What do the Teamsters and 350 Tacoma Have in Common?

by Michelle Mood

They are among the more the 30 local organizations that have written letters opposing the 2.5 million square foot warehouse proposed for South Tacoma currently under permit review in the City of Tacoma Planning and Development Services Department (LU21-0125).  This warehouse will disturb an active Superfund site and the onsite stream and four wetlands which replenish salmon creeks downstream as well Tacoma’s largest aquifer, which is below the site.

The Teamsters? Against a warehouse that will hire more truckers?!


Of course opposition to this gargantuan construction comes from 350 Tacoma, EarthJustice, Climate Pierce County, Communities for a Healthy Bay, Tacoma Tree Foundation, Tahoma Audubon and Earth Ministry  – but, the Teamsters?!

This warehouse is supposed to create about 1000 jobs, mostly for truckers. Why would the Teamsters oppose it?

For one thing, the Teamsters value high quality of life for their members and that includes neighborhoods and community life – and this warehouse will threaten that in both the short term and the long term. The letter submitted by the Joint Council of Teamsters No. 28 asks the city to deny Bridge Industrial’s permit due to the impacts on the aquifer below and the people above.

With climate change, the need for a healthy aquifer is clear. Or as the Teamsters put it, “Given increasing drought conditions in recent years and on-going impacts of climate change on the entire region, it is more important than ever that the treatment and protection of groundwater be given priority.”

Above ground, the increase in air pollution is fingered as particularly egregious because e-commerce and “just in time” deliveries to consumers would spew emissions in “residential areas, near schools, parks, and age-restricted and elder care facilities.” 

And, indeed, Bridge Industrial has been advertising the site already to such e-commerce tenants rather than to companies that focus on moving larger shipments on regular routes to wholesalers or retailers. This means that it is almost certain that we’ll get “a warehouse where not only freight trucks but commercial vans and passenger vehicles being used by, e.g., ‘gig’ workers [will] deliver packages to consumers” right on all our residential streets.  This will “generate not only traffic patterns around the site but also throughout the residential neighborhoods nearby the site, since the purpose of the facility would be to send drivers out into neighborhoods to deliver packages to residents,” resulting in “emissions nearer sensitive receptors” (as mentioned above).

The Teamsters find this residential pollution particularly concerning since, as they write, “South Tacoma already suffers from high impacts from poor air quality on health outcomes.”  And, indeed, the Washington Environmental Health Disparities Map that compares environmental health risk factors across communities indeed ranks the neighborhoods near the construction as experiencing the highest levels of health inequity due to pollution already.

This area of Tacoma has the worst possible ranking for health disparities (as does much of Tacoma).

The Teamsters represent hundreds of thousands of members and their families in the logistics industry, and have joined with communities to ensure that this industry serves not only the best interests of the workers that keep it moving, but the communities in which these workers live with their families.  President Rick Hicks wrote the letter on behalf of the members and families of Teamsters Joint Council No. 28 and in support of the community members who have expressed concern about this project.

Nearly 300 residents wrote letters opposing this construction, along with many local organizations, and nearly 500 have signed a petition calling for a study of the environmental and health impacts of this proposal.  Below you can see the as yet incomplete list of organizations that commented unfavorably on this permit (the City has not yet posted all comments sent in despite three weeks passing since the submission deadline). 

Will Mayor Woodards, the City Council Members, and the City Planning and Development Services Department listen?

Groups who have submitted letters to the City against the proposal:

  • 350Tacoma
  • Chambers Clover-Creek Watershed Council
  • Citizens’ Climate Lobby
  • Climate Pierce County
  • Climate XChange
  • Communities for a Healthy Bay
  • Community Councils of Tacoma Board (Managing body of all Neighborhood Councils of Tacoma)
  • Democratic Socialists of America, Tacoma and Pierce County
  • Environmental Justice Workgroup Co-Chair, City of Tacoma, Climate Action Plan
  • Friends of Pierce County
  • Earth Ministry/Washington Interfaith Power & Light (representing over 300 congregations and spiritual communities with 6000 members that value environmental justice & public health as a moral issue)
  • EarthJustice
  • Harkness Furniture
  • Historic Tacoma (Historic Preservation Society was not consulted despite at least 31 buildings over 50 years old)
  • Indivisible Tacoma
  • League of Women Voters of Tacoma-Pierce County
  • Northeast Tacoma Neighborhood Council
  • Panther Party
  • Sound End Neighborhood Council
  • South Sound Anti-Racist Project
  • South Sound Green Party
  • South Tacoma Neighborhood Council
  • South Tacoma Economic Green Zone
  • Sunrise Tacoma
  • Sustainability Action Committee, Tacoma Community College
  • Tacoma Tree Foundation
  • Tahoma Audubon
  • Teamsters Joint Council No. 28
  • United Food & Commercial Workers Local 367
  • Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility
  • Whidby Environmental Action Network