Cleaner Ports, Better Jobs

April 29, 2008

Today’s guest blog is by Jon Zerolnick of the

Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy

, who will be speaking at our May 7-8



We have gotten accustomed to taking our victories where and when we can get them: often marginal improvements and often for small beneficiaries (a handful of workers here, a small community group there). So it is rare (for me) to be able to write of a major victory. But at


, working as part of the

Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports

, we were just part of something pretty huge: a major victory both for workers and for the environment.

Because of their



last month

, the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners will not just be reforming the broken, dysfunctional port trucking industry; they will be rebuilding it from the ground up. Some 16,000 exploited truck drivers at the Port of Los Angeles (the largest port in the country) have for decades been



independent contractors

. They have finally won long-sought employee rights, which will lead to improvements in pay and working conditions as drivers now have, at long last, the right to organize.

People living in the





have won meaningful new truck standards that will improve air quality as we get filthy, dilapidated trucks off the roads in favor of newer, cleaner trucks.

Perhaps most important, this multi-year campaign has forged essential new


between the




communities. We've gotten beyond the tired old dichotomies of jobs versus environment to a new place where we not only support one another, but where we understand that it is the same forces (of



) that hamper progress for all of us.

(I should note that though this was a major victory, we still have much work to do. We will be focused on defending against the expected



. We will have to ensure that everything is implemented properly. Most important, we have to lead the way so that LA’s sister port, the Port of Long Beach, scraps their trucking scheme — which




the true underlying problem — and replaces it with a comprehensive solution as LA did.

We will then work to make sure that we can replicate at Ports around the country the gains we'll be seeing here in Southern California.)

I'd urge you: in whatever corner of this movement you find yourself, building and strengthening

these ties

between different groups is going to be critical as we all move forward to build

a more sane, sustainable and just society


See you May 7 and 8 at the Good Jobs First