Truckers Strike at the Port of Oakland Over California Assembly Bill Meant to Regulate Independent Contractors

The Port of Oakland is one of the busiest container ports in the country and is essential to supplying Northern California. According to the port, Oakland processed “the equivalent of 1.05 million 20-foot import containers,” in 2021, which works out to about 2,875 containers every day. The port halted operations on July 20  due to objections from truckers over California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5).

According to the Washington Examiner, the bill regulates contractors by drastically reducing their numbers through the “ABC Test.” The measure was passed in 2019, but it has proven to be so difficult to implement that the legislature has made exceptions for approximately 100 industries, but not truckers. Industry experts believe that shipments will likely encounter additional delays and stoppages if the law goes into effect.

The Legal Information Institute noted that “Courts using this test look at whether a worker meets three separate criteria to be considered an independent contractor.” Those criteria are that the contractor is “free from the employer’s control or direction in performing the work,” the work “takes place outside the usual course of the business of the company and off the site of the business,” and that the worker “is engaged in an independent trade, occupation, profession, or business.”

Steven Greenhut of the think tank R Street Institute explained that “​​California lawmakers exempted more than 100 professions from their misguided ban on independent contracting, Assembly Bill 5. But they never bothered to address the impact of their law on trucking, which is one of the most important functions in our economy.”

​​The Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994, which preempts some state rules regarding the transportation of goods under federal law, was utilized by the California Trucking Association to get a preliminary ruling against applying such a test for trucking. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals weighed in against that interpretation and the ruling was subsequently stayed pending Supreme Court review. The stay was removed on June 30 when the Supreme Court decided not to hear the case, putting approximately 70,000 truck owner-operators in California in a difficult legal situation.

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