USA Today recently published a report stating that Target, Costco, Hewlett-Packard and other big-name retailers have benefited from California port trucking companies that forced their drivers into debt, made them work up to 20 hours a day, and sometimes paid them pennies per hour. Retailers and manufacturers usually rely on subcontractors to move their products and, according to the USA Today report, "have paid little attention to who their direct vendors hire." No law requires retail companies to police their vendors or the subcontractors those vendors hire. And unlike with overseas manufacturing plants, there has been no public pressure to force a cleanup of the shipping industry.
Total Retail’s Take: USA Today reached out to two dozen retailers allegedly involved with the port trucking companies accused of labor violations, but many declined comment. The biggest product importer in the country, Wal-Mart, said in a statement that it expects contractors “to act with integrity and in compliance with the laws.” According to the report, many retailers feel this problem is out of their hands, however, that may not blow over too well with consumers. Shipping is a huge cost for brands, but this is no way to cut costs.