Senate Votes to End Rampant Exploitation of Port Truckers

May 31, 2018

Senate Bill 1402 would allow California to hold major retailers liable when trucking companies break labor laws

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

More than 40 percent of U.S. shipping-container traffic flows through the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland. But because of abuse of independent contractor rules, port truck drivers face wage theft and illegal pay deductions while hauling goods for the world’s biggest brands.

“Port truck drivers are essential to the global supply chain, but this economic engine is delivering misery not opportunity for thousands of drivers,” said Senator Lara. “Retailers have been leaders in ending exploitive work across the world. They can use their market power here in California to help American workers and create good jobs.”

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 labor law 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.

An investigation last year 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.”

Port drayage drivers are a largely immigrant workforce and particularly vulnerable to labor exploitation.

SB 1402 is sponsored by the Teamsters Public Affairs Council and the California Labor Federation and has support from the Natural Resources Defense Council and numerous community and social justice groups.