Target, Costco, and Home Depot are among the big-name retail companies that could be held responsible for truck driver abuses at the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Oakland if a new bill passes in California. The bill, SB1402, which cleared the California state assembly on Wednesday, would hold retailers jointly responsible for state labor and employment violations at shipping ports where port trucking companies fail to pay wages, unlawfully pass on expenses to employees, and misclassify employees as independent contractors, among numerous other labor law violations.
Also known as the Dignity in the Driver’s Seat bill, SB1402 is the result of a year of negotiations between trucking companies and retailers including Target. Other retailers have also pledged support for the bill. “We’re committed to the fair treatment of all the drivers and expect the same from our carriers, regardless of legislation,” a Home Depot spokesperson told USA Today.
California state senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) introduced SB1402 in April. Lara argues that in the past, retailers have led on curbing abuses in overseas manufacturing plants. In California, Lara’s law would create a public list of retailers that failed to pay final judgments. And if retail companies hire port trucking companies with final judgments, the retailers would be liable for any future state labor and employment law violations by the scofflaw trucking firms.
— Ricardo Lara (@senricardolara) September 3, 2018
The issue of safety and security for port truck drivers has garnered national attention in the past year, following “Rigged,” a four-part USA Today investigative series that highlighted rampant wage theft and illegal pay deductions.
Port truck driver dignity is a particularly salient issue in California, home to three of the nation’s busiest ports. Combined, the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Oakland process more than 40% of U.S. shipping-container traffic. To move that much cargo from the ports to the rest of the nation, California has more than 25,000 port truck drivers. It’s a largely immigrant workforce that Lara has noted is especially susceptible to workplace abuses.
Lara joined trucking advocates and drivers in Sacramento in April, where, according to the Long Beach Post, he told an assembled crowd, “We’re telling our biggest companies that if you turn a blind eye to the abuses by trucking companies you employ you will be held liable once and for all. We need our nation’s biggest retailers to get off the sidelines and use their market power for good just as they’ve done to fight against sweatshops around the world.”
Mayors from the port cities—Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf—have pledged support of the bill. SB1402 now moves to governor Jerry Brown’s desk.