Truckers Protest AB 5 Law at Three California Ports

Trucks at the West Basin Container Terminal at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, Calif.
Trucks at the West Basin Container Terminal at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, Calif., in November of 2020. (Bing Guan/Bloomberg News)

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Truckers servicing some of the U.S.’s busiest ports staged protests July 13 as state-level labor rules that change their employment status begin to go into effect, creating another potential choke point in stressed U.S. supply chains.

Transport workers are demonstrating at the California port gateways of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland, the Harbor Trucking Association said in a statement. The protests have had no impact on operations at the Los Angeles complex, Executive Director Gene Seroka said.

LETTER TO NEWSOM: 70-plus trade groups ask for pause in AB 5 enforcement

California’s Assembly Bill 5 requires workers satisfy a three-part test to be considered independent contractors, or else be seen as employees entitled to job benefits. The state’s truck owner-operators must now comply with AB 5 after the Supreme Court on June 30 refused to review a case filed by the California Trucking Association challenging the legislation that sets out the tests for employment-status classification.

The trucking industry relies on contractors — who until now have had flexibility to operate on their own terms — and who have fought to be exempt from state regulations for years. About 70,000 truck owner-operators who form the bedrock of California’s transport industry will be affected by the change.

More than 70% of truckers serving some of the country’s largest ports are owner-operators, and AB 5 will govern their relationships with carriers, brokers and shippers in most cases, according to CTA.

“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,” the Harbor Trucking Association said. “With so many outstanding legal questions regarding AB 5 and how it impacts the future of those who want to retain their independent status, it is no wonder why these truckers have taken matters into their own hands.”

Los Angeles’ Seroka said that the port had planned for the protest days ahead.

“We gave them the breadth and depth and space they needed to voice their opinions but kept this cargo moving; these drivers are very respectful of just that,” Seroka said in a virtual briefing July 13. “They have a message to put out there and are continuing to do so. I applaud them for coming out here today.”

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