Scalers Union Tells Clean Harbors to Clean Up its Act

  • 07/20/2012
  • Terelle Jerricks

By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

On July 20, ILWU Local 56 Scalers Union and other labor demonstrators held a press conference outside the Clean Harbors Environmental Services facilities in Gardena as a warning to clean up their act. A long history  of environmental violations trail the Massachusetts based environmental services company, ranging from the Department of Toxic Substances Control, California Air Resources Board, and the state’s Water Resources Board.

“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 Gonzalez 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.”

Clean Harbors services include treating, storing, hauling, and disposing of hazardous waste, and most of its violations center on this activities.

In 1990s, Clean Harbors lost in a labor complaint after an employee filed a complaint against the company alleging that he was fired in retaliation for his safety complaints and his refusal to violate federal regulations. They appealed the case and lost, forcing the company to pay costs the Secretary of Labor and complainant.

In 2004, the company reached a $19,000 settlement with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control for hazardous waste violations at its 5756 Alba Street facility in Los Angeles.

The violations noted were:

  • Accepting hazardous waste from a generator without a hazardous waste manifest.
  • Failing to submit an “Unmanifested Waste Report” to the Department within 15 days after accepting hazardous waste without a manifest.
  • Failing to make a proper waste determination.
  • Offering hazardous waste for transportation and off-site treatment without a hazardous waste manifest.

In April 2010, Clean Harbors Environmental Services agreed to pay $55,500 in penalties for violating air quality regulations, after an investigation by the Air Resources Board (ARB) showed that Clean Harbors s failed to properly self-inspect their diesel trucks to assure that the trucks met state smoke emission standards.

Though ILWU spokesman, Craig Merrilees noted that the company violated Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations, the company has been getting recognition for its participation in the Voluntary Protection Program which employs a OSHA approved guidelines promoting safety and health management system that stresses employees working together with their managers in analyzing worksites and preventing hazards.

However, the July 20 demonstration was not regarding a specific labor dispute, this demonstration was about how the environmental services company does business.

The Port of Los Angeles contracts a great deal of work to the environmental services company. In September 2011, Clean Harbors was hired to remove asbestos from the fruit warehouses at Berth 54 near 22nd and Miner Streets. Fifty five ILWU demonstrators protested outside the gates after learning that Clean Harbor hired a subcontractor using non-union labor for the job.

“The company is using workers not qualified to do the job,” said the international organizer of the ILWU,  Carlos Cordon, at the time. “The workers don’t even have the right equipment and they’re dealing with potentially hazardous materials. We want to make sure they are abiding by industry standards.”

In a phone interview with Random Lengths after the July 20 demonstration, Cordon took note of the 70-plus year history of the Scalers Union, scraping the barnacles off the hulls of ships and how the occupation evolved into cleaning and disposing of hazardous materials from the harbor safely.

“The Port of Los Angeles is supposed to pick the best of the best of those that put in a bid, but instead we have a company with the worst record,” Cordon said hours after the protest.

“Clean Harbors. You see the irony right? Clean up your act,” Cordon said.

For more Department of Toxic Substance Control documents related to Clean Harbors  Environmental Services, click here.

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