Commerce

Haul of Injustice

July 05, 2017

In 2008, however, according to Brett Murphy’s USA Today investigative report “Rigged,” the state of California got tired of all the air pollution these broken-down trucks were spewing and ordered them to be replaced by state-of-the-art big rigs.

Few port truckers could qualify for a loan, so trucking companies stepped in and bought the trucks and then offered them to drivers on a lease-to-own basis:

Drivers gave their old trucks—many of which they owned outright—to their company as a down payment. And just like that they were up to $100,000 in debt to their own employer. The same guys would have had a tough time qualifying for a Hyundai days earlier.

The payments on the truck loans were deducted from wages. Except your contract meant you weren’t, legally, an employee working for wages, you were an independent contractor for whom the minimum-wage laws didn’t apply.

Granted, if you were handy with an Excel spreadsheet, you could have carefully read through the contract you were offered and built a model that should have shown you that you wouldn’t be making much for all the hours that you’d be expected to work (often exceeding the legal limits imposed for public safety so more motorists don’t wind up like poor Tracy Morgan). And you’d have noticed that if you didn’t work all those hours, you’d default on your loan and lose not just your job but also everything you’d paid in over the years toward your truck.

Of course, if you were good with Excel, or even literate in English, you’d probably have a better job than port trucking. That’s just the way it goes in modern Mexifornia.

To lenders who are clever with Excel, however, mass Mexican immigration is America’s moral obligation because more Latinos are, to them, more fresh meat.

Reading about port truckers and their contracts is reminiscent of reading about the focus groups that Washington Mutual bank (seized by the FDIC in 2008) ran in Southern California during the housing bubble to see if its heavily Hispanic borrowers were confused about any of the precise terms of their adjustable-rate mortgages, only to find out that their customers didn’t understand anything about their debts. A WaMu market researcher told Kirsten Grind for her book Lost Bank:

Jenne came to believe that the Option ARM wasn’t just a bad idea—it might be evil. “After awhile, I lost that feeling,” Jenne said. “Then I came back to it later on. And then I thought, ‘No, no, this product is definitely evil.’”

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