Protesters challenge gig worker law, AB5, at Port of Oakland
OAKLAND, Calif. - Monday was the first day of what may become a big multi-day showdown and slowdown at the Port of Oakland.
Big protests in Oakland come on the tail of similar protests at the posts of Los Angeles and Long Beach, over the right versus the rule of independent workers to remain so.
A 2019 law, AB5 was designed to provide gig workers and independent contractors better benefits, requiring them either to become employees of trucking and cargo dispatching companies or to establish their own business.
"They want us either be employees of the company, or become corporations," said independent owner and operator Ablelon Zersiel.
Most of the port's containers are hauled by single drivers who own a truck and get loads through established companies that need extra, short-term drivers on an as-needed, seasonal basis.
Based on ever-changing needs, AB Trucking owner Bill Aboudi has employee drivers that he back fills with independent owner-operators.
"We can't handle the volume with our company trucks. So you rely on people that are working for multiple people or companies that are considered, they are owner-operators," said Aboudi.
Many independent drivers say that forming a corporation will complicate their lives and raise their taxes, as well as their expenses on top of healthcare insurance, maintenance, permits, fuel and taxes that they already pay.
"This is the wrong time to do that. The inflation is swallowing us up," said owner-operator Zersiel.
"Many owner-operators pay taxes way beyond what a normal employee would," said Joe Rajkovacz of the Western States Trucking Association.
Setting up their own corporations has not been the solution to staying independent.
"EDD [Employee Development Department] is going after them, and there are adverse decisions made," said Rajkovacz.
The gig-worker rule AB5 was created with the best of intentions: to try to give people more dignity, income and support. The problem is, almost immediately, exceptions were being carved out.
SEE ALSO: Truck drivers planning protest at Port of Oakland Monday
And truckers say that they need to be one of those exceptions.
"They're gonna own a crisis of their own making. This is gonna be totally a man-made crisis," said Rajkovacz.
If all that weren't enough, some 80,000 trucks may be banned from California for no longer complying with new air quality regulations. The nation's supply chain hangs in the balance.