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Qatar: 100 striking migrant workers arrested - to be deported

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 11/30/2014 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITUC
Categories: Labor News

Qatar: 'Time’s up on kafala,' say campaigners

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 11/27/2014 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Equal Times
Categories: Labor News

Pakistan: LHWs boycott vaccination campaign in aftermath of polio team attack

Labourstart.org News - 6 hours 30 min ago
LabourStart headline - Source: The Tribune
Categories: Labor News

Shippers, terminal operators accuse ILWU dockworkers union of ‘slowdown tactics’ at bargaining table

Current News - 9 hours 11 min ago

Shippers, terminal operators accuse ILWU dockworkers union of ‘slowdown tactics’ at bargaining table
By Karen Robes Meeks, Long Beach Press Telegram
POSTED: 11/24/14, 8:48 PM PST | 1 COMMENT
The group representing shipping lines and terminal operators has condemned the West Coast dockworkers’ union for taking “its slowdown tactics to the bargaining table,” an accusation the union denies.

In their latest labor clash, the Pacific Maritime Association criticized the International Longshore and Warehouse Union for taking a 12-day Thanksgiving break from “big-table talks” and limiting negotiations to smaller committees during a time when the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, along with others up and down the West Coast, are facing unprecedented cargo shipment delays.

“While there are limited negotiations happening, it’s impossible to reach any coast-wide agreement without both parties meeting at the big table in San Francisco, and the ILWU eliminated that potential until Dec. 2 at the earliest,” the PMA said Monday. “Our view was and is that these negotiations require full attention by both sides; that these talks are too important to put off until Dec. 2 given the real impacts of the ILWU slowdowns. There’s a lot of work left to do, and the lack of urgency by the union to resolve existing differences is disappointing.”

ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees fired back, denying PMA’s claims of slowing talks. He added that smaller committees are repeatedly used during negotiations to progress specific labor issues.

“Are we really worried about the size of committees?” Merrilees said. “What we care about is that progress is being made. It’s about getting a contract done as soon as possible.”

Since May, the PMA and the ILWU have been negotiating the terms of a new contract that would cover about 20,000 West Coast dockworkers. Their last contract expired in July.

While both sides have been mum on what issues are on the table, they vowed that there would be no business disruption while they hammered out an agreement.

But earlier this month, PMA accused the ILWU of work slowdowns, saying that dockworkers are working at half-speed at some ports and not dispatching qualified ILWU crane operators who could place containers on trucks and trains.

The ILWU has denied PMA’s slowdown allegations, blaming the union for long-standing issues that have caused the congestion at ports, including the lack of available chassis that occurred after carriers decided to shift the responsibility of providing chassis to a different operator.

Several politicians and industry associations have urged both sides to reach a contract resolution quickly and have even asked President Barack Obama to intervene by exercising the use of a federal mediator. Customers such as toy companies and fruit explorers have been unable to receive products or deliver perishable goods in a timely manner because of the congestion. Trucks have waited in lines for as many as seven hours at port terminals, waiting for a container. Some return empty-handed.

“Going into this holiday season, our ports are already dealing with issues, such as bigger incoming ships, chassis shortages and deficient roads in our freight gateways,” members of the Congressional PORTS Caucus wrote in a letter last week to the heads of PMA and ILWU.

“A fair and equitable conclusion of the ongoing West Coast labor negotiations would allow the stakeholders to work together to formulate solutions to our congestion problems.”

Contact Karen Robes Meeks at 562-714-2088.

Tags: ilwuCoastwide negotiationsPMA
Categories: Labor News

NY-NJ TDU Holiday Party: Tues, Dec. 16

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - 9 hours 51 min ago

Come in solidarity to celebrate the victories we have won together over the last year and raise a glass to many more in 2015.

The NY-NJ TDU Chapter is co-sponsoring a Holiday Party with our close friends at Labor Notes and the Association for Union Democracy.

Tuesday, December 16th
6:00 PM

Dark Horse Bar, 17 Murray St., downtown Manhattan, near City Hall (A/C to Chambers, 2/3 to Park Place).
The bar serves both food and drinks.

Email nytdu [at] tdu [dot] org to let us know if you can stop by.


Categories: Labor News, Unions

Unions Win More Elections, Lower Numbers

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - 14 hours 57 min ago
Justin C. Sorrell, Howard M. Bloom, and Philip B. RosenThe National Law ReviewNovember 26, 2014View the original piece

According to a Bloomberg BNA report, unions won more representation elections, with a higher win rate, in initial NLRB-monitored representation elections in the first half of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013, but the number of newly organized employees fell drastically, and unions have been losing decertification elections more often.

Unions won 8.6 percent more elections in the first six months of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013 (428 to 465). Unions were more successful not only at increasing the absolute number of representation elections held and won, but also their win rate improved 3.7 percent, to 69.2 percent (428 out of 653 in the first half of 2013, to 465 out of 671 in the first half of 2014).

Click here to read more at The National Law Review.

Issues: Labor Movement
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Teamsters sell out strike by port truck drivers in southern California

Current News - Tue, 11/25/2014 - 21:39

Teamsters sell out strike by port truck drivers in southern California
By Marc Wells
24 November 2014
After an eight-day strike, truck drivers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California returned to work last Friday. Los Angeles’ Democratic mayor, Eric Garcetti, brokered a deal between the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) and the companies, which resolves none of the issues that have driven the port drivers into struggle.
In a joint statement, the union and management said, “[a]s requested by Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Teamsters, QTS, Inc., LACA Express, Inc., and WinWin Logistics, Inc. have each separately agreed to continue discussions to resolve outstanding issues between them. All sides have expressed an interest in sitting down and continuing confidential discussions of these issues and challenges facing the drayage industry. QTS Inc., LACA Express, Inc. and WinWin Logistics, Inc. each respect drivers' right to choice with regard to unionization.”
Truckers haul about $4 billion worth of cargo daily, yet they live on the threshold of poverty. The grievances of the largely immigrant workforce range from wage theft and their false classification as “independent contractors”—a ruse used to force workers to pay fuel, maintenance and insurance costs. They also oppose retaliatory firing, intimidation and lower than minimum wage pay.
Drivers for LACA Express, QTS and WinWin Logistics were ordered back to work after behind-the-doors talks between the corporations and the Teamsters. The latter is chiefly concerned about lifting the “independent contractor” designation, which has been an obstacle to gaining the franchise over port drivers and collecting union dues.
In a cynical maneuver on the eve of the sellout, the union “expanded” the strike with a series of marches in front of the Union Pacific rail yard in Commerce that slowed rail traffic. Pacer Cartage and Harbor Rail Transport (HRT) workers were involved, but ended their action on Friday as well.
In fact, the previous week the union instructed truckers from the three other companies—the most infamous for their anti-worker practices--to return to work. Garcetti and Teamsters essentially ended the walkout at Total Transportation Services Inc. (TTSI), Pacific 9 Transportation and Green Fleet Systems by announcing a “cooling-off” period, just like the one engineered in July.
The entire operation by the Teamsters was an orchestrated stunt from the start. It is hard to even call it a “strike,” since it was limited to a handful of pickets and was designed to cause as little disruption as possible. Garcetti’s office released a statement remarking that, while the companies involved registered limited slowdowns, “the job actions did not affect the movement of cargo at the Port of Los Angeles.”
With nearly 40 percent of US imports coming through the Los Angeles/Long Beach ports, the greatest concern for politicians, unions and corporations was the containment of this action and the avoidance of major disruptions, especially before the key retail Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
While workers have gained nothing, the Teamsters bureaucracy hopes to cash in from its role as labor policeman for the companies. As for the workers, the “right” to unionize in this case means the “right” to pay monthly union dues to an organization which conspires with the employers and the politicians behind their backs and operates entirely outside of the control of its so-called members.
The Teamsters were not alone in this latest betrayal. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) is equally responsible. Both unions did everything possible to block the expansion of the truck drivers’ struggle to other sections of dockworkers, including 20,000 longshoremen the ILWU has forced to remain on the job even though they have been working without a contract since July.
Joint action would effectively close the ports. “Without the longshore workers, the terminals can’t operate,” Port of Long Beach Spokesman Lee Peterson recently stated, adding, “All facets of cargo movement and container movement are done by ILWU workers.”
During the previous job action by port truckers last July, the ILWU acted as the chief strikebreaker deliberately sabotaging solidarity by longshoremen who refused to cross the drivers’ picket lines. The ILWU and port management agreed to temporarily extend the previous labor agreement so that an arbitrator could use the no-strike pledge in the contract to order ILWU to return to work.
Bound by their intimate ties to the Democratic Party and their pro-capitalist and nationalist outlook, the unions serve only to disorganize and undermine the working class. The interests of the union executives are in irreconcilable conflict with the interests of the workers they purport to represent.
Announcing the settlement, Fred Potter, International Vice President of IBT and Director of Teamsters Port Division, boasted, “We are beginning to see change in the drayage industry. Drivers are demanding industry-wide change and we look forward to more drivers joining this growing movement. We pledge to support the drivers until justice is served.”
In reality, the union is offering itself as a cheap labor contractor and pledging its full support for the further restructuring and downsizing of the ports. This will be done at the expense of jobs, living standards, and working conditions of drivers and other port workers.
The unions’ deliberate effort to isolate these truckers compounds workers’ fear of company retaliation as well as penalties from immigration authorities. A large portion of truckers remains undocumented and are exposed to deportation at any given time. Meanwhile, the Teamsters continue to support Obama and his repressive anti-worker policies, including the continued criminalization of undocumented immigrants, which is at the center of his recent immigration executive order.
This struggle was sold out but opposition to the exploitation of truck drivers and other port workers continues. The lessons must be drawn from this latest betrayal, and new organizations of struggle, formed by rank-and-file workers themselves, must be built. The starting point of a real struggle is the rejection of the pro-capitalist and nationalist policies of the official unions and their support for the big business Democratic politicians, including Mayor Garcetti.

Tags: LA Port Truckers
Categories: Labor News

ATU On The Ferguson Grand Jury Decision Regarding The Shooting of Michael Brown

Current News - Tue, 11/25/2014 - 21:20

ATU On The Ferguson Grand Jury Decision Regarding The Shooting of Michael Brown
Media Contact: David Roscow (202) 537-1645 x25

Washington, DC – Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) International President Larry Hanley issued the following statement in reaction to the Ferguson Grand Jury decision on the Michael Brown shooting.
“The civil unrest in the aftermath of the grand jury decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown reflects a much deeper issue that is not being talked about in the media and across the world today.
“It’s not just a race issue; it’s a class issue. The division of our country around the notion that we must choose villains and assess blame is a false choice. This was a tragedy for both Michael Brown and Darren Wilson. We as Americans should not choose sides among them.
“Street confrontations between police and working class people are the product of decisions made every day by the politicians who allow an economy that exploits the poor and has advanced the destruction of the middle class.
“Robert Kennedy addressed these issues on the day after the murder of Dr. King when he said:
‘.. there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly, destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is a slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.
‘Whenever any American's life is taken by another American unnecessarily - whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence - whenever we tear at the fabric of life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.
‘But we can perhaps remember - even if only for a time - that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life, that they seek - as we do - nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.
‘Surely this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our hearts brothers and countrymen once again.’
“We have to see through the smoke and the tear gas of Ferguson to understand that Mike Brown and so many others who find themselves in conflict with "the law" are people trying to survive in a society that very wealthy people are driving into the economic stone age.”

About ATU
The Amalgamated Transit Union is the largest labor organization representing transit workers in the United States and Canada. Founded in 1892, the ATU today is comprised of over 190,000 members in 253 local unions spread across 47 states and nine provinces, including 3,000 workers at Greyhound Lines, Inc. Composed of bus drivers, light rail operators, maintenance and clerical personnel and other transit and municipal employees, the ATU works to promote transit issues and fights for the interests of its hard-working members.

Tags: atuFergusonracism
Categories: Labor News

Global: 6 multinationals, including Walmart & Glencore, running for Public Eye Lifetime Award

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 11/25/2014 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: IndustriALL Global Union
Categories: Labor News

UAL IBT Teamster Mechanics At SFO Picket For A Contract On Eve Of Thanksgiving Holiday

Current News - Tue, 11/25/2014 - 10:40

UAL IBT Teamster Mechanics At SFO Picket For A Contract On Eve Of Thanksgiving Holiday
UAL IBT Teamster mechanics picketed at SFO on November 24, 2014 to protest the lack of a contract after over two and a half years. The UAL management is demanding concessions on the IBT healthcare plan and also on work rules. The mechanics who are members of IBT 856 and IBT 986 were told that as a result of the UAL merger with Continental Airlines their conditions would improve. The airline flight attendants have also been without a contract and also face concession demands by UAL management.
Additional video at:
Production of Labor Video Project www.laborvideo.org

Tags: UAL MechanicsIBT 853ContinentalsolidarityFlight Attendants
Categories: Labor News

Walmart Workers Ramp Up Protests for Black Friday

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Tue, 11/25/2014 - 10:21

Walmart retail workers in Southern California held the first sit-down strike in the company’s history yesterday.

Workers from stores all over California sat down in two Walmart stores in Crenshaw and Pico Rivera, both near L.A., blocking cashier’s lanes and store aisles. They placed tape over their mouths to protest what they say are the company’s illegal efforts to silence those who are calling for better jobs.

Click here to read more at Labor Notes.

Issues: Labor Movement
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Wall Street is Taking Over America's Pension Plans

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Tue, 11/25/2014 - 08:20
Murtaza HussainThe InterceptNovember 25, 2014View the original piece

Coverage of the midterm elections has, understandably, focused on the shift in political power from Democrats toward Republicans. But behind the scenes, another major story has been playing out. Wall Street spent upwards of $300M to influence the election results. And a key part of its agenda has been a plan to move more and more of the $3 trillion dollars in unguarded government pension funds into privately managed, high-fee investments — a shift that may well constitute the biggest financial story of our generation that you’ve never heard of.

Illinois, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island all recently elected governors who were previously executives and directors at firms which managed investments on behalf of state pension funds. These firms are now, consequently, in position to obtain even more of these public funds. This alone represents a huge payoff on that $300M investment made by the financial industry, and is likely to result in more pension money going into investments which offer great benefits for Wall Street but do little for the broader economy.

Click here to read more at The Intercept.

Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

United Airlines Mechanics Picket

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Tue, 11/25/2014 - 07:44

November 25, 2014: United Airlines (UAL) professional aviation mechanics represented by the Teamsters Union held informational pickets at 10 major airports around the country. United Airlines mechanics are informing the public that they may be forced to strike if the company refuses to keep its promise to reinstate the workers' pension plans.

The protest comes as negotiations enter their 24th month, the last twelve having been overseen by the National Mediation Board. In 2010, United Airlines merged with Continental Airlines and the parties have attempted to amalgamate bargaining agreements representing aircraft maintenance and related workers from three different work groups (Continental, United and Air Micronesia).

The 11,000 Teamster mechanics are determined to defend their family health benefits and restore their pensions.

You can read an IBT press release on the issue.



Issues: Airlines
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Oklahoma IWW Stands in Solidarity with Students #YesAllDaughters

IWW - Tue, 11/25/2014 - 05:08

Students at Norman High School in Norman, Oklahoma walkedout of their classes at 9:20 A.M. on Monday, November 24th, 2014 greeted by hundreds of activists and supporters boldly standing with them in solidarity. Why?

Throughout the semester, an 18-year-old senior at the school raped three female students, publicized the rapes and humiliated the survivors. These girls were met with bullying and harassment, one being forced to leave the school because of constant hazing; another was not even able to enter the school before being violently confronted by the rapist's friends. Another retaliated when being harassed and was asked to leave the school for the remainder of the year until things "blow over." The administration punished the survivor for self-defense and has done nothing to address rape, sexual assault and harassment in their school community.

read more

Categories: Unions

Dining Out in Dinkytown: Remembering the Minneapolis Truckers’ Strikes of 1934

Current News - Mon, 11/24/2014 - 21:03

Dining Out in Dinkytown: Remembering the Minneapolis Truckers’ Strikes of 1934


LaborOnline November 7, 2014

Dining Out in Dinkytown: Remembering the Minneapolis Truckers’ Strikes of 1934

Bryan Palmer

Dinkytown’s Best Breakfast

If you are in Minneapolis, after a hard day’s night, the place to go for a morning pick-me-up is Al’s Breakfast. Or so I was informed. Being in the Twin Cities in mid-July, I made my way to the legendary AM eatery, located in the heart of Dinkytown, the neighborhood adjacent to the University of Minnesota where Al’s is located.

Mind you, no one had told me anything about the place. My heart sank as I rounded the 14th Avenue corner and took in the line that had formed outside of an establishment half way down the block. As I shuffled into place at the end of the queue and glanced inside my spirits nose-dived even further.

Al’s Breakfast, 2005

The place wasn’t so much a restaurant as a refurbished alleyway. Indeed, its origins, I later ascertained, were just that. The space was once a converted corridor separating two stores, first used to stockpile sheet metal and plumbing parts by a hardware outlet. It was ‘made-over’ into a restaurant in 1950. At ten feet wide, with a mere fourteen stools, its mid-century clientele consisted largely of railroad workers.

Over the years Al’s has become renowned for its waffles, blueberry pancakes, and ingenious egg concoctions, its quick-paced pack-‘em-in bravado, and the banter of its wait staff and cooks. No time is wasted on the pseudo-niceties of sycophantic service. Placards on the wall set the tone: ‘Not Responsible for Alienated Affections’; ‘Beware of Waitress With An Attitude’. But the place wins national awards, attracts the cognoscenti, and clearly has strong advocates.

Not much of this was evident as I waited outside behind fifteen or so hungry patrons. Another dozen stood inside Al’s, leaning against the wall and looming over the shoulders of the fortunately-seated customers. I wondered if I would eat before noon.

The four guys in front of me must have sensed my unease, appreciating that I was a first timer. ‘Don’t worry,’ they assured me, ‘the line moves quickly’. ‘Where are you from?’

Talkin’ Union

Introductions made, the conversation turned to why I was in Minneapolis. My new-found friends were astounded that I had flown from Toronto to be part of a series of events commemorating the 1934 Teamsters’ strikes.

Commemoration 2014 Poster, Remember 1934 committee

These class struggles were momentous battles. Workers and their ‘special deputy’ opponents died in picket line confrontations. The conflict raged over collective bargaining rights for coal heavers, market produce haulers, and truck drivers. When I told the group lining up for breakfast that the top wage demanded by this motley crew was less than 50 cents an hour, it was all news to them.

As I explained that the three strikes waged between February and August in 1934 were part of a nation-wide class upheaval that brought workers out of the doldrums of the Great Depression and into new forms of unionism that organized the unorganized and defeated die-hard anti-labor employers, they were surprised. ‘In Minneapolis’, they seemed to shrug, ‘who knew?’

Elaborating on all of this, I recounted how the Teamsters had grown locally from a union with no more than 175 members in 1933 to a vibrant presence in Minneapolis, 7,000 strong. Once an employer-dominated ‘open shop town’, Minneapolis was transformed. It became a ‘union city’. I explained how this breakthrough then exploded into an eleven-state over-the-road teamster organizing drive that quadrupled the national membership of the International Brotherhood, pushing it past the 500,000 mark by 1940.

The Hoffa Hangover

Jimmy Hoffa, before he was gangstered-up, learned how to organize truckers in this late 1930s mobilization, spearheaded out of the Minnesota metropole. ‘Minneapolis Teamsters,’ my morning conversationalists replied in wonder. ‘Really! They did this?’ To them, teamsters were a stereotype, a muscle-shirt wearing contingent of independent-contract drivers, under the tutelage of a racketeering officialdom.

And this clearly has had its local story-line.

As late as 2012, Local 120 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), serving Minneapolis and adjacent centers and the direct descendant of the union that waged the strikes of 1934, was rocked with a corruption scandal. A report undertaken by a Teamster union review board revealed that a father-son Secretary-Treasurer/President duo had diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars of membership funds into a variety of construction, enterprise, sporting ticket, and other schemes that resulted in the local being put under trusteeship by IBT union boss, James Hoffa, Jr., not to be confused with this father Jimmy.

Hoffa Sr., after presiding over the IBT from the late 1950s, was convicted on jury tampering, attempted bribery, and fraud charges in the early 1960s. Sentenced to 13 years in prison, Hoffa delayed the inevitable with appeal after appeal. Eventually he went to jail. Incarcerated for less than one-third of his time, Hoffa was pardoned by Richard Nixon in 1971. He then disappeared in 1975, widely thought to have been murdered by the mob in Detroit.

Jimmy Hoffa, then, consolidated a view of the Teamsters as corrupt that was, in places like Minneapolis, confirmed by modern developments. One Local 120 critic voiced disgust at the 2012 revelations, claiming that the union had become little more than ‘a good-old-boys club.’ He reported that it was impossible to get rid of those embezzling union funds and engaging in all manner of fraudulent schemes, including a union-run, money-losing bar in Fargo, North Dakota. That venture managed to see $200,000 worth of liquor and beer go missing.

Fargo, I thought when I became aware of this sordid bit of recent Minneapolis Teamster history – Joel and Ethan Coen clearly miscast the players in their dark comedy about murder, used car dealerships, and development schemes. They should have set the stage with Local 120 characters and their tavern-tampering ways.

A Revolutionary Leadership and its Day in (Bourgeois/Kangaroo) Court

Socialist Workers Party leaders, l to r, James P. Cannon, Carl Skoglund, Vincent Raymond Dunne, Arne Swabeck, 1950s. Bryan Palmer Collection, courtesy of Jean Tussey.

The leaders of these 1934 Minneapolis strikes were an entirely different breed. They adhered to the views of Leon Trotsky, and were organized in a group known as the Communist League of America (CLA) that would later develop into the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). Barely half-a-dozen of these revolutionary Trotskyists had been agitating in the coal yards and among truckers since the late 1920s, and their patient efforts led to the victory of the 1934 strikes.

So successful were these teamster leaders that the state, the employers, the IBT bureaucracy (with Jimmy Hoffa as its head thug), and even the Communist Party colluded in World War II to displace and defeat them. The low point of this vendetta: two show trials of the early 1940s that saw the Minneapolis revolutionary teamsters and other genuine workers’ leaders convicted on trumped-up treason charges. Twenty-nine individuals were hauled into court, 18 of them railroaded to jail.

The real crime of the Trotskyists and teamster leaders was that they created strikingly effective ways of confronting employers and built new and democratic forms of mass unionism that challenged the status quo on all kinds of levels. They battled the trucking bosses with panache.

Organizing Workers to Win

New strike tactics such as the flying pickets that roved Minneapolis streets in 1934, chasing down scab trucks, were devised and implemented. Teamster leaders developed an extensive ‘intelligence network’, and were well informed by secretaries working for various enterprises of what the trucking magnates were preparing to do next. To get its message out to thousands of members, scattered throughout Minneapolis, the union took to the skies and the streets, enlisting an airplane and a squad of teenaged motorcyclists.

Strike Leader, Vincent Raymond Dunne. Bryan Palmer Collection, courtesy of Jean Tussey.

Strikes were planned down to the last detail. A massive union headquarters was staffed with dispatchers, a commissary was outfitted, and a make-shift hospital to care for the wounded was put in place. Refusing to be hoodwinked by the tired leadership of the IBT, these workers’ leaders instead involved the rank-and-file in strike committees 100-strong, drew the unemployed to work with the union, and organized a women’s auxiliary that attracted wives and daughters, mothers and aunts, to the necessity of building unionism.

Winning truckers and others in the transportation industry to militant activism, these leaders championed open discussions in regularly-convened mass meetings, favoring public votes of all union members rather than secret ballots. When they actually secured paid union positions after their 1934 strike victories, the revolutionary Trotskyists guiding the teamsters’ insurgency instituted salary scales for themselves insuring that union officials were paid no more than those working in the industry.

These revolutionaries also gained the confidence and respect of laboring men and women by helping their working-class confreres in time of need. They also suffered firings, beatings, and jailings. Encouraging workers to think independently, in the midst of the strikes of 1934 they put out a daily newspaper, The Organizer. This strike bulletin used innovative means, among them satire and humor, to convince laborers that it was necessary to fight for their rights.

Class War Warriors and the Red Scare

In the late 1930s, fascists threatened to organize in Minneapolis, realizing that the victories achieved in the 1934 strikes needed to be turned back if their reactionary cause was to succeed. Known as the Silver Shirts, these reacationaries talked of infiltrating the unions, making them nurseries of recruitment to right-wing thought, cultivating opposition to class-based understandings of the social order. They propagated a pernicious racism and anti-Semitism.

Trotskyists immediately saw the danger this posed. They formed an armed contingent of workers known as the Union Defense Guard. Its ‘commander’ was Ray Rainbolt, a Sioux Nation trucker and SWP member. He drilled the rifle-bearing workers and railed against the Silver Shirts and their project. Preparedness was the watchword among these revolutionaries. But workers arming themselves didn’t curry favor with the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, both of which were involved in the later legal onslaught against the Minneapolis teamsters.

Nor did the affront of labor effectively standing up against its class adversaries win the Minneapolis teamsters acclaim locally, at least as far as conventional authority was concerned. The General Drivers Union, known as Local 574, and its Trotskyist leadership were vilified in the mainstream newspapers. Anti-communism blanketed Minneapolis in 1934 like a dense fog; you could cut it with a dull bourgeois blade. Demanding 42-and-a-half cents an hour for the drivers and insisting on the right of those handling crates of vegetables in the market to join the union were the thin edge of a wedge ostensibly opening the door to a Soviet Minneapolis. Or so the Citizen’s Alliance, the employers’ voice in the strikes, claimed.

Joke Masthead, The Organizer, 1934. This was never published, but was a humorous self-depiction of the staff the newspaper.

The Organizer countered, ‘They accuse us in this local of being un-American but how’s this for some real Am. Members: Happy Holstein, Chippewa; Ray Rainbolt, Sioux; Doc Tollotson, Chippewa; Bill Bolt, Chippewa; Bill Rogers, Chippewa; Joe Belanger, Chippewa.” The Red Scare was no doubt driven by the employers and their political and socio-cultural allies, but conservative laborites also contributed. One Native American wrote as ‘A member of 574, not a Communist, but a Chippewa Indian and a real American.’ He protested the ways in which the ossified trade union tops occupying the plush office seats at the headquarters of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters red-baited the Minneapolis strike leadership. These underhanded attacks did the bosses’ bidding, adding ‘fuel to the fire’ of the employer association’s anti-communism.

Unions as History

As it turns out, my breakfast partners to be were educators in the public school system. They did not much like their teachers’ federations. ‘Hadn’t unions become too big and powerful and reactionary?’ asked my chatty mates. ‘Hadn’t labour organizations outlived their usefulness?’ Trade unions, in the vernacular of these educational workers, ‘were history’.

This is not an unusual view. And it contains a small grain of truth. Many workers will indeed speak of their union as a distant and ossified structure. But I argued with these teachers that if unions did often function in bureaucratic ways, they were hardly unduly powerful in their dealings with the employers and the state. On the contrary, they were weakened bodies, and had long been on the skids. They needed to be rebuilt, and in this rejuvenation their democratic promise and potential was necessarily going to be integral to the labor movement’s revitalization.

Evidence of union decline is unambiguous. The percentage of the workforce organized in United States unions was roughly 33 percent in 1945, had declined to 24 percent by the end of the 1970s, and now stands at little more than ten percent. Moreover, this union density is regionally skewed. Fully 4.4 million of the total 14.5 million union members in the United States live in two states, California and New York, a whopping 21 percent. Try cracking a union in North Carolina or Arkansas. If we factor out public sector workers such as teachers and government employees, whose high union densities of 35 percent are a product of 1960s organizational breakthroughs in these areas, the health of the trade union movement looks even worse. The precipitous decline of unions in the private sector – where the mass production labor gains of the 1930s and 1940s were registered – is astounding. Today, less than seven percent of American workers who toil in these traditional blue collar occupations are union members. Trade unionism is not exactly trending in the right direction.

‘What will the United States look like without unions?’ I asked Al’s customers. I reminded them of what the labor movement had historically accomplished. Unions were vital forces in securing working people the basic entitlements that now mean so much to ordinary Americans: the eight-hour day; the weekend; a living wage; paid holiday time; some essential protection from arbitrary dismissal or humiliating denigration. As jaundiced as they had come to be about unions as they are in our times, the men I talked to outside of and then inside of Al’s Breakfast knew this. They agreed that a United States without unions would be a country in which working people were acutely disadvantaged. Our dialogue seemed to move them out of their present discontents and uncovered more in the way of positive appreciations of the value of labor organization. These men knew, intuitively, that without the protections of trade unionism they and countless others were going to suffer.

What they did not know is the history of the Teamster insurgency in Minneapolis in 1934, arguably a key struggle that made so much of trade unionism’s mid-century advance possible, not only in one city in one particularly difficult time, the years of the Great Depression, but in wider national circles. What happened in Minneapolis in 1934 helped galvanize workers to fight back.

It influenced national figures like United Mine Workers leader, John L. Lewis, to see that the moribund unionism of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), in which leaders like IBT strongman Daniel Tobin were ensconced, needed to be revitalized in what would come to be known as the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). The CIO mass production unionism that repudiated the narrow, craft-organized, business unionism of the AFL, threatened, for a brief time, to become a social mass production unionism that connected up with other fights for civil rights, women’s rights, and various other social justice causes. Born of ‘red’ leaderships like those active in Minneapolis and elsewhere, and driven by rank-and-file militancy, this reinvigorated mass unionism put the movement back in labor’s mobilizations.

Too often this process is seen as somehow a product of Lewis himself, and his ostensibly far-seeing vision of a new unionism. In fact, Lewis looked to Minneapolis. As one of his early biographers, Saul Alinsky, wrote in 1947, when “Blood ran in [the streets of] Minneapolis,” it got the burly, idiosyncratic head of the miners’ union to sit up and take notice.

Commemorating Workers’ Struggle: Remember 1934

I was in Minneapolis in mid-July because I had recently authored a book on these local strikes and their Trotskyist leadership: Revolutionary Teamsters: The Minneapolis Truckers’ Strikes of 1934. Minneapolis has a dedicated crew of individuals who, on particular anniversaries, hold high the banner of these exemplary strikes. They call themselves the Remember 1934 committee. One of their current tasks is to raise funds for a plaque to be placed in the old Warehouse District where two workers, Teamster rank-and-file member Henry Ness and unemployed worker John Bellor, died in a viciously one-sided, strike-related battle with police on ‘Bloody Friday’, 20 July 1934. This being the 80th anniversary of the strikes, the 1934 committee and a number of Minneapolis unions organized an impressive series of events.

I was honored to participate in the proceedings, which included a public lecture on my book at the Central Library; a film night featuring video and newsreel clips from a number of 1934 strikes, including those of Minneapolis, sponsored by American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 3800; a Teamsters Local 120 picnic and rally, with speakers like Minnesota’s populist Senator, Al Franken; a march to where many of the pitched street battles of the 1934 conflict took place; the laying of a union wreath where an unarmed Henry Ness was viciously murdered by police; a six-hour street festival, involving hip-hop artists, street art exhibits, Aztec dancers, union and other speakers; a Sunday picnic paying tribute to the descendants of the strikers, many of whom remain committed unionists, activists, and socialists; and a book launch and talk at a local institution of the left, MayDay Books, focusing on Revolutionary Teamsters.

These events heralded suggestions of fresh beginnings amidst recollections of old commitments.

Police and Striker Injured in Market District Picket Confrontation, 21 May 1934, Bryan Palmer Collection

In the past, for instance, few descendants seemed to come forward and participate in efforts to Remember 1934. At this year’s 80th anniversary celebrations, however, more relatives of the strikers came out of the woodwork. They recalled, often quite movingly, the ways their kinfolk’s lives were forever altered by the experience of fighting to build unionism in Minneapolis.

Within Local 120, which has in the past eschewed a direct involvement in the Remember 1934 events, this is the first time that the official Teamsters union, as opposed to a reform current within it, Teamsters for a Democratic Union, has participated in the commemorations with unambiguous enthusiasm. In effect, 2014 marked a change in the IBT’s willingness to ‘own’ its history. There was even mention of ‘Trotskyist communist’ leadership in one of the speeches at the Local 120 picnic.

Too much cannot be made of such developments. They may nonetheless suggest, as do a host of other happenings, from the Occupy movement to the protests in Wisconsin against state attacks on trade unionism to the victories around the $15 minimum wage in Seattle and elsewhere to the impressive recent fight of Chicago’s teachers, that the anti-union tide that has threatened to engulf American labor is now meeting resistance.

Dialectics of Possibility

The Teamsters’ strikes of 1934 matter today because they remind us that, however bad the situation and whatever the power of those opposing change, victories can indeed be won.

One of the tangible hurdles that must be overcome if unions are to once again be remade as fighting agencies of the popular will is precisely the inertia and defeatism that suggests that they cannot, in the current climate, realize the potential that has always animated the labor movement. After all, unionism originated in and has long been inspired by the slogan, ‘An injury to one, is an injury to all.’ That brief admonition broadens understandings of what struggles can and should be about.

Battle of Deputies Run, 22 May 1934

What is needed within unions and other social movements in our times is the kind of leadership that can, in the spirit of 1934, demand, as was often said in periods of upheaval like 1968, the seemingly impossible. But this must be done in ways that understand what can be accomplished in a particular context. A balance must be struck between what might realistically be squeezed out of the actualities of the moment, without capitulating to the sorry ideological denials of possibility characteristic of any particular time.

This capacity to maximize what could be secured through struggle in 1934, rather than succumbing to the defeatism all around them, was what distinguished the revolutionary Trotskyists in the Minneapolis trucking industry from the IBT bureaucratic union officialdom.

If we compare the circumstances that a handful of these radicals faced in the coal yards of Minneapolis in the early 1930s, with what we confront today, it is impossible not to conclude that things looked worse, not better, in those Great Depression years. The working class of Minneapolis won in 1934 because it had a leadership to guide it and a militant willingness to fight. This can happen again, not only in Minneapolis, but throughout the capitalist economies of our time, which are overripe for popular insurgencies.

Unionism Today and the Denial of Possibility

Three claims are often currently made denying the possibility of union revival. It is instructive to look at these assertions and compare them to the situation Minneapolis militants faced in 1934:

• When the economy is in terrible shape, as it is now, the times prohibit overt class struggles and demand concessions and a holding back on demands.
• In the past, workers were able to build solidarity and collective ways of resisting because their circumstances were different than those prevailing today. Class may well have been a potent force for social change in earlier periods, but this is not the case now. People see their circumstances from the vantage point of individual rather than collective concerns. Mobilizations like that of Minneapolis in 1934 are now impossible.
• Unions are outmoded institutions. They are top-heavy with bureaucracy and are removed from their dues-paying memberships. Labor organizations thus have no relevance in progressive, contemporary social struggles.
A lot of this was on order at Al’s Breakfast. But Trotskyists in Minneapolis answered these denials of possibility.

Their economic prospects, in 1933-1934, looked no better and probably a lot worse, than anything recent generations of workers have faced.

To be sure, the claims that workers today are less likely to struggle in class and collective ways than their counterparts in the past may seem self-evident. No doubt the fragmentation of working-class community life has increased over time, and the lure of consumer capitalism is more powerful now than it was decades ago. There are state institutions, like the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), that exercise a decisive and detrimental sway over laboring men and women in ways that were only weakly established in the 1930s. There is no doubt that the legalistic snare in which unions now seemed trapped is an impediment to class struggle mobilization.

Yet as the Minneapolis teamster leaders showed in their opposition to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s original NLRB, the corps of mediators sent to defuse the volatile situation in Minneapolis, and the smooth talking Farmer-Labor Party state governor, Floyd Olson, it is possible to beat back the state’s hegemonic hold over the working class. The claims of conventional wisdoms suffocating popular insurgency’s potent potential can be refused; the barriers erected against the active agency of workers by contemporary labor relations and their institutions of industrial legality can be transcended.

So, too, can the seemingly insuperable divisions of working-class life in the modern era. While racism and all manner of chauvinisms have existed throughout history and while they exercise their divisiveness within today’s working class, it is nevertheless the case that civil rights struggles, feminism, LBGTQ mobilizations, and other social movements, including trade unionism, have set the stage for a wider sense of human solidarity than has ever before been imaginable. Finally, precisely because capitalism has been in a state of crisis management since the mid-1970s, its capacity to lure the oppressed and exploited into its ideological lair has weakened considerably in recent times. Many people aren’t ‘buying’ it anymore. For all of the problems inherent in the Occupy Movement, its slogan of ‘Down with the 1%, Up with the 99%’ articulated an undeniable and growing repudiation of capitalism’s fundamental inequalities, highlighting the salience of class solidarity.

Finally, to those arguing that unions are bureaucratic beasts whose time has passed, the Minneapolis teamsters strikes of 1934 show precisely how an ossified officialdom can be swept aside in a moment of class upheaval. In the process, trade unionism can be revived.

The Left Today and the Denial of Possibility

There is also a second set of denials that also inhibit active change. They relate to the revolutionary left.

Revolutionary Teamsters: The Minneapolis Truckers’ Strikes of 1934 by Bryan D. Palmer

The primary lesson of Minneapolis is that the leadership that achieved the victory of 1934 came from this revolutionary left. There would have been no victories in Minneapolis in the mid-1930s if there had not been a Communist League of America leadership, established in New York, with a trade union fraction working diligently on the ground in a distant Minnesota city.

What these revolutionaries brought to trade unionism from outside of its experiences was decisively important. So, too, was the fact that these revolutionaries were embedded within the trucking industry and were well-known, and respected, among the workers of Minneapolis. The particularities of place mattered, but so too did general principles learned in various schools of hard knocks, and consolidated over the course of years of revolutionary thought and practice. When the situation exploded in all-out class war, the local leadership could rely on the advice, guidance, and skills of their ‘party-like’ formation and its comrades, as well as the support, resolve, energy, and militancy of rank-and-file workers in Minneapolis, both in the trucking sector and outside of it.

If we are to witness events the like of Minneapolis 1934 again, we obviously need, not only new unions, but a new, and revived, revolutionary left.

Yet the ideological commonsense of our current times proclaims the revolutionary left dead and buried. It does so in ways that are, again, usefully compared to the 1934 Minneapolis struggles:

• With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, capitalist commentators proclaimed ‘the end of history’. This grandiose posture was premised on the view that with the implosion of actually existing socialism in its Stalinist variant, capitalism was triumphant, ending a contest pitting the free-world colossus (headed by the US in the West) against the so-called totalitarian planned economies.
• Equating the entirety of the socialist project with Soviet Stalinism and its modern offshoots, from China to Cuba, this view of the 1945-1990 world concluded that a revolutionary challenge to capitalism had, finally, been vanquished. Capitalism’s contest with socialism was declared decisively over.
• With the revolutionary left forever dispensed with, the politics of our times are confined to a new, and lesser, opposition. The only political contest involves progressive reform within capitalism, of the social democratic or liberal kind, versus the maintenance of a civil society prostrate before the hegemony of the market, or neoliberalism.
The Minneapolis truckers’ insurgency and its leadership made it abundantly clear that Stalinism need not encompass the entirety of the revolutionary left. The Trotskyists who guided the 1934 teamster upheaval understood how the Communist Party of this era had abandoned its revolutionary origins and was on a slow, but inevitable, road to the implosion of 1989. They offered workers and their allies an alternative.

That alternative, moreover, kept the promise of revolutionary socialism alive precisely because it refused to collapse all struggle into the small, complacent, container of progressive, liberal, reform. A politics of the left that became nothing more than the attempt to insure that the lesser of many evils triumphed, necessitating the embrace of many pernicious illusions, was anathema to the revolutionary leadership of the Teamster rebellion. They would no more have regarded Minnesota’s Farmer-Labor Governor Olson as an ally than should today’s left look to someone far less radical, Barrack Obama, as anything approximating an answer to the untold grievances of the dispossessed.

If the Trotskyist teamsters were not fighting directly for Revolution in 1934, and they were not, their militant refusal to succumb to the many temptations on offer by those whose purpose it was to limit unionism to nothing more than an appendage to capitalism, built important bridges to revolutionary possibility. And that is exactly why that revolutionary leadership and those bridges had to be attacked by bourgeois power and its props within the working class, under the guise of World War II-fomented treason charges.

What the Minneapolis Trotskyists tell us is that principle and a vision of what can be achieved by militant actions and resolve, whatever the circumstances, do matter. They did not barter away their critical senses in a cat-and-mouse game of setting their sights on one main enemy and toying with ways of making their struggle more palatable to others, with whom they had fundamental disagreements. They fought employers and IBT bureaucrats; Stalinist slander and social democratic carrots of enticement; labor boards, courts, and mediators; the pulpit, police and provocateurs. This audacity goes a long way toward explaining just how they won, when so many other working-class struggles came up short.

Victories can be achieved, then, even in the worst of times. Even in our times. They will not, however, be secured by drinking the hemlock of conciliation, compromising everything in order to achieve a small, and always vulnerable, corner of what is needed. Reality must be faced squarely; capitulation can never be countenanced. We need to remember 1934 because, 80 years later, it still lives for us as a pathway to possibility.

Dining Out as It Has Been and as It Might Be

Al’s Breakfast has a long row of yellow ticket books. They are thrown into rectangular alphabetically-ordered bins that run much of the length of the narrow service area in which cooks and servers scurry back and forth. Each booklet has a name boldly marked on its outside.

I asked the waitress what they were. ‘Prepaid breakfasts,’ she replied, barely stopping to answer as she walked off briskly to pick-up and drop off another order. Apparently the practice began in the 1950s: railroad workers, paid once a month, would deposit a portion of their wages with Al so they would be assured of eating at the end of the month when their cash reserves would likely be low. Not quite ‘From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs’. But something.

In 1934, when they were on strike, teamsters dined at their massive union hall. This was a place that proclaimed the collective power of the working class. More than a building, it was an edifice that represented a way of life. Workers’ meals were not prepaid, at least not in terms of the cash that oils the wheels of the marketplace. Rather, it was the collective being of class mobilization that literally put food on the workers’ communal tables in 1934, and that ordered concerns of health and well-being. Sustenance in the midst of struggle was provided by the General Drivers’ Union. Local 574’s commissary was staffed by women’s auxiliary members; its hospital was run by volunteer doctors and nurses.

Discussions took place about how to maximize nutrition in the meals served, which were prepared by strike supporters, many of the ingredients provided by local farmers who sided with the workers in their battles.

After a full day of picket duty, a striking worker might well have sat down to a plate of roast chicken, mashed potatoes, and fresh vegetables. This was likely to be followed by conversation and discussion with fellow unionists, perhaps even an address by one of the strike leaders or a report from the Strike Committee of 100. To cap off the evening, this worker likely took time to do a reading of the day’s issue of The Organizer. Food for thought.

Bryan D. Palmer is the Canada Research Chair in the Canadian Studies Department at Trent University, Peterborough Canada.

Tags: Minneapolis Teamster Truckers Strike
Categories: Labor News

UAL IBT 856 & IBT 986 Aircraft Technicians Protest United Airlines Picket lines to form at two major West Coast Airports

Current News - Mon, 11/24/2014 - 18:40

UAL IBT 856 & IBT 986 Aircraft Technicians Protest United Airlines Picket lines to form at two major West Coast Airports
Picket lines to form at two major West Coast Airports
Aviation maintenance professionals working in San Francisco and Los Angeles will trade their tools for picket signs to protest stalled negotiations with United Airlines tomorrow starting at 8 a.m. Aircraft mechanics, represented by Teamster Local Unions 856 and 986, have called for a picket of departure terminals at both San Francisco and Los Angeles International Airports on one of the season’s busiest flying days.
The protest comes as negotiations enter their 24th month – the last twelve having been overseen by the National Mediation Board. In 2010, United Airlines merged with Continental Airlines and the parties have attempted to amalgamate bargaining agreements representing aircraft maintenance and related workers from three different work groups (Continental, United and Air Micronesia).
“This merger has taken a toll on everyone, including passengers,” said Lucy Ricard, a 29-year aircraft mechanic. “We have the potential to be a world-class carrier, but we need United to believe in us and invest in the human capital we have,” she said.
“Providing affordable healthcare to employees and retirement security are important issues and also based in common sense, said Rudy Gonzalez, Teamsters Local 856 Vice President. “Nobody wants cheap labor maintaining our aircraft. Let’s face it, there isn’t room for error in the work these professionals perform,” Gonzalez continued.
Workers have called for this protest and warn that if United Airlines negotiators drag their feet, larger and more far-reaching actions may follow. The organizing committee of the protest has adopted the motto: “Whatever It Takes.”
Teamster Local Unions 856 and 986 represent more than 5,000 airline workers in the Western United States, Hawaii, Guam and Saipan.

Tags: UAL IBT 856 & IBT 986Cost Shifting
Categories: Labor News

USA: ATU on the Ferguson grand jury decision regarding the shooting of Michael Brown

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 11/24/2014 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ATU
Categories: Labor News

Belgium: Trade unions begin month of strikes against Charles Michel austerity

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 11/24/2014 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: The Morning Star
Categories: Labor News

Bosses Want Government Intervention In ILWU West Coast Contract Fight

Current News - Mon, 11/24/2014 - 14:06

Bosses Want Government Intervention In ILWU West Coast Contract Fight
Opinion: Labor laws need to be fixed as goods languish at U.S. ports

Published: Nov 24, 2014 12:44 p.m. ET

A dockworker dispute shows why ports need to be treated like railroads and airlines


A fully loaded China Ocean Shipping Co. (Cosco) container ship enters the Port of Long Beach in California, where dockworkers have caused a slowdown.
West Coast ports are suffering a series of slowdowns, leaving stores with lower supplies before Black Friday and the Christmas season, and stranding agricultural exports such as Washington state apples on the docks.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union has suspended negotiations with the Pacific Maritime Association, which manages the ports, until after Thanksgiving, leaving retailers and exporters with limited options, and dragging the dispute into December.

Congress should reform labor laws to deal with this. Currently, ports are governed by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), while airlines and railroads are required to abide by the 1934 Railroad Labor Act (RLA). The disruptions at the ports that are being used as a tactic of negotiation are allowed under the NLRA, but would not be permitted under the RLA.

Railroad crews cannot decide to stop working on the tracks, and airline crews cannot withhold fuel from planes. But workers can simply not show up for shifts in Los Angeles and Oakland in order to hold out for higher wages.

Small groups of workers are holding all 29 West Coast ports hostage to their demands. The workers are paid an average of $147,000 annually, with $82,000 in benefits, including free health care. The disruptions will reduce employment because shippers go to Canada, or ports on the East or Gulf coasts.

Ports are critical to U.S. infrastructure and trade, and should be governed in the same manner as the railroad and airline industries.
Congress could pass a bill moving ports to the RLA, just as it moved airlines to the RLA in the 1930s. With ports increasingly important to the U.S. economy, it is time to give ports the same protections as railroads and airlines.

Negotiations concerning a new labor contract between the International Longshoremen and the Pacific Maritime Association began in May 2014 and expired in July 2014. The negotiation process has been prolonged into November, and the PMA has accused the ILWU of purposefully slowing processing times at ports from Seattle down to Long Beach, leading to congestion of products destined for export from or import to U.S. markets.

The ILWU disagrees. ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees, who told me in a telephone conversation that his union wants safety upgrades and job-tenure guarantees, said there has been “incredible frustration on the part of workers due to congestion that has made their work more dangerous and difficult.” Rather than a worker slowdown, he said ports are plagued by a chassis shortage, as well as lack of shipping containers. Plus, there have been bottlenecks at rail depots, as rising shipments of crude oil by rail have displaced shipments of other products.

Whatever the cause, the smooth operation of ports along the West Coast is critical for the employment of Americans and the health of the U.S. economy. Cargo handled at West Coast ports supports millions of American jobs and had a value of $2.1 trillion in 2013, about 12.5% of gross domestic product.

Slowdowns are devastating not only to the manufacturers, food producers and retailers that use the ports, but to consumers who will either not have access to these goods or face higher costs due to reduced supply. Economic losses could generate a backlog that could linger for months, especially if foreign companies that purchase American goods decide to replace U.S. products with a more reliable foreign supply.

The fundamental problem is that ports are held to a different standard than other industries that facilitate trade, as airlines and railroads are required to abide by the 1934 Railroad Labor Act while ports are governed by the National Labor Relations Act.

The RLA, passed in 1926 and amended in 1934, provides a framework for mediation in the event of disputes between labor and management of the airline and railroad industries. The act created the National Mediation Board (NMB), an independent agency to oversee the reconciliation process, minimizing the disruption of transit points.

The purpose of the act and the NMB, as stated in the statute, is to “avoid any interruption of commerce,” while providing for “the prompt and orderly settlement of all disputes” that arise in labor matters. Those are two things desperately missing in today’s West Coast labor dispute.

Labor contracts under the RLA do not expire like the current West Coast contracts, but remain in force until a new agreement is reached. The RLA stipulates that, first, management and labor can begin negotiating a contract between themselves and without outside help, although the majority of cases require mediation.

If negotiations are not productive, then federal mediation is required before either unions or employers can engage in slowdowns, strikes or lockouts. The NMB cannot force either party to accept an agreement that it arbitrates, but both labor and management are legally bound to a series of negotiations. If both parties cannot reach a settlement after initial mediation, they must commit to a month-long “cooling-off” period.

Under the RLA, commerce and transportation remain uninterrupted during the dispute and mediation process, unlike what is occurring on the West Coast now. This presents a win-win situation for all parties concerned and, most importantly, the American consumer.

Ports are critical to U.S. infrastructure and trade, and should be governed in the same manner as the railroad and airline industries. President Obama and Congress should not allow millions of jobs and hundreds of billions in income be held hostage every time a contract expires. Protections written into the RLA adequately safeguard our nation’s airline and railway networks, and it would be a logical step to extend the Railroad Labor Act to our critical West Coast port network.

Tags: ILWU West Coast Contract
Categories: Labor News

Pickets Needed At Richmond Whole Foods Distribution Center To Stop Scab Trucks

Current News - Mon, 11/24/2014 - 13:58

Pickets Needed At Richmond Whole Foods Distribution Center To Stop Scab Trucks
Solidarity Pickets Needed to stop Scab Drivers from Crossing IWW Whole Foods Picket Line in Richmond, CA IMMEDIATELY!

Contact - tel:415-985-4499

WHERE - 6035 Giant Rd, Richmond, CA
WHEN - Immediately until 7 PM

Shuttle Service from Richmond BART to the picket will be available after 2 PM

For more info on the IWW Whole Foods campaign see - http://ecology.iww.org/node/959 and http://ecology.iww.org/node/974

IWW workers take on Whole Foods in San Francisco
by Marc Norton, 48 hills
Sunday Nov 9th, 2014 11:20 AM
NOVEMBER 7, 2014 – Three days ago, Bay Area voters raised minimum wages in San Francisco and Oakland. There were also successful campaigns to raise minimum wages in Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota.


Yesterday, workers at the San Francisco Whole Foods Market at 4th and Harrison Streets took the fight for fair wages to another level. Early that afternoon, a delegation of workers presented management with a demand for a $5-an-hour across-the-board wage increase for all employees. Workers at the store currently earn from $11 to $19.25 an hour.

At the call of an air horn, a contingent of workers in the store stopped work and gathered at the café bar near the store’s entrance. Other Whole Foods workers, who were not on duty but who had infiltrated the store, joined them, along with a number of supporters. They then summoned the store manager. As workers and supporters gathered around, and customers looked on somewhat bewildered, long-time Whole Foods worker Nick announced to the assembled crowd, “We are the Industrial Workers of the World.”

Nick and two other Whole Foods workers, both women, presented their demands for better wages and better treatment: “We are ready to earn enough at this job so that we can quit the other two.” Ryan Rosprim, the store manager, listened patiently, but did not respond.

The workers ended the gathering with a demand for an answer by November 14, when their next paycheck is due. At that, on-the-clock workers returned to their jobs, while the other workers and their supporters exited the store, chanting “Si, Se Puede!”

Outside, workers and supporters conducted a brief rally and picket.

“We are workers at Whole Foods Market building a movement for power and a voice on the job,” reads a petition that had been circulated at the store, signed by more than 50 workers. “This is our movement, we are capable of victory, and we are worth it.”

In addition to demanding the $5 wage increase, the petition raises issues about paid time off, hours and scheduling, safety and health, and a retirement plan.

A leaflet distributed to customers during Thursday’s job action said that a “2014 study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition found that a worker in San Francisco must earn $29.83 an hour just to rent a one bedroom apartment in the City. Even with a $15 an hour minimum wage on its way [in San Francisco], that is half of what a worker must earn… It is simply NOT ENOUGH.”

After the rally, the crowd broke into the perennial chant, “We’ll be back!”

The upcoming Thanksgiving holiday period is a key time of the year for sales at Whole Foods, and a huge profit generator.

The November 14 deadline that workers have set is two weeks before Thanksgiving. The IWW leaders say that workers will begin taking job actions if they don’t get a positive response from management by their deadline.


Whole Foods is a multinational chain specializing in what the company describes as natural and organic foods. The company has nearly 400 stores in the US, Canada and Great Britain, with $13 billion in annual sales, and 80,000 employees. Prices are high, which is why Whole Foods is colloquially known as the “Whole Paycheck” store. The company is headquartered in Texas.

This is not the first time that the Whole Foods Market on 4th Street has been the scene of labor action. Two years ago, there was a picket line at the store after a popular, long-standing worker – known for helping other workers in beefs with management – was terminated. That picket line also took place during the Thanksgiving holiday.

Last Saturday evening, Whole Foods workers packed the IWW office in the Redstone Building at 16th and Mission Streets to strategize for the Thursday action. They made plans for the delegation and to get leaflets and picket signs together. They listened to a presentation about Whole Foods’ anti-union stance, heard a report from their legal advisor, and got words of encouragement from supporters.

The IWW has been around, in one form or another, since 1905. The union sets its aim high. The preamble to the IWW constitution reads: “The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.”

The founder and CEO of Whole Foods is John Mackey, who describes himself as a “free market libertarian” who says he was a “democratic socialist” until he opened his first store.

Today, Mackey is a founder of Conscious Capitalism, Inc., which holds conferences and events targeted at CEOs and their “executive teams, entrepreneurs and the coaches and consultants who serve and support them,” and hawks Mackey’s book, Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business.

In 2007, the Federal Trade Commission took Whole Foods to court for violating federal antitrust laws in a proposed merger aimed at cornering the “premium natural and organic” supermarket business. In the course of this action, the Securities and Exchange Commission opened an investigation of Mackey when it became known that he had for years posted comments under an alias on a Yahoo financial forum boosting Whole Foods and slamming the company’s rivals. “I had fun doing it,” Mackey bragged.

Mackey’s mouth can run a little wild. He once told a reporter, “The union is like having herpes. It doesn’t kill you, but it’s unpleasant and inconvenient.”

Just last June, Whole Foods agreed to pay an $800,000 penalty for overcharging customers, after an investigation by the city attorneys of Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Monica. The illegal actions included “failing to deduct the weight of containers when ringing up fresh food, putting smaller amounts into packages than the weight stated on the label, and selling items by the piece instead of the pound, as required by law,” according to the Los Angeles Times. As part of the settlement, which applies to all stores in both Northern and Southern California, the company is required to have an employee at each store dedicated to insuring that pricing is correct.

CEO Mackey has in the past boasted that of “all the food retailers in the Fortune 500… we have the highest profits as a percentage of sales, as well as the highest return on invested capital.” The IWW workers at Whole Foods know full well that their labor is the source of that profit.

A few weeks ago, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, an expected contender for the Republican nomination for President in 2016, grumbled to a Chamber of Commerce audience, “I’m tired of hearing about the minimum wage.”

Well, Governor Christie, workers are also tired of hearing about the minimum wage, especially the minimum part. As much as an increase in the minimum wage is welcomed, we need a whole lot more than $10, $12 or $15 an hour to survive in the 21st century with any degree of dignity and respect.

Whole Foods’ current public relations slogan is “Values Matter.” We will see in a few days whether or not this is just “conscious capitalism” rhetoric.

A call shortly after the action to Ryan Rosprim, the store manager, has not been returned as of press time. A call and email to Whole Foods’ Northern California Press contact, Beth Krauss, has also gone unanswered.

Shortly after the action on Thursday, the workers’ new website at www.WFMUnite.com went live.

Marc Norton has been a rank-and-file member of UNITE HERE Local 2, the San Francisco hotel, restaurant and culinary workers union, since 1976. He is also a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). In 2010, Norton was fired from his job as a bellman at Hotel Frank, now Hotel G. The story of the outcome of the fight at Hotel Frank/Hotel G has not yet been told. Norton’s website is www.MarcNorton.us.


Tags: Whole Foods WorkersIWWOganizing
Categories: Labor News


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