Teamsters Announce Legislation to Protect Workers and California Roads

On Monday, January 30, Local 856 members joined hundreds of fellow Teamsters and lawmakers at the State Capitol to highlight the introduction of Teamster-sponsored legislation that would require human operators to be present in autonomous vehicles (AVs) weighing over 10,000 pounds.

“Here’s the bottom line: big corporations are trying to implement autonomous vehicles for one reason only, and that is greed. What these big corporations are trying to do is eliminate these trained professional jobs to boost their already excessive corporate profits and outsource driver jobs to robots,” said Peter Finn, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 856.

The legislation, Assembly Bill 316, is authored by California Assembly Members Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters), Asm. Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale), and Asm. Ash Kalra (D-San Jose).

The bill’s introduction comes as the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is likely preparing a new regulatory framework that would allow for autonomous vehicles over 10,000 pounds to hit the road, possibly within one year, without consent from the California legislature. Crafting AV regulations without the input of democratically elected representatives will create calamitous public policy, one that threatens the lives of millions of Californians.

Teamster members expressed their strong opposition to the DMV modifying AV regulation at a workshop it hosted on January 27.

“This is not a partisan issue. Public safety affects us all. As a retired member of the California Highway Patrol of almost 30 years, I’ve seen the true consequences that collisions have on humanity, and I have personally informed families about the loss of their loved ones. That changes you, it becomes part of the fabric of who you are,” said Assemblymember Tom Lackey of District 34 and bill co-author. “That’s why I am proud to co-author this piece of reasonable legislation to help keep our communities safe.”

“Moving too quickly to convert our fleets to autonomous trucking is very short-sighted and could result in a severe shortage of trained and capable workers as we investigate what the transition looks like,” said Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry of District 4 and bill co-author. “The supply chain crisis of the past three years should teach us not to ignore emerging needs in this very complex international goods system.”

“As a professionally trained truck driver of nearly three decades, I’ve seen hundreds of accidents, put out car fires, changed tires for people on the side of the road, and pulled people out of the way of highway traffic. These incidents require a trained human operator to respond appropriately. Automated vehicles are not ready to be operated without a properly trained human operator behind the wheel,” said Aaron Issacs, a member of Teamsters Local 315. “California needs to put safety first, and this bill would do just that.”

Autonomous vehicles without human operators pose a real risk to the safety of millions of Californians. Reports of AV crashes and AV-related deaths are becoming increasingly common. In addition to the safety risks, Amazon and other AV proponents have yet to outline what will happen to professional drivers. The proposed AV legislation aims to address these issues and keep the public safe while maintaining good California jobs.

“We are not going to let the tech companies, or any politicians kill anyone in our communities or kill our jobs with the use of autonomous vehicles. The Teamsters are done chasing policy: our goal is to create policy and those policies should be created by the people, and for the people,” said Lindsay Dougherty, Teamsters Western Region International Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer of Local 399. “We invite all politicians to join us in this fight to preserve and protect the lives of working people.”

“As truck drivers, we are the ones who can quickly help somebody whose car is on fire, or in an accident. An automated machine isn’t able to do that – having a real person behind the wheel saves lives. We also cannot overlook the potential cuts to good jobs and how these jobs support the livelihoods of so many California families. This is not just a job for me, it is life support for my family,” said Joe Garner, a member of Teamsters Local 315. “Lawmakers have an obligation to protect their constituents, and they must prioritize public safety and good jobs.”