June 23, 2017
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Los Angeles, CA – Los Angeles’ port truckers, who haul almost half of the nation’s container imports from the city’s ports to Southern California warehouses and rail yards, work under conditions so onerous that they are effectively “modern-day indentured servants,” a year-long investigation by the USA Today network found.
Port trucking companies, it said, require drivers to finance their own trucks through lease-to-own deals, and use that debt to force them to work illegally long hours—and if they miss work, quit, or can’t make the payments, the companies fire them and repossess the trucks. Samuel Talavera Jr., who regularly worked more than 16 hours a day—the legal limit is 11—and took home as little as 67 cents a week, was fired in October 2013, when the truck he was buying from his employer, QTS, broke down and he couldn’t afford to make repairs. QTS fired him and kept the truck, which he had already paid $78,000 on. The trucking companies, which haul goods for retailers including Walmart, Amazon, and Target, evade minimum-wage laws by classifying the drivers as independent contractors. “Nobody cares about us,” said trucker Gustavo Villa, “because we are living in the dark.” Read more
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