Health hazards abound in local port

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As I'm sure most of The Daily Californian readers are aware, a few weeks ago was pledge week for CALPIRG, and if you did pledge, thank you so much. CALPIRG works on many diverse campaigns, but today I want to take the time to talk about a local campaign that CALPIRG is working on this semester.

As UC Berkeley students, I know that we are all stressed out with all the papers, midterms and goings-on of college life; it is easy to not know about what's going on less then seven miles away from campus.

But environmental injustice is occurring right on our doorstep. Oakland is home to the nation's fourth busiest container port, which means that thousands of trucks, daily, enter Oakland, causing the amount of diesel pollution in West Oakland to be five times higher than in the rest of Alameda County. Its citizens are roughly 2.5 times more likely to develop cancer than other Bay Area residents and one in five West Oakland children suffers from asthma.

I know what you're asking, "What can be done?"

We need trucks to deliver goods. We can mandate emission standards on trucks; following in the steps of other port cities. However, mandating emission standards doesn't solve the heart of the matter. For trucking companies are competing in a race to the bottom, many of which are leasing truck drivers as independent contractors instead of employees. We need to stop the illegal classification of truck drivers, many of which are working for less then California's minimum wage, at only $7.64 per hour.

So now you're probably asking, "What can I do?"

You can be aware of the health risks and the unsustainable jobs that are occurring, you can sign our petition urging local legislators to fix the broken system, you can come to a rally in support of clean air and clean jobs or you can simply tell all your friends.

Because clean air should be a universal human right! And we should all have access to it regardless of socio-economic status!

Kindsey Vaughn is a student at UC Berkeley. Reply to [email protected]

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