OOIDA asks lawmakers to vote against PRO Act

March 8, 2021

Mark Schremmer

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Misclassification is a problem in the trucking industry that needs to be addressed, but the PRO Act isn’t the way to do it, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association wrote in a letter to the members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

OOIDA informed lawmakers on Monday, March 8, about its position on the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act of 2021, which would implement the ABC test and other union-friendly changes for union elections, bargaining processes, and many other policies.

Under the strict ABC Test, all workers are considered employees unless the hiring business demonstrates that three factors are established:

A. That the worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact.

B. That the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.

C. That the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.

 

Opponents of the ABC Test say that the B prong could make it impossible for truck drivers to work as an independent contractor for a motor carrier.

“While we believe there is much that must be done to improve working conditions and compensation in trucking, the PRO Act would create confusion for drivers and motor carriers and jeopardize small-business truckers’ ability to utilize the owner-operator model,” OOIDA wrote in a letter signed by President Todd Spencer.

Democrats reintroduced the PRO Act in February. In the previous congressional session, the bill passed the House but failed in the Senate.

OOIDA said that while the PRO Act would implement the ABC Test to determine if workers are employees for the purposes of union organizing the change would likely have a greater effect.

“While we understand that the PRO Act is designed to specifically address classification issues for the purposes of labor organizing, we believe that in practice the test may also be expanded to classify workers under other laws,” OOIDA wrote. “We are also concerned with the precedent this legislation would set, as we anticipate that Congress will expand this ‘employee’ definition to cover other federal laws.”

The ABC Test is the basis of California’s Assembly Bill 5, which was signed into law in 2019. The California Trucking Association challenged the law, and there is a preliminary injunction preventing the law from being applied to the trucking industry until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit makes a decision on the case.

OOIDA acknowledged that misclassification is a problem in the trucking industry and that it generally is done through lease-purchase agreements, “which are schemes where motor carriers lease a truck to a driver with the promise of independence and entrepreneurial opportunity, but because of the terms of these arrangements drivers have no real chance to obtain this.”

OOIDA said that lawmakers can help improve working conditions and compensation for truck drivers without abandoning the traditional owner-operator model.

“If Congress really wants to help improve working conditions and compensation for truckers, it could start by repealing the overtime exemption for employee truck drivers,” OOIDA wrote. “Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, truckers are specifically exempt from guaranteed overtime pay. This provision makes it the law that a driver’s time is less valuable than other workers, and it should be eliminated.

“Trucking is a challenging career, and there are many changes that should be made to improve compensation and working conditions for drivers. We look forward to working with Congress to navigate these challenging issues to find solutions that raise workplace standards for all drivers in the industry.” LL

WWWilliams

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.