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Oakland Port to Protestors: ‘We Must All Get Back to Normal’

Port of Oakland officials hope a new “Free Speech Zone” will stop truck drivers protesting Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) from blocking terminal gates that have slowed shipping operations the past few days.

“We must all get back to normal operations,” Port of Oakland executive director Danny Wan said in a letter to protesting truckers Thursday evening.

Truck drivers in Oakland on Monday continued a protest that began among port of Los Angeles and Long Beach drivers last week. While last week’s demonstrations clogged freeway traffic near the ports, Oakland’s demonstrations have disrupted the movement of cargo and have extended beyond the original Wednesday end date.

The signing of AB5 into law codified a three-part test used in a California Supreme Court case to determine whether a worker could be classified as an independent contractor or a company employee. Supporters of the legislation, often referred to as the gig-worker law, say the bill ensures fair wages and benefits to workers. Some, such as the truck drivers protesting, say it strips them of their choice to work as independent contractors.

Wan said he met with some protestors Thursday.

“During the meeting, I emphasized that it is important to return the Port to full operations now,” Wan wrote in his letter. “Prolonged stoppage of port operations at Oakland for any reason interferes with commerce, increases congestion and harms business for everyone.”

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Wan went on to say in the letter the disruption could cause business to move away from California ports and outlined options for truck drivers that are meant to help with AB5 implementation.

Among those options are access to state resources and the creation of a group comprised of independent truck driver representation and port officials to address AB5 and other measures and services impacting drivers.

A statement from California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office Thursday evening said tax credits, such as a new employment credit, loans and small business start-up financing among other resources have been put in place.

“The industry should also move forward in supporting this transition,” the Governor’s office said.

The TraPac terminal at the Port of Oakland said its gate would be closed Friday, marking the third consecutive day it has been shuttered.

The Oakland International Container Terminal was also not in operation for a second day in a row on Thursday, while shipping operations were limited at the port’s other terminals.

Roberto Bernardo, a spokesman for the Port of Oakland, said staff have kept in communication with federal and state officials on regular updates on the status of operations since the start of protests at the beginning of the week.

Ocean shipping line Maersk said Thursday vessel waiting time at the Port of Oakland has stretched to 15 days. Part of that is driven by a labor shortage that’s adding one to three days to vessel time in port.

Data from supply chain analytics company Everstream Analytics showed a 90 percent yard utilization, creating congestion for the discharge of import containers and, ultimately, deliveries. Yards are used to store containers either being loaded onto a ship or unloaded onto other modes of transportation, such as rail.

Everstream also reported full capacity at Howard Terminal’s area allocated as extra space for container receiving and unloading.

“Despite the limited impact, landside labor issues are seemingly mounting at California ports, a sign that the sector is becoming increasingly vulnerable to disruptive strike action,” Everstream said.

International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) dockworkers have been working without an agreement since the July 1 expiration of the contract as negotiations continue with employers represented by the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) as Everstream flagged the possible “risk of concurrent disruption of port truckers and dockworkers.”