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Harbor truckers say they will block Port of Oakland operations until California suspends AB 5

Harbor truckers who have shut down Port of Oakland terminal operations for the fourth straight day say they will keep the Port shut down until California suspends the controversial AB 5.

Truckers striking at the Port of Oakland want no part of  AB 5. Photo Credit Stas Margaronis, AJOT

The drivers re-iterated similar statements they made yesterday and contained on a placard in front of one terminal stating: “Cargo won’t flow until AB 5 goes.”

AB 5 is state law adopted in 2018 that the courts have affirmed when the United States Supreme Court denied review of the law. The State is now offering resources to help truckers comply with the law. The AB 5 law would reclassify independent owner-operator drivers as motor carrier employees.

The drivers have reiterated that without AB 5’s suspension, they will continue to block operations at the Port of Oakland.

The American Trucking Association’s publication, Transport Topics, reported that more than 70 trade associations representing wide-ranging supply chain interests have sent a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom asking him to issue an executive order to temporarily pause enforcement of the California’s AB 5 contractor law.

On July 21st, Day 4 of the protest, there were approximately 50 demonstrators blocking entrances at two terminals

One group was protesting at the entrance of the Oakland International Container Terminal (OICT), operated by Stevedoring Services of America, which handles around two thirds of the container volume at the Port.

One of the protesters outside the OICT gate was Kimberly Sulsar, vice president of operations at Iraheta Brothers, a trucking company based in Oakland.

Sulsar told AJOT: “These truckers bought trucks. Some have loans of 4-5 years on trucks. Where are their trucks going? ... The trucker doesn’t want to make $35 an hour (as an employee) because he makes $6,000 a week. He owns his own business.  A lot of these guys have been doing this for 20-25 years. If they thought they were being taken advantage of, they wouldn’t be doing it …This is about the Teamsters trying to unionize them, because they gave $30 million to the Democrats to try and force this AB 5 down our throats.”

Sulsar went on to say that the Port of Oakland has adopted policies that are anti-worker and anti-trucking. She referenced the proposal by the Port, City and Oakland Athletics to build a ballpark and condominium at the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal.

She said the effect of the Howard Terminal development would be to create a serious traffic problem for truckers. It is reflective of policies by the Port and the City of Oakland that are detrimental to harbor truckers, longshore workers and to cargo-handling operations and that coupled with implementation of AB 5 dooms the Port of Oakland: “I would say at some point this law whether it’s this week or next year was going to destroy the Port of Oakland anyway. So, I would suggest if I was a smart businessperson running the Port of Oakland that I would say: ‘You know what (California Governor) Gavin Newsom this bill (AB 5) however well-intentioned is going to destroy the Port of Oakland because 70,000 truckers over the whole state of California are gonna be put out of business. That's what I would say if I was the Port of Oakland. So, it (the Port) may be hurting this week but as soon as the AB 5 injunction is lifted it would've been hurt anyway.”

At this point another trucker said: “AB 5 is a big problem.”

Danny Wan, executive director, Port of Oakland warned about the negative impact of the protests to the Port in a July 20thstatement:  “We understand the frustration expressed by the protestors at California ports …But, prolonged stoppage of port operations in California for any reason will damage all the businesses operating at the ports and cause California ports to further suffer market share losses to competing ports.”

He added: “Truckers are vital to keeping goods moving …We trust that implementation of AB 5 can be accomplished in a way that accommodates the needs of this vital part of the supply chain.”

Sulsar went on to say: ”The Port should be supporting their local truckers, but I guess they're not worth billions of dollars.”

She added the Port could have prevented recent losses of carrier sailings, but has chosen instead to support condominiums and a ballpark:

“Number one: why are they selling land to build condominiums? Why are they trying to build an Oakland A's stadium? That’s 55 acres where I can't get a (truck) yard in Oakland to save my life. The City of Oakland is rezoning so trucks can’t park here. They don’t want trucking.”

Another trucker said “AB 5 is taking our freedom away. This is supposed to be a free country.”

Stas Margaronis
Stas Margaronis

WEST COAST CORRESPONDENT

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