is digging in against protesters who this week shut down most operations at the Port of Oakland, saying truckers “should focus on supporting this transition” to a new employment law, even as shippers warned the impasse was hurting their businesses.
Mr. Newsom’s administration indicated Thursday it wouldn’t bow to the protesters’ demands to pause the implementation of the new state law, known as AB5, that will make it harder for tens of thousands of independent truckers to operate in the state.
“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,” a spokesman for the Governor’s office said.
The protesters have given no indication that they plan to give up. Hundreds of men and women, who started protests Monday, are preventing trucks from carrying cargo into and out of Oakland, the West Coast’s third-busiest container port. They are also stopping dockworkers from reaching their posts for loading and unloading ships.
The stoppages are particularly hurting the region’s agricultural exporters who use Oakland as a hub.
Nina Solari, vice president of food safety and quality control at Avanti Nut Co., a family-owned walnut processor in Stockton, Calif., said two shipments scheduled to go out this week are delayed and customers are canceling orders.
“If this carries on, I don’t know what we are going to do,” Ms. Solari said. “We will literally be sitting on the last of our 2021 crop and not being able to ship it.”
The stoppages at Oakland flared unexpectedly. Shippers recently have been more concerned about labor talks at the West Coast’s 29 ports as well as contract negotiations between freight rail workers and their employers. Both labor talks are ongoing.
chief executive of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, said although only 1.5% of his members’ cargo arrives through Oakland, disruptions there ripple up and down the coast.
”Protests in Oakland divert cargo to other congested ports and come at a time when we are tracking not one but two labor negotiations in this space,” Mr. Lamar said.
The employment law, aimed at toughening definitions of independent contractors in the “gig economy,” was due to be implemented in 2020 but was held up as part of a lawsuit filed by the California Trucking Association.
The U.S. Supreme Court on June 30 declined to review the case, allowing the law to be implemented while the legal challenge continues.
Supporters of the law say it is designed to protect workers by securing for them wages and benefits similar to those enjoyed by employees. In California, an estimated 70,000 independent owner-operator truckers supplement the employee-driver workforce.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which is trying to organize drivers in California, says trucking companies have misclassified drivers as independent contractors to deprive them of fair wages and benefits.
Many owner-operators say they like being independent. They say the new law will require them to secure their own permits and insurance, making it more difficult and costly to stay in business. They say the law forces them to seek work as employees or leave the industry.
The Newsom administration says it has provided information to help drivers comply with the law and offered truckers tax incentives and small-business financing.
“California is committed to supporting our truck drivers and ensuring our state’s truck drivers receive the protections and compensation they are entitled to,” said a spokesman for the Democratic governor.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents West Coast dockworkers, supports AB5. But union officials say their members can’t pass through the protests safely.
ILWU Local 10’s president, Farless Dailey III, said Thursday that 450 dockworkers have been dispatched to jobs at the port this week but haven’t been able to reach their posts.
“ILWU workers want to work and move cargo,” Mr. Dailey said. “But we’re not going to put our members in harm’s way to pass through the line of truckers.”
Write to Paul Berger at Paul.Berger@wsj.com
Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8