Fighting for Green Jobs at the Port of Los Angeles

September 30, 2009 -- Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy

As part of a campaign to create good, green jobs at L.A.’s ports, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) released a major report on the potential jobs impact of planned infrastructure investment at the Port of L.A. early in the summer. 

The report, Building Opportunity: Investing in Our Future through a Port Construction Careers Policy, estimates that 13,700 jobs would be created over the next ten years at the Port of Los Angeles due to $3.7 billion in planned infrastructure spending. 

The report recommends that port officials adopt a policy similar to the one adopted last year by L.A. city’s redevelopment agency that includes significant local hiring provisions and a requirement that port projects are covered by a project labor agreement (PLA).

The agreements ensure a well-trained workforce that is poised to participate in the new green economy.  It also ensures that those doing the often dangerous work of building port projects receive union-scale wages and health and pension benefits.

Workers who participate in union apprenticeship are up to date with the latest technology and environmental standards, including providing training in solar panel installation.

“Our apprentices are keeping pace with the constant and very rapid changes in our profession, especially the very important movement to build green,” said Don Davis, Executive Director of the Electrical Training Institute, which is jointly funded by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the National Electrical Contractor Association.

PLAs are collective bargain agreements between unions representing building trades and developers.  They work well with local hire programs because union-sponsored apprenticeship programs have a growing track record of preparing minorities and women for jobs in the trades.

The ports construction campaign is one of two LAANE campaigns to create green jobs at the Port of Los Angeles.  In 2008, LAANE—along with a coalition of environmentalists, labor and health organizations—won passage of a landmark Clean Trucks Program, which makes the trucking industry permanently responsible for the upkeep of a clean-technology fleet at the ports.  (The coalition is currently pursuing federal legislation to enable them to fully implement the program, which is the subject of ongoing litigation.)

The Port of Los Angeles has taken some important steps toward addressing air pollution generated by construction, as well.  A Green Building Policy was adopted in 2007 that requires large buildings to meet high environmental standards.  The policy also incorporates energy efficiency and water conservation standards in new and existing building structures.  In addition, the port has taken steps to minimize the impact of construction activity by adopting sustainable construction guidelines for reducing air emissions.

“Port officials have made important strides in addressing pollution and creating good jobs for a new, green economy,” said Flor Barajas-Tena, director of the Ports Construction Campaign.  “But we still have a ways to go to ensure that port communities—and the entire air basin—can breathe easily.”

For more information, contact Flor Barajas-Tena, LAANE Ports Construction Campaign Director at fbtena@laane.org or 213-977-9400, Ext. 137.

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