Environmental Groups Praise Clean Truck Decision

Environmental Groups Praise Clean Truck Decision

Environmental, community and labor organizations Friday praised the decision by a U.S. District Court in Los Angeles upholding the concession requirements in the Port of Los Angeles Clean Truck Program, saying the ruling will help ports nationwide implement clean-truck plans.

"This victory bolsters the standing of burgeoning clean-port programs across the nation," said Melissa Lin Perrella, senior attorney with the National Resources Defense Council's Southern California Air Program.

"Millions of people live in port communities across the country and are forced to subsidize the operations of outdated port operations with their lungs," she said.

Judge Christina A. Snyder on Thursday upheld the Los Angeles clean-truck concession agreement, including a requirement that motor carriers serving the port hire drivers as direct employees. This will potentially make it easier for the Teamsters union to organize the owner-operator drivers that operate not only in Los Angeles but in other U.S. container ports.

"This is a great day for residents and workers in port communities across the country that desperately need and deserve clean air and good green jobs," said James P. Hoffa, general president of the Teamsters union.

If the Los Angeles employee mandate withstands further challenges on appeal by the American Trucking Associations, it is possible that harbor trucking may be dominated by large motor carriers with the resources needed to hire drivers as employees. Unions, by law, can not organize the independent contractors that now serve most ports, but they are free to attempt to organize employee drivers.

In addition to supporting the Port of Los Angeles program, the Teamsters are leading a legislative effort in Washington aimed at breaking down the barriers to organizing harbor truck drivers.

"We plan to continue our work with federal lawmakers to clarify transportation law so ports nationwide don't needlessly suffer expensive obstacles to cleaning up their operations," Hoffa said.

The Teamsters will continue to push for Congress to "fix the outdated federal laws that are stalling economic and environmental progress," he said.

Under the terms of Judge Snyder's ruling, the Port of Los Angeles next week will submit its "form of judgment" that will outline how the port intends to proceed in implementing the concession agreement in its clean-truck plan.

When the judge signs off on that order, the ATA said it will initiate the appeals process. ATA noted that in rulings the past two years, both Judge Snyder and the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit determined that one of the port's chief arguments, that Los Angeles is exempt from federal preemption law and therefore can regulate truckers in interstate commerce, had little application to this case.

ATA lawyers stated they find it curious that Judge Snyder reversed herself and challenged the 9th Circuit by determining that the port indeed is a market participant.

-- Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at bmongelluzzo@joc.com.