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Truckers at Oakland protest say ‘cargo won’t flow until AB5 goes’

Terminal gates blocked on Day 3 of port truckers’ demonstration against California’s independent contractor law

Oakland truckers say they may continue AB5 protest after Wednesday. Photo: Kimberly Sulsar-Campos

Around 450 protesters opposing AB5 were blocking all of the terminal gates at the Port of Oakland, forcing TraPac and the largest terminal operator, Oakland International Container Terminal, also known as SSA, to close operations on Wednesday.

“Oakland International Container Terminal (OICT) management decided to close operations today due to the independent trucker protest,” Roberto Bernardo, director of communications for the Port of Oakland, told FreightWaves in an email on Wednesday. 

“The port’s other three marine terminals are effectively shut down for trucks as well,” he said. “There are some vessel labor operations underway.”

TraPac sent a message to drayage truckers that the terminal’s first shift wasn’t working Wednesday “due to ongoing protests interfering with the in-gate.”

The protesters’ message to California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday: “The cargo won’t flow until AB5 goes.” 

“Gov. Newsom continues to ignore the independent truckers who are the backbone of America,” Kimberly Sulsar-Campos, vice president of Oakland-based Iraheta Bros. Trucking, told FreightWaves. 

Newsom signed Assembly Bill 5 — a controversial state law that seeks to limit the use of independent contractors and largely classify them as employee drivers — into law nearly three years ago. However, legal challenges prevented the law from going into effect in January 2020. 

That all changed when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the California Trucking Association’s challenge to AB5 in late June, returning the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Now, truckers say Newsom and the California legislature could exempt trucking from AB5 as they have done for other industries, including lawyers, real estate agents and accountants. 

Proposition 22, which passed in November 2020, exempted app-based ride-share companies Uber and Lyft from AB5.

Port truckers carried signs saying, “We demand an exemption now. We deserve respect for keeping the world economy and the USA rolling.”

Iraheta Bros. was founded by a group of owner-operators who wanted to start their own trucking company, Sulsar-Campos said. The drayage company now has 20 owner-operators who oppose AB5 and want a choice about how to run their businesses.

“It’s very disheartening that other professions are exempt from this law but not small-business truckers, who move vital cargo that feeds the world,” she said.

On Tuesday, nearly 100 members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10 refused to cross the protest line as owner-operators in Oakland showed up early to block the gates of the SSA terminal.

“We are working without a contract right now so we support the owner-operators and understand what they are trying to do,” George, a nine-year ILWU member, who didn’t want to give his last name, told FreightWaves. 

Around 450 truckers blocked terminals at the Port of Oakland Wednesday. Photo: Kimberly Sulsar-Campos

Initially, port drivers in Oakland planned a one-day protest Monday. However, they decided to demonstrate until Wednesday and possibly through the end of the week. They claimed Port of Oakland officials downplayed the impact of the protest by stating there was “some traffic congestion” at TraPac and SSA terminals, when in fact, the truckers shut down traffic at three of the terminals. 

FreightWaves attended the Port of Oakland Truck Work Group meeting Monday where the truckers’ protest over AB5 was discussed.

At the meeting, Bill Aboudi, who owns Oakland-based AB Trucking, urged a port official in attendance not to minimize the disruption and economic effects the protest was having on the terminals’ business operations at the port.

“Downplaying the impact will upset the owner-operators more,” Aboudi said at the meeting, citing examples of how the Port of Oakland has responded to protests in the past.

Oakland protesters and owner-operators at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach own their own rigs and currently choose which loads they want to take. They don’t want to work as company drivers as many would be forced to do under AB5. Drivers protested at Los Angeles and Long Beach last week. 

One independent contractor who serves the Port of Oakland said he would have to sell his house and move his family out of California if he’s forced to become an employee and be paid hourly.

“Have you seen the real estate prices for houses or rent in this state?” the 20-year port driver, who didn’t want to be named for fear of retaliation, told FreightWaves. “On a good day, I can make $1,200, but if I go to work for a company and they only pay me $25 an hour and also control the number of hours I can work, I can’t afford to feed my family.”

The independent contractor 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.

Aboudi, who has six drivers who move containers in and out of the Port of Oakland, blasted AB5.

“Many drivers who work in the ports immigrated to this country so they could have a choice and the freedom to decide how and when they want to work,” Aboudi told FreightWaves. “This is a bad law because it takes away their choice to be an owner-operator and forces them to become a company driver. It’s un-American.”

Read more here:

Unionized workers refuse to cross truckers’ AB5 protest line at Port of Oakland

Hundreds of truckers block Oakland terminal access to protest AB5

Truckers plan LA/Long Beach work stoppage Wednesday to protest AB5


  1. Richard Christman

    Attention dear truckers if you want to get California attention stop hauling fuel and the cars can’t get anywhere and 911 calls can’t be answered I can bet in two weeks they change the law because they don’t want angry mom’s and dad’s yelling at them because they can’t buy the baby milk

  2. MK

    This article does not explain who this bill is supposed to benefit. Who would come out ahead under the new rules? It cannot be just an attack on independent truckers. Please report

    Also, why would the ILWU show solidarity when the protests against AB5 are anti-union and the ILWU is a union? This story does not add up, at least there is no explanation of what the issues and the anonymous comments it uses to explain what is going on do not substantiate the conflict.

  3. Jose Sanchez

    Always with Newsom attached to anything corrupt. His policies are devastating to any working class woman or man . But yet they lie at election time and the sheep keep voting in a democrat.

  4. tom miller

    owners plead guilty to PPP loan fraud
    Semsi Salja and Anes Suhonjic, the owners of 47-truck, Grand Rapids, Michigan-based trucking company DMR Transportation, pleaded guilty in federal court earlier this month to conspiring to commit bank fraud in connection with a $290,855 loan under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

    In a related civil case, DMR, Salja and Suhonjic agreed to pay a total of $1 million, including a substantial civil monetary penalty under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act (FIRREA).

    In 2020, Congress enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act) to provide emergency federal assistance for the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the PPP, the CARES Act authorized forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses.

    In its second-draw PPP loan application, the Department of Justice said DMR knowingly and falsely certified that it realized the required 25% reduction in gross receipts between the second financial quarter of 2019 and the second financial quarter of 2020. DMR also allegedly submitted falsified quarterly balance sheets and other false financial records that were signed by Salja and Suhonjic alongside the application.

    In September 2021, DMR sought forgiveness of its second-draw PPP loan by falsely certifying that its second-draw PPP loan proceeds were used to pay eligible business expenses when, in fact, DMR held that money in reserve, DOJ added.

    “The PPP involved a limited pool of funds to help small businesses wracked by the disruption of a global pandemic,” United States Attorney Mark Totten said. “By fraudulently obtaining a second PPP loan, DMR took, for itself, hundreds of thousands of dollars that could have been used to help deserving companies. My office will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute these cases.”

    Salja and Suhonjic face a maximum of five years in prison.

  5. Kip

    Good for them shut down all the ports. Why should people who are independent have to become employees of some company and earn less?

  6. Kip

    Good for them. Shut down all the ports and empty the shelves in the stores. Make Californians suffer by driving prices up. Why on earth does anyone have to become an employee of some company if they are independent drivers?

    1. Joe Fedor

      Gov Nuisance, as he is known is part of a crooked family, with his Auntie PIGosi’s insider trading deals with her crooked husband, DUI driving Dumrats! The whole family is out for $$ & power, at all costs, get them out of office, delay, dyer, avoid them making any gains in the trucker strike, let the containers rot until they allow independent contractors!

    2. Edward Weise

      Because they tried to get something they werent owed these immigrant ck skrs, now they fkd it up for everyone, and now they have to get their own Authority, pay their own insurance and see how a trucking business works. Screw them, I’m a trucker 40 years and they brought it on themselves!!!

    3. Edward Weise

      Its their own fault, them immigrants tried to get something they didnt deserve and screw their bosses. Now they screwed themselves and the rest of us. Now they must get motor carrier numbers, pay their own insurance, registration and taxes, like the rest of us. They did this to themselves trying to be greedy, it’s an immigrant thing. Now see how you like us and get out of the way, call ooida and get your numbers you freaks!! 40 years I been trucking and it’s truckers like these that screw us as hard as the government.

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.