Truck blockade of major California seaport stretches into day three

Protests by US truck drivers that began in Oakland Port on Monday July 18th continued into Wednesday The drivers are demonstrating against a new California state labour law (“AB5”) that they say is biased in favour of big businesses and makes it harder for independent truckers to operate.

Drivers picketed gates and blocked other truckers from hauling cargo in and out of the port. The protests were growing larger and more disruptive with each passing day.

Late on Wednesday Port of Oakland Executive Director Danny Wan acknowledged protesters’ frustration with California’s “gig worker” law and warned that a prolonged shutdown would “damage all the businesses operating at the ports” and cause customers to shift cargo to rival seaports.

The protesters worry that the law, which could soon be put into effect, will impose hefty costs on them that will slash their earnings.

SSA Marine, which manages the largest terminal at the Port of Oakland in the San Francisco Bay area, closed operations on Wednesday due to the protests, which brought businesses at other marine terminals to a virtual halt.

SSA and Everport terminal managers sent International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) dock workers home for safety reasons, it was reported.

AB5 sets tougher standards for classifying workers as independent contractors. Trucking industry legal challenges delayed enactment of the law for more than two years, but the US Supreme Court declined to review the case on June 30th clearing the way for it to go forward.

The Teamsters and the ILWU say that AB5 aims to clamp down on labour abuses and push companies to hire drivers as employees – which would enable them to join unions and collectively bargain with employers. About 5,000 truckers work at the Oakland port.

AB5 was designed to protect the rights of the gig workers of such companies as Uber, Lyft and DoorDash, but its impact on the truck-driving industry has been controversial since it was initiated. About 70,000 truck drivers in California own and operate their own trucks, and they have made it plain that they do not want to become employees.

In a letter to California governor Gavin Newsom on July 14th the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said: “We are asking you to announce a delay in enforcement of AB5 in the trucking industry until the state fully considers how the law will affect small-business truckers and provides remedies to ensure independent contractors are not forced to be reclassified as employees.”