Teamsters notch legal win for drivers

Teamsters won a great legal victory on June 30, when the Supreme Court refused to hear the trucking industry’s protest of AB5, the law passed in 2019 to end the misclassification of workers as “independent contractors” and rein in the “gig” economy.

As soon as the law was passed, the California Trucking Association sued, alleging that they should be able to continue to misclassify truck drivers as independent contractors even though those drivers work at the beck and call of the companies. Over the next three years, the trucking association lost at every stage, but they pursued the case all the way up to the Supreme Court. 

The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case means the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling stands and is considered “settled law.” 

The presumption now is that a driver is an employee; in order to be a contractor, the trucking company must prove that the worker is truly independent…free from the control of and being in a different core business from the hiring party. This will enable the drivers to enjoy the benefits of sick leave, workers comp, and the right to organize. 

Northern California Teamsters Construction Committee Chair Stu Helfer helped write the construction trucking section of the bill, and he gave a shout-out to former Assembly member and now head of the California Labor Federation Lorena Gonzalez for pushing the bill to passage. 

Now the union is gearing up to enforce the new law and help drivers to get their rights—including the right to unionize. Helfer says he plans to talk with the trucking companies that have worked with the union on project labor agreements and bring them all in to try to arrange for a master contract. “We’re potentially talking tens of thousands of new members if we can get that done.”