While negotiation with longshore workers continues on the West Coast—following the expiry of the ILWU labor contract—a recent court decision in California has truckers protesting in front of the ports, and pockets of unionized ILWU labor are honoring their picket lines.

The court’s decision on Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) has implications for dray carriers—who traditionally work as owner-operators—forcing companies to stop classifying them as independent contractors. The move would force owner-operators onto company payrolls instead. Many of these drivers prefer to remain independent—to pick and choose the loads they handle—rather than become company drivers. They are seeking an exemption to the court ruling from Governor Newsome.

While this is a local issue in California right now, there has been some effort to take this concept nationally and use the three-pronged ABC test to determine whether a worker is an independent business or an employee. Federal labor laws require employers to provide benefits that include healthcare, taxes, workers compensation insurance, sick-time, and family leave benefits. Owner-operators have traditionally worked outside the umbrella of these benefits, but with good reason to preserve their autonomy in working where and when they want to work. 

The California ruling has been several years in the making and could become the model for other states to emulate.

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Rich Roche