Port Of Oakland Urges Truckers To End AB5 Protest

Truckers gear up for fourth day of protests, bringing port operations to standstill

Port of Oakland officials are urging truckers to end their protest over AB5 as the independent contractors prepare to block the terminals for the fourth day on Thursday, bringing container movement at California’s third-largest port to a standstill.

Ahead of Thursday’s demonstration, the three main terminals at the port — Oakland International Container Terminal, also known as SSA, TraPac and Everport — closed operations for both shifts.

Truckers initially planned a three-day protest in Oakland but are digging in after receiving no response Wednesday from California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who signed AB5 — a controversial statute that seeks to limit the use of independent contractors and largely classify them as employee drivers — into law nearly three years ago. 

The protesters held signs directed at Newsom on Wednesday reading, “The cargo won’t flow until AB5 goes.” 

“Since the beginning of the trucker protests on Monday, port staff have been providing federal and state officials regular informational updates about the operational status of our port,” Roberto Bernardo, director of communications for the Port of Oakland, told FreightWaves in an email Thursday. 

In a statement late Wednesday, the port confirmed the trucker protests that started Monday over the implementation of AB5 “have effectively shut down operations at shipping terminals at the Port of Oakland.”

“We understand the frustration expressed by the protesters at California ports,” said Danny Wan, executive director of the Port of Oakland. “But prolonged stoppage of port operations in California for any reason will damage all the businesses operating at the ports and cause California ports to further suffer market-share losses to competing ports.” 

Legal challenges prevented the law from going into effect in January 2020. 

That all changed when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the California Trucking Association’s challenge to AB5 in late June, returning the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Truckers want Newsom and the California legislature to exempt independent contractors from AB5 as they have done for other industries, including lawyers, real estate agents and accountants. 

Proposition 22, which passed in November 2020, exempted app-based, ride-share companies Uber and Lyft from AB5.

Port truckers carried signs reading, “We demand an exemption now. We deserve respect for keeping the world economy and the USA rolling.”

Independent drivers contend clarification is needed about how AB5 will be enforced and how to ensure independent contractors comply with the law. 

Truckers have dug in for the fourth day of protesting California’s controversial independent contractor law that affects 70,000 drivers. (Photo: Clarissa Hawes/FreightWaves)

The independent contractor law not only affects California truckers but millions of freelance writers, translators, artists and consultants in the state. Many are supporting the truckers’ protest on social media, urging Newsom and the legislature to repeal AB5 or exempt them as well.  

Despite the three terminal closures at Oakland and port officials calling for an end to the AB5 protests, an estimated 800 truckers still plan to show up Thursday “to show they are not relenting.”

“The truckers want an exemption and they’re not stopping until they get it,” Kimberly Sulsar-Campos, vice president of Oakland-based Iraheta Bros. Trucking, told FreightWaves.

Late Wednesday, Bobby Olvera Jr., vice president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, issued a statement about its position on AB5. 

“The ILWU believes collective bargaining is fundamental to workplace fairness and safety, as well as a foundation of democratic society,” Olvera’s statement read. “That’s why we support AB5: It aims to stop employers from misclassifying workers in order to stop these workers from forming unions and improving their lives.”

Farless Dailey III, president of ILWU Local 10, also released a statement Wednesday addressing the incident at the SSA terminal after 100 members refused to cross the protest line as truckers showed up early to block the gates.

“The workers stood by on health and safety, as is permitted in our contract when conditions at the terminals present a risk,” Dailey said.

Nearly 22,000 ILWU dockworkers have been without a contract since July 1. FreightWaves interviewed some of them as they headed to their cars Tuesday.

“We are working without a contract right now, so we support the owner-operators and understand what they are trying to do,” said George, a nine-year ILWU member, who didn’t want to give his last name.

ILWU 10 covers San Francisco, Oakland and other Bay Area ports.

Wan said the state is now offering resources to help truckers comply with the law but didn’t provide any details.  

“Truckers are vital to keeping goods moving,” Wan said. “We trust that implementation of AB5 can be accomplished in a way that accommodates the needs of this vital part of the supply chain.” 

From FreightWaves