The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

L.A. Ports:
Profits for Corporations, “Diesel Death” for Workers

Apr 29, 2013

The twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are gigantic – they handled one third of all goods that entered the U.S. in 2011. That, of course, means billions of dollars in profit for big corporations involved in the trade and transportation of those goods.

But the twin ports, and the corporations that profit off them, are also gigantic air polluters. Diesel-burning ships, trains and trucks put tons of fine particles and harmful chemicals into the air every day. For residents of the area, the result is asthma, heart disease and cancer – to the degree that physicians have dubbed the twin-port area the “Diesel Death Zone.”

After years of outcry from residents, port officials announced a “Clean Air Action Plan” in 2006. But seven years later, they have not much to brag about. Trucking companies, for example, have found loopholes to skirt the ports’ “Clean Trucks Program,” which was supposed to phase out old trucks. After picking up containers at the port with new trucks, the companies transfer the containers to older, dirtier trucks to transport them inland.

In fact, trucks cause only about one fifth of the air pollution at the port. The bigger culprits – the ships and trains – continue to spew tons of pollution into the air every day, unhindered. So-called “supertankers,” for example, are free to “dirty dock” – that is, continue to run their engines while they are docked – instead of plugging in to electricity as other tankers do. And rail companies are planning a new big rail yard in the port area for their diesel trains – which of course will make pollution even worse.

In the meantime, millions of people who live near the ports continue to be poisoned every day of their lives. Hundreds of thousands of children grow up suffering from asthma – and also develop heart disease and cancer, which kill them prematurely in adulthood.

These are all workers, forced to live near the ports because they can’t afford to move elsewhere. They are the very people who work all their lives to produce the profits for the big corporations – and are killed by them, literally, in L.A.’s Diesel Death Zone.