Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee asked Treasury Department officials to tread carefully as they develop the process for implementing multiemployer pension reforms enabling some plans to cut benefits.
“These reforms are unprecedented and, therefore, we ask the Treasury Department to take its role in overseeing the benefit suspension provisions very seriously. In particular, it is critical that you ensure that participants’ and retirees’ rights are protected,” Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown, Ohio; Ron Wyden, Ore.; Debbie Stabenow, Mich.; Bill Nelson, Fla.; Robert Menendez, N.J.; Ben Cardin, Md.; and Robert Casey, Pa., said in a letter sent Thursday to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew.
Click here to read more.Issues: Pension and Benefits
Hundreds of union members, elected officials and supporters gathered at San Francisco’s Pier 27 on March 26 to celebrate the unveiling of an interactive, multimedia sculpture honoring the legacy of former ILWU International President Jimmy Herman.
Speakers at the event included former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos, Delancey Street Foundation President, Dr. Mimi Silbert, ILWU International President Robert McEllrath, ILWU International Secretary Treasurer and San Francisco Port Commissioner Willie Adams and Local 34 President Sean Farley.
The sculpture is a wall-mounted, interactive audio-visual installation measuring 10-feet high by 15-feet long. The sculpture resembles the waves of the bay. It contains touch screen display that will allow visitors to scroll through biographical information about Herman and to learn about the issues causes that defined Jimmy’s life and career. The sculpture also includes a directional sound system that will allow visitors to hear highlights from Herman’s speeches. It was crafted by the New York based art collective, Floating Point.
The Pier 27 cruise terminal is named in honor of Jimmy Herman and is the only cruise ship terminal in the world named after a labor leader. The cruise terminal is 91,000 square feet in a two-story building with views to the Bay Bridge and the San Francisco skyline. The terminal is will be able to accommodate ships with up to 4,000 passengers. Hundreds of thousands of cruise ship passengers each year are
expected to pass through the terminal every year.
ILWU members along with other members of the local community including former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi formed the James R. Herman Memorial Committee to raise money for the creation of the sculpture and its maintenance for the next 20 years.
Sean Farley, ILWU Local 34 President and Chair of the James R. Herman Memorial Committee, said
that the purpose of the sculpture is to commemorate Jimmy Herman’s contribution
to the labor movement and to the San Francisco waterfront.
“We wanted to reflect what Jimmy was about—his history, his legacy, his commitment to social justice movements and his contributions as a Port Commissioner—all the facets of who he was in his life. We also had to take into account what Pier 27 is—a world-class cruise terminal facility. We wanted a tribute that is commensurate with that facility and we think we’ve done that.”
May 15, 2015: Seven Senators have written to Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew calling on him to vigorously enforce retiree and worker rights before any pensions are cut under the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act passed last December.
US Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) issued a statement and the letter today calling for guidelines to prevent a rush to pension cuts. The Central States Pension Fund is moving quickly to try to implement cuts, without careful oversight or any independent actuarial audit.
The letter, signed by seven members of the Senate Subcommittee on Social Security, Pension and Family Policy, notes that 60 days is a short time for a “retiree representative” required by the law to adequately perform a genuine independent review. The Senators also call on Treasury to require the pension plan to disclose how they chose the retiree representative.
The Central States Fund has chosen Sue Mauren as the retiree representative. They defend this choice with the claim that Mauren is facing the same cuts as other retired Teamsters. But this evades the fact that she was entitled to a total of four pensions or dues-funded lump-sum retirement plans. Mauren has declined to meet with any retiree committee working to prevent cuts, and has even failed to respond to correspondence, so it is not clear how she “represents” retirees.
The Senators’ letter calls for the Treasury Dept to require an “unbiased” report to all members, detailing the impact on their individual pension. The Senators also call for a fair balloting procedure, so that Teamsters and retirees can make an informed vote; the vote in Central States of all actives and retirees is expected sometime this summer.
The Senators requested the Treasury Dept. prohibit one kind of cut that Central States is planning. They state that the pension of disabled participants should never be cut, even if they are receiving a full pension because they reached normal retirement age. The Teamster officials and employer rep trustees of Central States intend to cut those pensions.
We thank Senator Brown – who opposed the pension cut law – and the other Senators for watchdogging the process. And we call upon them to take the important next step: co-sponsor and support legislation to repeal the cut-back provisions and provide for positive alternatives to protect pensions.Issues: Pension and Benefits
May 15, 2015: The 2014 financial report on the Central States Pension Fund shows that the fund’s money manager – Northern Trust -- performed rather poorly last year, causing the fund to get a sub-par return of 6.86% on investments. The fund’s assets declined to $17.9 billion.
Despite losses in 2014, the fund still has net growth over the past six years, since the end of 2008 when the fund had $17.3 billion in assets. It was during the 2008 financial meltdown, caused in large part by Goldman Sachs, that the fund lost $9.5 billion. Goldman Sachs was managing most of the Central States assets at that time.
The Hidden Truth
The 2014 Special Counsel Report details at length many of the fund’s problems and its policies, but in 24 pages it fails to mention one word about the biggest disaster inflicted on the fund: the Hoffa-Hall deal to let UPS pull out of the fund.
These simple facts illustrate the magnitude of that disaster: The financial and analytical report on page 3 projects employer contributions of $635 million for 2015. But if UPS were still contributing to the fund, it would contribute an additional $800 million, more than doubling the income! (This assumes that UPS would be contributing at the same rate as ABF, $342 per week. $342 x 52 x 45,000 = $800.3 million.)
This single disaster, costing the fund $800 million per year over shadows any other problem the fund has experienced.
Unfortunately, the Hoffa-Hall administration is continuing to undermine the fund. The report details on page 20 the attempt by the Kroger Co and the IBT let Kroger pull-out of the Fund without even paying the withdrawal liability, and the fund’s refusal to accept this sell-out deal.
The 2014 financial report was yesterday turned over to the attorney for TDU members who previously sued the fund to make information available to members.Health and SafetyIssues: Pension and Benefits
Want a stronger union at work? Consider building a stewards council.
With only five stewards for 1,700 workers, demoralization was high at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Click here to read more at Labor Notes.
Issues: Labor Movement
More than 400 pilots and family members took the fight to preserve their livelihoods and security to the 2015 Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting by staging the largest informational picket in NetJets history on Saturday; NetJets is a subsidiary of the Warren Buffett-owned conglomerate (NYSE: BRK.A and BRK.B). The pilots, whose professional interests are represented by the NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots (NJASAP), were joined by NetJets flight attendants and Flight Options pilots represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
"In 2005, our pilot group conducted its first informational picket in Omaha during a Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting with 75 pilots sending the message there was a labor problem at NetJets," NJASAP President Pedro Leroux said. "Ten years later, more than 400 pilots and their families traveled from all points across the United States to communicate what we have today is not a labor problem – it is a labor disaster created by management."
Click here to read more at PR Newswire.Issues: Airlines
May 7, 2015: The Central States Pension Fund has decisively rejected a proposed deal between the Hoffa administration and the Kroger Co which would pull all Kroger Teamsters out of the fund, without even paying the required withdrawal penalty.
In a letter to the IBT and Kroger, Central States Director Thomas Nyhan pointedly reminds them that federal law requires cash payment of withdrawal liability before an employer can pull out of a union pension fund. The letter details the ways that the proposed deal violates the law, the fund’s Trust Agreement and the Plan Document.
Meanwhile, the IBT is proceeding with the plan to pull all Teamsters working for Kroger and Kroger contractors out of the pension fund. Votes are being taken on the national Kroger contract, covering warehouse operations in Houston, Memphis, Wichita, and dairies in Indiana and Michigan.
Many Teamsters see no alternative but to vote for the plan, in hopes of saving their hard-earned pension benefits. But as more than one Kroger Teamster has noted, pulling out of the union pension fund could be a first step in a plan to bust the Teamsters Union at Kroger.
The IBT’s proposed deal also covers Kroger third-party contractors who operate its distribution warehouses in Atlanta, Louisville, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati, along with other Kroger operations. A detailed memorandum of agreement for these operations actually provides for the employer to pull out of the pension fund in mid-contract. Nyhan’s letter reminds the IBT that the pension fund cannot approve a contract which allows for a mid-contract pull-out.
Nyhan’s letter notes that the pension fund “cannot prevent an employer from withdrawing from the fund if the employer and union are determined to do so” and if the employer pays the withdrawal liability, estimated at $1 billion for Kroger. He seems to be reminding the IBT Warehouse Division and the Hoffa administration that defense of union pensions is a primary responsibility of union officers. At the very least, he is telling the IBT that giving a $1 billion gift to an employer while letting them gut the pension fund stinks.
How will the IBT and Kroger fix this deal? Stay tuned.Issues: Pension and BenefitsHoffa Watch
Three Walt Disney World performers who were fired from the Festival of the Lion King show at Disney's Animal Kingdom after refusing to wear sweaty, soiled costumes will get their jobs back after winning an arbitration case.
A representative from the Teamsters Local 385 Union said Monday the arbitration process was finally over, and a federal arbitrator ruled in favor of the cast members, who lost their jobs in June 2014 after they said they would not perform in dirty costumes.
According to witness testimony in the case, the sweaty costumes were caught outside in the rain on June 10, 2014. When the time came to prepare for the 6 p.m. show that evening, some performers found the soiled costumes pushed up against their clean clothes.
"They went to management and said, 'We need new unitards. These need to be washed, something,'" said Teamsters representative Donna-Lynne Dalton.
The union said management wanted them to wear the soiled costumes for the sake of the show, but the three performers refused, saying it was unsanitary. Management then cancelled the performance that evening.
The performers did eventually get clean unitards and perform for the next show, but the three, full-time cast members were later suspended and then terminated.
In November, the Teamsters union showed News 13 a copy of the character addendum that stated:
"All costume pieces shall receive a minimum of 12 hours of drying and sanitation between performances…
No character performer shall be required to wear any costume piece worn by another Character Performer."
Now that an arbitrator has ruled in the cast members' favor, the three performers will not only be rehired, but they'll also receive full back pay.
"Disney will comply with the decision," a media representative for Walt Disney World told News 13 on Monday.Issues: Labor Movement
Freightliner Trucks has received the first license in the United States for an autonomous-driving truck to operate on public highways from Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.
The Freightliner Inspiration was previewed for the media at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on May 5, an occasion Sandoval hailed as “a historic day in the areas of transportation and innovation” and a “monumental day for the human race.”
The truck was partially camouflaged at the afternoon event, with a full unveiling taking place in a spectacular evening ceremony at Hoover Dam that included a video presentation on the wall of the dam and the arrival of Inspiration Truck itself, driving across the top of the dam.
Click here to read more at Transport TopicsIssues: Freight
This Mother’s Day, an international coalition of unions is calling on the world’s largest jewelry retailer to clean up its supplier of diamonds. We are urging Signet to demand that multinational mining and metals company Rio Tinto improve its practices so that they respect workers’ rights, indigenous peoples and the environment.
With global sales of US $6 billion annually, Signet’s Kay, Jared and Zales jewelry shops are in every U.S. state, Peoples and Mappins stores are throughout Canada, and H. Samuel and Ernest Jones shops are visible on U.K. high streets.
The unions USW, ILWU and Unifor are organizing demonstrations in the lead-up to Mother’s Day at Signet stores in the U.S. and Canada, which is celebrated on 10 May. This follows recent demonstrations at Signet stores in the U.K. by unions and civil society organizations from a dozen countries.
The coalition is calling on Signet to abide by its own Responsible Sourcing Policy. This policy declares the company “committed to the responsible sourcing of our products and the respect of human rights, and we expect the same from our suppliers around the world.”
But Rio Tinto is a notorious violator of labour rights, communities and the environment, as has recently been documented in a report, Rio Tinto: The way it really works.Report: Rio Tinto: The way it really works:
- Thirty-nine workers killed on the job since 2013 at the Grasberg copper and gold mine, Indonesia, where Rio Tinto has a joint venture
- Planning to develop a copper mine on land considered sacred to Native Americans despite their opposition
- Over 2,300 grievances unresolved by management at Rio Tinto iron ore operation in Labrador, Canada
- Destruction of indigenous sacred sites and vital natural water supply by Rio Tinto in Mongolia
Although the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) has certified Rio Tinto, unfortunately the RJC is highly flawed. It is neither independent – it is governed by industry, excluding labour, civil society and impacted communities. Nor is it transparent – it is impossible for the public to determine whether an RJC-certified company complies with RJC’s own certification requirements, let alone international human rights and environmental standards.
“We’ve raised on multiple occasions concerns with Signet about its supplier Rio Tinto’s practices that are bad for workers, communities and the environment. So far Signet has remained mostly silent while Rio Tinto has responded with threats. We’ll continue to raise our concerns until Rio Tinto changes its practices and behaves like the responsible company it claims to be,” says IndustriALL Global Union general secretary Jyrki Raina.IndustriALL – Mom Deserves Better than Diamonds from Rio Tinto Campaign
The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear appeal of rulings that upheld a California law that requires employers to provide meal breaks to workers.
Penske Logistics was asking the court to overturn decisions by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, that said the companies must abide by the state law.
The second case involved Vitran Express, a Canadian carrier. In both cases, drivers were the plaintiffs. The Supreme Court announced May 4 its decision to reject the appeals.
The high court’s decision means that the circuit court decision stands.
The meal-break law requires employers to provide a “duty-free” 30-minute meal break for employees who work more than five hours a day.
The law also requires a second “duty free” 30-minute meal break for those who work more than 10 hours a day.
Lawyers for the logistics company, a division of Penske Truck Leasing Co., had argued that federal law governing trucking companies pre-empted state laws.
The trucking company law is contained in the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994, which provides that a state “may not enact or enforce a law . . . related to a price, route or service of any motor carrier with respect to transportation of property.”
The plaintiffs in the original lawsuit against Penske represented a certified class of 349 delivery truck drivers. They work on an account Penske has that services Whirlpool appliances.
According to court documents, the drivers delive products in California and are on the job more than 10 hours a day.Issues: Freight
We the undersigned declare our solidarity with the struggle for justice in the case of Freddie Gray and all other victims of police brutality. While we celebrate the May 1st announcement that the six police officers responsible for the death of Freddie Gray will face criminal charges (an outcome that would not have happened if not for the massive resistance in the streets of Baltimore and other cities) we also recognize that this is only a tiny step toward addressing the underlying causes that led to this injustice. As long as entrenched poverty, institutional racism, lack of educational and recreational opportunities, and an unaccountable and increasingly militarized police force continue to exist, there will be no justice or safety for people of color or the working class in general in Baltimore or anywhere else. We believe that these root causes must be addressed both in the streets and in the workplace.
- Harvard Workers Got The Cold Shoulder This Winter
- NYC IWW: Beverage Plus, Pay Up!
- Strikes, Worker Revolts Worldwide
- May Day: Remembering Our Past, Looking Toward The Future
- How To Be A Life-Long Wobbly: Six Tips
- Review: Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Modern Revolutionary
Download a Free PDF of this issue.
April 29, 2015: Today the Pension Rights Center presented a call for action to the US House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions, calling for hearings on the devastating impact of pension cutbacks authorized by December 2014 changes in pension law.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union and the pension protection movement support this call, and will work to advance legislation to correct the injustices of the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MPRA) passed in December.
The Subcommittee held a hearing on other aspects of pension law.
The Pension Rights statement concludes with a call for action: “We urge the Subcommittee to hold another hearing in the near future to listen to the concerns of the retirees and widows whose retirement security will be devastated by the cutbacks authorized by MPRA, to address their concerns, and to examine other ways of addressing the long-term financial problems of multiemployer plans and the PBGC.”
Teamsters and retirees have launched a petition campaign calling on the Central States Trustees, Susan Mauren – the Fund’s designated Retiree Advocate -- and IBT President James Hoffa to support an independent actuarial audit of the Central States Pension Fund to determine the extent and necessity of pending benefit cuts.
These Teamsters are calling for a “second opinion” with experts chosen by the pension protection committees across the region, prior to any rollout of the so-called “rescue plan” by the Fund. The “rescue plan” will propose to slash promised pensions for current and future retirees covered by the Central States.
Click here to sign the online petition.
Click here to download a paper copy.
Circulate the petition at local union meetings, retirees clubs, and Teamster worksites.Issues: Pension and Benefits