Protesters Stop Operations at Oakland Port Over California Labor Law

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    Beginning on Monday, the protests have closed the third-busiest port on the West Coast and the eighth largest port in the United States.

    All cargo traffic moving in and out is being stopped by a truck blockade, and no one is sure when the protests will stop.

    The truckers protest against Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) which “requires companies that hire independent contractors to reclassify them as employees,” with a few exclusions, CNBC reported. Around 70,000 truckers are classified as independent contractors.

    The protesters are concerned that if they don't find work that would classify them as an employee, they'll eventually have to “pay more for insurance and permits to remain independent under the law's guidelines,” the Wall Street Journal reported. This law will also be an obstacle for independent truckers to work hours they choose and earn a decent living when they are forced to become an employee, according to the Associated Press.

    The law was passed by legislators from the state in 2019 and was set to come into effect in 2020, but it has been delayed because of legal challenges. The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to consider the case which could have permitted the state to enforce the law. However, it appears that the California Trucking Association is still fighting this law in lower courts, the Wall Street Journal reported.

    Truckers are demanding Governor. Gavin Newsom (D) and lawmakers reconsider enforcing AB5 if the courts allow the state to do so. One protester who owns a trucking operation criticized Newsom and claimed to CNBC that he's been refusing to speak to them.

    “It seems the governor is not concerned about taking American workers’ rights away,” Bill Aboudi, owner of AB Trucking, explained. “These are independent, small businesses that choose to operate their own trucks, and now that right is taken away from them. They do pay taxes, they do have insurance. It’s their choice to do that.”

     

    Advocates of the law argue that truckers classified as independent contractors were being harmed by companies. They were prevented from getting fair compensation and benefits.

    AB5 was enacted as part of a larger effort against rideshare gigs, including Uber and Lyft, that make use of Independent Contractor Agreements.

    The protests are a result of ports all over the world, including Oakland's, struggling to deal with the cargo traffic supply chain crises after the outbreak of coronavirus.

    “We understand the frustration expressed by the protestors at California ports,” Port of Oakland Executive Director Danny Wan said in a statement to the AP. “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.”

    Prior to the blockade of truckers, more than 2,100 trucks would pass through the port on a daily basis and import items such as “Australian wine and meat to aluminum from South Korea, furniture from China, clothing and electronics,” CNBC said.

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