Port workers are 99 percenters, too

December 11, 2011

This commentary was signed by the seven commissioners of the Unified Port District: Scott H. Peters, Lee Burdick and Bob Nelson of San Diego, Lou Smith of Coronado, Ann Moore of Chula Vista, Dan Malcolm of Imperial Beach and Robert “Dukie” Valderrama of National City.

The Occupy Wall Street movement was born of mass frustration this year in New York City’s Zuccotti Park.

Occupy has spread to many places, including San Diego, where Occupy San Diego is now planning a blockade of the Port of San Diego on Monday. San Diego is among the targets of a coordinated protest against West Coast ports, including Oakland, Los Angeles, Portland, Tacoma and Seattle.

The flyer for the scheduled event reads: “Occupy Strikes Back: Coordinated West Coast Port Blockade. Shut Down Wall Street on the Waterfront.”

San Diego and all of the other ports that are on the blockade list are part of a vital system of goods movement, both to and from America. The California ports have all been in contact through the statewide California Association of Port Authorities out of concern for port workers and operations and for getting goods to consumers and families.

While the Port of San Diego welcomes and respects the right of every American to protest, we ask that this planned action not come at the expense of the working people of our port or other ports. The workers are people with families who serve the public each day by helping to bring in goods that are important to the people of our region and our nation.

The Port of San Diego produces jobs. Our maritime operation, along with our industrial partners, provide 5,000 jobs on the San Diego Bay waterfront, with an average wage of $59,000 – about $10,000 more than the national average. The port’s maritime operation is an anchor of the industrial working waterfront, which has an economic impact of $7.6 billion and provides 42,000 jobs in the region. In the coming year, we are seeking new trading partners that would help us to create more good-paying jobs at our cargo terminals and throughout our region.

Following the calculus of the Occupy movement, our port workers are mostly the 99 percent – the gardeners, the maintenance workers, the dock workers, the Harbor Police officers, the office workers, the environmental workers – all of them working to improve the quality of life throughout the San Diego region.

It is these people who would be hurt by a blockade. It is these people who are working to pay mortgages, to put their kids through school, to put food on the family dinner table. They are not the 1 percent that the Occupy group opposes.

These workers not only help in the movement of vital goods and supplies but, along with our tenants, help support a host of programs that benefit the people of the Port of San Diego’s member cities – Chula Vista, National City, Coronado, Imperial Beach and San Diego.

Port workers maintain 17 waterfront parks, covering 250 acres, that are spread among the five cities. The parks – and their boat launch ramps, play areas, fishing and picnic spots – offer free year-round recreation opportunities and places of solitude and enjoyment for residents across the region.

They improve the environment on the water and the land, creating wildlife habitat, reducing the impact of stormwater pollution and copper on San Diego Bay, and providing environmental education to hundreds of students each year. They have reduced harmful air emissions from cargo trucks and cruise ships with a pollution control program for trucks, and a shore power program that allows cruise ships to plug into clean electric energy when docked, instead of running their diesel engines.

The flier from Occupy San Diego says the blockade is “in solidarity with the struggles of Longshoreman.” But the International Longshore and Warehouse Union has sent a memo to its 15,000 members and leaders, including those in San Diego, saying that it is not “coordinating independently or in conjunction with” groups that are seeking to shut down any ports.

While we honor the right of all Americans to protest, we ask that they conduct themselves in a way that is peaceful and respectful, and does not interfere with the ability of others to earn a living.




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Paid for by Scott Peters for Congress


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