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Port Truckers Extend Misclassification Protest Battle to More Carriers

Truck drivers launched a strike against XPO Logistics at three Southern California locations to pressure shipping companies over independent contractor status.

Truckers who work Southern California ports extended their strike Tuesday to encompass nine locations from Los Angeles to San Diego.

It’s the latest effort from drivers to put pressure on shipping companies in the ongoing nationwide dispute over driver claims that they are misclassified as independent contractors rather than employees of the company.

On Monday the labor strife involved more than 150 drivers at the Commerce depot of XPO Logistics, said Santos Castaneda, an organizer with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which is helping to organize the protests. Drivers also demonstrated at XPO locations in nearby Rancho Dominguez and farther south in San Diego.

The protest now involves Intermodal Bridge Transport, California Cartage Warehouse, K&R Transportation, Cal Cartage Express, XPO Cartage, XPO Port Service, XPO San Diego, ITS/Line Port, LBCT Port Terminal and Evergreen Port Terminal.

“There has been no impact to customers,” said Erin Kurtz, a spokesperson for XPO.

“We know firsthand that the majority of owner-operators prefer to work as independent contractors, and we will continue to advocate for their right to do so,” XPO said in a statement.

Four plaintiffs were awarded an $855,000 judgement from XPO in April. The ruling was handed down by the California Labor Commission over allegations of misclassification and unpaid wages against XPO. The shipping company is appealing the ruling.

Truckers have filed more than 800 employee misclassification wage claims since 2011 and have been awarded about $40 million over 300 cases, according to the California Labor Commissioner’s office. About 200 cases are still pending, according to the state agency.

Among their complaints, the drivers are protesting agreements that govern how they pay for trucks and maintenance. They complained of being charged high interest rates and working long hours without pay. They also say that if they try to diversify and drive for multiple companies, they often lose work.

Shipping companies, however, say how and when truckers purchase or lease their trucks is an independent decision involving third parties. They also say that as independent contractors, drivers are free to work for any of the companies.

Jose Herrera, one of the drivers who won the XPO judgement, said he also is concerned about new environmental regulations that will start in 2020 at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Herrera’s truck won’t meet the new requirements, he said. He’ll have to lease a new truck and start all over.

One of the goals of the XPO strike is to attract the attention of Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti and Long Beach mayor Robert Garcia, who last week signed an agreement to pursue the new environmental rules. Drivers are concerned it will add to mandatory fees and retrofits, or force them to purchase new trucks.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the expansion of the protest and to correct several errors. XPO provides truck parking to independent contractors working for the company. An earlier version of this story incorrectly said it did not. XPO allows drivers to work for other companies. An earlier version of this story incorrectly said it did not. XPO does not finance purchases or collect lease payments from drivers. An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that the shipping firm leased trucks to drivers.