California Truckers Petition U.S. Supreme Court To Invalidate AB5

(The Center Square) – The California Truckers Association (CTA) has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), which some argue has nearly eliminated the gig worker economy in the state.

In January, U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez issued a temporary restraining order protecting 70,000 independent trucker owner operators from AB5, which requires companies operating in or doing business in California to classify their workers as full-time employees instead of independent contractors.

The association argues that AB5, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2020, threatens the livelihood of more than 70,000 truckers and “wrongfully restricts their ability to provide services as owner-operators and, therefore, runs afoul of federal law.” 

Two semi trucks transporting cargo in on a straight highway road in California.

“For decades, motor carriers across the United States have provided freight-transportation services through owner-operators — individuals who drive their own trucks and operate as independent contractors,” CTA’s petition states. “Owner-operators play a critical role in interstate commerce — one that Congress has recognized and protected.” 

Benitez agreed, arguing that the law improperly treated truck owner-operators as employees instead of “as the independent contractors that they are.”

“Plaintiffs have established that imminent, irreparable harm is likely because without significantly transforming their operations to treat independent contracting drivers as employees for all specified purposes under California laws and regulations, they face the risk of governmental enforcement actions, as well as criminal and civil penalties,” Benitez wrote in his opinion.

The state appealed Benitez’s ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which overruled it in April. The appeals court denied a request for a rehearing in June, and later granted a stay requested by CTA to allow Benitez’s injunction to remain in place throughout the appeals process.

In its petition with the Supreme Court, the association argues that the 9th Circuit wrongly rejected its challenge to AB5 and its ruling created a conflict in the circuit courts that only the Supreme Court can resolve.

The 9th Circuit’s ruling, it argues, “creates a conflict in the circuits. It rests on a construction of the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 that departs both from the statutory language and from this court’s approach. It will cause dis-uniformity in national commerce while disrupting the operations both of motor carriers and of owner-operators. And it interferes with the routes, services and prices of motor carriers — just what Congress meant the FAAAA to prevent.” 

The 1994 FAAAA was enacted “to ensure that the States would not undo federal deregulation with regulation of their own” and avoid “a patchwork of state service-determining laws, rules, and regulations,” the petition states, citing a 2008 Supreme Court ruling in Rowe v. New Hampshire Motor Transportation Association. The FAAAA preempts state laws “related to a price, route, or service, of any motor carrier,” the petition argues.

In 1994, Congress found that “the sheer diversity” of state regulatory schemes presented “a huge problem for national and regional carriers attempting to conduct a standard way of doing business,” and that state regulation of the trucking industry “imposed an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce” that “impeded the free flow of trade, traffic, and transportation of interstate commerce.” 

A spokesperson from the California attorney general’s office said they were “reviewing the petition,” adding that the California Department of Justice would “continue to defend laws that are designed to protect workers and ensure fair labor and business practices.”

If the Supreme Court decides to hear the case, the injunction would remain in place until the case is decided. If the justices decide not to hear the case, the injunction would be lifted.

The court is expected to announce whether or not it will hear the case within six weeks.

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C E Voigtsberger

“A spokesperson from the California attorney general’s office said they were “reviewing the petition,” adding that the California Department of Justice would “continue to defend laws that are designed to protect workers and ensure fair labor and business practices.”

Ahemm. Excuse me, that statement should be amended to state, “laws that are designed to enable the spread of a dying industry, namely, unionism.”

Except for public service (a misnomer if I have ever seen one) unionism is a dying industry. If it were not for protective actions by demokraut legislative bodies such a the one under discussion, unionism would be dying even faster. It has outlived its usefulness and like some aging actor whose role has been eliminated, it is throwing tantrums and kicking and screaming as it is dragged backstage.

There is a simple answer to drivers who don’t like working for Uber or any of the other contract personal chauffeur companies — refuse to drive for them. It isn’t like there aren’t other jobs out there. From everything I read there are jobs going begging. If you are stuck in a job you hate, look around. Indentured servitude has been outlawed for more than a century now.

Start your own livery service. If you have been working for any of the livery companies, you should know how they operate. In the days of almost universal cell phone coverage and mobile credit card processors, together with numerous on-line personal programs, starting an on-line livery service is easier than it has ever been.

People actually get paid for being on line “personalities”. If just showing your face and making inane comments can generate thousands of dollars of income, certainly operating a seld-directed livery service should be lucrative.