By Bradford Betz
California truckers pledged Wednesday to continue their blockade of the Oakland port – the West Coast’s third-busiest container port – until Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom listens to their concerns about a controversial labor law that makes it difficult for them to work as independent drivers.
The protests began Monday but have since swelled, bringing cargo movements to a standstill. That, in turn, threatened to exacerbate disruptions brought by lingering supply chain issues.
The Oakland port is a major hub for agricultural exports, including almonds, rice and wine. Along with Los Angeles and Long Beach in Southern California, the ports handle about half of the nation’s container cargo volume.
On Wednesday, drivers picketed gates and blocked other truckers from hauling cargo in and out of the port, Reuters reported.
The state law, AB5, takes aim at transportation companies like Uber and Lyft, which classify their drivers as independent contractors. Its supporters, like the Teamsters and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), have accused trucking companies of misclassifying their drivers as such and depriving them of fair wages and benefits.
Many trucking companies in California rely on thousands of independent owner-operators who carry loads between ports and distribution centers. AB5 creates hurdles for trucking companies to classify drivers who regularly work for them as independent contractors. Some drivers have complained that AB5 forces them to become official employees.
California passed the controversial law in 2019, which was due to take effect in 2020. A legal challenge delayed the decision. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case, which allowed California to begin implementing the law.