Independent truckers protesting a new California law closed down the port of Oakland yesterday. The truckers are protesting the controversial worker classification law known as AB5. As the protest enters its fifth day on Friday, truckers are still waiting for a response from California Governor Gavin Newsom.
Large coalitions of truckers began to descend on the California ports of Long Beach, Los Angeles, and Oakland on Monday. While the protests in Southern California have mostly petered out, the port of Oakland was so inundated with protesters on Thursday that the port preemptively halted operations that morning. Now, officials are pleading with protesters to give up their protest before too much business goes to other ports.
The protests began as a result of the Supreme Court declining to hear a lawsuit against the state over the law. Governor Newsom originally signed AB5 into law in 2019, but a lawsuit filed in early 2020 prevented it from going into effect. The subsequent legal battle reached the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where a judge ruled in favor of the state. The California Trucking Association, which filed the lawsuit, then appealed to the Supreme Court. By refusing to hear the case last month, the Supreme Court effectively codified AB5 into law.
The AB5 protest aims for clarity and a trucking exemption
The protesting truckers say that they won’t give up their protest until they receive clarity on how AB5 will be enforced by the state. Many truckers are independent owner-operators whose classification may change under AB5. These truckers worry that fewer companies will hire them because many would become actual employees under this law. The law could affect up to 70,000 California workers.
The ultimate goal of the protests, however, is an exemption in the law for truckers. AB5 already has a number of exemptions, including those for app-based rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft. The protesters assert that independent truckers, who value their work for the freedom it allows them, deserve an exemption as well. The state, and the whole U.S., awaits Governor Newsom’s response.