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.
After the school building was featured in several 2013 stories by KING 5 and InvestigateWest, Seattle Public Schools paid Veritox $35,000 to study whether traffic pollution could harm students and staff.
InvestigateWest is announcing some exciting new changes!With the departure next month of Executive Director and Editor Rita Hibbard, the InvestigateWest board is pleased to announce the Robert McClure, a co-founder as well as an award-winning environmental journalist, is succeeding Hibbard as acting Executive Director.At the same time, Carol Smith, a co-founder and acclaimed social issues and health journalist, is moving into the role of acting Executive Editor.“Robert will guide a growing, stable and exciting news organization into its next phase,” said Hibbard, who is leaving to pursue other projects long put on hold by the demands of a thriving nonprofit newsroom. “As a co-founder, he profoundly understands the importance of what we do, and is in a great position to push it forward.”InvestigateWest is an independent, nonprofit investigative news organization founded in 2009 and based in Seattle. It is staffed by journalists with a track record of producing in-depth stories that produce change in public policy and practice. It has received funding from both national and regional foundations.InvestigateWest’s work resulted in three laws passed by the state Legislature in 2011, including two establishing worker safety and health rules after the publication of a story linking exposure of chemotherapy drugs to illness and death among health care workers, and another banning carcinogenic pavement sealant after InvestigateWest wrote about their widespread use. “Carol also will bring her investigative and narrative skills to the fore in her new role,” said Hibbard, who has been at the helm since InvestigateWest’s launch. “She’s a wonderful writer and journalist who will contribute hugely to the new organizational structure.”
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.
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…”