by Sarah Jaffe
“Everyone that’s involved in container hauling is making money,” says Albert Dantes, a port truck driver at the Port of Savannah, Georgia. Everyone, that is, but Dantes and his colleagues, who spoke to me after an organizing meeting just off the highway on which they haul the goods that come in and out of the fourth-largest container port in the country.
The port brings in close to $16 billion per year, but the drivers only see a tiny bit of that money. This is in large part because they’re “misclassified” as independent contractors, driver Gerald Spaulding says—which lets the bosses at the various port trucking companies push off operating costs onto the drivers. These may include gas, repairs and the lease or payment for the truck itself. “All the expenses come out of your pocket,” says Dantes, noting that the gas cost alone per load is usually about half of what the driver is paid for the load. “If you lose a tire, you pay for it. [And] you just ran for free.”
A new report, The Big Rig Overhaul: Restoring Middle Class Jobs at America’s Ports Through Labor Law Enforcement, published by the National Employment Law Project, Change to Win Strategic Organizing Center and the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, backs up what the drivers are saying. It estimates that some 49,000 of the country’s 75,000 port truckers are wrongly classified as independent contractors, and it calculates that that misclassification costs state and federal governments more than $563 million in lost tax revenue, and costs drivers in the state of California alone between $787 to $998 million in stolen wages. Continue reading