A trucker blockade that held up operations at the Port of Oakland for a week is resolved for now, though could return, as port officials promise they will “liaison” with Governor Newsom over the impact of independent contractor law AB5 on the trucking industry.
You probably know the Port Oakland best for its large white cranes that are (incorrectly) rumored to be the inspiration for the AT-AT Walkers in The Empire Strikes Back. And you probably know the contentious California gig worker law called AB5 for the 2020 Uber and Lyft ballot measure Prop. 22 that successfully undid it, but only for “app-based drivers” at a specific handful of companies like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash. AB5 remains in effect for independent contractors in pretty much all other industries.
These two very disparate concepts of AB5 and the Port of Oakland collided last week when a trucker protest shut down the Port of Oakland, because AB5 went into effect for the trucking industry on June 30 when the Supreme Court refused to hear their case against it. So masses of truckers blocked the ports of Oakland, Long Beach, and Los Angeles in protest. But the Oakland iteration of that protest is over, for now at least. The port and truckers have reached a temporary agreement, and KPIX reports the Port of Oakland has reopened and truckers will stop blocking the port.
“The Port of Oakland has resumed full operations,” Port executive director Danny Wan said in a release. "We appreciate the independent truck drivers' use of the designated Free Speech Zones and we thank local law enforcement for their continued assistance.”
So what did the truckers get in return? Not a ton it seems, but since they were threatened with arrest, they are at least not in jail, nor are their trucks impounded. The Bay Area News Group report on the resolution of the trucker blockade notes that “the Port of Oakland promised to act as a liaison between the independent trucking community and Sacramento. The port will also establish a ‘working group’ of truckers and port officials to review ‘concerns regarding implementation of AB 5,’ according to a letter from port leadership released last week.”
“We are responsible citizens and it’s our responsibility to not break the supply chain,” freight company owner Navdeep Gill told the news group. He added they would “all come back” to blockade again without acceptable resolution from this so-called working group.
The industry publication Freight Waves has a statement from Gavin Newsom, which is a non-statement even by Newsom standards. “The state will continue to partner with truckers and the ports to ensure the continued movement of goods to California’s residents and businesses, which is critical to all of us,” the statement says. Newsom has previously carved out AB5 exemptions for a number of industries.
Notably, Newsom gave an exemption to freelance writers, photographers, and musicians, some say just so Willie Brown could keep writing his gossipy Chronicle column. Regardless, Brown’s column ended in January 2021.
Image: Port of Oakland