CTA, OOIDA mount new argument against AB 5 contractor law

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A preliminary injunction hearing regarding the enforcement of California’s AB 5 law on the trucking industry is effectively on hold while the California Trucking Association and Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association file additional arguments as to why an injunction should be granted.

The AB 5 law instituted the ABC test for determining employee classification. Particularly problematic for the trucking industry is the "B" prong, which requires that a worker performs work outside the usual course of the hiring company’s business to be deemed a contractor.

The preliminary injunction hearing was originally scheduled to be held May 1, but it was delayed to May 22 after additional arguments were filed. OOIDA said last week in a statement to Overdrive that “the previously set hearing dates are effectively on hold,” because in the case’s latest filings, “all of the parties to the case agreed and moved to create new deadlines to complete the briefing of the preliminary injunction motion and to hold a hearing.”

OOIDA said the proposal to move the deadlines was to accommodate CTA and OOIDA filing an additional legal argument to support a preliminary injunction.

[Related: California Trucking Association again seeks injunction to block AB 5]

That additional argument relates to another AB 5 case, in which the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the law violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution for workers engaged in app-based ride-hailing and delivery services. The Equal Protection Clause prohibits states from denying any person the equal protection of the laws.

As proposed, CTA and OOIDA would have until June 19 to file their additional arguments. The state of California and the Teamsters, who are intervenors on the defense side of the case, would then be given time to respond to the arguments, and OOIDA and CTA would then have time to file a reply brief. The parties to the case proposed that a hearing be held on Aug. 9, or whenever the court prefers.

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In its latest briefing filed April 19, OOIDA claimed that while the California legislature framed AB 5 to be generally applicable to all workers in California, it also included carve-outs for various industries. OOIDA said the exemptions lack “any rational purpose" and bear "no relationship to AB 5’s stated purpose.”

OOIDA and CTA both said in their latest filings that former California Rep. Lorena Gonzalez, the author of the AB 5 legislation, purposefully targeted trucking with the bill. The groups cited a statement made by Gonzalez on the California Assembly Floor on Sept. 11, 2019, that one of the purposes of AB 5 was to “get rid of an outdated broker model that allows companies to basically make money and set rates for people that they called independent contractors.”

[Related: Trucking groups, owner-ops generally opposed to Biden DOL's contractor rule changes]

The law also included a carve-out for truckers working as independent contractors for construction firms. OOIDA noted in its April 19 arguments that the state “exempted from AB 5 some truck drivers who are indistinguishable with respect to the relevant business conditions from those truck drivers represented by OOIDA to whom AB 5 applies,” adding that evidence shows “political animus motivated the disparate treatment of these truckers.”

CTA and OOIDA also both noted that Gonzalez was a former Teamster employee, adding that the Teamsters would benefit from more operators being forced to be treated as company employees.

“The fact that AB 5 ... targeted interstate trucking is not surprising,” CTA said. “The bills were sponsored by former representative Gonzalez, who, before entering the legislature, was an employee and union organizer for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. She did not abandon her allegiance to the IBT when she joined the legislature, proudly announcing on May 30, 2019, that ‘I am a Teamster’ and ‘I am the union.’”

[Related: Remaining legal challenges to AB 5 'an uphill climb,' enforcement light thus far]