Independent truckers block Oakland port in protest

Independent truckers block Oakland port in protest

The drivers object to a law requiring companies to hire them as employees rather than independent contractors

Independent truck drivers gather to delay the entry of trucks at a container terminal at the Port of Oakland.

Truckers protesting against a California labor law effectively shut down cargo operations at the Port of Oakland, one of the busiest in the US.

The protest began on Monday, when hundreds of independent big-rig truckers blocked the movement of cargo in and out of terminals at the port. On Wednesday, port officials warned that the shutdown would further exacerbate the congestion of containers.

The truckers are protesting Assembly Bill 5, a gig economy law passed in 2019 that made it harder for companies to classify workers as independent contractors instead of employees, who are entitled to minimum wage and benefits such as workers compensation, overtime and sick pay.

A federal appeals court ruled last year that the law applies to approximately 70,000 truck drivers who can be classified as employees of companies that hire them instead of independent contractors.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters called it a "massive victory" for exploited truckers. But the California Trucking Association, which sued over the law, had argued the law could make it harder for independent drivers who own their own trucks and operate on their own hours to make a living by forcing them to be classified as employees.

The legal battle stalled enforcement of the law but last month the US supreme court decided it would not review the decision.

Truckers are now asking the California governor, Gavin Newsom, to meet and discuss the issue.

There's been no word on when the state might begin enforcing the law, which is still being contested in lower courts.

The truckers have said they plan to continue their protest until they hear from lawmakers.

"We've all been out here for three days, non-stop, from early mornings to late night. You know, we're trying to stop the port's operation so that we can get our point across and cancel that AB5 law. We're gonna be out here until Sacramento gives us an answer about this law," driver Randeep Dhillon told KTVU.

Messages seeking comment from the governor's office and the governor's office of business and economic development weren't immediately returned Wednesday evening.

The protest comes as supply chain problems have already led to cargo ship traffic jams at large ports and stockpiled goods on the dock, and ports have been struggling to handle container traffic, much of it from Asia.

Meanwhile, toymakers and other industries are entering their peak season for imports as retailers stockpile goods for the fall holidays and back-to-school items.

"We understand the frustration expressed by the protesters at California ports," Port of Oakland executive director Danny Wan said in a statement. "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."

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