The California Trucking Association and Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association fought tooth and nail to carve out an exemption for self-employed truckers, only to be denied a hearing from the U.S. Supreme Court. But a state court has now upheld a referendum that allows Uber and Lyft drivers to continue as independent contractors. To say the two groups are being treated differently in the Golden State would be something of an understatement.
“Today’s ruling is a victory for app-based workers and the millions of Californians who voted for Prop 22,” Tony West, Uber’s chief legal officer, reportedly said. “We’re pleased that the court respected the will of the people.”
Ride-share drivers won’t have to become employees, a move that would have transformed Uber and Lyft into a taxi service. The largely digital companies reportedly saw the value of their stocks soar following the ruling. However, the author of the AB5 law that has negatively impacted truckers was furious.
“Today, the Appeals Court chose to stand with powerful corporations over working people, allowing companies to buy their way out of our state’s labor laws and undermine our state constitution,” former Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, who authored the 2019 law, reportedly said. “Our system is broken.”
Her final words won’t garner disagreement from the owner-operators and self-employed CDL professionals who left the state, industry, or knuckled down and become company employees. Her signature legislation provided wide-reaching exemptions for preferred occupations. These include dentists, lawyers, accountants, direct salespeople, landscape architects, travel agents, graphic designers, grant writers, artists, and a lengthy list of others.
The exemptions of Uber, Lyft, and Door Dash drivers add insult to the injury hard-working truckers suffered. While ride-share and food deliveries may make a life for Californians more convenient, truckers deliver 72 percent of America’s goods and materials. Denying CDL holders the right to work for themselves appears wholly inconsistent with how other occupations have been treated.
Other states have mulled over adopting laws modeled after California’s AB5. Owner-operators and trucking industry advocate fearing the policy could spread. Organizations such as J.B. Hunt and Landstar, among others, braced for the possibility of AB5 becoming the law of the land. These and other major freight hauling operations indicate they are prepared should national trucking law undergo an overhaul.
These may be reasonable concerns given the Biden Administration has promised to be pro-union in terms of labor law. The president’s recent nominee for Labor Secretary recently came under fire due to her involvement in passing AB5.
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