Unions

Teamster Power in a Global Economy

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Thu, 11/13/2014 - 12:38

November 13, 2014: UPS is growing fast internationally and so is the middle class. How do we build union power in a global economy?

UPS’s business is driven by middle-class consumers sending packages and buying products online.

While UPS’s middle-class customer base is expected to grow rapidly through 2030, only a small amount of growth will come from the US.

Most of the growth in the global middle class is expected in Asia, especially China, and India.

Teamsters are still the engine of UPS’s revenue and profits. We’ve generated 61% of UPS’s revenue so far this year—and UPS Freight Teamsters piled more revenue on top of that.

Teamsters will continue to be central to the company’s operations and profits—but UPS has a long-term plan and we need one too in a global economy. We’ve got to build global union ties and global labor solidarity for union power in the long run. 

UPS has a long-term plan. Our union needs one too. The time to start is now.

Issues: UPS
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Recyclers score two victories with support from ILWU & community

ILWU - Thu, 11/13/2014 - 11:34

During the final days of October, two groups of Northern California recycling workers decided that they would no longer tolerate indignities and discrimination from their employers. One group voted overwhelmingly to join the ILWU. Another group – already members of ILWU Local 6 – walked off their jobs for a week-long strike.

Striking for respect

“They think we’re insignificant people,” declared striker Dinora Jordan on the picket line. “They don’t think we count and don’t value our work. But we’re the ones who find dead animals on the conveyor belts. All the time we have to watch for hypodermic needles. If they don’t learn to respect us now, they never will.”

Big profits at WM

Jordan’s employer is Waste Management of Alameda County whose parent, Waste Management, Inc. (WM), is a giant corporation that handles garbage and recycling throughout North America. In just the second quarter of 2014, WM generated $3.56 billion in revenue and $210 million in profit, “an improvement in both our net cash provided by operations and our free cash flow,” according to CEO David P. Steiner.

Millions for the CEO

Shareholders received a 35 cent per share quarterly dividend, and the company used $600 million of its cash in a massive share buyback program. Two years ago, Steiner was given 135,509 shares (worth $6.5 million) for a performance bonus.

Years with no contract

But at WM’s facility in San Leandro, California, the company was unwilling to reach a fair contract with Local 6 for three years.

On October 23, members of the union Negotiating Committee returned to the facility after another fruitless session. They called workers, including Jordan, together to offer a report on the progress in bargaining, a standard practice for the recyclers at Local 6.

Sparking the strike

One supervisor agreed to the shop floor meeting, but another would not. The workers met anyway. Then the second supervisor told the vast majority of workers that they were being disciplined and to clockout, go home, and lose pay for the rest of the day. The same supervisor allowed a few hand-picked workers to remain on the job in order to run the facility.

“That’s when we finally said ‘Enough!’” Jordan explains. “As a union, we support each other. If some of us can’t work, then none of us will.”

Workers decided to walk out together, and immediately met at the union hall where 98% voted to strike WM in a spirited action that continued for a week.

“By standing together on the picket line, these courageous workers showed all of us how to win with solidarity– even when some officials from other unions seemed more comfortable standing with management. The kind of unity and determination shown by recyclers is exactly what it takes to win against powerful employers in Alameda County – and all along the West Coast.”

–ILWU International President Bob McEllrath

Another vote nearby

At another facility in the same city, workers at Alameda County Industries (ACI) were equally angry. At the end of a late night vote count in a cavernous sorting bay, surrounded by bales of recycled paper and plastic, agents of the National Labor Relations Board unfolded the ballots in a union representation election.

Workers want ILWU

When they announced that 83 percent had been cast for Local 6, workers began shouting “¡Viva La Union!” and dancing down along a row of lockers.

Dirty & dangerous

Sorting trash is dangerous and dirty work. In 2012, two East Bay workers were killed in recycling facilities. With some notable exceptions, putting your hands into fast moving conveyor belts filled with cardboard and cans does not pay well – much less, for instance, than the jobs of the drivers who pick up the containers at the curb. And in the Bay Area, sorting recyclables is done largely by workers of color – many of whom are women – mostly immigrants from Mexico and Central America and African Americans.

Workers rise-up

This spring, recycling workers at Alameda County Industries began challenging their second-class status, poor working conditions and “permatemp” status. Not only did they become activists in a growing movement throughout the East Bay, but their protests galvanized public action to stop the firings of undocumented workers.

Private contractors

Garbage trucks driven by Teamsters carrying recycled trash arrive every minute at the ACI facility, dumping their fragrant loads gathered on routes in Livermore, Alameda, Dublin and San Leandro. These cities contract with the private firm to process their recyclables. In the Bay Area, only one city, Berkeley, picks up its own garbage.

All the rest hold contracts with private companies; even Berkeley contracts recycling to an independent sorter.

Perma-temps

But ACI went even further by using a temp agency, Select Staffing, to employ workers for their recycling operation. The outsourcing scheme left workers with fewer rights on the job, no health insurance, retirement, vacations or holidays. Wages are also very low. Even after a raise two years ago, sorters are paid only $9.00 per hour with no benefits except for a few days off each year.

Illegal wages

Last year, workers discovered that their wages were illegally low. San Leandro passed a Living Wage Ordinance in 2007, mandating pay (in 2014) of $14.57 per hour or $13.07 with health benefits. Last fall, some of the workers on the lines received leaflets advertising a health and safety training for recycling workers put on by Local 6. They decided to attend in order to protect themselves from hazards at work.

The union’s organizing director Agustin Ramirez says, “When they told me what they were paid, I knew something was very wrong.”

Ramirez put them in touch with a lawyer, who sent ACI and Select a letter stating workers’ intention to file suit for back wages. In early February, 18 workers, including every person but one who’d signed, were told that Select had been audited by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) a year before. ICE, the company said, was questioning their immigration status.

Fighting back

Instead of quietly disappearing, though, about half the sorters walked off the lines on February 27, protesting the impending firings. They were joined by faith leaders, members of Alameda County United for Immigrant Rights, and workers from other recycling facilities, including WM. The next week, however, all eighteen accused of being undocumented were fired.

“Some of us have been there 14 years, so why now?” wondered sorter Ignacia Garcia. Despite fear ignited by the firings and the so-called “silent” immigration raid, workers began to join the union.

Within months, workers were wearing buttons and stickers up and down the sorting lines. At the same time, sorters went met with city council members, denouncing the raid and illegal wages, asking councilmembers to put pressure on the company processing their recyclables.

Organizing brings change

By the time Local 6 asked for the election, ACI had stopped campaigning against the union, likely out of a fear of alienating its city clients, and had ended its relationship with the temp agency. The class-action lawsuit filed by workers was also settled for $1.2 million.

When the Labor Board counted ballots from ACI workers on October 21, only one voted for no union while 49 cast ballots for the ILWU. A campaign by the Teamsters, who had secured a spot on the ballot, fell short with only 9 votes; probably because Teamsters Local 70 has represented ACI driver for decades, but was unable or unwilling to help recycling workers during that time.

Seeking help at city hall

Because cities award contracts for recycling services, they indirectly control how much money is available for workers’ wages. That’s taken the fight for more money and better conditions into city halls throughout the East Bay.

Waste Management has the Oakland city garbage contract, and garbage truck drivers have been Teamster members for decades. When WM took over Oakland’s recycling contract in 1991, however, it signed an agreement with ILWU Local 6. Workers had voted for Local 6 on the recycling lines, at the big garbage dump in the Altamont Pass and even among the clerical workers in the company office.

Retaliation

At WM, workers also faced immigration raids. In 1998, sorters at its San Leandro facility staged a wildcat work stoppage over safety issues, occupying the company’s lunchroom.

Three weeks later, immigration agents showed up, audited company records and eventually deported eight of them. And last year, three more workers were fired at WM, accused of not having legal immigration status.

ILWU solidarity

When Teamster drivers were locked out of WM in 2007 for more than a month over company demands for concessions, Local 6 members respected their lines and didn’t work. That was not reciprocated, however, when recyclers staged their walkouts over firings last year. Last week the Teamsters told drivers to cross Local 6 lines again. One unidentified Teamster officer told journalist Darwin Bond-Graham that Local 6 had not asked for strike sanction.

“Our members can’t just stop working,” he said.

In fact, Local 6 officers immediately sought sanction from the Teamster Joint Council but the request was ignored during the week-long strike. And instead of solidarity, Teamster officials directed members to drive through the recyclers’ picket lines.

Despite the hostility and indifference from Teamster officials, most drivers expressed support for the recyclers – along with regrets that their union officials had failed to respond with solidarity.

A number of drivers said they were planning to call-in sick instead of breaking the strike, and another larger group of drivers took up a collection that bought lunch for all the strikers.

An impressive gesture of solidarity also came from officials at SEIU Local 1021, who arrived at the picket line, rallied with strikers, provided lunch for everyone and pledged to provide additional resources.

Under the contract that expired three years ago, WM sorters got $12.50—more than ACI, but a long way from San Francisco and San Jose, where Teamster recyclers get $21 an hour. To get wages up, recycling workers in the East Bay organized a coalition to establish a new standard; the Campaign for Sustainable Recycling.

Community support

Two dozen organizations have joined the campaign in addition to the ILWU, including the Sierra Club, the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Movement Generation, the Justice and Ecology Project, the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy and the Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy (FAME). FAME leaders visited picket lines and held prayer sessions with workers during the strike.

San Francisco, where recyclers earn $21 per hour, is charging customers $34 per month for garbage and recycling service. East Bay companies are paying recyclers half that wage – while East Bay ratepayers still pay almost as much each month for their services.

A new pattern & standard

Fremont became the first test for the campaign’s strategy of encouraging cities to mandate wage increases for recyclers. Last December, the Fremont City Council passed a rate increase of one penny per day per household – with the condition that its recycler, BLT, agree to raises for workers. The union contract with BLT now mandates a wage of $14.59 per hour, rising to $20.94 in 2019 – plus affordable family health benefits.

Oakland then followed suit, requiring wage increases for sorters as part of its new residential recycling and garbage franchise agreements.

Those 10-20 year agreements were both originally going entirely to California Waste Solutions, but after WM threatened a suit and a ballot initiative, it recovered the garbage contract, which also includes some commercial recycling services.

The new Local 6 contract for WM recyclers, which ended the strike yesterday, follows the same pattern and was approved last summer by the Oakland City Council which required the recycling wage and benefit standard to be included in the City’s 2015 franchise agreement. The new ILWU/WM contract will provide workers with a signing bonus of $500 to $1,500, depending on seniority, to provide some retroactive compensation for working three years under an old contract with no raises All workers will get an immediate raise of $1.48 per hour, and another 50 cents on New Year’s.

Starting next July, wages will rise $1.39 per year until 2019, when the minimum wage for sorters will be $20.94. The strikers at WM ratified their new agreement by a 95% margin.

But the strike was about much more than money and benefits. It was initiated and led by recycling workers determined to push back against what they felt was second-class treatment by an arrogant company that used to take them for granted. They gained new confidence, developed new leadership and made important solidarity connections during their week. Despite the hardships and challenges that began each morning at 3:30 a.m., workers from ‑Alameda County Industries would come by to join the picket lines after their shift ended, offering help and support for the Waste Management strikers.

ILWU International President Bob McEllrath praised the recycling workers for their leadership and determination.

“By standing together on the picket line, these courageous workers showed all of us how to win with solidarity– even when some officials from other unions seemed more comfortable standing with management. The kind of unity and determination shown by recyclers is exactly what it takes to win against powerful employers in Alameda County – and all along the West Coast.”

Next up: ACI workers

Now that three Alameda County companies have agreed to provide the better wages and affordable health benefits defined by the Alameda County Recycling Worker Standard, the torch is being passed to workers at ACI so they can enjoy the same improvements. After WM workers voted by 95% to end their strike on the evening of October 30, and before adjourning to celebrate, they pledged to support the upcoming struggle by ACI workers for a similar contract that will include the Alameda County Recycling Worker Standard.

“We won our fight for fair raises and benefits, and now it’s our turn to help the workers at ACI win their fight” said recycler Maria Sanchez.

Categories: Unions

New Activists Report on TDU Convention

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Thu, 11/13/2014 - 10:51

November 13, 2014: The TDU Convention in Cleveland last weekend drew a record number of new participants, who were able to link up with stewards, leaders, and concerned Teamsters from across North America.

Some of the new folks, like Jeff Williams, were experienced Teamsters but new to TDU and ready to take back our union.

"Meeting rank and file Teamsters and TDU members from across the country was terrific. Seeing Fred Zuckerman talking about building a coalition with other great leaders at the convention brought a tear to my eye. WE can take back our union!"

Jeff WilliamsLocal 89, LouisvilleHolland

Some were elected stewards aiming to gain new skills, like Kirk Sikora.

"Thanks to TDU for hosting such an eye opening convention. The workshops were highly interactive. The “Ask the Expert” session was tremendously useful. It was my first convention and I will be back."

Kirk SikoraLocal 327, NashvilleCassens Transport

Some were younger Teamsters –the future of our union -- like Imani Vidal.

"As an alternate shop steward, the TDU convention provided me with useful info and dialog. It gave me a boost for believing in the right to be treated as a human being in the workplace. It was a great bonding experience with folks from Local 804 and Teamsters nationwide. I recommend it to all Teamsters."

Imani VidalLocal 804, New YorkUPS

All of them left ready to build TDU and the movement for a new direction in our union. 

Issues: TDU
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Local 502 four-year donation total to Vancouver Children’s Hospital tops $126,000

ILWU - Wed, 11/12/2014 - 12:05

For the fourth straight year, Local 502 members have raised funds for the British Columbia Children’s Hospital. Every year the fundraising effort has beaten previous records. This year the record was beaten by $9,000; Local 502 members raised $41,502 which brings the four-year total to $126,008.

“This is a collective effort in which everyone digs deep to help. From the newest casual recruit to the most senior member, everyone really puts their heart and soul into this fundraising drive,” said Bal Singh Sanghera.

“Our executive and officers worked hard to make it a success. The fundraising team is humbled by the support and commitment we received.”

A team of volunteers along with BA Rocky Thompson made an appearance on live TV to present the donation. The Telethon is broadcast throughout British Columbia and viewed by millions.

The generosity of ILWU members is greatly appreciated by the hospital. The annual Telethon helps to fund and provide medical aid that is not subsidized by the government.

Lauren Wagner from the Children’s Hospital stated, “The donations have helped in pediatric cancer research including the discovery of a new drug with no side effects that has improved the three-year survival rate from 20% to 75%, and enabled us to upgrade and purchase over 55 pieces of equipment including the EEG/ICU inpatient monitoring system in the Pediatric ICU. The time, energy and dedication that you put into organizing your team’s fundraising activities are not only inspiring but greatly appreciated. It’s my honor to recognize and thank you for your achievement and for making a difference.”

Categories: Unions

Port of Anacortes contract fight expands

ILWU - Wed, 11/12/2014 - 11:09

Community members put up a picket line which shut down loading operations.

Hundreds of visitors attending the Port of Anacortes “Bier on the Pier” festival and “Floating Boat Show” in early October encountered a giant banner with a hard-hitting message: “Port of Anacortes: blowing your tax dollars, unfair to maintenance workers, accountability now!”

The banner and public outreach materials were distributed by a dozen Port workers, local community members, supporters from ILWU Local 25, the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU), Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 191, Carpenters Local 756, plus staff and volunteers from “We Do the Work” radio. Visitors attending the events showed concern about problems being raised by Port workers. Hundreds accepted leaflets explaining how maintenance workers at the Port are trying to keep things running safely and smoothly – while Port bureaucrats are breaking labor laws and wasting public funds.

Last November, the Port’s maintenance workers voted to join ILWU Local 25. They made their decision after facing years of mismanagement and abusive treatment from Port supervisors.

Instead of honoring the workers’ decision and cooperating with employees, managers ordered workers to attend mandatory meetings with Port executives who threatened union= supporters for wearing ILWU buttons. The Port workers held their ground.

“We refused to be intimidated, stood up together for respect, and voted to form our union after the managers illegally threatened us,” said Mike Wray, a Port maintenance employee.

The Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) ruled in September that Port management acted improperly and outside the law. “The State validated what workers and community members have been saying publicly for= months now,” said Dave Bost, one of several maintenance workers who was threatened by Port managers.

After winning their union election, maintenance workers began to seek afair contract – while management continued violating the law.

Port managers illegally changed the employees’ health plan; eliminated parking options for maintenance workers and obstructed union testimony before state investigators – by allowing a management witnesses to stay on the clock while Local 25 members were forced to use vacation, unpaid or comp time to testify in a PERC hearing over illegal management activity.

Port administrators recently admitted to a local newspaper that they’ve spent over $50,000 in public funds so far on private lawyers to negotiate a simple contract with employees. As of November, community members estimate that the Port’s legal fees are approaching $100,000.

During the summer and fall months, union and community members packed six separate Port Commission meetings to offer public support and solidarity for the Local 25 maintenance workers. Supporters criticized the anti-union tactics used by managers and demanded more accountability from the Commission. Speakers included members of the IBU, Pacific Coast Pensioners Association, Skagit Valley Labor Democrats, Carpenters Locals 70 and 756, Fire Fighters Local 1537, WA State Council of Fire Fighters, IBEW Local 191, Laborers Local 292, and SEIU Local 925. Letters of support for the maintenance workers were sent to the Commission by officials from ILWU Canada, Steel Workers 12-591 and WA State Representative Kristine Lytton.

Despite hearing strong support from the public, the Commissioners decided to played defense and do some damage control by inviting the Port’s Executive Director and lawyer to testify at length in late September. The duo downplayed management’s violations and offered misinformation about working conditions and the contract talks.

Union members and supporters decided it was time to take the fight outside the hearing room, launching public leaflet actions and banner displays at major Port events during the first week of October.

“Someone has to hold management accountable,” said Tyler Ashbach, a Business Agent for ILWU Local 25. “If the elected Port Commissioners won’t do it, then it’s up to Port workers and our Anacortes community.”

Community members set up a picket line on October 2nd at the Port’s main industrial loading operation. ILWU Local 25 Longshore members honored it, delaying the transfer of industrial coke onto a barge at the pier. This was the second time that Longshore members recognized a picket line, following a similar incident in July.

At the October 2 Port Commission meeting, Commissioner Keith Rubin stated, “I believe we have a problem here at the Port of Anacortes.” He noted that “workers who feel like they’re getting a fair deal don’t organize a new Port bargaining unit.”

Similar concerns were echoed by lifelong Anacortes resident Tom Montgomery, a retired 35-year Shell Oil refinery worker. “I’ve always been proud of the Port and always supported your mission of producing and supporting new and long-time family wage-jobs—that is, until now,” he told Commissioners. “I’m appalled at the actions of the Port Director and his assistant during the last several months, specifically where it concerns their handling of the so-called ‘ongoing negotiations.”

Local 19 member Rich Austin, Jr. also testified at the hearing, noting his experience as a volunteer who is helping the Port workers with their contract negotiations. “There’s been avoidance to bargain by the Port, based on the schedule of their attorney,” he said, explaining how workers have made many lengthy trips to accommodate the schedule of the Port’s expensive private attorney. “We’re serious about getting a contract and are willing to drive there,” adding that the Commission should get more involved to help reach a resolution.

Commissioner Rubin directed his final comments on the Port management. “We have a culture where we treat our local ILWU folks like a necessary evil rather than a partner, and I think that needs to change…I think that needs to change at the top,” he said.

Port worker Tyler Ashbach said he was pleased to hear productive comments coming from the Commissioners, and believes it indicates “we are on the right track” thanks to solidarity and community support.

Categories: Unions

PMA deceptively blames workers for port congestion caused by chassis mismanagement and other supply chain failures

ILWU - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 15:41

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Over the past week, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents over 70 multinational ocean carriers and maritime companies in contract negotiations with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), issued news releases blaming labor for the congestion problem that is plaguing major West Coast ports. PMA’s press releases accused the ILWU of threatening “to stem the flow of cargo during the final holiday season push.” Obscuring months of data regarding the non-labor related causes of the current crisis-level congestion problem, PMA’s Texas-based public relations firm announced that the ILWU was the cause bringing “the port complex to the brink of gridlock.” The public relations firm also propagandized about the ILWU, its leadership, and false claims of safety issues.

The ILWU is not responsible for the current congestion crisis at West Coast ports. The documented causes of congestion at the ports include:

  • Chassis shortage and dislocation;
  • Rail service delays, including a shortage of rail cars nationwide;
  • The exodus of truck drivers who cannot make a living wage;
  • Long truck turn times;
  • Record retail import volumes (increases of 5.3 percent over 2013);
  •  Larger vessels discharging massive amounts of cargo;
  • Container terminals pushed to storage capacities; and
  • The peak shipping season (i.e., the August through October pre-holiday surge)

Adding to this, on September 23, 2014, the Port of Los Angeles experienced its largest fire in decades, forcing the evacuation of 850 workers and resulting in the temporary closing of three of six cargo terminals, causing delays in the movement of cargo that reverberated down the supply chain.

The congestion problem is so acute that the Port of Long Beach recently convened “a high-level Congestion Relief Team to meet daily, seek solutions, and solicit feedback” (Port of Long Beach News Release, October 7, 2014). For months, the Federal Maritime Commission has been hosting public forums on U.S. port congestion to explore possible solutions. Dr. Noel Hacegaba, Chief Commercial Officer of the Port of Long Beach, recently explained that the shortage of chassis is the root of the congestion problem (Long Beach Post, “The Port of Long Beach Asserts Congestion Crisis is a Strategic Issue,” October 28, 2014). Lee Peterson, a spokesperson for the Port of Los Angeles, stated, “We don’t see the longshore contract negotiations as a factor in the congestion. The cause is due to the chassis situation and the high volume of cargo this peak season.” (Long Beach Post, October 28, 2014).

It is well known that “the chassis situation” was caused by the shippers themselves when they changed their chassis operations model early this year. “The chassis problem…is a direct result of shipping lines selling their chassis to equipment-leasing companies. This has created an environment in which chassis that are controlled by one pool operator are not being shared with other pool operators. This results in split-moves, where a trucker must drop a container off at one terminal and the chassis at another. It has also resulted in chassis hoarding by some terminals to ensure they have enough equipment for the next vessel call. Also, chassis are experiencing longer dwell times at distribution warehouses and off-dock rail yards than in the past, in effect reducing the number of chassis that are available to haul containers on any given day.” (Journal of Commerce, “Chassis Fingered as Biggest of Many Problems at LA-Long Beach,” September 27, 2014).

There is also a major shortage of longshore workers and marine clerks. “The extra demand on longshore labor has emerged as a real problem in Los Angeles-Long Beach. Terminals throughout the summer have been forced to increase their use of part-time longshoremen, known as casuals, who generally are not as productive as their veteran counterparts. On some nights, terminals exhaust their entire roster of registered and casual labor, and still can’t fill of the labor slots needed for that work shift.” (JOC quoting PierPass President and CEO Bruce Wargo, “Chassis Fingered as Biggest of Many Problems at LA-Long Beach,” September 27, 2014). Despite ILWU demands, PMA repeatedly refused to increase the size of the full-time workforce prior to the start of negotiations.

“The numerous, non-labor related causes of the congestion problem up and down the West Coast are well documented,” said ILWU spokesperson Craig Merrilees. “During negotiations last week, the Union addressed PMA directly to express concerns about its deceitful media tactics and the corrosive impact of such tactics on collective bargaining. It’s particularly inflammatory for workers to be told
that they’re using safety as a gimmick.”

West Coast longshore work is extremely hazardous, with higher fatality rates than the work of firefighters or police officers, according to U.S Department of Labor figures. The biggest factor causing accidents on the docks is the employers’ constant demand for increased production. In the face of this demand and the Union’s concern for the safety of its members, the ILWU has negotiated one of the best safety codes in the industry. The ILWU is committed to safety and will adhere to the ILWU-PMA Pacific Coast Marine Safety Code.

“The men and women of the ILWU will not make up for the current supply chain failures at the expense of life and limb,” said Merrilees.

Negotiations continued Monday after the parties worked through the weekend.

Download the press release here. (PDF)

Categories: Unions

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