Mike Walden used a baseball metaphor in describing the introduction Thursday of federal legislation that would, if passed, eliminate pension cut provisions that are now law and could impact more than a million people in upcoming years.
“This is just spring training for a rally in the future,” said Walden, a retired Teamster truck driver from Cuyahoga Falls and head of a Northeast Ohio organization dedicated to repealing major parts, if not all, of the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014. The law allows financially troubled multiemployer pension plans to cut benefits to current retirees, primarily union.
Click here to read more at the Akron Beacon Journal.Issues: Pension and Benefits
June 18, 2015: Some 150 retired and active Teamsters stood proud at the Capitol as the Keep our Pension Promises Act was introduced in the US House and Senate. Frank Bryant, a UPS retiree from North Carolina, addressed the crowd, following remarks by Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont).
The bill is a product of efforts by the Teamster pension movement and our allies like the Pension Rights Center, that have been working tirelessly for the past year to head off pension cuts in the Central States Fund and a number of smaller Teamster funds in the northeast.
The proposed law would repeal the pension cut law passed as a sneaky amendment to the budget bill last December, and would provide a “legacy fund” within the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) to help participants in pension funds where companies have left the pension system because of bankruptcy, deregulation, or moving offshore.
The PBGC is supposed to protect workers’ earned pensions, but is woefully inadequate and underfunded. The proposed law would close certain corporate tax loopholes to ensure funding.
“The fight for this bill is just starting,” said Butch Lewis who attended today and was also part of a delegation that visited the offices of Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman. “We will keep building the pension movement and we will be back in DC in force to make sure this legislation comes to a vote.”
Retirees and Teamsters came to Washington from a number of states, many bringing signs, banners and T-Shirts from their committees. The Pension Rights Center provided full support and expertise, and will continue to do so.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) has supported and provided organizational back up for this movement, and will continue to do so until victory is won, and pensions are protected.
The International Union, which helped fund the lobbying group which wrote the pension-cut law, issued a statement today supporting the Keep our Pension Promises Act. The trustees of the Central States Pension Fund – Teamster officials and management alike – supported the pension-cut bill and continues on its website to attack the movement to protect pensions.Issues: Pension and Benefits
June 18, 2015: Teamster retirees from across the Midwest and South at the US Senate this morning to support the Keep Our Pension Promises Act.Issues: Pension and Benefits
Ohio congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, Bernie Sanders offer new legislation to repeal private pension cut provisions
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, are introducing legislation Thursday to repeal pension cut provisions in the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014.
The act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in December, would allow significant pension payment cuts to hundreds of thousands of retirees — primarily retired union members — covered by troubled and severely underfunded multiemployer plans.
Click here to read more at the Akron Beacon Journal.Issues: Pension and Benefits
In what could be an explosive decision, the California Labor Commission has found that a driver for Uber in San Francisco is an employee of the company. That’s from aruling filed in state court on Tuesday and first reported by Reuters. It’s pretty damning. “Defendants hold themselves out as nothing more than a neutral technological platform, designed simply to enable drivers and passengers to transact the business of transportation,” the commission writes. “The reality, however, is that Defendants are involved in every aspect of the operation.”
The driver, Barbara Berwick, has been awarded roughly $4,000 in unpaid expenses, plus interest. Uber is appealing the ruling. The company didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Click here to read more at Slate.Issues: Labor Movement
June 16, 2015: Teamsters are converging on the Capitol on June 18 to support the “Keep our Pension Promises Act” which will be introduced that day in the US Senate and House.
By cars, vans, and busses retirees and active Teamsters form North Carolina, Ohio, New York, Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, and other states will stand with Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur and Senator Bernie Sanders, who are the initial sponsors of the act.
If you want to be present this Thursday morning, you can RSVP to the Pension Right Center and you can contact TDU at 313-842-2600 for all the details.
Also present will be union leaders and advocates for retirees and seniors, who are joining together behind this bill.
The Keep our Pension Promises Act would provide protection for workers who earned pensions through a lifetime of honest work and now face cuts that may be imposed under the pension-cut law that sneaked through last December as an amendment to the federal budget.
“This is about protecting promises made to thousands of retirees and active workers,” said Mike Walden who will be there from Akron, Ohio. “We’re there to make our voices felt, and to visit the offices of our representatives to urge them to get on board.“
The Keep our Pension Promises Act would provide relief through a “legacy fund” in the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
Millions of workers in many pension plans may be affected by cuts that could hit soon. The largest group is the Central States Fund, but there are a number of Teamster funds in the New York and New Jersey area that are also under the gun.
Here is the press advisory from the Senator.Pension and Benefits
A union representing Walt Disney World performers is challenging a policy forbidding them from revealing online or in print media what characters they portray.
The company has long discouraged its entertainers from advertising which princesses or animated animals they play in the theme parks.
Click here to read more at the Orlando Sentinel.Issues: Labor Movement
FedEx Corp. has agreed to pay $228 million to settle long-running lawsuits in California that challenged the status of workers at its Ground unit, who are classified as contractors by the company. The company’s announcement involves litigation that is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Plaintiffs in that case alleged that the workers at FedEx Ground were employees because of the extent of the company’s control over their activities.
Click here to read more at Transport Topics.
President Barack Obama's administration could soon increase wages for millions of American workers by doubling the salary levels that would require employers to pay overtime. The bold move, to be discussed later this week, would not need approval from the Republican-controlled Congress.
The Labor Department could propose the rule as early as this week; it would raise the current overtime threshold of $23,660 to an expected range of $45,000 to $52,000, Politico reported Monday.
Click here to read more.Issues: Labor Movement
The National Transportation Safety Board on June 8 issued a recommendation that collision avoidance systems be standard equipment on all new cars and commercial trucks. The recommendation was contained in a new NTSB investigative report, “The Use of Forward Collision Avoidance Systems to Prevent and Mitigate Rear-End Crashes,” that said deployment of the technology would prevent or lessen the severity of rear-end crashes, mitigating more than 80% of the 1,700 deaths and half-million injuries each year in the United States.
Click here to read more at Transport Topics.
The ILWU Library and Archives website is a digital collection of the some the materials in the ILWU library. The website allows you to browse through digital version of the ILWU Dispatcher newspaper, Voice of the Federation, and the Waterfont Worker.
June 4, 2015: Teamster and employer negotiators met today to exchange initial proposals, with bargaining set to begin on June 10. The union’s proposals are available here. The contract expires on August 31.
The union’s initial proposals cover a number of important working conditions and competitive rates issues (Article 22), but not proposals on wages, pension, health benefits and other monetary issues. Those will be addressed later in bargaining.
Bargaining has barely started but Hoffa is already putting politics ahead of the contract.
The union committee chosen by James Hoffa and Carhaul Director Kevin Moore omits leaders from important locals, including Local 89, one of the largest carhaul locals, and St Louis Local 604. The leaders of those locals – Fred Zuckerman and John Thyer – are candidates on the Teamsters United slate.
Some 300 carhaul members joined a Teamsters United conference call last month to discuss the contract and upcoming election, and to form a national contract solidarity network among carhaulers.
Get involved in the fight to save our contract and our union.Issues: Carhaul
Emboldened after winning a big Congressional majority last year, Republicans are taking another swipe at Social Security. Hundreds of retirees recently rallied in Cleveland to raise the alarm.
Among the new Republican majority’s first legislative acts were attacking Social Security payments to disabled recipients—an attempt to split retirees from disabled workers—and weakening pension protections.
Click here to read more at Labor Notes.
Issues: Pension and Benefits
June 4, 2015: The movement to stop the pension cuts in the Central States Plan – and for positive alternatives – is growing and spreading out. Last weekend, hundreds of Teamsters turned out for meetings in Charlotte and Greensboro, North Carolina.
Watch the news report from the NBC affiliate. The interviewee is Karen Friedman, Policy Director of the Pension Rights Center.
Issues: Pension and Benefits
Don Watson was a quiet and determined ILWU activist who spent his life gently but effectively leading progressive organizing efforts in the union he loved. Watson died peacefully at his home in Oakland, CA on March 25. “He was content in the knowledge that he had a long and good life, had touched the lives of many people, and had contributed to making the world a better place,” said his wife Jane Colman.
A childhood in New York City during the Great Depression allowed him to witness struggles by labor organizers, including those by his father, Morris Watson, a respected writer for the Associated Press who organized newspaper workers and helped found the American Newspaper Guild before being fired. Watson’s termination became a high-profile test-case that helped establish the constitutionality of the National Labor Relations Act.
Like millions of Americans during the Depression, Morris Watson was attracted to left-wing political movements, and met Harry Bridges in 1942, who persuaded the family to relocate to San Francisco where Morris became founding editor of the new ILWU Dispatcher newspaper.
At sea with left-wing politics
As a teenager, Don recalled hearing Harry Bridges tell stories about his exciting times on the high seas, which encouraged Watson to join the merchant marine when he was still in high school. He traveled the world and met many trade unionists, including some who belonged to the Communist Party, whom he found to be especially impressive.
They encouraged him to join their ranks and get involved in the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union in 1948. That was a tumultuous year, with his union joining ILWU members in a waterfront strike challenged by the Taft- Hartley Act which had had just been enacted to limit union power. Also that year, third-party candidate Henry Wallace ran against Democrat Harry Truman and Republican Thomas Dewey, in an effort backed passionately by Don Watson, other Communist Party members and some liberals that received only a handful of votes on election day.
The late 1940’s and early 50’s were hard times for Watson and other leftwing activists, with the U.S. government waging a Cold War with the Soviet Union, fighting the Chinese in Korea, while anti-Communist hysteria became a national preoccupation. Watson was eventually barred from working at sea because of his political views, a process known as “screening” that was administered
by the U.S. Coast Guard. The practice was eventually ruled unconstitutional, but back then he and his supporters did their best to resist by organizing daily protests at the Coast Guard headquarters. Watson was drafted to fight in the Korean War but the Army first ordered him to admit that his father had been a member of the Communist Party – which Don refused to do – resulting in a questionable discharge
that was finally classified as “Honorable” years later.
At home in the ILWU
While still a members of the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union (MCS), Watson supported an ILWU organizing effort in 1955 to help his fellow MCS members find a safe haven in the Longshore union. That effort was blocked by government officials who were fearful and hostile toward left-wing members and leaders at both the MSC and ILWU.
Watson and many other U.S. seafarers soon found themselves “screened out” of work by the Coast Guard. Watson found temporary work as a rivet-catcher in a metal shop. It was during this period of upheaval that Watson was treated kindly by an Assistant Dispatcher at Local 34 who got him a permit card that allowed him to work on the docks. Within a year he became a member of the Marine Clerks Union – the same year that he quit the Communist Party after learning of mass killings in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin’s brutal regime that crushed democratic dissent inside the USSR and surrounding nations, including Hungary.
Retaining his left-wing values of social justice and worker rights, Watson operated with a persistent but low-key approach that won respect from his co-workers. He was elected to serve on the Local 34 Executive Board for 24 years and served as Chairman for 19.
Having experienced harsh treatment from reactionary politicians during the 1950’s, Watson understood the importance of supporting progressive political leaders. He became active in the ILWU’s Northern California District Council and served as the ILWU’s lobbyist in Sacramento. He joined the Young Democrats and the California Democratic Council – voice of the Democratic= Party’s liberal wing that supported civil and labor rights. In 1962 he was elected Vice Chair of the ILWU’s West Bay Legislative Committee. Within Local 34, he joined a group of reform activists who backed Jim Herman to replace a leader who resisted admitting African Americans and left-wing seamen to the Local, according to Watson.
Farm worker organizing
In the 1960’s, Watson began volunteering to help the United Farm Workers union (UFW), and encouraged the ILWU to support the UFW in every way possible, including actions on the docks and conducting research to help UFW lawyers in Salinas. With help from Herb Mills and Whitey Kelm of Local 10, he created a “$5-a-month club” to generate donations for the UFW. Watson also organized annual holiday drives, and during the 1970’s organized a monthly labor caravan that travelled from the
Bay Area to the UFW headquarters in Delano. By this time, Watson was volunteering most of his time to help the UFW and working only 800 hours a year on the waterfront.
UFW solidarity repaid
When longshore workers and clerks went on strike in 1971 for 134 days, Bay Area ILWU leaders chose Don Watson to serve as Secretary of the Joint Longshore Strike Assistance Committee. Watson was able to secure help from the United Farmworkers Union which organized massive food caravans to help striking longshore families the Bay Area.
Documenting labor history
Beginning in 1975, Watson began documenting the history of agricultural workers in California, going back to the 1930’s. In 1980 he co-founded the Bay Area Labor History Workshop to get feedback and support for himself and others who were documenting labor history without formal academic training. He ended up writing many papers and made presentations at meetings of historians, including the Southwest Labor History Association. He also supported the Labor Archives and Research Center at San Francisco State University and served on their Advisory Board. During his final years, Watson struggled to collect his own papers and write his own personal history, making frequent trips to the ILWU International offices in San Francisco where he spent time in the Library, Archives and Communications Department.
Fortunately, Watson’s experiences and views were captured in detail thanks to an oral interview he conducted with historian Harvey Schwartz that was published in the 2009 book, Solidarity Stories. In that interview, Watson said he was thankful for the excellent health and pension benefits enjoyed by Longshore workers and Marine Clerks – but noted other workers haven’t been so lucky:
“We’re all facing ongoing privatization, deregulation, huge tax cuts for the wealthy along with growing state and national deficits – all of which hurts working people,” said Watson, who remained committed to reaching out to non-union workers and helping them organize – because he believed it would benefit both the “unorganized” and ILWU members alike.
During the mid-1990’s, Watson became interested in a San Francisco labor history project that aimed to honor waterfront workers by preserving a vintage crane on the City’s waterfront. Watson served Secretary for many years on the Copra Crane Labor Landmark Association (CCLLA), an effort now being overseen by the Port of San Francisco.
As a pensioner, Watson remained active in his union through the Bay Area Pensioners club and continued to be active in community politics, including a feisty campaign that pushed for labor and environmental standards in the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico (NAFTA). In that struggle against powerful corporate interests backing NAFTA, Watson joined with labor and community activists who challenged local politicians, including Congress member Nancy Pelosi, who ended up voting for the controversial corporate trade pact.
Running and romance
In the late 1970’s, Watson resumed an interest in long-distance running that started on his high school track team. He joined several Bay Area running clubs, including the Berkeley Running Club after moving to Oakland in 1982, where he met his wife Jane Colman, with whom he shared the love of running. They ran many races together, including 5 kilometers, half-marathons and the Pikes Peak Ascent. He told ILWU Librarian Robin Walker that one of his greatest experiences involved visiting South Africa for the Comrades Marathon. After he stopped running in 2005, Watson remained active by walking in races, taking photographs and encouraging the runners. A serious bout with scoliosis left him hunched over with limited mobility, but he never complained and remained active until his final days.
Watson leaves behind his wife Jane Colman, sisters Priscilla Laws and Wendy Watson, stepchildren Caitlin and Roland McGrath, nieces, nephews and many friends who will miss his sweet smile and gentle manner. A celebration of his life will be held at 1pm on Saturday, May 23 at the Local 34 Hall in San Francisco. Donations in Don Watson’s memory can be made to the Labor Archives and Research Center, J. Paul Leonard Library, Room 460, San Francisco State University, 1630 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132.
June 3, 2015: Candidates for International Union office will be officially nominated at the Teamster Convention next year. Now you can find out how many Convention Delegates will be elected in your Local Union.
Every Local Union will hold an election for delegates to the Teamster Convention where International Union candidates will be officially nominated.
The Election Supervisor has just announced how many delegates each local union will elect. You can now find out how many delegates your local will elect.
The exact dates for Convention Delegate nominations and elections in each local will be available by September 30, the deadline for all locals to publish their Local Union plan; members will have 15 days to make comments on the proposed Plan.
Presently, only a few seasonal food-processing locals in the West have published their official Convention Delegate election plans.
Check out this timeline for the election of delegates and IBT officers. And this information on delegate elections. (TDU delegate leaflet)
Docker union leaders from around the world – including ILWU officers – met in Perth, Australia for a strategy meeting in May that included a protest against Chevron for failing to respect workers’ rights in Western Australia.
“Chevron is based in California, but communities back home and around the world are having the same kinds of problems from this company,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath, who spoke at a rally in front of the New Zealand Embassy in Perth. McEllrath joined Vice-Presidents Ray Familathe and Wesley Furtado, and Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams who attended the protest organized by the Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF). The protest took place on May 12 during a meeting of the ITF Dockers Section in Perth.
Chevron is deeply involved with natural gas projects in both Australia and New Zealand. Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) members say they’ve been treated unfairly at Chevron’s massive “Gorgon” project, located off the country’s northwest shore. Chevron intends to collect gas from offshore wells then liquefy the product on Barrow’s Island for export using giant LNG tankers. The effort was first estimated to cost $37 billion but exploded to $54 billion because of cost overruns. Instead of cooperating with the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), Chevron has refused to respect longstanding union contract standards
and filed a $20 million lawsuit against MUA members over a health and safety dispute.
In New Zealand, Chevron and a partner company were recently awarded lucrative offshore exploration permits. Concerns among members from the Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) are running high that Chevron may try to use similar tactics against them.
National Secretary Joe Fleetwood said New Zealand maritime workers are not welcoming Chevron, based on the company’s track record in Australia. He presented a letter to New Zealand consulate officials on May 12 that explained worker concerns about Chevron.
“We support responsible drilling with high safety standards, but we don’t support companies that have an antiworker agenda and bad environmental record.”
Problems in the U.S.
At Chevron’s massive U.S. refinery complex in Richmond, CA, the company hasgained notoriety for endangering workers, surrounding residents and the environment. A huge explosion and fire engulfed the refinery in August of 2012, nearly killing 10 refinery workers and sending over 10,000 residents to local hospitals with concerns about respiratory problems. Federal and state investigators found Chevron was at fault for the explosion because the company had been cutting corners on safety. After Richmond City Council members expressed similar concerns and asked the company to pay their fair share of local taxes, Chevron launched a $3 million political campaign to replace independent City Councilmembers with the company’s hand-picked candidates. The takeover attempt failed after voters rejected all of Chevron’s candidates.
On May 27, Bay Area ILWU members protested on the morning of Chevron’s annual shareholder meeting at company’s corporate headquarters in San Ramon, CA. ITF President Paddy Crumlin,
who also heads the Maritime Union of Australia, conveyed his thanks to ILWU members for their solidarity – and displeasure at Chevron for failing to reach terms with Australian workers;
a struggle he vowed to continue.
“We will keep seeking a settlement with Chevron – while we continue organizing workers at home and abroad to mount a fight – if that’s what the company wants.”
- #ResistenciaMovistar: A Strike Of This Century In Spain
- IWW Statement On Baltimore Uprising And Police Repression
- Amtrak Wreck Could Have Been Prevented
- May Day Celebrated Around The World
- Staughton Lynd Reviews New Saul Alinsky Biography
- Call To Support Migrant Workers In Europe
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