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Oakland Trucker Protest Pumps Brakes on Port Operations

Some operations at the Port of Oakland came to a halt Wednesday as truck driver protests against the state’s Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) continued on for the third day.

The TraPac Terminal and Oakland International Container Terminal at the port, which handled the equivalent of roughly 98,000 20-foot import containers  on 71 ship calls in May, were closed Wednesday as a result of the disruption. Truck gate operations at the port’s other three terminals were closed off and there was “limited ship operations,” also because of the demonstrations, a port spokesperson confirmed to Sourcing Journal Wednesday.

 TraPac cited the “ongoing protests interfering with the in-gate” when it canceled its day and night shifts for the day.

The port said Wednesday evening the disruption will add to existing container congestion and called for terminal operations to resume.

“We understand the frustration expressed by the protestors at California ports,” Port of Oakland Executive Director Danny Wan said in a statement. “But, prolonged stoppage of port operations in California for any reason will damage all the businesses operating at the ports and cause California ports to further suffer market share losses to competing ports.”

Wan went on to call truckers “vital” to the supply chain, while expressing optimism in the bill’s implementation in a way that “accommodates the needs” of truckers.

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The disruption to terminal operations comes amid worker unrest more broadly within the transportation industry. Strikes have taken place at ports in Germany, while Port of Liverpool dockworkers are mulling a work stoppage that could come as early as next month. Rail unions were preparing for a strike action that could have occurred as early as Monday had the White House not stepped in to help both sides reach an agreement on a new contract. Meanwhile, West Coast dockworkers are negotiating terms of their own collective bargaining agreement.

Truckers began their protest in Oakland on Monday, with the demonstrations originally expected to end Wednesday. However, reports have suggested some drivers intend to stay through the week.

The demonstrations in Oakland followed protests last week by truck drivers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

The protests against AB5, which was signed into law in 2019, codifies a judge’s decision in a case involving parcel company Dynamex Operations West. The law uses a three-prong test in determining a worker’s classification, with all three parts necessary in order for an individual to be considered an independent contractor.

While the trucking industry had opposed the bill prior to it becoming law, the current backlash comes after the Supreme Court in late June refused to hear a case against it brought by the California Trucking Association (CTA).

Those protesting AB5, which applies to independent contractors across a number of industries, want to remain independent.

The CTA estimates some 70,000 truckers would have to be reclassified as employees under the law.

Proponents of AB5, which was introduced by former Democratic California Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, say the law protects workers from being taken advantage of by employers attempting to circumvent paying payroll taxes and employee benefits.

Dee Dee Myers, director in the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, pointed to guidance and financial assistance programs created in preparation for the law’s implementation before saying in a statement to Sourcing Journal Monday that “it’s time to move forward, comply with the law and work together to create a fairer and more sustainable industry for all.”

Reports said some International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) dockworkers at the Port of Oakland refused to enter the terminals due to the protests. The ILWU made its AB5 stance clear on Wednesday.

“The ILWU believes collective bargaining is fundamental to workplace fairness and safety, as well as a foundation of democratic society,” ILWU international vice president, mainland Bobby Olvera Jr. said in a statement. “That’s why we support AB5: It aims to stop employers from misclassifying workers in order to stop those workers form forming unions and improving their lives.”