The Los Angeles City Council threw its support Tuesday behind legislation that would punish retailers for doing business with trucking companies with a history of labor abuses that operate at the state’s ports.

SB 1402, the “Dignity in the Driver’s Seat” bill, was introduced earlier this year by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and is under consideration by the state Legislature. 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.

The City Council approved a resolution in support of the bill on a 15-0 vote.

“The abuses of port truck drivers are almost legendary with them having to buy their trucks rather than working for the companies that they actually work for. And so with this bill hopefully we can take a big first step in correcting a longstanding abuse of workers in the ports,” City Councilman Paul Koretz said.

Drivers at the L.A. and Long Beach ports have complained for years that companies classify them as independent contractors rather than employees in a scheme that deprives them of benefits and job protections while increasing their overhead costs by forcing them to lease their trucks from the companies for which they drive.

According to a USA Tuesday investigative report published last year, there are around 800 companies regularly operating at the L.A. ports, and almost all of them turned to some form of a lease-to-own trucking model after California banned older trucks from entering the ports in 2008.

Since the USA Tuesday investigation, L.A. leaders have been putting more pressure on companies to change their business practices

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 last December. 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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