Senators Introduce Clean Ports Act of 2011 to Improve Labor, Environmental Conditions at the Nation’s Ports
December 20, 2011 - Posted by Lexer Quamie
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights welcomed the Senate introduction last week of the Clean Ports Act to address growing labor and environmental concerns at many of the nation’s ports and nearby communities.
The Clean Ports Act, introduced by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, D. N.Y., and Charles Schumer, D. N.Y., would empower local ports to adopt requirements for motor carriers to reduce pollution and traffic congestion, improve highway safety, and make their drivers employees instead of misclassifying them as independent contractors. The bill is similar to legislation reintroduced earlier this year by Representative Jerrold Nadler, D. N.Y., in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Many of the 100,000 U.S. port truck drivers earn less than federal or state minimum wages, are without health insurance, and are misclassified as “independent contractors,” making them exempt from most labor and employment protections, including the right to form a union. As Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference, noted in the foreword to a recent report, “The Big Rig: Poverty, Pollution, and the Misclassification of Truck Drivers at America’s Ports,” the effects of these labor practices have reduced port drivers to being little more than “sharecroppers on wheels.”
Port pollution also has a severe effect on drivers and the 87 million Americans who live in nearby communities whose risk of developing asthma, cancer, and respiratory illnesses is significantly increased by their exposure to toxic fumes from dirty diesel trucks.
“Congress must act to provide New York, and cities all across the country, with the common sense tools they need to improve the quality of air and quality of life for millions of people,” said Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
The Leadership Conference is part of a national coalition of environmental, labor, community, and faith-based organizations calling for the passage of the Clean Ports Act as a means to enforce effective programs that provide appropriate workplace protections for port truck drivers and improve the quality of life for millions of people who live and work in nearby communities.