300 learn how to cheat a worker at Teamsters’ forum for Savannah port drivers

by Teamster Power

Attendees share their grievances during [the June 1] Saturday’s forum.Savannah port drivers told nearly 300 people on Saturday how their employers cheat them of wages and benefits by calling them “independent contractors.”

Teamsters Local 728 hosted a community forum for the drivers in Savannah as part of the union’s continuing battle against the misclassification of drivers.

The drivers told news reporters, elected officials and government authorities about their adverse working conditions as contract workers for trucking companies. They explained they are full-time employees in everything but name. They said they have to jump through hoops to take a day off, even though they’re supposed to be independent.

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Sharecropping on Wheels

By Sarah Jaffe

standupforsavannahThe port of Savannah, Georgia generates some $14.9 million in income each year and brings in goods that are dispensed throughout the South—including to a massive Wal-Mart distribution center in the nearby city of Statesboro. Savannah is now the country’s fourth largest container port, and the fastest growing. Traffic at the port went up 11 percent between 2008 and 2012 even as the rest of the country suffered through recession.

The wealth generated at the port, though, hasn’t trickled down. While Wal-Mart and other retailers are doing just fine, the products they sell are transported by port truck drivers who still make low wages—a nationwide average of about $12 an hour. Since the industry was deregulated in the late 1970s, port truck drivers have been classified by their employers as “independent contractors,” meaning that they’re paid by the load, not by the hour, and the bosses don’t shell out for taxes or benefits.

“We need benefits, we need retirement just like everybody in the office does,” says port truck driver John Jackson, part of the Savannah Port Drivers Organizing Committee. “We’re doing all the work and they’re getting the gravy, in a sense. They’re getting a salary, they don’t have to pay out of their salary to try to keep equipment up.”

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