen an understand about the way the ports work these truck drivers are pretty well on the bottom of the totem pole and pretty well abused by the way the system is set up right now…i don’t know about the over the road guys so much, i’m mainly talking about the ones that go from the ports to the warehouses on jimmy deloach parkway and back again…

saltycracker July 9, 2014 at 9:23 pm

Fair comments. The fight is about control. The unions want to monopolize the ports, the carriers want to maximize profits and the consumers want to pay the least they can for goods.

Competition. fair labor conditions, safe harbors under sound management are in the public’s best interest for our goods and national security. We don’t know the solutions but The Port Authority better.

saltycracker July 9, 2014 at 10:18 pm

Carriers maximizing profits may not be the best way to say they want to stay in business under increased pressures on rates.

drjay July 10, 2014 at 8:53 am

http://savannahnow.com/exchange/2014-04-28/port-truckers-we-are-employees#.U76JAJRdWSo

this article is from back in april…this whole deal has been going on for a bit…there was another article that was a sort of “day in the life” piece that i will post if i can find it that was enlightening…there were also some issues brought up a few years ago when there were a rash of bad accidents on 516 and jimmy deloach involving these trucks, including a couple of fatalities and the pressure on these guys to squeeze in an extra run since that’s how they are paid…

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