OAKLAND – The controversy over the effect of AB5 on the trucking industry boiled over Monday, as independent drivers gathered at the entrances to the Port of Oakland to strike, disrupting operations.
Owner-operator truck drivers, who make up 90% of the Port's operation, are on strike over the new law. AB5 requires that trucking companies make their drivers employees, shutting out all the independent operators who own their own rigs.
So, protesters blocked other trucks from entering the port, as a way to get lawmakers' attention.
"If the port got affected, the government will listen and they will have to," said trucker Sandeep Singh. "That is what we are actually doing. And we will try to continue until we get it."
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Trucks lined up down the street, as police made a deal with the protesters to allow 10 trucks in every 30 minutes.
"Right now, in good faith, I need everyone to separate, let a path through, and let us let five in," said one officer to the crowd.
Currently, trucking companies deal with the permits and insurance needed to work in the port and they hire independent drivers to pick up and deliver loads.
AB5 would prohibit that, requiring owner-operators to do all the administrative tasks themselves.
Many see it as a ploy to force drivers into companies where they could then be required to join a union.
Jason Rabinowitz, President of the Teamsters' Joint Council 7, acknowledged AB5 is, in fact, about unionizing truckers.
"The greedy trucking companies are denying drivers that basic human right of forming a union, if they want to, by misclassifying them as non-employees," Rabinowitz said. "That's not right. Every worker, every driver deserves the right to have a union and all the benefits that come with that."
But the truckers on the protest line said they don't want to be someone's employee and they shouldn't be forced out of their lifestyle to appease a powerful union in Sacramento.
"They spend this amount of money on a truck--their life savings--and work hard to provide for their families," Josue Mendez, owner of J&E Transportation, told KPIX 5. "An owner-operator becomes an owner-operator because they want to be their own boss."
In the meantime, the shipping containers at the port are stacking up. And the drivers say, take a good look, that's what it will be like if they are forced out of the state.
"So, it's going to go back to the same problem. The ships are going to be docking at sea without being unloaded," said trucker Larry Dhaliwal. "So, what happens? The consumers have to pay for that. And if you now remove 90% of the truckers, who's going to pull out those containers?"
Legal challenges have delayed implementation of the law,. So now the trucking industry is waiting to find out when enforcement will begin.
The drivers plan to continue their strike at the Port of Oakland through Wednesday.
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