FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 29, 2007
CONTACT: Barb Maynard, 213-387-0780 ; Sarah Massey, 202-445-1169
Coalition of Port-area Residents, Environmental, Labor, and Religious Leaders Premiers Solution to Allow “Green Growth” at L.A./Long Beach Ports
At a telephone news conference this morning, the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports – a coalition of port-area residents, environmental, labor, and religious leaders – unveiled an innovative solution to bring fundamental change to port trucking. Thursday at 6 PM in Wilmington, hundreds of residents and port drivers were joined by regional politicians, influential activists, and key port officials at a rally in support of the Coalition’s plan.
The problem: Today’s broken port trucking system accounts for a significant amount of the air pollution plaguing port neighborhoods, endangers children by contributing to asthma and other serious illnesses, sentences more than 16,000 drivers—mostly immigrants—to lives of peril and poverty, and threatens the desired expansion of the L.A. and Long Beach Ports’––vital economic engines for the region. The Coalition proposes a comprehensive fix by creating accountability at the ports.
One glaring symptom of a grossly inefficient system: Up to 50 percent of drivers’ time is spent waiting at the ports to transfer containers—while engines idle and pour diesel fumes into the air. Since drivers are paid by the load, not the hour, there is no incentive for trucking companies that hire drivers to move them through port terminals quickly, thus boosting driver income and reducing dirty air.
Port driving is like laboring in sweatshops on wheels. Because drivers are misclassified as independent contractors, trucking companies can evade responsibility for Social Security, unemployment insurance, or workers’ compensation. There is no workers’ comp for all-too-common injuries; if drivers are killed on the job, Cal-OSHA, the state work-safety agency, will not even investigate. A largely immigrant work force earning poverty pay cannot afford to buy or maintain newer, more environmentally-friendly trucks. Meanwhile, many drivers’ children and others in low-income communities near the ports are victims of breathing polluted air from port trucks. That pollution is a key barrier to port expansion.
The solution: Under the model premiered Thursday by the Coalition for Clean & Safe Ports, the ports would issue contracts only to trucking companies that agree to honor basic environmental, labor, and national security standards, thus creating a new mechanism of accountability at the ports. Coalition members will urge L.A. and Long Beach port commissioners to adopt this new model to clean up the air, reduce elevated incidents of asthma, and improve driver working conditions.