Amazon Delivers Low-Paying Jobs and Dirty Air to California

By Jess Clarke

Bloomington residents and environmental advocates gather outside the San Bernardino County Government Center in February 2018 to protest warehouse development plans. ©2018 Anthony Victoria

Amazon, long known for its low pay and bad labor practices at the company’s fulfillment centers, is starting to feel some heat. One of the largest trade unions in the United Kingdom, GMB, is staging ongoing protests, the SEIU has launched a “Warehouse Workers Stand Up” campaign in New Jersey and Sen. Bernie Sanders has introduced the Stop BEZOS Act. The legislation would recapture the hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars provided by the US Treasury for health coverage, food stamps and other government payments to Amazon workers.

But Amazon is also wreaking havoc on the environment, and its delivery vehicles are generating untold amounts of greenhouse gases, ozone and particulate matter. California environmental advocates are taking on this challenge to protect the air quality in communities living with these warehouses in their backyards.

The US alone has more than 124 million square feet of fulfillment centers already built and another 41 million square feet in the planning stages, according to logistics industry trade publication MWPVL. Amazon is expanding its footprint at the expense of communities already overburdened by pollution and traffic of the dirty diesel trucks that move goods to and from the centers. From New Jersey to California, Amazon warehouses are remaking the physical environment.

US locations of Amazon’s current fulfillment centers ©2018 Google Courtesy of www.freightos.com

As the real estate boom in California drives gentrification and displacement to even more remote suburbs, communities on the periphery that are already burdened by toxic landfills and pesticide-driven agriculture are battling a new source of poisoned air and water: warehouse distribution centers.

California is home to 18 of Amazon’s huge distribution complexes. The newest is the 855,000-square-foot facility in Fresno, a town located about halfway between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area. One of the top three, coming at over 1.1 million-square-feet, is a facility built in San Bernardino County in 2016, directly east of Los Angeles.

The stakes are high for California’s once-rural suburbs. Life expectancy in West Fresno is more than 20 years lower than in the unpolluted East Side neighborhoods. The Inland Empire, which includes San Bernardino, has some of the worst ozone pollution in the country, according to the American Lung Association, and it has worsened over the last two years. Things have gotten so bad that Southern California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District voted in May to regulate warehouses as indirect sources of pollution because of the truck and locomotive traffic they attract.

Leo Macias ©2018 Leadership CounselTwo California residents — Leo Macias and Dania De Ramon — both say they have experienced firsthand the impact of Amazon’s expanding footprint. Macias, who has owned a home in Fresno since 1967, describes the high rates of cancer he has observed on his street. De Ramon, a high school student in San Bernardino County, describes the widespread respiratory problems afflicting her classmates.

“Two of my family members have developed cancer, I have cancer, asthma and a lot of other respiratory problems,” said Macias. “My neighbors right next door to me passed away due to cancer, and another two neighbors on the other side. Yeah, this is very hard for us because we’re dealing with a lot of [contamination] in the air, in the water, in the soil, everything.”

De Ramon feels similarly frustrated. “We live in a toxic cycle where we depend on a supply and logistics industry that does little to curb its emissions and exploits folks in low-income communities for low pay. Most of us don’t even realize the harmful impacts on our health. I grew up believing that asthma was normal because I had so many classmates who had it,” De Ramon said.

Ashley Werner, senior attorney with Fresno-based Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability echoes these concerns. “It’s worth noting that this Fresno neighborhood has been identified under CalEnviroScreen as the most pollution-burdened census tract in California. That’s because, in addition to the new facilities the city is permitting, this area also has several hazardous waste sites, a landfill … and farming that uses hazardous pesticides.”

Macias has been working with the Leadership Counsel to fight locally against a huge expansion of warehouses for unknown new tenants, now planned at over 2 million square feet, but he says, “They want to build with no input from the community. When we talked to the city council, they ignored us and laughed at us.”

Macias and Leadership Counsel decided to take their fight to the Sacramento Legislature and are pushing AB 2447, a bill currently awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature. AB 2447 would give communities advance notice of developers’ plans to build or expand industrial facilities in environmentally burdened communities.

“In the past year and a half, the City of Fresno has approved millions of square feet of industrial warehouse space across the street from my neighborhood and near our local elementary school,” said Macias in testimony on AB 2447 in Sacramento. “We were never told about these projects while the city was planning them, and now the dust from construction is choking us and triggering our asthma.”

Allen Hernandez, executive director of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, based in Southern California’s Inland Empire region, has also called on Governor Brown to take action. “The trucks that travel to and from warehouses contribute dangerous air emissions which causes more traffic congestion and that means more air and noise pollution near our homes and schools.”

The Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice is leading the fight against a new warehouse that would be built 70 feet away from a residential community and less than a tenth of a mile from a high school in the small town of Bloomington in San Bernardino County.

“The residents of Bloomington demand transportation justice for their health. California must re-shape our land-use planning to promote investments without displacement and move away from a culture that relies on fossil fuels.” said Hernandez.

Dania De Ramon ©2018 CCAEJ

For De Ramon, air quality isn’t the only impact. “When I was younger, my mother would work two jobs to financially support us,” he said. “Many times her work was in warehouses — where some days she would work up to 16 hours. There was a period of time in my childhood where I would see my mother only for a couple hours a day because she was constantly working to get the two of us by.”

The California Environmental Justice Alliance, a statewide environmental group, is supporting AB 2447 and also calling for much broader change.

“AB 2447 is a crucial first step to addressing long-standing pollution in many low-income neighborhoods and communities of color by creating ‘Green Zones’ — places where community-led visions and solutions are transforming toxic hot spots into healthy neighborhoods,” says Tiffany Eng, Green Zones program manager for the alliance.

The California Environmental Justice Alliance has also released a new report, “Green Zones Across California,” detailing community-led transformations in nine regions of the state. In addition the organization has set up a petition calling for statewide support to encourage Governor Brown to sign the bill.

And of course, all the groups have been turning out their members for the many demonstrations and actions being organized in response to Governor Brown’s Global Climate Action Summit that begins September 12 in San Francisco. The kick-off march Rise for Climate Jobs and Justice drew tens of thousands to the streets of SF and to protests across the US. Educational sessions at multiple locations and direct action at the summit itself are planned for the rest of the week.

 

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Amazon is wreaking havoc on the environment, and its delivery vehicles are generating untold amounts of greenhouse gases, ozone and particulate matter.

Fresno Residents Choking on Amazon’s Dust Demand Rights

Leo Macias ©2018 Leadership CounselAn  interview by Jess Clarke with Leo Martinez Macias and Ashley Werner

As the online retail market continues to expand, massive warehouse and distribution facilities are being plopped down in communities already overburdened by hazardous wastes, industrial and agricultural pollution. In Fresno California the city council recently permitted three million square feet of construction in what the California EPA measures as the most environmentally burdened census tract in California. Neighbors weren’t notified about the project until construction had already begun. Jess Clarke sat down with a local resident, and an attorney advocate who have been battling this new pollution source in their community.

Jess Clarke: First off, it’d be great if you could introduce yourself and just tell me a little bit about how you came to be in Fresno and what it’s been like living there all these decades.

Leo Martinez Macias: Sure. My name is Leo Martinez Macias, and I originally came to Fresno in 1960. I purchased a home there in 1967 on 1443 East Central Avenue, trying to live out on the country where I'd like to raise my family in a safe, rural environment because I'm used to living out in the country.

But over the years all varieties of industrial plants and hazardous waste facilities sprung up, bringing toxic air pollution, constant truck traffic, and contaminating our water. We were never consulted or asked before these facilities appeared and started to impact our quality of life.  Now, our community ranks in the 100th percentile for pollution burden according to the California EPA.

So we are already in in a tough situation. Recently, all of a sudden, all this construction started going up on Central Avenue and Cedar Avenue and all around the community. There were several different big factories going up and very little input from the community. There was no way of knowing what it was all about. The city did not actually want to communicate with us to let us know what was going to happen with all this construction.  One big concern is they’ve taken all water supply by building big wells for all the new construction. Our wells are going dry, ours is on the brink of going dry and we’ve got no water or sewer connection.

Clarke: If you want to share this,  can you give us a little sense of what the stakes are for people who are exposed to these toxins?

Macias:  Yes, it’s very concerning. I’ve seen a lot of it my family. Two of my family members have developed cancer, I have cancer, asthma and a lot of other respiratory problems. My neighbors right next door to me passed away due to cancer, and another two neighbors on the other side. Yeah, this is very hard for us because we’re dealing with a lot of [contamination] in the air, in the water, in the soil, everything.

Now the dust from construction is choking us and triggering our asthma. We are told that more than thousands of trucks will pass by our homes everyday. But we have not yet heard what will be done to protect air quality, or ensure that kids can walk and bike safely.

Clarke: Ashley, I imagine you have some background on that.

Ashley Werner:  Yes. It’s worth noting that this neighborhood has been identified under CalEnviroScreen as the most pollution burdened census tract in California. That’s because, in addition to the new facilities the city is permitting, this area also has several hazardous waste sites, a landfill...and farming that uses hazardous pesticides. So there’s a whole range of facilities that are really impacting them and then contributing to these poor health outcomes that Leo and his family and his neighbors are experiencing.

Clarke: Worst in California. That's a tough honor to bear.

Werner: It is. It’s just kind of amazing to me how that's such a significant fact, and yet it doesn’t really carry weight in Fresno. That's an example of why we can’t afford to just leave it to the locals if they’re not going to do anything. We really need the state to step and say, you know, we’ve developed a tool, CalEnviroScreen, to identify communities being overburdened. Now, we need to take the next step to make sure that they’re allowed to be engaged in these processes that are creating these outcomes of disproportionate burdens.

Clarke: So they don't give you any notice, and they don't tell you what they’re building? And they don't want to hear about it when you do find out? That's the basic sense of it.

Macias: They made applications with no restrictions on the warehouses. They want to build with no input from the community. When we talked to the city council. They ignored us and laughed at us. They didn’t seem to care about the community. We weren’t able to communicate with him. When we do find out they basically ignore us and keep on constructing whatever they want.”

When we had a meeting and we asked about them building a four-lane on Central Avenue they said they didn’t have the money to do so. Just a lot of little things that were showing that they were not interested in caring about the area.

Like I said, they didn’t facilitate any bike paths or anything like that for commuters to ride along the paths if they wanted to go to work on bikes or widen the streets. So that made that area a lot more congested with traffic and everything, and, like I said, not allow for walkways, bike paths, or anything like that.

Clarke: So what you’re asking for, in terms of getting some new legislation on the state level…want to sum that up in your own words in terms of what kind of notice you feel your community should be receiving?

Macias:  Well, I am really impressed with the AB-2447 legislation to make sure that people get notice and are aware of what’s going on in their communities and that somebody is letting them know about the hazards and all the things that go with building a safe community, that the environment is protected from pollution and so forth. To me, it’s very important for a safe community, where they do the necessary studies and everything to make sure that the pollution just doesn’t go to one area and pollute all of a certain part of Fresno or the community. You know, any concern about whether they’re polluting more than it should be or just making sure that the laws are being followed by the city planning commission and the city council.

We deserve to know what will be built in our neighborhood and how it will affect us.

Jess Clarke is the the Project Director of Reimagine! Movements Making Media and supports  CEJA’s Green Zones Initiative with media making and communications capacity.

Leo Martinez Macias is a longtime resident of Fresno, California where he volunteers with the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability where Ashley Werner is the Senior Attorney.

 

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"They made applications with no restrictions on the warehouses. When we talked to the city c ouncil. They ignored us and laughed at us." - Leo Macias

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"They made applications with no restrictions on the warehouses. When we talked to the city council. They ignored us and laughed at us."  - Leo Macias

Full Text Transcript of Interview with Leo Macias and Ashley Werner

Fresno Neighborhood Choking on Amazon’s Dust Demands the Right to Know

An interview by Jess Clarke with Leo Martinez Macias and Ashley Werner, Attorney for  Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability

Jess Clarke: First off, it’d be great if you could introduce yourself and just tell me a little bit about how you came to be in Fresno and what it’s been like living there all these decades.

Leo Martinez Macias: Sure. My name is Leo Martinez Macias, and I originally came to Fresno in 1960. I purchased a home there in 1967 on 1443 East Central Avenue, trying to live out on the country where I'd like to raise my family in a safe, rural environment because I'm used to living out in the country.

Today I’ve got my grandkids here. They’re all here making a lot of noise. I forgot to say that I had a family function at this time. It’s our anniversary of 54 years of being together, me and the wife.

Clarke: Congratulations.

Macias: It’s nice. We’re a pretty close family. We have a lot of functions together.

Clarke: How many kids do you have?

Macias:  Oh, my own children? We have four. Three boys, one girl, altogether, grand kids, We lost count, but I think there’s about 22, 23 grandkids and great grandkids.

Clarke: So they grew up in Fresno there?

Macias:  My kids yeah, they grew up here in 1443 Central Avenue. When I bought this home at that time it was surrounded by farmland.

But over the years all varieties of industrial plants and hazardous waste facilities sprung up, bringing toxic air pollution, constant truck traffic, and contaminating our water. We were never consulted or asked before these facilities appeared and started to impact our quality of life.  Now, our community ranks in the 100th percentile for pollution burden according to the California EPA.

So we are already in in a tough situation recently, all of a sudden, all this construction started going upon Central Avenue and Cedar Avenue and all around the community. There were several different big factories going up and very little input from the community. There was no way of knowing what it was all about. The city did not actually want to communicate with us to let us know what was going to happen with all this construction.  One big concern is they’ve taken all water supply by building big wells for all the new construction. Our wells are going dry, ours is on the brink of going dry and we’ve got no water or sewer connection.

Clarke: Listen, if I ask you any questions you don't want to answer, just take a pass. As I understand it, there are a lot of people in your neighborhood, and your family who have suffered various kinds of health conditions that might’ve been caused by the pollution that's coming off these facilities. If you want to share any of that, give us a little sense of what the stakes are for people who are exposed to this stuff?

Macias:  Yes, it’s very concerning. I’ve seen a lot of it my family. Two of my family members have developed cancer, I have cancer, asthma and a lot of other respiratory problems. My neighbors right next door to me passed away due to cancer, and another two neighbors on the other side. Yeah, this is very hard for us because we’re dealing with a lot of [contamination] in the air, in the water, in the soil, everything.

Now the dust from construction is choking us and triggering our asthma. We are told that more than thousands of trucks will pass by our homes everyday. But we have not yet heard what will be done to protect air quality, or ensure that kids can walk and bike safely.

Clarke: Ashley, I imagine you have some background on that.

Ashley Werner:  Yes. It’s worth noting that this neighborhood has been identified under CalEnviroScreen as the most pollution burdened census tract in California. That’s because, in addition to the new facilities the city is permitting, this area also has several hazardous waste sites, a landfill. They’re quite near farming that uses hazardous pesticides. So there’s a whole range of facilities that are really impacting them and then contributing to these poor health outcomes that Leo and his family and his neighbors are experiencing.

Then it also is combined with these facts of, you know, they’re on domestic wells and the neighborhood is running dry and even though right across the street these new facilities are getting water and sewer. If residents get notice of these projects, there’s a real opportunity to assess how the project might be compounding all of these impacts that are leading this neighborhood to be the worst in California and identify appropriate ways to reduce those impacts.

Clarke: Worst in California. That's a tough honor to bear.

Werner: It is. It’s just kind of amazing to me how that's such a significant fact, and yet it doesn’t really carry weight in Fresno. That's an example of why we can’t afford to just leave it to the locals if they’re not going to do anything. We really need the state to step and say, you know, we’ve developed a tool, CalEnviroScreen, to identify communities being overburdened. Now, we need to take the next step to make sure that they’re allowed to be engaged in these processes that are creating these outcomes of disproportionate burdens.

Clarke: So they don't give you any notice, and they don't tell you what they’re building? And they don't want to hear about it when you do find out? That's the basic sense of it.

Macias: They made applications with no restrictions on the warehouses. They want to build with no input from the community. When we talked to the city council. They ignored us and laughed at us. They didn’t seem to care about the community. We weren’t able to communicate with him. When we do find out they basically ignore us and keep on constructing whatever they want.”

We were not even asked about the area being industrial, but it’s industrial on one side of the street because it’s city. The other side, it’s county, and I think we’re in-between there. They just kind of thought they would ignore us and keep on constructing whatever they wanted, they’re planning. Like I said, when we tried to go to the city council there and require some information, they really ignored us.

When we had a meeting and we asked about them building a four-lane on Central Avenue they said they didn’t have the money to do so. Just a lot of little things that were showing that they were not interested in caring about the area.

Like I said, they didn’t facilitate any bike paths or anything like that for commuters to ride along the paths if they wanted to go to work on bikes or widen the streets. So that made that area a lot more congested with traffic and everything, and, like I said, not allow for walkways, bike paths, or anything like that.

Clarke: So what you’re asking for, in terms of getting some new legislation on the state level…want to sum that up in your own words in terms of what kind of notice you feel your community should be receiving?

Macias:  Well, I am really impressed with the AB-2447 legislation to make sure that people get notice and are aware of what’s going on in their communities and that somebody is letting them know about the hazards and all the things that go with building a safe community, that the environment is protected from pollution and so forth. To me, it’s very important for a safe community, where they do the necessary studies and everything to make sure that the pollution just doesn’t go to one area and pollute all of a certain part of Fresno or the community. You know, any concern about whether they’re polluting more than it should be or just making sure that the laws are being followed by the city planning commission and the city council.

Clarke: Right. I know I saw a study there that Northeast Fresno, life expectancy is almost 20 years higher than Southwest Fresno. So obviously the burden of pollution has added up there. So what would you like to see in your own neighborhoods there? What kind of facilities would you want to permit or what would you want to build to make that a better, safer, healthier community for you?

Macias:  I know it’s too much to ask, but you would definitely want to make sure that the air environment is safe enough to be outside and to be around there. I think that that needs to be monitored very closely for everybody. Since we’re on the south side of Fresno, since all the wind just blows towards the south side of Fresno, that's very, very common that we get all the dust and everything else from the north side and not protected from anything like that. Streets are definitely not equal from the north side of Fresno to the south side of Fresno. They’re neglected because they were all, like I said, debating who should care of it, the city or the country. The streets were so eroded. There were so many potholes you had to just be zigzagging all over the place to get around there.

Of course we’d like a neighborhood park. At one point, they were talking about making a park out of the city dump that used to be the Orange Avenue dump, but that's all so contaminated that I think that’s where a lot of contamination comes from.

Clarke: So do you get retail stores and shopping opportunities put into your neighborhood?

Macias:  There’s no retail stores out there. Nobody wants to go out there. It’s a slow-growing community. There’s not a lot of people around there. All you see is maybe gas stations or just fast food places, but there’s no big retail stores going around there.

Clarke: So you’ve got the Amazon warehouse and the Ulta Beauty warehouse but you don't have any place to shop yourself.

Macias:  Correct. Like I said, it’s totally a different thing than living on the north side of Fresno. It’s just one of those things that I suppose you tend to learn that you don't have the resources that other people have. You don't have the money to contribute to candidates to do what they want and so forth, so they’re not going to look after you. That's my way of thinking. I mean, sorry, but I was born poor, and I guess that's the way it’s going to be.

Clarke: So you guys are trying to build some power using beside money, then.

Macias:  Yeah. Well, of course, like I said, we feel that by affiliating with the Leadership Council, we at least had a little voice there or something where they could finally recognize us and talk to us a little bit about what our needs were, and so forth, and they paid a little more attention as to not polluting our air so much and making the traffic so congested and all that. There’s a lot that needs to be done in that area.

Clarke: All right. Well, it was good talking with you. I appreciate you taking time out on your anniversary, and congratulations again. 54 years is no small accomplishment, not to mention 20-something kids that you can hardly keep track of who are bouncing around in the background.

Macias:  Thank you very much. I'm very proud of my family —and my dog, I call him Tarzan, they love him, and then they get around here playing…and it’s a handful when they get together. We’re expecting about 35, 40 people right now here.

Anyway, like I said, we’re a very happy family... until we start talking about our health and talk about what each of us are going through. Then, well what can you say, “Oh, well, I hope you do better. That’s not enough. That's why sometimes you have to deal directly with the source of a problem.

We deserve to know what will be built in our neighborhood and how it will affect us.

Clarke: Okay. Well, let us let you get on to your festivities. Congratulations on what you’ve accomplished so far in life. You’ve kept that house going, and you’ve got a good family.

 

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Raimagine!

Solidarity to Solutions: San Bernardino Groups Take on Warehouse Pollution

"These diesel trucks are going to go in our neighborhoods, regardless if you're in Bloomington, Jurupa Valley, Fontana. These warehouses are going everywhere.... The beauty of this environmental justice struggle that we’re all fighting is that we’re not alone.... the beauty of it is getting the people together. We don't got money, but we got that people power." Chela Larios

Transcript

Jess Clarke: Please welcome Chela from the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice from the Inland Empire. Coming at you from San Francisco Sol2Sol convening in the face of Jerry Brown’s West Coast world summit of climate inaction. Chela, what’s your full name?

Graciela-Larios ©2018 Anthony VictoriaGraciela Larios: My full name is Graciela Larios and Chela for short. All my friends and family call me Chela, and everybody I meet is becoming my friend, my family, so, please, call me Chela.

JC: What kind of issues have brought you into working with your community group?

GL: Just to put a little context of where the Inland Empire is, or what we like to call Inland Valley, we’re not LA. Let’s start there because every time we go out of state, they ask us, “Where is Riverside County? Where is San Bernardino County?” We’re actually what we like to call the dry port of California, meaning we’re not the wet port but whatever goes through the ports of LA and Long Beach have to come through inland to the IE, the Inland Valley, the Inland Empire. So what issues come in our way? Well, whatever cuts through the ports has to have a place to be stored. It has to have a place to get distributed.

So our issues in the Inland Valley are distribution centers, warehouses, and of course the rail lines that are bringing that cargo from the ports. We got three major rail yards in our area. We got diesel trucks going all over the place in front of elementary schools and community areas. We got natural gas storage plants across the street from an elementary school, and I call it a storage because over 60,000 gallons of natural gas are right across the street from an elementary school. It’s actually a refueling station for the public transit system in San Bernardino. I mean, we got bad land uses of lands that have been contaminated and homes being built on top of it. Transmission lines. We got truck stops that we’re fighting. Take your pick. A bunch of cumulative impacts. Plus, the freeways, which we’re not a stranger to.

JC: So you have Interstate 10, Interstate 15, and the last part of Interstate 40, right, kind of bleeds off from Nevada, right?

GL: 210. Yeah.

JC: So you got three freeways, three rail lines, and one hell of a lot of pollution on your hands. What are the impacts on people’s health and their ability to live a decent life?

GL: Just to give you a little visual on how it is, there was a study not so long ago. I believe in 2012, 2011, Loma Linda University did a health study on an elementary school right across the street from one of the major rail yards, and their conclusion was that over 47% of those students in that elementary school had asthma or asthma-like symptoms. 47%. These are our kids, our future, and they can’t even be kids because to run around isn’t healthy for them. And that's just to show you a little visual in what the community is going through. We got three major cancer clusters in that area, the west side of San Bernardino. We got any type of illness that has to do with our lungs. It’s a lifestyle that people got used to because they thought it was normal, but it’s getting to the point where it’s too much of a coincidence that they all live in the same area and they’re all getting sick. And now they’re saying, “This is not normal. This cannot be our lifestyle,” and people are fighting back. Even though they’re sick, they’re getting out there in front of a microphone and telling their leaders what is going on with their families, with their community, and how they want that to change for the near future.

JC: What kind of impact does that have on water quality? Is it also affecting the food supply? Is it getting into people’s bodies only through their lungs or is the soil and water also contaminated?

GL: Good question. I mean, to top it off, we have a food desert. The communities that are highly impacted are the ones that are surrounded by the warehouses, the ones that are surrounded by the diesel trucks. They don't have a Vons, an Albertsons, a Ralphs. I call them fancy-looking stores because we got liquor stores. We got…you know, they’re not bad, but they’re little mom and pop stores, and some of them are not even walking distance. So we got those struggles to face with, plus our income level does not reach the prices of your Albertsons, your Ralphs, even your Stater Bros. So, I mean, to top it off, we don't have access to it. Plus, we can’t afford it.

And what happens? We got businesses leaving our areas because they can’t be sustained with our income level, and yet we keep getting more warehouses with the false context that warehouses are going to rise the income level, warehouses are going to bring jobs, warehouses are going to give people more money in their pockets. That's wrong, because we got them, and it’s not working. It’s not helping.

JC: So what’s the average pay of a warehouse worker in your area?

GL: Minimum wage, at the most. When they talk about wages that are beyond that, you're looking at managerial wages. You're looking at a small percentage of those people, and it’s not usually the people that live there locally. It’s usually either people that they brought from somewhere else or people that they already had in mind. When they say local jobs, that's not the case. There’s nothing that tells them that they got to make sure that whatever they promise when they’re trying to propose this development, that it is exactly the number of jobs that they promised. There’s nothing that says that they have to complete that promise.

JC: Do you have any union drives going on to unionize the warehouse workers over there?

GL: The beauty of this environmental justice struggle that we’re all fighting is that we’re not alone. You know, we have to team up with our local unions. We have to team up with our local organizations, like the Warehouse Worker Resource Center. Shoutout to them in Ontario. We have to team up with them. We do deal with the environmental justice element. We have to know about what are the working conditions inside the warehouse? What are they fixing inside? Because that’s also part of the problem. It’s not just the people living next to the warehouses, it’s the people working in the warehouses as well. So we need to team up with people that know about those conditions.

JC: I understand you have the third largest Amazon warehouse in the state of California, over 1.2 million square feet in just one warehouse. Do you know anything about the health conditions that are happening for the workers that are actually in the warehouse, what kind of conditions they’re under?

GL: I wish my compañera, Vero, was with us. In fact, she just had to leave early this weekend, but she can give you that visual. We just had a county meeting where she went up on the microphone and said she’s faced people that were missing fingers. This is mistreatment of humans that we don't talk about. In fact, we brush it under the rug. That's just to show you just a little bit of what’s going on. The chemicals that are within the warehouse, people have to pay from their own paychecks to use gloves, to use even dust masks. And it’s coming out of their own paychecks. They don’t even get anything. That's just to show you a little visual what’s going on inside, and I bet you there’s so much more that those politicians or those people pushing for warehouse jobs do not talk about when they’re proposing, when they’re saying, “This is the future. This is what we need.” They don't mention these things, and they’re happening today. I welcome you to ask the Warehouse Worker Resource Center.

JC: I understand that in Bloomington right now they’re trying to put up a warehouse and that the city is going to rezone it to encourage warehouses. They haven’t learned their lesson.

GL: I’m glad you bring that up. Those are some of the problems. Bloomington is not a city. It’s actually an unincorporated area in the county of San Bernardino. I come from the area of Jurupa Valley, where we became an incorporated city seven years ago. In fact, nobody knows who we are yet because we’re still a baby, but the beauty of becoming a city is that you have your representatives, your city council fighting for your own city, fighting for revenue for your own city, and you're not fighting against this massive county that does not give you the benefits within your little unincorporated area. So those are one of the problems that Bloomington is facing. They don't reap the benefits from the big county of San Bernardino, and this is what’s happening to them. They are proposing a warehouse left and right. I mean, in your face, right across the street from an elementary school. You got the kids playing and those big building walls going up already in front of them.

Now, they’re proposing a warehouse less than 60 feet away from the residents that are already there. If you follow baseball, it’s like going to first base. How are they going to do it? They’re going to rezone. They want to rezone saying it’s a residential area, but we got to rezone in order to put something industrial next-door to it. That's disrespectful. They say they represent the community members, and I'm talking about the county [board] members of San Bernardino, they don't because the community members are speaking, and they do not want this, and they just don't listen.

JC: So what kind of leverage can you guys get over them? How are you going to move this county bureaucracy? How is the city of Jurupa Valley going to affect the balance of power in San Bernardino? What kind of stuff are you working on there?

GL: Our power is people power. People are just showing up to these county meetings. In fact, on September 25th is our second chance to speak about no on the Slover Distribution Center, no on rezoning this area in Bloomington. I’m glad you mention the people of Jurupa Valley because the beauty of it is that we’re not just Bloomington, we’re not just Jurupa, we’re not just the west side of San Bernardino. We’re the Inland Valley. We’re the IE. And even though we have our own little cul-de-sacs, our little areas, it impacts all of us. These diesel trucks are going to go in our neighborhoods, regardless if you're in Bloomington, Jurupa Valley. These warehouses are going everywhere, Fontana. So the beauty of it is getting the people together. The number of people is what goes against their dollar bills, and we don't got money, but we got that people power. So we will show up. We will show up on September 25th, tell them what the people don't want, tell the county board members, if you want to represent us, you listen to us, and, honestly, telling the media, telling the rest of the state, the rest of the area what we’re facing and getting our help from our legislative officials. We’re happy to say that our senator, Connie Leyva, our legislator, Eloise Reyes, she’s behind us. Those two ladies are behind us, and hopefully they will be present on September 25th.

JC: So how does statewide regulation of diesel emissions, particulate matter, California Air Resources Board, and the legislature affect your community? How do you guys intend to effect the regulations that they’re doing? If you had zero emissions diesel trucks, what would that do for the area?

GL: I’m glad you mentioned it. Zero emissions is the only way to go. Not near-zero, none of this natural gas way of living, no. Zero emissions is the only way to go, and I honestly wish that our state agencies, our state air districts have more of a harder hand on this because they can. They can be leaders, but they’re not. I feel like they could do more. As far as community members, we look up to them. We ask them to regulate. We ask them to make the polluters pay, to actually make them follow the law, and it’s hard sometimes. It’s harder to keep putting our trust in them when we feel like sometimes they don't really come out and speak up for the community. They got the studies, Jess. They got the studies. They know the numbers. They got their monitoring systems all over the place, but we see no action. We see no solution, so we hope that we do move into that solution, zero emissions, electrification. That's the only way to go. None of this near-zero. None of this we’re almost there but not completely. We need zero right now.

JC: So how many of these warehouses have solar panels on their roof?

GL: Good question. Not many. Not many at all. That's a great question because we were just discussing here in San Francisco, we’re California. We got sun. We’re the Inland Valley. If you think it’s hot in San Francisco or in LA, come to the Inland Valley. We scoff at how hot it is here. We thought it was wintertime here in San Francisco right now. We’re like, really? This is winter for us. We’re over 100 degrees right now. In fact, we checked the weather. It’s over 100 degrees in our area. We can get so much from solar panels. We have that richness of the sun in our area, yet we’re not taking advantage of that. Not a lot, Jess. Honestly, I can’t even count.

JC: What do you think the building codes would require that if a building is over 500,000 square feet, it has to have solar power on the roof and has to have plug-in stations for the vehicles that deliver to the warehouse?

GL: It sucks that sometimes we got to remind them that this is what our future has to go to, but we see developers come up with proposals that don't even take into consideration of putting in electrical plug-ins. They don't even think about that. Maybe we might get electrical trucks one day. In fact, there’s a truck stop right now getting proposed in the city of Jurupa Valley where electrical plug-ins were something new to them. They never thought about it. And we’re looking at a truck stop, putting more trucks in an area that already receives over 800 trucks in one hour right adjacent to 101 homes, Mira Loma Village in Jurupa Valley. 800 trucks in one hour, and I'm talking about diesel trucks, not people trucks. So the fact that these companies, the fact that these developers are not thinking that we’re thinking about the future, we’re thinking about electrification, the fact that we have to remind them, that is sad. They’re not thinking about our future. They’re thinking about right now, their dollar bills, and not about the health of the community at all.

JC: I understand that PG&E and Southern California Edison got $2 billion from the state to install electric charging stations. Do you see any of those in the Inland Valley?

GL: Not yet, and I hope to, but then we also got to think about who has electric cars? Who has electric trucks? We got to think about how do we get those to community members? How do we get those to to communities that are impacted, communities of color, communities that do not have money. How do we get them those vehicles? It’s great to have those plug-in stations, but, again, if you don't have that car, if you don't have access to it, if you don't have these warehouses or developers thinking about electrifying their fleets, then what is the point of getting these charging stations?

JC: The South Coast Air Quality Management District ruled that warehouses are indirect sources of pollution. What kind of leverage does that give you to get these warehouses to clean up their neighborhoods?

GL: The indirect source rule. We consider that as a victory. We just got it where they’re identifying that there should be rules and regulations for indirect sources, meaning warehouses are not the ones that pollute, it’s the trucks going inside the warehouses. We get it. The air quality management district, they regulate over stationary resources, which are the warehouses. But they cannot avoid the fact that trucks are going in and out, and to acknowledge indirect source rules, we must. We’re hoping that things like having a restricted truck route by a community where trucks are not allowed to be there…we’re hoping that rules actually enforcing trucks becoming electrified before they enter their warehousing areas or their yards, we hope that that happens because that's what we’re hoping for. Again, Jess, this is a victory because an indirect source rule is something that we’ve been fighting for for years, and the fact that they’re acknowledging that there is a problem, that there is an indirect source, this is huge. We’re hoping for the best, and now we’re in the nitty gritty stuff. We’re in the nitty gritty of having them put harsh rules, like real, concrete regulations that will actually make solutions for our community.

JC: That's great. What are some of the other visions that you have going forward. What are your plans for 2019 or what other big campaigns are you taking on in the next year?

GL: 2019. The work never ends. We hate to be like—what’s that called?—warehouse chasers where we always have to be making sure we go to each city council meeting. We always have to be reading all these, you know, EIRs. We hate that. We don't want that. We want a big, massive solution where we can actually get something concrete, something written where we don't have to do that, where there is something hard, like an indirect source rule. We don't have to be doing that. The community is tired, Jess. The community is tired. They keep fighting fight after fight. Their health is diminishing, and they don't got time because they got to work. They got to work to put food on the table. They don't have time to be fighting, fighting all these causes. Our goal is to actually implement something concrete that could be used throughout the state of California, not just the IE.

JC: Have you guys ever stopped the truck traffic on one of the interstates?

GL: I think we’re increasing the truck traffic.

JC: No, I mean like they have up here. They have blockades. They shut down the freeways.

GL: We don’t, but we collaborate with orgs that do. It’s very powerful because it shows that…It starves the business. It stops the way that we want our goods to get faster to our shelves, and it just shows that we got that power to do that, and that's just a little bit we can do. We could do so much more because we got that people power, Jess.

JC: All right. Thanks for joining us here on Reimagine Radio at Sol2Sol convening here in beautiful, cold, wintery San Francisco where the temperature is 67 degrees right now on 9/11, 2018. Thanks very much.

GL: Thank you, Jess.

JC: Graciela?

GL: Graciela.

JC: Mucho gusto.

GL: Mucho gusto.

Special thanks to the California Environmental Justice Alliance and Kay Cuajunco for setting up this interview.

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"These diesel trucks are going to go in our neighborhoods, regardless if you're in Bloomington, Jurupa Valley, Fontana. These warehouses are going everywhere." Chela Larios

The Amazon You Won’t Hear About at Climate Summit

By Dania De Ramon

I have lived in Riverside County my whole life, where every day, I hear the traffic during peak hours and I see the smoggy horizon with an endless trails of trucks and cars pass by. My high school’s campus sits several hundred feet away from the Union Pacific Railyard and about a mile from a major warehouse corridor. Being surrounded by warehouses and diesel trucks is something that becomes normalized for youth growing up in the Inland Empire — most of us don’t even realize the harm it does to our health. Personally, I grew up believing that asthma was normal because I had so many classmates who had it.

The Inland Empire has some of the worst ozone pollution in the country, according to the American Lung Association, and it has worsened over the last two years. A study done by the University of Southern California in 2008, which included children living in Mira Loma where I grew up, found that exposure to diesel truck emissions stunt lung capacity and development. We live in a toxic cycle where we depend on a supply and logistics industry that does little to curb its emissions and scoops up folks in low-income communities for low pay.

When I was younger, my mother would work two jobs to be able to financially support us. Many times her work was in warehouses — where some days she would work up to 16 hours. There was a period of time in my childhood where I would see my mother only for a couple hours a day because she was constantly working to get the two of us by. Ever since the Amazon warehouse began operating in our community, I have seen a number of old classmates and co-workers begin working there.

Inland Empire leaders believe the future of our economy and social development is rooted in the logistics industry. While some employment in this sector provides sustainable jobs, the majority of positions are low paying and unsuitable. A survey conducted by UC Riverside found warehouse jobs provide poor income and benefits to Inland Valley residents. The average annual wage of a warehouse worker is $16,000, which is barely enough to sustain a single person. These working conditions, along with the burdening emissions stemming from diesel trucks and train locomotives, poisons the future of the young people that live in communities like Jurupa Valley and San Bernardino.

Elected officials need to wake up and listen to their constituents who urge them to be more conscious of the effects these projects bring upon communities. On September 8, the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice will be joining thousands of allies in San Francisco to demand strong climate leadership that takes into account smart land use and transportation rules.

Today’s youth are tomorrow’s future, or so politicians like to boast. As the Global Climate Action Summit comes to California, you’ll likely hear many of our leaders — including Governor Jerry Brown — celebrate our state’s “progress” on climate action. But they seem to gloss over talking about who exactly makes it to a better future. They cannot possibly be talking about working families that live in communities like mine, particularly if they continue to favor false solutions that exacerbate pollution and do more for corporate exploitation than contribute towards a truly sustainable future. 

We want our legislators to support solutions that require zero emissions, with jobs that pay a decent wage and transition us into a cleaner technology like electric vehicles, and prioritize the use of renewable energy sources over fossil fuels. We demand an end to shadowy deals with polluters — no more deals with the oil industry that have been a staple of Governor Brown’s tenure as governor, for example, and no more to being in the pockets of the logistics industry for our city politicians that rubber stamp projects with no accountability. Real climate leadership means not only speaking about making a change, but actively taking action for a sustainable future that truly reaches everyone, including communities like the Inland Empire.

Dania De Ramon is a senior at Jurupa Valley High School and a member of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice.

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"I grew up believing that asthma was normal because I had so many classmates who had it." - Dania De Ramon