Rigged: Forced into debt. Worked past exhaustion. Left with nothing.
June 16, 2017 11:03 AM   Subscribe

A yearlong investigation by the USA TODAY Network 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. Companies then used that debt as leverage to extract forced labor and trap drivers in jobs that left them destitute. (SL USA TODAY)

The USA TODAY Network pieced together accounts from more than 300 drivers, listened to hundreds of hours of sworn labor dispute testimony and reviewed contracts that have never been seen by the public.

Using the contracts, submitted as evidence in labor complaints, and shipping manifests, reporters matched the trucking companies with the most labor violations to dozens of retail brands, including Target, Hewlett-Packard, Home Depot, Hasbro, J.Crew, UPS, Goodyear, Costco, Ralph Lauren and more.
posted by mandolin conspiracy (41 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Wire Season 2.5
posted by Fizz at 11:08 AM on June 16 [14 favorites]


This was a business decision


"In October 2008, that changed dramatically in southern California, home of the nation’s busiest ports, Los Angeles and Long Beach. State officials, fed up with deadly diesel fumes from 16,000 outdated trucks, ordered the entire fleet replaced with new, cleaner rigs.

Suddenly, this obscure but critical collection of trucking companies faced a $2.5 billion crossroads unlike anything experienced at other U.S. ports.

Instead of digging into their own pockets to undo the environmental mess they helped create, the companies found a way to push the cost onto individual drivers, who are paid by the number and kinds of containers they move, not by the hour."



Close these companies down. Jail all management for slavery and corporate homicide (see:truck accidents).

Distribute 90% of the assets to truckers. 10% for an advertising campaign reaching every business school and shareholder meeting in the country- federally mandated viewing for b-school accreditation and continued incorporation at the state and federal level.
posted by lalochezia at 11:10 AM on June 16 [87 favorites]


Did they at least get credit at the company store?
posted by thelonius at 11:10 AM on June 16 [20 favorites]


Damn fine reporting by The USA Today, didn't know that they had work like that in them. Fucking heartbreaking to read those individual stories though. No one should have to go into crippling debt just to earn a living.
posted by octothorpe at 11:11 AM on June 16 [33 favorites]


No worries, this won't be a problem much longer.
posted by Cosine at 11:14 AM on June 16


Naaaaah, the depot was blocking any loads over 14.5 tons.

Because they could.
posted by Samizdata at 11:23 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


See also: capitalism.
posted by JohnFromGR at 11:26 AM on June 16 [5 favorites]


Yes, it's capitalism in the sense of "water" in David Foster Wallace's fish story, but this is some bullshit within that.

Awful story.
posted by rhizome at 11:35 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


Pay it forward.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:48 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Also: Thankyou Brett Murphy.

"Brett Murphy began reporting this story while in the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism."
posted by lalochezia at 11:51 AM on June 16 [48 favorites]


So is there anything to be done about this? Burn up the phone lines to the CA legislature to make sure they see this and address it? I can't imagine a class action lawsuit will actually restore what's been stolen from these drivers. By the time it gets settled and divided up, it'll be a pittance compared to what they've already lost.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 12:00 PM on June 16 [4 favorites]


Thanks for this story, not that it's a perfect solution neither in direction nor precision, but now when people continue to ask me why I'm crazy for leaning VERY heavily away from imported goods, up to the point of warning family members not to buy our children gifts that are made in China or other countries of ill renown with regards to labor rights lest we give them right back to them without even opening them... now I can tie it to yet another point of abuse and horrific practices all tied back to the fucking of the little man.

Live simply so that others can simply live and all that. I'm not perfect, far from it, but I hope we can all try to be less complicit in things like this as the sunlight hits them head on and exposes abuse for the love of money by those in power for what it is.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:04 PM on June 16 [21 favorites]


“Yes, suddenly I saw it clearly: most people deceive themselves with a pair of faiths: they believe in eternal memory (of people, things, deeds, nations) and in redressibility (of deeds, mistakes, sins, wrongs). Both are false faiths. In reality the opposite is true: everything will be forgotten and nothing will be redressed. The task of obtaining redress (by vengeance or by forgiveness) will be taken over by forgetting. No one will redress the wrongs that have been done, but all wrongs will be forgotten.”

― Milan Kundera, The Joke
posted by KHAAAN! at 12:21 PM on June 16 [37 favorites]


I will take the Rich Platter, double the richfolk please. Oh, and a Coke with light ice.
posted by Samizdata at 12:45 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]


Related (in the sense that this is where those trucks are headed and race and economic class are implicated in the off loading of costs): Warehouse Empire: Behind the largest undercover bribe the FBI ever paid to a public official is the story of how our whole consumer economy has been transformed, bringing lung-stunting pollution and, in some cases, political corruption.

(Previously.)
posted by notyou at 12:46 PM on June 16 [6 favorites]


I've had friends in the business. Trucking used to be a decent living. But it has been a brutal industry to be in for the last decade or more. Conditions have worsened and pay has been cut. I know at least one owner-operator who's gone bankrupt.
posted by Artful Codger at 12:47 PM on June 16 [5 favorites]


As a Canadian, a lot of my food arrives on trucks from California. I'd happily go without if truckers were to organise and shut the system down for a spell, to get back some of what they've lost (and more!) Solidarity!
posted by klanawa at 12:52 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Instead of digging into their own pockets to undo the environmental mess they helped create, the companies found a way to push the cost onto individual drivers, who are paid by the number and kinds of containers they move, not by the hour.

Privatize the profits; socialize the risks.

Feh.
posted by Gelatin at 1:07 PM on June 16 [16 favorites]


Damn fine reporting by The USA Today, didn't know that they had work like that in them.

Last year, I believe they broke the story on sex abuse in the US gymnaastics system. That's a PBS link about the story rather than USA Today because I couldn't find a good USA Today link beyond more recent follow-up reporting.
posted by msbrauer at 1:14 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]



Privatize the profits; socialize the risks.


Thing is, it's not even socializing the risk.

Socializing would be getting the government to pay for the downside and it affecting all our taxes.......
While this happens a little bit in this case (increased welfare, increased health costs on medicare for those affected if available etc) what's happening here is far more disgusting and old school

It's direct, forced transfer of costs and risks from small groups of rich, creditworthy, powerful people to individual poor, non-creditworthy, weak people.

It's extortion, fraud and nigh-slavery.

It needs to be treated as such or it will continue. Why would any business - and businessperson - choose not to do this for immense profit .......if the downsides aren't terrifying?
posted by lalochezia at 1:16 PM on June 16 [20 favorites]


John Taylor, a spokesman for LG Electronics, said the company hires steamship lines that provide “door-to-door” shipping services, so it is not involved in hiring or managing trucking companies. LG believes “our responsibility starts when the goods arrive in our own warehouses,” Taylor said in an email.
Seriously, what utter bullshit.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 1:33 PM on June 16 [14 favorites]


Why would any business - and businessperson - choose not to do this for immense profit

This is why we need strong regulation, seriously enforced. Without it, any business in that industry that doesn't participate in the abuse, can't compete. And they have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders, to get the money. Who are the shareholders? At least some portion would be large pension funds, beholden to little guys. Including some of us here.

This is what annoys me about the people who think regulations are bad. As long as the same regulations apply to all, then the marketplace they so revere, can do its good stuff without doing so much bad stuff. Focus the lobbying on extending the regulations to all the players, and then nobody has to stain their souls with this shit.
posted by elizilla at 1:38 PM on June 16 [34 favorites]


If this isn't common knowledge that's the scary part.

Slavery is the new slavery.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:56 PM on June 16 [4 favorites]


John Taylor, a spokesman for LG Electronics, said the company hires steamship lines that provide “door-to-door” shipping services, so it is not involved in hiring or managing trucking companies. LG believes “our responsibility starts when the goods arrive in our own warehouses,” Taylor said in an email.
Seriously, what utter bullshit.
But that's the modern way. A few years ago it was with wally-mart and their janitorial "contractors" -- the company will hire-out the job as a way to wash their hands of it.

You see it in Gov't contracting world as well -- a contract gets re-bid, and a new company wins it (by bidding lower). Typically, a lot of folks stay on the contract and transfer to the new company. But, since it's a lower bid and margins, that means employee benefits go down and employee contributions go up.
posted by k5.user at 2:07 PM on June 16 [2 favorites]


How long until this gets spun by the anti-regulation zealots as an example of environmental regulation run amok.
posted by dudemanlives at 2:29 PM on June 16 [6 favorites]


Close these companies down. Jail all management for slavery and corporate homicide (see:truck accidents).

Distribute 90% of the assets to truckers. 10% for an advertising campaign reaching every business school and shareholder meeting in the country- federally mandated viewing for b-school accreditation and continued incorporation at the state and federal level.


The class that controls the government is okay with the current state of affairs. It's not possible to pressure them to do a tenth of this. What happened with Grenfell Towers isn't just about the UK government.
posted by action man bow-tie at 2:42 PM on June 16 [4 favorites]


"our responsibility starts when the goods arrive in our own warehouses,”

If we can get the Modern Slavery Act replicated around the world, he's going to have to do something about it.
posted by arcticseal at 2:52 PM on June 16


Dont mourn for me, boys, use self driving trucks
posted by Postroad at 3:37 PM on June 16


Can't we line up the corporate exes against the wall? Or stone them. I'm in favor of stoning.

John Taylor, a spokesman for LG Electronics....

Feck off John Taylor, and LG is on my shit list forever. I was working towards this idea anyway, since my beloved LG phone bricked today, but the AT&T dude allllmost sold me with his good deal on a half price LG6. Until I started reading the reviews and wondering if the 6 would develop the dreaded boot loop issue. Now John Taylor has made up my mind! Screw LG. I'll go elsewhere.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:17 PM on June 16 [2 favorites]


Over time all employment tends toward slavery.
posted by bigbigdog at 9:27 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]


As per this in-depth article in today's Guardian - Homeless, assaulted, broke: drivers left behind as Uber promises change at the top - sounds like this is pretty much exactly what's happening to Uber drivers, too.
posted by progosk at 2:22 AM on June 17 [5 favorites]


This is what happens when unions are demonized and busted? Do any of those truckers belong to unions? What a sorry state of affairs.

Anyway, the little guy gets left with the shitty end of the stick. Again.
posted by james33 at 4:51 AM on June 17 [3 favorites]


Dont mourn for me, boys, use self driving trucks

Don't worry. Within five years, they will.
posted by blucevalo at 7:48 AM on June 17


This would have been a case for Jim Rockford.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:54 AM on June 17


Ah, so that's where Uber got the idea.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:04 AM on June 17


do self-driving trucks make this better or worse?
posted by kokaku at 10:18 AM on June 17


do self-driving trucks make this better or worse?

Better for capital, worse for labour. My one hope is that when a critical mass of workers find themselves unemployed and the guaranteed minimum income becomes a political necessity, people with formerly disparate economic interests will be united behind the need to press for fair pay. The rich will have to face the largest, most cohesive uprising for fair taxation and regulation that they've ever seen. You might say I'm a dreamer.
posted by klanawa at 11:34 AM on June 17 [3 favorites]


"This month has shown that Hawaii may be the U.S.'s most forward-thinking state. Earlier in June, it became the first state to formally accept the provisions of the Paris Climate Accord, and now, the state congress has passed a bill that puts Hawaii on the path to universal basic income."

Also, LG's CYA statement is right out of the Uniform Commercial Code re: receipt of goods/start of responsibility for said goods. Company contracts would include that language.
posted by Iris Gambol at 8:43 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


USA Today has been expanding their investigative journalism team and turning out some very good reporting. Kind of shocking, given their reputation.
posted by craniac at 6:00 AM on June 18


This is what happens when unions are demonized and busted? Do any of those truckers belong to unions? What a sorry state of affairs.

The story is linked on the Teamsters' front page, but it sounds like the company hires the most vulnerable kind of workers, who are least likely to be unionized.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:23 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]


Update: some drivers in LA and Long Beach went on strike today to protest the conditions faced by truckers working as independent contractors.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 2:44 PM on June 19 [4 favorites]


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