Reps. Nadler, Napolitano, Lowenthal & Barragán Stand with Truckers to Introduce the Clean Ports Act of 2017 and the Port Drivers’ Bill of Rights Act

Oct 26, 2017 Issues: Transportation, Jobs, Labor and the Economy, Energy and Environment

WASHINGTON, D.C. --  Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), along with Reps. Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), and Nanette Díaz Barragán (D-CA) held a press conference with port truck drivers and representatives from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to announce the introduction of the Port Drivers’ Bill of Rights Act (H.R. 4144) and the Clean Ports Act of 2017 (H.R. 4147).

“An active port is imperative for the economic vitality of our cities and regions, and to maintain a diverse middle class. But we must ensure that all those who work at the port are treated fairly and earn a decent wage, and that those who live near ports do not bear the brunt of pollution and inefficient goods movement,” said Congressman Nadler. “I am hopeful that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle can come together on these important issues. President Trump regularly touts his affinity and sympathy for hard working Americans who have been treated unfairly, and there should be no mistaking the hardships faced by port truck drivers and those living near port areas. It is long past time we did something about it.”

“Hundreds of port truck drivers are being forced into working as independent operators as a way for their employer to pay them below minimum wage and deny them benefits, creating an unlivable wage for them and their families,” said Congresswoman Napolitano. “These drivers are compelled to lease trucks at prices they cannot afford. It is unthinkable that companies can continue to get away with this scheme to underpay hard working truck drivers. My Port Drivers’ Bill of Rights Act and Congressman Nadler’s Clean Ports Act are important measures that we hope will restore justice and dignity to truck drivers and their families.  I thank him and all of our colleagues for fighting to protect the wages, rights, and working conditions of truckers at ports across the country.”

“In my community, we hear story after story of drivers who work two shifts only to go home with pennies. Drivers who are intimidated, threatened, and forced by trucking companies to violate hours of service rules over and over again,” said Congressman Lowenthal. “I’m proud to support legislation that will ensure that port drivers have basic rights, and at the same time make it clear—once and for all—that port authorities can regulate truck operations as part of their environmental efforts. This is a common-sense solution that is good for the truckers and good for the ports.”

“What’s happening to these truck drivers amounts to indentured servitude. It goes beyond wage theft. Some workers—many are immigrants who speak little English—end up owing money at the end of the week. My cousin is a truck driver, and I remember him looking at his paycheck to figure out why he got so little money. Sometimes these truck driver are earning less than the minimum wage,” said Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán.

Fred Potter, Vice President-at-Large of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and Director of the Teamsters Port Division, voiced continued support of all truck drivers and their families, thanking them for persevering despite a system that has failed them, as recently exposed by USA Today’s “Rigged” series.

“For years, port truck drivers across the country have been forced to work long hours, often exceeding maximum hours of service set by the U.S. to keep America safe, in order to pay the company to lease and maintain their truck,” said Fred Potter. “The Teamsters are proud to support both the Port Drivers’ Bill of Rights Act to create a Task Force to review the broken system and crack down on bad actors, and the Clean Ports Act to modernize Federal trucking rules to empower ports across America to clean the air, improve cargo efficiency, and mitigate community impacts without forcing drivers to bear the cost. We thank our champions in Congress for introducing them on behalf of our truck drivers and their families.”

The members of Congress stood proudly with over a dozen drivers and advocates from the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, New York, and New Jersey, who traveled to Washington to bear witness to the injustice they and their families have endured as a result of a broken employment system.

"I believe every worker has a right to earn a living wage, but after months and months of working without earning a salary, I wind up owing the company money. You can imagine the pain when I come home, and my kids ask 'let’s go to the movies' and I don’t have a cent to take my children,” said Rene Flores, Ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, misclassified independent contractor fired after telling his story to USA Today. “This Christmas people will go to big companies -- Walmart, Target, Costco – to buy gifts for their children. I wonder if they think about the sacrifice that goes into those gifts. I don’t have a cent to buy my own children presents. What is a day of joy for most, is a day of sadness for me. This is supposedly a country of free speech, but we are still slaves to these companies.” 

“This injustice affects all of us. It affects our nation. Our port drivers--our family--have taken on the burden for far too long,” said Daniel “Seko” Uaina, truck driver, Ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, misclassified independent contractor. “Drivers even have to pay for a spot to keep the truck at the company – the truck that we lease FROM the company. Our forefathers made sure that we wanted tomorrow to be better. So let’s make tomorrow better, for all the generations coming behind us. We need to stop this now.”

Below is the full text of Congressman Nadler's remarks:

"Thank you all for joining us today as we work to raise awareness about, and take action to address, the poor working conditions facing our nation’s port truck drivers. I would like to thank Teamsters Vice President and Port Division Director Fred Potter for being here and for helping to bring port truck drivers from across the country to Washington DC to tell their stories. We know the difficulties drivers face every day, so we appreciate the sacrifices you are making by taking the time to travel here in order to have your voices heard. And thank you to my colleagues [name Members in attendance], and in particular, to Congresswoman Grace Napolitano, for her leadership on these issues. She has been a great partner, and I look forward to continue working with her, and with all of my colleagues, to improve the lives of those working and living in our port communities.

"Throughout my career as a legislator both in the New York State Assembly and in Congress – transportation has been a focus of mine, and I have been a passionate advocate for the Port of New York and New Jersey. An active port is imperative for the economic vitality of the city and the region, and to maintain a diverse middle class. But we must ensure that all those who work at the port are treated fairly and earn a decent wage, and that those who live near ports do not bear the brunt of pollution and inefficient goods movement. 

"An estimated 87 million Americans live in port-adjacent communities that fail to meet federal air quality standards. And now that the Trump Administration is rolling back environmental protections and gutting the EPA, we can only expect this situation to get worse. We must give ports the tools they need to address a highly polluting drayage system, and to take action to improve environmental and working conditions.

"The Port of Los Angeles has been a leader on this front, implementing a Clean Truck Program replacing dirty diesel trucks with clean diesel and alternative fuels, and requiring companies not to pass the cost of compliance onto the drivers. Unfortunately, the program was challenged in Federal court, and certain aspects of the program were preempted, but that does not mean we should give up on our efforts for cleaner, safer and fairer ports.

"Federal law prohibits States and local governments from implementing laws or regulations that affect the “price, route, or service” of motor carriers. We are introducing the Clean Ports Act to update Federal law to ensure that ports can enact and enforce Clean Truck programs, and take appropriate measures to improve operations at port facilities. Without the Clean Ports Act, simple measures that are designed to enhance the quality of life for communities near ports, such as a requirement that a motor carrier servicing a port use off-street parking, are prohibited by Federal law.

"And in order to address more broadly the abysmal working conditions that exist for the drivers you will hear from today, we are introducing the Port Drivers’ Bill of Rights. As these drivers will attest, they are victims of a system in which they are misclassified as independent contractors and forced into abusive leases. The Port Drivers’ Bill of Rights creates a Federal task force to investigate and provide recommendations on the prevalence and use of these abusive leases in the trucking industry.

"I am hopeful that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle can come together on these important issues. President Trump regularly touts his affinity and sympathy for hard working Americans who have been treated unfairly. Well, there should be no mistaking the hardships faced by port truck drivers and those living near port areas. It is long past time we did something about it."

Background

An estimated 87 million Americans live in port adjacent communities which fail to meet federal air quality standards. Ports around the country are working toward improving these local conditions by creating environmental quality standards for the ships, terminal operators, railroads and trucking companies that use their ports. The problem is that current federal law (the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994) limits the extent of what Ports can do to improve their local environment. This same federal law also allows trucking companies to avoid state and local wage laws in order to underpay and overwork their drivers. H.R. 4144 and H.R. 4147 aim to stop the exploitation of drivers and empower local ports to reduce environmental pollution, mitigate traffic congestion, and improve highway safety and improve efficiency, without putting the burden on the backs of the truck drivers.

The full video of this morning’s press conference can be viewed here.

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