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Heavy Truck Drivers Sharply Criticizing AB5, California's Gig Economy Worker Bill

HAYWARD (KPIX 5) -- A California bill aimed at reforming working conditions in the so-called gig economy is being sharply criticized by some truck drivers who feel unfairly swept up in its reforms.

"It's not something we need or even want. We want to leave it the way it is," said truck owner-operator Huy Le about Assembly Bill 5.

The bill's author, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), says it's meant to provide a steady income, health benefits and other protections for contract employees like Lyft or Uber drivers.

"We, as the state, are acting as the backstop for these workers when they don't make enough money. They have to rely on food stamps or CalWorks. They have to rely on subsidized housing," Gonzalez said at a rally in support of the legislation that's now on Governor Gavin Newsom's desk.

RELATEDCalifornia Senate Approves AB5 Bill To Reclassify Gig Economy Workers

But many heavy truck drivers say they prize the independence and flexibility that owning and operating their own trucks provides. They say it allows them to set their own schedule and choose the best paying jobs available.

"I'd rather be an independent worker because I have more flexible hours. I've been working for more than four years in the industry and it's been going well for me and my family," said truck owner-operator Jylki Sarup.

It's an arrangement that the owners of larger trucking companies say works for them as well. They fear the impact AB5 could have on their business if they're forced to put independent owner-operators on their payroll permanently.

"It will probably put me out of business within six months of that law being passed," said Greg Menna, owner of Greg's Trucking Inc. in San Mateo. Menna says he started in the business as an owner-operator.

He says his industry thrives on the flexibility of having a pool of potential truck drivers to match to each individual job.

"There's a lot of freedom that the owner-operators have. They can work where they want, when they want to," Menna said.

Menna says the trucking industry is planning a court battle if the bill becomes law.

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