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USA Today Network investigation finds exploitation of truckers common in supply chains of US retailers

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21 November 2017

Crushing Debt Bondage Poses Forced Labor Risk for U.S. Port Truckers

Author: Judy Gearhart, Huffington Post

[R]etailers rely on port truckers to transport their goods from container ships and many of those truckers are trapped in debt bondage – with some cases fitting the International Labour Organization’s definition of forced labor. A legislative initiative launched last month aims to analyze how to identify and prevent debt bondage and other abuses in this industry.

Starting in June, an investigative journalist at USA Today posted a ground-breaking series of stories about the port trucking industry in southern California, where truckers’ wages and hours frequently run far afoul of the most basic US labor laws. Every year, these port truckers move $450 billion worth of goods between ships, warehouses and rail yards. Yet many port truckers find themselves trapped in unethical truck leasing agreements that leave them earning as little as $3 an hour, well below the U.S. federal minimum wage of $7.25, despite working 50-plus hours per week.

While predatory lending may immediately bring to mind credit card companies and mortgage scams, in this case it’s used to create a system of debt bondage that binds drivers to abusive port trucking companies...

Still, major brands deny responsibility for anything that happens before products reach their retail locations...

*Sourced by RepRisk due diligence on ESG and business conduct risks, www.reprisk.com.

Read the full post here

30 June 2017

Retail giants enabled trucker exploitation

Author: Brett Murphy, Democrat & Chronicle

America’s retail giants have spent a decade ignoring signs of labor abuse in their supply chains, sometimes fighting government efforts to crack down even as thousands of truckers were driven into debt and poverty, a USA TODAY Network investigation has found...

Reporters contacted two dozen retailers whose goods were moved by port trucking companies accused of labor violations.

Seventeen declined to comment or did not respond to multiple interview requests; the rest sent brief statements about their corporate responsibility policies.

“I wanted to let you know we aren’t going to be able to help with this story,” Nike spokesman ... said...

“Regretfully we are not able to provide a response at this time,” Costco ... wrote...

“We’re not trying to wash our hands of this issue,” [LG Electronics] spokesman ... said..., “but it’s frankly far afield” and “really very disconnected from LG Electronics.” ...

Target doesn’t have anything to share here,” [a] spokeswoman ... said...

Retailers’ response to the port trucking situation stands at odds with the public image of corporate responsibility the industry has tried to cultivate for years...

Experts say the apparent inconsistency between overseas policy and stateside inaction is troubling but not surprising, because the spotlight hasn’t been on American companies...

*Sourced by RepRisk due diligence on ESG and business conduct risks, www.reprisk.com.