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By Augusta Saraiva and Ngai Yeung (Bloomberg) —
California’s Port of Oakland has fully resumed operations after truckers protesting a gig-work law blocked access for five days and disrupted the flow of goods at the key shipping hub.
Terminals restarted operations over the weekend and cargo is now moving normally, the port said in a statement Monday. Still, it will likely take weeks to reduce the backlog created by the protests, said Robert Bernardo, a spokesman for California’s third-busiest port.
The blockade led the port’s largest marine terminal, SSA Marine Inc., to shut down for at least three days last week, while three others closed for trucks at different points. About 450 dockworkers were unable to report to their job. The disruptions affected the shipping of goods including medical supplies, agricultural products, livestock and industrial parts, the port said.
The protests are now being shifted to “free speech zones,” Bernardo said. The port’s executive director, Danny Wan, last week urged drivers to move to those newly designated areas and to “cease any further protest activity that disrupts port operations.”
The port has also established a working group composed of port executives and independent drivers, and has vowed to serve as a liaison between protesters and Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration.
“The truckers have been heard and we now urge them to voice their grievances with lawmakers, not the Port of Oakland,” Wan said in the Monday statement.
The protesters’ next steps are unclear. Bill Aboudi, president of trucking company Oakland Port Services, said in an interview Monday that police officers threatened arrest to people who blocked the terminal gates. Able Zerfiel, a protester and an independent trucker for 25 years, said that the designated zones were empty Monday morning.
“The free speech zones are totally vacated,” he said. “There is no area where you can park around the port and be safe from getting a ticket.”
Protests began across California on July 13 after the Supreme Court last month refused to review a case challenging the application of the law known as Assembly Bill 5 to truckers. The law, passed in 2019, requires workers to satisfy a three-part test to be considered independent contractors, or else be seen as employees entitled to job benefits. About 70,000 truck owner-operators in the state must now comply with the law.
The trucking industry relies on contractors — who until now have had flexibility to operate on their own terms — and has fought to be exempt from state regulations for years, saying it could cut into their earnings.
© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.
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