Around 250 independent contractor drivers for XPO Logistics in Southern California, serving mostly ports in the area, on Wednesday evening filed for an election to form a union in what the Teamsters are calling an "historic first" for "misclassified port and rail truck drivers."
The drivers, in a statement, said they are pushing for "benefits including health insurance, paid sick leave, a guaranteed minimum wage and overtime pay." The move follows an October 2021 settlement in which XPO paid contractors $30 million but did not reclassify them as employees.
“My fellow drivers and I are proud of the work we do every day to keep the supply chain moving and provide for our communities. Today, we’re proud to take the next step in forming a union to give us a voice on the job and fight for better pay and benefits,” XPO driver Domingo Avalos said in the Teamsters statement. “Our company, XPO Logistics, tries to silence us by ignoring our demand for a union and by keeping us misclassified as independent contractors. But when we win our union, we will force XPO to listen — because we know together our voice is more powerful than any big corporation.”
XPO Logistics spokesman Joe Checkler said Wednesday that any contractor who wants to be an XPO employee can apply for full employment, but that the company would likely place them in LTL rather than drayage. Checkler said that of the company's 12,000-plus employees, only 200 or so had joined a union.
"Many independent business owners who contract with XPO prefer the contractor work model, given the flexibility it provides to set their own schedule and choose their work," Checkler said. "They're able to grow their own business by hiring others and running multiple trucks and the freedom to offer their services to multiple companies. We believe we adhere to all federal, state and local laws, and we believe we properly classify all individuals and businesses that perform work on behalf of XPO. In addition, any independent contractor with a commercial driver’s license who wants to work for XPO as a full-time employee is welcome to apply for any number of truck driver openings offered by XPO. We currently employ approximately 12,000 full-time truck drivers and we're recruiting more."
But Julie Gutman Dickinson, a lawyer representing the XPO port drivers, said that the NLRB did rule that the XPO drivers were employees as part of the case that resulted in the October 2021 settlement. "They are already employees, they don't have to apply," she said.
"The bottom line is that these XPO drivers who haul goods at ports in Southern California are clearly employees who have been misclassified," she said. "The majority have clearly expressed their desire to unionize, which they're entitled under federal labor law."
Gutman Dickinson continued that she had personally seen drivers get negative paychecks from XPO after a week of work.
"These workers are deprived of a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work," she said. "They deduct payment for truck leases, fuel, repairs, parking, their tablets, and administration fees. During the pandemic they didn't have sick leave or OSHA protections."
Gutman Dickinson said that "as of mid-2021, approximately 80 out of 130 trucks in use at the Commerce facility were initially purchased by XPO. Then XPO moved to 'independent' leasing companies that are still closely aligned with XPO and essentially served the same purpose of giving XPO control without XPO officially purchasing the vehicles or directly leasing the vehicles to employees."
She added that there has been more "open market" leasing recently with XPO, but credited that to an effort to continue classifying the drivers as contractors.