Labor liability in LA: SB1402 is signed into law

 The Port of Long Beach.  Photo: Shutterstock

The Port of Long Beach. Photo: Shutterstock

On September 22, 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1402 into law in the state of California following a hard-fought battle surrounding labor liability in ports, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

“The bill seeks to end the exploitation of port truck drivers who are being left behind, even though America’s economy could not run without them,” Senator Ricardo Lara said. “Senate Bill 1402 will clean up our port trucking industry in a way that is fair for absolutely everyone and protect some of our most vulnerable workers.”

Ahead of the Governor’s approval, Fred Potter, Vice President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Director of the Teamsters Port Division said “We are grateful for the leadership of Sen. Lara for introducing this landmark legislation.”

“We urge Governor Brown to sign SB 1402 to restore dignity to the hard-working men and women in the driver’s seats by cleaning up our port trucking industry,” Potter concluded.

Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles, was an ardent supporter of SB 1402 prior to its passage. “Truckers power our economy forward every day — they deserve a living wage and benefits that enable them to provide for themselves and their families,” Garcetti said in a statement. “This bill will help us hold bad actors accountable for wage theft, and I’m pleased that our legislature has passed it today.”

According to Daily Breeze, “The bill was sponsored by the Teamsters and the California Labor Federation, which consists of more than 1,200 labor unions. It was also supported by the Natural Resources Defense Council and multiple community and social justice groups.

SB1402 acknowledges that “the port drayage industry is a vital part of California’s goods movement economy and employs an estimated 25,000 drivers, continuing that California’s port drayage drivers are the last American sharecroppers, held in debt servitude and working dangerously long hours for little pay.”

“An investigation by USA Today found that “port trucking companies in Southern California have spent the past decade forcing drivers to finance their own trucks by taking on debt they could not afford. The investigation found instances where drivers end up owing money to their employers – essentially working for free,” the bill states.

“Port drayage drivers are a largely immigrant workforce and particularly vulnerable to labor exploitation, and they’re routinely misclassified as independent contractors when they in fact work as employees under California and federal labor laws. A recent report finds that two-thirds of California port drayage drivers fall under this category, and rampant misclassification of drivers contributes to wage theft and leaves drivers in a cycle of poverty,” it notes.

“Companies can violate labor laws and misclassify employees when they control the manner and means of the work, set wages and hours, and in other ways act as an employer,” the law continues.

The new law concludes that “holding customers of trucking companies jointly liable for future labor law violations by port drayage motor carriers who they engage, where the customer has received advance notice of their record of unsatisfied judgments for labor law violations, will exert pressure across the supply chain to protect drayage drivers from further exploitation.”