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A group of truckers attempting to force changes to state labor laws AB 5 brought the Port of Oakland to a standstill on July 22, continuing a multi-day stranglehold on one of the busiest shipping centers from the west coast.
Crowds of truckers blocked the few cargo trucks that attempted to enter the facility in the morning despite warnings from port officials that protesters who do not respect newly established “free speech zones” could be cited by law enforcement.
The Port of Oakland’s July 21 statement signaled a tougher stance on truckers who, until July 22, had free rein to stop traffic at the facility. Major terminals announced a precautionary shutdown of operations from July 22, meaning the standoff between truckers and authorities is likely to intensify once operations resume next week and if protesters maintain their current blockade.
Open Letter to Reg… by Transport Topics
Independent truckers have nothing against the port. But they are using the unorthodox standoff to ask Governor Gavin Newsom to change AB 5, a controversial labor law they say could end their business model. Some say they will continue closing the port until they get action from Sacramento.
But there are signs that coalition members loose truckers – who are not affiliated with a union – are getting tired.
“I don’t know how long I can hold out, we all have bills,” said Long Mach, who recently took out a 30-year loan for a new $168,000 truck. “But it’s a question of whether I go back to work now and in a month or two I’m forced out of the business.”
The protests focus on supply chains at the Port of Oakland, which was already struggling to meet trade demands in a key hub for Northern California agricultural exports.
—Tyska (@Tyska) July 22, 2022
Port Authority spokeswoman Marilyn Sandifur said the backlog of container ships now stands at 12.
“The prolonged shutdown of port operations in Oakland for any reason is interfering with commerce, increasing congestion and hurting business for everyone,” Danny Wan, the port’s executive director, said in an open statement to truckers. . “We all need to resume our normal activities!”
AB 5, which will require approximately 70,000 truckers, as well as other independent contractors, to register as employees, is commonly known as the “Gig Worker Act.” The legislation is best known for forcing Uber and Lyft to treat their drivers as employees and sparking a costly political battle by ride-sharing companies hoping to avoid regulation.
For California truckers, key provisions of the law have been suspended since 2020 due to legal challenges from the California Trucking Association. But in June, the Supreme Court declined to reconsider the case, and the state is now free to apply the new employee classification system.
On July 21, the Port of Oakland said it would continue to act as an intermediary for truckers and the governor’s office on AB 5. However, Newsom indicated that he had no intention of pressuring for a truckers’ exemption from the law, which is strongly backed by major unions who say the trucking industry is plagued by wage theft and workplace abuse.
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