Construction truck drivers at the Port of Oakland will be protected from employee misclassification and receive the prevailing wage, thanks to an enhanced project labour agreement passed unanimously by the Oakland Board of Port Commissioners on Thursday.
Under the agreement, trucking brokers must commit to paying construction truck drivers the prevailing wage, as well as adhere to workplace safety, health and environmental standards. Trucking brokers and contractors will no longer be able to misclassify their drivers as “independent contractors,” a common scheme utilized in construction trucking to avoid labor and employment rights.
An employee’s status as an independent contractor can now be challenged through a grievance panel consisting of representatives from the port, building trades and employers and ultimately, if necessary, arbitration. This will ensure that drivers are classified and paid according to the law.
Until recently, driver misclassification was challenged through the state of California, a process that could take up to a year or more before achieving resolution, and long after the trucking broker had moved on.
The arbitration process allows for faster resolution of misclassification claims, and under the PLA, arbitrators will apply California law, including its provisions for awards for attorneys’ fees. If an arbitrator finds in favour of employee status, the worker will be made whole, properly classified as an employee and become entitled to all of the benefits negotiated under the PLA.
“We are going to work aggressively to have this language adopted in other project labor agreements. The Port of Oakland was a national leader when it passed the original Maritime and Aviation Project Labor Agreement in 2000. Again, today, these enhancements to that agreement position the Port of Oakland as a strong leader and model for labor relations,” said Rome Aloise, president of Teamsters Joint Council 7.
The agreement also includes increased apprenticeship and local hiring goals to help workers transition into union construction careers.
The agreement covers all construction work at the Oakland seaport and airport.
The Teamsters received strong support from the Alameda County Building and Construction Trades Council in calling for the enhancements contained in the PLA.
“For far too long, truck drivers have not been classified correctly or paid prevailing wage. This agreement will help put a stop to these exploitative practices,” said Stu Helfer, Teamsters Western Region Construction Coordinator.