LOS ANGELES — Hundreds of independent truck drivers stopped work and took to the streets Wednesday to protest a California law that makes it more difficult for them to be considered independent contractors.
At the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, a group of about 100 truck drivers stopped work in protest as other drivers blocked highways in the area; however, port spokespeople said that the facilities remained open. Drivers in Oakland are reportedly planning their own protest for Monday.
On June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court decided against hearing the California Trucking Association’s (CTA) case against the law, known as Assembly Bill 5, or AB5.
This means that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s ruling stands, thus eliminating the preliminary injunction preventing AB5 from being enforced on motor carriers.
Popularly known as the “gig worker bill,” the legislation requires companies that hire independent contractors to reclassify them as employees, with some exceptions.
This has many in the California trucking industry concerned about the future of the owner-operator.
John Wiggins, an owner-operator who regularly drives to California’s ports, told The Trucker that the new law amounts to government overreach.
“They just don’t want us little guys to make it,” he said. “That is why I am out here protesting. It’s a damn shame.”
AB5 was passed into law in 2019, but the lawsuit had prevented it from affecting 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 that he normally has 50 to 75 independent drivers working at Los Angeles’ ports.
All of them declined loads on Wednesday 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, the California Attorney’s General Office heralded the decision.
“We’re pleased with the court’s decision to reject this challenge to AB 5’s application to the motor carrier industry,” a spokesperson said, according to OOIDA’s publication Land Line. “At the California Department of Justice, we’ll continue to do our part to defend laws that are designed to protect workers and ensure fair labor and business practices.”
CTA officials said they believe that AB5 violates the constitution and could force the end of the trucking industry’s owner-operator model. But the U.S. solicitor general recently advised the court to deny the CTA’s petition, saying that AB5 would not have a significant impact on prices, routes or services
Born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and raised in East Texas, John Worthen returned to his home state to attend college in 1998 and decided to make his life in The Natural State. Worthen is a 20-year veteran of the journalism industry and has covered just about every topic there is. He has a passion for writing and telling stories. He has worked as a beat reporter and bureau chief for a statewide newspaper and as managing editor of a regional newspaper in Arkansas. Additionally, Worthen has been a prolific freelance journalist for two decades, and has been published in several travel magazines and on travel websites.