Unions

Teamsters United Kicks Off in NYC and New England

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Tue, 03/17/2015 - 09:11

March 17, 2014: On Saturday, March 14, New York Local 804 President Tim Sylvester announced he’s running for Teamster General President.

Local 89 President Fred Zuckerman joined him and more than 200 Teamsters from across the region to launch Teamsters United, a coalition of officers and members committed to winning new Teamster leadership in 2016.

“It’s great to see people supporting a strong candidate like Tim Sylvester,” said Local 384 member Scott Black, who travelled in from Philadelphia to be at the meeting. “Our union needs new leadership that will be proactive and address problems, instead of sitting back in Washington D.C.”

Sylvester and Zuckerman then made it up to Worcester, Mass. the following day for another energized meeting with New England Teamsters.

Momentum is already building. Find out more about Teamsters United at www.teamstersunited.org

 


 

Issues: Local Union Reform
Categories: Labor News, Unions

How Unions Can Grow Stronger in the Wake of Right To Work

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Mon, 03/16/2015 - 14:30
David MobergIn These TimesMarch 16, 2015View the original piece

The late February snow fell lazily on several thousand Wisconsin union members as they gathered on the steps of the capitol building in Madison to protest what picket signs denounced as “the war on workers.” The scene was a smaller replay of the protest four years ago when tens of thousands assembled to oppose Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s Act 10. Despite a broad, fervent uprising, that act passed and stripped public employees of their collective bargaining rights.

This time, even the protesters saw little hope of defeating the latest attack by Walker and Republican legislators. The deceptively named “right-to-work” law, aimed primarily at private-sector unions, prohibits labor contracts from requiring all employees to pay their share of union dues. While the Right denounces such payments as “forced unionism,” labor says that it’s only fair for all workers to chip in, because they all benefit from the union’s work.

Click here to read more.

Issues: Labor Movement
Categories: Labor News, Unions

California FedEx Terminal Goes Teamster

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Mon, 03/16/2015 - 07:37

March 16, 2015: On March 13, FedEx drivers at the Stockton terminal voted 33-12 to join the Teamsters Union – the fourth FedEx terminal to say Yes to going union. Congrats to the new FedEx Teamsters and to Local 439 and the members who helped make it happen.

FedEx management crows about the terminals which have voted against the union, after heavy management propaganda, threats and an 80c raise, which only happened because of the employees’ interest in our union.

In November, 222 drivers at FedEx Freight in Charlotte NC voted to join Teamsters Local 71. In October, 113 drivers at FedEx Freight in South Brunswick NJ joined Teamsters Local and 47 drivers in Croydon Pa voted to join Teamsters Local 107 in Philadelphia. The drive continues at several other locals.

The drive – organized by a number of locals – shows the potential to build Teamster power in trucking.  The International union should put its full resources behind the organizing and drive this campaign to victory.

Local 439 Ex-Officers Charged

Local 439 won the drive as it shakes off the history of two former officers who were charged by the Independent Review Board (IRB) on February 27 with a pattern of embezzlement, fraud and receiving a motorcycle from an employer.  Former Secretary Treasurer Sam Rosas and former president Armando Alonzo were charged. You can read a report and the full charges.

Issues: Labor Movement
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Milwaukee Teamster Retiree Speaks Out on Pension Cuts

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Fri, 03/13/2015 - 12:40

March 13, 2015: Bob Amsden, a retired Local 200 Teamster, isn’t sitting by while Central States ponders pension cuts. He got involved in forming the Wisconsin Committee to Protect Pensions and helped to organize a recent Milwaukee meeting that attracted over 60 retirees, spouses, and active Teamsters. Amsden recently spoke with a reporter from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The story ended up being a front page article

Many active and retired Teamsters don’t know of the pending benefit cuts. You can help inform the thousands that may face cuts in the coming months. Contact local newspapers and reporters. Tell them the importance of this story. Write a letter to the editor. Use the local media to help spread the news. 

Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

UPS Moves Away From Loving Logistics

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Fri, 03/13/2015 - 07:43
Transport TopicsMarch 13, 2015View the original piece

UPS is abandoning the slogan "We Love Logistics" in favor of "United Problem Solvers" in a new advertising campaign to highlight its other services.

The message, according to UPS, communicates the company’s problem-solving ability for everyone from small businesses to the largest global firms.

"Our employees solve customer problems by using the best mix of proven analysis methods, innovative technologies and the company's extensive global transportation network. We not only move goods through all aspects of the supply chain, we also help our customers approach their business problems to uncover new top line and bottom line opportunities," Alan Gershenhorn, executive vice president and chief commercial officer, said in a statement.

“We're transforming UPS from a logistics provider to a full-service partner that offers world-class expertise and capabilities that help customers increase revenue, improve cash flow, minimize lead time and reduce cost," he said.

The campaign is debuting in media surrounding the NCAA basketball tournament. The company is the official logistics partner of the NCAA.

The ads will then appear in international markets including, China, Germany, Mexico and the United Kingdom.

"The new United Problem Solvers campaign illustrates how our more than 400,000 employees approach problems with expertise and intense commitment to help customers," Gershenhorn said. "Our essential message is to invite customers to challenge us with their business problems. We are confident that we can offer insights that will help them be more successful."

UPS ranks No. 1 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest U.S. and Canadian for-hire carriers.

Issues: UPS
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Louisville Local 89 Picket Stops Subcontracting

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Thu, 03/12/2015 - 14:42

March 12, 2015: When Teamster Local 89 investigated and found out that Holland was bringing in low-paid contractors to do city delivery work, they took creative action – and in less than one hour, YRCW management decided the contractors would leave empty.

The IBT Freight Division may want to pay attention. Holland was violating the contract, and grievances could have been filed, but quick creative action worked better. 

Local 89, led by president Fred Zuckerman, used “area standards picketing” – a legal tactic, which is not a strike, but a picket line alerting workers and the public that wages are being paid on the premises under the area standard wage.

Then Teamster members were protected from crossing the line. They were not on strike, but they had a right to respect a legal picket line.

Creativity. Bold action. Solidarity. These are some of the ingredients we need to rebuild Teamster power. Thanks, Local 89, for the lesson. 

Issues: Labor Movement
Categories: Labor News, Unions

IRB Charges former Local 439 Officers

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Thu, 03/12/2015 - 12:01

March 12, 2015: The Independent Review Board (IRB) has charged the former leaders of Stockton California Local 439 with a pattern of embezzlement, fraud and receiving a motorcycle from an employer.  Former Secretary Treasurer Sam Rosas and former president Armando Alonzo were charged.

The IRB’s 117-page report, issued February 27, is available here.

Both Rosas and Alonzo were narrowly voted out of office in December, and the newly-elected officers have taken the reins of the 4500 member local. So Rosas and Alonzo no longer hold union positions.

They are charged with a long list of financial shenanigans, including causing the union to pay for numerous meals, Oakland Raiders tickets, hotel rooms, bar bills, gift cards, liquor, electronics and more when there were no union records and/or no union purpose. Many expenses involved a spouse or friends, and meals and drinks at local restaurants. Some involved a gift of money and a Hawaiian vacation for a retired business agent, at union expense. The charges detail a pattern going back at least until 2008 .

Rosas is charged with receiving an expensive motorcycle from the owner of “Stars and Stripes” at half price.  Rosas caused the union to do some $314,000 worth of business with Stars and Stripes, which provided the union with beer mugs, T-shirts and other paraphernalia.   In 2011, an election year in Local 439 and in the IBT, with Rosas backing Hoffa, the local did a huge business in T-shirts, far more than 2010 or 2012.

The charges were referred by the IRB to IBT president James Hoffa.  Rosas has been a close associate of Rome Aloise, the head the Joint Council 7 and an International vice president.  Aloise issued campaign material last October to help Rosas in his local election; it was illegally issued on Joint Council 7 stationery.

Now, it is clear that Aloise and Hoffa will drop their friend Rosas. Loyalty flows only uphill in those circles.

Issues: Local Union Reform Files E-7000_D033938.pdf
Categories: Labor News, Unions

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

IBU - Thu, 03/12/2015 - 11:58
Categories: Unions

IWW Montreal Occupies Quebec's Minister of Family and Seniors' office building

IWW - Wed, 03/11/2015 - 16:26

On Monday, March 9th, the Industrial Worker of the World Union - Montreal (IWW / SITT), as well as several citizens, occupied Quebec's Minister of Family and Seniors' office building. This action is part of the movement against austerity measures and in our campaign for a social strike on May 1, 2015.

Today, many workers are directly confronted with the effects of budget cuts to health services, to municipal employees, to firemen and firewomen, to postal workers, to students, to workers in the private sector... Yet, resistance is organizing itself everywhere. We will not let different governments (whether conservative or liberal) and the bosses impose their anti-social measures on us. The time of a minority enriching itself on the back of an impoverished majority is finished.against austerity measures and in our campaign for a social strike on May 1, 2015.

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Categories: Unions

West Virginia Rallies against 'Right to Work'

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Wed, 03/11/2015 - 11:21
Alexandra BradburyLabor NotesMarch 11, 2015View the original piece

Four thousand union activists rallied in Charleston, West Virginia, March 7 against “right to work.” (Click here to see more photos from the rally.)

Local and national labor leaders also spoke against other threats on the agenda of the state’s Republican-controlled legislature: charter schools, mine safety rollbacks, and changes to the prevailing-wage law.

Click here to read more at Labor Notes.

 

Issues: Labor Movement
Categories: Labor News, Unions

PSR Fleet Memo for February 28 2015

IBU - Mon, 03/09/2015 - 16:03
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Categories: Unions

IWW Greece Supports Hunger Strike

IWW - Sun, 03/08/2015 - 16:36

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in Greece support and countersigned the demands of political detainees that went on hunger strike:

1. Abolition of the Anti terrorist Law Α’,article 187, Law 2001 (criminal organization).
2. Abolition of the Anti terrorist Law B’, article 187A, Law 2004 (terrorist organizations).
3. Abolition of the “hoodie law” (acts committed with concealed physical characteristics).
4. Abolition of the legal framework for type C prisons
5. The immediate release from prison of Savvas Xiros (convicted for his participation in the R.O. 17 November) on health grounds.
6. Against the criminalization of political and social relations

Solidarity is our strength

Athens 5th of March
Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) - Greece
IU 610 & 613
iwwgreece@yahoo.gr

Categories: Unions

International Working Women's Day: Portrait of Penny Pixler, Feminist and Wobbly

IWW - Sun, 03/08/2015 - 16:13

By Patrick Murfin, March Industrial Worker

I was stunned and flattered when Nicki Meier asked me to profile my old friend and Fellow Worker Penny Pixler for this special Women’s Issue of the Industrial Worker. I was a bit intimidated too. I haven’t been asked to contribute to the paper I once helped edit for over three decades, and I fretted how some might respond to a man profiling one of the leading Wobbly women of the last 40 some odd years. Mostly I fretted about how to paint a human portrait that transcended biography or a hagiographic obituary. I started and stopped half a dozen times.

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Categories: Unions

Freezing workers claim dangerous, inhumane conditions

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Fri, 03/06/2015 - 08:40
Howard FrankOsha TodayMarch 6, 2015View the original piece

Employees at an open, doorless Tannersville freight facility say they are forced to work in freezing temperatures for eight hours a day with just a 30-minute lunch and 10-minute break.

Not true, said Neovia Logistics Services and Management, the Texas-based company that runs the facility. The company says employees can take whatever discretionary breaks they need in the cold.

Yet accusations come from a number of employees willing to be identified by name. They describe forklifts operating over uneven surfaces, snow and ice, and say they are freezing and scared.

The 200-bay Tannersville facility is on Route 715, in the old Roadway structure.

Neovia’s only client is Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

It's not a warehouse — it's a "cross-dock" operation. Tractor-trailers unload freight while other trucks pick it up for the next leg of its journey. Neovia doesn't store or "warehouse" any goods at the facility.

And because of the constant stream of trucks going in and out, none of the bays have doors. The facility is completely open to the outside. So when it's cold outside, it's cold inside. Employees say the temperature in the building dropped as low as -15 recently. Snow even blows inside and accumulates on the dock.

Doorless bays are not unusual for this type of operation.

"The cross-docks tend to be in perpetual use, and there's a constant turn of trailers," Michael Caruso, Neovia vice president of operations said.

In the elements

The temperature in the building dropped to minus 15 at about 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 26, according to Facility Operations Coordinator Dawn Ezro.

“People are going off the dock into the yard to warm up. Temperatures in the structure are usually 10 degrees colder inside than outside, because the inside is covered and never gets any sunlight. And the wind comes through the skirting on the sides of the trailers," Ezro said.

Caruso, who works in Texas, says employees can warm up in the break room anytime they want.

"When temperatures drop to a standard mark, 30 degrees or lower, employees have the discretion to take frequent breaks to warm up," Caruso said.  

But employees say that is not true.

"We are not provided with any drinks, and if the weather is below 30, they give us a 10-minute break, usually at 10 a.m," forklift operator Kevin Cooper said. "And they only give us one."

Acting facility supervisor Luis Rivera said, "There are no extended break times and no hot drinks given for people to warm up."

 "I call one break at 10 o'clock, and I had to even fight for that with (the facility manager) on the days that it was super cold," Rivera said. "Break time is only 10 minutes, and that is not enough time for you to get warm enough to really work. As soon as you leave the dock, you are frozen from the drastic temperature change. You are going from a room that is 70 degrees to below zero in a matter of seconds and are expected to work another 2½ hours with no break to get warm."

Cooper said the breaks are haphazard.

"That’s a touchy subject. It depends on the loads you get. It depends on (the manager’s) attitude that day. We don't get them on days we are hammered and short-staffed," he said of the 10-minute break.

Another forklift operator, Ismale Chonna, also described the conditions.

“For the past couple of months, it’s been freezing cold, and we get no breaks," he said. "They just began giving us a 10-minute break about two weeks ago. By the time the 10 minutes are up, you are just getting warmed, and they demand we get back out.”

Two small portable, forced air heaters were brought in about three weeks ago.

“(The cold) freezes our hands. The heaters barely warm us up. (Management) only gives us three minutes in front of them,” Chonna  said. The two heaters serve between 28 to 30 workers on the day shift, he estimated.

"I've had frozen olive oil come into my office," according to Ezro. "I said, what do you want me to do with this? The canned dog food and cat food was frozen solid."

But heating is not practical, nor is it a standard industry practice, Caruso said.

Working in the cold

Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not have a specific standard that covers working in cold environments, it says employers have a responsibility to provide workers with a place of employment  free from recognized hazards, including cold stress.

OSHA doesn't have any regulations regarding working in the cold, according to Mark Stelmack, area director for OSHA’s Wilkes-Barre area office.

“We have to evaluate the situation as we see it. We do have some guidelines such as heat. There is no absolute threshold,” he said. “But if there are situations that the cold is causing injury or illness, then something would have to be done.”

OSHA’s responsible for making sure employers provide a safe and healthy environment for workers. It advises employers to prevent harmful exposure to cold temperatures and physical exertion.

Neovia's Caruso, in Texas, would not answer questions regarding how the company monitors conditions at the local facility.

Forklift perils

The bigger concern for OSHA at the Tannersville facility would be the snow on the dock floors, especially if they are working with forklifts, OSHA’s Stelmack said.

Snow blows into the facility through the open bays and cover sections of the dock where forklifts must traverse, Erzo said. “Even when there's a trailer in there, it still blows through the bays, because the skirting that’s supposed to close up the gap is worn and ripped.”

The snow creates an uneven surface for forklift operators.

There's also an ice buildup on the ground below the trucks, according to several employees. That actually raises the height of the trailer above the dock's surface.

Steel dock plates, ramps basically, are attached to the bottom of the back of the trailer. It folds out and extends to the dock, providing a smooth transition from the dock to the trailer. But the height difference causes a steeper incline for forklift operators loading and unloading the trailers.

“Our job place is unstable, Chonna said. “The dock plates lift up on us when we go into the truck.”

The ice creates other hazards.

"The trucks are sliding out from the gate," Cooper said. "There's no dock lock, and they're not even using chocks right now because of the ice buildup." Dock locks are essentially hooks that attach the trailer to the dock.

Cooper said snow is only removed from the area where trucks park when they're not at the bays.

An informal complaint was filed with OSHA on Feb. 24 regarding the cold and the forklift/surface conditions, among other things.

“Yes, I’m scared,” Chonna said, "because the forklift can slip or fall and we could possibly get hurt."

The forklifts weigh thousands of pounds and pose an additional danger. It’s powered by liquid propane, the fuel you probably use with your barbecue. If the forklift tips over, there’s a risk of the propane, a highly combustible substance, igniting.

The dock workers are all employed by a New York-based temp agency, Corporate Resource Services, Erzo said.

The building was recently purchased by Wal-Lehi LLC, according to Michelle Bisbing, director of marketing for the Pocono Mountain Economic Development Corp. The previous owner was YRC Inc., the parent company of Yellow Freight.

 

Categories: Labor News, Unions

The Demolition of Workers’ Comp

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Thu, 03/05/2015 - 14:22
Michael Grabell, ProPublica, and Howard Berkes, NPRPro PublicaMarch 5, 2015View the original piece

It was getting late that September afternoon in 2012. Whedbee, a 50-year-old derrickhand, was helping another worker remove a pipe fitting on top of the well when it suddenly blew.

Oil and sludge pressurized at more than 700 pounds per square inch tore into Whedbee’s body, ripping his left arm off just below the elbow. Coworkers jerry-rigged a tourniquet from a sweatshirt and a ratchet strap to stanch his bleeding and got his wife on the phone.

Click here to read more.

Issues: Labor Movement
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Washington Post: DC Bike Shop Organizes With The IWW

IWW - Thu, 03/05/2015 - 10:55

Why a D.C. bike shop is joining a radical socialist union: The staff of Capitol Hill Bikes organized in solidarity with the hard-fought campaign at Capital Bikeshare.

By Lydia DePillis, Washington Post
Original story: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/03/05/why-a-d-c-bike-shop-is-joining-a-radical-socialist-union/

Call it copycat unionism: Sometimes one workplace’s organizing efforts spread to another.

That at least seems to be what's happening at Capitol Hill Bikes, whose nine-person staff voted in January to form the District Bicycle Workers' Union after watching the struggles of Capital Bikeshare workers to do the same.

read more

Categories: Unions

Sen. Cory Booker Looks to Unsuspend HOS Rule 'As Soon As Possible'

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Thu, 03/05/2015 - 09:56
Eugene MuleroTransport TopicsMarch 5, 2015View the original piece

New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker plans to restore a recently suspended hours-of-service rule under review by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the senator told Transport Topics after a Senate hearing March 4.

Last year, Booker and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) strongly resisted suspending the rule, finding support from key stakeholders.

“I think we have a serious issue, as everybody concludes, about driver fatigue, and it is culpable for many accidents, and many deaths. And this seems like a reasonable evidence-based, data-based rule, and that it should not have been suspended. And I’m going to look to see as soon as possible for us to return it,” Booker said after a hearing of the Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security Subcommittee. He is the panel’s ranking member.

Booker added that he likely will wait and see what the opportunities are to proceed with restoring the HOS regulation, suggesting that could entail waiting until FMCSA presents Congress with a study about the rule’s safety impact.

Under a funding law Congress passed in December, the enforcement that drivers take off two consecutive periods of 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. during a 34-hour restart was suspended through Sept. 30. Truckers still are required to adhere to pre-July 2013 hours-of-service regulations. Before the suspension expires, FMCSA is required to complete a review of safety claims stemming from the restart restrictions.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute was selected to conduct the study, and FMCSA acting Administrator Scott Darling said he expects the study’s findings to be released later this year. 

A majority of Republicans who supported the rule's suspension are expected to push back on Booker's efforts. 

Issues: Freight
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Panamanian longshore workers join the ILWU

ILWU - Tue, 03/03/2015 - 16:27

Building solidarity: ILWU President Bob McEllrath led a solidarity delegation to Panama in September 2011, part of an ongoing effort to support maritime workers there. Dockworkers in this photo have since changed their union’s name to SINTRAPORSPA, affiliated with the ILWU Panama Canal Division and won a fouryear
contract in December that will improve pay and working conditions at Panama Ports – a subsidiary of the powerful Hong Kong-based Hutchinson Port Holdings.

Panama City, Panama – You see a lot of parked taxis in the parking lot at the Panama Ports terminal here. They’re not waiting to give rides to longshoremen. Dockworkers themselves are the drivers.

Longshore wages in Panama are so low that after a shift driving a crane, a longshoreman has to put in another shift driving a taxi, just to survive.

At Panama Ports, however, this situation has begun to change. In December the union signed an historic new contract with raises totaling more than 27% over the next four years.

One factor that made this agreement possible was support from the ILWU International Union. Because of it the Panamanian union SINTRAPORSPA, the Union of Workers at Panama Ports has decided to become the newest member of the ILWU’s Panama Canal Division. “Because we affiliated with the ILWU, things have changed,” says Alberto Ochoa, SINTRAPORSPA’s Secretary General. “Now our relationship with the company is more equal. We have greater strength at work, and our contract shows it.”

The Panama Canal Pilots, ILWU International President Bob McEllrath and Vice-President Ray Familathe began coordinating the latest affiliation agreement with Panama’s longshore workers belonging to SINTRAPORSPA.

ILWU President Bob McEllrath collaborated closely with Familathe to implement their vision of growing the Panama Division. McEllrath and Familathe traveled to Panama with fluent Spanish- speaker Greg Mitre, President of the Southern California Pensioners’ Group, to build union-to-union relationships.

“Our union is committed to defending the rights of all workers, and the Panama Division is the result of that commitment,” McEllrath says Panama Division growth

When the Panama Division was established in 2012, ILWU President Bob McEllrath explained, “With so many employers now going global, it’s critical for workers around the globe to join forces and work together.”

The division has now grown much larger, to include 2580 Panama Ports longshore workers. The symbol of the ILWU has also been updated. It used to be a map of North America with a picture of Hawaii, showing the union’s strength in U.S. and Canadian ports and in the islands. The symbol now includes a new element – a map of Panama.

According to Capt. Rainiero Salas, the Panama Canal Pilots’ Union secretary general, “The Panama Division is growing as workers see what we can gain by working together, and it’s not going to stop here.”

The new Panama Ports longshore contract didn’t come easily. Panama Ports is a subsidiary of the Hong Kong-based corporation Hutchinson Port Holdings Limited (HPH).

There was a “yellow” or company union at the terminal there for many years. Ochoa and other independent minded workers had a long history of trying to change it. Finally they organized SINTRAPORSPA. They collected over 2000 signatures on a petition for recognition, and asked for a government-administered election to certify the union as workers’ bargaining representative.

Dockworkers knew how many votes they had lined up, and challenged the transparency of the election. The Ministry of Labor claimed that 1500 workers had cast ballots against SINTRAPORSPA. The President of Panama himself, Juan Carlos Varela, is a partner in the law firm used by Panama Ports, that specializes in helping company management fight unions.

“When we went to the ministry to protest the crooked election, they did everything they could to stop us,” recalls Ramiro Cortez, another SINTRAPORSPA leader. “Nevertheless, it was obvious that we had the support of the great majority of the workers, including those who belonged to the company union.”

Ochoa and Cortez made an appeal to the ILWU, and Familathe and Mitre flew to Panama City and met with the Minister of Labor, Luis Ernesto Carles Rudy. They brought with them a letter signed by six U.S. Congress members, asking for a transparent process.

The government agreed to rerun the election, and in a fair vote SINTRAPORSPA won overwhelmingly. “The support from the ILWU was very effective in meeting with the Minister of Labor, and getting the second union election,” Cortez says. “The Panamanian authorities were never concerned about how they conducted themselves with us before that. Powerful companies, with the money at their disposal, got whatever that money could buy.”

The impact of that support was also felt in the subsequent contract negotiations, which only took a month to reach an agreement. In one meeting the company executive president even told union negotiators that he was “very concerned” at the union’s growing relationship with the ILWU. The contract itself is now the first agreement between an ILWU affiliate and Panama Ports a subsidiary of Hutchinson Port Holdings.

Danger & low pay

That agreement will have a big impact on the lives of longshoremen and their families in two areas especially – economics and safety. In Panama they call longshore pay “hunger wages.” Workers’ families live below the government’s own poverty line, and some families literally go hungry.

“That’s one reason why the company had to constantly hire new workers,” Cortez says. “Most people who got jobs here were just working while they were actually looking for better jobs somewhere else.” An agreement that raises wages therefore helps to stabilize the workforce, which can make the terminal more productive.

It also impacts safety. “Many accidents in the port could have been avoided if the workers weren’t so exhausted,” he explains. “They go in at 7AM, and leave at 8PM, and then go and drive or do some other job.”

The port does have a high accident rate, and two workers were killed a month apart at the end of last year. But the contract is also changing how safety issues are handled. In one accident, a crane lifting a container hit a six-high stack of boxes that were being stored on the dock, right next to the ship. As they fell, one hit a 22-year-old man who’d been working less than a month.

Cortez was called by the workers, and on arrival met with the crane operator who was in shock and crying, and stopped managers from interrogating him until he got representation and counseling. Then Cortez and other union leaders met with management and viewed the video of the accident. They told the company that all workers were traumatized by what happened, and should be sent home. If not, the union itself would shut down the terminal, they said. In the end, management sent the shift home with pay for the day.

When Cortez announced the agreement to the workers, they applauded. “I could have been elected president of the republic that day,” he says. “It had never happened before.”

When Familathe and Mitre explained how similar events are handled in Los Angeles, Cortez said he wanted to come and see for himself. The new union contract establishes five committees, the most important of which is safety. The union then created three new positions, and appointed a high-voltage technician to serve as secretary of the safety committee.

“The challenge is now to implement the contract and ensure that the company abides by it, so that the workers actually benefit from it,” President Ochoa emphasizes. “Before the company did what it pleased, and changed the hours, overtime, days off, and wages, whenever it wanted. Now they know we’re not on our own, by ourselves.

They didn’t look on our relationship with the ILWU with friendly eyes, because they knew you would back us up. Companies don’t want real unions because we open the eyes of the workers, and we can win respect.”

Opportunities to grow

Ochoa has another vision as well – that the Panama Division will expand. “Unions in the ports and the Canal should get together so that we can speak with one voice, and get better benefits and respect for the workers,” he says. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity to realize this dream.”

It may not be so far off. The same day Familathe and Mitre concluded the affiliation process for SINTRAPORSPA they also drove across the isthmus to meet with the union for dockers in Colon on the Atlantic, the Union of Workers at the Manzanillo International Terminal. The MIT terminal is operated by SSA Marine.

Workers told the ILWU leaders that crane operators work 8-hour days, for six days straight. For that, their pay starts at $854 a month. Here also the workers rebelled against a former union leadership they viewed as too close to the company, and elected a new slate a few months ago. “They see the improvements SINTRAPORSPA was able to make, and they want the same thing,” said Familathe.

Goals for the future

The ILWU in Panama represents the interests of workers by advocating progressive policies on wages, trade and labor rights, while effectively defending workers on the job every day. The Panama Division is supporting pilots in their fight to ensure that the huge ships that pass through the Canal every day are operated safely.

The Canal Authority has launched a huge expansion project, building new locks capable of handling giant post- Panamax container ships carrying up to 13,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU). The pilots union has criticized the government for not working closely with the union in designing the work rules and procedures for safely handling these larger ships in the new locks. It is especially concerned over a new unilateral government directive that for the first time seeks to have ships pass each other in the narrow, but widened, Culebra Cut. Previously, ships traveling in opposite directions have waited, so that only one ship at a time traverses the cut.

In October Capt. Salas spoke out publicly. “It seems very odd that the most experienced people moving ships through this highly important system have been completely ignored by its governing authority,” he charged.

“At Panama Canal Pilots (PCP), our most critical mission is ship safety, yet we’ve not been consulted.” Panamanian port and maritime unions are also concerned at the government’s efforts to decertify the union for the tugboat captains in the canal. They fear that the same legal technicalities could be used to attack the representation rights of other unions as well. That could undermine longshore unions just as they are at the point where they are changing the basic living standards of workers.

“Our main objective as a union was to make a difference in the economic status of our members, especially those who earned least, the longshoremen,”

Ochoa declares. “I’m not saying that what we’ve been able to achieve in this new contract will give us a wage that will pay for everything. But it’s a lot better than what we had before. And our responsibility as a union is to keep struggling to win better conditions, especially economic ones.”

– David Bacon

Categories: Unions

How Certain Teamster Pensions Funds May Try to Cut Pensions

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Tue, 03/03/2015 - 13:22

March 3, 2015: The Central States Pension Fund and several smaller funds in the months to come may seek to cut the earned benefits of retirees and active Teamsters. Teamster members have a right to know what the procedures would be, so that we can be better armed to fight back.

A detailed outline of the procedure and timeline is available here for review by concerned members and retirees. This outline explains that the process cannot be immediate; the law provides time for review, for the publication of opposition statements, a vote by all participants (active and retired), and in the case of large funds at least 10,000 participants, the appointment of a retiree representative.

Teamsters are not sitting back and waiting for the hammer to come down – retirees and active Teamsters are organizing now to change the law that requires the full burden of the economic meltdown to fall on working and retired Teamsters.

Last weekend the Wisconsin Committee to Protect Pensions held their latest meeting, with a representative of the North East Ohio Committee to Protect Pensions on board to speak. The meeting received a strong statement of support from Congresswoman Gwen Moore of Milwaukee. We are working to build a strong list of Congresspersons and Senators ready to make changes to the unjust law.

Dale Dobbs, a Milwaukee Local 200 retiree, explained “We’ve set up a Facebook page to share info and concerns about the possible pension cuts. We’ve got a committee organized in our area to make sure our voices are heard. We need to build a pressure campaign with committees from other areas.”

Could your pension fund move to cut benefits? This list indicates which pension funds could consider cuts. In addition to the Central States Fund, the list includes Western Pennsylvania Teamsters Fund and a large number of small funds in the New York - New Jersey area, especially locals in declining industries. 

Join us and help build the movement to defend pensions

Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

ILWU solidarity marchers fill San Pedro streets

ILWU - Tue, 03/03/2015 - 11:25

Over 6,000 ILWU members and their families, along with community supporters and elected officials marched and rallied through the streets of San Pedro on January 22. The dramatic showing of unity and solidarity was organized by LA City Councilman Joe Buscaino to protest the employers’ cutting of night-time workers that has compounded severe congestion problems at the ports of LA and Long Beach.

“The PMA’s action in further cutting night shifts at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach is another step closer to a lockout,” Buscaino said in press release before the rally. “It will only serve to worsen the slowdown and congestion at the ports, disrupt the global supply chain, and result in irreparable damage to the reputation of our ports complex.”

Marchers gathered near the Vincent Thomas Bridge on Harbor Boulevard and Beacon. As the sun set, thousands of longshore workers headed down Harbor Boulevard towards the rally point outside the Maritime Museum. The 30-minute march was led by students from Banning High School’s “Mighty Marching Pilots” band. The mood was spirited as parents marched hand-in-hand with their children. Marchers carried glow sticks which gave the event a festive atmosphere.

Hundreds of people carried the same support signs that have been posted by local business owners in shop windows throughout the harbor; they read: “We Support the ILWU and the ILWU Supports Us.”

ILWU International Vice President Ray Familathe, Coast Committeeman Ray Ortiz, Jr. spoke at the rally along with Southern California representatives from the Negotiating Committee and Safety Sub-Committee who all flew down from the contract negotiations in San Francisco to attend the event.
International Vice President Ray

Familathe said the ILWU family would remain strong and united. “The elected Negotiating Committee will continue to battle to get a tentative agreement that we can bring to the rank-and-file for a democratic vote. We need to send a message to the employers that we will last as long as needed to get the fair contract that we deserve.”

Coast Committeeman Ray Ortiz, Jr., said that he has been a part of 12 contract negations during his career. “This contract negotiation has been about endurance. The ILWU will not break and we are going to stay strong and get a fair contract and get this cargo moving.”

ILWU Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr., emphasized the deep roots that ILWU members had in the harbor community, reaching back many decades. “ILWU Locals 13, 63 and 94 have been a bastion of the middle class in San Pedro for over 75 years,” Olvera said. “Long before these multinational corporations came to the port, longshoremen were moving cargo and long after they are gone we are still going to be here moving cargo.”

In his address at the rally, LA City Councilmember Joe Buscaino had a message for the employers at the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA): “We say to the PMA, ‘Let the ILWU do their jobs. Let the ILWU clear our ports. Do not stand in their way. Our economy’s is here in the harbor.’”

Local 13 President Olvera thanked the thousands of families and multitude of supporters, including many elected officials, who came to show their support.

“You’re presence here tonight has sent a powerful message that the ILWU and this community are strong, united and willing to fight for what’s right – no matter how long it takes.

Categories: Unions

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