Labor News

UPS Profits Off Pension Cuts

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 07:54

December 15, 2014: The lame duck Congress has attached pension cut legislation to the end-of-year spending bill that will pave the way for the worst pension cuts in Teamster history.

Leave it to UPS to find a way to make billions off this disaster.

UPS lobbyists fought for and won a special interest loophole that shifts $2 billion in the company’s pension responsibilities on to the backs of Teamster retirees in the Central States. These retirees will now face even bigger pension cuts as a result.

UPS is the one and only company that benefits from the loophole on pages 81-82. Its purpose is to ensure that the Central States Pension Fund will not reduce the pensions of UPS workers who retired after January 1, 2008.

Not reducing pensions. Isn’t that a good thing? Of course! But UPS retirees in the Central States are already protected from having their pensions reduced.

In the case of any pension cuts by Central States, Article 34, Section 1 of the UPS master agreement, requires the company to make up any lost pension benefits.

UPS’s special interest loophole means the company won’t have to make up for any pension cuts. The loophole doesn’t save UPS retirees a dime, but UPS will save a fortune.

Teamster retirees and their widows will face $2 billion more in pension cuts so UPS can get out of paying the obligations it agreed to in the contact.

What can Brown do for you? Certainly, not this.

Issues: UPSPension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Middle-class retirees deserve better from Congress

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 06:40
Editorial BoardSt. Louis Post-DispatchDecember 15, 2014View the original piece

The devastating pension reform crammed into the omnibus spending bill that will likely soon become law would allow pension trustees to slash the benefits of retired workers and cut future benefits for a shrinking pool of middle-income employees.

These people were and are the backbone of our nation’s economy. They drive trucks, mine coal, haul bricks and bag groceries. Corporations have been weaseling out of guarantees for future retirees for years, but promises to current retirees generally have been sacrosanct.

Most of these employees contributed what was expected of them over their working lifetimes and retired — or hope to — with a well-earned nest egg.

 

The plans that will be affected are know as multiemployer pension plans. They typically involve union workers who are allowed to accrue benefits while changing employers, with each employer contributing to the plan.

About 1,400 such plans currently cover about 10 million workers, and most of the plans are solvent. Between 150 and 200 of them, covering roughly 1.5 million workers, are not. They could run out of funds within the next 20 years, according to the Pension Rights Center.

It’s those pension plans that the legislation aims to benefit. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., an agency set up 40 years ago to guarantee those pensions, says it may run out of money to pay them in 2018, and is certain to be broke by 2025.

Hence the emergency. While it is important to help prevent these plans from becoming insolvent, pension advocates say the deal Congress worked out in haste and then attached to the $1.1 trillion budget bill funding all of government is the wrong way to do it.

That politicians are willing to eviscerate labor law safeguards that have been in place since 1974 under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, known by its acronym, ERISA, is a sign of what little value they place on the futures of the hard-working men and women of Main Street.

Because the plans generally benefit union members, they are not popular with congressional Republicans. Union political influence has been waning for years and some of the plans — such as the Central States Teamsters fund — have a history that includes legendary levels of corruption. Even though that was generations ago, it’s enough to give cover to grandstanding lawmakers who want to look like they have a legitimate reason to vote against older, middle-class workers.

Selling out these workers is the wrong message to send to future retirees. The baby boomers now retiring may be the last generation of Americans to leave work assured of adequate income in old age. It’s not just the 1 percent who deserve security.

Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

IBT Central States Funds Executive Salaries...For The Love Of Money!

Current News - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 00:33

IBT Central States Funds Executive Salaries...For The Love Of Money!
http://www.truckingboards.com/bb/threads/central-states-funds-executive-...

The "Dirty Dozen"

Tom Nyhan $662,060
Mark Angerame $430,660
James Condon $373,047
Albert Madden $371,229
Robert Coco $363,604
John J. Franczyk Jr. $362,074
Albert Nelson $305,811
Peter Priede $278,407
William Schaefer $277,391
Patrick Moroney $223,217
Ray Hale $221,155
Scott Robbins $202,269

Source: Central States Pension Fund and Central States Health & Welfare Fund (yes they double dip) Form 5500 Reports to the Department of Labor!

Tags: IBTsalariesCentral States Pension Funds
Categories: Labor News

Rincon Neigborhood Appeals Commonwealth Club Destruction Of ILA 1934 Strike HQ Building Facade

Current News - Sun, 12/14/2014 - 20:49

Rincon Neigborhood Appeals Commonwealth Club Destruction Of ILA 1934 Strike HQ Building Facade

Rincon Point Neighborhood Association
88 Howard Street Post Office Box 193015 San Francisco, CA 94119
December 13, 2014

Angela Calvillo
Clerk of the Board of Supervisors City Hall, Room 244
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place San Francisco, CA 94102

Re: Appeal of Mitigated Negative Declaration, 110 The Embarcadero (2011.1388E) Via email and USPS Priority Mail
Dear Ms Calvillo:

The Rincon Point Neighbors Association, with the support of numerous individuals and approximately 20 community groups, hereby appeals the Planning Commission’s denial of its appeal of the Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) for the proposed project at 110 The Embarcadero. This proposal amounts to the destruction of one of the city’s most historic buildings and one of the most important union-related buildings on the west coast. The ILWU unanimously called for landmarking this building at its 34th International Convention in Seattle.

Testimony shows that this project should have received an Environmental Impact Report. Historical issues have been glossed over and ignored. The building is eligible for listing on the California Register under Criterion A, association with important events, for its direct association with the 1934 waterfront and general strikes in San Francisco. The building was the headquarters of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and its leader, Harry Bridges, during the 1934 longshoremen’s strike. It was the site of one of the slayings on “Bloody Thursday,” and was the location where the bodies of the slain men lay in state.

HISTORY IGNORED:

The Commonwealth Club and Planning
Department are attempting to re-write history by
ignoring the association of the building with the
considerable contributions of the union and the
leadership of Harry Bridges. They have the gall to
state none of the building’s occupants appear “to
have made a significant contribution to local, state
or national history” (page 25, PMND). They have
declared Harry Bridges was not present at the
1934 strike committee (which he led) or at the
union local (where his leadership was consolidated during the 1934 strike). The historic

Rincon Point Neighbors Association

evidence overwhelmingly indicates this building was Harry Bridges’ headquarters during the strike. This makes the building eligible for listing in the California Register under Criterion 2 (persons) and requires the building to be preserved. The Planning Department and Commonwealth Club do not want this historic building preserved. That is why they are re-writing history. Of course it was the city’s powerful elite (mayor, downtown business interests, and the wealthy) who opposed the union in 1934. Today, their counterparts are still downplaying the union and Mr. Bridges by supporting the Commonwealth Club’s plans.

History was made on the Embarcadero, but the Commonwealth Club would remove ALL character-defining features of the building’s Embarcadero façade. The MND tries to excuse this by arbitrarily claiming “the significance of the property under Criterion 1 is most closely tied to the Steuart Street façade.” That is nonsensical and there is no basis for this proclamation. The Commonwealth Club bought one building, not two. The slain men lay in state inside the building. The building (not the façade) was headquarters of the union during the strike. On Bloody Thursday the SFPD shot gas canisters through the windows on both sides of this building. Harry Bridges obviously worked at the headquarters of the union he headed which was housed inside the building. The claim that only the Steuart Street façade is significant is absurd. This seems to be based on a photograph of preparations of the slain men’s funeral procession down Market Street. The great historic events focus on the strike, most of which took place on the Embarcadero. The personal leadership for these events emanated from this building.

In any event, the façade being proposed for the Steuart Street side would not be an accurate restoration anyway. The most visible first floor is completely different from 1934, and the newly inserted third floor would be visible and too close to the existing façade (set back only six- to eight-feet).

DESIGN CONCERNS:

This historic Classical Revival building has handsome columns flanking five large windows. It is the same design on both sides of the building. Though poorly painted at this time, the historic design needs to be maintained to stay in sync with the rest of the block.

The MND is incorrect when it states a new modern glass curtain wall “would not have a significant impact upon the existing character of the Project’s vicinity.”

2

This is the last block in the city of mostly 100-year old buildings on the waterfront. It deserves to become a historic district. It is even more important because it faces the open waterfront. One building on the block survived the earthquake and fire and still exists at the north end (the Audiffred Building). Most

maintain much of their ornamentation, such as the
YMCA. The rest of the buildings were designed with a
dignified, classic look including the streamline
moderne (a style developed in the 1930s) office
building at the south end of the block. None have the
uninteresting glass curtain wall appearance that the
club is proposing. (Most world-class cities would
protect a block of buildings on the water. For
example, London, Paris, Florence, St. Petersburg,
Amsterdam (right) and other great cities would require
them to be either preserved or designed to maintain the historic look.)

EARLIER BOARD FINDINGS:

It should be noted that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors found on March 31, 2009 that some of these same issues were significant at this location. Their motion stated the following about this existing building:

•  “There is substantial evidence that the existing building at 110 The Embarcadero, which also fronts 113-115 Steuart Street, is an historical resource.”

•  “...there is substantial evidence in the record that the building retains integrity...”

•  “...the building remains in its original location, the historic Audiffred Building remains next door and five of the buildings in the vicinity visible from a 1934

photograph still stand, resulting in a blockface the retains integrity. The massing and scale of the building, the shaped parapet with coping and the stucco cladding of the building remain the same as they were in 1934. Bradley Wiedmaier states that the second floor window opening dimension, the number of openings, the depth of the glazing from the wall surface and framing remain the same.”

•  “...alterations (already made) to the façade details mentioned by Page and Turnbull are largely reversible.”

•  “Given the substantial evidence in the record to support a determination that the building is an historical resource because it retains integrity associated with important historic events, there is a fair argument that the project, which proposed the demolition of the resource, may result in a substantial adverse change in the significance of an historical resource requiring the preparation of an EIR.”

•  “Planning Department staff found the project inconsistent with Planning Code Section 101.1(b)(2), which calls for conserving and protecting ... neighborhood character.”

•  “Written and oral testimony presented at the hearing identified the potentially significant impact on birds flying into the “mostly glass” walls....”

There is no reason demolition of the east façade of the building which faces the heavily traveled (pedestrian, bike, auto, streetcar) Embarcadero should be allowed now.

3

Members of the Rincon Point Neighbors Association and the Rincon Center Tenants Association have been actively tracking neighborhood projects since the 1990s. Residents have testified about the over-development of Rincon Park, the loss of the city’s 125-year-old transit terminal in front of the Ferry Building, the proposal for 75 Howard that would be nearly 50% over the height limit, and the rejected Hines project previously proposed for 110 The Embarcadero.

Sincerely,

David Osgood President

Cc: Environmental Review Officer Enclosures

Tags: ILAILWU 1934 General Strike
Categories: Labor News

Colombia: Demand justice for Colombian trade unionist

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 12/14/2014 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: UNISON
Categories: Labor News

Ecuador: 13 workers killed at power plant site

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 12/14/2014 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ssociated Press
Categories: Labor News

Bill to Let Multiemployer Pensions Cut Benefits Passes

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Sun, 12/14/2014 - 08:19
Stephen MillerSHRMDecember 14, 2014View the original piece

Severely distressed multiemployer pensions will be able to reduce benefits paid to retirees under an amendment to the omnibus spending bill approved by the U.S. Senate on Dec. 13, two days after House passage. The bill now goes to the White House for an expected presidential signature.

The pension measure, which was negotiated by a bipartisan group of congressional leaders but opposed by some retiree advocates and their congressional allies, is intended to let deeply underfunded multiemployer plans avoid bankruptcy and termination, and by doing so to keep solvent the multiemployer pension insurance fund overseen by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC), the federal pension insurance program.

The provisions apply only to multiemployer pensions and not to single-sponsor corporate pensions, which are subject to a different set of regulations and higher funding-level requirements. The PBGC maintains a separate insurance fund for single-sponsor pensions. Multiemployer or "Taft-Hartley" pension plans commonly are administered by labor unions on behalf of their members and funded by multiple employers in a common industry, subject to collective bargaining contracts with the union.

As SHRM Online recently reported (see Multiemployer Pension Funding Crisis Looms), in November 2014 the PBGC issued a report indicating its multiemployer insurance program was almost certain to become insolvent in 10 years. Of the 1,400 multiemployer plans nationwide, 200 plans covering a total of 1 million participants are at risk of termination.

Cutback Provisions

The measure passed by the House would allow trustees of financially troubled multiemployer pensions to cut retiree benefits to prevent plan insolvency. Financially troubled plans are those that are expected to not have enough money to pay 100 percent of benefits in 10 to 20 years. In some cases, the cuts could exceed 60 percent of a participant’s benefits.

Under the measure:

Retirees who are age 80 or over, or are receiving a disability pension, are not subject to benefit cuts. Retirees ages 75-79 are subject to smaller cuts than retirees under age 75.

Plan trustees have discretion in deciding how to allocate the cuts. For example, they can cut retirees’ benefits more than those of active workers, and decide whether to reduce survivors’ benefits.

Plan trustees are exempt from fiduciary responsibility in making cuts.

Trustees’ decisions to cut benefits can only be reversed by the Department of Treasury, and then only if the Treasury determines that the trustees’ decision to cut benefits or the extent of the benefit cuts is “clearly erroneous.”

There is no provision for automatic restoration of lost benefits if a plan’s funding status improves.

Plans with 10,000 or more participants must allow all participants to vote on cuts before they are implemented. A majority of all workers and retirees in a plan—not just a majority of the ones who vote—is required to block cuts. Ballots can be distributed by e-mail.

Even if a majority of participants vote against cuts, the Treasury Department can override the vote and uphold the trustees’ decision to make cuts, if it concludes that a plan poses a “systemic” risk to the PBGC.

The insurance premiums that multiemployer plans pay to the PBGC are increased from $13 to $26 per participant per year. (In contrast, premiums paid to the single-employer plan program are between $57 and $475 per participant per year.)

Strong Responses

“The pension provisions in the spending bill allow trustees of financially troubled multiemployer pension plans to reduce benefits of retirees by as much as 60 percent if there is a projection that plan assets might be depleted in 10 to 20 years—when many of today’s retirees will no longer be alive,” according to a critical statement by the Pension Rights Center, an advocacy group for pensioners. “Also extremely troubling is the secretive process by which these provisions were pushed through Congress, buried in a must-pass bill in the last days of a lame-duck session, without input from the pensioners whose lives could be devastated by the cutbacks authorized by the measure. The process was undemocratic and unfair.”

In a letter to House and Senate members, AARP also opposed passage, stating that “Permitting plans to break the fundamental requirement of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)—that plans must honor pension promises for benefits already earned and vested—not only would hurt retirees, it would also significantly weaken ERISA and set an undesirable precedent. This precedent could have a detrimental impact on other earned pensions, and the overall retirement income security of the nation.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement, “Under this bill, for the first time, Congress will allow multiemployer plans to cut retirees’ earned pension benefits. This is unprecedented and I worry about the impact on retirees and the slippery slope we’re about to head down.”

But Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who along with Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., put together the coalition supporting the amendment, told the Washington Post, “We have to do something to allow these plans to make the corrections and adjustments they need to keep these plans viable.”

Randy G. DeFrehn, executive director of the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans, an employer-union coalition, said in a statement that House passage of the measure “recognizes the years of work that America’s unions and employers did to develop a solution that doesn’t require a massive taxpayer bailout and instead provides a path forward for these troubled pension plans.”

smiller [at] shrm.org (Stephen Miller), CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him on Twitter @SHRMsmiller.

Related SHRM Articles:

Multiemployer Pension Funding Crisis Looms, SHRM Online Legal Issues, December 2014

Multiemployer Pension Plan Problems Aired, SHRM Online Benefits, November 2013

FASB Issues Update on Employer Disclosures for Multiemployer Plans, SHRM Online Benefits, September 2011

- See more at: http://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/benefits/articles/pages/multiemployer-...(SHRM+Online+Compensation+%26+Benefits+News)#sthash.iJfhUlGV.dpuf

Severely distressed multiemployer pensions will be able to reduce benefits paid to retirees under an amendment to the omnibus spending bill approved by the U.S. Senate on Dec. 13, two days after House passage. The bill now goes to the White House for an expected presidential signature.

The pension measure, which was negotiated by a bipartisan group of congressional leaders but opposed by some retiree advocates and their congressional allies, is intended to let deeply underfunded multiemployer plans avoid bankruptcy and termination, and by doing so to keep solvent the multiemployer pension insurance fund overseen by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC), the federal pension insurance program.

The provisions apply only to multiemployer pensions and not to single-sponsor corporate pensions, which are subject to a different set of regulations and higher funding-level requirements. The PBGC maintains a separate insurance fund for single-sponsor pensions. Multiemployer or "Taft-Hartley" pension plans commonly are administered by labor unions on behalf of their members and funded by multiple employers in a common industry, subject to collective bargaining contracts with the union.

As SHRM Online recently reported (see Multiemployer Pension Funding Crisis Looms), in November 2014 the PBGC issued a report indicating its multiemployer insurance program was almost certain to become insolvent in 10 years. Of the 1,400 multiemployer plans nationwide, 200 plans covering a total of 1 million participants are at risk of termination.

Cutback Provisions

The measure passed by the House would allow trustees of financially troubled multiemployer pensions to cut retiree benefits to prevent plan insolvency. Financially troubled plans are those that are expected to not have enough money to pay 100 percent of benefits in 10 to 20 years. In some cases, the cuts could exceed 60 percent of a participant’s benefits.

Under the measure:

Retirees who are age 80 or over, or are receiving a disability pension, are not subject to benefit cuts. Retirees ages 75-79 are subject to smaller cuts than retirees under age 75.

Plan trustees have discretion in deciding how to allocate the cuts. For example, they can cut retirees’ benefits more than those of active workers, and decide whether to reduce survivors’ benefits.

Plan trustees are exempt from fiduciary responsibility in making cuts.

Trustees’ decisions to cut benefits can only be reversed by the Department of Treasury, and then only if the Treasury determines that the trustees’ decision to cut benefits or the extent of the benefit cuts is “clearly erroneous.”

There is no provision for automatic restoration of lost benefits if a plan’s funding status improves.

Plans with 10,000 or more participants must allow all participants to vote on cuts before they are implemented. A majority of all workers and retirees in a plan—not just a majority of the ones who vote—is required to block cuts. Ballots can be distributed by e-mail.

Even if a majority of participants vote against cuts, the Treasury Department can override the vote and uphold the trustees’ decision to make cuts, if it concludes that a plan poses a “systemic” risk to the PBGC.

The insurance premiums that multiemployer plans pay to the PBGC are increased from $13 to $26 per participant per year. (In contrast, premiums paid to the single-employer plan program are between $57 and $475 per participant per year.)

Strong Responses

“The pension provisions in the spending bill allow trustees of financially troubled multiemployer pension plans to reduce benefits of retirees by as much as 60 percent if there is a projection that plan assets might be depleted in 10 to 20 years—when many of today’s retirees will no longer be alive,” according to a critical statement by the Pension Rights Center, an advocacy group for pensioners. “Also extremely troubling is the secretive process by which these provisions were pushed through Congress, buried in a must-pass bill in the last days of a lame-duck session, without input from the pensioners whose lives could be devastated by the cutbacks authorized by the measure. The process was undemocratic and unfair.”

In a letter to House and Senate members, AARP also opposed passage, stating that “Permitting plans to break the fundamental requirement of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)—that plans must honor pension promises for benefits already earned and vested—not only would hurt retirees, it would also significantly weaken ERISA and set an undesirable precedent. This precedent could have a detrimental impact on other earned pensions, and the overall retirement income security of the nation.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement, “Under this bill, for the first time, Congress will allow multiemployer plans to cut retirees’ earned pension benefits. This is unprecedented and I worry about the impact on retirees and the slippery slope we’re about to head down.”

But Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who along with Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., put together the coalition supporting the amendment, told the Washington Post, “We have to do something to allow these plans to make the corrections and adjustments they need to keep these plans viable.”

Randy G. DeFrehn, executive director of the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans, an employer-union coalition, said in a statement that House passage of the measure “recognizes the years of work that America’s unions and employers did to develop a solution that doesn’t require a massive taxpayer bailout and instead provides a path forward for these troubled pension plans.”

smiller [at] shrm.org (Stephen Miller), CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him on Twitter @SHRMsmiller.

Related SHRM Articles:

Multiemployer Pension Funding Crisis Looms, SHRM Online Legal Issues, December 2014

Multiemployer Pension Plan Problems Aired, SHRM Online Benefits, November 2013

FASB Issues Update on Employer Disclosures for Multiemployer Plans, SHRM Online Benefits, September 2011

- See more at: http://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/benefits/articles/pages/multiemployer-...(SHRM+Online+Compensation+%26+Benefits+News)#sthash.iJfhUlGV.dp

Severely distressed multiemployer pensions will be able to reduce benefits paid to retirees under an amendment to the omnibus spending bill approved by the U.S. Senate on Dec. 13, two days after House passage. The bill now goes to the White House for an expected presidential signature.

The pension measure, which was negotiated by a bipartisan group of congressional leaders but opposed by some retiree advocates and their congressional allies, is intended to let deeply underfunded multiemployer plans avoid bankruptcy and termination, and by doing so to keep solvent the multiemployer pension insurance fund overseen by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC), the federal pension insurance program.

The provisions apply only to multiemployer pensions and not to single-sponsor corporate pensions, which are subject to a different set of regulations and higher funding-level requirements. The PBGC maintains a separate insurance fund for single-sponsor pensions. Multiemployer or "Taft-Hartley" pension plans commonly are administered by labor unions on behalf of their members and funded by multiple employers in a common industry, subject to collective bargaining contracts with the union.

As SHRM Online recently reported (see Multiemployer Pension Funding Crisis Looms), in November 2014 the PBGC issued a report indicating its multiemployer insurance program was almost certain to become insolvent in 10 years. Of the 1,400 multiemployer plans nationwide, 200 plans covering a total of 1 million participants are at risk of termination.

Cutback Provisions

The measure passed by the House would allow trustees of financially troubled multiemployer pensions to cut retiree benefits to prevent plan insolvency. Financially troubled plans are those that are expected to not have enough money to pay 100 percent of benefits in 10 to 20 years. In some cases, the cuts could exceed 60 percent of a participant’s benefits.

Under the measure:

Retirees who are age 80 or over, or are receiving a disability pension, are not subject to benefit cuts. Retirees ages 75-79 are subject to smaller cuts than retirees under age 75.

Plan trustees have discretion in deciding how to allocate the cuts. For example, they can cut retirees’ benefits more than those of active workers, and decide whether to reduce survivors’ benefits.

Plan trustees are exempt from fiduciary responsibility in making cuts.

Trustees’ decisions to cut benefits can only be reversed by the Department of Treasury, and then only if the Treasury determines that the trustees’ decision to cut benefits or the extent of the benefit cuts is “clearly erroneous.”

There is no provision for automatic restoration of lost benefits if a plan’s funding status improves.

Plans with 10,000 or more participants must allow all participants to vote on cuts before they are implemented. A majority of all workers and retirees in a plan—not just a majority of the ones who vote—is required to block cuts. Ballots can be distributed by e-mail.

Even if a majority of participants vote against cuts, the Treasury Department can override the vote and uphold the trustees’ decision to make cuts, if it concludes that a plan poses a “systemic” risk to the PBGC.

The insurance premiums that multiemployer plans pay to the PBGC are increased from $13 to $26 per participant per year. (In contrast, premiums paid to the single-employer plan program are between $57 and $475 per participant per year.)

Strong Responses

“The pension provisions in the spending bill allow trustees of financially troubled multiemployer pension plans to reduce benefits of retirees by as much as 60 percent if there is a projection that plan assets might be depleted in 10 to 20 years—when many of today’s retirees will no longer be alive,” according to a critical statement by the Pension Rights Center, an advocacy group for pensioners. “Also extremely troubling is the secretive process by which these provisions were pushed through Congress, buried in a must-pass bill in the last days of a lame-duck session, without input from the pensioners whose lives could be devastated by the cutbacks authorized by the measure. The process was undemocratic and unfair.”

In a letter to House and Senate members, AARP also opposed passage, stating that “Permitting plans to break the fundamental requirement of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)—that plans must honor pension promises for benefits already earned and vested—not only would hurt retirees, it would also significantly weaken ERISA and set an undesirable precedent. This precedent could have a detrimental impact on other earned pensions, and the overall retirement income security of the nation.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement, “Under this bill, for the first time, Congress will allow multiemployer plans to cut retirees’ earned pension benefits. This is unprecedented and I worry about the impact on retirees and the slippery slope we’re about to head down.”

But Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who along with Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., put together the coalition supporting the amendment, told the Washington Post, “We have to do something to allow these plans to make the corrections and adjustments they need to keep these plans viable.”

Randy G. DeFrehn, executive director of the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans, an employer-union coalition, said in a statement that House passage of the measure “recognizes the years of work that America’s unions and employers did to develop a solution that doesn’t require a massive taxpayer bailout and instead provides a path forward for these troubled pension plans.”

- See more at: http://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/benefits/articles/pages/multiemployer-...(SHRM+Online+Compensation+%26+Benefits+News)#sthash.iJfhUlGV.dpuf

Severely distressed multiemployer pensions will be able to reduce benefits paid to retirees under an amendment to the omnibus spending bill approved by the U.S. Senate on Dec. 13, two days after House passage. The bill now goes to the White House for an expected presidential signature.

The pension measure, which was negotiated by a bipartisan group of congressional leaders but opposed by some retiree advocates and their congressional allies, is intended to let deeply underfunded multiemployer plans avoid bankruptcy and termination, and by doing so to keep solvent the multiemployer pension insurance fund overseen by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC), the federal pension insurance program.

The provisions apply only to multiemployer pensions and not to single-sponsor corporate pensions, which are subject to a different set of regulations and higher funding-level requirements. The PBGC maintains a separate insurance fund for single-sponsor pensions. Multiemployer or "Taft-Hartley" pension plans commonly are administered by labor unions on behalf of their members and funded by multiple employers in a common industry, subject to collective bargaining contracts with the union.

As SHRM Online recently reported (see Multiemployer Pension Funding Crisis Looms), in November 2014 the PBGC issued a report indicating its multiemployer insurance program was almost certain to become insolvent in 10 years. Of the 1,400 multiemployer plans nationwide, 200 plans covering a total of 1 million participants are at risk of termination.

Cutback Provisions

The measure passed by the House would allow trustees of financially troubled multiemployer pensions to cut retiree benefits to prevent plan insolvency. Financially troubled plans are those that are expected to not have enough money to pay 100 percent of benefits in 10 to 20 years. In some cases, the cuts could exceed 60 percent of a participant’s benefits.

Under the measure:

Retirees who are age 80 or over, or are receiving a disability pension, are not subject to benefit cuts. Retirees ages 75-79 are subject to smaller cuts than retirees under age 75.

Plan trustees have discretion in deciding how to allocate the cuts. For example, they can cut retirees’ benefits more than those of active workers, and decide whether to reduce survivors’ benefits.

Plan trustees are exempt from fiduciary responsibility in making cuts.

Trustees’ decisions to cut benefits can only be reversed by the Department of Treasury, and then only if the Treasury determines that the trustees’ decision to cut benefits or the extent of the benefit cuts is “clearly erroneous.”

There is no provision for automatic restoration of lost benefits if a plan’s funding status improves.

Plans with 10,000 or more participants must allow all participants to vote on cuts before they are implemented. A majority of all workers and retirees in a plan—not just a majority of the ones who vote—is required to block cuts. Ballots can be distributed by e-mail.

Even if a majority of participants vote against cuts, the Treasury Department can override the vote and uphold the trustees’ decision to make cuts, if it concludes that a plan poses a “systemic” risk to the PBGC.

The insurance premiums that multiemployer plans pay to the PBGC are increased from $13 to $26 per participant per year. (In contrast, premiums paid to the single-employer plan program are between $57 and $475 per participant per year.)

Strong Responses

“The pension provisions in the spending bill allow trustees of financially troubled multiemployer pension plans to reduce benefits of retirees by as much as 60 percent if there is a projection that plan assets might be depleted in 10 to 20 years—when many of today’s retirees will no longer be alive,” according to a critical statement by the Pension Rights Center, an advocacy group for pensioners. “Also extremely troubling is the secretive process by which these provisions were pushed through Congress, buried in a must-pass bill in the last days of a lame-duck session, without input from the pensioners whose lives could be devastated by the cutbacks authorized by the measure. The process was undemocratic and unfair.”

In a letter to House and Senate members, AARP also opposed passage, stating that “Permitting plans to break the fundamental requirement of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)—that plans must honor pension promises for benefits already earned and vested—not only would hurt retirees, it would also significantly weaken ERISA and set an undesirable precedent. This precedent could have a detrimental impact on other earned pensions, and the overall retirement income security of the nation.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement, “Under this bill, for the first time, Congress will allow multiemployer plans to cut retirees’ earned pension benefits. This is unprecedented and I worry about the impact on retirees and the slippery slope we’re about to head down.”

But Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who along with Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., put together the coalition supporting the amendment, told the Washington Post, “We have to do something to allow these plans to make the corrections and adjustments they need to keep these plans viable.”

Randy G. DeFrehn, executive director of the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans, an employer-union coalition, said in a statement that House passage of the measure “recognizes the years of work that America’s unions and employers did to develop a solution that doesn’t require a massive taxpayer bailout and instead provides a path forward for these troubled pension plans.”

- See more at: http://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/benefits/articles/pages/multiemployer-...(SHRM+Online+Compensation+%26+Benefits+News)#sthash.iJfhUlGV.dpuf
 

Severely distressed multiemployer pensions will be able to reduce benefits paid to retirees under an amendment to the omnibus spending bill approved by the U.S. Senate on Dec. 13, two days after House passage. The bill now goes to the White House for an expected presidential signature.

The pension measure, which was negotiated by a bipartisan group of congressional leaders but opposed by some retiree advocates and their congressional allies, is intended to let deeply underfunded multiemployer plans avoid bankruptcy and termination, and by doing so to keep solvent the multiemployer pension insurance fund overseen by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC), the federal pension insurance program.

The provisions apply only to multiemployer pensions and not to single-sponsor corporate pensions, which are subject to a different set of regulations and higher funding-level requirements. The PBGC maintains a separate insurance fund for single-sponsor pensions. Multiemployer or "Taft-Hartley" pension plans commonly are administered by labor unions on behalf of their members and funded by multiple employers in a common industry, subject to collective bargaining contracts with the union.

As SHRM Online recently reported (see Multiemployer Pension Funding Crisis Looms), in November 2014 the PBGC issued a report indicating its multiemployer insurance program was almost certain to become insolvent in 10 years. Of the 1,400 multiemployer plans nationwide, 200 plans covering a total of 1 million participants are at risk of termination.

Cutback Provisions

The measure passed by the House would allow trustees of financially troubled multiemployer pensions to cut retiree benefits to prevent plan insolvency. Financially troubled plans are those that are expected to not have enough money to pay 100 percent of benefits in 10 to 20 years. In some cases, the cuts could exceed 60 percent of a participant’s benefits.

Under the measure:

Retirees who are age 80 or over, or are receiving a disability pension, are not subject to benefit cuts. Retirees ages 75-79 are subject to smaller cuts than retirees under age 75.

Plan trustees have discretion in deciding how to allocate the cuts. For example, they can cut retirees’ benefits more than those of active workers, and decide whether to reduce survivors’ benefits.

Plan trustees are exempt from fiduciary responsibility in making cuts.

Trustees’ decisions to cut benefits can only be reversed by the Department of Treasury, and then only if the Treasury determines that the trustees’ decision to cut benefits or the extent of the benefit cuts is “clearly erroneous.”

There is no provision for automatic restoration of lost benefits if a plan’s funding status improves.

Plans with 10,000 or more participants must allow all participants to vote on cuts before they are implemented. A majority of all workers and retirees in a plan—not just a majority of the ones who vote—is required to block cuts. Ballots can be distributed by e-mail.

Even if a majority of participants vote against cuts, the Treasury Department can override the vote and uphold the trustees’ decision to make cuts, if it concludes that a plan poses a “systemic” risk to the PBGC.

The insurance premiums that multiemployer plans pay to the PBGC are increased from $13 to $26 per participant per year. (In contrast, premiums paid to the single-employer plan program are between $57 and $475 per participant per year.)

Strong Responses

“The pension provisions in the spending bill allow trustees of financially troubled multiemployer pension plans to reduce benefits of retirees by as much as 60 percent if there is a projection that plan assets might be depleted in 10 to 20 years—when many of today’s retirees will no longer be alive,” according to a critical statement by the Pension Rights Center, an advocacy group for pensioners. “Also extremely troubling is the secretive process by which these provisions were pushed through Congress, buried in a must-pass bill in the last days of a lame-duck session, without input from the pensioners whose lives could be devastated by the cutbacks authorized by the measure. The process was undemocratic and unfair.”

In a letter to House and Senate members, AARP also opposed passage, stating that “Permitting plans to break the fundamental requirement of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)—that plans must honor pension promises for benefits already earned and vested—not only would hurt retirees, it would also significantly weaken ERISA and set an undesirable precedent. This precedent could have a detrimental impact on other earned pensions, and the overall retirement income security of the nation.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement, “Under this bill, for the first time, Congress will allow multiemployer plans to cut retirees’ earned pension benefits. This is unprecedented and I worry about the impact on retirees and the slippery slope we’re about to head down.”

But Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who along with Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., put together the coalition supporting the amendment, told the Washington Post, “We have to do something to allow these plans to make the corrections and adjustments they need to keep these plans viable.”

Randy G. DeFrehn, executive director of the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans, an employer-union coalition, said in a statement that House passage of the measure “recognizes the years of work that America’s unions and employers did to develop a solution that doesn’t require a massive taxpayer bailout and instead provides a path forward for these troubled pension plans.”

- See more at: http://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/benefits/articles/pages/multiemployer-...(SHRM+Online+Compensation+%26+Benefits+News)#sthash.iJfhUlGV.dpuf

Severely distressed multiemployer pensions will be able to reduce benefits paid to retirees under an amendment to the omnibus spending bill approved by the U.S. Senate on Dec. 13, two days after House passage. The bill now goes to the White House for an expected presidential signature.

The pension measure, which was negotiated by a bipartisan group of congressional leaders but opposed by some retiree advocates and their congressional allies, is intended to let deeply underfunded multiemployer plans avoid bankruptcy and termination, and by doing so to keep solvent the multiemployer pension insurance fund overseen by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC), the federal pension insurance program.

The provisions apply only to multiemployer pensions and not to single-sponsor corporate pensions, which are subject to a different set of regulations and higher funding-level requirements. The PBGC maintains a separate insurance fund for single-sponsor pensions. Multiemployer or "Taft-Hartley" pension plans commonly are administered by labor unions on behalf of their members and funded by multiple employers in a common industry, subject to collective bargaining contracts with the union.

As SHRM Online recently reported (see Multiemployer Pension Funding Crisis Looms), in November 2014 the PBGC issued a report indicating its multiemployer insurance program was almost certain to become insolvent in 10 years. Of the 1,400 multiemployer plans nationwide, 200 plans covering a total of 1 million participants are at risk of termination.

Cutback Provisions

The measure passed by the House would allow trustees of financially troubled multiemployer pensions to cut retiree benefits to prevent plan insolvency. Financially troubled plans are those that are expected to not have enough money to pay 100 percent of benefits in 10 to 20 years. In some cases, the cuts could exceed 60 percent of a participant’s benefits.

Under the measure:

Retirees who are age 80 or over, or are receiving a disability pension, are not subject to benefit cuts. Retirees ages 75-79 are subject to smaller cuts than retirees under age 75.

Plan trustees have discretion in deciding how to allocate the cuts. For example, they can cut retirees’ benefits more than those of active workers, and decide whether to reduce survivors’ benefits.

Plan trustees are exempt from fiduciary responsibility in making cuts.

Trustees’ decisions to cut benefits can only be reversed by the Department of Treasury, and then only if the Treasury determines that the trustees’ decision to cut benefits or the extent of the benefit cuts is “clearly erroneous.”

There is no provision for automatic restoration of lost benefits if a plan’s funding status improves.

Plans with 10,000 or more participants must allow all participants to vote on cuts before they are implemented. A majority of all workers and retirees in a plan—not just a majority of the ones who vote—is required to block cuts. Ballots can be distributed by e-mail.

Even if a majority of participants vote against cuts, the Treasury Department can override the vote and uphold the trustees’ decision to make cuts, if it concludes that a plan poses a “systemic” risk to the PBGC.

The insurance premiums that multiemployer plans pay to the PBGC are increased from $13 to $26 per participant per year. (In contrast, premiums paid to the single-employer plan program are between $57 and $475 per participant per year.)

Strong Responses

“The pension provisions in the spending bill allow trustees of financially troubled multiemployer pension plans to reduce benefits of retirees by as much as 60 percent if there is a projection that plan assets might be depleted in 10 to 20 years—when many of today’s retirees will no longer be alive,” according to a critical statement by the Pension Rights Center, an advocacy group for pensioners. “Also extremely troubling is the secretive process by which these provisions were pushed through Congress, buried in a must-pass bill in the last days of a lame-duck session, without input from the pensioners whose lives could be devastated by the cutbacks authorized by the measure. The process was undemocratic and unfair.”

In a letter to House and Senate members, AARP also opposed passage, stating that “Permitting plans to break the fundamental requirement of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)—that plans must honor pension promises for benefits already earned and vested—not only would hurt retirees, it would also significantly weaken ERISA and set an undesirable precedent. This precedent could have a detrimental impact on other earned pensions, and the overall retirement income security of the nation.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement, “Under this bill, for the first time, Congress will allow multiemployer plans to cut retirees’ earned pension benefits. This is unprecedented and I worry about the impact on retirees and the slippery slope we’re about to head down.”

But Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who along with Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., put together the coalition supporting the amendment, told the Washington Post, “We have to do something to allow these plans to make the corrections and adjustments they need to keep these plans viable.”

Randy G. DeFrehn, executive director of the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans, an employer-union coalition, said in a statement that House passage of the measure “recognizes the years of work that America’s unions and employers did to develop a solution that doesn’t require a massive taxpayer bailout and instead provides a path forward for these troubled pension plans.”

Categories: Labor News, Unions

Congress approves plan to allow pension cuts

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Sun, 12/14/2014 - 08:14
CNN Money MovesCNN Money MovesDecember 14, 2014View the original piece

More than a million retired and current truck drivers, construction workers and other union workers could see their pension benefits cut now that Congress passed a proposal aimed at shoring up some of the nation's biggest pensions.

Tacked on as an amendment to the government's $1.1 trillion spending bill, the proposal was approved by the Senate late Saturday night.

While those sponsoring the pension proposal say it is "the only available option" to save failing multiemployer pension plans, other groups -- like the AARP and the Pension Rights Center -- are crying foul.

Multiemployer pension plans cover more than 10 million workers and retirees in the trucking, manufacturing and other industries. But many of these plans have struggled in the last decade as they grapple with an aging workforce and major investment losses from the recession. Plus, many larger employers have pulled out of the plans.

That has put a major strain on the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the government agency that insures pension plans, which last month said its reserves are dangerously low.

The Congressional proposal would allow plans that are projected to run out of money in the next 10 to 20 years to cut the benefits they pay to both current and future retirees. Benefits would not be cut for disabled pensioners or those 80 years and older, while cuts would be lessened for those between 75 and 80.

The PBGC projects that more than 10% of the roughly 1,400 multiemployer pension plans, which cover more than 1 million workers and retirees, currently meet this criteria.

Under current law, cutting the benefits of those who are already retired is off-limits. Instead, troubled multiemployer plans can take other actions, like reducing the benefits employees earn going forward and raising employee and employer contributions to the plan.

If the Congressional plan passes, cuts would require participant and government approval first, although the largest troubled plans could slash benefits even if retirees vote against it.

Retired truck driver Glenn Nicodemus, 64, receives his pension checks from the Central States Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund, which is struggling to cover more than 300,000 retirees, widows and others.

Under the Congressional proposal, Nicodemus could see his annual benefits plummet from around $40,000 a year to as little as $15,000.

"I am disappointed in the fact that such an important matter is being done is such an underhanded way with little or no discussion of the consequences to millions who will be effected," he said.

Groups like the AARP, the Pension Rights Center and some worker unions say that retirees like Nicodemus are counting on their pension benefits, which they paid for through decades of contributions, and that other measures should be taken to save plans like Central States.

But supporters of the legislation counter that allowing for benefit cuts -- along with other changes included in the legislation, like allowing troubled plans to merge with healthier plans and doubling the insurance premiums employers pay the PBGC -- will help preserve the plans for both retirees and current workers.

One Cleveland plan, for example, has said it would only need to cut current benefits by 10% in order to prevent insolvency, said Randy DeFrehn, executive director of a coalition of employers and labor unions that crafted the proposal the legislation is based on.

Without any cuts now, he said that plan expects to run out of money by 2028, at which point all participants would see their benefits cut by 50% or more.

That's because if a multiemployer plan goes insolvent, a retiree is guaranteed less than $13,000 a year. In contrast, a retiree in a single employer plan that goes bust is insured for up to $60,000.

To make matters worse, the PBGC's multiemployer insurance program is itself projected to run out of money in the next decade unless changes are made -- meaning that workers and retirees in failing plans could be left with no benefits at all.

Categories: Labor News, Unions

Two Canadian National Railway Derailments within 16 Hours in Saskatchewan

Railroaded's Blog - Sat, 12/13/2014 - 23:27

5 Canadian National Railway cars filled with grain derailed near the 11th Street bypass in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan December 13 (Global News), only 16 hours following a major derailment of 35 cars near Raymore, Saskatchewan December 12.

The Raymore derailment involved one car carrying isopropanol alcohol (a dangerous good); 22 cars carrying new automobiles which were damaged; and the rest carrying steel, canned goods and mineral oil (Regina Leader PostCBC NewsCJME).

CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents” cites many more CN derailments in Canada and the U.S.


Filed under: Canadian National Railway, Derailment
Categories: Labor News

Palestine: Civil Service Union in High Court, protests PA declaring mv't illegal

Labourstart.org News - Sat, 12/13/2014 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Ma'an News Agency
Categories: Labor News

35 Canadian National Railway Cars Derail in Saskatchewan – Updated

Railroaded's Blog - Sat, 12/13/2014 - 08:00

35 Canadian National Railway freight cars fell off the tracks December 12 about 3 km west of Raymore, Saskatchewan (CJMECBC NewsRegina Leader Post). CN had initially said 33 cars derailed. One of the derailed cars was loaded with a dangerous good – isopropanol alcohol. 22 derailed cars were carrying automobiles, while the rest were carrying steel, canned goods and mineral oil. The major derailment forced the closure of CN’s main line.

See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for hundreds of additional examples of CN derailments, spills, fires and explosions.


Filed under: Canadian National Railway, Derailment
Categories: Labor News

Korean Air princess is just the tip of the abusive chaebol iceberg

Current News - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 19:17

Korean Air princess is just the tip of the abusive chaebol iceberg
http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_editorial/668599.html
Posted on : Dec.11,2014 13:20 KSTModified on : Dec.11,2014 13:20 KST

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Cho Hyun-ah
Chaebol brass have long been known for using harsh language and even physically assaulting those who perturbed them
Is it just Cho Hyun-ah?
In the wake of the Korean Air vice president’s resignation from several positions over an incident when she turned around an international flight over improperly presented macadamia nuts, many are now saying the real issue goes beyond her to other members of the Hanjin Group‘s ruling Cho clan. People close to the group say the most high-profile examples - including a 2005 incident when Cho’s younger brother Won-tae was booked for pushing over a woman in her seventies over a road dispute, or a 2012 episode when he verbally abused a civic group protesting over the management of Inha University - represent just the tip of the iceberg.
“I don’t think there’s a single one of the executives, including me, who hasn‘t been heaped with abuse after being called on the carpet by [Hanjin Group chairman] Cho Yang-ho’s wife,” recalled a former executive with a shake of the head.
Another former executive said a lot of the employees “are relieved that this finally blew up the way it did, although they’ll never say so publicly.”
The issue of tyrannical behavior by chaebol families extends beyond Hanjin. The chairman of one of the top ten groups, identified by the initial “P,” is well-known throughout the business world for his anger management issues and abusive language.
“There was one time where the chairman saw an executive at an internal talk who had been boozing the night before and was chewing gum to get rid of the smell,” recalled one executive at the group. “He shouted, ‘Get out of here,’ and fired them on the spot. He also famously fired an employee who was on the elevator with him because he smelled like cigarettes.”
Another major shareholder at one of the top ten groups, identified by the initial “J,” is known not just for abusive language, but also for kicking employees in the shin when angry.
“I was once invited to an event by J, and I was shocked at the borderline abusive language he used with a much older executive,” recalled one prominent journalist. The use of abusive language with the elderly is typically seen as taboo in age-conscious South Korean culture.
Samwhan Corporation CEO Choi Yong-kwon, a onetime member of the Federation of Korean Industries presidential board, is especially notorious for his chronic abusive language and behavior with executives over the past decades.
Shin-kicking was also a common practice for Hyundai Group founder Chung Ju-yung in the early economic development days of the 1960s and ’70s, when verbal and physical abuse by chaebol heads became seen as commonplace. But the situation is different four to five decades later, with the same companies having grown into global businesses. What explains the persistence of a backward, pre-modern corporate culture?
“There’s still the same mind-set that the owner is the master and the employees are servants,” said Inha University professor Kim Jin-bang. “Also, the second and third generation chaebol children are treated like little princes from the time they’re born.”
The argument is that the corporate scions are almost destined to become overbearing because of the untrammeled power the owners enjoy under the imperial management system - authority that then gets passed on to their children.
Many believe the time has come to leave those practices behind, not only for the company’s sake but for the clans themselves.
“The third chaebol generation ought to be humble enough that they wouldn’t choose to sit in first class because they think they deserve it,” grumbled one chaebol executive. It’s a message many of the family members could stand to take to heart - and perhaps even a way for a post-authoritarian, more horizontal organizational culture to blossom and a new DNA of creativity and innovation to take root.

Tags: Korean Air princess
Categories: Labor News

Palestinian Bus Drivers Under Attack-More Ethnic Cleansing In Apartheid Israel

Current News - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 16:34

Palestinian Bus Drivers Under Attack-More Ethnic Cleansing In Apartheid Israel
http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/.premium-1.631422
Fearing Jewish attacks, 100 Arab bus drivers in Jerusalem quit their jobs
‘It’s better to earn less money and not come home in a body bag,’ says one of 100 drivers who have left Egged since wave of violence started this summer.

By Nir Hasson | Dec. 12, 2014 | 5:00 PM|

Palestinian mourners attending the funeral of bus driver Yusuf Hassan al-Ramouni in the West Bank town of Abu Dis, near Jerusalem. Photo by Reuters

A passenger stepping off an Egged bus in Jerusalem.Photo by Emil Salman

Forty-seven years after the unification of Jerusalem, there are very few islands of Jewish-Arab coexistence in the city. Of these, one of the most noteworthy was the Egged bus cooperative. About half its drivers were East Jerusalem Palestinians, who say they received fair treatment, good wages and benefits – things few other East Jerusalem Palestinians enjoy.

But the wave of violence in the city in recent months, which has included violent attacks on Arab drivers, has caused 100 of them – about a third of Egged’s Arab drivers – to quit. Forty have officially resigned, while 60 have simply not shown up for work. This has severely disrupted public transportation in Jerusalem.

“I worked for Egged for six years,” said Arafat Tahan. “It was good work. But it’s better to earn less money and not come home in a body bag.”

Last Wednesday night, yet another Arab bus driver was attacked. Two Jewish men on a scooter drove up beside his bus in the Gilo neighborhood and tried to break the windshield. When this failed, they forced the bus to stop, threw a stone that shattered the windshield and took off.

In this case, the suspects were swiftly arrested. But usually, drivers say, the police are slow to react.

Drivers say scarcely a day has passed in recent months without at least one violent attack on an Arab driver. Tamir Nir, head of the municipal transportation department, confirms this. And that doesn’t include cursing, spitting or racist remarks.

“The situation is catastrophic,” said attorney Osama Ibrahem, who represents more than 40 drivers who have been attacked – mainly in the last four months. “Not a day passes without a physical assault,” he said. “I’m not talking about verbal assaults. They don’t even count those; that’s something they’ve learned to live with.”

The breaking point was the death of driver Yusuf Hassan al-Ramouni, who was found hanged on a bus in an Egged garage last month. The autopsy concluded that he hanged himself. His fellow drivers don’t believe that; they’re convinced he was murdered by Jewish extremists. The day after Ramouni’s death on November 16, most Arab drivers stayed home.

Tahan described an incident that occurred last month. After all the other passengers had left the bus at the final stop, several young men began cursing him: “Arab son of a bitch”; “terrorist.”

“I told them, ‘If I’m a terrorist, why are you riding with me?’” he recalled. “I opened the door and, suddenly, I got a fist in the nose and four of them jumped on me. I began driving; they left the vehicle and fled. I called the police and then lost consciousness and woke up in the hospital.” Doctors diagnosed a broken eye socket and other injuries.

Nighttime is the worst

Awad Ganin was attacked by several Jewish passengers last Saturday. One summoned the others from the back of the bus, saying, “Come, this driver doesn’t like Jews,” he told Channel 2 television. “One of them hit me in the chest – while I was driving.”

He continued to the terminus and parked the bus. When he stood up, however, they attacked him. “They kicked me in the side, hit my back. They pulled me from the [steering] wheel, outside, and began shouting ‘Death to the Arabs! We’ll kill you, you Arab.’”

Drivers say certain neighborhoods are particularly problematic, including the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Ramat Shlomo and Ramot. Nighttime is the worst, and most attacks occur at the last stop, after other passengers have left.

The problem isn’t unique to Jerusalem. Drivers from the Kavim bus company say they frequently suffer verbal and physical attacks in Betar Ilit and Modi’in Ilit, two ultra-Orthodox West Bank settlements.

“People get on and tell me, ‘I don’t want to pay, you’re an Arab son of bitch,” said one Kavim driver, Nidal Jitt. “And there’s one street where they always throw stones at us.”

Both Jewish and Arab bus drivers are also routinely stoned in Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem. And Jewish drivers complain of passengers who suspect them of being Arabs and demand to see their identity cards before boarding.

All the drivers say police are slow to react. Amjad Arikat said the windows of his bus were broken several times, but “You call the police and they get back to you after an hour.”

Ala Jaljal said that after thugs tried to beat him up on August 4, police arrested him instead of his assailants, holding him in a cell for seven hours for allegedly using tear gas. When they eventually released him, they refused to let him file a complaint against his attackers, he says. “The policeman told me, ‘Go home or we’ll arrest you,’ so I went.”

Drivers also accuse Egged of not doing enough to protect them. One said he had urged managers to speak with rabbis in Har Nof, or even halt bus service to the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood for a few days, but they refused. “I’m not willing to die for Egged,” he said.

Ibrahem argued that there should be a partition separating drivers from passengers. “That’s the only solution to the problem,” he said.

But that would require installing an automatic ticketing system: Currently, people buy tickets from the drivers. In the meantime, the police and Egged are considering other options, like installing security cameras in buses and placing more policemen in problem neighborhoods.

The police said in a statement that they respond to every complaint “immediately” and “professionally,” and are working closely with Egged on both open and undercover enforcement activities. “These operations have led to a decrease in incidents,” the statement added.

Egged said its bus service in Jerusalem is back to normal, adding that the cooperative “believes in coexistence and is working to recruit and train new drivers, including Arabs, to fill its ranks.” It denounced the violence against its drivers, but said this “isn’t unique to Jerusalem and doesn’t distinguish among drivers on the basis of religion, [ethnic] origin or gender.”

Egged provides support to drivers and their families, the statement continued, and relies on the police “to know how to deal with this outrageous phenomenon.”

Tags: Palestinian bus driversapartheidsolidarity
Categories: Labor News

South Africa: Murder exposes rampant sexism in South African mines

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: IndustriALL Global Union
Categories: Labor News

It's Going To Get A Little Easier For Workers To Unionize

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 14:12
Dave JamiesonHuffington PostDecember 12, 2014View the original piece

WASHINGTON -- Federal officials unveiled new rules on Friday that will streamline and simplify the union election process, a reform long sought by labor unions and fiercely opposed by businesses.

Among other changes, the rules issued by the National Labor Relations Board will limit some of the litigation that can precede a union election, making it harder for parties to stall or drag out the process. The reforms will also allow unions to file election petitions and other documents via email, and they will require employers to provide unions with the email addresses and phone numbers of workers eligible to vote.

Many employers favor the older, slower election process, as it gives them more time to dissuade workers from unionizing. The reforms announced Friday have long been discussed and debated, and businesses have argued that they would infringe on the businesses' free speech rights and lead to "ambush" or "quickie" elections.

The labor board -- or at least its left-leaning majority appointed by President Barack Obama -- disagrees. In a statement Friday, the agency said the changes would "modernize" procedures and allow it to "more effectively administer" the laws on collective bargaining. In a sign of the partisan divide at play, the rules were approved by the board's three liberal members, while its two conservative members dissented.

Labor groups have long bemoaned the current process as outdated and tied up with red tape, giving employers ample time to bust unions. Companies often dispute which workers should belong in the bargaining unit -- that is, the people who would be covered by the union contract -- and the reforms announced Friday will shift that litigation to after the election. Employers will also have to prove that a review of the election is warranted, as opposed to merely requesting one.

Mark Gaston Pearce, the labor board's chairman, said in a statement that he was "heartened" that the board is enacting the amendments.

"Simplifying and streamlining the process will result in improvements for all parties," Pearce said. "With these changes, the Board strives to ensure that its representation process remains a model of fairness and efficiency for all."

The rules were announced in the Federal Register on Friday and will go into effect on April 14, 2015.

The board put forth a similar batch of rules more than three years ago, drawing heat from various business lobbying groups as well as congressional Republicans. After a federal court ruled that the board had lacked a quorum when it issued them, the board formally withdrew those rules early this year. It had been expected to reissue similar rules now that it has five confirmed board members.

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO labor federation, applauded the announcement of the rules Friday.

"The modest but important reforms to the representation election process announced today by the National Labor Relations Board will help reduce delay in the process and make it easier for workers to vote on forming a union in a timely manner," Trumka said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the National Retail Federation, an industry lobby, said it was considering "both a legal and legislative strategy" to block the rules from going into effect, calling them "the latest attempt by the Obama Administration to aid their allies in Big Labor at the expense of employers and employees."

Republicans in Congress have already held hearings on what they deem the "ambush" election rules and may well hold more once the GOP takes control of both chambers next year. They could potentially try to block the rules from going into effect -- though not in the immediate future, since members of Congress are already far along in hammering out a deal this week to fund the government. By waiting to release the rules Friday, the labor board may at least have avoided a GOP-sponsored rider in the spending bill that could gut the rules.

Categories: Labor News, Unions

FAQs: What the Pension Bill Means for You

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 12:03

December 13 2014: Get answers on the pension cut deal and what it means for you.

The ink is still drying on the pension cut deal that was attached in the dead of night to Congress's spending bill. Some FAQs can be answered now; TDU will provide updated information as it becomes available

Does this bill mandate pension cuts?

No. This bill permits “deeply troubled” pension plans, those which could become insolvent over the next 10-20 years, to cut already-earned pensions of retirees and active workers. These cuts will be up to the trustees of the pension fund; the trustees are 50% union officials, and 50% management reps. No cuts will go into effect immediately.

Could this affect other Teamsters, or just those in the Central States Pension Fund?

Most Teamster funds will be completely unaffected. The Western Conference Fund is in the “green zone.” Other large Teamster funds, such as New England, Local 705, Local 710, Local 804, Local 177, Joint Council 83, and most others will be unaffected, even if they are in the “red zone.” For example, Local 804 just won significant pension benefit increases in their recent contract.

Certain deeply troubled small Teamster funds may be affected. New York Local 707’s pension fund is nearly insolvent, as freight jobs dried up, and their biggest employer YRC got concessions to drastically cut their contributions to all pension funds. So we expect the Local 707 Fund to consider pension cuts.

How will it affect Teamsters in the Central States Fund?

The Director of the Fund, Thomas Nyhan, was a principal lobbying force for this bill, and has stated that CSPF will impose cuts on retirees and active Teamsters. The Trustees of the fund, who are 50% management and 50% Teamster officials politically aligned with Hoffa, support the bill and support cutting pensions. They will make the decisions on when, who, and how much to cut, within the bounds of the new legislation.

Have Central States officials indicated how much they will cut?

In the past, Al Nelson, the Benefit Services Director of Central States, stated that a cut of about 30% would be what is needed.

But now the legislation has changed that. It requires that workers (so-called “orphans”) who retired from companies that went bankrupt (such as CF, Allied Systems, Preston, or Hostess, for example)  be cut first and hardest.

This horrendous language is contained on page 81 of the pension legislation.

At this point, no one knows what the cuts will be, because we do not know how this legislation will be interpreted or applied. The next move will be by the Central States trustees.

The legislation also has protective language for some retirees: those over 80, those receiving only a disability pension, and to a partial degree, those who are 75-80.  

How will this affect UPS retirees in the Central States Fund?

UPS bought enough influence in Congress to save an estimated $2 billion through a special interest loophole that shifts the company's cost burdens on to Teamster retirees who will face additional pension cuts as a result.

On pages 81-82 of the pension legislation there is a loophole dedicated to exactly one corporation, UPS. This loophole means that CSPF will probably not be able to cut the pensions of UPS workers who retired after January 1, 2008, because they are “Priority 3” in order of cuts (the best priority).  

UPS retirees do not benefit one cent from this loophole because their pensions are already protected by the contract. Article 34, Section 1 of the current UPS master agreement, requires UPS to make up the full pension to UPSers if CSPF imposes cuts.  

UPS's special interest loophole means the company won't have to make up for any pension cuts. As a result, all non-UPS retirees will face $2 billion more in pension cuts. Retirees are footing the bill so that UPS doesn't have to pay the obligations it agreed to in the contract.

It is not known if the "UPS Exemption" also covers UPS Teamsters who retired from Central States before January 1, 2008. These Teamster retirees deserve to know their status and if they may face pension cuts.

Will Teamsters and retirees get a vote prior to any cuts?

A ‘fact sheet’ issued by the bills sponsors claims that workers and retirees will get a vote before cuts could be made. But this is not true because of additional loopholes in the deal.   

First, those in Central States can be deprived of a vote, because it is a large fund and its failure could seriously impact the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). 

To add insult to injury: a majority of all participants – not just voters – would be required for a No result. In other words, not voting would count as a vote in favor of a pension cut!

If Central States makes these cuts, will the fund be secure?

Maybe. Certainly slashing the benefits would improve the bottom line. But in the long run a pension plan needs contributing employers, and here is where the Hoffa administration has failed badly. They severely undermined the Fund by letting UPS pull out 45,000 participants, and they have not organized new companies into the fund. Central States set up a special “hybrid” kind of plan to allow new companies to join the fund with zero withdrawal liability. It was designed for organizing. But it has not been used for new companies. That has to change.

Will Teamster officials and Central States officials have to take cuts?

That remains to be seen. Because their work for the fund or local unions will not count as “orphan” time, they may or may not face cuts.  But Thomas Nyhan, the fund director, is paid $662,060, so he probably isn’t worried. Neither is Hoffa: he is in the lucrative Family Protection Plan, which pays far more than a working Teamster could dream of collecting.

Sign up for email updates at www.tdu.org and like us on facebook.

The Pension Rights Center’s backgrounder on the pension-cut bill

Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Congress, Hoffa Butcher Teamster Pensions

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 11:26

December 13, 2014: Congress has officially passed the spending bill that includes pension cut legislation that was attached as an amendment to the budget bill.

The legislation guts federal pension protections and will pave the way for pension cuts in the Central States Pension Fund.

Teamsters have questions and deserve answers. TDU lays out what the bill means for Teamsters in our Frequently Asked Questions. 

The biggest question of all may be: how did Hoffa let this happen in the first place?

While Hoffa was MIA or worse, TDU fought a grassroots campaign to protect Teamster pensions.

We partnered with the Pension Rights Center and AARP and launched a coalition for pension protections, not cuts.

We sounded the alarm when a Congressional sneak attack attached the pension cut deal to the end-of-year spending bill. Growing number of unions spoke out in opposition. We even forced the Hoffa administration to make a show of opposition.

The Hoffa administration was worse than MIA. His allies at the Central States Pension Fund were leading proponents of the pension cut deal. Central States Executive Director

Thomas Nyhan was a leading proponent of the pension cut deal. He was paid $662,060 by our pension fund last year. How big of a cut will he take?

Hoffa waited until the day before the legislation passed, Hoffa issued a last-minute letter opposing the pension rip-off. The IBT emailed members calling on them to make phone calls. This wasn't even a matter of too-little-too-late. It was a cover-up.

Hoffa stayed quiet to signal politicians that he backed the pension cut bill; then when the bill's passage was secured, he put on a show of opposition to the membership to cover himself politically.

Teamsters expect Congress to play politics. But they deserve more from their own union leadership. 

The Hoffa administration has spent the last year imposing contract concessions, healthcare cuts and pension cuts. It's time for change.

If you agree, get involved in the movement for change in our union.

Sign up for email updates at www.tdu.org and like us on facebook.

Send us a message and tell us what TDU should do next to fight for our union.

Join with Teamsters working to defend pensions, and change the leadership of the Teamster Union. Together, we can rebuild the Teamsters!

Issues: Pension and BenefitsHoffa Watch
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Will the Central States Big Shots Take a Cut?

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 11:10

December 12, 2014: Thomas Nyhan testified in Congress and lobbied hard – with our pension money and staff – to get the pension-cut bill passed. Now, he got his wish: a 163-page bill sneaked through Congress, tacked onto the budget. 

We propose some small measure of equality of sacrifice, which is a basic principle of the labor movement.  

The executives of the Central States Pension and Welfare Funds should take a 30% cut, to show their sincerity when they talk about the need for sacrifice.

Let’s start with Thomas Nyhan, who was paid $662,060 in 2013 and Al Nelson who was paid $305,811. There are plenty of other fund executives in their bracket: in our review of the 5500 forms for Central States Pension and H&W Funds, we found 13 pulling down over $200,000, and seven over $300,000.

What do you think?

Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Major Cities Don’t Want Dangerous Goods on Railways

Railroaded's Blog - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 08:00

Toronto and Mississauga want to end the transportation of dangerous goods by rail through the two cities, in the most densely populated part of Ontario (Toronto Star).

Toronto Mayor John Tory recently told reporters, “I said during the campaign and I’ll repeat it now, that I think we should be moving in the direction, in negotiation with the railways and the federal government, to stop movement of toxic and dangerous substances through the city at all”. Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said, the “right solution” is to stop the transportation of dangerous goods through her city.

Regarding the fact that railway companies refuse to provide real-time information on what dangerous goods they are moving through cities, towns and villages, Mayor Tory said, “I am far from satisfied with the transparency that we don’t see today. I think it’s time to let the sun shine in on this, and it’s not just a matter of some principle of transparency. It’s a matter of people being adequately informed, in a big city like this, of what is traveling through the city, and when and how much.”

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens recently added, “It just seems to be in a lot of ways patently unfair that we can be stonewalled for this information…The more municipalities that come forward and stand firm it’s going to attract more attention from the federal government and the decision-makers at the federal government for sure.” (Windsor Star)

Municipalities across Canada have been putting pressure on the two big rail companies, Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway, to release real-time dangerous goods data, so they are better able to protect their citizens during derailments, spills, fires and explosions. Transport Canada, which is legislatively responsible for overall rail safety, refuses to force rail companies to hand over the real-time data to municipalities.


Filed under: Canadian National Railway, Canadian Pacific Railway, Derailment
Categories: Labor News

Fighting Zionist Oppression—For Workers Action or BDS?

Current News - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 21:20

Fighting Zionist Oppression—For Workers Action or BDS?
A Response to Greg Dropkin on the Palestine Conundrum
12/11/14
By Jack Heyman

At the start of this exchange readers should know that for nearly 20 years beginning with the Liverpool, England dockers dispute, I’ve been writing articles and doing interviews on this website (www.labournet.net), exposing class collaborationist trade union bureaucracies (not only in the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and fighting within my union, the ILWU, for actions against capitalism, imperialism, Zionism, racism and for building workers solidarity internationally. My articles have underscored the primary role the working class plays in the struggle against capitalism.

Just to be clear from the outset, I think that what’s at issue now is how best to fight Zionist oppression and imperialism, the system which buttresses it. Is it through appeals based on a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) or through workers actions and appeals to international workers solidarity. And beyond that what precisely is meant by BDS?

We have had some recent signal successes as longshore workers of ILWU Local 10 refused in August and again in September, to work ships of the Israeli Zim Lines, as part of protests against the Zionist slaughter in Gaza. In my article in Counterpunch to which you responded (and which you’ve posted on Labournet) I tried to lay out how those actions were carried out. There have also been some sharp and sometimes heatd disputes about program and strategy. Longtime solidarity activists have been called “racists” for criticizing Block the Boat (BtB) leaders for not following up after the August 16 rally and advocating picketing the Zim ship for the four days it was docked until it was forced to sail. Even though these activists organized the picketing on August 17-20 , BtB claimed credit for blocking the ship’s cargo and forcing the sailing of the Zim Piraeus.

Also, in sectarian fashion BtB obstinately refuses to recognize the successful picket of the Zim Shanghai on September 27 by another group, the Stop Zim Action Committee. Picketers included 4 Palestinian solidarity activists who’d been on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, 3 longshore veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle and a dozen activists from the 2010 anti-Zim port protest. And again, other Palestinian activists were slandered for daring to question the link of the Arab Resources and Organizing Committee (AROC), BtB’s main backer, to Bill Gates and George Soros (a top backer of the Democratic Party) through the Tides Foundation.

AROC claims leadership of the Bay Area Palestinian solidarity protests now and in the 2010 anti-Zim ship protests. Yet, three ostensibly Marxist groups—Workers World, International Socialist Organization and Party of Socialism and Liberation-- which laud AROC’s role in this year’s action don’t even mention the organization or list it as an endorser in their 2010 coverage of the first-ever U.S. trade union action to protest bloody Israeli oppression. Unlike the 2010 anti-Zim ship protest, BtB/AROC insisted on support for BDS as a precondition for endorsing their August 16, 2014 action. That insistence is why the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee (TWSC), which over the years has organized numerous solidarity actions by transportation workers in the Bay Area, did not endorse the August 16 action, although we did participate in it, and in subsequent days of picketing the Zim Piraeus by independent activists. BDS should not be a precondition for taking united front action. It wasn’t in 2010 and it shouldn’t be now.

At a November 12 forum on BDS sponsored by the grad students’ UAW Local 2865 at the University of California, Berkeley, while 3 Zionist students spoke during the discussion period but none longshore workers in the audience were called on who actually organized actions against Zim Lines in 2010 and the September picket. Why? Because we’d voiced criticisms of BDS. Developing a clear understanding of how to defeat Zionism can only be done in free and open debate to aid the Palestinian people in their struggle and build international solidarity.

So what are the differences? You argue that the classless “community picket line has been the essential ingredient“. I don’t oppose community-based actions but experience has shown that community rallies, demonstrations, marches, and picket lines can supplement actions by workers but not replace them. That’s what happened in ILWU’s 1984 anti-apartheid action. Longshoremen took union action, refusing for 11 days to work South African cargo on the Nedlloyd Kimberley at Pier 80. (There will be a public forum 7PM Saturday December 13 at La Pena, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley on that historic action given by Howard Keylor, one of the key union organizers, and myself.)

Greg, in your November 17, 2014 reply , you cite three ILWU actions: the 1997 Liverpool dockers solidarity action, the 2003 anti-war port protest and the 2010 anti-Zionist action against the Zim Shipping Lines. You point to these exemplary actions as “community pickets”. I think you misread all three.

The Liverpool dockers had been locked out by their employer Mersey Docks and Harbour Company. Howard Keylor, Robert Irminger, Steve Zeltzer and myself had all attended international conferences called by the Liverpool dockworkers. We organized (with your encouragement) the Committee for Victory to the Liverpool Dockers (and 8 years later the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee) with support from ILWU members, black workers, the nascent Labor Party and students from Laney College. Robert Irminger was designated by the Liverpool Stewards to be picket captain of the picket line. This wasn’t just some kind of broad “community” group, it was led by union activists, in particular from the ILWU, with much appreciated community support.

The arbitrator ruled against the picket stating it wasn’t bona fide as per the longshore contract because the pickets weren’t Liverpool dockers.
Protesters defied an employer’s injunction and longshore workers honored the picket line despite cops being mobilized by port officials to escort them through the picket line. For 4 solid days, longshoremen refused to cross this labor community picket line.

As was reported on Labournet website the Neptune Jade sailed without its cargo from England being discharged. In the next port of call Vancouver, Canada the ship was met by another picket and promptly sailed to Yokohama, Japan where the union simply refused to work the ship. She then sailed to the non-union port of Kaohsiung, Taiwan, the cargo was finally unloaded. The company changed the ship’s name. (Zim could try the same ploy or ship Zim containers on its partners’ vessels.)

Clearly the Neptune Jade action, coordinated in three consecutive global ports caused shipowners consternation. It was a coordinated union action, inspired by the Liverpool dockers themselves successfully picketing in 1996 in Port Elizabeth, N.J. and replicated by the ILWU the following year supplemented by labor/community support. Mike Carden, one of the leading Liverpool dockers stewards, is writing the history of that significant class struggle that reignited the flame of international labor solidarity. Again, the Neptune Jade action, which you called for, was essentially a union-led action not a community action.

The 2003 anti-war protest in the port of Oakland was not an exemplary community picket, despite the brave effort of the protesters facing a police onslaught. After cops shot demonstrators and longshoremen with “less than lethal” weapons, scores of us, including myself, were beaten and arrested, cuffed and caged in police buses. There was plenty of contact beforehand between longshore workers and the antiwar groups, who recognized that it had to be the workers who would shut down the port. In fact, as had been widely reported, the demonstrators chant was specifically directed to the longshore workers: “This war is for profit. Workers can stop it!”. However, to my chagrin, the cranes were working after only two hours into the a.m. shift—as union officials caved in and ordered longshoremen back to work while police attacked the protesters.

In a capitalist society, the class whose interests are fundamentally counterposed to the capitalists is the working class which has the power to stop imperialist war. As the Marxist historian Isaac Deutscher famously said at Columbia University at the height of the anti-Vietnam War protests, “I’d trade all of these student protests for one workers anti-war strike.” On May Day 2008 the first anti-war strike in U.S. labor history occurred 5 years after the 2003 police attack on longshoremen and anti-war demonstrators when the ILWU shut down all West Coast ports in opposition to the imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We had repeatedly presented motions for this in Local 10 ever since the Iraq war started, but in 2008 we convinced the ILWU Longshore Caucus. We built the basis for support with a Labor Conference to Stop the War at the Local 10 hiring hall in 2007. And on May 1, 2008 every port on the U.S. West Coast shut down for th day to stop the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was the first strike by U.S. workers against a U. S. war.

Despite the foot-dragging and efforts by the union bureaucracy to subvert it into a patriotic parade, this was a union action—and it had plenty of community support. In addition, longshore workers had been conference calling with non-union port truckers from around the country—in Houston, New York, Charleston and LA—planning for a simultaneous truckers stoppage. In the end it didn’t take place because of an injunction against a caravan of trucks to Wall Street, although the port of Oakland truckers stopped work four days later. Like the Liverpool dispute, the longshore workers’ action on May Day 2008 lit the way forward in the struggle against capitalism and imperialism.

It seems from your reply that you see the size of the demonstration as determining the success or failure of an action. Yet thousands of demonstrators, by themselves, in a port can’t able to stop a ship nor can millions in the streets stop wars. We’ve seen that time and again. During the August 2014 protests against the Zim Piraeus a union official informed TWSC supporters that longshoremen would honor a picket line with only a handful picketing the gates. The longshore workers’ support was the decisive factor for continuing the picketing even though the Block the Boat leadership initially opposed picketing after the rally of 5,000 in the port. Stopping the ship’s cargo succeeded not because of numbers but because power resides at the point of production and longshore workers honored the picket line.

In 2010, some 1,200 protesters of the Labor Community Committee in Solidarity with the Palestinian People (organized in the Henry Schmidt room of Local 10) marched, but what stopped the Zim Shenzhen from unloading and loading its cargo? It was a collaborative effort with the longshore workers doing the heavy lifting or more precisely no lifting.

To prepare for the 2010 protest the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee which I chair helped coordinate meetings of the Labor Community Committee. TWSC galvanized support for the resolutions that were passed by the local labor councils. Most importantly, delegates from the San Francisco Labor Council and a Palestinian activist were organized to address the Local 10 Executive Board to support a resolution calling on unions to take action protesting Israeli attacks against Palestinians and specifically against the PGFTU. It was passed overwhelmingly and implemented by Executive Action.

As activists were picketing and longshore union members honored the picket lines, the employer SSA attempted to shift longshoremen from another ship at the terminal to work the Zim Shenzhen but Local 10 officials stopped it. So when the 1,200 protesters rallied to announce their victory, that the ship’s cargo wasn’t worked and she was sailing, it seemed like a walk in the park. In fact, it was primarily organized from beginning to end through the union with support from community pickets.

An instructive anecdote in the wake of the successful picket was the irate reaction from the Israeli consul who demanded to meet with the Executive Board. The PGFTU appealed to ILWU Local 10 "We humbly ask of you to hold steadfast in the face of backlash and revenge against your union.” As you point out in your report, we rebuffed the Israeli consul. This was clearly a union action, and the Zionists understood it as such. Similarly, after the recent September 27, 2014 boycott of the Zim Shanghai by longshore workers, the Israeli consul in San Francisco and other leading Zionists ranted effusively and publicly against the stunning action coordinated with the Stop Zim Action Committee.

You could have cited other longshore union-initiated actions which Labournet has played an importanat role in publicizing. The 1999 shutdown of all West Coast ports to demand freedom for black political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, as Local 10 led a march of 25,000 in San Francisco. Again, the number of demonstrators was impressive but the hammer was the closure here of global commerce. And the 2011 ILWU shutdown of Bay Area ports in solidarity with Wisconsin state workers and in defiance of the Taft-Hartley Act bolstered their morale as they occupied the capitol.

So now onto BDS. As I’ve pointed out South African apartheid was defeated not by BDS but by the militant strike waves of the black working masses. These class struggle upsurges occurred in the context of the 1988 defeat of the South African Defense Forces by troops of the deformed Cuban workers state in the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, Angola. Between workers strikes and the Cuban military victory, South African capitalists knew their apartheid system was in its death throes.

Negotiations were held in London with the African National Congress (ANC) to keep the commanding heights of the economy in their hands in exchange for relinquishing political reins. The capitalists’ succeeded in holding onto the mines and banks as class contradictions intensified. After 20 years in power running a capitalist economy the Tripartite Alliance inexorably showed its true colors when police massacred of 34 striking miners at Marikana.

Clearly this level of class struggle does not exist in Palestine or Israel today. Nor will making central the liberal, nonviolent, middle class appeal of the BDS campaign develop the struggle necessary to stop the bloody Zionist oppression. BDS is fraught with many problems, the main one being it’s based on the false premise that capitalists can be made to act morally to divest from Israel or impose government sanctions against Israel, the centurion for the U.S. and western imperialism in the Near and Middle East. Why would they abandon a key player who's defending their interests?

The corollary is that some BDS supporters don’t understand the power of workers or how to challenge an ossified trade union bureaucracy and build links to the rank and file workers. Many believe that BDS is the position of all Palestinians in fighting Zionist oppression, but the truth is that Palestinians have diverse opinions from armed struggle to collaboration, from Islamist to bourgeois liberal to Marxist. Of groups that advocate BDS which ones responded to the PGFTU-Gaza call for action to protest the Israeli bombing of Gaza? It’s one thing to sign on for BDS but it’s more difficult to actually organize an effective protest action against Zionist slaughter.

I support workers boycott actions at particular times of crisis as we did against South African apartheid or Israeli genocidal war but not an ongoing, indefinite boycott that would remove workers from their source of power at the point of production.

Certainly, an arms embargo should be supported but cultural and educational embargoes would prevent anti-Zionists from speaking at an Israeli university against Zionist atrocities or even attend an Israeli university or prevent a performer from singing anti-war songs at a concert. Does a social embargo mean that a Palestinian worker shouldn’t work in the same facility as an Israeli worker? That’s absurd.

And by the way Histadrudt, Israel’s “labor” body, is part of the Zionist corporatist state structure and has historically excluded Arabs; to be clear, Histadrt as such is neither independent nor even a workers organization and should absolutely be excluded from labor bodies. It’s incumbent on us to combat anti-Palestinian biases amongst the Israeli working class. One small but encouraging example you cite is the 2011 anti-inflationary demonstrations. No, they did not address the plight of Palestinians, and for that reason could not be uncritically supported, but during those protests Habima Square was dubbed “ the Israel Tahrir Square” by Israeli demonstrators in honor of the “Arab Spring”.

I cited the recent strike in the port of Haifa by dockworkers against port privatization plans and explained how Arab and Israeli workers used to strike together before the Zionist poison became too much. You say that Israeli workers are not contemplating such an alliance today. Isn’t that what class struggle militants should be fighting for? And shouldn’t Palestinian workers and worker militants elsewhere support dock worker struggles against privatization in Israel, as elsewhere, even as we slam their leaders’ policies? Isn’t this why the International Dockworkers Council (IDC) which grew out of the Liverpool dockers struggle was formed? This isn’t a racist strike for a white South Africa. Essentially, as I read your reply, you are dismissing any possibility of Hebrew-speaking Israeli workers breaking from Zionism, while putting all your eggs in the BDS basket.

There is a lot more in your reply that could be commented on. When I asked if, according to the logic of BDS, Palestinians who work for Israeli companies in Israel and in Palestinian territories should quit their jobs or demand the companies close, you responded by demagogically equating my position with that of Scarlett Johansson and the Zionists. On the contrary, I would urge Palestinian workers to use their power to strike against the Israeli bosses, and appeal to Israeli workers and others internationally for solidarity.

Let me close with this, in 1996, dock workers weren’t contemplating international labor solidarity until the Liverpool dockers reignited that flame. That is precisely what’s needed in the Palestinian struggle—to internationalize the struggle and to reach out to workers around the world, including Israeli workers. The IDC is meeting in Greece, to organize workers against neo-liberal capitalist plans to privatize ports. Palestinian and Israeli port workers striking together could deliver a devastating blow against the Zionist state and show the way forward for workers internationally.

Jack Heyman, Retired ILWU Local 10 Member, Chair Transport Workers Solidarity Committee TWSC

Tags: ilwuZionismIsrael
Categories: Labor News

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