Logistics Concerns: Protests at Port of Oakland

“The cargo won’t flow ’til AB5 goes” was the rallying cry for many of the protesters, who want to see action in Sacramento (the state capital.)

Operators at the Port of Oakland are trying to clear a big container backlog now that terminal gates are open again. Independent truckers stood down from protests that had effectively shut down one of the West Coast’s largest gateways for almost a week. Freight handlers tell the WSJ’s Akiko Matsuda it could be weeks before the backlog of boxes is moved out of facilities that were swamped during the blockade.

The standoff dissipated after the protests against the state employment law known as AB5 were moved to “free speech zones” and authorities warned against blocking the gates. Oakland’s next task will be soothing importers and exporters whose goods were tied up during the blockade, raising new concerns for shippers already wary of potential turmoil during port labor negotiations. Port officials said in a message to the protesting truckers last week that ongoing disruptions could “drive customers away.”

Truckers initially planned a three-day protest in Oakland, but extended it to a week or longer.

According to Reuters, on Thursday the governor’s office said: “No one should be caught by surprise by the law’s requirements. The industry should focus on supporting this transition.”

Why Independent Truckers Are Protesting AB5

Owner-operator truck drivers, who make up 90% of the Bay Area port’s operation, are protesting Assembly Bill 5, known as AB5, which is expected to virtually eliminate the use of owner-operators in trucking in the state. The protests follow actions last week at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

AB5 was passed and signed into law in 2019. Provisions in the bill will prevent independent owner-operator truck drivers from contracting with other trucking companies for services, essentially leaving trucking companies no choice but to use only employee drivers. An injunction in place since 2020 has prevented the law from being enforced while a lawsuit on the bill made its way through the judicial system. On June 30, however, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition from the California Trucking Association to hear the case, paving the way for full enforcement of the law.