OAKLAND, Calif. — A second day of protests at the Port of Oakland led to more widespread closures and business impacts, as hundreds of truckers and allies descended on the port to rally against AB5.
The California labor law has been in the trucking industry spotlight for weeks now, as its enforcement in the trucking industry could force thousands of owner-operators into employment with a company. For many, self-employment has been the appeal of the drayage business.
Somewhere between 500 and 1,000 people showed up for the second day of protests, though it was difficult to estimate the exact headcount. People were split across the various terminal gates and rail ramps at the Port of Oakland, with 50 to 100 people at each location, protesters told Transport Dive.
Still, their presence made an impact, as truck activity ground to a halt at some, if not all, port terminals.
Waterside activity continued at some terminals, but truck gate activity was “either minimal or shutdown depending on the terminal,” Roberto Bernardo, director of communications at the Port of Oakland, told Transport Dive in an email.
“No trucks today at all,” Navdeep Ngill, the president of Ocean Rail Logistics and a designated spokesperson for the movement, said in a text to Transport Dive.
Perhaps the biggest impact occurred at the Oakland International Container Terminal, which closed for the day due to the protests. Local workers call the terminal SSA, due to the company that operates it.
“ILWU labor came to work this morning at SSA terminal. However, once they arrived, some ILWU members chose not to enter the terminal,” Bernardo said in an email. “Without a full complement of labor, SSA decided to close its operations today.”
Various sources said the terminal closure was a direct result of a protest line at the employee parking lot, which was set up before the morning shift started at 6 a.m.
“At 5:45 [a.m.] in SSA’s gate, there was three trucks in line. Two trucks made it into the terminal,” said Bill Aboudi, owner of AB Trucking. “The protesters stopped any trucks from going in because they set up the line.”
The third truck, he added, was from an owner-operator who not only did not enter the terminal, but joined the protest until about noon.
The owner-operators’ early morning efforts also led members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union to turn back home when they reported to work, rather than cross an organized protest line.
“Not one single longshoreman crossed the line, and they just all decided to go home for the day,” Aboudi said. “ILWU today showed that they put their earnings aside to support somebody’s grievance.”
Protesters also set up protest lines at other terminals and rail ramps throughout the day, though no other terminal closed. And the owner-operators are gearing up to continue protesting throughout the week.
The Port of Oakland expressed concern over the ongoing protests, noting lasting unrest could further drive business away.
“The independent truckers’ concerns have been heard. They need to take their message to Sacramento,” Bernardo said in an email to Transport Dive.
Protesters disagreed that their concerns had been heard, though. Ngill said the group was beginning to push for a conversation with people of influence. On Tuesday night, he told Transport Dive that protesters had secured a meeting with terminal managers and were planning a walk-in protest at City Hall.
And while originally the protests were meant to last only until Wednesday, Ngill said the owner-operators had discussed extending the efforts through at least Friday.
“We need to get it along until our voice is heard,” Ngill said.