Truck drivers who work at the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach filed a complaint with Cal/OSHA Monday alleging that one of the legion’s largest short-haul trucking companies failed to protect drivers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Container Connection owns multiple trucking companies that operate in the Los Angeles region, and the complaint is the first of its kind addressing conditions during the pandemic that drivers transporting goods from ports to retailer warehouses have faced, according to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which is representing the drivers that filed the complaint.
“Container Connection is in the sole position to identify and report hazards to customers to protect drivers’ safety and health,” the complaint said.
“Container Connection drivers are hesitant to report COVID-19 hazards to customers’ warehouses because of the fear of reprisal — having their load rejected or being banned from the site. This fear is based on past experiences from drivers raising concerns on other issues.”
The complaint, which was filed by drivers David Averruz and Juan Carlos Giraldo, lists multiple COVID-19 hazards that were allegedly present during the drivers’ day-to-day work while drivers picked up shipping containers at the ports and transported them to warehouses of companies like Whirlpool and Ross.
The safety hazards and violations alleged in the complaint includes:
— lack of masks: drivers across the supply chain were allegedly forced to interact with people who were not wearing masks, including security guards at Container Connection’s truck yards;
— lack of social distancing: warehouses often allegedly had no markings, signs or procedures to enforce 6 feet of social distancing;
— failure to sanitize shared equipment: drivers allegedly had to use a broad range of shared public equipment, such as microphones, chassis, document drop boxes and door handles. The drivers did not witness anyone cleaning the frequently-touched surfaces; and
— failure to notify drivers of potential exposure to COVID-19: some drivers reported that coworkers of themselves had contracted the coronavirus, but the company allegedly did not inform other drivers if a coworker had tested positive for the virus.
The drivers demand that Cal/OSHA immediately investigate the workplace and Container Connection’s alleged lack of a COVID-19 prevention program.
According to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Container Connection provided drivers with a new employment contract last month which required drivers to provide their own personal protective equipment.
“The Teamsters will always stand with the essential drivers who deliver the goods our communities need to stay healthy and keep running,” said Ron Herrera, director of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Ports Division.
“For far too long, companies like Container Connection have misclassified and exploited these hard-working drivers in willful violation of the law. Cal/OSHA must hold this lawbreaking company accountable — we won’t rest in our fight until we win justice for all port truck drivers.”
The union alleges that Container Connection misclassifies its workers as independent contractors, which has a direct impact on the drivers’ safety.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found that the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act following an investigation from 2009-2011. Investigators found that 103 drivers were misclassified and not given minimum wage, the union reported.
Eleven Container Connection drivers received $2.2 million for wage theft damages following a 2016 final court judgment, and the company faced six other misclassification lawsuits in California state courts.
The union also said there were an additional 12 wage and hour misclassification claims at the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.
Container Connection did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company is a subsidiary of Universal Logistics Holding.