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Oakland port shuttered for second day over trucker protest

A group of truckers continued to halt cargo traffic at the Port of Oakland on Wednesday deepening concerns over major supply chain disruptions at one of the country’s largest ports and a key hub for global commerce.

The protest entered its third day on Wednesday after escalating to a near complete shutdown of port activity the day before. A growing chorus of protesters say they plan to continue halting cargo movement throughout the week although the loose coalition of truckers has yet to reach a final decision.

At the heart of the protest is the 2019 California law AB 5, which will require about 70,000 currently independent owner-operators to register as employees of trucking and other companies. Many small business owners and independent truckers say the law could force them to shut down their operations. However, worker’s rights groups say the trucking industry is in desperate need of employee protections.

The truckers and freight operators are calling on Sacramento to exempt them from AB 5.

Navdeep Gillm, the owner of a small freight company, said protesters will enter talks with Port of Oakland officials on Wednesday and afterward decide whether to continue their protest at the Oakland port, which is caught in the middle of the truckers’ dispute with Sacramento lawmakers.

Port of Oakland representatives did not return multiple requests for comment.

The 2019 AB 5 law was heavily backed by labor groups who say many gig workers and truckers are often classified as independent contractors even though their work should qualify them for full-time employee benefits. The law has been held up since 2020 amid legal wrangling. In June the Supreme Court declined to review a case opposing AB 5, paving the way for the state to enforce the new system of employee classifications.

Many truck drivers say the independent contractors’ model gives them flexibility and the ability to grow small trucking businesses in an industry that has become an economic engine for Sikh immigrants and their children.

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