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Truckers protest law that changes how many are classified as independent contractors

About 70% of truckers serving the state's ports are owner-operators.

SACRAMENTO, Calif — Truckers protested this week at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and have more plans to protest on Monday at the Port of Oakland. They’re upset over a California law that changes the framework of independent contractors. 

Independent contractors

In extremely simple terms, the law requires that many independent contractors either become a regular employee for the company or they operate as a small business by themselves and get the proper licensing and insurance, which the California Trucking Association said is not that easy and very expensive. 

The law is not technically new. Governor Gavin Newsom signed it back in 2019, but it immediately faced legal actions and was blocked. The U.S. Supreme Court recently decided not to take the case, meaning the California law now stands. 

While images of the trucks protesting AB5 and slowing down traffic on the LA highways by the ports during a time when the global supply chain is already suffering is not welcoming, there were no reported supply-chain disruptions.

“At the ports in general, it's upwards of 70% of the trucks that service the ports are owner operators,” Eric Sauer with the California Trucking Association said. 

Disruptions to come

The association said there will be disruptions soon. 

“Essentially, what they're (contractors) being told by the state right now is that you can become a company/employee driver, but I think what you're seeing with the actions down at the ports in southern California is these owner operators, independent business owners, do not want to be an employee drivers, they want to remain as owner operators.”

Republican Assemblymember Kevin Kiley’s called it the, "Worst law California has ever passed."

“if you're just calling someone an employee contract, even though they're actually an employee, that was not allowed before AB5," Kiley said. "AB5 though, put it in this whole new set of rules that has made it impossible for people who have chosen voluntarily to be independent contractors because that's what works for them to actually do that. So that's where the problem lies.”

Over the past decade, drivers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have been challenging their classification as “independent contractors” and trying to prove their rights as regular employees for things like wage standards, health insurance, and required break times. 

In fact, there’s a current labor standoff from railroad workers at the port who want to be classified as regular employees adding to the supply chain stress. 

The author of the bill, former assemblymember turned labor union leader, Lorena Gonzales is on vacation and could not do an interview, but she’s been posting on social media about the latter.

She said AB5 makes companies financially reliable for misclassifications now and years past. 

”No wonder they’re spinning so hard and lying to driver about it," Gonzales said. "You can file for back wages here.”

It’s unclear how this will be enforced, the California Trucking Association said they’re still waiting on details. The association represents over a thousand trucking companies in the state, companies that would have to increase their costs if they had to bring more employees under their umbrella. 

Not all truckers are against ab5. 

It does not apply to all independent contractors, like ride-share employees, for example. Proposition 22 passed by the voters, exempts App‑Based Transportation and Delivery Companies from Providing Employee Benefits to Certain Drivers 

WATCH RELATED: How California's low cost insulin could pay itself back in more ways than one (July 2022).


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