In response to an explosive report that appeared in USA Today detailing the “modern day indentured servitude” of port truck drivers, a group of Democratic senators have come together to ask corporations to rethink how they treat their drivers.
The senators were moved to act after reading an article by reporter Brett Murphy called “Rigged: Forced into debt. Worked past exhaustion. Left with nothing“ which claims that predatory port trucking companies trap drivers in lease programs that they cannot afford, forcing them to work as many as 20 hours per day for pennies an hour in some cases.
After speaking with Murphy about his fake log book and 20 hour work days, 36 year old port truck driver Rene Flores was fired the day after the article was published. Morgan Southern kept the $60,000 in lease payments that Flores had made over a four year period.
Senators Work To Address “Shameful” Safety And Labor Violations By Port Trucking Companies
Senators Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Dianne Feinstien sent letters to sixteen major corporations including Walmart and Target demanding answers about whether the companies are aware of labor abuses involving their truck drivers.
In the letters, the senators vow to use their federal authority to stop the abuse of port truck drivers: “Port trucking companies’ brazen disregard for federal transportation safety standards and workers’ safety and rights is shameful. As federal legislators, we take seriously our oversight of the enforcement of federal labor and transportation laws and will pursue aggressively all federal avenues to put an end to this rampant mistreatment of port truck drivers.”
You can read the letter addressed to LG Electronics CEO Cho Jun-Ho below.
“Dear Mr. Cho:
July 31, 2017
We were gravely concerned to read the USA Today June 16, 2017 investigation “Rigged: Forced into debt. Worked past exhaustion. Left with nothing.,” which detailed disturbing employer abuses in the port trucking industry. We were disappointed to learn that some companies have reportedly helped perpetuate these abuses by turning a blind eye to labor violations and worker mistreatment occurring at port trucking companies they contract with. We write to urge you to ensure LG Electronics products are transported only by companies that comply with the state and federal labor laws that protect the economic security and health and safety of workers.
The USA Today investigation calls the work arrangements for many port truck drivers “modern-day indentured serv[itude]” and reports that companies force drivers to participate in a lease-to-own program for their trucks, but do not allow the drivers to keep the truck or to recover their capital investments, if they are terminated or quit. Drivers have also been required to pay for truck repairs, insurance, parking, supplies and fuel. After these expenses are paid, drivers sometimes earn pennies on the hour. In the worst scenarios, they work for free because their pay is subsumed entirely by company-mandated fees. In addition, companies have forced drivers to ignore federal standards for hours of service on the road and to drive up to 20 hours a day. This is unsafe for both the drivers and anyone else on the road with them.
Port trucking companies’ brazen disregard for federal transportation safety standards and workers’ safety and rights is shameful. As federal legislators, we take seriously our oversight of the enforcement of federal labor and transportation laws and will pursue aggressively all federal avenues to put an end to this rampant mistreatment of port truck drivers. As a major U.S. corporation, you also have a role to play in ensuring that you are not complicit in the mistreatment of port truck drivers and that American consumers, your customers, are not unwittingly supporting labor abuses in the United States. Let’s work together to ensure Americans have access to quality jobs.
As a step toward that end, we would like to request answers to the following questions no later than August 14th, 2017:
1. Prior to the publication of the USA Today investigation, was LG Electronics aware of any complaints regarding these labor abuses from truck drivers in your supply chain?
• If so, please identify all violations of federal and state labor laws by trucking companies in LG Electronics’ supply chain that you were aware of.
• What actions has LG Electronics taken to rid worker abuses from your supply chain and ensure that companies with labor violations in your supply chain come into compliance with state and federal laws?
2. Going forward, will LG Electronics immediately cancel any contracts with port trucking companies that require their employees to participate in abusive lease-to-own truck programs or that have violated state or federal safety standards and worker protections, including illegally misclassifying drivers as independent contractors?
3. Will LG Electronics publically demand higher standards among port trucking companies, which could have an immediate impact on limiting the ability of companies to abuse drivers in the manner described in the USA Today investigation?
We appreciate your attention to this critical issue. Sincerely,
______________________________ Sherrod Brown
United States Senator
______________________________ Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator
______________________________ Elizabeth Warren
United States Senator
______________________________ Kamala D. Harris
United States Senator”