Short-haul truck drivers who pick up and deliver containers at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma are organizing a walkout Tuesday to protest a proposed April 1 deadline restricting port access to allow only newer, cleaner-burning diesel trucks. Independent drivers who own their trucks and contract for work one load at a time say the cost of upgrading to cleaner vehicles will put many of them out of business. The drivers are mostly immigrants from East Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe, according to the Northwest Seaport Alliance, an agency formed in 2015 to merge the ports of Seattle and Tacoma. A flyer distributed late last week calls on independent drivers to attend a meeting of commissioners from both ports Tuesday. At the meeting, Seaport Alliance commissioners are set to decide whether to adopt the new April 1 deadline for their self-imposed, decade-old commitment to cleaner-burning trucks.
Against the backdrop of a towering asthma-medicine inhaler, about 250 protesters demonstrated downtown on Thursday*, saying the Port of Seattle should do a better job of cleaning up air pollution, taking care of its low-level employees and reining in the six-figure salaries of its executives.The protest outside a meeting of the American Association of Port Authorities targeted in particular Port of Seattle CEO Tay Yoshitani’s 9 percent pay raise earlier this year that gave him a salary more than twice that of Gov. Chris Gregoire – as state employees saw their paychecks dip 3 percent. Yoshitani makes $366,825 a year.One protester carried a sign saying “Tay’s pay is not OK.” Others carried Yoshitani’s visage emblazoned with “Overpaid.” Protesters included labor activists, environmentalists, port workers and others.“He got a 9 percent raise!” state Rep. Zack Hudgins told the demonstrators. “Did anyone here get a 9 percent raise?”Hudgins, D-Seattle, said he will file legislation that would:
Singing the African-American spiritual “Wade in the Water,” activists and religious leaders and truck drivers tried Wednesday to breach security at a downtown conference of seaport authorities to appeal to the Port of Seattle to improve working conditions and pay for drivers.In the same hotel where hundreds of delegates to the World Trade Organization took refuge from tear gas in 1999, the activists sought to highlight their call for drivers to be hired as employees instead of scraping by as independent contractors. The drivers say they are on some days working for less than minimum wage, waiting for up to six hours to get a load that might pay them $40 or $50. Because they are independent contractors, the drivers also are responsible for sometimes-expensive maintenance and repairs.Several waves of protesters, about 30 in all, were turned back in front of a phalanx of Port of Seattle police officers on the fourth floor of the Westin. “If you are not credentialed, you need to head right down that escalator!” Westin General Manager Elizabeth James instructed the last wave, which broke into song as the protesters moved slowly toward the exit.The protesters are planning a larger demonstration outside the Westin Thursday at noon.Michael Ramos, executive director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle and a board member of the activist group Puget Sound Sage, said he was trying Wednesday to deliver a letter from several local and national religious leaders calling for better treatment of the drivers. Several workers also bore their own letter, hoping to deliver it to Port of Seattle executives at the conference.
The Port of Seattle got a good look this week at who really likes the agency’s multi-faceted plans to reduce port-related air pollution: Trucking companies, shipping companies, the national ports lobby, the longshoremen’s union and a regional planning agency.And the port’s elected governing commission also heard who thinks the port is unforgivably laggardly in reducing pollution, especially from diesel-burning trucks that haul cargo out of the port into neighborhoods that register the highest rate of childhood hospitalizations for asthma in King County. Those critics include environmentalists, the Georgetown Community Council*, the Church Council of Greater Seattle, the Teamsters and three other unions.“The Port of Seattle has taken timid first steps,” Bang Nguyen of the Community Coalition for Environmental Justice told the Port Commission on Tuesday. “Act now to protect children.”But the port commissioners did not act. Nguyen and other activists urged the commission to accelerate plans to require that trucks picking up cargo meet the latest federal air-pollution regulations for diesel-fired vehicles. Instead, the commission will wait a year for recommendations from its staff.Jim Tutton, vice president of the Washington Trucking Association, said the port’s current plan to require 80 percent of the trucks to have the latest pollution-control systems by Dec. 31, 2015, is good enough. All the trucks must be compliant by Dec. 31, 2017.“We greatly appreciate the way the Port of Seattle’s clean truck program has been instituted,” Tutton said. “The industry has been able to adopt the new requirements in a reasonable manner, allowing companies (and) their drivers to continue serving their customers without a disruption… Our compliments to the port.”
On June 13th, InvestigateWest launched its first major social media campaign associated with a story. The story, “Breathing Uneasy – The Air Pollution Crisis in South Seattle” was a joint effort by IW’s Robert McClure and Jenny Cunningham of KCTS-9. IW’s objective was to get the story to readers and viewers through social media channels, in addition to publication and broadcast with media partners, which also included Crosscut.com. Here’s a rundown of what we learned.Much like a more traditional advertising campaign, the effectiveness of a social media campaign is measured by the extent to which organization goals are met.However, because the campaign for “BreathingUneasy” was not intended to sell a product or gain customers, we look at success a little differently than does traditional business. When evaluating the success of a story campaign, we exchange measures such as unit sales and new customers for metrics like website traffic, connections/followers on social networks, responses to our messages and content, and whether the audience shares the content within their network. An added dimension is whether the report motivates civic participation.
Our recent collaboration with KCTS Channel 9 on worrisome air pollution levels in south Seattle looked hard at the role played by the 1,800 to 2,000 truck trips that do business at the Port of Seattle on an average workday.Today the Seattle Port Commission deals directly with the air-pollution controversy we covered. Staff members are scheduled to brief the commission on the agency’s air-pollution-reduction programs.The background: the Port Commission failed on complicated but essentially 3-2 votes in December 2010 to speed up the air-pollution cleanup process and to support federal legislation giving ports more authority to regulate the trucks. Seattle City Council members Nick Licata and Mike O’Brien, along with state Rep. Dave Upthegrove, asked the commission to go the other way. Commissioner Gael Tarleton appears to have been the swing vote.*But in January of this year the commission, on a motion by Tarleton, agreed 5-0 to ask its staff to look into what might be done to clean up port-related air pollution sooner, citing “an urgent need to address the public health risks of poor air quality caused by expanding container (ship) traffic, the continued strength of cruise ship visits, and the associated growth in port trucking…”
“Breathing Uneasy” is the result of a collaboration between InvestigateWest and KCTS 9. Veteran environmental reporters Robert McClure of InvestigateWest and Jenny Cunningham of KCTS 9 spent six months examining the impact of truck traffic on the communities that border the Port of Seattle, an area that new studies say has some of the worst air in the state. Their stories detail how toxic emissions from diesel trucks endanger residents of some of Seattle’s poorest communities, but also contain lessons and implications for any area dealing with major roadway traffic near schools and residential neighborhoods.In addition, McClure and Cunningham examine how Port of Seattle Chief Executive Officer Tay Yoshitani helped oppose changes in legislation that would have made trucks cleaner, despite his promise to make Seattle the “cleanest, greenest, most energy-efficient port in the U.S.”A special report on air pollution, co-produced by InvestigateWest and KCTS 9, will air on KCTS Connects Friday, June 17 at 7 p.m. Click here to view the video.To read the stories on Crosscut, click here. And you can listen to Robert McClure discuss the issue with Ross Reynolds on The Conversation during the noon hour Tuesday, June 14 on KUOW 94.9 FM.