Though truckers have stopped blocking freight traffic at the Port of Oakland, many are still protesting the controversial AB5 law. Port officials, fearing the potential for a broader strike, took the case to the courts last week. The port sued the protesters, claiming that stopping the flow of international commerce constituted an illegal action. Though a judge denied the port’s request for a temporary restraining order, the courts are mulling over whether the truckers’ actions were illegal or not.
Protests against AB5 began the week of July 18th. AB5 is a controversial California law that forces companies to reclassify workers who would previously have been independent contractors as employees. Though being an employee grants a person greater legal protection, many truckers opposed the law. They pointed to the freedom offered by the owner-operator lifestyle, which AB5 would effectively eliminate. Now that AB5 is in place, many expect thousands of California truckers to leave the state.
The protests completely stopped operations at the port for nearly a week. By July 25th, however, the protests had moved to designated “free speech” zones, allowing the port to begin its operations once again. Still, port officials were frightened enough by the protests to seek legal action.
The Port of Oakland’s lawsuit aims to prevent future backlogs.
The port filed its lawsuit on the 25th, claiming that the protests were legal except for their blocking of international commerce. The main aim of the lawsuit, then, is to prevent future protests from being allowed to block the flow of goods to and from the port. Port officials said that they had received numerous complaints from shippers about the snarled port traffic.
The lawsuit isn’t just concerned with future trucker protests, however. As the trucker strike continues, port officials fear that dockworkers will go against their union and join the strike themselves. Dockworkers in the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) have been working for over a month without a contract. Though the ILWU is working with Biden Administration officials, including Pete Buttegieg, to broker a deal, the Port of Oakland decided to take its own action.
AB5 affects truckers of all kinds, including car carriers. Hopefully, the protesters and California lawmakers can reach an agreement on the law soon. It could worsen the already strained supply chain to see truckers leave the state over this new law.