California bill would punish retailers who work with trucking companies that abuse their drivers

A new bill submitted by a California Democrat seeks to put a stop to the exploitation of port truck drivers by making retailers who hire abusive trucking companies jointly liable for violations of the state’s labor laws.

The bill, SB 1402, or the “Dignity in the Driver’s Seat” bill, was introduced on Tuesday by Sen. Ricardo Lara. The bill is designed to discourage labor abuses against California’s estimated 25,000 port truck drivers by putting pressure on the retailers who employ their companies.

According to a press release from Lara’s office:

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 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.

Lara goes on to outline various recent examples of the exploitation of port truck drivers, including a recent expose in USA Today about predatory lease-purchase programs and numerous cases of truck driver employment misclassification leading to wage theft.

Lara said, “Port truckers are driving the global economy and delivering for the biggest brands but they can barely afford to buy clothes for their families. 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 has been endorsed by the mayors of the cities representing California’s largest ports — Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.