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2012 EPIP Conference Reflection – Learning Tour: Ports of LA
One of our Steering Committee members, Ginger Hintz, attended the Learning Tour of LA Ports at this year’s EPIP National Conference. She shares her reflections here:
Philanthropy is about relationships. I think good philanthropy supports and builds long-term connections. These axioms were reinforced on a learning tour to the San Pedro Bay ports (the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach). Patricia Castellanos, Deputy Director and Director of Ports Project at LAANE, and Angelo Logan, Co-Executive Director of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, were our guides into a system that most people never see but are affected by every day. It is estimated that over 40% of all international trade comes in and out of the San Pedro Bay Ports. The scale of consumerism and scope of logistics surrounding such a mammoth enterprise was overwhelming as we stood at the top of Knoll Hill and surveyed the industrial landscape.
As we drove to Knob Hill, we took a count of how many trucks we saw on the opposite side of the highway. In the span of only 15 minutes, over 300 trucks passed us. And it was a slow day! As the trucks whizzed by and we drove past the refineries, past residential neighborhoods and tight-knit communities, Angelo and Patricia gave us an overview of the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports. Angelo told us about the impacts of truck traffic and the pollution of the Ports on the communities they drive through, and more importantly in the communities the truck drivers live in. Because of train, truck, shipping, refinery, and other Port activities, the communities that the drivers live in have high rates of asthma and cancer. Patricia told us about how de-regulation classifies the truck drivers as “independent contractors” which keeps wages low and benefits non-existent. The drivers must pay for their own trucks, the maintenance, and other costs that are usually absorbed by the trucking companies. According to one driver we met, he receives $40/load and can transport two loads a day. It is a system that grossly privileges the trucking companies and feeds consumers expectations of cheap goods.
Organizing and empowering truck drivers is a visible intersection of worker and environmental justice. These workers and their communities sustain the economic engine of our goods movement system yet they struggle to support their families. It’s an old song that grantees seek long-term funding to sustain the complex social change work we all want to see in the world. Having an opportunity to witness the connections and hear the stories of the organizers, the truck drivers, and the grantees supported this outcome. As we ensure that the voices of communities most impacted by issues of social justice are included in our vision of change, we weave new perspectives into that narrative and that takes sustained commitment to a larger vision.
One of the main reasons I support and participate in the EPIP community is because we value that larger picture. EPIP provides the space to talk and learn about these critical social justice issues. I urge you to think about how you can bring your commitment to supporting strategic and sustainable coalition building like the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports to your own work. We will all benefit from such connections.
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