Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Labor - Environment Alliances

"It’s almost always the case that companies that have a bad environmental record also have bad labor records," says David Foster, District 11 director of the United Steelworkers of America. Foster, who is nothing short of a hero among rank-and-file steelworkers, has reached out a steady hand to environmentalists over the past few years. "Our interests are portrayed as colliding with one another, but there’s nothing further from the truth," he says. "On a practical level, there is such extremism in the corporate world that the opportunities for us to work together are virtually limitless."
Blogging will be a bit light this week. I'm writing an article and my daughter is graduating from high school next weekend (I know, it's hard to believe that I'm old enough to have a daughter graduating from high school), meaning I've got relatives, inlaws and assorted friends descending upon us like cicadas.

So, instead of pining away and missing me, here are some good items to read about labor-environment alliances, all thanks to my blue-green correspondent Jim Young. The first is an article from High Country News about labor-environmental coalitions in the West. Then there's the latest issue of Green Labor which contains articles on the continuing ANWR controversy and the Bush administration's collusion with the energy industry to the detriment of workers and unions.

Finally, there's a story about an environmentally friendly trucking company that has the support of unions and environmentalists. Last October, I wrote an article about problems caused by the Port of Los Angeles only being open during regular work hours:
In a nutshell, the Port of Los Angeles is only open during regular work hours when it disgorges 47,000 trucks onto the 24 mile Long Beach freeway each day, "a number that is expected to double or triple in coming years." Efforts are underway by the LA County Council to get the Port to move cargo 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so that much of the freight can move at night when the freeways are emptiest instead of "flooding the freeway with trucks while commuters are traveling to and from work."
APT has figured out how to profitably pick up containers at safer and more environmentally friendlier times of day.

In addition,
the company will pay their drivers an hourly wage and benefits.

That's a drastic change from the current situation for most truckers in the port. Roughly 90 percent of truckers who haul containers in and out of marine terminals are independent owners or leasers and are paid a fee by cargo owners for hauling a load.

The result is a system that rewards drivers for making as many trips to the port per day as possible. The consequences of that are congested freeways and safety issues. Drivers who depend on fees from a third and fourth load per day aren't likely to take as much time inspecting or repairing their trucks, experts say.

Allied will operate its own maintenance staff and pay for fuel and upkeep of the trucks something port truckers usually have to worry about themselves.
Not only do the birds and the bees like it, but so do the Teamster-represented drivers.
For truck driver Pedro Mirabal, ATP has been heaven sent. Before joining the company, Mirabal was an independent owner/operator, meaning he was responsible for all expenses, maintenance, insurance and fuel on his truck, which he was also still paying off to a truck leasing firm.

Just one month on ATP's staff and it's changed his life, he said.

"There are a lot of responsibilities being your own boss. Now the stress has gone away,' he said with a smile.

The reasons are clear. Mirabal said that each month he spent: $600 on insurance, $900 to $1,200 on fuel, $573 on lease payments and $150 on license registration. He also spent $550 a year in road taxes and roughly $3,000 a year in new tires. That's more than $30,000 in expenses annually, excluding maintenance costs.

Meanwhile, Mirabal typically earned $80 per round-trip container delivery, averaging two or three trips a day. At $200 a day, that's $52,000 in gross income each year, or a net of about $22,000 before income taxes.
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