OAKLAND, Calif. — The Port of Oakland is bracing for prolonged operational disruptions as owner-operator led protests against the AB5 labor law continue.
Earlier in the week, owner-operators were creating picket lines in front of employee parking lots to discourage longshore workers from entering terminals. But by Wednesday, protesters told Transport Dive they had focused their tactics on solely blocking truck gates. The idea now is that if no truck can go into the terminal, eventually, congestion will grow so much that the port will be unable to function.
As of Thursday morning, both Oakland International Container Terminal and Trapac had announced full-day closures of their truck gates.
“Trucker protests that started Monday over the implementation of AB5 have effectively shut down operations at shipping terminals at the Port of Oakland,” the port said in a press release Wednesday. “The shutdown will further exacerbate the congestion of containers dwelling at the Oakland Seaport as port officials urge terminal operations to resume.”
The port, which has seen declining volumes in recent months, expressed concern that prolonged disruption could push business elsewhere.
“We understand the frustration expressed by the protestors at California ports,” said Danny Wan, executive director at the Port of Oakland. “But, prolonged stoppage of port operations in California for any reason will damage all the businesses operating at the ports and cause California ports to further suffer market share losses to competing ports.”
The statement comes after a group of roughly seven protesters met with port officials on Wednesday.
“We asked them ... are you guys putting pressure to the governor? Are you guys with us, or are you guys not with us,” said Rajinder Singh, an owner-operator of 23 years who was part of the meeting. “But they were like ... they can’t promise anything.”
The Port of Oakland declined to confirm the details of the meeting, and instead pointed to their Wednesday statement.
But according to Singh, port officials told the group they had sent an email to the governor’s office and had yet to receive a response. Protesters replied if the port wanted owner-operators to return to work, they had to first show some proof the governor was at least thinking about an exemption to AB5 for owner-operators, or of canceling the labor law entirely, Singh said.
In the meantime, protests are slated to continue — perhaps for weeks.
“I don’t know how long. When are we going to get an answer?” Singh said. “We gotta keep going. That’s the only best way.”