Last week, Los Angeles Superior Court judge William Highberger sided with the state’s independent truck drivers, who were one of the first groups to defiantly flip a middle finger at California lawmakers over their shifty new “gig worker” law.
According to Judge Highberger, the state can’t tell them what to do because “they are subject to federal statute.”
On Wednesday, Highberger ruled that the left-leaning nanny-state law “prohibits motor carriers from using independent contractors to provide transportation services.” That steps on federal toes “and therefore is preempted by the Federal Aviation and Administration Authorization Act of 1994.”
Officially, he ruled in favor of Cal Cartage which is a subsidiary of NFI Industries, Transportation Express, and other trucking companies who had been sued by Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer.
They were each charged with “allegedly misclassifying truck drivers as independent contractors rather than employees.”
Attorney Joshua Lipshutz, who represented NFI, was thrilled with the decision. “California cannot simply eliminate that business model and force truck drivers to be employees,” he affirmed.
The vile new law, unpopularly known as AB5, was signed into law in last month and became effective on January 1. It strangles independent entrepreneurs who sell their services at the going rate on an open market, rather than haggling over minimum wages and benefits.
Suddenly, companies who use contract labor are being forced to classify the workers as employees, making them subject to overtime, healthcare, and workers’ compensation benefits. While the law only affects California, gig workers everywhere are nervous that the idea will catch on elsewhere.
So far, Independent truck drivers have been leading the battle against the measure but other affected businesses like Uber Technologies and Postmates Inc. have joined the fray. They too depend on freelancers to “provide low-cost transportation and deliveries.” Freelance writers, photographers, musicians, and computer coders are also affected.
This is the second victory for the truckers. Eight days earlier, the California Trucking Association was granted a federal temporary restraining order in a separate AB5 challenge. The next hearing is set for January 13.
Also on Wednesday, Uber and Postmates asked a federal judge for a similar temporary injunction, arguing that “AB5 is unconstitutional because it singles out their workers in violation of equal protection guaranteed under the constitutions of the United States and California.”
Everyone needs to contact their elected officials to express their anger at similar laws modeled on AB5 and make sure the idea doesn’t take hold in any other jurisdictions.