Corporate Giant Cal Cartage Sued for Rampant Violations of Los Angeles’ Living Wage Ordinance

Class action lawsuit seeks damages in the millions for more than 500 warehouse workers

(LOS ANGELES – Dec. 18, 2014) On Wednesday, warehouse workers filed a class action lawsuit against California Cartage Company (“Cal Cartage”) and staffing agency SSI Staffing detailing pervasive labor law violations, including the City of Los Angeles Living Wage Ordinance, at the Port of Los Angeles in Wilmington, California, where Cal Cartage leases a mammoth three-warehouse facility from the City of Los Angeles to move products for big box retailers like K-Mart, Toys R Us, Sears and Home Depot.  The warehouse workers are represented by a team of lawyers from Bet Tzedek Legal Services, Bush Gottlieb and Traber & Voorhees.

“Cal Cartage has reaped substantial profits as one of the largest warehouse operators at the Port of Los Angeles.  Rather than meet its obligations to pay workers in its facility a living wage, it instead subcontracted most of the jobs to a staffing company that pays barely more than the minimum wage.  These workers are filing suit to put an end to this exploitation,” says Theresa Traber,  a partner at Traber Voorhees and one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs.

Under the Living Wage Ordinance, Cal Cartage is required to provide more than 500 workers in the warehouse facility with certain wages and benefits because it holds a “proprietary lease” with the City.  The law extends the obligation to SSI Staffing, Cal Cartage’s subcontractor who directly employs more than 80 percent of workers in the warehouse facility.

Julie Gutman Dickinson, a partner at Bush  Gottlieb  and also an attorney for the plaintiffs, adds: “The City has a substantial interest in ensuring that the workers in these crucial warehouse operations at the Port are properly compensated, not only to reduce turnover and increase the quality of services, but also to provide employees with a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work so they have sufficient income to live in Los Angeles.  Cal Cartage is one of the biggest and wealthiest players in the logistics industry today, and it is unconscionable that it fails to ensure workers a living wage at its warehouse operations.”

The lawsuit also alleges other labor violations, including denial of “show up” pay for days when workers were required to report but sent home and for failure to pay for all hours worked.

Carlos Ayala, a forklift driver who has worked in the Cal Cartage warehouse facility since 2010, currently earns $9.50 per hour.  He receives no health benefits and is given four paid days off per year.  Under the Living Wage Ordinance, he should be earning either $12.28 per hour for an all-cash wage or $11.03 per hour plus $1.25 per hour in health benefits, and is entitled to 12 paid days off per year.  “I work hard to make ends meet, but it’s just not possible in Los Angeles without being paid a living wage.  An extra hundred dollars per week would go a long way towards paying the bills or buying groceries,” says Ayala.

The plaintiffs sought assistance from Warehouse Workers Resource Center who in turn connected them with lawyers at Bush Gottlieb, Traber & Voorhees and Bet Tzedek Legal Services.

About Bush Gottlieb

Founded in 1970, the firm Bush Gottlieb is dedicated to the practice of law to advance the cause of working people. The firm’s attorneys appear and advocate regularly throughout the nation before federal, state and local courts, administrative agencies and arbitration panels in their representation of unions, collectively bargained trust funds, and employees, with respect to a broad range of labor relations and employment matters, including wage and hour lawsuits.

About Traber & Voorhees

Traber & Voorhees is one of the most prominent public interest law firms in California, with an established wage-and-hour class action practice.  The firm represents plaintiffs in a variety of complex litigation matters, including cases involving wage-and-hour violations, police and prison guard abuse, employment discrimination and harassment, civil liberties and privacy violations and international human rights violations.

About Bet Tzedek

Founded in 1974, Bet Tzedek pursues equal justice for all by providing high-quality, free legal services to low-income, disabled and elderly people of all racial and religious backgrounds. One of the nation’s premier public interest law firms, Bet Tzedek uses direct legal service, impact litigation, community outreach and legislative advocacy in the areas of consumer rights, employment rights, elder justice/caregiver law, Holocaust reparations, housing, human trafficking, public benefits and real estate to serve more than 20,000 people every year.

CONTACT:  

Theresa Traber, Traber & Voorhees, (626) 585-9611, tmt@tvlegal.com

Julie Gutman Dickinson, Bush Gottlieb, (213) 200-0260,  jgutmandickinson@bushgottlieb.com

Kirsty Burkhart, Bet Tzedek, (323) 549-5802, kburkhart@bettzedek.org

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