Labor activism challenges dominant drayage business model

Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor
Feb 17, 2016 5:47PM EST

The recent decision by Hub Group to discontinue its employee-based drayage operation in Southern California is the latest event in a tug of war between the independent contractor model of trucking and the employee model that is likely to continue for some time to come and the result will impact costs for shippers.

Drayage companies nationwide, and especially in California, face increasing pressure from state and federal regulators to re-classify their owner-operator drivers as employees. So-called misclassification lawsuits, some filed by drivers on their own, some supported by the Teamsters union, have resulted in a handful of companies shifting to the employee model.

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With Oil Still In The Doldrums, Wage Theft Claims Have Jumped In Colorado

FEB 25, 2016

Bankruptcies of oilfield companies large and small have grown as prices remain at their lowest levels in a decade or more. But company insolvencies aren’t the only way a worker can be left underpaid. A growing number of oil workers are turning to the courts, saying they weren’t paid fairly – even when times were good.

In Colorado, there were nine times as many wage suits against oil and gas companies in 2015 as there were in 2010.

With the exception of a couple of weeks in November, 28-year-old oil driller Kody Armajo has been out of work for a year. He’s back at home, living with his parents in Riverton, Wyoming.

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Solutions to wage theft include education, organizing and enforcement (MN)

By Joey Getty and Barb Kucera, Workday Minnesota
February 22, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS – Simply passing more laws will not stop wage theft. This complex problem requires a network of solutions, including greater education on workplace rights, more organizing by workers themselves and improved government enforcement.

Many of the workers, community activists, union representatives and public officials interviewed for this series had suggestions for strengthening a system that is letting too many victims of wage theft fall through the cracks.

Education and awareness
Wage theft is a largely hidden problem.

People “sometimes feel like there’s something wrong, but they don’t know exactly what it is and they don’t know what to call it,” said Ernesto Velez, director of Centro Campesino, which does organizing among farm workers.

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Increasing enforcement at state and local levels in Massachusetts combats wage theft

Monday, February 15, 2016

NORTHAMPTON – Efforts are underway on the state and local levels in communities across Massachusetts to combat wage theft, the practice of employers denying workers the pay to which they are legally entitled.

Labor activists say wage theft is an unfortunate practice in workplaces throughout the country. It’s not uncommon for bosses to deny workers earned overtime, sick time or even the minimum wage, they say. The practice is particularly prevalent in the restaurant industry, which employs about 40 percent of all workers making at or below the minimum wage nationwide. It’s also common in the landscaping and construction industries, studies have found.

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NYC quadruples penalties, ramps up scrutiny of construction site safety violations

By Emily Peiffer
February 12, 2016

Dive Brief:

  • New York City Maybor Bill de Blasio announced Friday the city will quadruple penalties for serious construction site safety violations, mandate new supervision at construction sites, and start a safety sweep of more than 1,500 work sites throughout New York.
  • The heightened focus on construction safety issues comes one week after a crane collapsed in New York City, killing one pedestrian and injuring three others. The incident, which is still under investigation, also resulted in de Blasio implementing a new, four-point construction crane safety plan.
  • The new safety provisions are included in a $120 million Department of Buildings effort to increase oversight at high-risk sites. Under the new measure, safety violation penalties will go from $2,400 to $10,000, and penalties for sites without a required construction superintendent will go from $5,000 to $25,000.


NIH Contractor Accused of Underpaying Workers Agrees to Settlement

In a related case, a subcontractor for the company admitted to hiring illegal aliens for demolition work at the Bethesda research center

Published: 2016.02.22 11:00
Federal prosecutors announced Monday that a Washington, D.C., construction and cleaning firm has agreed to pay at least $450,000 to settle a case in which it was accused by whistleblowers of not paying its workers legally required wages while they were working at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.

The settlement stemmed out of a larger case in which multiple construction firms were accused by electricians and other employees of underpaying their workers, but then telling the federal government they were adhering to prevailing wage requirements as required by their federal contracts.

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Some contractors avoid workers’ comp to win low construction bids

Reported by Demetria Kalodimos
Posted: Feb 17, 2016 7:18 PM EST Updated: Feb 17, 2016 10:31 PM EST

The amount of growth in downtown Nashville requires a lot of labor, but not every worker is equally protected in case of injury.

The practice of winning low bids by avoiding workers’ compensation payments is called worker misclassification.

The Channel 4 I-Team has found the same thing uncovered nearly five years ago at the Music City Center is now happening right across the street.

In 2011, a drywall subcontractor with a large workforce was failing to deduct taxes of any kind or pay workers’ compensation or overtime.

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A Step Closer to Paid Sick Leave

By Secretary Tom Perez
on February 24, 2016

Too many workers this morning had to choose between their health and their paycheck. They had to weigh the benefits of treating their cough or fever with the costs of losing a day’s pay or putting their jobs on the line. Without access to paid sick leave, they bundled up, went to work and hoped for the best.

Nearly 44 million workers in the U.S. don’t get any paid sick leave from their employers. That means when illness strikes, nearly 40 percent of private sector workers face a difficult choice: go to work to earn the full paycheck they so desperately need, or make a financial sacrifice – and risk losing their job – to stay home to care for themselves or a family member.

But a lack of paid sick leave doesn’t just jeopardize a family’s well-being and security – it is a threat to public health and just plain bad for our economy. When parents can’t stay home and are forced to put a sick child on a school bus, they endanger the health of their child and other children. When people go into work sick, they risk infecting their coworkers and customers. The lost wages from staying home sick means less money in workers’ pockets to spend on basic necessities, hurting local businesses that depend on their spending.

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No, raising the local minimum wage doesn’t hurt local businesses

By Jared Bernstein and Ben Spielberg
February 26

In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the nation’s first minimum-wage law. It set the wage at $0.25 an hour and covered only a fifth of the workforce. Speaking to the country the night before he signed the bill, Roosevelt told listeners to “not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day” tell them “that a wage of $11 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry.”

Last August, almost 80 years later, the city council of Birmingham, Ala., voted 7 to 0 (with one abstention) to become the first city in the Deep South to enact a minimum wage above today’s federal level of $7.25. The ordinance planned an increase to $8.50 per hour by July 2016, with a second increase to $10.10 set for July 2017.

In response, state lawmakers leapt from “calamity-howling” to obstructionism. The Alabama legislature this past week passed a bill designed to block Birmingham and other cities not just from raising the local wage floor but also from mandating benefits such as paid sick leave. Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R) insists that the bill isn’t about the policies themselves but about preventing “all sorts of problems” that arise when cities are allowed to set their own minimum wages, presumably because there’s nothing preventing local businesses from relocating to avoid the higher labor costs engendered by an increase.

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Prevailing Wage States Have Fewer Job Separations in Construction

Feb 29
Posted by Frank Manzo IV

Labor economists have explained that lower job turnover is one of the reasons why raising the minimum wage has very little impact on employment, contrary to classical economic theory. … They found that separations, new hires, and turnover rates declined significantly after a minimum wage hike.

Prevailing wage is essentially a minimum wage for public construction. Prevailing wages reflect local labor standards and require that contractors pay workers at least the rate established in the private marketplace through competitive practices. …

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