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Hundreds of truckers protest AB5 at Southern California’s busiest ports

Port of Oakland truckers plan Monday demonstration against independent contractor law

Organizers of the work stoppage at the ports of LA/LB handed out at least 350 T-shirts to protesters. Photo: Cindy Perez/LA & LB Port Drivers

Some California truckers turned off their trucks, blocked terminals or staged slow rolls to snarl traffic around the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach Wednesday to express frustration over a controversial state law, AB5, that seeks to limit the use of independent contractors and largely classify them as employee drivers.

Cindy Perez, co-owner of Southern California-based Aztec Enterprises and founder of the Facebook group LA & LB Port Drivers, says she worked with countless other groups, including motor carriers, that serve the ports to stage Wednesday’s protest.

She and her husband, who own a small trucking business, said they’ve heard all of the AB5 arguments about being an employee driver versus being owner-operators. They’ve done both.

“We worked for a company that served the ports of LA/LB that offered us some benefits and paid for diesel fuel and permit costs, but we also got paid peanuts, didn’t get to choose our loads, and instead of owning the whole pizza, we only got a slice,” Perez told FreightWaves. “Instead, we worked hard to save our money to become owner-operators and purchase our own trucks. Yes, we are aware that we incur more costs as owner-operators, but we’re no longer company drivers and we get paid as business owners.”

Perez said her Facebook group printed 350 “No AB5” T-shirts that were all snapped up within hours of the start of the protest.

She suggested that a statement by Rachel Campbell, media relations manager at the Port of Los Angeles, about a “convoy of approximately 100 truckers moving through the LA/LB port complex” downplayed the size of the demonstration.

“Not everybody brought their trucks to the ports to participate in today’s protest, but they showed up wearing T-shirts, holding signs and educating the media about what AB5 means for independent truckers in California,” Perez said.

Campbell said there was “no disruption of terminal activity.” 

“Los Angeles Port Police will assist in making sure all parties are able to express their First Amendment rights while also making sure the Port continues to operate safely and commerce continues to flow,” Campbell said in a statement to FreightWaves.

However, news stations showed traffic jammed for miles because of the AB5 protest.

Some motor carriers that serve the ports of LA and Long Beach say despite their efforts to encourage truckers to become employee drivers, many independent owner-operators continue to refuse.

“Many of the port truckers who are independent owner-operators are first- and second-generation Americans who want to be their own bosses and dream of owning their own businesses,” said Gordon Reimer, manager of Southern California-based FHE Express.

Many of the 75 owner-operators his company uses to serve the ports have turned down FHE’s requests to make them employee drivers, Reimer said.

“Today’s actions by frustrated owner-operators at the California ports is a clear cry for help,” Reimer told FreightWaves. “It takes courage to park your truck and take a stand against a state intent on ending your ability to earn a living — California’s AB5 is just that.”

On June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the California Trucking Association’s challenge to AB5, returning the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Ongoing legal challenges prevented AB5 from going into effect in January 2020. The law stems from the California Supreme Court’s decision against Dynamex Operations West Inc., a package and document delivery company. The court found that Dynamex had misclassified its delivery drivers as independent contractors rather than employees and that all California-based companies that use independent contractors must follow the “ABC test,” a three-pronged test to determine whether a worker is an employee.

The B prong defines an independent contractor as a worker engaged in “work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.” That is problematic for motor carriers utilizing independent owner-operators to move freight.

It’s unclear how many independent contractors or owner-operators participated in the work stoppage on Wednesday or what the financial impact may be to the supply chain.

“Owner-operators are the most difficult segment of the trucking industry to try and organize — it’s like herding cats — because everyone has their own personal gripes,” Reimer said. “The intent of this self-serving piece of legislation is to deprive 70,000-plus small business trucking companies of their ability to earn a living in this state.” 

Photo: Cindy Perez/LA & LB Port Drivers


Oakland truckers plan Monday protest 

Port of Oakland truckers plan a three-day demonstration, beginning Monday, against the independent contractor law.

Despite multiple media reports stating that truckers at the Port of Oakland participated in Monday’s work stoppage, Oakland organizers said while they supported the Southern California port drivers’ protest, they are planning their own. 

“Oakland is in support of LA/LB but our day is set for Monday,” the owner of an Oakland-based port company, told FreightWaves.

Other motor carriers closely monitoring possible AB5 fallout agree.

“We should all be so courageous as to take a stand in the face of adversity,” Reimer said. “We hope the state takes notice and does the right thing.”

This is a developing story. 

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What’s next for California port drivers & AB5?


  1. Troy Barros

    What about the people who live pay check to paycheck that have a family to support! what u protestors are doing is harming fellow hardworking truckdrivers and it is illegal! so i guess its ok since the police are not doing anything to you guys for us to take matters into are own hands and causer you guys a bunch of discomfort ? I’m on my way down to the ports with a bull horn and im going to provoke the hell out of those idiots!

  2. Mark H George

    The backbone of the Great United States of America was built by small business and its a very sad day to watch California “put them out of business” with AB5. California has delivered a serious blow to the hard working men and women owning small business’s servicing the supply chain of the USA.

  3. Mark Sturdevant

    Not only will this put thousands of truckers out of business it will put dozens of other jobs in jeopardy. Support industries like independent truck shops and their employees, used truck dealerships, trucker cafes, truck parts companies, small tire shops, truck wash companies, trucker accountants, on and on. This is a nuclear blast to the transportation related economy. Many more than just the truckers will be severely affected. Government at it worst

  4. K Smalls

    Truck driver’s of California,you guys have to stick together and resolve this matter so you can continue working because the people in power are going to eliminate your jobs right before your eyes.If you have to get your authority,then go and get your own authority and keep it moving.I know the down payment for the insurance is going to be ridiculous out there but you gotta do what you gotta do out there or you won’t be able to survive in this trucking game.I am surprised with that high cost of fuel especially in California that you guys are still willing to even run your own truck in that state.These folks don’t care nothing about us truckers and how we survive out here.You can see that by simply looking at the cheap rates that they are still paying,but don’t haul for cheap driver’s because you can go broke sitting at home or hauling for cheap.

  5. Greg

    If you are leased onto someone else’s authority then you really aren’t running your own business.

    Get your own authority and AB5 means nothing to you!

  6. Rudy

    Y r u truck drivers about that law now! The state was only doing what you guys wanted. If anything u should go to the one’s who started it, UBER and LYFT. Things were great the way they were but they had to screw everything up

    1. Tim

      The state carved out many industries from this law. They are just pushing owner operators into unionized corporations. Wait until your hungry. And nothing’s on the shelves. The legislature can fix this… Blame them.

    2. Tamra parra

      The truck drivers have always been concerned, always upset about this!!! The news only covers one side and the side they chose to cover was Uber. Get your facts straight.. they’ve been fighting the whole time!!!! Who do you think brought it to the Supreme Court?? That doesn’t happen over night 😂

Comments are closed.

Clarissa Hawes

Clarissa has covered all aspects of the trucking industry for 16 years. She is an award-winning journalist known for her investigative and business reporting. Before joining FreightWaves, she wrote for Land Line Magazine and If you have a news tip or story idea, send her an email to [email protected] or @cage_writer on X, formerly Twitter.