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Trucker Protest Against Polarizing Bill Moves North to Oakland

A protest last week involving hundreds of ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach truck drivers against Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) moved north to Oakland Monday at times impeding other truckers’ gate access.

A spokesperson for the Port of Oakland confirmed to Sourcing Journal that about 100 protestors Monday gathered afternoon and said the situation is being monitored.

“Marine terminal operations for loading and discharging cargo to and from ships continues,” the spokesperson confirmed. “There have been some disruptions of truck access at the marine terminal gates today. We continue to work closely with our maritime stakeholders and local law enforcement to ensure everyone’s safety and the flow of commerce.”

Protestors had reportedly blocked gates at the TraPac, SSA and Everport terminals Monday.

The protest is expected to run for three days, which is the same amount of time the Los Angeles and Long Beach demonstrations lasted beginning last Wednesday. A convoy of about 100 truck drivers was confirmed to be traveling through the San Pedro Bay port complex last week, although it was reported hundreds ultimately demonstrated, resulting in nearby freeway traffic jams.

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB5 into law in 2019, codifying a court decision that involved courier Dynamex Operations West in applying a three-part test to determine the classification of a worker as either a company employee or independent contractor.

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The California Trucking Association (CTA) attempted to challenge the law’s application to the trucking industry in court and drivers were temporarily shielded from AB5 enforcement on grounds it conflicted with the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act. That lower court decision was overturned by a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judge, with the CTA then asking the Supreme Court to hear the case. The court, however, in late June refused to hear it, kicking it back to the Court of Appeals.

Proponents of AB5 have long cited various legal claims throughout the years involving misclassification of workers as independent contractors, allowing employers to bypass payroll taxes and provide benefits to those workers. The Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, a progressive advocacy group, said in a paper last April that legal complaints have been filed for at least half of the drivers at the San Pedro Bay ports in relation to employer misclassification. The paper was cited by former California Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, who introduced AB5.

Critics of the legislation argue it strips drivers of their right to be independent contractors and create their own schedules without being beholden to an employer. Others have also expressed confusion on how the law is to be applied and enforced.

The CTA estimates some 70,000 drivers would be impacted by AB5, which applies to a number of industries and not just trucking.

A petition calling for AB5’s repeal had garnered over 5,300 signatures as of late Monday.

A statement provided to Sourcing Journal on Monday from Dee Dee Myers, director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, pointed to guidance and other tools created since AB5 was signed into law.

“In the years since [the bill’s passage], the state has been busy developing guidance and creating tax breaks, financial assistance programs and pathways that can help businesses conform to the law,” Myers said. “This includes information and resources for small businesses and drivers as the state seeks to protect the hardworking men and women who move goods from our ports, across our state and across the country.”

Myers did not respond to a question on whether the governor’s office is in communication with trucking associations on their AB5 concerns since the protests first broke out. A spokesperson for the governor’s office told trade publication Transport Dive last week that the office is “looking into the concerns” the CTA raised related to how AB5 would be enforced.

“Now that the federal courts have rejected the trucking industry’s appeals, it’s time to move forward, comply with the law and work together to create a fairer and more sustainable industry for all,” Myers said.