Truckers serving the California port gateways of Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Oakland on July 13 began port-wide protests against Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), which is expected to virtually eliminate the use of owner-operators in trucking in the state.
AB5 was passed and signed into law in 2019. An injunction in place since 2020 has prevented the law from being enforced while a lawsuit on the bill made its way through the judicial system. On June 30, however, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition from the California Trucking Association to hear the case, paving the way for full enforcement of the law.
The injunction is expected to be lifted any day now, according to the Harbor Trucking Association. Provisions in the bill will prevent independent owner-operator truck drivers from contracting with other trucking companies for services, essentially leaving trucking companies no choice but to use only employee drivers.
Assembly Bill 5 established a strict “ABC test” to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. In order to be considered an independent contractor, the following conditions must be met:
- A: The worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact;
- B: The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and
- C: The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed.
Most legal analysis of the ruling agrees the ABC test, in particular the “B” prong, sets an impossible standard for most motor carriers using independent contractor owner-operators to meet.
Slow-Moving Truck Convoys, Port Protests
According to Sourcing Journal, there were about 100 truck drivers protesting at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
A slow-moving trucker convoy protesting AB5 slowed traffic Wednesday morning, reported CBS Los Angeles:
NBC channel 4 reported that the 110 freeway was backed up from Sepulveda Blvd. and could be seen from Carson and Torrance. The protest circled back to the southbound 710 freeway.
According to Fox 11 in Los Angeles, “The convoy of dozens of trucks dramatically slowed traffic on the northbound 110, but the route remained open. As the convoy moved south on the 710, drivers fanned out across all lanes, bringing traffic to a crawl, and briefly to a full stop.”
A Facebook group with more than 5,000 members, LA & LB Port Drivers, showed photos and videos of truckers in white T-shirts with a “No AB5” symbol on them, holding “No AB5” signs. “Still Essential,” said one.
Trucker Dreams ‘Tossed Aside’
“It is clear that a very large contingent of truck owners have taken recent developments regarding AB5 as a direct threat to their livelihoods,” said Matt Schrap, CEO of the Harbor Trucking Association, in a statement.
“The frustration with the total lack of regard by the state of California for a business model that has provided thousands of men and women an opportunity to build and grow a business is now blatantly obvious.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t matter how many independent drivers stood up and expressed concerns during the legislative process for AB5 in 2019,” Schrap said. “They were basically ignored and essentially told by the governor and the legislature what was best for them and their families.”
Schrap said guidance is needed from the state into how independent owner-operators “fit into the AB5 enforcement matrix.”
“Contrary to what has been perpetuated by the author of AB5 and its ardent supporters, is the fact that most, if not all, independent drivers do not want to be employees,” Schrap said. “They want to remain independent. But the state has provided zero guidance in how to legally do so.
“Bottom line, California has basically tossed these drivers and their dreams aside for the sake of political expediency in order to satisfy the wants and desires of special interests.
“The baby has been thrown out with the bath water.”
Port Reaction to Trucker AB5 Protests
The protests have had no impact on operations at the Port of Los Angeles, said Executive Director Gene Seroka in a virtual briefing.
“As I was coming back from terminal island this morning… I noticed a number of truckers lining up, they have placards on their rigs saying ‘No to AB5.’ They’re just voicing their opinion. They have the right to free speech and protests…. We planned for this days ahead to make sure these protests were peaceful, organized. We gave them the breadth and depth and space they needed to voice their opinions but kept this cargo moving through the port complex; these drivers are very respectful of just that,” he said.
“But they’ve got a message to put out there, they’re going to continue to do that, and I applaud them for coming out today.”
The Port of Long Beach also issued a statement. “Our Harbor Patrol is working to ensure the safety and First Amendment rights of all concerned. We are aware of the issues surrounding the requirements of [Assembly Bill 5], and we are working with our drayage partners and other stakeholders to ensure that goods can be delivered safely and quickly through the supply chain.”
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