Imagine working a 100-hour week and when payday comes around being told by your employer you owe money. That's a real possibility for hundreds—if not thousands—of truck drivers—many of them poor immigrants who don't speak English—working the ports of Los Angeles. USA Today—following a yearlong investigation—reports these "modern-day indentured servants" move goods for retailers like Home Depot, Target, Costco, UPS, Hasbro, Ralph Lauren, and more. Trucking companies—at least 140 have been implicated in the behavior—classify drivers as independent contractors to avoid the minimum wage. Then they charge drivers to lease their trucks, not to mention bill them for insurance, fuel, parking, and even toilet paper.
One trucker drove more than 16 hours per day, sleeping in the company parking lot instead of going home to his family, and made as little as 67 cents a week. Another driver, who was paying $1,600 a month toward his truck, was fired when he got sick; the company took his truck and all the money he put toward it. The same thing happened to a driver who took time off to bury his mother. That's how the companies keep drivers working: If they quit, they lose their truck and everything they've paid into leasing it. But instead of refusing to work with these trucking companies, retailers spend millions on lobbyists to make sure the companies can continue the behavior. Read the full piece—for which USA Today interviewed more than 300 drivers—here. (Read more Longform stories.)