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Rats, Fatcats, and Corporate Pigs

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - 11 hours 6 min ago

October 31, 2014: A New York district judged this week that Scabby the Rat is protected by the First Amendment. So are Fat Cats, inflatable corporate pigs and more. Check out our photo gallery and choose your favorite.

Employers have gone to court to try to deflate Scabby the Rat since he was first introduced by the Bricklayers Union in Illinois in 1990. But judges have repeatedly ruled that Scabby and other inflatable union protest tools are protected free speech.

The latest ruling, by Judge Joseph Bianco of the Eastern District of New York, rejected a claim by an asbestos contractor that using the rat was prohibited by a contract clause banning “disruptive activity”.

But the judge ruled that a protest with an inflatable prop like a rat or fatcat doesn’t fall under the same category of “disruptive activity” like strikes, boycotts, and pickets. 

“To hold otherwise would be to prohibit the union from engaging in any speech that is harmful to plaintiff’s business image,” the judge said.

Unions can and will continue to deploy inflatable Rats, Fat-cats, and Corporate Pigs to put the heat on employers who are violating workers’ rights. 

Which one is your favorite?

Scabby the Rat, a trailblazer for union protestors.

UPS Teamsters in New York Local 804 have a custom Fat-Cat choking a UPS worker.

Striking telephone workers at Fairpoint in Northern New England take their message about Corporate Fat-cats straight to the boss.

And for that special landlord or white collar employer, there’s always the Cockroach.

Issues: NY-NJ TDU
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Solidarity with Fairpoint Strikers

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - 11 hours 10 min ago

October 31, 2014: Two thousand telecommunications workers are on strike against Fairpoint Communications in Northern New England. TDU stands with them.

The joint strike was called by the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the Electrical Workers (IBEW), but it was forced by Fairpoint Communications and the Wall Street hedge funds that are calling the shots behind the scenes.

On August 28, Fairpoint declared bargaining was at an impasse and imposed its final contract offer.

Workers were forced to strike or surrender to a two-tier wage system that would pay little nearly minimum wage to the lower tier, the elimination of defined-benefit pensions for future hires, a freeze on pension contributions to current employees, and higher health care costs.

The hedge funds that own the company are trying to impose these massive concessions to make Fairpoint more attractive to possible buyers, union negotiators told Labor Notes.

The two thousand strikers work in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. Most of them belong to the IBEW; 300 strikers are members of the CWA.

Job security is a huge issue.

Fairpoint promised to create at least 675 jobs in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont when they bought the network from Verizon. But the company has cut its workforce by almost 22 percent, outsourcing jobs in violation of its promises and its union contracts.

Labor and the community are showing their support and building for a rally against Fairport Greed in Portland, Maine on November 2.

For more information, go to www.FairnessatFairpoint.com or the facebook page Fairness at Fairpoint.

Issues: Labor Movement
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Indonesia: Time for Rio Tinto to end dead silence on Grasberg fatalities

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 10/30/2014 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: IndustriALL Global Union
Categories: Labor News

Africa: African unions launch solidarity appeal for Ebola

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 10/30/2014 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITUC-Africa
Categories: Labor News

Iraq: Brave struggle of Iraqi energy unions inspires the movement

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 10/30/2014 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: IndustriALL Global Union
Categories: Labor News

With Friends Like These Recyclers Battle Waste Management…and the Teamsters Union

Current News - Thu, 10/30/2014 - 10:06

With Friends Like These
Recyclers Battle Waste Management…and the Teamsters Union
by DARWIN BOND-GRAHAM
OCTOBER 28, 2014
http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/10/28/recyclers-battle-waste-management...

It’s 4 AM. The air is cold and damp on 98th Avenue in deep East Oakland, down along the San Francisco Bay’s industrial waterfront. This is a hard geography of concrete and dust and pot-hole riddled roads latticed by train tracks. Much of the earth is landfill, crowded for miles with scrap metal yards, bakeries, machine shops, and warehouses. Behind a chain link fence are about one hundred empty garbage trucks parked in long rows waiting for the next shift of drivers who will fill them with tons of refuse. By 5 AM the trucks are idling, and lining up to roll out. But since last Friday about 130 workers at the Waste Management garbage facility here have been on strike.
Dozens of strikers are picketing the gates where the trucks must exit. Some workers have been there since 3 AM. They come in shifts to pace the sidewalk, men and women, young and old, here to fight. A majority of these workers are immigrants. These are the recyclers, the workers who receive the garbage from the trucks, who pick through it and sort materials inside cavernous warehouses filled with rubbish-dust. It’s messy, dangerous, and hard work.
The strikers at the picket line today say they’re fighting to up their pay from around $12.80 an hour to $15 next year with the ultimate goal of $20 an hour by 2019. And they want safer workplaces. Waste Management, the giant of the global trash industry, agreed to improve the workers’ pay during recent franchise contract talks with the city of Oakland. The workers now fear the company is backpedaling.
But it’s hard to tell who the recyclers are actually fighting. Their picket is being driven through by other workers, Teamsters who drive the hulking green garbage trucks. The trucks queue up to exit the 98th Avenue yard in long lines. The recyclers block each truck for 30 seconds or a minute, but there are too few of them to sustain an unbreakable picket line.
Most of the drivers smile and nod to their fellow workers on the sidewalk. Some honk their horns and reach out of their windows to shake hands with the strikers. They don’t want to be put in the position of breaking through another union’s picket. They’re sympathetic. They want to help their fellow workers win.
But there’s the Teamster leadership standing by. The vice president of the Teamster’s chapter for the recycling facility stands just steps away from the picket, but inside Waste Management’s gates. An annoyed look wrinkles across his face. He directs his union’s members to break the picket line, waving them through. He asks them why they’re waiting if they linger before the line of strikers too long. The drivers creep through the chain of bodies carefully in their giant trucks and roar off into the dark pre-dawn hours. So much for solidarity?
I ask the Teamsters official why.
“Local 6 didn’t seek our sanction for this strike,” he says. “They need to get this sanctioned by the Teamster’s joint council. Our members can’t just stop working.” He complains about the leadership of Local 6, implying that the union’s staff should have negotiated and finalized a contract with Waste Management years ago. It’s a long list of complaints, many political, others technical, many with merit. But ultimately there are 130 low-wage workers out on strike, fighting for dignity, and better conditions in their workplace. And they want support.
It’s true that Local 6 of the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union (ILWU), the union that represents the recyclers, didn’t obtain a sanction from the Teamsters or from other unions for the strike. Local 6’s officers say, in fact, that they asked the Teamsters to sanction the strike. The Teamsters haven’t given a response yet.
The strike appears to have taken Local 6’s staff by surprise. Some of the workers even seem to have surprised themselves. But they’re firmly committed to the fight now. They’ve thrown a punch back at Waste Management.
The walk out was sparked by a run-in last Thursday with an especially abusive manager who allegedly threatened to fire specific workers who were seeking time off to participate in their ongoing contract talks. The boss threatened some of them with termination. In the face of this, all the recyclers walked off the job. They voted that night at their hall to strike, 114 to 4. Local 6’s leadership followed their members into the fight.
After sunrise, at the entrance to the Waste Management dump in San Leandro, about two miles south of the first picket line in Oakland, dozens of other recyclers march back and forth blocking trucks in the company’s fleet. Three security guards hired by Waste Management half-heartedly wave the garbage trucks through gaps in the line. They’re probably not making much more than minimum wage themselves. Truck drivers, overwhelmingly friendly here too, appear conflicted crossing the picketers.
The recyclers think they can win if the other unions back them up. Today they’re out there again in the cold, dark, small hours of the morning picketing the garbage factory and the dump. SEIU 1021, the big union local that represents public employees in northern California, is bringing lunch to feed the hundred strikers. It’s unclear if, when, and how other unions in Alameda County will support the recyclers in their strike.
In 2007, during the Teamsters’ contract fight with Waste Management in Oakland, the company locked the drivers out for 30 days. The recyclers chose to honor the Teamsters’ picket, staying off the job, and the Teamsters won a good contract. “Remember 2007!” shouts a picketing worker as a line of trucks leave the dump between a broken line of marching recyclers.
“Remember 2007!”
Darwin Bond-Graham is a sociologist and investigative journalist. He is a contributing editor to Counterpunch. His writing appears in the East Bay Express, Village Voice, LA Weekly and other newspapers. He blogs about the political economy of California at http://darwinbondgraham.wordpress.com/

Tags: Teamsters Local 70Waste ManagementILWU Local 6
Categories: Labor News

Germany: Merkel Proposes Curbing Unions

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 10/29/2014 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Bloomberg
Categories: Labor News

Italy: Hundreds of thousands march in Rome against government plans to make firing easier

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 10/29/2014 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Canadian Labour Reporter
Categories: Labor News

With Supreme Court case pending, UPS reverses policy on pregnant workers

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Wed, 10/29/2014 - 12:54
Brigid SchulteThe Washington PostOctober 29, 2014View the original piece

This week United Parcel Service sent a memo to employees announcing a change in policy for pregnant workers: starting January 1, the company will offer temporary light duty positions not just to workers injured on the job, which is current policy, but to pregnant workers who need it as well.

“UPS takes pride in attaining and maintaining best practices in the area of equal opportunity and employment, and has elected to change our approach to pregnancy accommodations,” a memo sent to workers reads.

Click here to read more.

 

Issues: TDU UPS Freight Network
Categories: Labor News, Unions

UPS Changes Pregnancy Policy, Will Try to Offer Lighter-Duty Jobs

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Wed, 10/29/2014 - 09:46
Michele FuetschTransport TopicsOctober 29, 2014View the original piece

UPS is changing its policy with respect to pregnant employees and will try to accommodate them with light-duty work.

The accommodations will be effective Jan. 1, and the policy “will serve to strengthen UPS’s commitments to treating all workers fairly and supporting women in the workplace,” UPS said.

The announcement was made to employees and appended to a brief that UPS filed with the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 24.

“Light-duty work will be provided as an accommodation to pregnant employees with lifting or other physical restrictions to the same extent as such work is available as an accommodation to employees with similar restrictions resulting from on-the-job injuries,” the policy statement said.

The carrier is being sued by Peggy Young, who became pregnant in 2006 while she was a driver for UPS in Maryland and asked for light duty, which she said her doctors advised.

At the time, UPS supervisors said they had no policy under which they could accommodate her request because, as in keeping with federal civil rights law, light duty was open only to those who had suffered an injury.

Young sued, saying she had been discriminated against under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Two lower federal courts have upheld UPS’ position. The Supreme Court is expected to hear the case in December.

Spokeswoman Kara Ross said that in changing its policy, UPS is responding to guidelines issued in July by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission and by several states that require lighter duties to be made available to pregnant employees where possible.

Issues: UPS
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Rail Engineer's Sleepiness Caused Derailment

Current News - Wed, 10/29/2014 - 08:37

Rail Engineer's Sleepiness Caused Derailment
http://www.wnyc.org/story/engineers-sleepiness-caused-derailment/?utm_so...
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
By The Associated Press / Kate Hinds

A Metro-North train following its derailment in the Bronx (Christopher Gregory/Getty)
A sleep-deprived engineer nodded off at the controls of a commuter train just before taking a 30 mph curve at 82 mph, causing a derailment that killed four people and injured more than 70, federal regulators said Tuesday.

William Rockefeller's sleepiness was due to a combination of an undiagnosed disorder - sleep apnea - and a drastic shift in his work schedule, the National Transportation Board said. It said the railroad lacked a policy to screen engineers for sleep disorders, which also contributed to the Dec. 1 crash. It also said a system that would have automatically applied the brakes would have prevented the crash.

The board also issued rulings on four other Metro-North accidents that occurred in New York and Connecticut in 2013 and 2014, repeatedly finding fault with the railroad.

"This would be almost a comedy of errors if it weren't so tragic," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday. "It's clear these mistakes were avoidable."

The NTSB had reported Rockefeller's sleep apnea in April, saying tests revealed it interrupted his sleep dozens of times each night. Investigators said Rockefeller told them he had felt strangely "dazed" right before the crash. But until Tuesday it had refrained from declaring his sleepiness the cause of the crash.

It said that less than two weeks before the crash, Rockefeller had switched from a work day that began in late afternoon to one that began early in the morning. The board said that probably compounded his sleep problem.

It also noted that the technology known as positive train control was not in use at the time of the crash. Positive train control can automatically bring a train to a stop if it's exceeding a speed limit. Metro-North has said it is working to install the technology.

On the other accidents, the NTSB found:

-A May 17, 2013, derailment and collision in Bridgeport, Connecticut, was caused by broken joint bars, which are used to join rails of different sizes. At least 65 people were injured. The board said Metro-North had deferred scheduled track maintenance and lacked "a comprehensive track maintenance program."

-A track foreman who was fatally struck by a train in West Haven, Connecticut, on May 28, 2013, was probably due to a mistake by a student rail traffic controller. The controller misunderstood some instructions and canceled the signals protecting the section of track the man was on, the NTSB said.

-In a similar accident in Manhattan on March 10, 2014, a worker was killed by a train while trying to re-energize tracks that had been out of service for maintenance. The NTSB blamed the accident of briefings that poorly communicated which part of the track would be safe.

-The derailment of a freight train on Metro-North tracks in the Bronx on July 18, 2013, which caused no injuries, was caused by deteriorated concrete ties and other problems compounded by deferred maintenance, the NTSB said.

In March, the Federal Railroad Administration issued a stinging report on Metro-North, saying the railroad let safety concerns slip while pushing to keep trains on time. Railroad executives pledged to make safety their top priority.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Monday that the new NTSB report documents "the cascading catastrophes over a single year illustrating the urgent need for dramatic upgrades and improvements in safety and reliability."

Metro-North is the second-largest commuter rail line in the country. It carried more than 83.4 million riders between New York City and its suburbs last year.

Tags: Rail safetyNTSBdeferred maintenance
Categories: Labor News

From Kings of the Road to Serfs of the Company

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Wed, 10/29/2014 - 07:25
Dan La BotzDollars and SenseOctober 29, 2014

The truck driver was once the king of the road, riding high from the 1950s through the 1970s. Sitting up in the tractor, pulling an eighteen-wheler, looking out over America's city streets and country roads and highways, he--back then, the driver was almost always a he--earned a good money, often had health benefits, and may well have had a pension plan.

Click here to read more.

Issues: Freight
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Metro-North and Railroad Regulators Are Criticized on Safety- a “horror house of negligence, resulting in injury, mayhem and even death.”

Current News - Tue, 10/28/2014 - 17:27

Metro-North and Railroad Regulators Are Criticized on Safety- a “horror house of negligence, resulting in injury, mayhem and even death.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/nyregion/metro-north-and-railroad-regu...
By PATRICK McGEEHANOCT. 28, 2014
Photo

A group led by Christopher A. Hart, far left, delivered a blistering critique of Metro-North Railroad and railroad regulators on Tuesday. Other members of the group were Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, at the lectern; Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut; and Sen. Chris Murphy, also a Connecticut Democrat.CreditOzier Muhammad/The New York Times

Three senators and a top federal safety official delivered a blistering critique on Tuesday of theMetro-North Railroad and regulators in Washington for lapses in maintenance and oversight that led to five accidents that killed six people in less than a year.

Led by Christopher A. Hart, the acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, the group discussed findings on the probable causes of the accidents, including a derailment that left four commuters dead in the Bronx in December. In that crash, an engineer had dozed off, causing his train to career into a sharp curve at over 80 miles per hour, the safety board said.

Mr. Hart said the engineer, William Rockefeller, had subsequently received a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that can cause fatigue and drowsiness. The safety board had been calling for 12 years for the screening of train operators for sleep disorders, Mr. Hart said, but had been ignored by Metro-North’s primary regulator, the Federal Railroad Administration.

That was far from the harshest criticism aimed at the railroad administration at a news conference held inside Grand Central Terminal, in Manhattan.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, called the administration “essentially a lawless agency, a rogue agency” that was “too captive” to the industry and “much too deferential” to the owners of railroads. Senator Chris Murphy, another Connecticut Democrat, said the railroad administration seemed “more interested in facilitating the cutting of corners” than assuring the safety of rail passengers and workers.

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said the safety board’s reports on the five episodes revealed a “horror house of negligence, resulting in injury, mayhem and even death.”

One report covered the death of a Metro-North electrician who was struck by a train on March 10 while trying to restore power to tracks in Manhattan. A track foreman for the railroad was killed in May 2013 when he was struck by a train traveling 70 m.p.h. while he was working on tracks in West Haven, Conn. The other accidents were derailments that resulted in dozens of injuries, but no deaths.

Asked to respond, a spokesman for the administration in Washington issued a statement that said, in part, “The Federal Railroad Administration is committed to being as transparent as possible about its responses to the N.T.S.B. recommendations.” It said that the process it used to respond to mandates from Congress was “how we have driven continuous safety improvement that has reduced accidents by nearly 50 percent over the past decade.”

Mr. Hart and the senators did not spare Metro-North or the agency that runs it, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, from blame, though the senators applauded the authority for hiring a safety board official, David Mayer, this week to be its chief safety officer.

The group said the railroad’s managers had deferred scheduled maintenance and sacrificed safety while placing inordinate emphasis on keeping the trains running on time.

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
“Two accidents on one railroad in a short period of time may be a coincidence,” Mr. Hart said. But he added that five accidents on one railroad in less than a year raised the question: “How important was safety at Metro-North?”

He said the safety board would hold a public meeting on Nov. 19 to discuss the five accidents and the elements they had in common.

Metro-North runs from Grand Central into New York City’s northern suburbs and Connecticut. The railroad’s new president, Joseph Giulietti, said it had already started to put in place more than 85 percent of the safety recommendations it had received since the deadly Dec. 1 crash near the Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx.

Mr. Giulietti said Metro-North was a “good” railroad that was on its way to being “great” again. He declined to discuss what had gone wrong at Metro-North, which just a few years ago was considered one of the safest, best-managed railroads in the world. He said that safety was now the top priority at the railroad and that its entire staff was learning from past errors.

“A mistake is a tragedy when you don’t learn from it,” Mr. Giulietti said.

He also declined to say how much the safety enhancements had cost the transportation authority so far, but he said its board had approved every request for spending to make the railroad safer.

Mr. Schumer said the accidents had caused $28 million in damages, along with the loss of lives and more than 125 injuries. That amount does not include the liability the authority faces in lawsuits, including those filed by families of the four passengers killed in the Dec. 1 crash.

Jeffrey P. Chartier, a lawyer for Mr. Rockefeller, said the safety board’s findings buttressed his position that his client was not responsible for the crash, even though the train he operated was traveling at 82 m.p.h. into a curve with a speed limit of 30.

“The N.T.S.B. findings support the fact that Billy was not negligent or criminally responsible for this tragedy,” Mr. Chartier said. “It was an unanticipated and unavoidable tragedy, which he had no control over.”

Mr. Chartier said Mr. Rockefeller’s sleep apnea had not been diagnosed until after the crash. He said his client remained suspended from his job.

Last year, the Federal Aviation Administration adopted a policy, since deferred, that would have required obese pilots to be tested for sleep apnea, because obese people are prone to the condition. That policy has stirred controversy among pilots’ unions.

Even after Mr. Rockefeller fell asleep at the switch, the crash could have been prevented if Metro-North had used a technology it recommended, known as positive train control, that would have automatically kept the train’s speed within preset limits, Mr. Hart said.

NEXT IN N.Y. / REGION

Tags: rail health and safetyFAANTSB
Categories: Labor News

USA: #ChangeZara - sign our petition for Zara workers in USA!

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 10/28/2014 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: UNI Global Union
Categories: Labor News

Australia: Crippling Unions: Abbott’s anti-worker agenda

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 10/28/2014 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Chifley Research Centre
Categories: Labor News

Thailand: Thai court dismisses defamation case against UK activist Andy Hall

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 10/28/2014 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: BBC
Categories: Labor News

Iraq: Union reports ISIS Executes Municipal Workers in Tikrit

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 10/28/2014 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Solidarity Center
Categories: Labor News

UPS Hits the Brakes on Pregnancy Discrimination

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Tue, 10/28/2014 - 13:08

October 28, 2014: In a victory for women Teamsters, UPS has announced it will offer light duty to employees who have lifting or other work restrictions because of pregnancy.

For years, UPS allowed pregnant women with health restrictions to work light duty. But ten years ago, management reversed course company-wide and began denying alternate work to pregnant Teamsters.

Teamster women who were unable to keep working during their pregnancy had to burn their FMLA leave or lost their FMLA benefits altogether because they came up short of the hours they needed to qualify. 

Some pregnant Teamsters even lost their medical benefits before childbirth. (Under the contract, health coverage runs out after six months on disability leave.)

Teamsters for a Democratic Union supported mad moms who protested against UPS. But the Hoffa administration refused to take on the issue and UPS management got away with pregnancy discrimination. 

Until now, that is.

Former Teamster Peggy Young sued UPS for pregnancy discrimination and the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. 

Finally, UPS management caved. In a brief to the Supreme Court, UPS has announced that “On a going-forward basis, UPS has voluntarily decided to provide additional accommodations for pregnancy-related physical limitations.”

UPS’s new policy provides: ‘Light duty work will be provided as an accommodation to pregnant employees with lifting or other physical restrictions to the same extent as such work is available as an accommodation to employees with similar restrictions resulting from on-the-job injuries.’”

Issues: UPS
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Recycling workers continue strike at Waste Management Bay Area sites "Teamsters Joint Council President Rome Aloise characterized the ILWU's struggle against Waste Management as unrealistic and called the workers "pawns" of the union leadership."

Current News - Tue, 10/28/2014 - 09:21

Recycling workers continue strike at Waste Management Bay Area sites "Teamsters Joint Council President Rome Aloise characterized the ILWU's struggle against Waste Management as unrealistic and called the workers "pawns" of the union leadership."
"The slogan and campaign that has been developed is based on a promise that cannot be met and is designed to create false hope for the workers,"
http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_26814114/recycling-workers-contin...
Bay City News Service

POSTED: 10/28/2014 08:28:12 AM PDT0 COMMENTS
OAKLAND - Workers in Waste Management's recycling division are continuing a strike that began Friday, union representatives said.
"Escucha, escucha, estamos en la lucha," or "Listen, listen, we are in the fight," was the chant outside of the company's recycling facility at 2615 Davis Street in San Leandro today.
Recycling workers in the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 6 are also picketing outside the Houston-based company's Alameda County headquarters at 172 98th Ave. in Oakland.
Recycling pickup is continuing, but workers are refusing to sort it, leaving the rubbish to pile up onsite, Waste Management of Alameda County spokesman Joe Camero said.
"We are managing that pile there," Camero said, adding the recycling is being shipped to California Waste Solutions and Waste Management's Lodi facility for processing.
Workers are asking management to treat the union, which represents roughly 130 recycling sorters, the same way it treats other unions employed by the company that have already signed labor agreements.
The recycling workers are predominantly Spanish-speaking immigrants, said ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees, and feel the company doles out different treatment to different workers.
"These people just want to be treated with respect," Merrilees said. "They've felt that way for a long time ... They keep asking why the company seems to be picking on them."

According to Camero, both the Machinists Local 1546 and the Local 6 Clerical unions ratified contracts earlier this year, but the ILWU Local 6 hasn't ratified a contract since 2006. The contract expired in February 2011.

Merrilees said the two sides disagree about how much the company should cover health insurance rate increases. Waste Management is asking employees to chip in $35 each month, up from $25 in their old contract, and will cover rate increases up to 6 percent.

Merrilees said that's too much risk for employees to take on.

"Workers take all the risk and go gambling for what health care will cost in the future," Merrilees said. "Other employees don't have that."

The employees are also calling for a contract guaranteeing wage increases approved by the Oakland City Council last month, Merrilees said. Waste Management won a lucrative extension to their contract with the city, allowing the firm to continue operating in Oakland for another 20 years.

Many of the recycling division employees are sorters who currently receive about $12 per hour, Merrilees said. Under the rate structure proposed by Waste Management, starting salaries would rise to $13.99 per hour and increase to $20.94 an hour by July 1, 2019.

Camero said there was no disagreement about the wage structure and called the strike "unsanctioned" because it was not approved by the Teamsters Joint Council No. 7, a broad coalition of local unions established to support labor movements among its members.

Teamsters Joint Council President Rome Aloise characterized the ILWU's struggle against Waste Management as unrealistic and called the workers "pawns" of the union leadership.

"The slogan and campaign that has been developed is based on a promise that cannot be met and is designed to create false hope for the workers," Aloise said in a letter to the Alameda Central Labor Council dated Aug. 22. "Unfortunately, this is a particularly vulnerable group of workers who are caught in the middle of a situation fostered up on them by the leadership of Local 6."

Workers voted down a proposed contract on July 26, Camero said.

In a memo dated April 4, 2013, leadership in the Machinists Local 1546 and the Teamsters Local 70, two other unions employed by Waste Management, described Local 6's demands as "crazy."

"While the company's offer is not perfect, we don't think the differences warrant a strike and we hope the Local 6 membership think carefully before rejecting the offer," Don Crosatto of the Machinists Local 1546 and Felix Martinez of the Teamsters Local 70 said in a joint statement.

"Even in the heyday of the labor movement, no one got a 65 percent raise in three years. It's crazy to ask you to jeopardize your job for these kinds of proposals and we're not going to do it," the pair said.

As of Monday, Merrilees said they were getting support from other employees at Waste Management, including drivers who called in sick so they would not have to cross the picket line.

The picket will continue "as long as necessary," Merrilees said.

"Folks are very spirited. They have a lot of energy," he said. "The company has to be aware they're on the losing side of the battle to deny these low-wage workers the same benefits."

Merrilees said they met last week with Waste Management but they do not have another meeting scheduled.

Tags: IBT Local 70Waste Management
Categories: Labor News

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