Battle for the Port's Authority: 33 Truck Drivers Fired After Filing Misclassification Claims

Last week, thirty-three port truck drivers were fired by Total Transportation Services Inc. (TTSI) for not withdrawing wage and hour claims made with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). Four of the fired drivers had just been awarded an average $68,211 in back wages after the DLSE found that they were misclassified as independent contractors.  

According to Karen Robes Meeks of The Daily Breeze:

Of the 33 drivers who say they were let go, at least 29 have pending state labor claims totaling roughly $4.8 million in back pay and damages. The other four drivers were each awarded on average $68,211 in back pay last week after the state labor department ruled that the company misclassified employees as independent contractors.

Drivers said when they met with Total Transportation on Sept. 2, they were told at first that they did not have to drop their wage claims. Some were allowed to sign new lease agreements and returned to work.

But not all drivers received the same deal.

“While we were waiting, the company changed their mind and told us that if we didn’t withdraw our DLSE claims we would not be allowed to sign the new contract,” Elmer Chacon, one of the drivers let go, said in a statement. “The drivers that did sign the new contracts and were back at work were sent a message on the Qualcomm saying that they should return to TTSI and they are out of service.

“'Out of service' means that the truck drivers were no longer registered with TTSI’s dispatch service and therefore cannot work for the company.”

The firings come one week after a five-day strike was launched against TTSI and other trucking industry players, Pacific 9 and Green Fleet Systems. In response to the firings, Fred Potter, Director of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters’ Port Division, said in a statement:

“The Teamsters stand by these illegally fired port truck drivers.  TTSI’s illegal actions have shined a spotlight on the lawlessness that pervades the drayage industry and we will not stop until every misclassified “independent contract” port truck driver in America has the dignity of being classified as an “employee” and the right to join a union without the harassment, intimidation, and retaliation that they are afforded under the National Labor Relations Act.”

Rabbi Jonathan D. Klein, Executive Director of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), a community group that supports the truckers also supplied a statement:

“The firing of these drivers is unconscionable, immoral, and illegal.  Companies like TTSI that so blatantly violate the law must be held accountable by our city and port leaders. They are violating the law and violating the terms of their agreements with the ports. Unless they reverse their violent and unlawful attacks against their employees and show themselves to be responsible employers, they should no longer be allowed to do business at the Ports of LA and Long Beach.”

TTSI representative Alex Cherin said the decision had nothing to do with the claims and was simply business as usual:

“Some owner-operators decided not to renew their contracts with the company and those contracts have now expired.  A vast majority of the owner-operators — including some with pending claims — chose to renew their agreements with TTSI.”

Currently, wage theft claims against TTSI total approximately $4.8 million in back pay and damages.  

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