Reprinted from The Los Angeles Times by Michael Hiltzik on June 29, 2017.
“Juan Lara was headed back to the Port of Los Angeles two weeks ago from his daily pickup in the Mojave Desert when his truck erupted with engine trouble,” writes Michael Hiltzik in The Los Angeles Times. “He managed to bring the truck and its 50,000-pound load of borax limping into the port.
“There the 63-year-old driver says he faced a bill for $10,500 in repairs for a truck he doesn’t even own. That will take a big chunk out of his pretax pay of about $2,500 a week, which is reduced by more than half by his expenses for fuel, insurance and the truck lease itself. Subtract federal, payroll and state taxes, and Lara may be working for less than $18 an hour, with no benefits.
“Lara is classified at his trucking company, California Cartage Express, as an “independent contractor,” not an employee, even though he says he drives exclusively for the company and operates under the control of its dispatchers.
“The vast majority of the roughly 12,000 regular truck drivers at the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach are classified by their bosses as independent contractors. But as federal and state judges and labor regulators have consistently ruled, they’re employees in all but name. They just don’t get the benefits — access to employer-owned equipment, workers compensation and unemployment insurance, employer contributions to Social Security and minimum wage protection. …