Tell the Port of Oakland to Keep Its Promise: Clean Air and Good Jobs in West Oakland

By Christine Cordero

There’s no doubt:  the movement of freight is vital to our economic health.  But as the ongoing battle for justice at the Port of Oakland shows, there’s also no doubt that the Port’s daily operations harm the physical and economic health of workers and low-income residents who live in its shadows.

A few facts:

  • Diesel pollution is five times higher in West Oakland than other parts of Alameda County.
  • One in five West Oakland children has asthma.
  • Residents who live near the Port of Oakland can expect to die, on average, more than a decade before residents of the Oakland Hills.
  • The estimated annual health cost of air pollution from freight transport in California is $19.5 billion per year – more than half of which is caused by trucks.
  • Port trucks traveling through West Oakland produce the same amount of toxic soot in one day as 127,677 cars.
  • An estimated 66% of Port drivers do not have health insurance, and almost zero receive benefits on the job forcing many to rely on publicly-funded health care.
  • The amount of cancer-causing diesel particulate matter found inside truck cabs is up to 2,000 times greater than the level typically accepted by state and federal environmental protection agencies.

Alongside allies in the Coalition for Clean & Safe Ports, CEH has been working for 2 years to negotiate clean air and good trucking jobs.  While industries (and their government cronies) have typically tried to divide labor and environmental advocates, the CCSP’s thriving partnership recognizes that our interests are one and the same.  We can’t achieve clean air  on the backs of poverty-stricken truck drivers.

Under the motto “Clean Air, Good Jobs!” the CCSP has labor and environmental advocates working together toward our shared goals.  For a short video on this game-changing partnership, click here:

As I write this, the Coalition is fighting to make the port trucking industry more efficient, to reduce air pollution, and to improve the quality of jobs and stimulate economic opportunities for residents living in communities surrounding the Port.  As part of this effort, CCSP is pushing the Oakland Port Commission to adopt a comprehensive Clean Trucks Program that will reduce diesel emissions and protect the health of residents, drivers, and other local breathers of air.

Why do we have to do this?  Because the Port of Oakland’s environmental track record is shameful.  It has created window-dressing, toothless measures that have failed to address the staggering diesel emissions that come from its daily operation.  It has sidestepped its obligations to workers and neighbors.  It has failed workers and the local community.

In June of this year, the Port Commission finally heard the voices of community members, truck drivers, and other stakeholders.  The Commission instructed its staff to create a truck ban prohibiting the dirtiest trucks from entering the port.  Good news.

But now Port staff members have gone rogue, drafting a proposal that fails to ban the dirtiest trucks from entering the port, as required by new California laws.  We can’t clean the air and protect the health of the West Oakland  community if we continue to allow dirty trucks to service the Port.  Backing out on this long overdue promise is, once again, shameful.

Omar Benjamin, Executive Director of the Port of Oakland, made a commitment in May at a legislative hearing in Sacramento to ban dirty trucks from entering the port.  Please tell Omar to keep his promise!

At 2pm PDT, on Tuesday, October 6th, the Oakland Port Commission will vote on a ban riddled with loopholes big enough to drive a dirty truck through!  Call Omar (510-627-1210) before the meeting, and tell him to close the loopholes in the staff’s proposal and pass a real truck ban that protects workers and residents from all dirty trucks!

Please stand with the workers and community members.  Do it today!