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California’s Earthquake, Part 4 of 4
In Part 3 of this Series, we learned of the many different reasons for California legislators to enact AB5. We ended Part 3 mentioning the Teamsters’ efforts to organize the state’s port drayage truckers since the 1990s as well as the recent PRO Act that has recently passed the U.S. House.
To be honest, these two issues would require a ton of time and effort to condense into one short message – it’s almost like eating a watermelon in one big bite. So, I’m going to briefly touch upon these two topics because they are hot right now! But these issues really need to be carefully understood and we’ll delve into them in future communications.
Now, for this current series, I’m going to extend it to California’s Earthquake, Part 5 where we’ll discuss comments and reasons of those opposed to AB5 and the PRO Act and, then, the last part, Part 6, will be a summary of sorts.
But now first, the Teamsters:
As mentioned toward the end of Part 3 of this series, backers of AB5 understand that AB5 does not offer workers one of the most important labor and employment rights: the right to join a union. Federal law preempts states from legislating private-sector workers’ union and collective bargaining rights.
The Teamsters union, which since the 1990s has been fighting to unionize the state’s port drayage truckers—along with Uber and Lyft drivers—hailed the new law’s [AB5] enactment.
Indeed, many see AB5 as a move to push contractors into companies as employees to get them unionized. After all, union membership has fallen across the board for years, if not decades.
California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez says “This [AB5 legislation] is simply providing opportunity for independent contractors to bargain for themselves or to bargain with a union for a job.”
So, the move to unionize workers has picked up some steam in California and will, more likely than not, influence other states to follow suit.
Now, on the federal level, the U.S. House several months ago passed a bill that could be the biggest overhaul to labor law in decades if it can clear the Senate and reach President Joe Biden.
The Protecting the Right to Organize Act, known as the PRO Act, contains a number of provisions that would make it easier for workers to organize. The bill, for instance, would change the definition of “employee,” allowing millions of independent owner operators as well as gig workers such as rideshare drivers the right to organize and form a union.
Many workers in the trucking industry felt that trucking was going to be exempted from the AB5 law owing to the fact that the owner operator model has been a logical part of the trucking industry nationwide.
So, California has again started the wheel turning toward getting workers organized. And it seems to continue on at the federal level and, without a doubt, the major thrust of the PRO Act is to unionize workers, including the trucking industry with a few exemptions in other businesses.
The large carriers in California are ultimately giving owner operators two options: relocate or sell their trucks and give up the way they’ve been doing business by becoming company employees. Neither is a great solution and frankly may end up hamstringing the entire transportation industry.
So, AB5 is at the state level and the Pro Act is at the federal level.
But backers of the AB5 law say there’s a key difference between AB5 and the PRO Act. AB5 applies the ABC test to much of California’s labor laws, from wages to workers’ compensation. The PRO Act, however, applies the test only to workers’ rights to organize and collective bargain, according to an industry expert.
Folks, there is an ideological war going on right now between California’s policy-makers and mounting push back in both California itself and many groups and individuals in other states.
AB5 advocates pretend that the state knows better than workers do in making work related decisions. Many workers are independent contractors by choice. By forcing them to work only as employees in California presents big problems for these people.
Many workers choose to work as independent contractors for personal reasons that may be different than what pro-employee advocates believe employee benefits provide.
As stated at the beginning of this message, these topics – getting unionized and the Pro Act – require more in depth study in another series.
Lastly, for Part 5 of this Series, we’ll discuss comments from those opposed to AB5 and the Pro Act and their reasons for their opposition.