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Port truckers win $30 million in wage theft settlements

Margot Roosevelt, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

That law was further tightened last month when Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 338, which triggers joint liability for retailers that hire logistics companies with repeat violations, regardless of whether a judgment is satisfied.

"California's port drayage drivers are the last American sharecroppers, held in debt servitude and working dangerously long hours for little pay," the Legislature said in its preamble to the new statute.

Independent contractors lease trucks from companies but "can be terminated at any time and lose the money they thought they were paying toward the truck. Companies deduct money from driver paychecks for business expenses that lead to poverty wages," the Legislature said.

The XPO settlements come in the wake of setbacks for California's trucking industry, which has sought to be exempted from Assembly Bill 5, a broad statute that followed a 2018 California Supreme Court decision setting strict conditions on the classification of workers as independent contractors.

The U.S. Supreme Court this month declined to take up a trucking company's petition arguing that AB 5 is preempted by federal rules governing truckers' working conditions. The Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act bars states from enacting laws dictating prices, routes and services offered by motor carriers.

Cal Cartage Transportation Express, which brought the lawsuit, has been locked in a dispute with the city of Los Angeles over its classification of workers as contractors rather than employees.

 

Another case brought by the California Trucking Assn. against AB 5 has yet to be resolved. A spokeswoman for the association declined to comment on the XPO settlements.

The Supreme Court decision and new laws affecting port drayage show "it's clear that it will be harder and harder for trucking companies to continue to flout our laws — and harder for their retailer customers to turn a blind eye," said Jessica Durrum, director of the ports and goods movement campaign at the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, a labor-affiliated nonprofit.

With $16.25 billion in 2020 revenue and more than 100,000 employees in 30 countries, XPO is the world's second-largest logistics provider and freight broker. The company is under pressure from U.S. and international unions to improve conditions for its labor force.

A 2020 report by the Teamsters along with labor groups in nine European nations, "XPO Delivering Injustice," accused the company of negligence in exposing workers to COVID-19 during deadly outbreaks at its facilities, as well as wage theft, gender discrimination, sexual harassment and extreme anti-union tactics.

XPO spokesman Joseph Checkler said the report's allegations "are wholly inaccurate and have been entirely debunked. These union-affiliated groups continue to spread false information to further their financial agenda."

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