Operations resume at Port of Oakland following truck blockade protests

Operations at the Port of Oakland resumed this week after several days of disruptions caused by truckers protesting a California labor law.

Truckers protesting Assembly Bill 5, California’s “gig worker law,” disrupted operations at the port last week, blocking cargo from moving in or out of the port and stoking fears that a prolonged shutdown would cause California ports “to further suffer market share losses to competing ports,” Port of Oakland Executive Director Danny Wan said last week.

According to a statement released Monday by the port, protesters moved to a designated “free speech zone,” allowing operations to resume on Saturday. The protests stalled the flow of certain international commerce, such as medical supplies, auto parts, livestock and manufacturing parts, according to the port.

“The truckers have been heard and we now urge them to voice their grievances with lawmakers, not the Port of Oakland,” Wan said Monday.

AB 5, a California law passed in 2019, made it more difficult to classify workers as independent contractors instead of employees. Under the law, workers had to meet a three-part requirement (known as an ABC test) to determine if they could be classified as an independent contractor. If not, they would be considered an employee entitled to benefits.

A federal appeals court ruled last year that the law applied to about 70,000 California truck drivers, as previously reported by the Associated Press. The California Trucking Association decided to sue over the law, but the U.S. Supreme Court announced last month it would not review the decision.

“We are disappointed the Court does not recognize the irrevocable damage eliminating independent truckers will have on interstate commerce and communities across the state,” the association said in a statement on June 30.

Labor advocates who supported the bill in 2019 saw it as a way to provide fair wages and benefits to workers. The California Labor Federation said in 2019 that it was “the most important state law in decades to address widespread inequality by raising wages for workers and holding corporations accountable.”

But trade groups and industry members called on Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this month to pause enforcement of the law, fearing the impact the law will have on small businesses and drivers who want to remain independent.

Truckers were asking the governor for a meeting to discuss AB 5, but it’s unclear at this point if that will happen. A spokesperson for the governor’s office did not specify whether or not protestors have been granted a meeting, but told The Center Square in an email that “although it has been the subject of litigation, AB 5 was enacted in 2019, so no one should be caught by surprise by the law’s requirements at this time.”

“The industry should focus on supporting this transition just as California has and continues to do,” the spokesperson said. “California is committed to supporting our truck drivers and ensuring our state’s truck drivers receive the protections and compensation they are entitled to. This administration has employment tax incentives, small business financing, and technical assistance resources to support this essential industry.

“The state will continue to partner with truckers and the ports to ensure the continued movement of goods to California’s residents and businesses, which is critical to all of us.”

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