by Max Keating
Protests have disrupted shipping operations and supply chains at the Port of Oakland this week as truckers express their opposition to a new labor law that they say threatens their business model and way of life, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Assembly Bill 5 reclassified California’s 70,000 independent owner-operators as employees of the shipping companies they work with to arrange hauls, rather than independent contractors, the WSJ reported. The law was designed to protect gig workers like Uber drivers, but many truckers see it as restricting their independence, and in response, have been blocking access to Oakland’s port since Monday in an effort to get Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom to delay implementation of the law and compromise with them, The New York Times reported.
“This kills the liberty of being a trucker and kills the American Dream,”one Los Angeles-based trucker previously told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Today, I had the opportunity to be at the Port of Oakland with truck drivers whose lives and businesses are being impacted by #AB5. This law has created a legal nightmare. I opposed AB 5 in the Legislature & I stand with our truckers and small businesses. #Dahle4Governor #CA pic.twitter.com/8aoHIIcjNk
— Senator Brian Dahle (@BrianDahleCA) July 20, 2022
The protests have seriously derailed port operations, delaying not just shipments scheduled to go through the Port of Oakland but also clogging up other congested ports elsewhere in California as containers are diverted from the Bay Area, the WSJ reported.
“If this carries on, I don’t know what we are going to do. We will literally be sitting on the last of our 2021 crop and not being able to ship it,” Nina Solari, vice president at a family-owned walnut processor, told the WSJ.
Supply chain issues have plagued the entire country throughout the pandemic, but California has been a particularly bad bottleneck. Increased stress on an already shaky system has attracted attention from federal policymakers, CalMatters reported.
AB 5 was signed by Newsom in 2019 and had been working its way through the legal system ever since, but the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case on June 30, paving the way for the law to go into effect earlier this month, CalMatters added.
“Although it has been the subject of litigation, AB 5 was enacted in 2019, so no one should be caught by surprise by the law’s requirements at this time,” a spokesman for the governor’s office told the WSJ.
Over half of California’s truckers are contractors that work with shipping companies but maintain their independence. AB 5 makes this arrangement no longer legally tenable, and would force owner-operators to either become employees beholden to company regulations, or pay up to $20,000 out-of-pocket for permits and insurance to handle their own logistics and remain independent.
“They’ve exempted all kinds of people from AB 5, but not truckers. We have a supply chain issue, we should let them go to work like everyone else. These are small business owners. Gavin Newsom is trying to force everybody to be employees and in unions even when they don’t want to,” Republican California State Sen. Brian Dahle, who is running for governor, told the DCNF.
Neither Newsom nor Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf responded to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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Max Keating is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Port of Oakland” by Robert Campbell. CC BY-SA 3.0.