Newsom herds protesters into ‘free speech zones’ to reopen Port of Oakland

Max Keating, DCNF

Protesting truckers that had ground the Port of Oakland to a standstill for the past week to express their disapproval of a new labor law allowed the port to resume operations Monday without gaining any major concessions.

Cargo at California’s third-largest port began moving again after Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Port of Oakland vowed to crack down on protesters disrupting port operations, Reuters reported. The Port of Oakland sent a letter to truckers on July 21 which said that they should restrict their demonstrations to designated “free speech zones,” noting that those who don’t comply would be “cited and penalized” by police, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Truckers had been protesting legislation, Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5) that would reclassify them as employees rather than independent contractors, according to previous Daily Caller News Foundation reporting. The law was meant to protect gig workers at companies like Uber and Lyft from exploitation, but many truckers feel that it would ruin their business model.

(RELATED: Workers Of The World Are Uniting To Throttle Supply Chains)

In a statement, Newsom’s office told the Daily Caller News Foundation that although “it has been the subject of litigation, AB 5 was enacted in 2019, so no one should be caught by surprise by the law’s requirements at this time. The industry should focus on supporting this transition just as California has and continues to do.”

Newsom’s office has not reached out to the truckers since they began protesting, Rashpal Singh, an Oakland-based trucker, told the DCNF.

“I don’t think the government is going to listen … we haven’t heard anything from them,” Singh said.

Truckers remain opposed to AB 5 but want to avoid a criminal record and continued financial strain, Supply Chain Drive reported.

“If we continue only we will hurt ourselves and port of Oakland business,” Japi Samra, an owner-operator of 10 years, told Supply Chain Drive.

Some not-insignificant number of California’s 70,000 owner-operator truckers could leave the industry due to AB 5, putting increased strain on supply chains at a time when they’re already delayed across the country generally, and in California specifically, according to prior DCNF reporting.

The Port of Oakland did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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