Long Beach truckers protest diesel rig plan
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The angry shouts of nearby demonstrators made it hard to hear Long Beach officials who took to the stage Friday at the opening ceremony of the Clean Trucks Center on Terminal Island.
The center was created for truckers needing help to comply with a landmark $1.6-billion program to rid the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles of old, polluting diesel big rigs. Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster called it a step toward “a cleaner Long Beach of the future.”
But as Foster spoke, demonstrators led by International Brotherhood of Teamsters organizers shouted out their displeasure with the Long Beach program, which would offer truckers a new, clean $100,000 rig for about $30,000. “We don’t need to buy a truck!” they yelled in unison in Spanish. “We need to be employees.”
The opponents, backed by a coalition of immigration, consumer and environmental groups, contend the plan will saddle low-income truckers with a financial obligation they cannot afford. They prefer a program offered by the adjacent Port of Los Angeles, which requires concessions, or companies, to buy and maintain trucks for many drivers who now work as independent operators. Teamsters also like the Los Angeles program because it would make it easier to unionize.
On Friday, Teamster organizer Bob Maldunas had more immediate concerns: Harbor police refused to let him shepherd the demonstrators closer to the stage where an audience of about 30 people sat impassively on white folding chairs.
“I don’t want you disrupting the ceremony,” barked an officer who ordered that they stay behind a double yellow line in a nearby parking lot. ‘We wouldn’t have been disruptive,” Maldunas responded angrily, “if you would have let us cross the line.”
— Louis Sahagun