Major California ports including Los Angeles and Long Beach are serviced by high volumes of tractor-trailer truck traffic moving millions of containers and other shipments through these ports.  Prior to his most recent election as Governor of California, the office of then-Attorney General Jerry Brown filed suit against independent trucking companies, under California’s vague unfair-competition law, alleging that the companies violate California labor and unemployment insurance laws by doing business with their truck drivers as self-employed drivers who lease and operate their vehicles as small businesses, rather than as employees who are subject to payroll taxes, tax withholding and other employment laws.  Although the AG’s lawsuit has been perceived as a political intervention on the side of labor union organizing efforts targeting the independent drivers (who are not subject to collective bargaining if they are small business people rather than employees), the AG’s lawsuit has at least temporarily dodged a bullet at the California Court of Appeals.  The recent appellate ruling finds the AG’s lawsuit is not preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAAA) on the basis that “the State’s unfair competition action is not related to a price, route or service of a motor carrier with respect to the transportation of property.”  Your editor questions the robustness of this appellate finding of non-preemption, although it is perhaps one scrimmage on a larger battlefield.  (People v. Pac Anchor Transportation, Inc., California Court of Appeal No. B220966, May 18, 2011.)

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