Harbor Commission Asked to Probe Allegations of Tax, Custom Fraud

Pressed into action after weeks of labor demonstrations at the Los Angeles Port, the City Council on Friday asked the Harbor Commission to investigate claims by hundreds of truck drivers that steamship lines and other companies involved with the port routinely break federal tax and customs laws.

More than 4,000 truckers refused in early May to work for harbor area trucking companies, which haul cargo containers to and from the port for various clients. The drivers, who have joined a union and are seeking higher wages, are considered independent contractors and are paid on a job-by-job basis. They argue that they should be considered employees and should receive insurance and other benefits. After weeks without paychecks, most of the drivers have returned to work.

At the council session, leaders of the trucker’s union said that companies often force the drivers to haul overweight or hazardous loads under threat of being blacklisted. Council members approved a motion that asks for reports from the Harbor Commission on those charges, and reports from the Los Angeles and port police forces on the companies’ conduct during labor demonstrations. The council did not set a deadline for those reports.