A group of truck drivers continued to hold up cargo traffic at the Port of Oakland on Wednesday, deepening fears of major disruptions to the supply chain at one of the nation’s largest ports and a key hub for global trade.
The protest entered its third day on Wednesday after escalating to almost complete shutdown of port activity the day before. A growing chorus of protesters say they plan to continue halting freight traffic throughout the week, although the loose coalition of truckers has yet to reach a final decision.
At the heart of the protest is California’s 2019 law AB 5, which would require about 70,000 currently independent owner-operators to register as employees of trucking and other companies. Many small business owners and independent truckers say the law could force them out of business. But workers’ rights groups say the trucking industry desperately needs worker protections.
Truck drivers and freight operators are calling on Sacramento to exempt them from AB 5.
Navdeep Gillm, owner of a small trucking company, said protesters will begin talks with officials at the Port of Oakland on Wednesday and then decide whether to continue their protest at the Port of Oakland, which is at the center of a dispute between truck drivers. trucks and the deputies from Sacramento.
Port of Oakland officials did not return multiple requests for comment.
The 2019 law, AB 5, was strongly supported by labor groups that say many gig workers and truck drivers are often classified as independent contractors even though their work should qualify them for full-time employee benefits. The law has been on hold since 2020 amid legal disputes. In June, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case challenging AB 5, clearing the way for the state to enforce the new employee classification system.
Many truckers say the independent contractor model gives them the flexibility and opportunity to grow a small trucking business in an industry that has become an economic engine for Sikh immigrants and their children.
Nearly a century old, the Port of Oakland is one of the three largest gateways on the West Coast and handles nearly all of Northern California’s containerized imports and exports.
Although supply chain issues have caused a huge backlog in shipping facilities over the past year, the import business is booming on the back of strong consumer demand. In 2021, the Port of Oakland moved over 1 million import cargo containers, a new record.