By James Rainey, September 9, 2014
Trucks line up at the Port of Los Angeles. Port truck drivers want
managers for the city's biggest pension system to examine their
investment in a trucking company they say illegally fired them when the
drivers pressed their claim for back wages.
Port truck drivers on Tuesday told the managers of the biggest pension
system for the city of Los Angeles that they should closely examine
their investment in a trucking company that they claim illegally fired
them when the drivers pressed their claim for back wages.
The drivers' appearance before the board for the Los Angeles City
Employees’ Retirement System, known as LACERS, was one in a series of
protests they plan to make to try to get concessions from Total
Transportation Services Inc., which has been locked in a battle with
several dozen of its employees. Two other large pension systems — for
police and firefighters in L.A. and for state employees — also have
investments linked to the trucking company.
At least 33 drivers
said they were fired when they refused to drop claims with the state
Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. The agency found that 14 of the
drivers were effectively employees of Compton-based Total
Transportation, even though they were treated like independent
contractors. It also found that excessive payroll deductions and unpaid
waiting and break time deprived the workers of nearly $1 million in pay.
The drivers and a representative of the Teamster’s union addressed
the pension board Tuesday because LACERS has an estimated $8 million
invested with Saybrook, a West Los Angeles-based firm that, in turn, is
an investor in the trucking firm.
The public pension plan has an
“investment risk” because the trucking company is a repeat violator of
labor relations laws, said Barbara Maynard, spokesperson for the
Teamster’s Justice for Port Drivers campaign. Maynard accused Total
Transportation of “repeatedly harassing, threatening, intimidating and
now firing drivers as retaliation for attempting to form their union.”
The committee governing the LACERS pension system, which manages
retirement funds for 42,000 current and former city employees, said it
would take up the investment issue and the drivers’ complaints next
Jonathan Rosenthal, a principal in Saybrook investment and
board chairman of the trucking company, called the allegation that
Total Transportation tried to force workers to drop their wage claims
asked why some truckers are no longer driving for Total Transportation,
Rosenthal said some had left because the company is transitioning to a
new arrangement — no longer leasing trucks to drivers but requiring,
instead, that they supply their own trucks and equipment.
very thoughtful in the way they treat all of their independent
operators and their staff,” Rosenthal said. He said the biggest issue
for truck drivers now in the port is crowding and long waits, making it
difficult for drivers to deliver the number of loads they need to
generate adequate income.
“We want to be part of a bigger solution to the issues at the port,” Rosenthal said.
said that the company has been far from the reasonable partner depicted
by management. Jose Rosales Romero told the LACERS pension board
Tuesday that when he visited the company to learn about a new financing
program for his truck, a manager started screaming obscenities and
telling him, “There are no rules and no laws. No law or politicians will
Teamsters spokeswoman Maynard said that the trucking
firm is in danger of being banned from doing business with the ports of
Los Angeles and Long Beach if it did not adhere to wage rules. That, she
said, would put the pension system’s investment at “great risk.”
16 wage claims against Total Transportation are pending before the
state agency. Along with the 14 cases in which the company was already
found liable for back pay, Total Transportion faces a liability of $4.8
million, the drivers said.
Rosenthal said Total Transportation will appeal the lost claims in Superior Court.
asked the pension board to pressure Saybrook, and therefore Total
Transportation, “to stop this illegal behavior.” The driver said that
action by the board would show “ports here in L.A. and across America …
that they can't keep breaking the law and stay in business.”