Their collective resolve paid off. Mr. Ortega, a single father who works the night shift, will see his new per-hour rate of $19.75 reflected on his next paycheck, along with any overtime that will now be paid at a time-and-a-half rate of $28.
"As a truck driver, I wanted the assurance that things would be okay for my daughter if I was injured, that I could take her to see the doctor if she got sick," the 36-year-old explained. "When we started organizing ourselves, we weren't asking for anything out of this world. Dignity. A fair day's pay for a hard day's work. Decent, sanitary facilities to make a pit stop, rest, eat...you know, to perform our jobs safely.
"But we knew winning respect would take a fight at every turn. So if we were afraid to lose our jobs, we asked our allies for help. When it was time to take action, we prayed for courage to speak out. And we always stuck together, and never gave up."
Elected leaders quickly praised the union contract as both a middle-class builder and noted its high-road business merits.
"We're talking about the men and women who are the backbone of our regional and national economy, yet they have never shared in the prosperity of the corporations they make so profitable," said Los Angeles Councilman Joe Buscaino, whose district includes the largest port in America. "The standards that Toll Group, its workers, and Teamsters Local 848 set make it possible to reward and attract responsible port businesses that want a level playing field to compete on innovation and quality, rather than who can pay Los Angeles' vital workers the least."
Contract Highlights include (Click here for a full summary & graphic comparison):
Fair wages -The day shift hourly rate increased from $12.72 to $19, and the night shift hourly rate from $13.22 to $19.75. In addition to the over $6/hour increase in hourly pay rates, drivers won $0.50/hour per year raises over the life of the contract, giving Toll port drivers over a 60% hourly wage boost over the life of the 3-year contract. Overtime pay of time-and-half kicks in after a typical full time 40 hour week, which is extremely rare in an industry where truckers are exempt from federal overtime laws and an average week hovers around 60 hours.
Secure retirement -Prior to the contract, less than a dozen Toll drivers could spare any extra dollars, even pre-tax, to participate in the corporate 401(k) plan. As Teamster Local 848 members, they have been automatically enrolled in the union's Western Conference Pension Trust. Such a retirement plan at the port has rarely been seen since trucking was deregulated in 1980. Toll will make a pension contribution of $1/hour per driver until 2014, and a $1.50/hour per driver by 2015.
Affordable health care - The Toll Group health care plan was financially out of reach for most of its truck drivers. The few who managed to meet the premium, deductibles, and copayments will now keep significantly more money in their pocket without sacrificing coverage, and the rest of their co-workers finally have access to quality, affordable health insurance coverage, including dental and vision care. The company will pay 95% of the premium for individuals and 90% for family coverage. Drivers who previously had to shell out $125/month for individual or $400/month per family will drop to roughly $30 or $150, respectively.
Stable work hours and paid time off - Most truck drivers lose a day's pay if they cannot work, are penalized by dispatchers for being unable to haul a load, and lack paid sick or holiday leave, making it stressful for family budgets and planning. But Toll drivers made substantial gains in all these areas. They will receive seven paid holidays, three paid personal days, and six paid sick days annually. They will accrue one or two weeks of vacation within the first two years of service, with longtime employees earning up to a month. They can also bank on guaranteed full- or half-day of pay regardless of seasonal slowdowns if they are scheduled to work.
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