On Monday, truckers backed up traffic at the port in Oakland, California, in protest against a state law that could limit labour at the state’s already congested seaports and make it more difficult for independent contractors to transport goods, potentially worsening the supply chain bottlenecks caused by the pandemic.
About 40% of the containerized commodities that enter the United States pass through ports in California. Trucking interruptions occur while unions and West Coast port companies negotiate a crucial labour agreement.
The “gig worker” bill, also known as AB5, establishes stricter criteria for designating employees as independent contractors. When the law is put into effect, independent truckers who currently operate under the authority and insurance of businesses that engage them for jobs will be burdened with the high costs and paperwork of taking that on.
Douglas Urtado, an independent driver, who participated in Monday’s demonstration at the Port of Oakland in the San Francisco Bay Area, claimed that the authorities wanted to exterminate the drivers.
The law would be so financially draining, according to Wayne Feng, who was wearing a “No on AB5” T-shirt, that drivers “aren’t making anything,”—which is more or less the motive of their protest.
Legal challenges prevented AB5 from taking effect in 2020, but the U.S. Supreme Court this month rejected a petition from the California Trucking Association asserting that federal rules are impeding the law’s implementation. According to experts, a court order that suspended the law may soon be lifted.
In the Port of Oakland, more than 100 truckers and owners of small trucking companies who oppose the rule surrounded two terminal gates, reducing truck admission to a trickle. The reaction occurred after Los Angeles port truckers last week blocked roads and picketed gates at the busiest maritime complex in the country.
Josue Mendez, a 29-year-old business owner, claimed that AB5 will completely destroy his port trucking company, which uses 10 freelance drivers to transport everything from medical equipment to almonds.
Mendez added that he can no longer recruit them and be in conformity with AB5.
The Teamsters union, which long controlled the trucking industry, is one of AB5’s supporters. They claim that by requiring owners to hire drivers as employees and offer workers’ compensation insurance and other benefits, AB5 will put a stop to labour abuses.
Industry associations, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which represents some 20,000 truckers working in the Los Angeles and Oakland ports, tried unsuccessfully to persuade California Governor Gavin Newsom to put off the law’s implementation.
It’s time to proceed, said Dee Dee Myers, head of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, after the federal courts dismissed the trucking industry’s appeals.
The tactics used in port trucking in California date back to the 1980s, a time when the United States deregulated the trucking industry.
That led to the present economic model, where the majority of enterprises rely on independent drivers, many of whom are recent immigrants, as opposed to the previous one, which was controlled by big, unionised companies.
According to an estimate by Wayne State University economics professor Michael Belzer, port driver income is currently between fifty and two-thirds less than it was before deregulation. He also added that inadequate government data, particularly on hours worked, makes it challenging to get precise information on compensation.