Independent truckers protested in Downtown Los Angeles on Thursday following the announcement that independent truckers would not have a renewed contract for city’s As-Needed Haul Truck Program due to the AB 5 law.
Passed and signed into law in 2019, AB 5 limits independent contractors, confirms union representation rights, and ensures employee rights to full-time employees. While the bills’ aim was to get companies to have contractors eligible for full-time benefits, most industries affected by the bill were up in arms over the decision as it would take tens of thousands of jobs away overnight, including sought out flexible hour and self-planned benefits positions.
When it was passed, independent truckers were the first group to fight back against the new law, even finding loopholes for drivers through things such as driver leasing companies. They were also the first group to file a lawsuit against AB 5, managing to get an exemption from AB 5 less than a day before it became law. Other industries soon followed and throughout 2020 and 2021, AB 5 was fought industry by industry in the courts. While there were some long-term successes such as rideshare drivers getting a full exemption following the passage of Prop 22, most industries had to fall in line. The luck for independent truckers ran out in April 2021 when an Appellate court ruled that they were not exempt from the law. The truckers tried their luck in higher courts, even petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court, but it came to no effect. By 2022, independent truckers were firmly under AB 5.
However, due to several longer-term contracts being signed during the exemption period, many independent truckers managed to hold positions during the last few years. One of these organizations was the city of Los Angeles’ As-Needed Haul Truck Program. The program, which is part of the Bureau of Street Services, hires truckers to assist city workers in the building, maintenance and resurfacing of the city’s roads, doing everything from laying asphalt to fixing potholes.
However, with the 2021-2023 contract ending at the end of the month, the city informed all independent truckers of the Los Angeles City Contract Truck Association (LACCTA) that they would not be renewing the contract due to the AB 5 law. Truckers were outraged at the decision and AB 5. With the city not responding to them and refusing to budge on the matter, truckers took to the streets of LA on Thursday to protest the action.
“This is a long-standing program of 132 years, it’s many generations,” said trucker Victor Vasquez at the protest on Thursday. “People are still here since the 50s that their grandfathers and fathers have passed on. These streets need to get paved. We’ve had double the amount of damage and potholes and we would like the mayor to have an intervention and save our jobs. AB 5 law pretty much attacks trucking brokers and that doesn’t suit this particular matchup.”
Protest against city of LA, AB 5 by truckers
However, the city responded to criticism and the protest on Thursday that their hands were tied by the AB 5 law and that renewing the contract with them was legally out of the question.
“In 2020, the State passed AB 5, legislation that changed the California Labor Code, classifying workers as employees rather than independent contractors,” said the Department of Public Works in a statement on Thursday. “This is having wide ramifications across the State, and will cause the haul truck program to end when current contracts expire at the end of June. We care very much about the livelihoods of our partners and have been working aggressively at the direction of the Mayor to ensure that our 93 contract truckers are given the opportunity to continue employment, and that paving operations continue seamlessly.”
Experts note that while there were some questions to the legality of the action, the end of the contract could wreck havoc on the city and could even lead to some uncomfortable legal challenges with the city.
“The majority of those independent truckers are people of color, so this is not a good look for super-diverse and champion of equality LA to fire a mostly-Latino group of truckers. That does not reflect well on the city,” explained Harold McCord, a former trucker union representative, to the Globe on Thursday. “But you also need to look at the work these 93 truckers or so did. They filled potholes, which are all over LA right now due to all the rain earlier this year. They repave roads. They help the city with all these maintenance jobs. With the contracts open, there may be a huge delay in fixing things. We always see this in a shift of services. The people who have been doing it forever and are moved out, with people who don’t know the city that well coming in, so the city suffers for a long time as a result.”
“But more to it, the city had a real chance to side with these truckers and say they wanted equality and would help them in their struggle over AB 5. But no. They’re leaving them by the wayside. They say they care about them, but the way they’re doing this, they obviously don’t. AB 5 is forcing their hand here, but they could have also helped them in other ways. It’s no wonder the truckers protested. Everyone, the truckers, city government, and the people of LA lost because of AB 5. Hard to say who won.”
As of Thursday, the independent truckers have yet to say if there is a possible legal challenge against LA’s action in the future.
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