Port drivers for major trucking company file for union election in LA, San Diego

Southern California port truck drivers who work for a multibillion logistics company — but are listed as independent contractors — have filed a petition to have an election with the federal board managing employer-worker relations, an early stage in forming a union and the latest chapter in an ongoing, often-tense labor dispute. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters said it will be the first National Labor Relations Board election involving what that union says are drivers misclassified as independent contractors. Kayla Blado, a spokeswoman for the NLRB, confirmed that the agency received a petition to hold and an unfair labor practice charge against XPO Logistics — though representatives for that company said Wednesday, Jan.

19, that they follow all laws. They also said many truckers prefer being independent contractors. The election would be for the 250 independent truckers working for XPO in Los Angeles and San Diego, a Teamsters spokewoman said.

That’s a fraction of XPO’s total number of drivers, according to the company. The Teamsters, in a press release this week, said drivers for XPO Logistic have been “misclassified as independent contractors, a legal designation that denies them basic rights and benefits including health insurance, paid sick leave, a guaranteed minimum wage and overtime pay.” Federal law prohibits independent contractors from forming a union.

The Teamsters has conducted a long-running campaign to organize more than 13,000 drivers who work at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and has focused on the classification issue. In October, XPO Logistics agreed to pay £30 million to settle class-action lawsuits filed by drivers, who said they earned less than minimum wage. Joseph Checkler, a spokesman for XPO, based in Greenwich, Connecticut, said many of those who contract with XPO “prefer the contractor work model, given the flexibility it provides to set their own schedule and choose their work.”

The company, he added, adheres “to all federal, state and local laws, and we believe we properly classify all individuals and businesses that perform work on behalf of XPO.” The company, Checkler said, employs some 12,000 full-time truck drivers. The majority of the company’s drivers, in fact, are full-time employees, he said.

XPO has about 360 independent contractors in California, Checkler said. The Teamsters said the union election is designed to give XPO drivers an opportunity to challenge the issue “head on.” “My fellow drivers and I are proud of the work we do every day to keep the supply chain moving and provide for our communities,” said Domingo Avalos, an XPO driver at the company’s facility in Commerce. “Our company, XPO Logistics, tries to silence us by ignoring our demand for a union and by keeping us misclassified as independent contractors.”

Drivers, the Teamsters said, also filed an unfair labor practice on Wednesday, making allegations that XPO’s practice of misclassifying drivers as independent contractors interferes with their right to organize and violates federal labor law. “For years, XPO has led the race to the bottom we’ve seen across the trucking industry,” James P. Hoffa, general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamster, said in a statement, “skirting or outright ignoring the law in the name of corporate profits and shareholder dividends.”

Checkler, for his part, said XPO respects the right of every employee to choose or decline union membership, adding that its employees have often declined union representation. Fewer than 200 U.S. employees at four XPO locations, as of November, had chosen to be represented by the union out of an eligible population of 28,000, Checkler said. At two of those locations, Checkler said, XPO and labor representatives are in “good-faith negotiations” on an initial contract.

And, he added, employees at three other locations have voted to decertify their unions over the last two years.

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