On Thursday afternoon, the board of the busiest port in the United States approved by a unanimous vote the Clean Trucks Program. The program is a major element of a “landmark plan” to transform a “microcosm of the inequality of income, wealth, and public health” in America into a model of green growth.
The Clean Trucks Program involves an “employee model” that mandates that the Port of Los Angeles deal only with trucking companies who employ, rather than contract, their drivers. Currently, nearly all of the 16,800 truckers are classified by “independent contractors,” working without benefits or the right to unionize. The predominantly Latino workers must choose between safety and money as they try to run enough trips to make the equivalent of $12 an hour after an average $46,000 a year in expenses to keep the trucks running.
Moving to the employee model, proponents believe, will make it dramatically easier for the port to meet state and federal public health, environmental, and national security standards, as the port authorities will be able to work directly with the national trucking companies rather than the thousands of truckers. However, trade groups representing retailers, importers, and the trucking industry are fighting every step of the way.
Last month, the Port of Long Beach bowed to industry pressure, fearing “the employee model would get bogged down in the courts” and approved environmental but not labor reforms, leading to dramatic protests. Watch it:
“There may be lawsuits that will delay our effort, but we will not be deterred,” Villaraigosa said in an interview with Mercury News. “We think we have a strong legal case, and we are moving ahead with the most ambitious plan to clean up a major port in the United States and perhaps the world.”
Read The Progress Report’s The Greening Of America’s Busiest Port, for the story behind this major progressive victory.