August 11, 2014: Over 200 Teamsters turned out on August 9 in Louisville, Kentucky and Dayton, Ohio to hear Fred Zuckerman, Sandy Pope, Tim Sylvester and Tony Jones talk about the growing coalition to take back our union in 2016.
The meetings were sponsored by Take Back Our Union.
The Dayton meeting drew Teamsters from Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Akron, Columbus and Lima, Ohio, as well as Dayton, and a few who made the trip from Indianapolis.
A packed hall in Louisville showed their agreement with the speakers that our union is going in the wrong direction and it’s time for a change. Members from Local 89 were the largest contingent but there were also Teamsters attending from Atlanta Local 728, Chattanooga Local 519, Paducah, Kentucky Local 236, Owensboro, Kentucky Local 215 and a carload from Columbus, Ohio Local 413.
Each speaker spoke to aspects of what it will take to win: a grassroots mobilization, getting delegates elected at the local level, member-to-member contact and info distribution, fundraising, organizing ongoing campaign committees, local meetings, and so much more.
Sandy Pope, the president of New York Local 805, ran for General President in 2011 and has a long record of experience and service to our union. Fred Zuckerman, president Louisville Local 89, was an outspoken critic of concessions in the recent UPS contract. Tony Jones is the president of Columbus Local 413; he and Zuckerman ran for International vice president in 2011. Tim Sylvester is the president of New York Local 804, where he and an active membership won the best UPS contract supplement in the country.
Swift Transportation’s 20,000 workers haul goods in almost 14,000 big-rig trucks that travel the interstates and back roads of the United States every day. The company’s performance is closely tied to the nation’s economy, which has been looking increasingly sunny lately.
So it was surprising last month when Swift’s stock plummeted nearly 18 percent in a single day. The tumble came for an odd reason. It wasn’t because there was too little business — but rather, too much.
“We were constrained by the challenging driver market,” the company said in its quarterly earnings announcement. “Our driver turnover and unseated truck count were higher than anticipated.”
In other words, Swift had plenty of customers wanting to ship goods. But in a time of elevated unemployment, it somehow couldn’t find enough drivers to take those goods from Point A to Point B. How is that possible? The reasons for that conundrum tell us a great deal about what has been ailing American workers and why a full-throated economic recovery has been so slow in coming.
Consider this: The American Trucking Associations has estimated that there was a shortage of 30,000 qualified drivers earlier this year, a number on track to rise to 200,000 over the next decade. Trucking companies are turning down business for want of workers.
Yet the idea that there is a huge shortage of truck drivers flies in the face of a jobless rate of more than 6 percent, not to mention Economics 101. The most basic of economic theories would suggest that when supply isn’t enough to meet demand, it’s because the price — in this case, truckers’ wages — is too low. Raise wages, and an ample supply of workers should follow.
But corporate America has become so parsimonious about paying workers outside the executive suite that meaningful wage increases may seem an unacceptable affront. In this environment, it may be easier to say “There is a shortage of skilled workers” than “We aren’t paying our workers enough,” even if, in economic terms, those come down to the same thing.
The numbers are revealing: Even as trucking companies and their trade association bemoan the driver shortage, truckers — or as the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls them, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers — were paid 6 percent less, on average, in 2013 than a decade earlier, adjusted for inflation. It takes a peculiar form of logic to cut pay steadily and then be shocked that fewer people want to do the job.
Millions of able-bodied Americans need work, yet there aren’t enough middle-income jobs for them. That is especially the case for men without advanced educations, who have seen their wages depressed over the last few decades. Trucking would seem to be an excellent option.
It’s not an ideal job for everyone. There is no question that trucking is hard work, necessitating long hours and longer stretches away from family. But that’s why it is well compensated, at least in comparison to other jobs not requiring college degrees. The average pay for a long-haul trucker is just shy of $50,000, according to the A.T.A., and an experienced trucker with a good safety record can make significantly more than that. The work typically offers lavish benefits that are increasingly rare for nonunion blue-collar employees.
The job can be learned fairly quickly. In some industries, companies complain of shortages of workers for jobs that require years of advanced training, like certain engineering specialties. Trucking is not one of those industries, however.
A person can get a commercial driver’s license after a course that can be as brief as six weeks of intensive study. Moreover, there were actually fewer truckers working last year (1.585 million) than five years earlier (1.673 million). Some of the missing workers could presumably be coaxed back into the industry if the money were right.
To be sure, the trucker-shortage picture is more complex than this, notes Bob Costello, the A.T.A.’s chief economist. He says these complications make a straightforward story of truckers simply being underpaid not quite fair.
For example, new safety requirements mean that individual truckers drive fewer miles than a decade ago: An average long-haul truck can now cover 8,000 miles a month, down from almost 11,000 in 2007, according to the trade association. This helps account for downward wage pressure. And the trucking companies themselves are typically working on thin profit margins and serving customers on long-term contracts, which means that if they simply raised pay sharply to recruit more truckers, they could end up losing money.
But every industry has its special challenges, and the trucker shortage — and falling inflation-adjusted wages over the last decade — are part of a bigger story.
The reasons are the subject of endless debate, and you can pick the one you prefer to emphasize: technological change, globalization or a decline of union power. But wages of workers without advanced skills have been under downward pressure in the United States and across the developed world over the last generation. The deep recession and slow recovery have only made the trend more pronounced.
That has led to a mind-set in which executives sometimes think of line workers as merely resources to be tapped at the lowest price. Companies have been able to keep wages low: It’s hard to demand a raise when your colleagues are being laid off or there is a long line of job seekers. Some corporations may have come to view this as a natural state of affairs.
By now, wage income is as low a percentage of gross domestic product as it has been since 1947, while corporate profits are at postwar highs. These are two sides of the same coin. Money that once accrued to workers now goes to shareholders.
Yet there are some indications that this state of affairs may not last: The shortage of truckers is one piece of evidence that the balance of power is shifting. In recent earnings calls, executives from companies as varied as JetBlue and the Dr Pepper Snapple Group have expressed worry about rising wage pressures.
The trucker shortage is already resulting in higher wages in parts of that industry. There have been $2,000 signing bonuses from companies looking to poach truckers and, as Kevin P. Knight of Knight Transportation mentioned in that trucking company’s latest earnings call, per-mile pay increases have been working out to 5 to 10 percent jumps in driver pay.
Executives may bemoan higher pay for workers because it could cut profit margins. But after a generation in which the median American household has seen flat to declining inflation-adjusted income, wage increases are a welcome corrective. When workers begin to have more leverage in salary negotiations, it is a sign of an improving economy, not a liability that businesses should be complaining about.
BALTIMORE, MD - Workers at Jimmy Johns have announced their membership in the IWW Jimmy John's Workers Union and have asked management to recognize their union and negotiate. This decision was prompted by the actions of Mike Gillett and Danny Dolch, owners of the Jimmy Johns franchise, who have targeted workers for their desire to have a more fair workplace.
Workers and supporters leafleted the Pratt Street location and presented demands this morning, declaring their membership in the IWW Jimmy Johns Workers Union.
The demands of the IWW Jimmy Johns Workers Union include union recognition and wage parity with their landlord hotel, the Hilton. Wage parity would bring Driver's wages to $10.75 an hour, In-shop wages to $11.34 an hour, and Persons In Charge wages to $12.34 an hour. They are also demanding that wage parity with the Hilton be maintained.
Today, workers at a Jimmy Johns franchise in Baltimore, Maryland are going public with their union - the IWW Jimmy Johns Workers Union! They will be conducting a job action today in order to win tip jars for in-shop workers. Lets give their action a little more oomph and show the bosses that we union members stick together! The store is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (EST), so lets keep the phones ringing all day if you can call in multiple times. If you only have time to make one or two calls, focus your calls during the lunch rush (11-2) and right before the Orioles games (3-4 p.m.). A couple of ground rules: no threatening, try to avoid profanity, and most importantly call often!
Here are the numbers to call:
Pratt Street store: 410-685-3377
Mike Gillett (owner): 410-404-5684
Erik (Pratt st GM): 443-925-9153
And here is what you should say (feel free to add more though!)
By the IWW Gender Equity Committee
August 1, 2014
Events of harassment, sexual violence, abuse and misogyny have transpired in many branches and projects of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). A recent job survey showed that 1 in 6 people experience sexual harassment in the workplace. This survey goes on to say that 51% of those harassed say it was from a peer, not their boss. However grassroots and radical our union's purpose, as a union made up entirely of peers, without bosses, we are not exempt from societal norms—such as the subjugation of people based on sex, gender identity, race, disability, sexual orientation and class. Women and gendered minorities within this union are intensely and disproportionately affected and victimized by these incidents which are without a doubt the rotten fruit of patriarchy.
Rio Grande Valley, South Texas IWW Declares Commitment to the Dialogue and Movement for Human Rights in Our Border Communities
Members and Friends of the IWW: It was decided at the last IWW-RGV (South Texas) General Membership meeting to affiliate ourselves with the Human Rights Coalition of South Texas. This is a declared autonomous group "committed to the dialogue and movement for Human Rights in our Border Communities".
At the close of Work People's College Europe, fellow workers show solidarity outside Tegel prison in Berlin with the prisoners union, founded there at the end of May with the involvement of our incarcerated fellow worker Oliver Rast.
The prisoners union needs solidarity now.
Write to the Speakers of the prisoners union:
Speaker: Oliver Rast, Deputy: Attila-Aziz Genc