The truckers that carry goods for companies like Sketchers, Forever 21 and Wal-Mart are striking Monday in Los Angeles, alleging that they've been punished by their trucking companies for organizing, just the latest in the continually bad press bogging down the beautiful visages of some of the most popular retail companies in America.
Striking truckers told Salon that since many of them work as independent contractors for companies Green Fleet Systems, American Logistics International and Pac 9, they're left with few rights and protections as far as workplace issues are concerned. "Like employees, they tell us where to go – we can't negotiate on many things," one told Salon, explaining that he and his coworkers have to pay for gas and upkeep on their trucks, even though those rigs are not actually theirs.
This is pretty par for the course, explains Rebecca Smith, the deputy director of the pro-union National Employment Law Project:
"We're seeing all sorts of businesses designing new structures of work…And many of these structures – and independent contractor misclassification is prime among them – separate workers from their labor rights, from their basic workplace benefits that are guaranteed." That trend "really is turning the workplace into a place where people can't support their families," said Smith, and "transforming us into a nation of low-wage workers."
This strike is different than others in that it won't be ongoing; the truckers are planning periodic one-day strikes to allow them to keep up the visibility of their campaign and avoid losing their jobs. It's unclear how much this will affect the high-turnover of clothing stores like Forever 21 or the endlessly stocked shelves of Wal-Mart. The likelihood is that while this strike is hugely important to the workers, it's just a blip on the radar of the corporations that depend on them.
Image via Amy Sancetta/AP