Sunday, January 29, 2006

ILWU Still More Progressive Than Everyone

Labor Lends Its Clout to Port Pollution Battle
Dockworkers union says it will pressure shipowners to cut diesel fumes at all West Coast facilities. Emissions have been linked to asthma.
By Deborah Schoch
LA Times

The powerful union representing 60,000 West Coast dockworkers is stepping publicly into the port air pollution arena for the first time, saying it will pressure seaports and shipowners to slash emissions.

Leaders of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union on Monday will join Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in Long Beach to announce a campaign to reduce pollution in seaports from Seattle to San Diego. The union is expected to focus on ships because they are the single biggest source of port pollution but are largely immune from U.S. environmental laws.

West Coast seaports handle most Asian exports entering the country and are integral engines for the U.S. economy.

But mounting pollution from diesel-burning ships, trucks and trains is heightening health concerns in cities such as Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland and Seattle. Diesel fumes, a carcinogen, have also been linked to asthma, other respiratory problems and heart disease.

Those concerns have triggered emotional battles in Los Angeles and Long Beach over the last three years, as residents opposed port expansion plans and business leaders worried that the regional economy could suffer.

Now, dockworkers union leaders say they have become so concerned about the potential for related health problems — among their members and in the community — that they are making clean air a priority.

Because of the union's size and clout, its efforts could significantly speed up clean air initiatives, union and business officials said Friday.


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