port of seattle

Protesters attack Port of Seattle salaries, seek better conditions for workers, less air pollution

Protesters attacked air pollution, working conditions and high salaries for port executives

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:

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Activists, truckers, religious leaders call for Port of Seattle to treat truck drivers better

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.

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Port of Seattle won't speed up cleanup of trucks' air pollution

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.”

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Robert McClure's picture

Should Port of Seattle hasten air-pollution cleanup?

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..."

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InvestigateWest and KCTS 9 co-produce "Breathing Uneasy," a look at the air pollution crisis in South Seattle

“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.

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Port of Seattle offers Earth Day education

Who says fieldtrips to celebrate Earth Day are just for elementary school kids?

One week after the release of their 2009-2010 Annual Environmental Report, the Port of Seattle gave adults a chance to reliving their days of educational outings, hosting a tour of two port-controlled West Seattle Parks Wednesday. The Port of Seattle’s Earth Day Park’s Tour, which emphasized the Port’s environmental stewardship initiatives, drew two busloads of Seattleites to Port headquarters at Pier 69 on Alaskan Way.

The two and half hour event kicked with a presentation by senior environmental manager George Bloomberg. Bloomberg briefed attendees on some of the Port’s recent contamination clean-up projects and wildlife restoration efforts with a short slideshow. After the Port’s introduction it was off to Terminal 5’s Jack Block Park, located at 2130 Harbor Avenue Southwest. The 5.8 acre public shoreline access park boasts some stunning sights of the Seattle waterfront as well as trails for biking and walking.

From a 45 foot-high viewing platform, port environmental managers discussed the environmentally conscious infrastructure redevelopment at the terminal: in adding 400 feet linear feet of container cargo pier, the port was able to enclose the majority of pollution at the site, preventing the spread contamination to Puget Sound waters. Though Terminal 5 is still classified as a superfund site—a location the federal government flags for clean-up because of its severe soil and ground water contamination—Bloomberg said the Port has managed to isolate 70 percent of pollutants in the area. Terminal 107, a public access park at 4700 West Marginal Way Southwest, was next up on the tour.

More than 200 Cruise Ships headed for Seattle

Before the end of the month, a 780-foot visitor will arrive at Pier 66. And Holland America’s ms  Amsterdam is just the first of many—more than 200 other cruise vessels will dock in Seattle this spring and summer.

Cruise ship season — which brings a sharply growing number of giant vessels like the ms Amsterdam to Puget Sound each year — is just around the corner.

“We’ve been talking about cruise ships for the past 10 years, really because of the significant expansion in our waters” said Marcie Keever, a representative from national environmental organization Friends of the Earth (FOE). “We have seen an explosion of cruise ships. They really are small cities.”

The number of cruise ships docking in Seattle each year has increased from 6 vessels carrying 6,615 passengers in 1999 to 218 vessels with 875,433 passengers in 2009. The Port of Seattle estimates the city will see five more ships this year, carrying a total of 858,00 passengers. The ships will dock at either Pier 66 or Pier 91, which opened to cruise ships last year.

And as the number of vacationers relaxing on cruise ships climbs each year, so does the volume of air and water pollution that cruise lines produce, Keever said.

Federal law prohibits cruise ships from dumping untreated sewage within three miles from shore. International law mandates cruise ships wait until they’re 12 miles out to discharge waste. One a vessel passes sails past the marker, however, no laws prevent them from dumping.