California Labor Commissioner rules in favor of truckers at Port of Long Beach

Ten California port truck drivers who haul cargo for Best Buy, Puma, and Lowe’s have been awarded more than $1.2 million by the California Labor Commissioner for wage theft due to misclassification as independent contractors. Specifically, the decision orders K&R Transportation, which was purchased by NFI Industries in 2017, to pay the drivers for unpaid wages, unpaid meal and rest breaks, and illegal paycheck deductions based on claims filed in 2017. The company has until April 25, 2019, to either appeal or pay the drivers the amounts owed; if they do neither, then the decisions will become final judgments. If final judgments go unpaid, K&R’s customers could be held liable for future claims under California’s new joint liability law, Senate Bill 1402.

Click on the links below to read:

  • Fact sheet regarding the April 2019 Order, Decision, and Awards against K&R Transportation
  • CA Labor Commissioner’s Order, Decision, and Awards
  • Fact sheet on the history of lawlessness at the California Cartage family of companies, which were purchased by NFI Industries, at the Ports of LA/Long Beach
  • Summary of the Labor Commissioner’s decisions at the Ports of LA/Long Beach

Hector Zelaya, a K&R Transportation driver who was featured in a story in The Nation in August 2018, is one of the ten drivers to receive news that justice has been served on Friday:

“We’re happy that the CA Labor Commissioner has recognized the injustices we’ve experienced at the hands of K&R Transportation. They’ve taken advantage of us for far too long and it will not stand. This decision is a great step, but justice will not truly be served until companies like K&R completely end their law-breaking practices, stop the wage theft and the abuse we endure on the job every day, and classify us as the employees we truly are. My coworkers and I will continue to stand with each other and fight for what is rightfully ours.”

“We are sick and tired of these companies taking advantage of hard-working drivers like those at K&R Transportation,” said Eric Tate, Principal Office of Teamsters Local 848, which now represents more than 500 port truck drivers who have successfully secured their employee rights. “The Labor Commissioner’s award will provide temporary relief to these ten families who have suffered from wage theft; however, K&R Transportation – like NFI’s other port truck companies – continues to illegally classify it’s drivers as ‘independent contractors’ and we are doing everything in our power to let retailers like Puma, Lowe’s, and Best Buy know that they’ll be held liable unless they move their business to companies that are following U.S. tax and labor laws.”

“It is reprehensible that retailers like Lowe’s continue to do business with law-breaking companies that take advantage of vulnerable immigrant port truck drivers by misclassifying them as independent contractors, stealing their wages, and denying them safe meal and rest breaks,” said Myron Wollin, President of the Long Beach Gray Panthers. “These retailers need to step up and take strong action to assure that the law breaking will not be tolerated.”

Drivers from K&R Transportation were among those featured in an investigative series published by the USA Today Network in 2017. K&R Transportation operates in Wilmington, CA, on property owned by the Port of Los Angeles. In January 2019, K&R’s new owner, NFI Industries, announced its intention to vacate the property rather than reach an agreement to end labor disruptions on the Port’s prime property.

In their quest for employee rights and fair treatment, K&R drivers, together with other NFI drivers and warehouse workers, have gone on strike seven times over a five-year period causing significant disruption to port operations leading the Los Angeles City Council to unanimously revoked NFI’s lease. The company, along with two other NFI Industry subsidiaries, was sued by the Los Angeles City Attorney for misclassification and unfair business practices in January 2018. The suit is ongoing.

The article above was released by Justice for Port Drivers.