Race to the Bottom


"The way [the trucking companies] get business is by undercutting each other... and that's created this race to the bottom that has crashed on the backs of these truck drivers and the West Oakland community."

- Doug Bloch, Director of the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports


RACE TO THE BOTTOM is a film about truck drivers working at the Port of Oakland, where over 2,000 Independent truck drivers operate every day.  The film gives us a look into the lives of the drivers, as told by three men, Abdul, Lorenzo, and Porfirio. From inside of their cabs we learn about their struggles to earn a living wage, support their families, and stay healthy as they do their jobs, transporting goods in and out of the Port.  

The truck drivers and their families are not the only ones who suffer from the broken system at the Port of Oakland.  The community of West Oakland, which has an asthma rate of 1 in 4 children, pays an unfair cost with their health for the industry to operate.

The Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports, an alliance of environmental, labor, faith-based, community, and public health organizations, is fighting to give drivers a voice that has been unspoken for decades. This film tells the stories of truck drivers and community members as they come together, with the Coalition to make their voices heard. 


Discussion Guide*

This discussion guide provides questions to help you engage your family, friends, or your community in discussion about the health risks and working conditions of the Port of Oakland truck drivers and the West Oakland community.


  • Public Health
  • Worker's Rights
  • Community Organization

Discussion Questions

  • What in the film stood out for you and why?
  • Diane Bailey, a scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, talked about a "hot spot within a hot spot", what was she describing?
  • In the film we heard from Marlene, a West Oakland resident, who talked about being surrounded by trucks, do you see truck driving through your neighborhood?  How often?
  • What are some examples from the film of the financial responsibility of the truck drivers?
  • How might you as a community member advocate for better working conditions for truck drivers at the Port?
  • Doug Bloch, President of the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports, says that truck drivers are forced to pay the cost for the shipping industry to operate, who should pay the cost for Port air pollution clean-up?
    • The industry (shippers, cargo owners and trucking companies)
    • The government?
    • Tax payers?



The Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports - Oakland

The Natural Resources Defense Council

Change To Win

The East Bay Alliance For A Sustainable Economy

The California Air Resources Board

Oakland Teamsters - Local 70



Meet the Filmmakers


JONATHAN KING is a Geography/Film graduate of San Francisco State University. Prior to making documentaries, Jonathan worked at a scenery shop where he built sets for film and television, while also freelancing as Floor Director at KQED Television. Born and raised in Ohio by hardworking blue-collar people, he understands the struggles working class families experience and knows the value of individuals in the trades, as they are typically unspoken or ignored in this country. After graduating, Jonathan will continue his work exploring ideas and themes in the documentary form while pursuing a MFA degree in Documentary Filmmaking.

MICHAEL HAMM is a documentary filmmaker and photographer with experience in audio, video and 16mm production. Born and raised in Lawrence, Ma., this spring he will be receiving his degree in Cinema from San Francisco State.  While at San Francisco State Michael has Directed several films and music videos including A Crush (2007) a 16mm short, and The Talk (2007) produced by the National AIDS Fund in connection with The Health Equity Institute and the San Francisco State Cinema Department.  Before returning to school Michael spent a few years traveling and working a series of odd jobs including doorman, factory worker, cook, and Innkeeper.  Realizing the vital importance of education, Michael moved to California where he worked at a series of educational non-profits in West Oakland public schools as a tutor and mentor.  Michael is currently working on creating a non-profit production company, Gleaner Pictures, which will focus on issues of Sustainability, Food Security, Worker Justice, and Public Education.  

LAURA VALLDAO: production assistant on this film, is a cinema graduate of San Francisco State with a focus in lighting and cinematography. She is specifically interested in the physics and philosophy of light and aims to use it as a story telling device. Laura is also passionate about the filmmaking community at San Francisco State and this year, as the President of the Cinema Collective, she works to create a strong filmmaking community in which students help students get the resources and support they need to grow creatively and technically.





View the high-quality version of this film


*The information on these pages is provided by the student film makers and does not represent an endorsement or verification of statements from the Health Equity Institute