April 21, 2015: Central States retirees in the growing pension movement are calling on the appointed “Retiree Representative” to be a genuine independent voice. By law, the Central States Pension Fund had to designate a retiree to act as an advocate, at least 60 days before submitting any plan to cut pensions. But as this letter from one pension movement leader says, retirees want “an advocate, not a messenger.”
Retirees are calling on Sue Mauren, who was appointed by the trustees of the plan to take some immediate steps:
- Make public what independent legal counsel and actuarial consultants she has retained (as provided in the law), to issue a true “second opinion”, not just an echo of the trustees.
- Meet with the various “Save our Pension” committees from the various states, starting with the committee in Minnesota, Mauren’s own back yard, to discuss options.
- Make information available to trustees, which is denied by the fund, as requested by the various committees.
Mauren could be a valuable advocate, with the resources at her disposal. Or she could be an appendage of those who have lied and covered-up. Retirees hope it will be the former, and offer their help to her in that process.Issues: Pension and Benefits
Uber’s European breakthrough
Brussels is embracing Uber, set to make ride sharing legal.
By ZOYA SHEFTALOVICH 21/4/15, 8:49 PM CET Updated 21/4/15, 10:55 PM CET
In a small victory with large symbolism, Brussels could soon drive change in continental Europe by becoming the first city to embrace the ride-sharing service Uber.
Legislation currently being drafted by Brussels mobility minister Pascal Smet, and expected to be passed by January 2016, would turn Uber’s 700 drivers into independent contractors, who would pay income taxes. However, Uber would have to be a second source of income, according to a draft report seen by POLITICO on Tuesday.
While Brussels (with about 1.1 million inhabitants) is a relatively small capital city, the move is bold and reverses the city’s ban on Uber last year. The California-based company has faced violent protests in Brussels, as well as in Paris, Madrid and Berlin. Last month, a German court banned Uber and said it would slap lawbreakers with heavy fines.
And the proposed blessing by Brussels will surely face a backlash because it comes with a big catch: a complete overhaul of the city’s taxi industry. Under a draft of the law, the cap on taxi licenses would be reviewed and potentially eliminated, opening up the market to a flood of competition.
Uber is technically illegal in Brussels but that hasn’t stopped the company from gaining a large share of the market. There is one Uber driver for every two taxis in Brussels, showing how fast the app-based service has exploded in popularity.
“As compensation for the taxi sector they will remain the ones with the right to use taxi lanes, they will be the only ones who can be flagged down on the street,” said Alexander De Croo, deputy prime minister of Belgium and a proponent of the change.
However, all traditional taxis would be required to install credit card readers, which could help reduce undeclared cash fares. The average declared income is €25 a day, De Croo said.
Uber has endured a tense relationship with authorities globally, as they struggle to adapt to its game-changing disruption of a traditionally unionized taxi industry.
Detractors argue that Uber isn’t on a level playing field: drivers can undercut the cost of taxis because they aren’t forced to have public liability insurance and don’t have to fork out for expensive licenses.
“There was the same level of reticence with regards to Uber in many cities across US this time two years ago. Now, dozens of states are embracing and adopting bills on both city and state level. There is now huge momentum in the states. Now we are starting to turn a corner in Europe,” said Mark MacGann, Uber’s head of public policy for Europe, Middle East and Africa.
So far, only some parts of Europe, such as the UK, have embraced the ride-sharing app (despite protests from the black cabs).
Governments tend to keep taxis in artificially short supply by capping the number of licenses permitted at any one time in cities, meaning that in some places the licenses cost more than apartments. Governments that try to lift caps face stiff objection, which can take the form of crippling strikes.
But the political parties in Brussels that drafted the legislation say they now have enough votes to pass it.
Els Ampe, chief whip of the Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats party and one of the key proponents, wants parliament to vote without delay to capitalize on a consensus reached on the proposal in February.
“People are getting convictions for something that will be totally legal in a few months,” she said.Tags: Uber
Teamsters are up in arms over looming pension cuts that could slash the incomes of both current and future retirees—anyone under 80.
They’re battling trustees of the enormous Central States Pension Fund, which has said that cuts of up to 30 percent may be necessary, as soon as possible, to keep from running out of money. Those trustees represent both management and their international union.
At the same time, worker and retiree activists are also battling corporations bent on eliminating pensions altogether. The latest political blow came in December when Congress passed a bill, in the middle of the night, to allow cuts to certain already-earned pensions.
Bob Amsden drove a truck in Wisconsin for 33 years, over the road and local. He said he got involved because he “couldn’t believe they would do something like this to the people who built this country.
“We don’t contribute to their pockets, so they went after retirees. If they can beat us down, the rest will fall like putty.”
A dozen meetings around the Midwest and South over the last month have attracted 100 to 200 angry members apiece, as activists and local retiree clubs learn their benefits are in danger. The meetings are likely to grow in size and number: Central States has just sent out notices to every member warning that cuts are coming.
Committees have formed in Cleveland, Columbus, the Twin Cities, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Memphis, and North Carolina. Activists are scheduling meetings with their Congresspeople and writing them letters, leafleting and raising questions at local union meetings and Teamster retiree clubs, and pestering the Teamsters International to do something.
An April 8 rally near Chicago, outside a meeting called by Central States officials to inform Teamster local officers, drew 150 members from eight states, including as far away as Georgia.
Amsden says the average Central States pension is $1,230 a month ($14,760 a year). “You take 30 percent of that away and what will they have to live on?” he asks.
Politicians say they don't want to pay for a “bailout” of the fund, but Amsden predicts, “They are going to bail us out one way or another. People who never expected any government assistance in their life, they’re going to have to go for food stamps.”
For those with decent pensions—some make $36,000 a year—the cuts could be as high as 65 percent, said Mike Walden, a 31-year Roadway driver who founded the northeast Ohio group.
Sue Cole, wife of a retired carhauler and a founder of the Teamsters Local 604 Pension Protection Committee in St. Louis, said, “They act like 30 or 40 percent is no big deal. Our feeling is that we worked for it. They mismanaged it, we didn’t. Why should we lose any portion of our pension?”CAN THEY DO THAT?
Pensioners have counted on the fact that it was illegal to cut benefits for the already retired, thanks to the 1974 ERISA law. But last December Congress passed the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act—after heavy lobbying by Central States, which became the poster child for troubled pension funds.
The act was tacked onto the “Cromnibus” appropriations bill (which kept certain government functions from shutting down) to avoid debate and so that no Congresspeople had to take clear responsibility for it.
It created a new category of multi-employer pension fund: “critical and declining.” If a fund is projected to run out of money in 15 to 20 years, its trustees now have the right to cut benefits, after a vote of the beneficiaries.
Anti-cuts activists point out that, because the stock market is doing well, the Fund is actually richer now than it was at the end of 2008, after the financial meltdown. It has $18 billion in assets, versus $17.3 billion then. Such gains aren’t likely in the future, but the Fund’s current relative health is reason enough, they say, to slow down and take a look at other possible solutions.
Walden spoke scornfully of Thomas Nyhan, who, he points out, made $662,000 in 2013 as executive director of Central States: “In his letter to people April 8 he said he’s sorry he can’t find an easier solution. I agree, there’s nothing easier than just cutting our pensions. Don’t do anything that might require thinking.”
The committees are gathering petitions demanding that the Fund seek a “second opinion,” an independent audit of its actuarial and financial status.
“We know it’s in trouble and will run out if no steps are taken,” says Ken Paff of Teamsters for a Democratic Union, which is backing the retirees’ movement. “But how did they determine that it has 11 years till it runs out? I used their figures and I got 17. Let the members see behind the curtain.”
The Teamsters pension movement has joined the Pension Rights Center, the AARP, and some unions to support a soon-to-be-introduced bill to delay or repeal the cuts and back up troubled plans.
Congresswoman Gwen Moore of Wisconsin wrote to the committee in her state, “I refuse to force beneficiaries to be singled out as the first to sacrifice in the reform... If you are going to take the extraordinary measure to change long-standing ERISA laws on benefit cuts, then all the reforms need to be made at once so that everyone is putting skin in the game simultaneously.”STACKED VOTE
Under the law, both retirees and active workers get to vote on any cuts—but a failure to vote counts as a “yes,” and in a big fund like Central States, the Secretary of the Treasury can override a “no” vote and impose the cuts anyway.
The law requires arguments on both sides to appear in the ballot mailing, but with five statements in favor of swallowing the cuts and just one against.
Nonetheless, assuming the Fund opts for draconian cuts, activists will campaign hard for a “no” vote. “We call it social disruption,” Amsden said. “We’re doing a media blitz. We have 11 committees throughout the Midwest; they’re all forming Facebook pages.” In March his group made the front page of Milwaukee’s daily paper.
They expect the Fund to tell members the exact amounts of the proposed cuts this summer, and to hold a vote in early fall. “We’re going to ride the pony till it dies,” Cole said. “We are going to say no because we aren’t guaranteed they won’t come back in another year and ask for more.”VOTING ON THE PERPS
Pensions will certainly be an issue in the 2016 election for top Teamster officers, as President James Hoffa and his officers back the cuts and challengers Tim Sylvester and Fred Zuckerman blame Hoffa for the decline of the Fund.
In the last officers’ election only 300,000 of the 1.3 million Teamsters voted, with two challengers receiving a combined 41 percent of the vote. So the 65,000 working Central States Teamsters could prove a formidable voting bloc.
The officers sometimes try to have it both ways. At the April 8 Chicago rally against the cuts, International Vice President John Murphy showed up to praise the demonstrators and claim Hoffa was on their side. Meanwhile, inside the Central States meeting, international representatives were telling local officers the cuts were mandatory.
Walden says his many calls to Teamster headquarters have gone unreturned. “As far as transparency and communication, they’re avoiding us,” he said.
The single biggest reason Central States is in trouble is that the international union allowed UPS, by far the largest employer of Teamsters, to leave the fund in 2008. The Fund’s annual income would be about double if 45,000 UPS workers in those states were still members.
But Hoffa let UPS out, in return for the company’s letting him organize 13,000 workers at a new subsidiary, UPS Freight. Those workers now have a union contract—but with an inferior pension.Issues: Pension and Benefits
IBU Bay Area Leader Calls For Removal Of ILWU Coast Contract Clause Allowing Scabbing On ILWU Affiliates
IBU Bay Area Leader Calls For Removal Of ILWU Coast Contract Clause Allowing Crossing Of ILWU Picket Lines
Marina V. Secchitano, Regional Director of Inlandboatmen's Union of the Pacific, Marine Division of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union has called for the removal of a clause in the new proposed ILWU PMA coast wide contract that would allow the PMA to order ILWU longshore workers to cross picket lines of ILWU affiliates. The ILWU international has not commented on the letter which challenges the change of language that according to Secchitano will seriously harm the right of ILWU members to take solidarity action even with affiliates of their own union. In the past the International has ordered members of the ILWU to cross picket lines of ILWU Local 63 clerical workers and threatened ILWU Local 30 striking miners that they would withdraw financial support if they put up a picket line on LA docks where scab borax was being loading onto ships by ILWU Local 13 members.
ILWU longshore workers will be voting on the contract in May by mail ballot
Pilots Fault Allegiant on Safety as Talks Stall
By JAD MOUAWADAPRIL 20, 2015
Allegiant has succeeded by keeping costs low and tickets cheap, but the airline’s pilots question whether its policies create hazards. CreditDavid Becker/Associated Press
For the last decade, Allegiant Air has built a thriving business buying secondhand jets and connecting small cities to leisure destinations like Las Vegas and Honolulu.
By keeping costs low, offering cheap fares and flying from places that other carriers have neglected, like Fort Wayne, Ind., or Allentown, Pa., Allegiant has grown rapidly. Today, the airline has one of the highest profit margins in the business and among the lowest costs.
But Allegiant’s scrappy success is now being questioned by its pilots, who say they are worried about repeated mechanical problems with the airline’s fleet of older planes, poor maintenance operations and a culture where profits come before safety.
The conflict between the pilots and the airline’s chairman and chief executive, Maurice J. Gallagher Jr., has become increasingly tense in the last two years. Negotiations on a contract have stalled, and the pilots recently threatened to strike.
It is not unusual for pilots to bring up safety and maintenance issues during labor talks. To the airline, the complaints represent scare tactics by the pilots’ union, driven by demands over benefits and work rules.
Since it was founded in 1997, Allegiant has focused on reining in costs. It subcontracts all but the most routine maintenance, for instance. It also buys older planes, which keeps ownership costs down. Last year, the company’s operating margin was about 14 percent, second only to that of Spirit Airlines, which was 18 percent.
Traditional airlines generally post margins in the low single digits.
This low-cost model has also led to tensions with Allegiant’s work force. The dispute with the pilots, for instance, began after they voted for union representation two years ago.
It is playing out in United States District Court in Nevada, where pilots contend that the airline has unlawfully scaled back their benefits and tightened work rules and shut them out of voluntary safety programs that are common at other carriers. Amid this simmering tension, Allegiant pilots said they had identified at least 65 incidents from September to March where flights were forced to divert to another airport, return to the gate or abort a takeoff because of a mechanical or an engine problem.
At least four times, engines shut down in flight, the pilots said. The list of problems includes planes that lost their communications equipment, hydraulic leaks, engines that failed to deliver sufficient power, inoperative cockpit panel lights and pressurization problems, they said.
One airplane had repeated problems, including the loss of cockpit automation, before it was taken out of service for repairs.
All the claims were reported by the pilots and compiled by the Teamsters Aviation Mechanics Coalition on behalf of the pilots’ union, the Airline Professionals Association Teamsters Local 1224.
Their report concluded that poorly trained mechanics, insufficient spare parts and an aging fleet were “creating a dangerous paradigm that could eventually lead to an accident resulting in serious injury and loss of life.”
Continue reading the main story
Allegiant’s pilots recently threatened to strike to force the company to restore previous work rules. Union officials denied they were making the safety accusations to gain leverage in negotiations. Some aviation safety specialists said the number of issues should raise red flags at the Federal Aviation Administration.
“For a small fleet, that’s an awful lot of problems,” said John Goglia, a former member of the National Transportation Safety Board. “They are running on the safety margin.”
Allegiant called the accusations “absurd.” Mechanics inspect its planes every night, it said. The airline said it also had an analysis and surveillance program, as well as a reliability program, to monitor the fleet’s health and performance and shares its data with the Federal Aviation Administration.
“Neither Allegiant nor the F.A.A. have identified abnormal trends,” said Jessica Wheeler, a spokeswoman for Allegiant.
Steve Harfst, the chief operating officer of the Allegiant Travel Company, which owns the airline, said in a statement: “The safety of our passengers and crew is, above all, our No. 1 priority. Allegiant has one of the best safety records among passenger airlines in the world and complies with all F.A.A. regulations.”
The F.A.A. did not address the specific issues raised by Allegiant’s pilots, but said that the agency had increased surveillance while the airline dealt with its labor issues.
The agency is “continuously monitoring, evaluating and providing oversight of Allegiant Air to ensure the carrier is capable of meeting its responsibility for safe operations,” said Laura J. Brown, a spokeswoman for the F.A.A.
Federal regulators have already looked deeply into Allegiant’s operations. In 2013, a routine F.A.A. inspection found problems with the airline’s maintenance and training programs.
The inspection, which is known as an Air Carrier Evaluation Program, led the F.A.A. to temporarily close the airline’s training programs for pilots, mechanics and flight attendants and freeze new plane deliveries until the problems were addressed. The results of the inspection have not been made public.
Among the problems the F.A.A. found was that Allegiant’s airplane repair program did not properly distinguish between “minor” and “major” repairs and did not adequately track structural defects. The F.A.A. also said Allegiant was “not effective in identifying systemic deficiencies” and found problems with the training of pilots for Boeing 757s and Airbus A320s.
Most issues were resolved within six months, according to the agency. Allegiant said that the F.A.A. found that a training manual needed to be revised, but that there was never any question or concern regarding training processes or pilot qualification.
John M. Cox, the chief executive of Safety Operating Solutions, and a former safety official at the Air Line Pilots Association, said tense labor negotiations could often bring “rhetorical excesses” about safety. In some cases, he said, airlines and pilots can benefit by bringing in an outside auditor to review the facts and provide a dispassionate analysis of events.
Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
“Allegiant is pretty unique because they are ultralow cost,” Mr. Cox said. “Older airplanes have more mechanical issues than newer ones. But does that make them unsafe? Absolutely not. Allegiant has had a pretty good track record.”
Union officials also assert that the airline has shut its pilots out of several safety programs that are common at many airlines, including one known as the Aviation Safety Action Program. Allegiant denies this, saying it invited pilots to the monthly meeting of its flight operations safety committee.
Allegiant, which is based in Las Vegas, operates a fleet of 70 airplanes, mostly McDonnell Douglas MD-80s, which have an average age of 22.2 years. Last year, it carried eight million passengers.
Mr. Gallagher, who is also Allegiant’s biggest shareholder, was one of four co-founders of ValuJet. He left that airline in 1997, a year after the crash of ValuJet Flight 592, when the airline merged with AirTran and changed its name. It is now part of Southwest Airlines. Mr. Gallagher declined to be interviewed.
Tom Haueter, the former director of aviation safety at the National Transportation Safety Board, said the problems highlighted by Allegiant pilots did not necessarily reflect a systemic problem with the company.
Pilots can over-report a problem, either out of an abundance of caution or because they are seeking concessions from the airline, he said. That can make the job of F.A.A. inspectors more difficult, he said.
“The truth sometimes lies in the middle,” Mr. Haueter said.Tags: airline safetyNTSBAllegiant
Korea Sewol ferry disaster protesters clash with South Korean police over government response
Sewol ferry disaster protesters clash with South Korean police over government response
Updated Sun at 11:48am
Photo: Police and protesters clashed after families of those killed in the ferry disaster were prevented from marching to the president's residence. (AFP: Jung Yeon-je)
Related Story: S Korean president vows Sewol ferry raising as relatives mark first anniversary
Related Story: South Korean families mourn on first anniversary of ferry tragedy
Map: Korea, Republic Of
South Korean police have clashed with thousands of protesters, blocking their way to the presidential palace where they hoped to press for more government action in response to a ferry disaster that claimed more than 300 lives a year ago.
About 13,000 police and 470 police buses were deployed in the area around Seoul's main ceremonial thoroughfare and 100 protesters were arrested, an official of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said.
The rally was organised by a group representing families of the victims.
It was the largest in recent weeks as the country marked the first anniversary of the April 16 disaster, which claimed 304 lives.
Police said they used buses to barricade marchers' route to the presidential Blue House, and deployed water cannons and pepper spray. Several police buses were damaged.
A fire department official said nine protesters and three police officers were taken to hospital while three protesters received first aid at the site.
Photo: The crowd demanded the government allow an independent inquiry into the Sewol ferry disaster. (Supplied: Nathan Waters)
The rally began at noon on Saturday with a crowd demanding the government allow an independent inquiry into the disaster and make an immediate decision to raise the Sewol ferry.
The ferry was on a routine journey from Incheon to the southern island of Jeju when it capsized making a sharp turn and sank. Among those killed were 250 students on a class trip.
The vessel was later found to have been structurally unsound and overloaded with cargo.
Anger among the families of the victims towards the government still runs high.
They say the government let them down again this week by failing to announce a plan to raise the ferry by the first anniversary of the disaster.
President Park Geun-hye said last week the government would begin preparing to raise the 6,800-tonne ship, her clearest indication yet of a plan to recover it.
The country's umbrella labour federation joined the rally and vowed to join forces with victims' families to continue protests, calling for more rallies next weekend, according to a federation spokesman at the protest.
Photo: The president indicated efforts will be made to raise the 68,000 tonne ship. (Supplied: NathanTags: Sewol FerryKCTUKorean Workers
Two former members of Boston Teamsters Local 82 have been sentenced on charges of extortion and racketeering, officials said.
John Perry, 62, of Woburn, was sentenced Friday to 30 months in prison, a $12,500 fine, and one year of supervised release, according to a statement from the office of US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz. Joseph “Jo Jo” Burhoe, 46, of Braintree, was sentenced Friday to 70 months in prison and three years of supervised release.
Click here to read more at The Boston Globe.Issues: Local Union Reform
Airline Seat Squeeze Raises Health, Safety Concerns
Posted April 16, 2015 - 2:54pm
Airline Seat Squeeze Raises Health, Safety Concerns
Passengers seats are seen on board of Norwegian Airways Boening 737-800 at Berlin Schoenefeld Airport April 2, 2015. Aircraft registration number is LN-LGF. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski
By Victoria Bryan
BERLIN — Airlines are packing ever more seats into economy class to protect profit margins from falling ticket prices, prompting concerns over health and safety from travellers and crew.
Slim-line designs, extra emergency exits and creative placing of galleys and toilets are all playing their part in the great seat squeeze, say industry watchers.
“If you’re a dog, you have very specific rules, but if you’re a human being there are no specific rules as to what is humane,” Charlie Leocha, the head of consumer group Travelers United, told a U.S. government advisory committee examining the issue in Washington D.C. this week.
Seat pitch, the distance from one seat to the same spot on the one in front or behind, has shrunk to as little as 28 inches on some flights, against the more common 31 or 32 inches for economy, according to seat makers.
Aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus are increasing the number of places that can be squeezed in per row.
Making things even tighter for passengers, airlines have got better at managing ticket sales and filling planes, meaning the middle seat is rarely left free.
The economic factors are clear. Average ticket prices are expected to fall by 5 percent this year, according to industry body IATA, while airlines are expected to make a their best net profit margin in five years, albeit at just 3.2 percent.
But the health and safety impacts are still being debated.
The lack of space has triggered more outbreaks of air rage, Julie Frederick from the Association of Professional Flight Attendants told the Washington D.C. hearing of the Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protections.
Several flights had to divert after passengers got into fights over reclining seats and lack of leg room last year.
It was also making it harder for crew to treat anyone needing medical help, Frederick added.
The number of passengers a type of aircraft is allowed to carry is mainly defined by how quickly people can exit in an emergency, hence the extra exits.
Keith Hansen, director of facilities at low-cost carrier Allegiant, told the hearing he did not think higher seat density was increasing risks in the event of an evacuation.
“We don’t believe there’s any increased safety risk whatsoever in an emergency evacuation … These aircraft are all approved and certified by the FAA,” he said.
Some low-cost airlines such as Ryanair, Spirit and Allegiant have already found one way round the reclining seat problem — the fixed shell of their non-reclining seats also makes them cheaper to construct.
Zodiac and other seat makers have tried bringing in compensations for economy passengers, extras from tablet holders to in-seat power were on show at this week’s Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg.
Germany’s Recaro showed economy seats with foot rests, in-seat USB and power outlets, a mouldable head-rest, a 13.3 inch Panasonic monitor and mood lighting.
Panasonic Avionics has worked with seat maker B/E Aerospace on a new economy class seat called Jazz that includes a discreet ‘do not disturb’ light, inductive charging for devices and an HDMI slot.
“Economy seats are on a downward trend, but airlines are adding in perks to make you forget more quickly just how squeezed in you are,” said Jason Rabinowitz, data research manager at Routehappy, which rates flight cabins.
“The more seats are shrinking, the more technology they’re packing in,” Rabinowitz added. “The jury is still out as to whether passengers will forget though.”airline health and safetyseating
South Carolina AFL-CIO Letter Thanking ILWU Local 10 For Taking Action On May 1 Against Murders And Calling For Action Nationally
The South Carolina AFL-CIO thanked ILWU Local 10 for deciding to take action of closing bay area ports on May 1, 2015 to protest the murders and repression in Charleston SC and urging other unions to take action on May 1, 2015Tags: South Carolina AFL-CIOracist murdersmay 1Attach PDF: SC AFL-CIO Letter On ILWU letter.pdf
April 17, 2015: Teamsters and TDU members joined a national day of action to fight for living wages. UPS Teamsters in New York made a splash in joining the Fight for $15.
Workers and supporters in 120 cities rallied, protested, and went on strike on Wednesday, including Wal-Mart employees, fast food workers, homecare workers, and others.
UPS Teamsters in New York made a splash—joining the Fight for $15 with rallies at UPS buildings throughout the city. Political leaders joined UPS Teamsters, part-time and full-time, to say it’s time to “Raise the Wage.”
“I joined the fight so the future of our children is a thriving and secure one,” said Kioma Forero, a Local 804 steward and TDU International Steering Committee member, who helped organized the rallies at UPS.
“One of the reasons I’m involved is I understand what it’s like to struggle to make ends meet,” TDU member Darrel Tucker, 52, told In These Times.
"We're taking on part-time poverty at UPS by fighting for a living wage for all New Yorkers," Local 804 President Tim Sylvester told the Daily News.
More UPS Teamsters explain why they’re joining the Fight for $15 in this great video from Local 804.
Issues: Labor Movement
SF Commuter buses yanked disabled access for bar seating
By Kristen V. BrownApril 16, 2015 Updated: April 16, 2015 4:17pm
A Leap Transit bus drives passes under the Bay Bridge in San Francisco on March 23.
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A Leap Transit bus drives passes under the Bay Bridge in San Francisco on March 23.
With its Blue Bottle coffee and startup-chic aesthetic, luxury transit company Leap’s buses offer white-collar workers a comfortable cocoon to protect them from the unpleasantries of the daily commute.
But that luxury is available only to some, a complaint filed last month with the Department of Justice alleges. It says that in failing to make its buses accessible to wheelchairs, Leap has discriminated against disabled people and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Furthermore, the complaint alleges, the San Francisco startup actually purchased wheelchair-accessible buses only to remove the standard-issue ramps and fold-up seats. By checking the paper trail, The Chronicle determined that at least four Leap buses featured wheelchair accommodations before they were sold to the startup.
The spaces once reserved for wheelchairs now feature bar-style seating and plush leather armchairs.
“This is a step backwards,” said Chris Pangilinan, 32, the former transportation engineer for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency who filed the complaint. Pangilinan, who recently relocated for a job with the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority, has cerebral palsy and has used a wheelchair for nearly his entire life.
“If they had put up a sign that said 'no whites’ or something like that there would be national outrage,” he said. “This is the same kind of violation. There just aren’t as many people affected.”
Leap launched a version of its service in 2013, but then went on hiatus and relaunched last month. The company, which has raised $2.5 million in venture capital, runs one route from the Marina to the Financial District during morning and evening commutes. Each fare is $6 and an app controls every aspect of the ride — from checking on whether a bus has open seats to purchasing cold-pressed juice once on board.
Pangilinan’s complaint hinges on a section of the ADA that requires both private and public transportation providers to make “vehicles and facilities readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities,” and repair accessibility features such as ramps or wheelchair lifts “promptly if they are damaged or out of order.”
The ADA is a set of wide-ranging civil rights laws passed in 1990 to prevent discrimination against disabled people. Its sections dealing with transportation are among its most important, said Marilyn Golden, a policy analyst at the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, a civil rights law center.
“The provision of the ADA that went into effect the fastest was the one that required buses to be accessible to people with disabilities,” said Golden. “People with disabilities had faced for many years significant hurdles in access to transportation. The ADA was supposed to gradually make that a thing of the past.”
It’s unclear exactly which, if any, ADA regulations apply to Leap.
The ADA has different rules for public and private transportation and distinguishes between private transportation companies and “private entities not primarily engaged in the business of transporting people,” such as hotels that run airport shuttles.
If Leap was considered a private transportation company, the law would require it to keep accessibility equipment such as ramps “in operative condition.”
The ADA does not include specific requirements for used vehicles — such as the four Leap buses purchased from a Southern California transit agency. The law was drafted so that older vehicles could be grandfathered in and eventually brought up to compliance or decommissioned.
But the law does not explicitly exempt used vehicles from accessibility requirements.
In a statement to The Chronicle, Leap said that its “understanding is that used vehicles do not have the same accessibility requirements as new vehicles.”
Leap uses four 2001 and 2002 North American Bus Industries buses sold to the company by the Riverside Transit Agency through an auction house. The manufacturer confirmed that the models purchased by Leap originally come equipped with a wheelchair ramp and interior wheelchair securement. A Riverside Transit Agency representative said any buses used by the agency would include wheelchair-accessibility.
The fact Leap buses were at one point wheelchair-accessible, Golden said, is a clear violation of the spirit of the law, if not the letter.
“Not only did they fail to maintain accessibility features, as they are legally required to do, they took them out,” said Golden. “To remove the accessibility features is the ultimate opposite of accessibility maintenance. It renders hollow the requirement for a vehicle to have accessibility.”
Leap would not comment specifically on whether the company removed ramps and wheelchair securements.
In its terms of service, Leap says it “does not provide transportation services,” and that it is “not a transportation carrier.”
But even if the company wasn’t classified as a private transportation company under the ADA, there is still a set of regulations that would require the company’s buses to be wheelchair-accessible. Transportation services run by entities for which transportation is not the core of their business are still required to offer disability accessibility on vehicles that fit more than 16 people and have fixed routes.
Leap’s website says it would like to eventually accommodate expanded accessibility.
“Our vision is for Leap to be accessible to anyone who wants to use our service. We currently operate a small fleet of buses purchased from public transit agencies that arrived in different states of mechanical condition. The current design does not include retrofitting for wheelchair access,” Leap CEO Kyle Kirchhoff said in a statement. “We’re exploring new designs and vehicle types to add this type of access to Leap as we expand to accommodate the demand from members of the community.”
A DOJ official said the agency can’t discuss pending complaints. If the agency finds that Leap potentially violated the ADA, it could send it to the ADA Mediation Program, refer it to a U.S. attorney or investigate the company itself. Pangilinan’s ADA complaint is not a lawsuit, meaning he does not have any financial stake in his complaint.
“This is deliberate, it isn’t some accident of fate,” he said. “I think they have a good service, but they should do it in a way that includes everybody.”
Kristen V. Brown is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @kristenvbrownTags: Busaccessdisabledprivatization
ILWU Opposes Fast Track Deal
Bipartisan agreement gives trade pact a boost
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), left, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, and Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), the Senate panel's chairman, converse during the panel’s Thursday hearing. (Gabriella Demczuk / Getty Images)
By DON LEEcontact the reporter
Deal would give President Obama fast-track authority on Pacific Rim trade talks
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the economic centerpiece of Obama's policy shift toward Asia
Congressional leaders reached agreement Thursday on a bipartisan bill that should ease passage of a sweeping Pacific Rim trade deal, giving a boost to one of President Obama's top foreign policy goals but putting him in an unusual alliance with Republicans against many in his own party.
The so-called fast-track legislation was seen as a necessary step for the White House to bring to a conclusion the long-delayed Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Proponents said the 12-nation trade deal would deliver significant benefits by opening markets and establishing rules on commerce and investment that will help American workers and an array of U.S. industries, including West Coast ports, entertainment companies and drug makers.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the economic centerpiece of Obama's policy shift toward Asia. He has staked his legacy as the self-proclaimed "first Pacific president" on completing the deal, even at the expense of alienating many Democrats who remain deeply suspicious of claims that free-trade deals are good for American workers.
While Obama and many businesses lauded the agreement announced Thursday by key House and Senate leaders, Democratic lawmakers, trade unions and environmental groups responded with a flurry of statements and news conferences denouncing the legislation.
The AFL-CIO said it would launch a large-scale campaign to pressure more than 50 Democratic members of Congress who may be on the fence to vote against the bill.
Fast-track authority would let Obama strike a trade agreement with 11 other Pacific Rim countries, including Japan, Canada and Mexico, with the assurance that Congress must approve or reject it with no amendments. The Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations are in the last stages, but Japan and some other countries have been reluctant to show all their cards, concerned that Congress might alter the final agreement.
The push to pass the bill will trigger a high-stakes political battle. Republican leaders generally favor speeding up the path to a trade agreement and have highlighted the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a rare issue of agreement with the Obama administration.
But the president will need to overcome resistance from many Democrats worried about the trade pact's impact on U.S. jobs. Some tea party Republicans, particularly in the House, also complain the president has already exceeded his executive authority and should not be given new powers.
The issue also is likely to play a role in the 2016 presidential campaign, particularly for Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton. She will face pressure from unions and progressive Democrats to oppose fast-track authority and the agreement, though it was her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who oversaw passage of the last big trade pact, the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Obama vowed to take congressional concerns into consideration, but stressed that the trade pact was critical to boosting U.S. exports and responding to the economic threat from China, which would not be part of the agreement. The pact, one of the largest in history, would join countries that make up 40% of the world's gross domestic product.
"It's no secret that past trade deals haven't always lived up to their promise, and that's why I will only sign my name to an agreement that helps ordinary Americans get ahead," Obama said Thursday.
"At the same time, at a moment when 95% of our potential customers live outside our borders, we must make sure that we, and not countries like China, are writing the rules for the global economy," he said.
California farmers, devastated by the region's relentless drought, could be among the biggest beneficiaries of the agreement.
Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual, said an agreement could provide much-needed relief by reducing steep tariffs growers face when exporting to Asia, particularly Japan. About 25% of California's $2.4-billion citrus production is shipped overseas, much of it to Asia, he said.
"It gives us a fighting chance to sustain sufficient revenue per acre to pay for our higher water," Nelsen said. "Citrus Mutual has always been supportive of the effort, as long as it addresses the imbalance in the tariff rates, and we believe that's what's going to happen."
Democratic lawmakers and opponents of fast-track authority complained that Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations have been conducted in secrecy and said it would be a mistake for Congress to give up its ability to change elements of an agreement before voting on it. Liberal Democrats such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are expected to launch a fierce legislative push to block the bill.
Opponents also warn the pact will hurt the environment, kill U.S. jobs and benefit mostly large multinational corporations. Hollywood has been lobbying hard for the deal, which promises to bring tighter copyright protections for movie and music firms.
Among critics of the proposed agreement is the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents workers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
"The ILWU handles containers that represent millions of outsourced and offshore industrial jobs," said Craig Merrilees, an ILWU spokesman. The agreement is "a grab-bag of goodies for corporate America."
Thursday's compromise, aimed at getting enough Senate Democrats to break with their party to support the deal, would require White House trade officials to provide Congress with greater access to the terms of the deal and make updates and full details available to the public before it is signed.
The bill also includes a mechanism that would essentially revoke fast-track authority should U.S. trade negotiators fail to meet certain objectives, including promoting human rights, improving labor conditions and safeguarding the environment, said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee.
Wyden, whose support for fast-track authority was seen as key to bringing along other Democrats, struck the deal with Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), the Senate panel's chairman, and Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), head of the House Ways and Means Committee.
In announcing the bill, the three lawmakers issued a joint statement saying that the legislation "establishes concrete rules for international trade negotiations to help the United States deliver strong, high-standard trade agreements that will boost American exports and create new economic opportunities and better jobs for American workers, manufacturers, farmers, ranchers and entrepreneurs."
Democratic lawmakers, however, said the measure — introduced in the Senate and to be followed in the House — did not include any language to prevent currency manipulation and was no better overall than the previous fast-track legislation that expired in 2007.
"It's worse than the [previous] version," said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), who called the legislation a "sellout."
"Those are noble goals that won't be enforced in any way," he said of the provisions on human rights, which were not in the prior fast-track authority.
A separate but similar House version of the legislation could face a tougher test as the ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee, Sander Levin (D-Mich.), and other top Democratic lawmakers are opposed to fast-track. Sherman said he expected House Republicans to try to win a few more Democrats by tacking on sweeteners, like aid for Africa.
Times staff writer Stuart Pfeifer in Los Angeles contributed this report.
Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles TimesTags: ilwuFast Track
Korean Union Federation KCTU Calls For General Strike On April 24
Korean Confederation of Trade Unions added 2 new photos.
April 13 at 5:48am · Edited ·
Korean Workers Strike on April 24!
The national congress of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions(KCTU) resolved to call a general strike against the government’s comprehensive policy package to attack working and living conditions for all workers. In a nation wide ballot carried out on March 21~April 8, 84.35% of all voters were in favor of going on a general strike. On April 24, striking workers will have rallies in 20 different cities. On May 1, 100,000 workers will gather in Seoul.
Abolish the retrogressive ‘labour market reform’!
Stop the Public Pension Cuts! Improve National Pension System!
KWR10,000 (per hour) for Minimum Wage!
Fundamental Labour Rights for All!
The era of zero percent growth of the real wage?
As the impact of the global economic crisis remains, the economic outlook of Korea is so negative as the finance minister warns of deflation risk. While Korea ranked top in taxation inequality among OECD countries due to the former government’s policy of ‘more tax from the poor and less tax from the rich’ and the 4th in income inequality, the real wage growth rate has decreased for the last 6 quarters successively. (It was 3.4 percent in the second quarter of 2003 and 0.08 percent in the third quarter of 2014.) The total number of the unemployed is 4,456,000, and the real unemployment rate is 15.8 percent. The poverty rate among the elderly is 48 percent, which means 1 out of 2 among those who are 65 years or older is living in poverty. More than 50 percent of the whole working population is in a precarious situation in terms of employment, and they are paid half of the average wage and not eligible for social security.
Wages, employment and social security of all workers are under attack
Recently, social polarization on a global scale has been pointed out as a key obstacle to economic growth. Even the major fora and financial institutions such as the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting, Davos Forum, IMF and OECD suggest tackling income inequality as a key priority. However, the Park Geun-hye government is taking an opposite direction and all of its policies are focusing on giving privilege to the conglomerates and stimulating the real estate market, which would result in the institutionalization of restructuring, decreases in wages and the expansion of employment insecurity.
Comprehensive Measures for Non-Regular Workers, which is a major part of the ‘labour market reform plan’ and claimed by the government as a solution to various problems with so-called ‘dual structure of labour market, is in fact a comprehensive neoliberal labour policy attacking wages, employment and trade union rights of all workers. Using the above mentioned title, the government is laying the blame on the ‘over-protected regular workers’ or ‘vested interests of organized workers’, instead of the ‘inheritance and unequal distribution of wealth by the conglomerates’ for the income & social inequality.
Key points of the government led ‘Labour-Market Reform
- Relaxation of requirements for ordinary dismissal and introduction of dismissal of underperforming workers
- Flexibilization of wage system: based on job function and performance payment
- Incapacitation of the condition of ‘collective agreement by workers’ required at the time of unfavorable change of rules of employment
- Exclusion of regularly paid bonus in ordinary wage calculation
- Extension of working hours
- Retrogressive amendment of Labour Standards Act which runs counter to the idea of reduction of working hours
- Extension of limit of fixed term contract period from current two years up to four years
- Expansion of the range of jobs where labour dispatch is permitted.
- Legalisation of in-house subcontracting.
The government's unilateral push for Labour Market Reforms
In the New Year’s address of 2015, President Park emphasized “Labour Market Reform is not optional but essential for the survival of Korean economy”. She also urged the “Special Committee on Structural Reforms of the Labour Market” in the Economic and Social Development Commission (ESCD) to agree on the government’ plan within March 2015. Without participation by the KCTU, the Special Committee [composed of FKTU, KEF and the government] were convened several times but failed to draw an agreed conclusion. Just a day after the FKTU walked out of the negotiation finding there is no point of compromise, the government announced that it will unilaterally pursue the retrogressive amendment of related labour laws in the interim session of the National Assembly in April. Moreover, the Ministry of Employment and Labour declared that it will push for a variety of guidelines for collective bargaining, enforcement decree of the laws, and directives in order to accomplish the plan at every workplace. This shows that the government had no intention to listen to the workers' voice from the beginning.
The Right to Strike is an internationally protected fundamental right!
In Korea, the right to strike is guaranteed by the Constitution. However, in practice, as the purposes, methods, procedure, and subject are excessively regulated, it is almost impossible for workers to strike legally. Union leaders and members quickly face criminal sanction, a lawsuit for compensation for damage, and disciplinary measures including dismissal. International support and solidarity have played a crucial role for Korean workers to exercise their fundamental rights.
The Four Demands of the Workers
1. Abolish the retrogressive ‘labour market reform.'
What the government wants are easier dismissal, lower wage and more precarious jobs. The government-led labour market reform plan would deteriorate living and working conditions of all workers. It should not be promoted in any form.
2. Stop the public pension cuts and improve the National Pension System!
The government is pushing ahead with the deterioration of the public pension system and activation of private pensions. The president herself failed to implement her election pledge to increase the benefit of Basic Old-age Pension and has no policy to improve the National Pension System whose affiliate and benefit rates are too low. On the contrary, the government is promoting a deterioration of the Government Employees Pension Scheme under the pretense of ‘equity among difference pension systems’. This will exacerbate the situation of poverty and income inequality in old age. What government should do is an upward equalization of pension systems by increasing the benefits level of the National Pension System and Basic Old-age Pension. At the same time, it should be accountable for the stable funding as an employer of the public servants.
3. KRW 10,000 for minimum hourly wage!
As of 2015, the statutory minimum wage is KRW 5,580 per hour (KRW 1,166,220 per month) which is even less than actual living cost of a single worker without dependents (KRW 1,506,179, as of May, 2014). The minimum wage that was applicable in 2014 (KRW 1,088,890 per month) was 41.1 percent of the regular wage of the regular workers in the workplace with 5 or more employees and 32.7 percent of the total wage. This is too little to meet the purpose of the minimum wage system- eradication of low paid group, reduction of wage disparity and improvement of the distribution system. It is the minimum safeguard for low-waged workers. KRW 10,000 of the minimum wage will contribute to economic growth and the original purpose of the minimum wage system.
4. Fundamental Labour Rights for ALL! Application of Labour Standards Act for ALL! Revision of Article 2 of TULRAA!
The number of workers in workplaces with less than five employees is 3,480,000, accounting for 19.15 percent of the whole working population. The Labour Standards Act does not cover all of them. Precarious Workers including workers in the disguised employment relationship and indirect employment relationship are not able to exercise the right to organize and right to bargain collectively.***
Korean Confederation of Trade Unions's photo.
Korean Confederation of Trade Unions's photo.
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Mung Siu Tat fight untiI we win
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As Gig Workers, Uber and Lyft Drivers Struggle With Taxes
A Lyft driver navigates through Potrero Hill in San Francisco. (Sara Bloomberg/KQED)
By Sam Harnett
APR 15, 2015
Taxes have always been pretty easy for Enrique. He received W-2s, did the calculations himself and usually got a nice return. Then last year all that changed, after he signed up to drive for Lyft and Uber.
The income Enrique earns from driving for these ride-service companies makes him a sort of independent contractor, which raises a lot more tax questions than working as an employee does. Now Enrique has to keep track of his income and deductions, maintain records and save receipts.
“It’s a brand-new world,” Enrique says. And he’s still trying to figure it all out.
Enrique does not want to use his full name because he is afraid the companies won’t appreciate his criticism. He says it’s pretty much all up to the drivers to figure out everything about this job — what’s legal, what’s safe and how to do the taxes.
I’ve got firsthand experience for this story. Last winter I drove some for Lyft. I was interviewing passengers to make a podcast. I’ve worked as a freelancer for years, so I was used to handling more complicated taxes. But that is not the case for Enrique.
Albert Einstein once said, ‘The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.’
Quote on Lyft website
Like many new gig workers, Enrique has never owned a business nor been an independent contractor. He is unsure what to deduct and what records to keep. He says it is hard to get the information he needs. That’s why he met with tax adviser Matthew Whatley.
Uber and Lyft provide drivers with statistics about their rides, but on their websites they urge drivers to seek professional tax advice. Whatley says people who come to him, like Enrique, are unprepared come tax time.
“I’ve never seen a single person from Lyft or Uber come in that had any idea of what their tax liability was or what kind of records to keep,” Whatley says. “Not one.”
Taxes for this new kind of gig work are confusing, Whatley says. Not every gig company handles taxes the same way. Sometimes workers get tax forms stating their income; other times they don’t. Some drivers haven’t paid taxes for a few years, he says. Others are paying more than they should.
“These people are literally thrown to the wolves,” Whatley says. “They are being put in a tax meat grinder.”
‘I’ve never seen a single person from Lyft or Uber come in that had any idea of what kind of records to keep. Not one.’
Matthew Whatley, tax adviser
Whatley says many don’t realize the extra load put on contractors when it comes to taxes. First, contractors have higher tax burdens than employees. That’s because for employees, companies pay half the Social Security and Medicare taxes. Contractors also have to keep their own records — mileage logs, gas receipts and other deductible expenses.
This is all a surprisingly big obligation the companies are not upfront about, Enrique says. The advertisements soliciting drivers say how much they will make hourly — before expenses, taxes and the time spent maintaining records and figuring out deductions.
Screen shot of an Uber ad promising hourly rates.
One of the things gig workers like Enrique have to figure out is a relatively new tax form, the 1099-K. It is different from the 1099 form contractors normally use.
The 1099-K shows total credit card transactions, in this case between the riders and the company. Drivers then have to subtract expenses like tolls and fees they pay to Uber and Lyft. This makes it trickier for drivers to keep track of income, says Patricia Cain, law professor at Santa Clara University.
Cain gives this example: Let’s say a driver earns $18,000 of income, but there was $3,500 in fees and tolls that Uber charged to riders. The 1099-K the driver receives would show $21,500 gross income because that was the total of credit card transactions between the riders and Uber. The driver would then have to account for all the expenses that make up the difference.
Cain says 1099-Ks were not originally designed for this kind of gig work. They were developed in 2008 to track income that people make from sites like eBay and Etsy.
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So, why are these gig companies using the new forms? In an email, Lyft wrote that the 1099-K complies with tax rules. Uber did not respond.
David Gamage is a professor of tax law at UC Berkeley. He says the 1099-K could be part of a business strategy. It may be an effort to look more like an online marketplace that connect drivers with riders, rather than a company that contracts with those drivers.
“It’s entirely possible that a primary reason for their adopting these structures is to want to distance themselves from the actions of their drivers,” Gamage says.
The exact nature of the relationship between the companies and drivers is an important issue. Right now there are two class-action lawsuits in California in which drivers are alleging that they are actually employees rather than independent contractors. If the lawsuits succeed, companies like Uber and Lyft would have to pay a lot more in taxes.
For Enrique, doing his taxes has been illuminating. He finally saw what he was actually earning — less than minimum wage. He realized he needed to drive more than 30 hours a week to have anything left over after expenses.
“I know I need to be driving more,” Enrique says, “but I want to be able to live a life and see the sun.”
Now though, Enrique is committed to gig work. Last year he quit his day job and bought a Prius. He has car payments and high insurance premiums.
Enrique’s plan is to drive more. He just signed up to deliver food through another gig website.Tags: UberDrivers