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Georgia Bus Drivers Joined The School Uprising, and Paid A Price

Current News - Sun, 04/22/2018 - 19:27

Georgia Bus Drivers Joined The School Uprising, and Paid A Price
Rachel M. Cohen
April 22 2018, 8:41 a.m.
THE RED-STATE SCHOOL uprising is spreading to educators around the country, with teachers in Colorado and Arizona now planning walkouts to demand better treatment from state and county governments. But the widespread public support that has helped carry the teachers to victories so far has been less present for blue-collar workers following in their footsteps. In Georgia, bus drivers who organized their own work stoppage last week were met with public condemnation and immediate firings.

On Thursday, the same day that the votes in favor of a walkout were tallied in Arizona, nearly 400 school bus drivers in DeKalb County, Georgia, stayed home from work, staging a “sickout” to protest their low salaries and meager benefits.

Whether the school bus drivers can succeed in winning their demands and maintaining broad popular support remains to be seen, but the protest provides an important test case on whether these teacher movements will lead to a broader working-class uprising or stay limited to organizing among a narrower band of white-collar professionals. The bus drivers are not building their case around the idea that their unique talents merit greater monetary reward, but that they simply need and deserve to be treated more fairly.

Bus drivers in DeKalb County have been raising concerns about their working conditions for the last several years, and since early March, driver representatives have been meeting with district officials to discuss their grievances. Among their list of demands are pay increases, better health insurance, better retirement plans, and a call to be reclassified as full-time employees rather than part-time workers.

A sickout is when a group of workers calls in sick en masse, to protest but also to avoid a formal strike that may be illegal. Two years ago, educators in Detroit staged large, mass-coordinated sickouts, shutting down more than half of the public schools in their city.

The bus drivers’ protests last week did not lead DeKalb County’s school district to shutter its schools. But on Thursday, 42 percent of the district’s bus drivers did not show up to work, causing disruption and delays. DeKalb Public School officials called for transportation help from outside the district, the bus drivers who did show up were asked to take on second routes, and parents had to find last-minute transportation alternatives.

The bus driver protest continued on Friday, with 25 percent of bus drivers refusing to show up for work. Organizers have called for the sickout to continue through Monday.

While the teacher strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona have boasted the vocal support of local school boards and superintendents, the school district leadership in DeKalb County has offered no such solidarity to the school bus drivers. In fact, seven bus drivers were fired on Thursday, identified as “sickout ringleaders.”

“We started with those who were obviously, we have evidence that they were orchestrating or in many ways organizing this event, and that is illegal,” said DeKalb County Schools Superintendent Stephen Green on Thursday to CBS46, a local news station. A spokesperson for DeKalb Public Schools did not return The Intercept’s request for comment.

At a press conference held on Thursday, Green emphasized that the sickout “is not acceptable and will not be tolerated” and pointed to a state law that says it’s illegal for public employees in Georgia to “promote, encourage, or participate in any strike.” Green said DeKalb Public Schools would be “well within its rights to take adverse employment action” against any driver participating in a sickout, adding that for every day drivers miss due to the sickout, he would be requiring a doctor’s note as proof that they were actually ill.

In stressing that the drivers who protested their working conditions were putting children in danger, Green echoed the recent comments of Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, who said teachers protesting at the state capitol likely contributed to an unsupervised child getting sexually assaulted at home. (Bevin later apologized for these remarks.) Bus drivers dismissed the superintendent’s assertion, emphasizing that student safety is paramount and that parents had been notified in advance of their protest. Families were notified earlier in the week by school district robo-call and email that there might be a three-day school bus strike, and that any student who arrived late would not be punished.

One of the seven fired drivers, Marion Payne, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that police officers from the school district dropped off a termination letter at his home Thursday night. Payne had helped pass out flyers for the sickout, and had been a school bus driver for five years.

“I’m a veteran, I’m a concerned for all the senior [drivers] … retiring and getting $210 or $210 a month,” he said. “But you know how it is, when they think you pose a threat.”

Shelia Bennett, another fired bus driver, pushed back on the narrativethat she was a ringleader who organized a strike. “I would never organize a strike when I know this is a right-to-work state, and we cannot strike because we don’t have a union,” she said to Atlanta’s Fox 5 news station. Bennett has worked as a driver for the district for more than a decade, earning a salary of just $24,000 this year. She said she “never in a million years” expected she’d be terminated, and pointed out that she’s never had any sort of disciplinary issue in the past.

In the red states where teacher movements have erupted, school bus drivers have helped support the educators protesting their working conditions. In Oklahoma, for example, teachers walked off their jobs to protest at their state capitol for nine days, and bus drivers prepared and drove free meals to more than 100 designated pick-up points to make sure students were not left hungry. Some school bus drivers even helped transport their teachers to the state capitol to protest.

The school bus driver protest comes on the heels of a successful strike organized by Atlanta paratransit drivers, who staged the first-ever one-day protest on February 14. They were organizing against what they called unfair working conditions and safety concerns for disabled and elderly passengers. The second one-day strike was threatened to be held on April 18, but this effort was called off at the last minute after MARTA Mobility management agreed to make some compromises in their contract negotiations.

Top photo: An abandoned Atlanta Public School bus sits in the ice on Howell Mill Road during the winter storm on Jan. 29, 2014, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Tags: bus drivers sickoutGeorgia school bus driversschool worker walk-outs
Categories: Labor News

Georgia: As Stalin-era factory turns to crypto mining, Georgian workers protest

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 04/22/2018 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Eurasianet
Categories: Labor News

Liberia: Radio and TV journalist Tyron Brown murdered

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 04/22/2018 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: IFJ
Categories: Labor News

Zimbabwe: Vice President fires 16 000 striking nurses

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 04/22/2018 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: PSI
Categories: Labor News

Sri Lanka: 14 unions to defy ban on May 1 rallies

Labourstart.org News - Sat, 04/21/2018 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: The Times
Categories: Labor News

USA: How IBM Is Quietly Pushing Out Aging Workers

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 04/20/2018 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ProPublica
Categories: Labor News

Global: World Bank recommends fewer regulations protecting workers

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 04/20/2018 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: The Guardian
Categories: Labor News

Panama Canal Tugboat Captains Locked in Heated Dispute with Management Over Safe Manning of Tugs

Current News - Thu, 04/19/2018 - 19:08

Panama Canal Tugboat Captains Locked in Heated Dispute with Management Over Safe Manning of Tugs

April 18, 2018 by Mike Schuler

Here you can see the split line configuration used by a tugboat maneuvering a ship through the Expanded Panama Canal’s Neopanamax locks. Photo: Panama Canal Authority
Panama Canal tugboat captains are locked in a heated dispute with the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) regarding the authority manning and safe operation of tugboats in the new Neopanamax locks after the authority unilaterally and without warning reduced the number of deckhands available to the tugs.

The ACP is the agency of the Panamanian government that is responsible for the operation and management of the Panama Canal, a major economic driver for the country.

The dispute escalated in recent days since the ACP announced sanctions against some tugboat captains who the ACP accused of interrupting the performance of the Canal and causing economic loss by refusing to transit vessels on April 12.

The union representing the tugboat captains, UCOC Panama, has denied the ACP’s accusations of purposefully interrupting transits and maintains that any actions taken by their captains were based solely on their duty to maintain the security of ships in canal waters.

We spoke to a representative from the UCOC who described what is behind the dispute.

Unlike the Canal’s original locks, which use “mules” to maneuver ships through, the new Neopanamax locks require two tugboats, one forward and aft, that connect to transiting ships using a “split line” configuration. We are told the safest way to do this is by having three deckhands on the tugboats, particularly on the forward one which is most at risk while inside the locks.

According to the UCOC spokesperson, beginning at midnight on April 12, Panama Canal management unexpectedly refused to the provide the third deckhand for the forward tugboat, as has been the standard since the Expanded Panama Canal opened, and no explanation was provided for the change of procedure.

“The unconsulted and sudden decision of the Panama Canal Administration to eliminate a tugboat sailor from the bow, endangers the safety of customers, workers and the Canal’s own facilities,” the UCOC said in a statement over the weekend.

“It is false that the tugboat captains refuse to do their job; the events of the last 48 hours are due to discrepancies in issues that specifically affect the safety of navigation and the operation of the Panama Canal,” the statement added.

The UCOC cited an incident last November in which a deckhand was killed on a tugboat connected to the stern transiting vessel. Despite starting operations with three sailors, the aft tugs now only use two sailors, which the union believes may have contributed to the incident. “We do not want history to repeat itself,” the UCOC said.

On Tuesday, ACP Deputy Administrator Manuel Benítez took to Panamanian radio to defend the move to two deckhands and publicly blame the tugboat captains for interrupting canal operations.

“No one has the right to stop the traffic in the channel, because we have an authority structure where it is established that the work is done and then one complains. The channel is required to operate with discipline,” said Mr. Benítez, who also revealed that the April 12 stoppage impacted the transit 8 ships.

The ACP further defended its actions in a statement provided to gCaptain. It reads, in part:

The Panama Canal has normalized transits through its Neopanamax locks following a brief and isolated service interruption that occurred on April 12 when several tugboat captains refused to comply with mandatory procedures, endangering the Canal’s performance and causing economic loss…

…The Panama Canal is constitutionally mandated to ensure the waterway’s uninterrupted operation and has therefore taken steps to determine the necessary measures to discipline those responsible, as is required by Panamanian regulations.

We are told that, so far, at least one tugboat captain has received a letter of separation from the ACP, but the ACP has threatened further action against as many as 22 tugboat captains, according to the UCOC representative we spoke to.

“The sanctions imposed on April 12 removed those responsible for the incident from their functions,” a spokesperson for the ACP told gCaptain.”The Panama Canal Administration has started to officially investigate the group of tugboat captains that refused to comply with this decision as to their motivations for non-compliance.”

On Wednesday, the UCOC, which has accused the ACP of trying to privatize tugboat operations, said a mediation meeting with the ACP to try and resolve the dispute had failed to bring about any reasonable path forward.

The ACP has denied claims accusations that it is trying to privatize tugboat operations.

The Expanded Panama Canal opened larger vessels in June 2016. Since then, more than 3,000 vessels have made the transit through the new locks, far exceeding the initial traffic estimates for the waterway.

The operations of the existing Panamax locks have not been affected by the dispute. As of now, both the Panamax and Neopanamax locks operate as normal.

Tags: Panama Canal Tugboat Captains striketug workers
Categories: Labor News

Greek Ferry Crews Strike The reform is coming on top of pension cuts, rising unregistered labor and work without any insurance, PNO said.

Current News - Thu, 04/19/2018 - 18:30

Greek Ferry Crews Strike
The reform is coming on top of pension cuts, rising unregistered labor and work without any insurance, PNO said.
April 18, 2018 by Reuters


Piraeus Port Authority building and ferries in passenger port of Piraeus, Athens, Greece. Milan Gonda / Shutterstock.com
ATHENS, April 18 (Reuters) – Greek ferries remained docked at the country’s ports on Wednesday as seamen, marine engineers and ship cooks walked off the job to protest against planned government reforms which they say will further hurt their labor rights.

The 24-hour strike was organized by Greece’s seamen federation (PNO), which said the leftist-led government was preparing a reform allowing non-European flagged transport ships to sail in Greece, leading to job losses for Greek crews.

The reform is coming on top of pension cuts, rising unregistered labor and work without any insurance, PNO said.

PNO said later on Wednesday that the strike would be extended until Friday morning. “No more blows against our sector,” it said in a statement.

Passenger traffic was slow at Piraeus port on Wednesday morning. Traffic has been picking up as the summer, the top tourism season for the Mediterranean country, approaches.

Marine unions have strongly resisted reforms liberalizing the shipping sector, which along with tourism is a pivotal industry for Greece, a country of proud seafarers and shipowners.

Since its worst debt crisis in decades broke out in 2010, Greece has sold management rights and majority stakes at its two largest ports, as demanded by its foreign lenders, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

The Greek state is considering concession deals for the development of about 850 small ports and marinas. (Reporting by Renee Maltezou Editing by Richard Balmforth)

Tags: Greek sailors strikereforms
Categories: Labor News

Kenya: Bill to curb workers’ strike in long list of 'essential' jobs

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 04/19/2018 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: The Daily Nation
Categories: Labor News

Belarus: International union support for independent unions in Belarus

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 04/19/2018 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: IUF
Categories: Labor News

Yemen: Three media workers killed in two attacks

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 04/19/2018 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: IFJ
Categories: Labor News

France: 'Privatisation is hell': Protesting French rail workers defend their strikes

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 04/19/2018 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: TheLocal.fr
Categories: Labor News

Criminal Negligence By Southwest Airlines Chief Operating Officer Mike van de Ven-Outsourcing Work To Increase Profits Southwest Airlines mechanics union warned of too much outsourcing of maintenance work

Current News - Thu, 04/19/2018 - 15:59

Criminal Negligence By Southwest Airlines Chief Operating Officer Mike van de Ven-Outsourcing Work To Increase Profits

Southwest Airlines mechanics union warned of too much outsourcing of maintenance work


The engine on a Southwest Airlines plane is inspected as it sits on the runway at the Philadelphia International Airport. (AMANDA BOURMAN/AP)
Updated: Thursday, April 19, 2018, 6:31 PM
Weeks before the engine failure caused a passenger death, Southwest Airlines mechanics union warned of a “ostrich-like head-in-the-sand approach” regarding problems with the company’s aircraft maintenance program, according to a report.

In a Feb. 26 email, Bret Oestreich, the national director of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, cautioned Southwest Airlines Chief Operating Officer Mike van de Ven that there was too much outsourcing of maintenance work.

The head of the mechanics union warned that 75% of the maintenance work was farmed out to third-party vendors, according to the Chicago Business Journal.

“The truth is there exists a serious concern regarding the degradation of safety within Southwest’s maintenance program as determined by the Federal Aviation Administration,” the labor leader wrote. “The truth is sometimes difficult to digest and accept. In addition, the view from the top you enjoy as chief operating officer may be breathtaking, but the distance from the high perch which you sit up on to day-to-day operations has obviously blurred your perception of reality.”

The mechanics union is currently in contract negotiations with Southwest, a fact that van de Ven suggested was behind Oestreich’s warning, according to the business journal.

“You would be derelict in your duties as a chief operating officer were you to continue with the ostrich-like head-in-the-sand approach to the serious problems that exist within our maintenance program and culture,” the union chief wrote.

At the beginning of April, the Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO report found that nearly a quarter of aircraft maintenance was done offshore in foreign maintenance bays.

“The dangerous dirty secret of the airline industry is their use of low paid mechanics in foreign countries to maintain passenger aircraft,” New York City subway union workers president John Samuelsen said. “It is a fact that Southwest and many other United States' airlines have overhaul work done overseas by mechanics who are not required to meet the stringent standards and requirements adhered to inside the United States. It's the ultimate example of a ‘profits before people’ business plan and it has created a clear and present danger to America's air travelers.”

Southwest Airlines also opposed a recommendation last year to inspect fan blades like the one that caused an engine failure, leaving one passenger dead Tuesday.

Shrapnel from a Southwest Airlines engine shattered a window, resulting in the death of a woman who was partially sucked out of the plane. (MARTY MARTINEZ/AP)
Engine-maker CFM had proposed safety checks on its engines last June after a fan blade separated from a Southwest engine in August 2016, federal documents show.

That plane also made an emergency landing after debris from the engine tore a foot-long hole above the plane’s left wing.

Investigators found that the fan blades showed signs of metal fatigue.

The FAA proposed making CFM’s recommendation mandatory in August but never issued a directive.

The Dallas-based carrier pushed back on the recommendation, saying it needed more time to complete the checks.

“SWA does NOT support the CFM comment on reducing compliance time to 12 months,” Southwest Airlines wrote in a comment about the proposed rule.

CFM told the Daily News that Southwest had complied with two service bulletins issued in 2017.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday that fatigue cracks were found on the inside of the fan blade that broke on Southwest Flight 1380.

One dead after Southwest Airlines plane engine fails, explodes mid-flight
Passenger Jennifer Riordan died after she was partially sucked out a window that had been bashed by shrapnel from the engine.

Southwest said Tuesday that it would move to complete inspections within 30 days.

The FAA said Wednesday that it would order the inspection of some CFM jet engines following the deadly incident — which marked the first death in a U.S. commercial aviation accident since 2009.

The FAA mandate will require inspections of CFM56-7B engines that have flown a certain number of times.

Experts suggest that Southwest Airlines’ shorter flight cycles could be to blame for the wear and tear on the fan blades.

It’s unclear exactly how many engines will require inspection, but it’s expected to be more than the FAA’s initial estimate of 220 engines.

Former NTSB chairman Mark Rosekind said the safety board will investigate why the FAA never required the inspections it had proposed in August 2017.

“There did not seem to be an urgency” at the FAA to finalize the inspections, he said.

Tags: SWA safetycriminal negligenceoutsourcingprofiteering
Categories: Labor News

Zimbabwe: Government Dismisses 16,000 Nurses Over Strikes

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 04/18/2018 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: TeleSUR
Categories: Labor News

Iran: Teacher unionist Mohamed Habibi released

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 04/18/2018 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Education International
Categories: Labor News

Panama: National construction workers strike

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 04/18/2018 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: BWI
Categories: Labor News

Bangladesh: Five years after Rana Plaza, the need for the Bangladesh Accord persists

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 04/18/2018 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: UNI Global Union
Categories: Labor News


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