Legislature Acts to Curb Rampant Exploitation of Port Truck Drivers

August 31, 2018

Under Senate Bill 1402, retailers could face joint liability when hiring trucking companies that break state labor laws

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

Governor Brown has until September 30 to sign, veto or allow SB 1402 to become law.

More than 40 percent of U.S. shipping-container traffic moves through the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland. But California’s 25,000 port truck drivers routinely face wage theft and illegal pay deductions while hauling goods for the world’s biggest brands.

“Port truckers are delivering for the world’s biggest brands, but working for poverty wages. California’s economic engine does not go without them, and they need to share in the benefits,” said Senator Ricardo Lara, who represents the Port of Long Beach and the busy freight corridor connecting it to the rest of the country. “Retailers have been leaders in ending exploitation in overseas factories. They can be a force in creating good jobs for American workers here at home.”

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 – and home to well-documented labor abuses.

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.”

The California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement has won more than $45 million on behalf of 400 individual drivers.

“For far too long, we have been filing claims with the State Labor Commissioner in order to fight our misclassification and to seek lost wages that the companies we work for have been pocketing,” said Domingo Avalos, a driver for XPO Logistics. “We know the value of our hard work, and that our communities depend on the commerce we move. It’s high time companies stop turning a blind eye to the indignities we’ve endured for years. We’re hopeful that retailers will get off the sidelines and stand with us in this fight.”

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 as independent contractors, and other labor law violations.

Under SB 1402, port trucking companies will have access to a list of trucking companies who have failed to pay final judgments, prepared by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. Retailers hiring port trucking companies with final judgments would be liable for future state labor and employment law violations by these scofflaw trucking 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.

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.