Leading the Charge for Change

March 1, 2010 -- Sebrina Owens-Wilson
Orlando Marcano, New York/Newark Port Truck Driver

Orlando Marcano, New York/Newark Port Truck Driver

A veteran of the first Gulf War, the Perth Amboy, NJ resident applied for his truck driving license after he left the military because he believed his hard work would be rewarded with a stable career with middle-class earnings to help raise his three children. Soon after he became a port driver at the Ports of New York and New Jersey, Orlando discovered the hard reality of being misclassified as an independent contractor -- low wages, long hours, no benefits and no job security.

"They pay me by the load, not by the hour. I cannot negotiate better rates. I am not allowed to haul for anyone but my company. I work long hours away from my family, and I have nothing to show for it. If I can't be a real entrepreneur under this scam of a system, I deserve to be valued as a real full-time employee with benefits and overtime."

Orlando Marcano confesses it bothers him that his wife brings home more money than he does -- but not because she's a woman. He delivers cargo in a dangerous industry; she works at McDonald's.

The national spotlight is on the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports' efforts to transform the broken port trucking system. On both coasts our partners have been key players in the fight to end the environmental degradation, health hazards and worker exploitation created by the port trucking industry. In October of 2008, the Clean Truck Program was passed at the Port of Los Angeles, leading the way to cleaning up the air and creating good jobs at the ports. This program will hold the port trucking industry accountable for its impact on the environment and its treatment of workers. Unfortunately, the Clean Truck Program is being challenged in court by the American Trucking Association.

While the legal challenge makes its way through the courts, The Partnership for Working Families and our partners are joining LAANE, EBASE, GANE, Puget Sound Sage, the Teamsters, Change to Win, and hundreds of coalition partners in a campaign for federal change!

The Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports is calling upon Congress to restore local governments' authority to set standards at the ports in order to protect public health and safety. As a national network, the greatest contribution we can make to this campaign is our ability to organize our local communities in support of working families. In the coming months, the Partnership will be organizing events to engage our partners in support of the campaign for federal change, including a national day of action and visits to key Congressional leaders.

It's important that all of our partners and allies stay engaged in this campaign regardless of where they live. The campaign for Clean and Safe Ports is setting the precedent for responsible and accountable business practices. Gone are the days when large corporations and retailers can make huge profits while destroying our environment and endangering our children's health and safety. At every stop along the global supply chain -- be it at a warehouse, waste and recycling center or retail store -- there is an opportunity to create a cleaner environment and quality jobs.

In the coming months you will hear from the Partnership for ways to stay engaged and lend your support to this exciting campaign.

In the meantime, check out the article on Clean and Safe Ports in The New York Times and the Partnership's new brochure on the campaign for Clean and Safe Ports: New Partners, New Approaches to Transform Our Nation's Ports. If you would like hard copies of this brochure please contact Sebrina Owens-Wilson at sowilson@communitybenefits.org.

Join the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports NOW!