L.A. Harbor Commissioners Vote to Clear the Air

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Harbor commissioners in L.A. unanimously voted Thursday to get rid of dirty trucks at the Port of Los Angeles and require trucking companies to hire drivers as employees. KPCC's Molly Peterson reports on the different ways drivers and trucking companies are responding to the vote.

Molly Peterson: It was the drivers' day, and they knew it.

[Chanting in Spanish]

Peterson: Most of the 17,000 drivers at the L.A. and Long Beach ports are independent contractors. They're exposed to diesel pollution from idling trucks, and they're paid a little more than half what employee drivers make at other U.S. ports. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa congratulated his port commission on changing its environmental and employment rules.

Antonio Villaraigosa: We can implement the most far reaching effort to clean up the port in the United States of America, and maybe the world.

Peterson: At stake, the mayor said, are 1,200 lives lost each year to port-related health problems, and countless school days kids lose to asthma. He and other officials said labor rules will, in the long run, strengthen air quality reforms. L.A. City Councilwoman Janice Hahn chastised the Port of Long Beach for dropping their plan's requirement that trucking companies employ their drivers full time.

Janice Hahn: By you not adopting the employee piece of this plan, you have broken faith not only with us, but with the people of this entire region, and we urge you to the do the right thing and join us.

Peterson: Business interests, including the Los Angeles area chamber of commerce and the American Trucking Association, also opposed L.A.'s plan. The trucking association plans to challenge the labor rules in court.