Truckers Shut Down Port of Oakland in Protest of California Labor Law

Truckers have effectively shut down California’s port of Oakland this week beginning on Monday in protest of the state’s gig worker law that could adversely impact up to 70,000 over-the-road drivers. The port is the third busiest on the U.S. west coast and the eighth largest in the country.

Cargo shipments entering and leaving the port have been blocked by a large group of tractor trailers. The drivers are protesting California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), which is designed to force all companies in the state who work with independent contractors to classify most of them under the law as regular employees.

The truckers are concerned that AB5 will force them to pay substantially more for insurance and government permits in order to maintain their independent contractor status under the law. Otherwise, the law will prevent the ability of truckers to work their own hours and make enough to earn a living when legally classified as employees.

AB5 was passed by the state’s Democrat-controlled legislature in 2019 but has seen its effective date delayed because of legal challenges. The California Trucking Association is still fighting the law in the court system, although the U.S. Supreme Court recently rejected an application to hear an appeal in the case.

Facing the impending enforcement of the law, the truckers are now protesting to demand that Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state assembly reconsider the law.

AB Trucking owner Bill Aboudi said that Newsom has flatly refused to talk with them. He said it appears that the governor is “not concerned about taking American workers’ rights away.” Aboudi added that independent truckers and small family businesses are having the right to choose to operate their own trucks taken away from them.

AB5 supporters claim that the law protects truckers who have been exploited by companies, preventing them from earning what they consider to be fair wages and benefits. The law stemmed from progressive concerns about the wages and working conditions of rideshare operators for Uber and Lyft.

The closure of the Oakland port comes as the global supply chain remains compromised after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Port of Oakland director Danny Wan issued a press statement this week saying the port understands the frustration of the truckers, but said that “prolonged stoppage of port operations in California for any reason” will harm the businesses using the ports and lead to lowered market share for other California ports.

The port of Oakland sees more than 2,100 tractor trailers come through each day when operating under normal conditions.