Let Us Keep on Truckin’ Says Lawsuit; Remove the AB 5 Roadblock

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Now it begins—the California Trucking Association (CTA) is opening what likely will become an avalanche of lawsuits, new legislation or just plain protests and complaints to get out from under the restrictions of AB 5 limiting the role of independent contractors. 

The Trucking Association, to borrow a well-worn phrase especially popular in the 1960s, wants to Keep on Truckin’ as it has in the past. According to a statement from the CTA, as many as 70,000 independent truck drivers are afraid that AB 5 limits their abilities to be owner operators. Unlike some other professions, the truckers were not exempted from AB 5, which codified the California Supreme Court test created in the Dynamex case to determine if a worker is an employee or a contractor. 

Many in the so-called gig-economy are upset about the bill that would change their life styles and working hours if they are forced to become employees.  As I’ve argued before, California’s robust economy faces threats if the worker relationships created by entrepreneurship and worker freedom offered by the new economy are upended by government fiat. The entrepreneurial spirit of many would be crushed as AB 5 tightens its grip. 

The same day that the CTA lawsuit was announced an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times by two-time Pulitzer Prize winning historian T. J. Stiles complained that many freelance writers would be hurt by AB 5’s restrictions on the number submissions to publications or publishers.  “I never thought the State of California would make it even harder for writers to make a living,” Stiles began his piece, “but here we are.” 

The trucker’s lawsuit goes not only after AB 5 but also the Dynamex decision itself as violations of the U.S. Constitution Commerce and Supremacy clauses. Truckers by the nature of their work participate in interstate commerce. Scott Lay explained the reason the lawsuit was filed this way in his quick legal analysis on the Nooner yesterday and summed up, “The lawsuit would not effect other professions, although it is unlikely the last complaint that will be filed.” 

Indeed, there will be a full frontal assault on AB 5. Already, the ride share companies Uber and Lyft along with the delivery company Doordash, are backing an initiative to take their businesses out from under the law.

Other industries and even individuals are considering lawsuits or appealing to legislators to file bills next year to exempt them from AB 5. The CTA lawsuit could even be sidelined if the legislature granted truckers an exemption.

As I wrote back in July, the fight over exemptions might be the Achilles heel for AB 5.  “As exemptions grow so does the rational for the legislation.” 

In a September piece I added, “The bill will be ridiculed for its lack of fairness and therefore its effectiveness with so many industries and workers feeling left out with multiple exemptions offered to favored industries.” 

Now one industry seeks an exemption through the courts while a different industry chases an exemption on the ballot. 

Do lawmakers really want to be in the crosshair of accusations that the legislature is picking business winners and losers? 

This was all predictable before the bill was signed into law and could be avoided but as the historian T.J. Stiles wrote in his op-ed, “here we are.” 

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