Category Archives: Work world

EXCLUSIVE: 70,000 Trucker Owner/Operators to Be Forced Out of Business in California: Supply Chain Breakdown

Source: EXCLUSIVE: 70,000 Trucker Owner/Operators to Be Forced Out of Business in California: Supply Chain Breakdown – American Faith

Truckers are suffering under a state rule that has carved out exceptions for multiple other industries.

  • Roughly 70,000 truck owner-operators in the state of California are facing job loss due to state-level labor laws that could put them out of business.
  • California Assembly Bill 5, introduced by former state Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D), was signed into law in September 2019 by California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
  • AB5 defined the truckers as independent contractors and banned them from working in the state, making their jobs as they have been performed for decades, illegal.
  • The implementation of the law has been under an injunction for over two years, but that is coming to an end this week.
  • Christian Zuniga, the owner of Pacific Expressway Inc., estimates that independent contractors make up around half the truckers that move product through the ports of California. Other reports estimate that independent truckers might make up as much as 90% of trucks that serve the port on a daily basis.
  • California’s ports serve as the point of entry for around 40% of the products that enter the United States, making California’s rule potentially crippling for the nation’s already strained supply chain.
  • Zuniga, whose company owns its own vehicles and works with contractors to coordinate product movement, said the state is creating a disruption in the supply chain by enforcing AB5 on truckers and not other industries such as hairdressers, and golf instructors, etc.
  • The business owner has organized protests to fight back against what he believes is an orchestrated attack on an industry known to be heavily Hispanic and unlikely to lobby lawmakers and other groups to create a carve-out for their workers.
  • If AB5 is left untouched, trucking companies will be forced to figure out how to absorb the truckers into their businesses, in a way that allows them to move to pay additional taxes and state-required insurance on the drivers who were previously self-employed.
  • Zuniga is asking the labor commissioner to give the trucking industry the same allowances other groups have enjoyed, saying in a statement to American Faith, “Just give us an opportunity as the other industries that have lobbied to carve out their own piece to be able to be legal … [as in] If you’re able to do 123, you can work.”
  • In addition to the frustration with the supply chain issues, Zuniga said this feels like an attack on the Hispanic community: “The Hispanic community has been known to keep their head down and just work. We will take all the issues and subjugation and just work because we have to take care of our families.”
  • “Now, I feel we are targeted because we won’t complain the way the real estate community did by getting an exception. Because we really just want to work, to move the goods to keep America moving,” Zuniga said during an interview with American Faith.
  • The trucking company owner said he believes lawmakers have exploited his community’s ignorance about many of the legal issues at play, as well as independent truckers’ lack of unionization, to allow this law to take effect.
  • The issue of the eradication of owner/operator truckers is also a personal one to Zuniga, who said that his family is where they are because of his father’s ability to live out the American dream through independent contracting.
  • “The reason it bothers me so much, and I’m so in support of [independent contractors], even though the bulk of my fleet is employees, is that my father started as an owner operator. And if he didn’t have that opportunity I wouldn’t be where I am and wouldn’t have the opportunities that I have.”
  • Truckers have begun protesting at the ports, and one such event that took place Wednesday is said to have delayed the Los Angeles freeways.
  • The California Highway Patrol reported that the convoy has caused traffic problems on the highways and delayed work due to picketing the entrance to the port complex.
  • The Supreme Court previously declined to review the truckers’ appeal, allowing the industry to be subject to AB5 starting this week.
  • Another protest will be taking place at the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles on Friday.

For White-Collar Workers, It’s Prime Time to Get a Big Raise

WSJ, By Sarah Chaney Cambon, 2/21/2022

White-collar professionals are reaping big pay gains as worker bargaining power spreads across the U.S. economy and shows early signs of durability.

Wall Street banks are boosting compensation for employees. Consumer lenders are seeing their biggest pay bumps in more than a decade. Legal firms are raising wages aggressively as burned-out workers flee the industry.

Pay for finance, information and professional employees rose 4.4% in January from a year earlier, outpacing 4% wage growth for all workers, according to the Atlanta Fed’s wage tracker.

Workers in higher-wage sectors experienced the fastest month-over-month earnings growth in January, Labor Department data showed. Wages in the professional and business services sector—which includes jobs in management, law and engineering—rose 0.8% in January from a month earlier. That was well above a 0.1% wage increase in leisure and hospitality.

“For most of last year, wage growth was really strong for lots of low-wage workers,” said Nick Bunker, economist at jobs site Indeed. “Now, the overall labor market is just tighter and that is boosting the bargaining power of the rest of the workforce.”

Workers like Andrew Eberle are benefiting. Mr. Eberle, 30 years old, started a remote business analyst job in the Phoenix area in mid-2020, shortly before he graduated from a master’s degree program in analytics. He said he enjoyed that position but was spending a lot of time refreshing Excel charts; he wanted a position where he could more deeply analyze and visualize data.

Such an opportunity came last year as more companies shifted to longer-term remote work because of the pandemic. Mr. Eberle took a remote job as a business analyst for a California-based company in a role that boosted his salary to $80,000, a big step up from his previous pay of about $67,000.

“I feel like everything happened at the right time for me and where I was going,” the Chandler, Ariz., resident said. In his new position, Mr. Eberle analyzes contract-worker compensation data for big companies.

The pandemic economy isn’t all good news for workers. Annual inflation is running above 7%, the highest in 40 years, meaning rising prices are wiping out wage gains for many. Workers could start to see their extra dollars go further if inflation cools while wage growth remains elevated.

How to Read the Jobs Report

How to Read the Jobs Report
The monthly jobs report reveals key indicators about the labor market and the overall state of the economy, but it doesn’t show the entire picture. WSJ explains how to read the report, what it shows and what it doesn’t. Photo illustration: Liz Ornitz

Pay is rising, in part, because companies can’t find enough workers. The supply of labor shrank at the onset of Covid-19. It remains depressed because of an acceleration in retirements and millions of people sitting on the sidelines due to child-care issues, Covid-19 illnesses and burnout.

Many workers in the law industry, burned out from 90-hour weeks and holiday hours, left during the pandemic, said Chere Estrin, who runs a legal staffing firm.

A lot of law firms “are in a panic because they can’t get people to do the work,” Ms. Estrin said. “I have never seen anything like this.”

Chere Estrin, who runs a legal staffing firm, said many law firms are unable to find people to fill certain in-demand roles.

Some specialized workers, such as corporate paralegals, are in particularly short supply, in part because schools aren’t churning out enough graduates for certain in-demand roles, she said. As a result, some corporate paralegals can now demand nearly as much pay as an associate lawyer. Ms. Estrin is helping fill a senior corporate paralegal role for up to $195,000 a year, plus overtime, a hiring bonus and a year-end bonus—a higher rate than she has ever seen.

“They could come away with $300,000, easily,” Ms. Estrin said. “You could buy a house for that.”

Some economists are optimistic that more people will return to the labor force. Others don’t expect the supply of workers to quickly bounce back.

Labor constraints, such as population aging, immigration restrictions and changing work-life preferences, will linger, Alex Domash and Lawrence Summers of Harvard University said in a new working research paper. Meanwhile, businesses will continue to pay workers more as they seek to fill job openings, putting greater pressure on inflation, the two economists contend.

With the price increases, some individuals are coming out ahead even though many aren’t. For instance, workers who switch jobs in finance, accounting, technology and legal are often seeing pay raises that exceed inflation, said Paul McDonald, senior executive director at professional staffing firm Robert Half.

Mr. Eberle’s pay increase of nearly 20% is outpacing costs for many services, allowing him to spend on travel—including a recent trip to the Oregon coast with his wife—and other experiences.

“I feel like we have wiggle room to do things—to go out to eat dinner, to have date nights or go on weekend trips—and not feel crunched,” he said.

Still, Mr. Eberle is holding off on buying a car and isn’t putting a down payment on a house as prices surge. Mr. Eberle also noticed the $70 cost to fill up the tank of his Jeep Grand Cherokee is much higher than it used to be.

Economic research suggests there is a tight link between rates of worker resignations and wage gains. About 3.6% of workers in professional and business services quit their jobs in December, up from 2.8% at the start of 2021. That suggests wage growth in some white-collar roles could continue to run hot.

Job switchers are seeing the strongest wage growth, but companies are feeling pressure to raise pay for their current employees, too. Firms are trying to retain workers amid poaching attempts; in other cases, they are aiming to keep up with the rising cost of living. Annual wages for people staying in their jobs grew by 3.7% last month, up from 3.1% in January 2021, according to the Atlanta Fed.

Wall Street banks are paying up to keep their employees from jumping ship. JPMorgan Chase & Co. last month said it had spent an additional $3.6 billion on compensation in 2021.

“There’s a lot more compensation for our top bankers and traders and managers,” said JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Jamie Dimon in an earnings call last month. “We will be competitive in pay. If that squeezes margins a little bit for shareholders, so be it.”

The Wall Street Journal wants to hear from you. Has your pay changed recently? Did you switch jobs or get a raise in your current role?


How to Make a Living

One of the best articles on the value of being able to write clearly and concisely that I have read in a long time.

WSJ 8/30/2018
As a 20-year-old graduate student in creative writing, I asked a professor how to submit work for publication. “If you’re already worried about publishing,” he said, “you’re not a serious writer.”

I was serious—and desperate to learn how to make a living with the literary craft I’d been studying. But nobody in my program would discuss it. After two degrees in six years of higher education, I didn’t even know how to write a cover letter to submit the pages I’d spent years perfecting. It took decades of missteps and failures for me finally to figure out how to pay my bills as an author, freelancer and adjunct professor.

Later, teaching journalism myself, I wanted to help my students get on a faster track for success. I was disappointed by the administration’s dismissive attitude about helping students get bylines, jobs, literary agents or teaching gigs. My department heads pushed me to assign my classes 8,000word, third-person term papers instead of the shorter pieces editors wanted. “We don’t care about publication or payments,” one said. “We’re not a trade school.” Many in liberal-arts education cling to this lofty, elitist opinion that it’s sinful to discuss any remuneration. Top journalism schools and master’s programs in the fine arts charge as much as $60,000 a year for tuition—similar to that of business, medical and law schools. But unlike those other fields, they rarely teach their students how to gets jobs and income.

I remember how confused and frustrated I was by the discrepancy between what top schools offer and what’s needed to launch a profitable career. It’s a glaring gap, as if the faculty believe wanting to support yourself with the subject you study is greedy and shameful.

That’s why I began sharing practical information in my journalism, nonfiction and creative- writing classes. I found that helping a diverse group of students land articles, internships, jobs, agents, editors and teaching positions was empowering and transformative.

An African-American Navy vet landed a full-time job in a hospital after writing a poignant op-ed describing how he’d become temporarily homeless when he returned home with service-related injuries. A 21-year-old protégée of mine wrote an essay explaining why she dropped out of college after a sexual assault, and was able to help other young women with a book and paid lectures for the Rape, Abuse & Incest Network. A Latino mother’s articles about her prepartum depression landed her a literary agent and a teaching job. A Bosnian Muslim survivor of ethnic cleansing became a spokesman against genocide after his published articles struck a chord, earning as much as $7,000 for speeches around the country.

Learning to write succinct three-page essays, strong opinionated arguments and concise emails can be useful in any field. In all of my classes and seminars, I assign short cover letters, too. Every year it astounds me that top colleges neglect this simple art. An expensive university education should at least arm students with the skills they’ll need to pay for it.

Ms. Shapiro, a New School professor, is a co-author of “The Byline Bible: Get Published in Five Weeks.”


Last of the Over-The-Road Men

This one for a good friend who lived this life for a while.  Mr. Cohen has some wistful dreams, but I do wonder how many miles, and days, he actually spent in the seat he dreams about.

THE REPORT was supposed to reassure those worried about the fate of the American trucker. Last week, Uber Advanced Technologies Group explained to the world that the coming gizmos, such as Uber’s giant cargo automatons (driverless semis), won’t wipe out real truckers but will, in fact, give them better work/life balance. After all, someone will have to handle local transfers and deliveries for all the items carried cross-country by the sleepless trucking machines. And just think how great it will be for the drivers, liberated from those endless cannonball runs.

It’s enough to make me weep.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to drive a truck—not just any kind of truck, not a mail truck, not a septic truck, not a tool-filled, open-backed landscaping truck that rattles over suburban root buckles and certainly not an Uber delivery truck. I wanted to be mounted high on a big rig—a smoke-spewing, hornblasting 18-wheeled monster with a western sunset airbrushed on the side, the cabin roof lined with orange warning lights that glow on the evening interstate. Growing up in the Midwest in the ’70s, I’d gaze at those rigs on family road trips, imagining the wanton lives of nomadic truckers, the pleasures of the highway, back roads and sleepy diners, a life as free as life in the saddle must have been before the frontier closed.

Truck drivers were everywhere in pop culture, celebrated as cowboys and renegades. I can still hear those big-rig ballads: “East Bound and Down,” “Truck Drivin’ Man,” “Diesel Driving Daddy.” They were paired with a library of epic films: “Smokey and the Bandit,” in which Jackie Gleason chases Burt Reynolds all over the Confederacy; “Every Which Way But Loose,” with a bare-chested Clint Eastwood and his simian sidekick; Sam Peckinpah’s “Convoy,” adapted from the C.W. Mc-Call and Chip Davis song “Convoy” (“’Bout a mile outta Shaky Town/ I says, ‘Pig Pen, this here’s the Rubber Duck/ And I’m about to put the hammer down’ ”). Kris Kistofferson, who plays the Rubber Duck, sums up the ethos: “The purpose of the convoy is to keep moving.” Bobtailing, dead-heading, code talking with handles on CB radios, outrunning Smokey, cursing the bunny hoppers, flashing the flashers so another driver can “slip the Kojak with the Kodak”—these phrases, like the songs and the movies, formed the dreamscape of the nation when I was a boy.

In a world filled with commuters and compact cars, office drones and office jobs, the long-haul trucker seemed to be the last free man, all that remained of the rootless America that kept going till it ran out of road. When I was 10 or 12, there were several TV commercials for truck-driving schools. These ran midday, between reruns of “The Munsters” and “Hazel.” My favorite opened with shots of a Freightliner zooming through iconic American locales—Monument Valley, the Black Hills, the Salt Flats—as a narrator asked: “Do you dream of driving the big rigs?”

It filled me with images of wide-open landscapes, small towns where the brakes moan as the trucker descends from his cabin like a king descending from a throne, waitresses swarming him with hugs and coffee kisses. I was mesmerized by pictures I had seen of especially well-appointed rigs. The bedroom behind the driver’s cabin—a jewel box of domesticity, a hidden through-the-looking-glass world.

I read up on the best truck stops. The Dixie Truckers Home (now called the Dixie Travel Plaza), off Route 66 in McLean, Ill.—founded in 1928, the oldest truck stop in the world. The Bosselman Travel Center in Grand Isle, Neb., where trucks idled as drivers wandered the food court or visited the onsite chiropractor. R-Place in Morris, Ill., known for the Ethyl Burger—2 pounds of beef! The Iowa 80, the world’s largest truck stop. Laundry room? Check. Theater showing truck-themed movies? Check. Trucking museum featuring 60 vintage trucks, pumps from vintage gas stations and old-time road signs? Check. Stationed in my booth at a Howard Johnson’s, I’d watch a truck gear down to a ghostly crawl and wait to hear the hiss of air breaks. The door would swing open and out came a big rigger in denim and flannel, smiling as he crossed the apron. Those truckers looked the way a man was supposed to look—burly and mean, in CAT baseball caps, lips fat with Skoal, eyes glazed, the vacant stare of highway hypnosis, 1,000 miles behind, 1,000 still to go.

They did not say yes, but “affirmative.” They did not say “speeding ticket,” but “bear bite.” They called the speed limit a “double nickel.” A cop on a motorcycle was an “Evel Knievel.” Any place they’d left behind was in their back pocket. A female cop was a “lady bear.” A man who talked tough on the CB but wilted face to face was a “Rambo.” If you wanted another driver to accelerate, you said, “Stand on it, son.”

These drivers scared me—they were experi-enced in a way that I wanted to become. I en-vied them. I’d argue that it was the last time a blue-collar American workingman was thought to stand not only for us but for the best of us. The ’70s were the golden era for the trucker. From there, every step was down. He fell out of favor in the 1980s—goodbye to the working-class hero, so long to the proletarian ideal. After Ronald Reagan, it was all about money, about living in the best part of the best town—yup-pies climbing the ladder. Now, of course, most of those empty blue roads are lined with shopping malls, and we leave finding the best route to GPS, not to know-how gathered by long experience. The combus-tion engine, the great beating heart of truck cul-ture, has been turned from hero to villain—the great enemy of our warming planet. The self-driving truck, which those engineers at Uber and elsewhere are perfecting as we speak, might very well be the last nail in the coffin.

The trucker of my teenage dreams needed a frontier, a hinterland of unspoiled space, an authentic, less settled nation he could vanish into. Being a long-haul hero meant getting off the map, being free. But nowadays it’s no lon-ger possible to get off the map. Because there is only the map. The trucker went away like the trapper, the cowboy, the biplane pilot and the professional daredevil. But there must still be a free person out there, on some road that’s not yet been paved. I see him in my mind just before I fall asleep—in a big silver Freightliner, barreling down a lost highway, the dust rising in a great cloud behind.

Mr. Cohen’s most recent books are “The Chi-cago Cubs: Story of a Curse” and “The Sun & the Moon & the Rolling Stones.”