Area truck drivers rally for better pay, benefits - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Area truck drivers rally for better pay, benefits

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

Monday, truck drivers across the country stood up for employees' rights, including many right here in Savannah.

Many said they are barely making minimum wage.

The overall message is they want better pay and benefits. The drivers say they are attacking the root of the issue, being misclassified as independent contractors and not as employees.

"In an industry that makes over $15-20 billion a year, I feel like there should be more financial stability for us truck drivers," said Lewis Grant, one of the many drivers rallying in front of the Georgia Ports Authority.

Most of these drivers are classified as independent contractors.

They say on the surface, it looks like they bring in a decent paycheck, but after paying for the fuel, the insurance, and the truck maintenance, some drivers say they barely bring in $2,000 a month.

"It is way below poverty level," said Grant. "That's no where near enough money to live on. Its not enough money to take care of family."

And since they're not classified as employees of the trucking companies that employ them, they don't have the ability to negotiate better wages or get benefits at all.

ValDemir McKeithen was badly injured on the job while cleaning out one of his containers.

"Literally could not walk. I'm still in a lot of pain. I'm confined to the wheel chair," explained McKeithen at the rally. 

He has three herniated discs and two torn discs. Going back to work wasn't an option.

"That left me in a state of hopelessness. It left me without a financial means to support myself of my family."

Since McKeithen was not considered an employee, he did not have the right to worker's compensation. He did have occupational accidental insurance, which he paid for out of pocket, but he said it barely covers his monthly bills.

"I wouldn't be looking for how my kids are going to eat. I wouldn't have to worry day to day whether they're going to cut the lights off," said McKeithen.

He said if he had been classified as an employee, his financial situation would be drastically different. 

"Being mis-classified has been really what's been detrimental to me."

In a statement to WTOC, Green Fleet Systems said:

"Green Fleet is discouraged to learn that once again outside interest groups like LAANE and the Teamsters are continuing to spend their members' hard-earned money to battle an issue that a vast majority of harbor truck drivers have soundly rejected time and time again.

There are literally hundreds of unfilled vacancies for company drivers throughout Southern California.  If a driver wants to become an employee, rather than an independent contractor, he or she can do so.  Unfortunately, this simple fact has been lost on groups who would rather see companies go out of business than continue to provide economic opportunities for thousands of drivers and their families.

Green Fleet will continue to pay its contractor partners above the industry average and provide one of the safest rated work environments in the industry while doing it."

WTOC reached out to several other trucking companies but they did not return our requests for a statement.

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