By Lawrence Goun and Biko Koenig
Workers at Tom Cat Bakery sharpened their resistance against company attacks this summer with a solidarity BBQ in front of the Queens-based factory. Tom Cat's private equity owners, Ancor and Merit Capital, are seeking devastating health care cuts and other takeaways from workers in contract negotiations with the Bakery Union. Dual-card IWW members are leading a struggle to build long-term power and secure a good contract, after beating back a de-certification attempt from a mob-dominated union earlier this year.
“These out-of-town investors already have their mansions, while we barely can support our families. The cuts they're demanding are impossible and we're united against them,” said Marino Aquino, a night-shift packer at Tom Cat and a member of the IWW. “Our unity is our strength and we will keep the pressure on until justice prevails.”
SAN FRANCISCO (July 18, 2014) – The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) today issued the following statement:
After several days of ongoing talks, both parties will break from negotiations next Monday and Tuesday in order for the ILWU to convene its previously scheduled Longshore Division Caucus in San Francisco. Negotiations are scheduled to resume Wednesday.
No talks will take place July 28 to Aug. 1 so the ILWU can resume unrelated contract negotiations in the Pacific Northwest.
The previous labor contract covering nearly 20,000 longshore workers at 29 West Coast ports expired July 1. While there is no contract extension in place, both parties have pledged to keep cargo moving.
The coast-wide labor contract is between employers who operate port terminals and shipping lines represented by the PMA and dockworkers represented by the ILWU. The parties have negotiated a West Coast collective bargaining agreement since the 1930s.
For Daimler, the truck driver of the future looks something like this: He is seated in the cab of a semi, eyes on a tablet and hands resting in his lap.
Daimler demonstrated its vision Thursday along a stretch of the A14 autobahn near Magdeburg in eastern Germany, the culmination of years of innovation. It says the vehicle — called the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025, a nod to the year the carmaker hopes it will be introduced — is capable of responding to traffic while driving completely autonomously down a freeway at speeds of up to 85 kilometers per hour, or 52 miles per hour.
Click here to read more at The New York Times.Issues: Freight
Facing fresh member dissatisfaction, Teamster President James Hoffa and his Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall are headed to court to try to make contested Teamster elections a thing of the past.
Whether they succeed will determine the future of one of North America’s most powerful unions. Will it continue to manage decline and concessions, or tap the power of organized transport and distribution workers to reverse them?
The 1.25 million-member International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) is unique among the largest North American unions in that every five years it has a hotly contested rank-and-file election for the top leadership.
The right to vote is protected by a 1989 consent order, a court-approved agreement that Teamster officers reluctantly accepted to avoid a racketeering trial.
In that landmark legal case, the reform movement Teamsters for a Democratic Union intervened to oppose court-imposed government oversight of the union’s operations. Instead, to root out systemic corruption, TDU proposed that members directly elect top officers.
Previously, Teamster presidents were elected at conventions. The 1986 “election” gave incumbent Jackie Presser 99 percent of the vote.USING THE VOTE
TDU’s blueprint was largely adopted, and 1991 saw the first-ever election. Members used their new vote to elect a whole new leadership slate, headed by Ron Carey. The candidate who’d gotten 1 percent under the old system, Sam Theodus, easily won the rank-and-file vote for vice president.
The election rocked not only the Teamsters, but the labor movement. The first-ever contested election in the AFL-CIO quickly followed.
After Carey won again in 1996, defeating Hoffa, he led UPS workers out on strike in 1997. With bold demands such as 10,000 more full-time jobs (with the rallying cry, “Part-Time America Won’t Work”) and innovative tactics that evolved over the year of rank-and-file organizing leading up it, this strike started to put labor on the offensive.
That success was tragically cut short later that year when aides to Carey were found engaging in illegal campaign fundraising. The scandal paved the way for Hoffa’s rise and the old guard’s return to power.
Now the Hoffa administration has taken the first step to try to end the consent order by submitting a letter to federal judge Loretta Preska. The IBT claims the consent order is no longer needed because the union is reformed.
TDU agrees that mob control of the union has diminished—precisely because the right to vote has given members a tool to tackle corruption and hold leaders accountable.
Other unions have membership elections in their constitution, but what makes the Teamsters unique is independently supervised elections, coupled with an organized national reform movement of leaders, activists, and members. It’s TDU that gives life to members’ right to vote.‘GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT’
Hoffa and Hall claim their goal is to end government oversight. But their real target is the one-member, one-vote elections.
To be clear, there is no “government oversight” of any of the union’s operations—not bargaining, political action, organizing, contract campaigns, budgets, salaries, or hiring and firing.
Instead, the consent order provides for an Independent Review Board, selected by IBT leadership and the U.S. Attorney, to bring corruption charges against individual officials. And it provides for the right to vote for international officers under fair election rules.
Both are important to members, but the right to vote is the most critical.
Without these rules, the current leaders will be free to change nomination requirements to make it impossible for opposition candidates to get on the ballot.
Currently, nominations for top offices require 5 percent of elected convention delegates. But the incumbents want to raise that bar.
Every challenger to Hoffa has met the 5 percent requirement, but none would have been nominated if 10 percent were required—though each, once nominated, ran a competitive race and forced national debates on the union’s direction.
Teamster leaders have already amended the IBT constitution so the board can write its own rules for any election and pick the election supervisor. For now, these amendments are trumped by the provisions of the consent order.
But if the consent order were lifted, these safeguards would go out the window.
So would election rules that partially level the playing field by providing opposition campaigners’ access to employer parking lots, “battle pages” of campaign material in the Teamster magazine, and fair rules for delegate elections.WHY NOW?
Hoffa and Hall have good reason to make this move now. Hoffa, who won reelection in 2011 with 59 percent of the vote, faces a different political outlook as the 2015-2016 campaign approaches.
Over the past year, the majority of members in the freight industry, UPS Freight, and UPS have all voted to reject concessions in their contracts—only to have them imposed by Hoffa and Hall.
The Vote No movement helped launch a new formation, Take Back Our Union, that’s already organizing meetings to plan for the 2016 election.
Hoffa won most of the UPS locals in 2011. But his prospects among that group of 250,000 Teamsters look much dimmer today. And dissatisfaction is not limited to just UPS and trucking Teamsters: Hoffa’s policy of retreat has led to defeats and lackluster organizing in warehousing, delivery, public service, airlines, and other Teamster fields.
Take Back Our Union has started to forge a coalition of the opposition forces in the union, bringing together TDU, which backed New York Local 805 President Sandy Pope in the 2011 election, and other local officials who ran on a separate slate.
Combined, these contenders won 41 percent last time—and that was before this wave of membership anger at concessions.
Once again, members are gearing up to take the wheel of the union.Issues: Hoffa Watch
Ship’s seafaring crew in Long Beach, CA organize picket line to protest outlaw employer; request support from the ITF and ILWU
Twenty-one crewmembers serving on the Liberian-flagged vessel Vega-Reederei have organized a picket line at the Port of Long Beach, CA, to protest their employer’s failure to pay workers for up to four months of back wages. Abuses of seafaring crew are common in the global shipping industry, and workers often hail from low-wage counties with few rights.
The crew of mostly Filipino nationals is seeking assistance from the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and support from dockworkers belonging to the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU).
A German company, Arend Bruegge, is listed as the ship’s operator, and is said to owe workers more than $150,000 in unpaid wages. The company has a history of failing to pay crewmembers on other vessels operated by the Hamburg-based firm.
Earlier today, desperate crewmembers contacted Stefan Mueller-Dombois, an Inspector for the International Transport Workers’ Federation in Southern California. The crew pleaded for the ITF to help because workers’ families living in the Philippines haven’t received any wages in months and are going hungry.
The ITF has been working with ship operator to reach a settlement, but as of 2:30pm Pacific Time, company officials were refusing to negotiate with Mueller-Dumbois, and threatened to leave the berth without paying crewmembers.
The ship is carrying a cargo of wind turbines. At the ship’s previous port of call in Korea, the company made promises to pay but failed to do so. Workers were told that complaints about the failure to pay would cause the company to replace them with a Chinese crew.
Eleven of the ship’s seafaring crew say the company has kept them on board the ship beyond the original commitment, and are demanding to be repatriated and flown home to the Philippines immediately.
“It appears that this company has done this before by refusing to pay crewmembers on the ships they operate, “ said ITF West Coast Coordinator Jeff Engels. “The crew are seeking justice and support from other maritime workers in the area.” Engels said that ITF Inspector Stefan Mueller-Dumbois is contacting the ship’s owners to seek immediate payment for the crewmembers – and a written agreement that will prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.
“Our job is to help crewmembers from being exploited by powerful, international corporations that own and operate these vessels,” said Engels.
July 5, 2014 marks the 80th anniversary of “Bloody Thursday”, July 5, 1934, a day that shook San Francisco. The events that day inflamed the working people of San Francisco and the Bay Area. They made the great General Strike of 1934 inevitable and they set in motion a movement that would transform the western waterfronts.
On May 9, 1934 West Coast longshoremen struck, shutting down docks along 2000 miles of coastline, including all its major ports: Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, San Francisco, San Pedro, San Diego. The issues included wages and hours: the longshoremen wanted $1 an hour, the six hour day and the thirty hour week. They wanted union representation. But above all they demanded the abolition of the hated shape-up and its replacement with a union hiring hall. The strike would last 83 days.
The San Francisco longshoremen called the Embarcadero “the slave market” – there, each morning at 8 am, workers would gather, as often as not desperate for any opportunity to work. Many more would gather than were needed, some would be skilled, “regular men”, others transients, then all grades in between. The hiring boss, the petty dictator on the dock, would stand before them; he could take any man he wanted, reject anyone he pleased. This was an ancient system. Henry Mayhew, the well-known Victorian investigator, wrote this of hiring at the gates to the London docks in1861: it was “a sight to sadden the most callous, to see thousands of men struggling for only a day’s hire; the scuffle being made the fiercer by the knowledge that hundreds out of the number there assembled left to idle the day in want.” The shape-up was abolished in London in 1891, in the aftermath of the great 1889 dockers’ strike there, but was still in place in 1934 in New York, also San Francisco, where the shippers insisted conditions demanded it. Profits depended, they explained, on the fast turn-around, but the sea, the tides, and traffic limited planning. Still, “the ship must sail on time”; they clung tenaciously to the system, casual labor and the shape-up. The leaders of the dockers’ union, the racket-ridden International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), in 1934 very much in the doldrums, agreed. Joe Ryan, ILA “President for Life” supported it, even after World War II. The men despised it, a precarious, cruel system that placed them at the bottom of the hierarchy of industrial work.
The director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) is to leave his post in August after four years in the role.
In a letter to colleagues on Friday, Josh Gotbaum said, as he had three children in college, he had promised his wife he would return to the private sector, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.
Click here to read more at Asset International.Issues: Labor Movement
Amazon.com Inc., which wants to deliver packages by drone, asked aviation regulators for permission to expand testing outside its research laboratory.
“We are rapidly experimenting and iterating on Prime Air inside our next generation research and development lab in Seattle,” the company said in a letter posted on a government website yesterday. Amazon is based in that city.
Click here to read more at Transport Topics.
Late Friday, the Overland Park-based less-than-truckload carrier (Nasdaq: YRCW) and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters announced that the union-nominated and the company-approvedDavidson will join YRC's nine-member board.
Davidson will fill the seat Harry Wilsonvacated in March. Wilson, the chairman and CEO of New York-based MAEVA Group LLC, resigned from the board after seeing the company through a financial restructuring in early 2014. Between February 2013 and March 2014, YRC paid MAEVA $12.5 million for its services.
Click here to read more at The Kansas City Business Journal.Issues: Freight
SAN FRANCISCO (July 11, 2014) – The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) today issued the following statement:
The parties have resumed negotiations following a three-day break during which the ILWU was engaged in an unrelated negotiation in the Pacific Northwest. We plan on negotiating into the weekend. Although there is currently no contract in place, both parties have pledged to keep cargo moving.
The PMA and ILWU are negotiating a new contract covering nearly 20,000 longshore workers at 29 West Coast ports.
“Two maritime unions said Monday they’ve launched a radio ad campaign to focus attention on what they say are safety and environmental risks to the Columbia and Willamette rivers brought on by a lockout of union dockworkers by two grain companies.
The ads, paid for by the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots and the Inlandboatmen’s Union, say United Grain Corp. at the Port of Vancouver and Columbia Grain in Portland are “using inexperienced crews to move cargo” on the Columbia and Willamette rivers.
United Grain and Columbia Grain “have called in a fly-by-night tug and towboat operator using questionable equipment and tugboat personnel with no prior experience on the Columbia and Willamette rivers,” Alan Cote, president of the Inlandboatmen’s Union, said in a news release. “Unqualified boat operators jeopardize the safety of commerce on our rivers and invite an environmental disaster.”
The maritime unions say they’re joined by environmentalists in running the ad campaign, which also urges listeners to sign an online petition, www.SaveNWrivers.com.”
SAN FRANCISCO (July 7, 2014) – The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) today issued the following statement:
The parties have agreed to take a 72-hour break from negotiations on a new coast-wide contract while the ILWU attends to an unrelated negotiation taking place in the Pacific Northwest. During this break, starting at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, July 8, through 8 a.m. on Friday, July 11, the parties have agreed to extend the previous six-year contract, which expired last week. The PMA and ILWU are negotiating a new contract covering nearly 20,000 longshore workers at 29 West Coast ports.