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Truth Commission Investigates Workplace Abuse at L.A. Port
By Cora Jackson-Fossett, Staff Writer
Published November 23, 2017

Truth Commissioners (from left) David Huerta, Jackie Goldberg (speaking) and Pastor William Monroe Campbell. (courtesy photo)

More than 100 community and faith leaders heard appalling stories of abuses and injustices from warehouse workers and truck drivers who move goods that flow through the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

During a Nov. 9 hearing of the Truth Commission to End Abuse at L.A. Ports, employees shared the many challenges they face on a daily basis while working to feed themselves and their families.

The Truth Commission is a coalition comprised of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), Warehouse Worker Resource Center (WWRC), and Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE-LA).  The group’s goal is to increase awareness that many jobs at the port are insecure, low wage positions, instead of good jobs that benefit communities.

“Over 400 people work here, and most of us work through the temp agency. Every day we go to the warehouse to find out if we have work,” said Dwayne Wilson, a warehouse worker at California Cartage/NFI on Port of Los Angeles property.

D’Wayne Wilson, California Cartage warehouse worker, testifies about the conditions at his workplace at the Port of Los Angeles. (courtesy photo)

“I support my entire family, rent just went up again, and once work slows down, I’ll only get two or three days of work per week,” said Wilson, who makes slightly more than minimum wage. “Some of my co-workers are homeless or live in their cars,” he added.

Offering similar comments, Domingo Avalos, a port truck driver for global logistics company XPO Logistics, lamented, “Drivers work 16-to-18 hours per day with no benefits, we don’t even own our trucks. If you get injured, you are thrown away.

“While I work for only one company, they tell me I am an independent contractor. I receive no Social Security, disability and have no workers’ compensation insurance. I am told the minimum wage does not apply to me, that I have no right to organize,” said Avalos.

Wilson also noted that despite his company’s efforts “to pit Black workers against Latinos in order to keep us divided,” workers of both colors have committed to remain united and focused on good jobs under acceptable work conditions.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the Commission agreed to investigate further and ultimately develop a report on the conditions that will be provided Port officials.

“These testimonies reflect the fact that the sharecropper conditions are still operative under the guise of contractual law in the city of Los Angeles—and that is intolerable,” said Truth Commissioner Pastor William Monroe Campbell of Mount Gilead Missionary Baptist Church.

Pablo Alvarado of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network insisted, “We have to send a very clear message to the mayor, this is happening in city property and consequently the city is in direct complicity with these violations.”

In addition to Campbell and Alvarado, Truth Commission members include to End Abuse at LA’s Port includes community leaders from across the city, including Jean Franklin, executive director of Anchor of Hope Reentry Ministry; Jackie Goldberg, chair of L.A. City’s Targeted Local Hire Program; David Huerta, president of SEIU USWW; Jim Mangia, president of St. John’s Well Child and Family Center and Emi MacLean of Immigrant Rights Clinic at the UC Irvine.

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