Menards truckers aren’t technically employees. They’re “independent contractors,” a designation that allows Menards to avoid paying for their healthcare or any other benefits.
But while Menards doesn't offer the benefits of employment, it doesn't short all the restrictions. The truckers aren’t allowed to haul for competitors for up to a year after ending their contract. If they turn down a job because the compensation isn’t worth the time and the gas, they’re never given more work. And they’re forced to sign away the right to participate in class-action lawsuits.
“They work when Menards wants them to work,” says Seth Goldstein of the Office and Professional Employees International Union. “They have to buy a special truck that Menards has designed, so once they’re done with these trucks, they’re worthless. They basically don’t have any of the benefits of being an employee, but they have all the control aspects.”
Last week the National Labor Relations Board weighed testimony from both truckers and the company to conclude that the Eau Claire home improvement chain had again violated labor law by misclassifying its drivers. In short, it was paying them like contractors, but treating them like employees. (Menards ran afoul of the feds last year for making people sign mandatory arbitration agreements as a term of employment.)
If Menards doesn’t settle and make amends this time, the NLRB will take the company to court. A hearing is scheduled for April 4 in Minneapolis.
According to one Minnesotan driver who declined to be named because he’s set to testify, Menards “promised you the sun and the moon to get you under that contract, and once you were under it, you were under it. But we never made what they projected.”
Instead, he would average 70 hours a week (without overtime) in the summer, and only five to 10 hours a week in the winter. He spengt half the year sitting on his hands because his contract prohibited him from hauling for other big companies. Anytime Menards called to make a delivery on short notice, he’d have to drop everything and go or get cut on the spot. He missed his son’s sixth birthday that way.
No other company has treated him that way, the driver says.
“We starved running for Menards.”
Menards issued a statement in response to the NLRB finding:
“Our corporation has contracts with various corporations to deliver goods to our customers. These corporations include FedEx, UPS, the United States Postal Service, Stephens Delivery Inc., Quick Hauling Inc., Rhodes Delivery Service, R & R Delivery, Spee-Dee Delivery Service, and more than 500 other corporations.”
“We are puzzled why the NLRB is involved with this because we have no disputes with any of these corporations or any of their employees. We believe that ultimately the charge will be dismissed because it lacks any merit.”
Goldstein calls it a red herring because Menards' contracts with "various corporations" have nothing to do with its contracts with independent truckers.
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