In response to a recent ruling by the California Supreme Court, a coalition of independent workers in the state, including owner-operator truckers, plan to rally at the state’s Capitol building on Wednesday to try to persuade legislators to intervene and overrule the court. The I’m Independent Coalition, formed in response to an April-issued decision by the state’s high court, says the ruling undercuts the livelihood of independent contractors in all industries in the state.
Wednesday’s rally has been promoted by the Western States Trucking Association, who sued California’s Department of Industrial Relations and the California attorney general in July over the court’s decision. Western States says the ruling threatens the owner-operator model in California, due to new risks of lawsuits against carriers using independent contractors. Joe Rajkovacz, head of government affairs for Western States, says the group hopes to see an “immediate injunction” against the California Supreme Court’s ruling.
In short, the state’s Supreme Court said in the Dynamex vs. Superior Court decision that state law favors employee status over independent contractor status, pressing upon employers a so-called ABC test for determining whether a worker is an independent contractor or a company employee. If employers exert a high degree of control over the type and manner of work performed, the worker should be classified as an employee, the court ruled.
Rajkovacz said in July the ruling “effectively eliminates the use of owner-operators, even one-truck motor carriers, from the trucking marketplace.” He said federal law conflicts with the court’s ruling, and that federal laws supersede those at the state level.
The ruling comes amid broader fights in the state over employee vs. contractor status — an issue that’s been brimming at California drayage operations. Carriers in California drayage and local operations often use independent contractor status for drivers who operate more as company drivers than owner-operators, as a means to skirt certain benefits and wage laws.
However, the state Supreme Court’s broad ruling in the Dynamex case has stirred uneasiness across a myriad of industries that use legitimate independent contractors, such as owner-operator truckers. The I’m Independent Coalition is urging the state’s lawmakers to intercede to “suspend the decision and adopt a more reflective approach of today’s modern economy that protects workers as well as their freedom to work independently,” according to a post on the group’s website. “If the legislature stands by, the court case would destroy the work opportunities on which millions of Californians depend.”
The coalition says there are more than 2 million people in the state who work as independent contractors. In addition to truckers, independent contractors are common in industries like healthcare, entertainment, technology, insurance and more, the group says.