The Port of Oakland was closed for the third straight day on Thursday as truckers continued to protest a California gig worker law that could impact about 70,000 truckers.
The protests, which began on Monday, shut down the West Coast’s third-busiest port and the country’s eighth-largest port.
Freight traffic in and out of the port has been halted by a truck blockade, and it is unclear when the protests will end.
Truckers are protesting Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), which “requires companies that hire independent contractors to reclassify them as employees,” with some exceptions, CNBC reported. An estimated 70,000 are classified as independent contractors.
The protesting truckers fear that if they do not seek work that qualifies them as employees, then they will have to “pay more for insurance and permits to remain independent within the guidelines of the law”. the wall street journal reported. The law would also create a challenge for self-employed truckers to work their own hours and earn a living if they were to become an employee, the Associated Press noted.
The law passed by state lawmakers in 2019 was supposed to take effect in 2020, but was filed due to legal challenges. The US Supreme Court recently declined to hear the case, which could have allowed the state to enforce the law; however, the California Trucking Association is still challenging the law in lower courts, the Log Noted.
Truckers are demanding that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and lawmakers reconsider implementing AB5 if the courts allow the state to do so. One protester, who owns a trucking company, criticized Newsom and told CNBC he refused to speak to them.
“It seems the governor doesn’t care about taking away the rights of American workers,” said Bill Aboudi, owner of AB Trucking. “These are small, independent companies choosing to operate their own trucks, and now that right is being taken away from them. They pay taxes, they have insurance. It is their choice to do so.
Proponents of the law say the companies exploited truckers, classified as independent contractors, for not receiving fair wages and benefits.
AB5 was created as part of a broader effort against ride-sharing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, that use independent contractor agreements.
The protests come after ports around the world, including Oakland, grappled with a supply chain crisis in cargo traffic in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We understand the frustration expressed by protesters at California ports,” Port of Oakland Executive Director Danny Wan said in a statement, according to the AP. “But, the prolonged shutdown of port operations in California for whatever reason will damage all businesses operating in the ports and cause California ports to suffer additional market share losses to competing ports.”
Prior to the trucker blockade, more than 2,100 passed through the port daily, importing items such as “Australian aluminum wine and meat from South Korea, furniture from China, clothing and electronics”, CNBC reported.
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