John Perez, co-author of Assembly Bill 950 and speaker of the California Assembly, placed the bill in the inactive file. Barring extraordinary circumstances, the Assembly will not consider it during this legislative session. However, since it is a two-year bill, it could be taken up as early as January 2012.
Labor and trucking interests will watch developments closely as the bill, if passed, could significantly change the nature of port and intermodal drayage in California.
Most drivers today are considered to be independent contractors. Unions are legally prohibited from organizing independent contractors.
Classifying the drivers as trucking company employees would allow labor unions to attempt to organize the drivers.
A California Trucking Association delegation met with Perez in April and told him the bill, in its current form, would cause a significant disruption in goods movement and would jeopardize thousands of small businesses, said Michael Shaw, CTA executive director of external affairs.
The widening of the Panama Canal is due for completion in 2014, and that project will provide access to East and Gulf Coast ports for large container ships. The largest vessels deployed today in the trans-Pacific trade call exclusively at West Coast ports. Shaw said the bill in its current form could influence cargo interests to divert their Asian cargoes from California’s ports after 2014.
Rather than banning independent contractor drivers, trucking companies in the state suggested to Perez that they continue to meet in the months ahead to address the alleged misclassification issues in the drayage industry, Shaw said.
Labor interests, such as Change to Win, an organization that includes the Teamsters union, vow to continue their efforts to have drivers classified as employees.
“This bill is very alive for California’s port drivers who are fighting to regain the workplace protections they have been robbed of because their companies illegally disguise them as independent contractors,” said TJ Michaels, spokeswoman for the group. “These workers aren’t concerned by the legislative process, and they will continue to speak out on AB 950 and take other actions to end their industry’s charade.”