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WSLC: Don’t allow industry to take away truckers’ rest breaks

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Labor joins Sen. Murray, public safety advocates in fighting industry effort to take away truckers’ rest and meal breaks

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nov. 11, 2019) — The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO has joined dozens of public safety, consumer and labor organizations in urging the federal government to reject a request by the commercial trucking industry to preempt Washington state law and exempt truck drivers from meal and rest breaks.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently granted a similar request by the trucking industry to exempt drivers from California’s rest and meal break laws, a move that is being challenged in court. But now the Washington Trucking Associations, Inc. (WTA) has petitioned for a similar exemption in Washington.

“The Washington meal and rest law was specifically designed to reduce worker fatigue and to protect workers and the general public from workplace accidents, injuries, and deaths,” reads a letter signed by the WSLC and other organizations to the FMCSA last week. “The WTA petition, which asks for an FMCSA ruling covering one class of workers in one state, is an egregious attack on one state’s employment law and states’ rights generally.”

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) has also weighed in against the request, leading a group of lawmakers in urging Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to halt efforts to improperly override worker protections for truckers in Washington state.

“Make no mistake, the Department of Transportation is overstepping its bounds and curtailing Washington state’s right to protect its workers,” Murray said. “Anyone who has driven on I-5 or I-90 knows truck drivers already work some of the most grueling hours of any workers in the country, and Secretary Chao shouldn’t make this critical job even more taxing by taking away breaks for rest and meals. Trucking is critical to our state’s growers, exporters, consumers and more — ensuring the health, safety and well-being of truck drivers is not only the right thing to do, but crucial for our economy and road safety.”

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the nation’s leading union for truck drivers, strongly opposes the efforts to exempt drivers from rest and meal breaks. When the federal government granted the exemption in California, the union issued a statement calling it “a giveaway to the trucking industry at the expense of driver safety.”

Here is the full letter signed by the WSLC and others to the FMCSA:

November 7, 2019

Administrator Ray Martinez
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE
Washington, DC 20590-0001

Re: FMCSA-2019-0128-0001 Petition for Determination of Preemption: Washington Meal and Rest Break Rules for Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers

Dear Administrator Martinez:

The Washington Trucking Associations, Inc. (WTA) has petitioned for a ruling to preempt Washington State’s longstanding employment law as it pertains to meal and rest break rules for drivers of commercial motor vehicles. We strongly urge you to reject this petition.

WTA argues that since the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) approved (illegally, in our view) the trucking industry’s highly-controversial petition last year to preempt California’s similar employment law, there is no reason to deny WTA’s petition. This is incorrect. In neither case does FMCSA have authority to preempt state employment laws.

The Washington meal and rest law was specifically designed to reduce worker fatigue and to protect workers and the general public from workplace accidents, injuries, and deaths. The law applies to almost all workers generally and was not intended to directly regulate motor carriers.

States have long had the power to regulate the employment relationship and to protect worker health and safety. Washington exercised its traditional power when enacting the meal and rest provision in its administrative code. The WTA petition, which asks for an FMCSA ruling covering one class of workers in one state, is an egregious attack on one state’s employment law and states’ rights generally.

We strongly urge you to reject this petition. Please contact Joanne Doroshow at the Center for Justice & Democracy for more information. joanned@centerjd.org. Thank you for your consideration.

Very sincerely,

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
AFL-CIO
AFT Washington, AFL-CIO
Alliance for Justice
Amalgamated Transit Union
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen -Washington State Legislative Board
Center for Auto Safety
Center for Justice & Democracy
Consumer Action
Consumer Federation of America
Earthjustice
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 751
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers/WoodworkersDistrict Lodge W24
National Association of Consumer Advocates
National Consumers League
National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA)
Network for Environmental & Economic Responsibility of United Church of Christ
Public Citizen
Public Justice
SEIU 925
SMART Transportation Division/United Transportation Union
Texas Watch
Transport Workers Union of America
Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO
U.S. PIRG
UFCW 21
Washington Education Association
Washington State Council of County and City Employees
Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO
WashPIRG

Short URL: https://www.thestand.org/?p=81656

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