From Oakland to DC for Clean Air & Good Jobs!

As we’ve blogged before, CEH as part of our Safe Air, Water and Food campaign is part of the Green Blue Alliance fighting to restore stability to our Ports system and improve air quality in low income communities. With hope that we have an ally in the White House, and stuck with a lawsuit against the Port of Los Angeles’ attempt to provide good, green jobs and clean air there,  we took our fight to Washington, D.C.

While tired and jet-lagged the Oakland Delegation of the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports (CCSP) had come to Washington DC for a purpose that we had only a few days to accomplish. Rollback a law that forces Truck Drivers into polluting trucks for less than minimum wage with no benefits and 60 hour work weeks and create healthy communities around America’s Ports.  No big task, right?

Day one, morning one and we rushed off across the marble halls of Congress to meet with California Congressman Garamendi’s staff to get his support for clean air and good jobs at the Port of Oakland.

Our 15 member  CCSP represents a wide group that show just how many are affected by and care about this issue:

  • Center for Environmental Health
  • Change to Win
  • Teamsters
  • Communities for a Better Environment
  • Machinists Union
  • Workforce Collaborative
  • Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice
  • East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy
  • Worksafe
  • Sierra Club
  • and the most affected of all;  three port truck drivers.

CEH, though national, is based in Oakland, California.  So we traveled and do a lot of Ports work with the Oakland branches of these groups. The Oakland delegation met up with delegations from the sister campaigns from Los Angeles/Long Beach, New York/New Jersey, Seattle/Tacoma, and Miami. We represented the coalitions across the nation fighting to fix the broken port trucking system to gain sustainable environmental solutions to diesel pollution and good jobs for port truck drivers.

In a recent CEH action alert, we asked you to contact your legislator to support an amendment to federal legislation that hampered port authorities to make choices to protect their drivers and make good decisions for environmental health and safety.  Your letters and voices joined the Oakland delegation and over 75 CCSP and Coalition for Healthy Ports representatives from all over the country to fight for clean air and good jobs. Representative Nadler of New York will be sponsoring a bill to amend the federal legislation so that ports can make the choice to hire their truck drivers as employees.  Why?  Because this will place the burden of environmental clean-up on the shippers and protect low-wage immigrant drivers. Over our week in D.C., the delegation was able to garner the support of the Democratic delegation of California. Other members of the nationwide coalition found support in their legislators offices all over the country.

Representative Garamendi surprised us all by joining our meeting himself, well-versed on the issue, and cutting straight to what he could do to help us fix the problem of the broken port trucking system. His support, was the first of many, we were able to garner that week!

There were more pleasant surprises to come that week, including a never-before seen dressing down of the big corporations regarding port truck drivers.  More on that in a follow up item, but in the interim, remember that your voice has power.  Our drivers that accompanied us felt that too but  did so put thing their jobs and families in jeopardy.

Join us for the next installment recounting our time in Washington DC to flight for clean air and good jobs.  This fight isn’t over ‘til we win.