Independent truckers protesting California’s gig worker law blocked terminal gates at the Port of Oakland on Wednesday, causing officials to cease operations.
For the third day in a row, California truckers have formed en masse at the Bay Area docks to protest AB-5, a 2019 law requiring companies like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash to reclassify independent contractors as employees. However, truck drivers who own and operate their rigs have pushed back on the legislation.
“These are independent, small businesses that choose to operate their own trucks, and now that right is taken away from them,” Bill Aboudi, owner of AB Trucking, told CNBC. “They do pay taxes; they do have insurance — it’s their choice to do that.”
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the California Trucking Association’s appeal that was in place for roughly two years to protect an estimated 70,000 independent truckers from the law’s impact.
Aboudi told KTVU that his company has independent owner-operators to backfill employee drivers.
“We can’t handle the volume with our company trucks,” Aboudi said. “So you rely on people that are working for multiple people or companies that are considered, they are owner-operators.”
Independent truckers like Ablelon Zersiel told KTVU that the law would complicate their lives with higher taxes, health care insurance, and other expenses used for their operations.
“They want us either to be employees of the company or become corporations,” Zersiel said. “This is the wrong time to do that — the inflation is swallowing us up.”
The Oakland International Container Terminal (OICT) management closed the port after some longshoremen refused to enter the marine terminals out of fear for their safety. Although some vessel labor operations remain active, Port officials told CNBC that the port’s other three docks have shut down for trucks.
International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) officials said they protect their members from entering work areas that make them feel “unsafe” or “endangered in any way.”
“The workers stood by on health and safety, as is permitted in our contract when conditions at the terminals present a risk,” Farless Dailey III, ILWU Local 10 President, told CNBC.
Labor Unions have reportedly pledged that they would not strike or have a labor blackout while officials negotiate a new contract.
But with dock workers steering clear of the ports and truck drivers blockading entrances, the impact of the protest has already slowed down productivity, causing longer wait times for cargo ships to export and import containers.
CNBC reports approximately 2,100 trucks move through the Port of Oakland daily, importing goods like aluminum, food, and wine from Australia, China, and South Korea. The port ranks as the eighth largest in the world.
The California Trucking Association said in a statement, “Gasoline has been poured on the fire that is our ongoing supply chain crisis,” according to truckinginfo.com.
“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,” CTA added.
Governor Gavin Newsom’s (D) office told CNBC it’s time for truckers to “move forward” and “comply with the law,” adding that they also “suspect the landscape may change with independent drivers becoming their own authority and/or then existing firms becoming an employee/driver model.”
But those independent truckers like Aboudi said, “it seems the governor is not concerned about taking American workers’ rights away.”
Sources told CNBC that protests at the Port of Oakland would reportedly continue through Friday.