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Author Talk – Scott L. Cummings on Blue and Green: The Drive for Justice at America’s Port
April 25, 2019•5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
How an alliance of the labor and environmental movements used law as a tool to clean up the trucking industry at the nation’s largest port.
In Blue and Green, Scott Cummings examines a campaign by the labor and environmental movements to transform trucking at America’s largest port in Los Angeles. Tracing the history of struggle in an industry at the epicenter of the global supply chain, Cummings shows how an unprecedented “blue-green” alliance mobilized to improve working conditions for low-income drivers and air quality in nearby communities. The campaign for “clean trucks,” Cummings argues, teaches much about how social movements can use law to challenge inequality in a global era.
Cummings shows how federal deregulation created interrelated economic and environmental problems at the port and how the campaign fought back by mobilizing law at the local level. He documents three critical stages: initial success in passing landmark legislation requiring port trucking companies to convert trucks from dirty to clean and drivers from contractors to employees with full labor rights; campaign decline after industry litigation blocked employee conversion; and campaign resurgence through an innovative legal approach to driver misclassification that realized a central labor movement goal—unionizing port truckers.
Appraising the campaign, Cummings analyzes the tradeoffs of using alternative legal frameworks to promote labor organizing, and explores lessons for building movements to regulate low-wage work in the “gig” economy. He shows how law can bind coalitions together and split them apart, and concludes that the fight for legal reform never ends, but rather takes different turns on the long road to justice.
Scott Cummings is Robert Henigson Professor of Legal Ethics and Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law, where he teaches and writes about the legal profession, public interest law, law and social movements, and community economic development.