OAKLAND, Calif. — Several marine terminals at the Port of Oakland on Monday suspended night gates due to a protest by owner-operators against AB5, California’s landmark labor law.
TraPac closed its terminal gate for trucks shortly after the night shift began at 6 p.m. Monday as dozens of protesters picketed outside the gate.
“I just had a conversation with our yard director, and we collectively decided it was better to close the gate for the night,” John Taylor, manager of health safety security and environment at the terminal, told a crowd of protesters.
Other terminals had announced similar moves earlier in the day, Bill Aboudi, owner of AB Trucking, told Transport Dive.
Oakland International Container Terminal attributed its night gate closure Monday to “a truck protest with regards to the government ruling of AB5,” in a notice on its website. “At this time East and West Gate have been affected,” the post said.
The Oakland owner-operators added their voices this week to protests against AB5 elsewhere in the state. Last week, hundreds of truck drivers for the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach showed up to protest the law, slowing traffic at the port.
The statewide protests follow a recent Supreme Court decision to forego hearing a challenge to AB5 by the trucking industry. Industry advocates sought an exception to the labor law that would require many independent contractors, which include up to 70,000 truckers in California, to become employees.
But protesters emphasized this, to them, was the equivalent of losing a freedom.
“I don’t want to go back in becoming somebody’s employee. I want to remain owner-operator and be able to run and do business and earn a living for myself. I think I have that right,” said Able Zerfiel, who has been an owner-operator for 25 years.
Protests at the Port of Oakland are set to continue until at least Wednesday. In that time, the dozens of owner-operators advocating against AB5 are hoping to make their voices heard by California lawmakers.
Several protesters told Transport Dive they had succeeded on Monday in striking a deal with some terminals, including TraPac, to only allow long-haul drivers into the marine terminal during the protests. Others said some terminals were limiting the number of trucks to one or two per hour.
The protests have contributed to a rise in import container dwell, according to project44 data. Since July 11, the metric has risen 41% to 17.5 days at the Port of Oakland.
Navdeep Ngill, who is the president of Ocean Rail Logistics and is not an independent contractor, is also supporting the protests. While attending the event, he told Transport Dive the transition of becoming an employee carries significant extra costs for drivers who have already spent thousands of dollars on their own equipment.
“The trucking industry is too hard,” said Ngill, citing recent losses in margins due to rising costs.
More than 70 trucking industry groups sent a letter last week to California Governor Gavin Newsom requesting a stay of enforcement for the labor law. The governor’s office told Transport Dive on Thursday they were “looking into the concerns.”