July 19th, the Port of Oakland’s terminal gates and rail ramps were invaded by hundreds of drivers and allies there to protest AB5. The protestors were in position before the port’s 6 am shift began, and one hundred port members showed up for their workday and chose to not cross the protest lines. The union members ultimately decided to put their own earnings aside and support their colleagues and the protest against AB5.
AB5 redefines who is considered an independent contractor and who is considered an employee. AB5 aims to change a business model that has been in place for decades. Though AB5 is substantially disruptive to most independent contractors’ occupations that are traditionally thought of as independent contractors (like lawyers and real estate agents) are exempt from AB5.
Carriers and drivers have been planning for AB5 since it was first passed in 2019, though no one has received a clear answer as to when the bill will be enforced. The California Supreme Court and Governor Gavin Newsom believe that truckers/drivers are misclassified as independent contractors and should be classified as employees. An employee costs an average of 30% more than an independent contractor. They have gained support for AB5 by drawing attention to the “benefits” drivers are missing out on by not being classified as an employee. Although, most drivers want to be independent contractors, and every driver deserves a choice. Self-employment is the appeal for many to become a driver because they want the choice in their workload/workday.
At the Port of Oakland productions was eventually stalled. However, in one of the most bizarre twists to the AB5 story Port commissioners and the city of Oakland initiated legal action against protestors. The port hired a private investigator to video protestors as they left in hopes to get their license plate information to find individual identities and five protestors were cited to appear in court. One defendant cited is a gentleman in his mid-70s who was at the protest, but he did not participate, and he speaks very little English. The court date listed was less than a week away, leaving the defendants with little time to find an attorney to represent them and help them understand their citation. The city and port were requesting a temporary restraining order against the defendants and any conjoined parties. This restraining order would prohibit any illegal actions that alter the port’s regular production operations. Judge Delbert Gee said he will not be granting the immediate temporary restraining order during Monday’s Zoom hearing. Judge Gee stated he needed more time to review the case, and he does not know when his official ruling will be issued.
The pandemic sent the supply chain into crisis and now AB5 is throwing gasoline on the fire. Independent contractor, Rafael Quintero, has been an owner-operator for over 43 years. Quintero called AB5 an “American Dream Killer.” Most minority drivers immigrate to the United States with hopes to own their own business, free from governmental control and intimidation. Now California’s legislature and the Port of Oakland are using the same tactics to control and intimidate owner-operators. He urges everyone to vote in state and federal polls! Protestors are requesting California Governor Newsom to meet and discuss their concerns and AB5’s implications on their livelihoods. They continue to hold onto hope that Newsom will create and issue an exemption or carve-out like he has for other industries but that’s unlikely given how beholden he is to the unions who have longed to have trucking unionized again. Logistics companies including Landstar are starting to (strongly) suggest their owner-operators relocate out of California, pursue other career options, or create their own business authority. Independent contractors over the United States should find a lawyer(s) and get assistance/opinions on how to move forward and retain an income with bills like AB5. AB5 will cause a lot of damage for the political goals of a few constituents. And the people they say are helped will be the ones that pay the price.