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Johnny Robles, Roll Off Driver, United Pacific Waste

Johnny Robles UPWNot too many people wake up at 3:30am to start their workday, but this is what Johnny Robles does every day as a roll off driver for United Pacific Waste. Johnny is in charge of picking up and dropping off roll off containers at construction and work sites across Los Angeles County. Although he is a 16 year veteran of the waste and sanitation industry, and has plenty of experience, Johnny knows that his life is on the line every day at work. “We work in a very dangerous industry. We drive large vehicles for long periods of time and driving conditions can be very dangerous, especially when it rains. I have hurt myself by stepping on nails that are in the containers that I have dropped off and I risk falling when I have to climb on the containers.”

Pressure to work faster for extended periods of time is also another issue that many sanitation workers including Johnny face. “There have been times that I have been pressured to work faster and it’s stressful and dangerous. If you are rushing, you can forget safety procedures. I have to be careful because my commercial driver’s license is my tool, it’s what I use to feed my family.”

Johnny has joined his co workers at United Pacific Waste to organize for a voice on the job because he knows that only by coming together, they will be able to collectively improve their benefits and working conditions. “By lifting work and safety standards in this industry, we will also be able to make a better living for our families. I want to be able to send my kids to college so that they can have opportunities that I never had.” Lifting standards in this large and growing industry will not only benefit men like Johnny Robles, it will benefit customers who depend on getting their waste disposed of on a daily basis, by providing them with a workforce that is professional and dependable.

Angelica Gonzalez, Conservation Program Manager, Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club

 

Angelica Gonzalez sm (1)Angelica Gonzalez is the Conservation Program Manager of the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club and proud member of the Don’t Waste LA Coalition. In her work, Angélica organizes and implements conservation programs, campaigns, and initiatives. She is responsible for ensuring that Chapter approved conservation program objectives are implemented, participates in the development of program strategies, and work closely with volunteer leaders on conservation campaigns. She also speaks to community, political, and governmental bodies regarding environmental conservation. Angelica is currently working on receiving her Master’s Degree in Education and hopes to implement an education program in local schools to increase youth involvement in environmental conservation.

Angelica is very excited that thanks to the Don’t Waste LA Coalition, Los Angeles is leading the way towards improving our environment in U.S. cities. “With the new zero waste program, Los Angeles will improve the way in which our waste is handled as well as improving the lives of sanitation workers by implementing stricter standards around worker health and safety in sanitation companies.”

Angelica is driven to do the work that she does by her passion in both environmental and social justice. As a first generation college student, Angelica attended Junior College and then transferred to California State University, Monterey majoring in Environmental Studies focusing specifically on environmental education in underrepresented communities.

After graduating from college Angelica addressed both social and environmental justice by working together with the United Farmworkers helping farmworkers in the Salinas Valley of California who were being affected by the pesticides that were being sprayed on the fields that they were working in. “I believe that you can’t environmental justice without social justice. You need to address the issues affecting the environment as well as the issues that affect people living in the environment.”

Xuong Cam

xuong camXuong Cam is a prime example of how the emerging electronics recycling sector gives second chances to Angelenos facing barriers to employment. Xuong is a recycling worker who takes apart electronic waste which is then recycled into products that we use on a daily basis. By having access to stable employment, Xuong has been able to continue his education. “I was hired as a fulltime employee by Isidore Recycling and after that, I began college and I was able to keep my job.”

Xuong is currently attending classes at Los Angeles Trade Technical College majoring in computer information systems. He is working to receive his Associate Degree and later transfer to Cal State LA to get his Bachelor’s Degree. Once he receives his degrees, Xuong would like to continue working at Isidore because he sees a great opportunity to move up within the growing company since he has learned so much already.

Isidore Electronics Recycling, Xuong’s employer, provides electronic recycling services in Los Angeles and provides job training and employment opportunities for individuals with a history in the criminal justice system. Isidore seeks to address two major issues facing Angelinos, recycling and job creation. Los Angeles’ new Zero Waste Program will help to reduce our dependence on landfills and reduce pollution while creating good green jobs in the recycling industry.

Since Xuong began working at Isidore he feels very hopeful in having a great career and providing a better opportunity for his family. “Since I began working here, my family feels that I working harder because I am working and going to school. They are very happy for me.”

Xoung is only one of thousands of Angelenos who can greatly benefit from the proper implementation of Los Angeles’ new Zero Waste Program. By investing in the improved management and recycling of our waste, the city can also potentially boost the creation of good green jobs that pay a fair wage for workers to raise their families.

 

Jorge Cabrera

gJorge is a proud resident of the City of Los Angeles with a passion for worker health and safety. As a member of the Southern California Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, Jorge believes it’s very important that workers in Southern California work and live in communities that are safe and environmentally sustainable. That is why Jorge supports the city’s new Zero Waste System.

“By adopting this new system, the City of Los Angeles will be at the forefront of not only environmental sustainability but also lifting the work standards in the sanitation industry which is one of the most dangerous industries to work in the U.S. Many of the workers in this industry receive very little safety and are often exposed to hazardous materials such as toxic substances and needles. This new system will ensure that waste haulers provide adequate training for their workers by having the city hold haulers accountable to safe working standards.”

Jorge resides in an apartment building in Koreatown, one of the most densely populated neighborhoods west of the Mississippi, and is excited about the zero waste LA ordinance because he will now have access to recycling. “Before this new system was enacted, my apartment building did not offer recycling. I’ve lived in Koreatown for 5 years now, and all along I’ve never had anything close to a recycling bin. It’s been frustrating because I think of all the people who live in this neighborhood of roughly 200,000 residents who don’t have a way to recycle waste. Now with the Zero Waste LA System, residents who have previously not had access to recycling will now have guaranteed access. This will reduce our dependence on landfills which is a big problem in Los Angeles and have a more positive impact on our environment.”

Shervin Shahidi

IMG_4864Shervin Shahidi has a love for food and the environment. The former industrial engineer from Iran and his business partner Sean started the Fresh Potato Factory restaurant in Northridge by CSUN last year to bring together his two loves. The restaurant aims to serve fresh, delicious European street food inspired potato dishes with cutting edge sustainability. Raised by ecologically minded parents to use less toxic house cleaning products, it was only natural for Shervin to look for ways to protect the environment in his business. Since its inception, Shervin and his business partner decided to work with other businesses to create a collective recycling system, offer organic vegetarian eats, and provide compostable cutlery. Says Shervin: “For us, it’s basic. If we’re living and breathing, we should be giving back to the environment. It is not an act of heroism, but a necessity.” He is an active member of his local Chamber of Commerce. Shervin joined the Don’t Waste LA Coalition as his business was unable to receive composting services. He simply wants to close the loop and found the zero waste franchise system to be the best solution to do just that. Click here to visit the Fresh Potato Factory’s website.

Charly Solorzano

PacoimaBeautiful2Charly Solorzano is not your average “Valley girl”. She grew up in the Northeast San Fernando Valley neighborhoods of Pacoima and Arleta. Her pursuits are eclectic, she was raised on jazz and 60’s garage rock, a love of punk rock, befriended Filipino circles in high school, and her brother is an Aztec dancer. Yet, what this Valley girl knows best is actually acute environmental pollution. The 18 year old Latina grew up with asthmatic siblings and classmates who lived near the various 14 landfills that were in the area. In fact, “asthma was the norm where I lived,” says Charly.

Raised by a single mother who worked low wage factory jobs in the Valley, Charly and her siblings grew up working class. Prior to graduating high school and moving out, Charly and her family lived with an aunt and other extended family in cramped quarters—13 people in one house just to get by. The air in Pacoima was heavily polluted and Charly often watched as dense truck traffic clogged her streets. Many of the trucks Charly saw frequenting her street were various trash trucks—“green, blue, all different companies”.

She became a member of the local non-profit Pacoima Beautiful and quickly became more engaged in youth activist efforts to help improve the environmental quality of the area. In one project, she surveyed Pacoima and counted nearly 50 trash trucks passing through the same small few blocks’ radius in an hour. After this, Charly felt very motivated to join the Don’t Waste LA campaign in order to reduce truck pollution.

She also took notice of the fact that while many of her thrifty neighbors recycle cans and bottles at nearby recycling centers, many of their other recyclable items head straight to the landfill due to inconsistent recycling being provided in her neighborhood.  Even her own family wondered if their recycling was truly being saved from the landfill—after joining the campaign, she learned that many trash companies who claimed to sort and recycle often were reported to not actually being do so.

She may be the only one of her young friends who is politically active, but her love for volunteering has led her to her future career. Charly hopes to make a difference in her community and became a full time student pursuing urban planning at LA Valley College. Click here for more info on Pacoima Beautiful.

 

 

Leslie VanKeuren Campbell

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As Founder of Sustain LA, Leslie VanKeuren Campbell has spent over 15 years in food service management helping businesses reduce their waste and become more efficient. But the work she does today is a result of the 3 years she spent as general manager of Gingergrass Restaurant in Sliverlake, helping Gingergrass become the popular green establishment that it is today.

In the early days at Gingergrass, they couldn’t recycle. Recycling service didn’t come with their lease and adding an outside service would have meant significantly extra cost to the owner. But Leslie was determined, so for a while she took the recyclables home with her to fill in her own blue bin at home. Before long, the restaurant generated too much for Leslie to keep doing that, so on Thursday nights Leslie and other employees resorted to dumping the recyclables in the residential blue bins around the neighborhood. Leslie began to see that, in Los Angeles, not only is there no incentive for businesses like Gingergrass who want to do the right thing and recycle, but there is extra cost involved and sometimes they even have to break the law.

Leslie knows there is a market for businesses like Gingergrass and the environmentally friendly products and practices they promote, and that it actually improves their bottom line to adopt green practices, starting with recycling. That’s why she has joined with other small businesses, environmental and community leaders in the Don’t Waste LA coalition.

Click here for more information on Sustain LA

Alex Salgado

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Waste drivers in Los Angeles provide a vital service to our community, keeping our streets clean and our trash and recyclables moving. They deserve safety and protection in the job, yet theirs is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. In 2008, waste and recycling haulers nationally had a higher on-the-job fatality rate than firefighters or police officers.

Alex Salgado has been a solid waste hauler for 21 years. He’s spent the majority of his working hours in trucks, so he can tell you what it’s like to drive a dirty one. He says it’s worse than smoking a cigarette.

Outside the cab, when you’re picking up loads, you inhale the smoke coming from the pipes. Inside the cab, the smoke gets in too – and you’re trapped with it. Sometimes, it’s so strong it makes your eyes cry and your throat burn. If you breathe in too much at once, you feel kind of dizzy and you get a headache.

When Alex was around 25 years old, he began having trouble breathing and he wound up having to see a doctor. But Alex and his coworkers didn’t complain. They learned that if you complained, you were told — there’s a job to do… get back to work, or go home. You were told someone else could do your job, and you were shown the door.

Alex doesn’t think anyone should have to endanger their lives to work, especially the fellow drivers he’s known over the years. They’re hard working people, and most of them are just doing what they can to take care of their families.

The company Alex presently works for is making changes and he now drives a clean truck — one that runs on liquefied natural gas. He’s been driving this clean truck for 4 years, so he doesn’t understand how some companies can claim they need more time to do the right thing – to make the kinds of changes that will save lives and our environment.