Independent truckers block Oakland port in days-long protest of labor law

Published: Jul. 24, 2022 at 1:36 PM EDT
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OAKLAND, Calif. (KPIX) – Independent truckers say they will continue their strike at the Port of Oakland indefinitely over the state’s new gig-worker law.

AB5 requires trucking companies to reclassify independent drivers as employees. Many now worry they’ll be forced to join a union or give up their current lifestyle.

An extended strike could mean more stress on the already-strained supply chain, especially if it spreads to California’s other ports.

Richmond City council member Harpreet S. Sandhu spoke during the fourth day of the protest.

“If implemented, your jobs will be gone as independent workers, you will not have a job unless you work under some company,” Sandhu said to the drivers on site.

The 2019 statute is poised to affect some 70,000 California truck drivers after the recent lifting of a 2-year legal stay.

Those drivers are asking for a carveout in the law, which is meant to prevent abuse of independent contractors.

“I know that none of you are asking that AB5 be taken away, but you are asking that certain amendments should allow you an exemption, exemptions that were given to many other organizations,” Sandhu said.

The days-long protest effectively grounded work to a halt at the Port of Oakland, the ninth busiest port in the world.

Larry Gross, the president and founder of Gross Transportation Consulting, says if the strike goes on much longer, there could be a fresh set of supply chain nightmares to deal with.

“So, you can imagine if there’s a stoppage, it’s kinda like a crimp in a hose and the water is going to back up very quickly,” he said. “It’s not going to take a long time of this type of disruption before it’s going to break at least the Port of Oakland.”

The Port of Oakland handles about 98,000 Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs), or containers, a month, which can be pushed to other ports like Los Angeles or Long Beach at the moment.

Gross is concerned that other independent truckers will join the movement and shut down those ports as well.

“If this kind of activity spreads to southern California, it is extremely significant from a supply chain standpoint,” he said.

Nearly one-third of all containers coming into the U.S. enter through L.A. and Long Beach.

Independent trucker Mohander Singh said he and the other truckers have been working with the Port of Oakland for a long time.

“We don’t have an issue with the port, our fight is with our government,” he said.

The truckers have been told that they have until Monday to move along. They are in regular talks with the Port of Oakland and are hoping to get the attention of lawmakers in Sacramento and California Governor Gavin Newsom to protect them.

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