Drivers

Bill Would Hold Retailers Liable for Trucking Company Labor Violations

April 13, 2018

By Steven Martinez

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A new bill in California would punish retailers for working with port trucking companies that have been found in violation of labor and employement laws. Photo: Port of Long Beach
A new bill in California would punish retailers for working with port trucking companies that have been found in violation of labor and employement laws. Photo: Port of Long Beach

California state Sen. Ricardo Lara introduced a bill that would hold major retailers liable when trucking companies break labor laws, sparked by allegations of misconduct by some port drayage companies.

The bill is another attempt to solve the ongoing “driver misclassification” issue at the twin Southern California ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Cities such as Los Angeles have been exploring ways to pressure trucking companies into compliance in the past few months, and this bill is the latest effort by state legislators. 

Drivers who are considered independent contractors, rather than employees, are not afforded the same wages, benefits, and security of full employees. Several class-action lawsuits have been filed against port trucking companies to compensate drivers for what they say is due them. The idea behind the bill is to force trucking companies into compliance by hitting them in the wallet.

“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 Sen. Lara. “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.”

The bill, SB 1402, would make retailers liable for hiring port trucking companies with unpaid final judgements related to labor and employment law violations. Violations can include failure to pay proper wages or benefits to drivers or imposing unlawful expenses on them. It would create a list of trucking companies that failed to pay final judgements. If retailers hire any of the companies on the list to move goods in and out of the ports, they will also be held liable for future state labor and employment law violations by these companies.

The bill is supported by the mayors representing California’s three largest ports, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

“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 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.”

There is tension between trucking industry members and labor advocates in the state on whether a problem actually exists. But proponents of change, such as Sen. Lara and the advocacy group Justice for Port Truck Drivers, say drivers are being improperly classified as independent contractors when the drivers have little freedom to choose when and where to work. In some instances, drivers are locked into truck leases that effectively prevent them from working for more than one company and are so expensive that the take-home pay is minimal.

In the past few years, trucking companies that serve these Southern California ports have been hit with multiple lawsuits for this issue, tallying millions of dollars in judgements. The California Labor Commission has generally ruled in favor of drivers in these lawsuits, and the issue has received more public attention through a controversial USA Today series that highlighted the plight of some drivers who were struggling to make a living wage while illegally working long hours.

The Harbor Trucking Association, which represents many of the trucking companies servicing the ports in Southern California, has called the reports misleading, saying USA Today sensationalized the industry by cherry-picking the worst cases. And the stance from the HTA has been that trucking companies have a right choose their business model and that drivers have the right to choose their employment status. Other groups, such as the California Trucking Association, believe that enforcing this proposed rule would only exacerbate the driver shortage

Comments

  1. 1. Steve [ April 16, 2018 @ 04:32AM ]

    Most truckers work for less than minimum wage when all hours are considered.

  2. 2. Richard Davis [ April 16, 2018 @ 10:21AM ]

    Drivers have been getting screwed for years. As soon as someone gets their CDL, they automatically lose some of their rights as American citizens. So it is time to start getting paid for having a CDL. Drivers need to be paid for every hour, once they clock-in. No more giving places 2 hours 3 or 4 hours of free time. Drivers really don't have a say in how their day goes, it all depends on other people or circumstances. I hope the so-called driver shortage gets worse, that will mean more money for the drivers staying in it.

  3. 3. Terrence Zignego [ April 16, 2018 @ 10:58AM ]

    Steven,
    You write an article 10 paragraphs long and only the last 1 has any mention of the "other " side. You don't do the story justice with such an obviously 1 sided report.
    Sounds like a law to force all the truckers to join unions , so they can help pay for promotion of Leftist politicians, so they can vote in union monopolies over port trucking.

  4. 4. Steven Martinez [ April 16, 2018 @ 12:20PM ]

    Terrence,

    You bring up a good point that there are multiple valid ways to look at what this proposed bill wants to address. Our intent with this story is strictly news oriented and in this case the news is that a new bill was proposed. We also needed to include some explanation of the issue for context because it's primarly an issue for California and ports of LA and Long Beach and may not be widely known.

    If the bill or something similar were to gain momentum and potentially become law, we would certainly do a deeper dive into the issue that would have to include more perspective from affected trucking companies and groups like the HTA, Western States Trucking Association, ATA, and CTA.

    The port labor issue, or non-issue, has been an ongoing one for several years, so far resulting in small lawsuits and protests, but since USA Today published its article series on port trucking last year, more politicians have started to bring attention to it so there may soon be a larger discussion that needs to be had.

    I encourage you to read some of our past coverage of the ports that includes more comments from trucking business interests with a different perspective. I linked to some of those stories in this story, but there are many more like it if you are interested.

    Thanks for reaching out.

  5. 5. Charlie [ April 16, 2018 @ 12:53PM ]

    When will they enforce against ILLEGAL alien labor ??

  6. 6. Charlie [ April 16, 2018 @ 12:56PM ]

    Most slum Mega Fleets are rolling sweat shops, paying LESS than minimum labor. SWIFT, JB HUNT, CR ENGLAND, SCHNEIDER, SHAEFFER, US EXPRESS , etc etc etc

  7. 7. Charlie [ April 16, 2018 @ 12:57PM ]

    Trucking companies should be forced to pay a HOURLY wage instead of rate per mile!!!!!, it makes the roads more dangerous chasing miles to get paid.

 

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