By Martha Kreeger with contributions from Dr Marlina Rose Selva
After a year and a half of devastating job losses and health impacts from the pandemic, Hayward faces tough decisions on the way forward on the path to a fair recovery. Nowhere is this clearer than with two Amazon-offered last mile delivery warehouses near Hayward’s sensitive shore. The Sierra Club has partnered with environmental justice organizations, community leaders and groups, and local unions to demand that Hayward officials put protective measures in place to protect its coastline and vulnerable communities. As proposed, these delivery warehouses would disrupt Hayward’s wetland ecosystems and dramatically increase the amount of vehicle exhaust in the area, deteriorating air quality, harming public health, and exacerbating healthcare costs. , while providing low-income jobs without job protection. The communities that live, work and play in these neighborhoods are already struggling disproportionately against the impacts of COVID-19, high levels of air pollution and economic inequalities. As a partner in environmental justice movements, we have a responsibility to fight for fair treatment of all people who live on this planet and on the lands on which we reside.
Amazon bought two sites in the industrial area of ââHayward on West Winton Avenue and Clawiter Road which could provide nearly a million square feet of warehouse space to send last mile deliveries to Amazon facilities and customers within a six to twenty mile radius. At a recent meeting of Hayward’s business development division at the Clawiter Road Amazon site, officials said 50 Amazon delivery vehicles had to leave the warehouse every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day to deliver packages. on the last leg, or âmileâ, of their journey directly to consumers’ doors.
Amazon’s two last-mile delivery facilities are at the center of a network of Amazon sites along the bay’s east coast and will serve communities across the Bay Area. The hundreds of workers Amazon must hire to operate these warehouses will initially come from the already hard-hit neighborhoods of Hayward and unincorporated Alameda County. Wages could be relatively low, between $ 15 and $ 17 an hour, and these jobs are offered without the protections of workers and the earning potential of unionized jobs.
Dangers of last mile delivery for environmental and public health
The Sierra Club has fought to keep Hayward’s shoreline protected, clean, and accessible to East Bay residents for decades. The Hayward and East Bay roads that would be affected by these projects are in an area already disproportionately affected by pollution, particulate matter (PM) and toxic substances, and have some of the most vulnerable populations in southern County of Alameda. These delivery vehicles will emit additional pollution to the streets in our neighborhood and increase vehicle emission levels, including carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emission levels, unless we require that ‘they are electric. The potential pollution burden in our East Bay neighborhoods is estimated to be between 28,000 and 48,000 miles traveled each day. and lead to increased asthma rates in children, affecting our vulnerable communities in Hayward the hardest. When Hayward City Council member Aisha Wahab asked Amazon officials and developers in June whether or not Amazon could commit to a number of electric vehicles at both sites, Amazon and the developers responded that they did not know if a single vehicle would be electric.
A recent Environmental Defense Fund study shows that East Bay communities like Oakland, Castro Valley, Hayward and Fremont have the the greatest health impacts of childhood asthma, the highest mortality rates and the highest healthcare costs in neighborhoods where air quality depends on vehicle exhaust fumes. Without the mitigation measures and demands placed on Amazon by Hayward officials, there will be no protection for residents and children living in the delivery areas of the two last mile stations.
âAmazon’s warehouses have historically developed around working-class communities made up primarily of households of color,â said Dr Marlina Rose Selva, leader of the Sierra Club and indigenous environmental activist. âOur vulnerable communities in Hayward already have less access to nature, parks and open spaces. Many people cannot escape pollution and stress by going to hiking trails or regional parks. They have less access to travel further to âget away from it allâ. Our home shouldn’t be a place we have to move away from anyway. We are meant to live in nature because it is an integral part of our health and happiness. As the Sierra Club literature states, âeveryone deserves access to natureâ. In addition to air and soil pollution and soil degradation, light pollution and noise pollution resulting from activity in these warehouses significantly affect the physical and mental health of all living things. Wildlife and plants in or near wetlands will also be significantly disturbed. These effects on the quality of life at work, family life and the health of riparian species must be understood and respected.
Put that in perspective on the dollar and the cents
During the pandemic, as communities like Hayward suffered disproportionate impacts from COVID-19 compared to other wealthier communities in the Bay Area, Amazon profits increased 84% on the previous year’s profits, achieving an annual increase in annual revenue of more than $ 100 billion. Amazon has achieved this in part thanks to a well-documented history of poor working conditions, including impossible delivery schedules, very stressful environments and low wages, as well as a reputation for being one of the worst injury records. at work in the warehouse and delivery sectors.
In contrast, unionized USPS and UPS workers who delivered Amazon Prime packages during this period received fair wages and enjoyed all the protections and benefits offered by their union jobs – privileges that Amazon workers did not. have not, although many of them require more responsibility on the part of the workers. Amazon. Over the past decade, California communities that house Amazon warehouses often have higher levels of air pollution and poverty over time, another indication that we need more safeguards in place to Hayward to protect our most vulnerable communities.
California lost jobs at almost 20% higher rate as U.S. job losses overall, with the bulk of those job losses being suffered in communities of color where the intersection of low-income workers and people who couldn’t continue working from home was at its highest level, such as those in Hayward and Unincorporated Alameda County. And to make matters worse, it is within these vulnerable communities that COVID-19 has hit the hardest, with higher levels of adverse effects from the virus at every stage of the pandemic. Across California, we experienced this pandemic very differently depending on the neighborhood we live in, whether we kept a job, and what that job looked like. It is essential that we make decisions moving forward that prioritize a just recovery for our entire community.
The state economy is recovering, but our only path to a fair recovery is to demand that the gains be fairly shared. For the just recovery that California and the planet need, we need a commitment to providing and sustaining good jobs, with fair wages and protections for working families, access to universal health care and a climate stabilization program that first reduces pollution in the neighborhoods where it is highest. then for communities across California. We need Hayward to demand these steps from Amazon for our sake.
Next Steps in Achieving Righteous Recovery
When Amazon enters a community, the onus of negotiating income and community benefit agreements that protect neighborhoods falls on city officials and community leaders. This opportunity that Hayward must fight for a just recovery for all of our residents is essential to East Bay’s future – but they don’t need to act without our support and guidance. The voices of local leaders, Sierra Club volunteers, labor groups and our environmental justice partners must advocate for clean air and water, and a stronger and fairer recovery, because we know that the path to sustainability is narrow and essential to our survival.
To join this critical discussion on achieving a just recovery in East Bay, register for our community meetings for yourself and / or your organization. We plan to hold our first community meeting at the end of September, with more meetings and opportunities for action to come. Please see the activities and events calendar for more details on our first meeting and future events and actions.
Martha Kreeger is the President of the Executive Committee of the Sierra Club Southern Alameda County Group, Dr. Marlina Rose Selva is a member of the Executive Committee.
Photo credit: An Amazon Prime delivery van by Tony Webster via Flickr Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0).