Thursday, January 7, 2010

Fidley Watch: Doublethink

(As seen in the January 2010 issue of Pacific Maritime Magazine)

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” George Orwell

In 2008, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa accepted half a million dollars in campaign contributions from Change to Win, a Washington, D.C.-based labor coalition substantially funded by the Teamsters. Change to Win has long fought to disenfranchise independent truckers at the Port of Los Angeles. In our March Fidleywatch we suggested that Change to Win’s campaign contribution might influence the Mayor to opt for organized labor’s Clean Trucks Program that had independent truckers forced out of their jobs at the Port.

Last week the City of Los Angeles reported that Mayor Villaraigosa spent $120,000 on a nine-day trip to meet with world leaders and European dignitaries in Copenhagen, Berlin and London to discuss global warming. According to the City, part of that trip was paid for by the Port of Los Angeles.

Change to Win has calculated that independent truck drivers (those forced out of work at the Port of Los Angeles) earn an average of $6 an hour, after expenses.

According to Change to Win’s calculations, the port-funded Mayor’s trip would have paid the wages of an independent truck driver for 10 years.

Not only can the Mayor bask in the glow from all the international stars with whom he mingled in Copenhagen, he can absorb some reflected light from the recently bestowed Orwellian-sounding “Environmental Justice Achievement Award” recently awarded him by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

According to the EPA, “Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. EPA has this goal for all communities and persons across this Nation. It will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.”

The most recent award was given to the Mayor-supported Clean Trucks Program (CTP), “for significantly reducing the impact of diesel truck pollution on economically disadvantaged people living near port facilities.”

The CTP Partnership includes the Port of Long Beach, the Port of Los Angeles and the Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) Stakeholder Group. The CAAP Stakeholder Group, includes, among others: The Natural Resources Defense Council, Coalition for Clean Air, the Port of Los Angeles, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters , East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, and The Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice.

The City of Los Angeles recently reported a $400 million deficit, and the Mayor can spend $120,000 to fly to Copenhagen for nine days, come back to accept an award for working to furlough port-area wage earners making $6 per hour …the very people he claims to want to help.

Justice? More like doublethink.

Chris Philips, Managing Editor