A large group of ILWU members and allies held a spirited protest outside the offices of “Clean Harbors Los Angeles” on Friday, July 20 to warn the public about the company’s questionable environmental and safety record. Local newspapers and television covered the event.
“We’re here to warn the harbor community that Clean Harbors has a spotty record when it comes to protecting workers and the public,” said Ruben Hurtado, Business Agent and Dispatcher at Local 56. Local 56 President Ilugardo Mendoza added, “It’s disappointing to see an environmental clean-up firm operating here who’s been charged with so many violations of clean air and water laws.” Local 56 Secretary-Treasurer Enrique Marin said, “We’d like to see this company live up to their ‘Clean Harbors’ name.”
Support from ILWU Locals & SCDC Members from harbor-area locals included President Joe Cortez of Local 13 who came with Labor-Relations Committee (LRC) rep Mark Mascola and other longshore workers. Local 63 President Mike Podue, Secretary Mike Ponce and LRC rep Joe Mascola attended, as did Local 68 President Ed Royles of the Port Pilots. Auxiliary President Ida Taylor and Vice President Maureen Montoya attended. A dozen supporters from the hotel and restaurant workers union (UNITE/ HERE) came to show their support.
Critical assistance for the action was provided by the Southern California District Council (SCDC) – the ILWU’s regional political action arm which has been notifying the broader community about the problem with Clean Harbors.
“Everyone who works around the harbor knows that we can’t afford to let companies operate here who cut corners on safety and environmental protection,” said SCDC President Cathy Familathe.
Clean Harbors’ troubled record
The troubled firm has been the focus of complaints from California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control, the State Water Resources Board and the California Air Resources Board. Over the past ten years, the company has been cited by Federal and State OSHA officials for almost 50 violations; 27 of which were categorized as “serious.”
Despite the spotty record, the firm was selected by the Port of Los Angeles as a preferred provider of environmental services. Clean Harbors operates nationwide with headquarters in Norwell, Massachusetts and a listing on the New York Stock Exchange.
Unlike most environmental service companies operating in the LA/ Long Beach Harbor, Clean Harbors has not signed a union contract with the ILWU that would help improve safety standards.
Four other firms agree to settle On July 17, four harbor-area hazardous-materials clean-up companies agreed to contract terms with ILWU Local 56. Ancon Marine, Patriot Environmental, Ocean Blue and Double Barrel reached 15-month agreements that will increase daily stipends for workers by $5 and provide most employees with 4-percent wage increases, effective immediately.
Two other firms, ACTI and NRC, are operating under expired agreements which will be re-negotiated. Local 56 members will continue their efforts to organize more non-union hazmat companies operating in the Los Angeles/ Long Beach Harbor area, including AES, Meza and OC Vacuum, and Clean Harbors.
“We’re committed to organizing all these companies to make things safer for workers and the harbor community,”said Local 56 Dispatcher and BA Ruben Hurtado, who made a point during the protest of knocking on the company’s door to tell a management official that today’s event was emphasizing the need for higher safety and environmental standards. “We’ll be talking to them again,” said Hurtado.