Senator Lara Introduces ‘Dignity in the Driver’s Seat’ Bill to End Rampant Exploitation of Port Truckers

April 11, 2018

Mayors of Long Beach, Los Angeles, and Oakland united in support of Senate Bill 1402, which holds major retailers liable when trucking companies break labor laws

SACRAMENTO, CA – Today Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) introduced Senate Bill 1402 to end the rampant exploitation of truck drivers who haul cargo from California’s ports.

More than a decade of court rulings, media stories and independent reports have revealed extensive labor violations in the port trucking industry, which employs an estimated 25,000 drivers.

“Port truckers are driving the global economy and delivering for the biggest brands but they can barely afford to buy clothes for their families,” said Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens). “These used to be good jobs, and they can be good jobs again if retailers join us in improving labor conditions here in California and putting dignity back in the driver’s seat.”

Senator Lara represents the Port of Long Beach, which with its neighbor Port of Los Angeles is the nation’s largest megaport and handles one-quarter of the nation’s cargo container traffic.

SB 1402 makes retailers jointly liable for violations of state labor and employment laws when they hire port trucking companies with unpaid final judgments for failure to pay wages, imposing unlawful expenses on employees, failure to remit payroll taxes or provide worker’s compensation insurance, misclassifying employees and other violations.

The bill will create a list of trucking companies who have failed to pay final judgments. Retailers hiring port trucking companies with final judgments would be liable for future state labor and employment law violations by these companies.

The mayors representing California’s three largest ports -- Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf -- joined Senator Lara in support of SB 1402.

“While we have some great trucking companies working at the ports, we need to fix our system to make sure all truckers are treated fairly,” said Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia. “We need to raise standards, and wages, in the industry while increasing efficiency to make sure our ports continue to be engines of growth.”

“The hard work and dedication of truck drivers literally helps drive our regional economy,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “Senator Lara’s legislation SB 1402 will protect their rights and hold exploitive companies accountable, and restore dignity and respect to our state’s port truckers.”

“Truck drivers at our ports do tremendous work to keep goods moving and our economy growing — and they deserve fair wages and good working conditions,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “Senator Lara’s bill is a good step toward a more just drayage trucking industry across California.”

Examples of exploitation of port truck drivers include:

  • An investigation by USA Today found that “port trucking companies in Southern California have spent the past decade forcing drivers to finance their own trucks by taking on debt they could not afford.” The investigation found instances where drivers “end up owing money to their employers – essentially working for free.”
  • The California Labor Commissioner’s Office has won in excess of $45 million in judgments for more than 400 drivers. No higher court has overturned any of these awards on appeal.
  • Drayage drivers at California ports are routinely misclassified as independent contractors when they in fact work as employees under California and federal labor laws – contributing to wage theft and leaving drivers in a cycle of poverty.
  • Port drayage drivers are a largely immigrant workforce and particularly vulnerable to labor exploitation.

"I live near the harbor and my family wants clean air as much our neighbors do. But laws need to be passed so misclassified drivers like me are not forced to pay for expensive new zero emissions trucks that I do not own,” said Manuel Martines, a port truck driver from Los Angeles. “If something isn’t done, drivers will have to go on strike again at the ports to protest our unjust treatment – I will have no choice."

SB 1402 is sponsored by the Teamsters Public Affairs Council and the California Labor Federation.