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New Study Addresses Port Driver Employment Classification

December 8, 2010

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The National Employment Law Project yesterday weighed into the fight over unionization of port truck drivers with a study that says the typical port truck driver is misclassified as an independent owner-operator.
A report written by a group of authors with ties to organized labor says there is a link between misclassification of drivers and safety and environmental problems at ports.
A report written by a group of authors with ties to organized labor says there is a link between misclassification of drivers and safety and environmental problems at ports.


NELP, a labor advocacy group, said its survey found that 82 percent of port truck drivers are treated as independent contractors but that many of these drivers don't meet federal standards for that status.

"Port truck drivers are intimately tied to the core services and functions of the companies that hire them," the report says. "Given the absence of oversight at the nation's ports, drivers in the port trucking industry are highly vulnerable to misclassification."

The report was authored by Rebecca Smith of NELP, David Bensman, a professor in the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers University, and Paul Alexander Marvy of Change to Win, a coalition of unions including the Teamsters.

The report says there is a link between misclassification of drivers and safety and environmental problems at ports, and recommends a number of new policies. For example, it says ports should require drayage companies to hire all drivers, and any public funding for programs to reduce diesel emissions should be contingent on the port ending driver misclassification.

The report also calls on Congress to pass the Clean Ports Act of 2010, which would give ports more authority over drayage operations. Among other things, the bill would create an exemption to current law to let ports set requirements "reasonably related" to improving pollution, congestion, safety operations at ports. This could give the Port of Los Angeles the green light to proceed with its concession plan under which all drayage drivers would have to be employees rather than independent contractors.


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