Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti Wednesday praised a state bill that seeks to punish retailers who do business with trucking companies at the state’s ports with a history of labor abuses.
SB 1402, or the “Dignity in the Driver’s Seat” bill, was introduced Tuesday by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens. The bill is aimed at making retailers jointly liable for violations of state labor and employment laws when they hire port trucking companies with unsatisfied judgments for failure to pay wages, imposing unlawful expenses on employees, failure to remit payroll taxes or provide workers’ compensation insurance, misclassifying employees or other violations.
“Truck drivers at our ports do tremendous work to keep goods moving and our economy growing — and they deserve fair wages and good working conditions,” Garcetti said. “Senator Lara’s bill is a good step toward a more just drayage trucking industry across California.”
Drivers at the L.A. and Long Beach ports have complained for years that companies classify them as independent contractors rather than employees to deny them just compensation, and drivers and warehouse workers have engaged in 15 labor strikes in the last four years. The most recent strike was in June 2017 and involved several large companies that do transport business at the San Pedro Bay ports.
The port made an effort to address the issue of independent contractor driving by incorporating an employee mandate into the 2008 Clean Truck Program that would have required companies to hire drivers instead of contracting with them, but it was struck down in a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling.
“Port truckers are driving the global economy and delivering for the biggest brands but they can barely afford to buy clothes for their families,” Lara said. “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.”
Since 2010, at least 1,150 port truck drivers have filed claims in civil court or with the California Department of Industrial Relations’ enforcement arm, and judges have sided with drivers in more than 97 percent of the cases heard, according to a Los Angeles City Council motion introduced in December 2017. The council approved the motion, which seeks to explore blocking companies that use truck drivers classified as independent contractors from doing business at the Port of Los Angeles.
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