Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Landmark victory for clean air and better jobs in S. California

From S. California AFL-CIO via Rosalio Munoz:

A federal judge this week cleared the way for one of the nation’s most sweeping environmental cleanups by refusing to grant an injunction against the landmark Clean Trucks Program at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

The decision, which clears the way for the program to take effect in October, marks the the culmination of a two-year effort by LAANE and a broad-based alliance including the Natural Resources Defense Counsel, the Teamsters and nearly 40 other labor, environmental, public health and community-based organizations to address the severe economic, environmental and public health impacts of the broken trucking system at the nation’s largest port complex. Under the Clean Trucks Program, thousands of polluting trucks will be removed from the road while conditions for some 16,000 port truck drivers will dramatically improve. Air quality authorities have linked 3,700 premature deaths each year in California to pollution from the transportation of goods -- more than the number of people who die from homicide.

The Coalition’s efforts, along with the strong support of L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, have been critical in overcoming enormous opposition from the trucking industry and major shipping interests such as Wal-Mart that have long profited from a system that places the entire burden of buying and maintaining trucks on poor, largely immigrant drivers. As one driver said in his testimony before the L.A. Port Commission, "They are making me choose between replacing my truck and feeding my kids."

The new program will shift the responsibility for ownership and upkeep of clean-burning vehicles to the trucking companies, while also requiring that drivers become employees of these companies rather than independent contractors – a move that will significantly raise job standards and ensure basic workplace protections.

Beyond the benefits to drivers and the communities that have suffered from polluted air, the Clean Trucks Program is a watershed accomplishment for the burgeoning blue-green alliance. Often on opposite sides of public policy debates, labor advocates and environmentalists have created a powerful partnership that could serve as a model for a good jobs/green growth movement in cities across the nation.

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