Labor Makes ‘Green’ Claims to Force Out Competitors

An alliance between Big Labor and environmental groups has been working on multiple fronts to drive small, independent truckers out of the port business with the goal of unionizing larger operators. The latest maneuver is to pressure Congress to change the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAAA), which preempts state and local jurisdictions from regulating interstate trucking and commerce.

It’s a cynical effort that threatens to destroy jobs, raise freight costs and retard the recovery.

The National Association of Manufacturers and U.S. Chamber of Commerce on March 11 sent a joint letter to Capitol Hill outlining our objections. Excerpt:

[The] International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Change to Win organization and others are currently pressing Congress to consider granting local governments the ability to regulate the harbor drayage industry to address environmental and port security matters, and thereby eliminate the federal preemption of state and local regulation of foreign and interstate commerce. While we strongly support efforts to improve air quality and port security in and around America’s ports, it is entirely unnecessary to undermine federal preemption of state regulation of interstate commerce in the process. These restrictions are specifically designed to eliminate competition from small independent businesses in favor of companies that the Teamsters believe could be more easily organized. If enacted, these changes could unfairly sideline independent operators who provide valuable support for the nation’s supply chain and create a fragmented, local patchwork regulatory structure for foreign and interstate commerce which runs contrary to the intent of the interstate commerce clause in the U.S. Constitution.

Last week, Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA) also challenged the unions’ move. In a Dear Colleague letter, Miller wrote, “Compliance with air quality standards should be determined on a truck by truck basis without regard to the employee or ownership status of the driver of that truck.” He added:

We believe that protecting our environment by reducing truck emissions is an important mission that we must undertake, and it is easy to see that our nation’s ports play a vital role in that effort. Industry stakeholders, including many small businesses, have shown that they are taking a proactive approach to meeting environmental goals as they have made significant investments in clean equipment. It is important that we do not get distracted by unnecessary provisions and mandates that are not related to environmental goals and could have long term, negative consequences on interstate commerce.

The American Trucking Associations has been a leader on this issue. From ATA’s, “Opposition is Widespread to Union-backed Change to Federal Transportation Law.”

The ATA this month also thanked the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for adopting a new clean-air policy that did not attempt to eliminate small, owner-operated trucking lines from serving the port. See ATA release, “NY/NJ Clean Trucks Plan Launches Without Owner-Operator Ban.”

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