On Saturday, the Governor of California signed into law a bill holding retail companies jointly responsible for labor violations at their port trucking providers, marking a drastic shift in the relationship between the nation’s most powerful brands and those who deliver their goods in the Los Angeles harbor.
Set to take effect in January 2019, Democratic state Sen. Ricardo Lara’s bill is the first of its kind that tries to spread financial liability up the supply chain. Gov. Jerry Brown announced his endorsement over the weekend alongside other legislation.
The trucking legislation follows the USA TODAY investigative series “Rigged,” which published last year. The series chronicled rampant labor abuse at dozens of trucking companies operating out of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the country's two largest ports, and showed how major retail brands such as Target and Costco enable the unjust system.
In response to changing environmental rules a decade ago, trucking companies saddled drivers with debt and forced them to work around the clock, USA TODAY found. Many companies ignored the labor judgments against them – which totaled more than $40 million – by employing tactics that included shutting down the company and reopening under a new name. Meanwhile, the companies continued to haul containers for big-box retailers across the country.
Lara’s legislation will create a public list of the trucking companies that haven’t paid or appealed those labor judgments, then hold brands that continue to work with them financially liable for any future violations.
Sen. Lara said the “blacklist” would hold retailers accountable, “so nobody can say they had no idea what was happening.” His law would give importers an extended period of time to vet their port trucking operations against the list and pull contracts.
“If we put the onus on the retailers,” he said, “they have the power and bandwidth to rectify what’s been happening for so many years.”
After several months of negotiation, retail and trucking companies withdrew most of their resistance to the legislation.