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Trucker Protest Halts Cargo Flow At Port Of Oakland

Trucker Protest Halts Cargo Flow At Port Of Oakland

Things grew more serious on the third consecutive day of protests at the Port of Oakland, as truckers opposed to a new California labor law blocked gates and triggered a total shutdown of operations on Wednesday. 

Per The Associated Press

The protest that began Monday involves hundreds of independent big-rig truckers that have blocked the movement of cargo in and out of terminals at the port, which is one of the 10 busiest container ports in the country.

Port of Oakland Executive Director Danny Wan warned that a continued shutdown will “damage all the businesses operating at the ports” and encourage shippers to choose different ones. CNBC reports the protest is slated to extend through Friday. 

Truckers are protesting Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), a gig economy law that compels businesses to treat many more workers as employees rather than independent contractors. More than 70% of truckers who service America’s largest ports are independent contractors, according to the California Trucking Association (CTA). 

Though it’s beyond the comprehension of California’a authoritarian Democrats, plenty of people have weighed the advantages and disadvantages of being an independent contractor and choose to do it of their own free will. Among them are some 70,000 California truckers who own their own rigs, including non-California residents who will now be snared by AB5 when they operate in California.

Truckers block the entrances at the Port of Oakland (Reuters/Carlos Barria) 

In June, the Supreme Court denied the California Trucking Association’s petition for the court to hear the CTA’s argument that AB5 should be preempted by a federal law that bars states from regulating trucking companies’ services, routes and prices.

With the law now becoming operational, truckers say they’re bewildered about how to comply with it. Many say they’ll either have to shell out tens of thousands of dollars or just give up on the entrepreneurial life they’d chosen. 

In its petition to the Supreme Court, the CTA said AB5 would force companies who hire independent truckers to do so in accordance with the California Labor Code, reimburse drivers for any cost incurred in operating and maintaining vehicle, record drivers’ working hours, provide and manage drivers’ meal and rest periods, and pay worker’s comp and unemployment insurance.  

If they have to do all that, many companies will opt to absorb the trucking function entirely into their operation — buying trucks, hiring drivers and creating the infrastructure to manage fleets. Many once-entrepreneurial independent truckers will be forced to become employees, find a new line of work, or obtain their own operating authority and comply with all the many requirements of treating themselves as their own employees.  

A spokesman for the Harbor Trucking Association told Reuters the cost to do that could hit $20,000 a year. 

When the Supreme Court denied the CTA’s petition, the group said

“Gasoline has been poured on the fire that is our ongoing supply chain crisis. In addition to the direct impact on California’s 70,000 owner-operators who have seven days to cease long-standing independent businesses, the impact of taking tens of thousands of truck drivers off the road will have devastating repercussions on an already fragile supply chain, increasing costs and worsening runaway inflation.”

It’s not just the truckers themselves who are going to be slammed by AB5. According to Reuters:

Business owner Josue Mendez, 29, said AB5 would devastate his port trucking firm, which relies on 10 independent drivers to move everything from medical equipment to almonds. “I can no longer hire them” and be in compliance with AB5, said Mendez.

Having exhausted its options in the courts, the CTA and independent truckers have turned to pressuring California Governor Gavin Newsom and the state legislature to amend or repeal AB5 — and they’re bringing that pressure by staging protests at ports that have already been under tremendous strain.

Last week, trucker protests targeted the ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach. California ports handle some 40% of shipping containers entering the country. 

The showdown over AB5 comes at an inopportune time. According to the CTA’s Eric Sauer, “We’re in peak harvest season. We’re also in peak construction season. And this is the time for peak holiday imports coming into the ports.”

That means the truckers’ reaction to California’s overreaching law promises to affect all of us. Sad but true: People are leaving California in droves, yet none of us can fully escape the relentless destructiveness of its government. 

Tyler Durden
Thu, 07/21/2022 – 15:45

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