It’s 6 a.m. in Chicago, and the bitingly cold, drizzly weather seems oblivious to the fact that it’s May 15th. And yet, a crowd of more than 100 people wearing red ponchos has formed outside of a McDonald’s restaurant downtown, where they’re dancing to mariachi music.
“Fifteen and a union!” cries someone over a bullhorn.
Today, these protesters have joined fast-food employees in an estimated 150 American cities who walked off the job, according to organizers from the two-year-old Fight for 15 campaign. They're demanding a $15-an-hour minimum wage and the right to form a union without retaliation. And such momentum isn’t limited to the United States. Workers have staged strikes or other actions to demonstrate global solidarity in cities on six continents.
In Chicago, workers striking at McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s traveled downtown to the Rock N Roll McDonald’s—a colossal restaurant-museum that was once one of the busiest McDonald’s restaurants in the country—accompanied by many fellow fast-food workers who were not on strike, but were still demonstrating for the same demands.
“I’m out here because we're sick and tired of the poverty wages that they’re giving us,” says Adriana Alvarez, who works at a McDonald’s on the South Side of Chicago. “We’ve got people who’ve worked there 10, 15 years and they’re still getting $8.50 an hour. It's unfair.”
Alvarez heard about the Fight for 15 campaign this year after an organizer spoke with her in the parking lot of her workplace. “Ever since then ... I got really involved,” she says, noting that this is her first time on strike.
The campaign to win $15 an hour for fast-food workers has no official history. The first major demonstration, though, took place in November 2012, when workers in New York City walked off the job on a one-day, non-union strike—the now-signature move of the Fight for 15 campaign, which is backed by the Service Employees International Union. TheNew York Times called it “the biggest wave of job actions in the history of America’s fast-food industry.”
On August 29, 2013, the first nationally coordinated strikes took place in 60 cities; a few months later in December, fast-food employees walked off the job in 100 cities. As for today’s events, though no official count has been made, organizers say they planned walkouts in 150 American cities along with solidarity actions in more than 30 other countries—making it the largest event to date of the fast-food worker campaign.
As the movement has gained more media attention, debate around raising the minimum wage has surfaced on a policy level, too. The Vermont legislature voted this week to hike the state minimum wage up to $10.50 an hour, so far the highest in the country. In Seattle, Mayor Ed Murray is backing a $15 municipal minimum wage, more than $5 more than the current minimum. And President Obama himself recently went so far as to push—but fail to pass—an increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10.
Activists credit the national Fight for 15 campaign for many of these initiatives, citing the fact, for example, that Obama announced his minimum wage agenda on the eve of the December strikes. They also point out that Murray came out with his plan for Seattle's increase “quite late in the game.”
According to Jess Spear of Seattle’s 15 Now campaign, “There was a number of factors that led to [Murray’s plan], one of which, of course, is the brave fast-food workers who went out on strike in May 2013 here in Seattle, and then they did that again in August.” Spear notes that both actions took place “during an election year for the City Council seats in Seattle as well as the mayoral election.”
Seattle fast-food workers went out on strike again today, in conjunction with workers in New York, Miami, Orlando, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Boston and Phoenix, among other cities.
Meanwhile, the global strikes and actions, which included protests in Switzerland, the Philippines, Japan and New Zealand, were coordinated earlier this month at an international conference in New York City called by the federation of unions known as IUF (International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations).
One of the conference’s attendees, Joe Carolan, who helped organize demonstrations in Auckland, New Zealand, said in a statement, “New Zealand is one of very few countries that have union agreements covering fast food workers. Many of the conditions workers in other countries are struggling to win—we have already achieved here. We are taking action today to support Fast Food workers in the [United States] and other countries who are fighting for these same conditions.”
In response to the protests, McDonald’s spokesperson Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem contends that the hamburger chain offers “competitive pay based on the local marketplace and job level”.
She continues, “McDonald’s and our owner-operators are committed to providing our respective employees with opportunities to succeed, and we have a long, proven history of providing advancement opportunities for those who want [them].” She also notes that “approximately 80 percent of our global restaurants are independently owned and operated by small business owners, who are independent employers that comply with local and federal laws.”
Although one of the demands of today’s international action is for the right to form a union without retaliation from the company, Barker Sa Shekhem maintains that McDonald’s workers already have that: “We respect the right of employees to choose whether or not they want to unionize.” Organizers with the Chicago Fight for 15 say that this is not the reality, at least when it comes to many franchises around the country.
Barker Sa Shekhem adds that “to right-size the headlines, the events taking place [today] are not strikes. Outside groups have traveled to McDonald’s and other outlets to stage rallies.”
While it is true, however, that in Chicago workers who walked off their job this morning were joined by community supporters at a central McDonald’s, several workers confirmed that they were scheduled to work at either McDonald’s or Burger King today but had not gone to work in order to strike.
One of these strikers, Regis Harris, was a no-show at his Burger King job at 78th Street and Columbus Drive, where he hasn’t had a raise in a year. Harris “decided to come on out” because “you can’t live off [minimum wage]. You can’t even pay the heat in the wintertime in the house ... for $8.50 an hour.”
He says this uncertainty requires him to keep up several jobs at a time: lawn care, snow removal, painting, dry-walling and electrical work, to name just a few. He believes $15 an hour would help him feel more secure and independent.
“I could pay my bills. I could make my own bills,” he jokes. “It would help everybody out.”Issues: Labor Movement
It was just after 2 p.m. and two truck drivers were hanging out at a burger joint in Carson, hoping their phones would ring. When a call comes in, they go to work. When the phones are silent, the stress and the bills pile up.
That's the daily routine for Byron Monzon and Santiago Aguilar, who had reported for duty at 6 a.m. Wednesday to their truck yard near the Port of Los Angeles. They never know how many loads they'll haul from one day to the next, and they don't get paid for waiting. They each had one quick delivery at 7 a.m., and they might not get another before calling it quits around 8 p.m.
Click here to read more at the Los Angeles Times.Issues: Freight
If you’re a participant in a pension plan, you’ve probably received or will soon receive what’s called the plan’s “annual funding notice.”
The notice, which employers are required to send each year to all plan participants, tells you:
How well your pension is funded.
The value of your pension plan’s assets and liabilities.
The total assets and liabilities of the plan for the current year and the two preceding years.
The key question we all want answered is: Does the pension plan have enough money to pay its participants? Specifically, will it be able to pay me my benefits when I retire?
The annual funding notice is supposed to give an idea of the plan’s financial health, but it’s not that easy to understand.
“The intent was to provide meaningful information, but it’s a challenge to interpret,” said Bruce Cadenhead, chief actuary for the U.S. retirement, risk and finance business of Mercer, a consulting firm. “You’ve got two sets of numbers, and they look very different.”
Before I get into those two sets of numbers, it’s important to understand pension plans and how interest rates affect a fund’s obligations.
“A pension plan is a series of payments that companies are going to make in the future — as many as 50, 60, 70 years out into the future,” said Donald Fuerst, senior pension fellow at the American Academy of Actuaries.
To ensure that the plans have enough money to pay those future benefits, they must comply with minimum funding rules.
If the value of the plan’s assets is lower than its funding target, employers must contribute to the plan to cover the funding shortfall.
Contribution amounts are based on complicated formulas that take into account current and projected interest rates.
Low interest rates mean that employers have to contribute more money than expected into their pension plans. When rates are low, companies will earn less interest and so need to contribute more money today to cover future pension benefits.
Conversely, when rates are high, employers are able to earn more interest and need to contribute less money to the pension plan.
This is why interest rates are key to interpreting the two figures that Cadenhead referred to, both of which are found in the “MAP-21 Information Table” portion of the pension funding notice.
MAP-21 stands for the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, which became law in 2012.
The law is primarily known for authorizing funding for the nation’s highways and for extending low interest rates for federal student loans. But it also included a package of pension provisions.
The law changed the required interest rate that companies use to calculate their pension liabilities to one based on a 25-year average.
Since the 25-year average rate is higher than today’s market rate, the end result is that employers are required to contribute less money to their pension plans.
So in the MAP-21 information table, you have two figures: one that calculates how well your plan is funded using the MAP-21 interest rates, and one calculated without.
Which figure gives a more accurate picture of a pension’s financial health?
The one calculated without the MAP-21 rate, Fuerst said.
“Look at those for the three years [the current year plus the two preceding]. They’re based on market rates, and that gives you some meaningful insight into how the funded status of the plan is changing over those three years,” he said.
“You hope that it’s improving. A constantly decreasing funded ratio is a bad sign.”
Beyond those figures, a critical question to ask is how well your employer is doing overall.
“Is your company in financial trouble in other ways?” said Nancy Hwa, spokeswoman for the Pension Rights Center, a nonprofit consumer organization. “They’re not necessarily always a parallel relationship because there are companies that have been in severe financial trouble but have well-funded pension plans because they made the contributions and invested well.”
On the other hand, “just because your company is doing well doesn’t necessarily mean that your plan is doing well.”Issues: Pension and Benefits
International President Bob McEllrath led the ILWU’s 16-member Longshore & Clerks Contract Negotiating Committee who sat down with their employer counterparts from the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) on May 12 to negotiate a new pact. The talks are expected to last many weeks, with the first sessions taking place at the ILWU headquarters in San Francisco then alternating weekly between the ILWU and PMA offices.
“We’ve got an excellent negotiating team and solid support from longshore and clerk members who mapped out their priorities and gave us their marching orders to secure a good contract,” said McEllrath.
Among the key issues conveyed by workers through their elected Caucus delegates to the Negotiating Committee are:
• maintenance of health care and retirement benefits;
• respect for ILWU jurisdiction;
• fair raises; and
• improved safety provisions.
The current contract dates from July 1, 2008 and covers a workforce of nearly 20,000 registered and casual workers at 29 west coast ports. It will expire at midnight on June 30, 2014.
In 2002, employers united with shippers and giant retailers to support a ten-day lockout that shut west coast ports for ten days until the White House sought a federal court order to end the employer lockout. The Dispatcher will follow developments in the negotiations and provide updates as they become available.
Violence flared at Manila in the Philippines on April 24 when port truckers were attacked while passing out fliers at a facility operated by International Container Terminal Services Incorporated (ICTSI).
The Philippine Daily Inquirer said six men were injured—including officers of a trucker advocacy group— after being attacked by armed port security officers who carried truncheons, rifles and shotguns.
A leader of the truckers organization was among those who suffered head and shoulder injuries during the attack by security officers who tried to stop fliers from being distributed at the Manila International Container Terminal, a facility operated by ICTSI. The paper reported that the RVV Security Agency guards were from ICTSI. RVV Security members at the site reportedly declined comment when approached by the Inquirer.
The truckers’ organization, known as “ACTOO” represents about 700 members operating 2,500 trucks at the container terminal. They have been protesting a new policy restricting trucker access to the port. The group held a three-day strike in February.
Thirty-six grievances have been carried over to be heard at the national grievance panel in Boston in June. A number of them address the serious problem of subcontracting. There is one new case from the Eastern Region addressing premium pay for Sunday work, along with a few new cases from the Central and West and South.
The link for the docket is here.Issues: TDU UPS Freight NetworkUPS National Grievance Decisions and Dockets
May 15, 2014: We lost a good friend yesterday, when Doug Mims passed away in Atlanta at the age of 75. Doug had been sick for quite some time.
Doug was a tireless activist and a leader of the TDU movement and of the Teamsters Union.
Doug started his union activity when he was a road driver in South Carolina. Later he transferred to Atlanta Local 728, where he joined TDU in 1984 and helped form an Atlanta TDU Chapter.
Doug and his wife Joyce were an organizing team. Joyce brought organizational and leadership skills to complement Doug’s ability to inspire and involve Teamster members.
TDU began to reach out and grow in Georgia.
The TDUers put together a slate to run in Local 728, but the election was stolen. To my surprise, the US Department of Labor did a very thorough investigation and proved that hundreds of ballots had been marked with the same pen on extra ballots that were secretly printed.
Facing defeat in a supervised election, the Mathis family, which ran Local 728 for years, had the IBT divide the local in two to maintain control of half of it. But the Labor Department then forced the phony new Local 928 to reunify back into Local 728. The TDU group swept the election in the spring of 1990, with Doug Mims elected vice president
“I'm now vice president of the Mathis family business," a fired-up Mims told the 1990 TDU Convention.
At that very convention, some of us suggested that Doug be on the Carey Slate. It was an easy sell, and Doug was one of the first running mates selected.
Joyce became the southern coordinator of the Carey campaign, and at various times over the years both Doug and Joyce served on the TDU Steering Committee. Both have been TDU members for 30 years; in fact, just days ago I wrote a short note to Doug on his membership renewal notice.
Joyce was appropriately honored in early 1992 when she was asked by Ron Carey to give his introduction at the big inauguration of Ron, along with Doug and the whole Carey Slate, on the steps of the Marble Palace.
I became friends with them and several times enjoyed warm visits at their home, and hosted them in Detroit. Many Teamsters could say something similar.
Doug served as an International VP until 1999. He ran on the Leedham Slate in 1998 for Southern VP, and then returned to work for Local 728 for a short while after that. Doug then retired from the Teamsters, but remained active in other work and in their community.
Doug Mims was a Teamster with guts and principles, who did his part in making labor history. We miss him and we honor his life’s work as we carry it on.
-- Ken Paff, TDU OrganizerIssues: TDU HistoryTDU
The first real test of how the Convention Center will operate under its new work rules will come Thursday afternoon, when the 2014 BIO World Congress of Industrial Biotechnology wraps up its three-day conference.
That's when, instead of having the usual full array of six Convention Center unions to dismantle the show, the work will be done by members of the four unions that met a May 5 deadline to sign a new Customer Satisfaction Agreement.
Click here to read more at Philly.com
May 14, 2014: Fast food workers across the country and around the world are striking on May 15 for higher wages and workers’ rights.
Protests and picket lines will be on the menu at McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, Dominoes, KFC and other fast food restaurants.
Thousands of fast-food workers are expected to take part in the one-day strike. They are demanding living wages of $15 an hour.
The Fast Food Worker movement is expanding since the first one-day strikes last year. Philadelphia, Sacramento, Miami and Orlando will see their first fast food walkouts.
Actions are planned in 150 cities in the United States and in 33 countries around the globe.
"We've gone global," said Ashley Cathey, a McDonald's worker from Memphis, Tenn., who makes $7.75 an hour after six years on the job.
The fight for $15 in the fast food industry comes at the same time as the movement grows to raise the minimum wage at the local, state and federal level.
Watch Fast Food strikers debate a financial commentator on the Daily Show who says the minimum wage should be kept as low as possible or eliminated altogether.
$50 Off -- Limited Time Offer
Register now to attend your first TDU Convention and get a $50 discount.
This limited-time offer expires on June 15. The discount is available to first-time TDU Convention attendees only.
For UPS Teamsters who are getting their retro checks, now’s the time to register and save.
Click here to register and save $50 today.
I am making my retro-check work for me. By using it to attend the TDU convention, I can learn how to better defend myself and others from managment's tactics.Paul Trujillo, UPSLocal 651Lexington, Ky
SAN FRANCISCO (May 12, 2014) – Negotiations for a new labor contract covering nearly 20,000 dockworkers at 29 West Coast ports began Monday afternoon in San Francisco. The current contract expires at midnight on June 30, 2014.
The contract is between employers who operate port terminals and shipping lines represented by the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and dockworkers represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). The parties have negotiated a West Coast collective bargaining agreement since the 1930s.
“Dockworkers are looking forward to negotiating a fair agreement that protects the good jobs and benefits that support thousands of families and dozens of communities around west coast ports,” said ILWU International President Bob McEllrath.
PMA President Jim McKenna said: “West Coast ports have lost significant market share in recent years, and face renewed competition from Canada, Mexico, the Panama Canal and other domestic ports for cargo that has powered job and economic growth in local port communities and beyond. With these stakes in mind, PMA and its members are focused on delivering a contract that ensures the West Coast’s standing as the gateway of choice for goods sent to and from Asia.’’
Talks are scheduled to continue on a daily basis in San Francisco until an agreement is reached. The site of negotiations will alternate on a weekly basis, between the ILWU and PMA offices, both of which are headquartered in San Francisco. Both sides say they expect cargo to keep moving until an agreement is reached.
Wade Gates, PMA, (415) 591-4080
Craig Merrilees, ILWU, (415) 775-0533, ext. 113 (o), (510) 774-5325 (c)
You wouldn't think that the old saw, "Good help is hard to find," had anything left to it, what with last week's unemployment report out of the U.S. Department of Labor showing unemployment in America is still 6.3%. The fact that hourly wages in America grew a measly 1.9% over the past 12 months tends to suggest there's little slack in the jobs market, too. (After all, if it was hard to find good help, wouldn't it stand to reason that employers would be paying through the nose to attract workers?)
In one industry, they may have to: trucking.
America as a whole may be slogging through 6.3% unemployment these days, but according to industry analyst FTR Transportation Intelligence, there's currently a 4.3% "driver shortage" in the trucking industry today -- a negative unemployment rate.
Click here to read more at The Motley Fool.Issues: Freight
AB InBev is a giant transnational food company which claims to support human rights in the workplace. In fact, it's a member of the United Nations Global Compact which calls on companies to guarantee freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.
But in Mexico, those rights are being violated at Industria Vidriera del Potosí, a subsidiary of Grupo Modelo-AB InBev where in 2008 220 workers were dismissed for forming an independent trade union. Since 2008, the company has unfairly dismissed a further 600 workers for supporting their independent union and consistently pressured workers to join an alternative organization. In addition, the dismissed workers and their families have been blacklisted because of efforts to defend their employment and human rights.
Two global union federations -- the IUF and IndustriALL -- are calling on AB InBev to reinstate the sacked workers, respect their union rights, recognize their union and end harassment of union members. Please take a minute to support their campaign:
Click here to read more and sign a petition in support of this campaign.Issues: Labor Movement
May 12, 2014: New video shows how Local 804 members teamed up with community allies, customers, elected officials, and other public supporters to stand up to UPS.Issues: NY-NJ TDULabor Movement
About 345 members of Teamsters Local 135 went on strike Thursday at a PepsiCo bottling plant on Indianapolis’ Northwestside.
PepsiCo said it doesn’t expect disruptions of supply of beverages to customers due to the strike.
Click here to read more at the IndyStar.Issues: Brewery & Soft Drink Newswire
It was noisy and, at times, nasty as laborers, electrical workers, and stagehands walked into the heavily guarded employees-only entrance of the Pennsylvania Convention Center this morning, led by their union representatives. Members of Teamsters’ Local 107 –- one of the two unions locked out -– shouted at their union brothers for crossing their picket line.
The teamsters and Carpenters’ Union Local 8 are locked out for failing to meet the convention center management’s deadline to sign new work rules (see previous story).
IBEW president John Dougherty marched a group of electricians and stagehands into the labor entrance at the convention center along 11th Street, near Race Street. The electrical workers and three other unions signed on to work rule changes (see related story) before the management-imposed deadline.
The carpenters and teamsters claim they turned in a signed copy of the deal last week as their contract extension was about to expire. Management, however, said that failed to meet their deadline of last Monday and that the other unions would pick up the work formerly done by the two unions.Issues: Labor Movement
May 9, 2014: “All UPS Teamsters get a 70c raise.” Many Teamsters were told this, but now find out they got a 50c raise. Apparently, this contract is proof of an old adage, “figures don’t lie, but liars do figure”.
And figure they do. The company is well-aware that many of the 120,000+ part-time Teamsters are actually getting a 50c raise, and they bargained accordingly.
This is because the progression rate for many part-timers only went up 50c. This applies to sorters and pre-loaders as well as the “all others” category, and to part-time air drivers and to full-time air drivers in the progression.
Example: Tanya Teamster has a seniority date of November 1, 2011. After two years seniority under the old contract, in November 2013, her pay went up to $10.50. The two-year progression rate under the new contract is $11.00, only 50c more. Tanya was expecting a 70c raise, but got a 50c raise, because of the inadequate bump in the progression chart (See Article 22 of new contract).
The company and Ken Hall can say they didn’t lie. Tanya did get a retroactive 70c raise from her $10.00 rate on August 1, 2013, for three months, until her November 2013 anniversary date. She is entitled to three months of 70c retro pay. Then her pay went from $10.50 to $11.00. So she gets 50c retro pay since November, and a 50c raise over the old contract rate.
The problem is not new and goes deeper. The contract has too many wage rates, too long of a progression, and it works to divide Teamsters to the benefit of the company.
And this contract made the situation even worse: a longer progression period (four years) and a lower percentage pay rate during the progression.
Understanding pay rate increases can be difficult, especially when you are in the progression or you bid to another classification with a different rate of pay. It you have a split pay rate, it’s even more confusing.
Stewards and union reps need to understand this process and help Teamsters learn how it works, and to enforce the contract.
Here is a two page chart (one page for pre-loaders and sorters, and one for all others) produced by the International union on part-time pay rates under the new UPS contract.Issues: UPS
As FedEx prepares to start charging for ground-shipped packages by size, not just weight, the promise of $350 million in extra revenue could be “compelling” enough to spur UPS to copy that approach, said Kevin Sterling, a BB&T Capital Markets analyst. UPS said it’s “continually” evaluating its policies.
“History tells you that when one changes prices, the other follows,” Sterling said yesterday in an interview about the prospects for Atlanta-based UPS joining FedEx with a different rate structure.
Click here to read more at Bloomberg News.Issues: UPS
University of California executives hoped this round of bargaining would extract deep concessions on benefits from 22,000 hospital and campus workers. And like many large university and health care employers, UC wanted to replace full-time work with contingent work by expanding the use of temps and private contractors.
But instead, in contracts signed in February and March, AFSCME Local 3299 won new staffing protections and staved off benefits concessions.
Click here to read more at Labor Notes.
Issues: Labor Movement