California’s long-simmering war over a controversial state labor law is threatening to boil over at the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland — sparking fears of disastrous ripple effects across a global supply chain already at its breaking point amid pandemic backlogs, ongoing labor disputes and inflation at a 40-year high.

The escalating dispute is increasing pressure on Gov. Gavin Newsom to outline a game plan for implementing AB 5, a law he signed in 2019 requiring companies to reclassify many of their independent contractors as employees and grant them the requisite benefits.

On Monday, truckers are expected to protest AB 5 at the Port of Oakland — as they did Wednesday at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The law was originally set to go into effect in 2020, but tangled legal battles temporarily blocked it. However, the U.S. Supreme Court on June 30 cleared the way for the law to proceed when it declined to consider a challenge brought by the trucking industry, though legal fights are still playing out in lower courts.

The move threw into legal jeopardy the status of California’s approximately 70,000 independent truck owner-operators, who, in order to comply with new regulations, may have to obtain licenses and insurance that trucking officials say could increase their annual operating costs by $20,000 — forcing some out of the industry, straining an already overstretched workforce and raising consumer prices. But some truckers support the law, saying it will protect them from wage theft and other abuses.

How Newsom handles the situation could have implications for how he’s perceived on the national stage, especially as he returns to California today from a high-profile trip to Washington, D.C.

A White House official told Bloomberg that the Biden administration is looking forward to California’s action plan for handling AB 5, and groups ranging from Republican state lawmakers to the trucking industry have sent Newsom letters asking him to take executive action to delay implementation of the law.

Separately, West Coast dockworkers and shipping companies are engaged in high-stakes negotiations over a contract that expired July 1, though both sides have committed to continue working until a deal is reached.

As truckers protest state labor law, traffic slows to a crawl at Long Beach, LA ports