OAKLAND, Calif. — Officials with the Port of Oakland’s main terminals said on Monday that operations have returned to normal after at least a hundred truckers blocked entrances over the past week in protest of a California law that affects contract workers, such as independent owner-operators.
Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), also known as the “gig economy” law, passed in 2019 and makes it harder for companies to classify workers as independent contractors instead of employees, who are entitled to minimum wage and benefits such as workers compensation, overtime and sick pay.
A federal appeals court ruled last year that the law applies to some 70,000 California truck drivers who can be classified as employees of companies that hire them instead of independent contractors.
There’s been some confusion on when the state might begin enforcing the law against truckers.
Truckers are now asking Gov. Gavin Newsom to meet and discuss the issue.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, who support AB5, called it a “massive victory” for exploited truckers.
But the California Trucking Association (CTA), which sued over the law, has argued that AB5 could make it harder for independent drivers who own their own trucks and operate on their own hours to make a living by forcing them to be classified as employees.
The legal battle stalled enforcement of the law but last month the U.S. Supreme Court decided it wouldn’t review the decision, clearing the way for enforcement on the trucking industry.
“Gasoline has been poured on the fire that is our ongoing supply chain crisis,” the CTA said in a statement. “In addition to the direct impact on California’s 70,000 owner-operators who have seven days to cease long-standing independent businesses, the impact of taking tens of thousands of truck drivers off the road will have devastating repercussions on an already fragile supply chain, increasing costs and worsening runaway inflation.”
Trucking company owner Gordy Reimer told Reuters recently that he normally has 50 to 75 independent drivers working at Los Angeles’ ports.
All of them declined loads earlier this month to participate in the protests on port properties and nearby roadways, said Reimer, who counted his immediate losses at around $50,000.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which filed an amicus brief in support of the CTA’s petition, said it was disappointed in the high court’s decision.
“With AB5 now set to go into effect, thousands of owner-operators driving in California face an uncertain future,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer said. “California has provided no guidance to owner-operators about how they can work as independent contractors under this new scheme, and truckers will be at the mercy of the courts to interpret how the law will be applied.
“For truckers that have invested their blood, sweat and treasure to create their own businesses, it is dismaying that lawmakers and the courts are forging ahead with this radical policy that dismisses a beneficial business model that has been in place for decades. At the same time, we know this will not be the last word on the legality of AB5 and expect to participate in future challenges to the law.”
Meanwhile, Port of Oakland officials said that last week’s protests “prevented the timely flow of international commerce including medical supplies, agricultural products, auto and technology parts, livestock, and manufacturing parts.”
“The economic impact of the Port of Oakland’s maritime operations in California is estimated at $56.6 billion, including $281 million in state and local taxes,” a statement from port officials read. “Direct employment from the Port’s maritime operations is estimated at 11,000 jobs–with an additional 10,000 induced jobs and nearly 6,000 indirect jobs.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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