Notes From the Underground Economy

Are companies at the Port of Long Beach cheating truckers out of their rightful wages?

*     *     *

Charles Criddell's open and confident approach to talking about his experience as a port trucker and a member of the underground economy is living proof of what truckers once had and what they currently face. The 59-year-old showed up in a Corvette for an interview for this story at a baseball field in Corona, where children were practicing their batting.

"I'm one of these kind of guys," says Criddell over the crack of the baseball bat. "I don't feel like I have to stay anywhere. When the opportunity knocks, I move."

Lining up for the day's loads
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Lining up for the day's loads
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His entrepreneurial spirit has caused him to jump into many different businesses. In 1979, Criddell started driving a truck for Shell Oil in Wilmington as an employee with benefits. After being laid off, he found a job with Lucky Supermarkets and joined the Teamsters. He went to a couple of other trucking companies over 16 years as a union driver. But in the 1990s, he stopped trucking, switched careers and decided to work in real estate. "Am I going to make $400 to $500 a day—or am I going to make $5,000?" he asks rhetorically.

On his right hand is a ring worthy of a Super Bowl victory, a souvenir from his onetime travel business. Criddell says he made good money in real estate until the market crashed, and he decided to re-enter trucking. At the time, most companies required drivers to have three consecutive years under their belts, so he tried to work at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles as an independent contractor. "I established the mindset of getting paid off your efforts," Cridell says. "So whatever I put in, I would get out. . . . I never wanted to put myself in a situation where I worked by the hour."

He believed that as an independent contractor, money would come in, that it all depended on his work ethic. The first company he worked for was Fox Transportation in Rancho Cucamonga. "To be perfectly honest with you," Criddell says, "I did well. I started in July 2009, and by July 2010, I grossed $208,000. In 2011, I grossed $108,000."

Criddell opens a folder and starts leafing through some paperwork. Criddell shows me his "Non-Sleeper" Vehicle Lease Agreement, a statement outlining deduction details, and a copy of his Independent Motor Carrier Agreement from Fox Transportation. While $208,000 sounds like a lot of money, the amount Criddell says actually went "in his pocket" was $60,000 to $70,000. Though it sounds like a good living, he says, he had to work more than the legal limit to make his desired income; 18-hour days on five hours of sleep were the norm.

"But I had to work that way in order to make the income," Criddell says. "Because [port companies] dictate what you get paid for each load. . . . Even though they want to call you an independent contractor, you can't go in there and say, 'I don't want to do this run for $200.' . . . You could negotiate that deal if you were truly an independent worker."

Fox Transportation's lease agreement stipulates the lessee can sublease the truck to another driver. But it also says the lessee has the right to take the truck to other companies, though before doing so, the lessee needs to take out a separate insurance policy.

While Criddell doesn't dispute anything in the contract, he maintains that to actually work for other companies was nearly impossible. "What made it difficult was that they said you could go out and do other work," Criddell says, "but before you can do that, you have to do 10 or 12 of their loads. . . . That meant you would have to work day and night."

Criddell no longer works for Fox Transportation or as an independent driver. He believes he was "fired," because the company thought he was talking to Teamsters and the labor board. Fox Transportation declined to comment.

"It's not about the money with me," Criddell says. "It's about the principle. This needs to be changed," he says. "I know that in order for this to change, certain people need to step forward. . . . What they're doing is unjust, and they need to be put on notice."

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16 comments
Bill7456
Bill7456

 I was leaving work and attempting to go home, but my car would not start.  Mike Fox was walking by and asked what was wrong and I said I guess I have a bad battery. Mr. Fox pulled out his wallet and gave me a hundred dollars. He didn't say I had to pay it back, but said you work hard and are having bad luck, I hope this helps. Mr. Fox didn't have to do that. How many other owners of any company would do that for someone in their company?  Bill

KMA367
KMA367

Cry me a river Pedro. I have NO sympathy for these assholes. They busted the union 30 years ago by scabbing and undercutting the legitimate trucking companies. Now they are cry babying all over the place. They made this mess themselves and now they have to live with  it. The CHP needs to set up a road block on the 710 and impound every single one of their unsafe trucks and revoke each and every one of their illegally obtained Class A CDL - through crooked driving schools and equally crooked DMV employees who issue licenses to these obviously unqualified drivers. Get them and their trucks OFF THE ROAD and put legal, safe trucks on the road along with well paid, honest and competent union men to drive them. 

j.john40
j.john40

YEA THOSE GUYS AT FOX TRANSPORTATION ( MIKE AND BRITTNEY FOX ) ARE REAL CROOKS THEY STEAL FROM EVERYBODY AND TREAT THERE EMPLOYEES LIKE CRAP THEY

fretsward
fretsward

Illegitimate parasites now have the temerity to complain about depressed wages.

You can't even make this up. Mexico, the gift that keeps on giving...

Funkyonion
Funkyonion

Beware deception by Teamsters. Just saying....

They play dirty. It is all a snowball clusterflop. People milk work comp. "Just business" tools employees. Unions follow the money without scruples. Argue any side you want; it's blemished.

carlsbadsurfking
carlsbadsurfking

Yea..its a Bracerro Program...just a ripoff..like so MUCH of the trucking business....Thieves,

Crooks, and Liars.......they call themselves..Executives...and Businessmen...how funny....all over

Los Angeles these port trucks are Smashing into Cars....the Bracerro jumps out and runs away...LOL.

carlsbadsurfking
carlsbadsurfking

Sure the driver doesnt make money unless he hauls ass thru traffic

to get a certain amount of trip done per day....you KNOW he is in a Hurry...and SAFETY is

NOT the first thing on his mind..no MONEY is. Hourly wage is better...from a Safety Standpoint..for the general public....FMCSA is now investigating Brokers and Shipper per CSA Program....This operation should be on the top of the list.

Whophantom
Whophantom

This is tantamount to the "bracero program" where you were paid for how much you picked, not how many hours you worked. I'm surprised Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis didn't get involved with this rip off  by Corporate Money Mongers.

GustavoArellano
GustavoArellano moderator editortopcommenter

@KMA367 Wow, what a bunch of nativist bullshit...you sound just like Samuel Gompers railing against Bohunks, you do!

GustavoArellano
GustavoArellano moderator editortopcommenter

@fretsward This story says NOTHING about illegal immigration, yet moron asses like  you will try to make it such. GUESS WHAT?! ILLEGALS MADE YOUR COMPUTER!!!

KMA367
KMA367

@Funkyonion I'd rather share the road with a bunch of UPS Teamster drivers than these idiots!

KMA367
KMA367

@GustavoArellano @fretsward - Then how come all the unsafe, ghetto drivers are MEXICAN? They may not be "Illegal" but they sure are Mexican and they bring all their ignorant Mexican mentality with them.

fretsward
fretsward

@GustavoArellano

Your boy banter, excuse me, ploy unerringly parallels the antediluvian sacred practice of pseud epigraphy whereas an undistinguished writer (cringe), would hide behind generations of illegitimates of the past, claiming venerable authority for his own innovations and psychobabble. Sort of like claiming that the Southwestern United States were owned by Mexico.

An underground economy and having to use interpreters?

You are the quintessential Rham Dass…

 
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