Worker-Community Solidarity in the Struggle for a Zero Waste Future  

EJ and Labor representatives at the Teamsters Western Region Waste Meeting, May 9th, 2024.

Rob Sandoval (Local 350), Ananda Lee Tan (JTA), Larry Daugherty (IBT), Nupur Modi-Parekh (IBT), John Bouchard (Local 350), Andrea Luna (EYCEJ), mark! Lopez (EYCEJ), Chuck Stiles (IBT), José Bravo (JTA), Bianca Lopez (VIP), Victor Mineros (Local 396), Alex Moran (Local 396).

On May 9th, environmental justice (EJ) organizers joined the International Brotherhood of Teamsters’ Waste and Recycling Division at their Western Region Waste Meeting in Covina, California – to build alignment around local, zero waste economies that create good union jobs for EJ communities who have historically been first and most harmed by waste incineration and landfills.

José Bravo and Ananda Lee Tan of the Just Transition Alliance (JTA), mark! Lopez and Andrea Luna of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ), and Bianca Lopez of Valley Improvement Projects (VIP) presented at this Teamsters meeting on historic EJ-Labor partnerships in the fight against waste incineration, and opportunities to collaborate on pathways to zero waste. John Bouchard, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Joint Council 7, bolstered our message of solidarity by explaining the importance of EJ-Labor collaboration from the Teamsters’ perspective. Along with emphasizing the Teamsters’ past contributions to stopping policy subsidies for waste incinerators, the panel highlighted opportunities for continuing collaboration, such as engaging California’s new plastics pollution reduction law (SB54) that has committed significant funds to communities most harmed by plastics pollution.

Forging this partnership with the Teamsters will be crucial to shaping a zero waste future in the wake of recent historic shifts to California’s waste management sector. Long Beach decommissioned its municipal waste incinerator earlier this year, making Stanislaus County home to the last waste incinerator in California. In December 2023, the incinerator company Covanta warned the city of Modesto and Stanislaus County of its decision to close the Stanislaus incinerator by June 2024 due to heavy financial losses. As stated in our March newsletter article “From Burning to Building Our Future,” “In 2022, EYCEJ, VIP, EarthJustice and other allies, successfully passed a state bill (AB 1857) that removed waste diversion credits from the last two incinerators in Long Beach and Stanislaus County – forcing Covanta to announce the closure of these two facilities this year.” Facilitating a just transition for Stanislaus County and Southeast LA to a zero waste future will require close coordination with the Teamsters Waste Division, whose political power can help ensure that any state spendings are directed towards resource recovery infrastructure these communities would most benefit from.

As an organization that builds relational alignment between communities and workers, JTA is working with the Teamsters and the Environmental Justice Communities Against Plastics coalition (EJCAP) on a zero waste learning tour of Recology, an employee-owned and union (IBT Local 350) company based in San Francisco that has succeeded in achieving some of the highest recycling and composting rates in North America. Alongside this tour, we are co-organizing a just transition training for EJCAP and Teamster members to deepen alignment and strategize ways to organize zero waste economies across California’s EJ communities.

In strengthening EJ-Labor alignment, we’re co-creating a safer, healthier future for frontline workers and fenceline communities. And in building upon decades of successful anti-incinerator organizing in California, we’re forming a base of shared knowledge for workers and communities fighting incinerators across the country and the world.

If you would like to learn more about California’s historic EJ campaign against incinerators or local zero waste plans, we invite you to join EYCEJ and VIP for a celebration of their recent wins against Covanta on July 20th in Los Angeles. For more information, please contact 424-261-3059.

Anti-Incinerator Celebration; Saturday, July 20th; 11am - 1pm; Hudson Park, 2335, Webster Ave, Long Beach, CA 90810; For more information, contact 424-261-3059

Anti-Incinerator Celebration; Saturday, July 20th, 11am-1pm; Hudson Park, 2335 Webster Ave, Long Beach, CA 90810; for more information contact 424-261-3059.