Freight trucks moving through south Seattle’s industrial areas will put out cleaner exhaust next year, but their drivers will most likely be putting up with the same poor working conditions.
At a Port of Seattle Commission meeting Feb. 10, commission members discussed a plan to retrofit trucks with new fuel-saving technology, but rebuffed calls by organized labor to mandate that trucking companies directly hire and offer benefits to instead of subcontracting with, the drivers [“Port truckers push for improved treatment,” Jan. 28 – Feb. 3].
The issues — pollution and crappy jobs — are linked, Dave Freiboth of the King County Labor Council told the commissioners. “Discussions that find environmental concerns, economic concerns… [and] employment concerns at odds has resulted in the greenhouse gas and global warming environment that we are seeing now, and one of the worst economic climates since the Great Depression.”
But Tom Watson, the Port’s senior lawyer, indicated that the Port may not have the statutory ability to regulate the employment conditions of their tenant companies. And Dan Gatchit, from the shipping company Roadlink, threatened to sue if the Port attempted to regulate working conditions.
The commission is considering a plan by Cascades Sierra Solutions to outfit trucks no longer in use in California with filtering technology that would reduce particulate emissions by 50-80 percent. The company has secured $70,000 from the Washington State Department of Ecology for the project, but more funding will be needed. For every retrofit truck, an older truck would be scrapped. This effort springs from the two-year-old Northwest Clean Air Ports Strategy, which calls for a gradual reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through 2015.