It's Time to Turn Up the Heat! The Port of Oakland is Dragging Its Feet!

February 19, 2008 -- East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable...

For the past year, the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports (CCSP) has been fighting to fix the broken Port trucking system that has created a public health crisis in our community and poor working conditions for Port truck drivers.   Environmental, faith, religious and community activists recently met with Oakland Port Executive Director Omar Benjamin and his staff to express their alarm over environmental and health problems caused by diesel pollution generated at the Port; sweatshop working conditions Port truck drivers are forced to endure; and the lack of employment opportunities at the Port for local residents.  The East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE) played a key role in putting forth a plan championed by CCSP that provides a sensible solution to fix the broken Port Trucking System.  The Clean Trucks Program makes industry responsible for cleaning the air; creates local jobs; and meets environmental and labor standards.  The plan would also require trucking companies doing business at the Port to hire drivers as employees rather than as independent contractors.

So far, the Port has failed to act on the Clean Trucks Program, but Port Commissioners have an opportunity to support it when they are likely to take up the issue in March  CCSP will be out in full force in support of the plan.

The Coalition continues to grow in strength and numbers.  More than 60 organizations and individuals have now endorsed the campaign.

Presidential Candidates Obama and Clinton Endorse the Clean Trucks Program

In letters to Mayor Ron Dellums, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton stated their strong support for the CCSP Clean Trucks Program.

“The Clean Ports Program is an outstanding model to help port cities ensure that those who suffer the negative consequences of trade are also able to enjoy its benefits,” wrote Senator Clinton.  “If we allow deadly diesel pollution to kill vulnerable residents of port communities, and stand by while trade related jobs pay poverty wages, we will have failed as stewards of the American economy.”

Senator Obama has taken up the issue of workers mis-classification on the federal level because it not only hurts workers, but costs taxpayers billion in uncollected taxes.  “Because the trucking companies that operate at the ports have adopted the strategy of holding down costs by classifying their personnel as independent contractors, each individual driver is today responsible for his truck and its environmental impact,” wrote Obama. “Adopting the Clean Trucks Program will make it possible to ensure that the pollution these trucks are creating and the low compensation truckers receive are reversed.”

Faith Community Plays Active Role in Port Campaign

The East Bay Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice (ICWJ) and Seminarians for Worker Justice (SWJ) are playing a key role in bringing members of the faith community into the Port Campaign.  The campaign enjoys widespread support among clergy and lay people spanning a broad spectrum of faiths.  On Labor Day, faith activists spread out to 32 congregations to tell over 6,000 parishners about the campaign collecting more than 2,000 pledges of support.

In late February, ICWJ and SJW will conduct a tour of the Port for St. Martin de Porres Middle School students enrolled in a Social Justice class.  It promises to be a rich educational experience and an important lesson in civic involvement.
For more information contact Aditi Vaidya at aditi@workingeastbay.org or (510) 893-7106 ext. 24.