Labor News

Angry at Givebacks, Teamsters Unite to Challenge Hoffa

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Thu, 03/26/2015 - 09:22
Alexandra BradburyLabor NotesMarch 26, 2015View the original piece

Are the chickens finally coming home to roost for Teamsters brass?

After a wave of anger at concessions the union forced onto unwilling members in its national contracts, some of President James Hoffa’s biggest opponents are teaming up to challenge him in the 2016 race.

Click here to read more at Labor Notes.

Categories: Labor News, Unions

London Bus Strike 5/2/2015 On the Picket Line - Why is there a strike?

Current News - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 22:23

London Bus Strike 5/2/2015 On the Picket Line - Why is there a strike?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-H6XyJepdk

Tags: London Bus Strike
Categories: Labor News

Pregnant Workers Backed by US Supreme Court in UPS Case

Current News - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 22:11

Pregnant Workers Backed by US Supreme Court in UPS Case
http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/29265-pregnant-worke...
By Greg Stohr, Bloomberg
25 March 15

he US Supreme Court backed the rights of pregnant workers, reviving a lawsuit by a former United Parcel Service Inc. driver who left her job when the company wouldn’t provide the less strenuous work recommended by her doctor.

The justices, voting 6-3, sent the case back for a possible trial, which would center on UPS’s reasons for refusing to accommodate Peggy Young’s needs while giving temporary assignments to workers recovering from on-the-job injuries.

The ruling is the Supreme Court’s first since 1991 on employers’ duties toward their pregnant workers. Although it may have limited significance going forward because of legal changes at the state and federal level, the case touched on issues that have driven a wedge through the court and American society.

The justices divided to some degree along ideological lines. The court’s three women -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan -- joined Justice Stephen Breyer in the majority, as did two Republican appointees, Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts.

Writing for the court, Breyer said the lower court that threw out the suit should have scrutinized UPS’s justification for accommodating other workers.

“Why, when the employer accommodated so many, could it not accommodate pregnant workers as well?” Breyer wrote.

‘Middle Ground’

The opinion adopted what Kagan characterized during arguments in December as a “middle ground” approach, rejecting more sweeping contentions from both sides. Because lower courts had generally backed employers on the issue, it gives some pregnant workers a new avenue to win cases.

UPS contended that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act leaves room for companies to have neutral policies like seniority systems and special preferences for workers who are injured on the job.

“UPS is pleased that the Supreme Court rejected the argument that UPS’s pregnancy-neutral policy was inherently discriminatory,” the company said in a statement. The company said it was confident the lower courts “will find that UPS did not discriminate against Ms. Young under this newly announced standard.”

Heavy Lift

Young worked at a UPS facility in Landover, Maryland. Her job required her to load packages onto vehicles and deliver them to their destination. Although she says the vast majority of those packages were envelope-size, her job description required her to lift parcels of up to 70 pounds.

In 2006, Young became pregnant after in vitro fertilization. Her doctor and midwife said she shouldn’t lift objects weighing more than 20 pounds during the first half of the pregnancy or more than 10 pounds for the rest.

She says UPS refused to accommodate her needs either by adjusting her job responsibilities or by temporarily assigning her to a position that didn’t require heavy lifting.

She went on an unpaid leave of absence and returned to work after her baby was born. Young later left UPS and sued the company for compensation.

Seniority System

UPS says it was simply abiding by its seniority system and union contract, which makes no provision for pregnant employees with physical limitations. The union agreement called for reassignments to be available to workers with job-related injuries and those considered permanently disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The accord also made provisions for people who lost their federal driver’s certification, letting them temporarily take jobs that don’t involve operating a vehicle.

The Atlanta-based delivery company shifted its policy after the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. UPS says it now treats pregnant employees in need of special accommodations the same as workers with on-the-job injuries, giving them light-duty assignments if available. Young, now 43, continued to press her case in an effort to win damages.

UPS said one reason for the change was the increasing number of states that require accommodations for pregnant workers. At least nine states will have those requirements, up from one at the time of Young’s pregnancy.

Federal Aid

Rights for pregnant workers may be broader under federal law in the future as well. The Obama administration says a 2008 amendment to the federal disabilities law may give additional protections to women whose pregnancies limit their activities.

The amendment provides protections for workers with temporary disabilities that aren’t connected to on-the-job injuries. The change also expands the definition of disability to make clear that an inability to lift, stand or bend is covered.

Because the UPS dispute predated that amendment, Young wasn’t able to invoke it in her case, and the Supreme Court didn’t consider it.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act says employers must treat pregnant workers the same as other employees “not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.”

Breyer said each of the litigants -- UPS, Young and the Obama administration -- had misinterpreted that clause. His opinion instead adopted what he said was a familiar approach used by courts with other types of job-discrimination lawsuits.

Breyer said judges should assess an employer’s explanation for treating workers differently and determine whether those reasons were a pretext for discrimination. Breyer said plaintiffs can use “circumstantial proof to rebut an employer’s apparently legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons.”

Pretext Evidence

He told the appeals court to determine whether Young had shown enough evidence of pretext to warrant taking the case to trial.

Alito didn’t join Breyer’s reasoning, writing separately to explain his views.

In dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia said the majority departed from the Pregnancy Discrimination Act’s text.

“The court seems to think our task is to craft a policy-driven compromise between the possible readings of the law, like a congressional conference committee reconciling House and Senate versions of a bill,” Scalia wrote.

The case is Young v. UPS, 12-1226.

Tags: upsdiscrimination
Categories: Labor News

Uzbekistan: Gvt arrests and deports international labor rights consultant

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Cotton Campaign
Categories: Labor News

U.S. Supreme Court Sides With Pregnant Worker In Major Discrimination Case

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 12:45
Nicole FlatowThink ProgressMarch 25, 2015View the original piece

The U.S. Supreme Court sided with a woman who was faced with the choice to either work her labor-intensive job during pregnancy at the United Parcel Service or go on unpaid leave without benefits. In an opinion issued Wednesday morning, the justices ruled 6-3 that Young should at least be given a full opportunity to make her case in court that she was not given the same accommodation as other employees considered injured or disabled.

Young was tasked with lifting boxes as heavy as 70 pounds in her job as a UPS worker. When she got pregnant, her midwife recommended that she not lift more than 20 pounds, and wrote a note asking her employer to put her on light duty. Had Young been written a similar note because Young broke her arm carrying boxes, or suffered from a disability, UPS would have put her on what is known as “light duty.” But UPS wouldn’t do it for Young on account of her pregnancy. The alternative was to take unpaid leave without medical benefits.

Click here to read more at Think Progress.

Issues: UPS
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Trucking employment approaches peak, pressuring driver wages, rates

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 09:29
William B. CassidyJournal of CommerceMarch 25, 2015

As the U.S. heads toward what some economists consider “full employment,” trucking companies tracked by the Labor Department hired an additional 2,600 workers in February, pushing the monthly JOC.com Trucking Employment Index reading up to 99.9.

That means the more than 100,000 motor carriers surveyed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for its monthly U.S. employment situation report are only one-tenth of a percentage point shy of their peak pre-recession employment level, last reached in May 2007. The prospect of near-full employment, a new employment peak in trucking and more good paying jobs in construction and other industries that vie with trucking for workers will keep upward pressure on driver wages and the truck rates shippers pay in 2015. The February Trucking Employment Index rose 0.1 percentage points from January, when the reading was 99.8, according to revised monthly data from the BLS. The index reading for February 2013 was 96.4. That indicates an annualized growth rate in trucking employment last month of 3.5 percent, the same as in January and the highest rate since late 2012. That year, the growth rate averaged 3.8 percent and was 4 percent or higher in four months. The for-hire trucking industry nearly doubled its hiring rate in 2014, expanding payroll by 46,000 jobs, compared with 24,900 in 2013, when the U.S. economy was stuck in a “soft patch.” The for-hire carriers tracked by the Labor Department agency shed 218,500 jobs from March 2007 through March 2010, and added 207,400 jobs from that date through 2014. The average monthly increase in trucking employment, calculated from the BLS data, rose from 2,075 workers in 2013 to 3,833 employees last year, an 85 percent increase that likely reflects strong recruiting efforts and higher pay. The carriers tracked by the BLS added more than 4,000 jobs in eight out of 12 months last year, compared with four months in 2013. At the same time, trucking companies say they are short by at least 30,000 drivers, while running at close to full utilization — more than 95 percent. That’s a sign demand for trucking capacity outstrips supply as the U.S. economy expands at an accelerated pace. Trucking’s latest employment gains came as the U.S. economy added 295,000 nonfarm jobs in February, driving the national unemployment rate down to 5.5 percent. That’s the lowest unemployment rate since the recession ended in 2009. The U.S. has added more than 200,000 jobs per month for 12 straight months now, the best hiring rate in the U.S. since the mid-1990s, according to BLS data. Transportation and warehousing businesses accounted for 18,500 new jobs in February, the seasonally adjusted payroll data show. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal believe the U.S. will hit “full employment” — the point where the economy is using all available labor — late this year, as the national unemployment rate drops toward 5.1 percent. The U.S. Federal Reserve considers an unemployment rate between 5.2 and 5.5 percent to be “normal,” The newspaper reported. At the same time, there were 5 million available jobs on Jan. 31, the highest level of job openings since 2001, according to BLS data. That includes 205,000 openings in transportation, warehousing and utilities, the federal agency said.

 

Issues: Freight
Categories: Labor News, Unions

UPS CEO’s Total Compensation More Than Doubles in 2014

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 07:44
Tess StynesThe Wall Street JournalMarch 25, 2015View the original piece

United Parcel Service Inc. on Tuesday said Chief Executive David P. Abney’s total compensation for 2014 more than doubled, including a base salary increase he received in September when he was promoted to the helm of the package-delivery giant.

Mr. Abney, who had been the company’s chief operating officer, succeeded Scott Davis, who retired as CEO but stayed on as chairman. The move signaled the U.S. shipping giant’s growing focus on its international operations.

Click here to read more at The Wall Street Journal.

Issues: UPS
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Swaziland: Remembering Swaziland's prisoners of conscience after one year

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 03/24/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Equal Times
Categories: Labor News

Indonesia: Massive slavery uncovered in global fishing industry

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 03/24/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: AP
Categories: Labor News

Tamarkin union members accept severance package

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Tue, 03/24/2015 - 13:02
Kalea HallThe VindicatorMarch 24, 2015View the original piece

The Tamarkin union members overwhelmingly voted in favor of Giant Eagle’s severance package Wednesday.

The vote was 129 to 4. Teamsters Local 377, which represents the workers, has been told by the company with passage of the package the plant employees will be able to stay through June.

Click here to read more at The Vindicator.

Categories: Labor News, Unions

Columbus & Cincinnati Retirees Stand Strong

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Tue, 03/24/2015 - 07:55

March 24, 2015: Over 200 active and retired Teamsters packed the Cincinnati Local 100 hall for the monthly Retirees Club meeting to hear speakers address the pending cuts to Central States pensions. Mike Walden, chair of the Northeast Ohio Committee to Protect Pensions, told a standing room only audience that it was time to organize to push back the attacks on retirement security.

That same day, 150 Teamster retirees met at the Columbus union hall and heard Greg Smith, an Akron Local 24 retiree, speak on the pension issue. Representatives from U.S. Senators Brown and Portman’s staffs were also present to hear retirees speak out on the importance of maintaining the pensions they rely on for their retirement.  See the article covering the meeting in the Columbus Post Dispatch.

Tom Kreckler, a retired Local 114 Teamster and Secretary-Treasurer of the retirees club, said, “Out of this meeting, we’re organizing a pension committee. We need to get the word out to hundreds of members who know nothing about what’s coming. We got a number of volunteers to sign up to help out. Spouses are getting involved too. We need to let Central States know that we won’t accept cuts without a fight.”

A committee was also formed in Columbus to carry forward the struggle to protect pensions. On March 21, a conference call of 100 pension committee and activists, convened by TDU, got reports from some committees and from the staff of the Pension Rights Center in Washington DC, on where the grassroots campaign is headed.

The campaign is spreading throughout the Central and Southern regions, and beyond. 

Click here to send us a message. Contact us if you want to help organize a pension meeting in your area.

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Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Central States Fund to Hold Briefing for Officers

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Tue, 03/24/2015 - 07:30

March 24, 2015: The Central States Pension Fund trustees have set up a briefing for local union officers on April 8. Will this be the big announcement regarding their proposed pension cuts – or a background briefing?

The announcement states only that they will “provide Local Union officers with background information on the MPRA [pension cut legislation], review the process and timetable…and outline a communication plan for our participants.” It goes on to state that the Board of Trustees [four Teamster officials and four management reps] are “currently reviewing options.” 

We believe that review needs to be expanded.

The Fund has stepped up security at their building in Rosemont Illinois, and this announcement states that only pre-registered union officers will be allowed in the meeting, with “no walk-ins.”

We will provide more information as soon as it is available.

Teamster retirees and members are fighting back against cuts, and for better and more equitable solutions. If you think there should be an independent audit before any cuts are proposed, and that the process should be more equitable, then find out how you can be part of making it happen.

Click here to send us a message. Contact us if you want to help organize a pension meeting in your area.

Like us on facebook and follow us on twitter.

Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

3/31 SF Meeting-Which Way for The ILWU- Militant Unionism or Business Unionism?

Current News - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 17:22

Which Way for The ILWU-
Militant Unionism or Business Unionism?
* Hear ILWU Activists Speak on the Recent Longshore Contract Negotiations
* Open Discussion on the Tentative Agreement
* Longshore Members & Caucus delegates invited
WHEN: Tuesday, March 31, 7PM
WHERE: First Unitarian Universalist Church
1187 Franklin St., SF
(Facing ILWU International Headquarters)
ILWU members stop scab grain train in Longview
The ILWU has a proud history of class struggle and the fight for democratic principles codified in the Ten Guiding Principles of the ILWU. Today ILWU officials flaunt these union principles, using top down control to direct longshore workers to cross picket lines and keep contract negotiations secret while the PMA gives the contract to the maritime employers’ Journal Of Commerce. This contract
Speakers:
PMA head McKenna and ILWU Pres McEllrath both get Shippers’ Award.
gives employers a free hand to automate without counter demands of shorter shifts tied to wage in- creases and follows on the tail of the concessionary grain contracts at EGT and the Northwest Grain agreements. Left unchecked, it will gut ILWU’s coastwide power and bury the last militant union in the U.S.
Anthony Leviege, activist member ILWU Local 10
Stacey Rodgers, Executive Board member ILWU Local 10
Jack Mulcahy*, member ILWU Local 8 Portland, grain negotiator
Dan Coffman*, former president of Longview ILWU Local 21
Howard Keylor, retired member of ILWU Local 10, an organizer of the historic 1984 longshore
anti-Apartheid strike
Jack Heyman, retired member of ILWU Local 10, organizer of militant port actions
(* speaking via skype)
Organized by the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee (www.transportworkers.org)
For information: (415) 282-1908 Labor Donated

Tags: ilwu
Categories: Labor News

Russia: Police detain union members protesting VW layoffs

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: The News-Tribune
Categories: Labor News

El Salvador: Maquila Plants Use Gang Members to Break Unions

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: IPS
Categories: Labor News

Bangladesh: Rana Plaza: Countdown to second anniversary begins with compensation fund still US$9 million short

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: IndustriALL Global Union
Categories: Labor News

Labor Strife an Unwelcome Novelty for Emirates Airline

Current News - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 08:51

Labor Strife an Unwelcome Novelty for Emirates Airline
http://www.wsj.com/articles/labor-strife-an-unwelcome-novelty-for-emirat...
Cabin crew complain of working longer hours and shortened layovers

By RORY JONES
March 20, 2015 9:20 a.m. ET
DUBAI—Emirates Airline is fighting an unusual headwind: labor trouble.

In the U.S. and Europe, the Dubai-owned carrier is fighting accusations by rivals that it benefits from unfair government subsidies. Back home, however, Emirates, the world’s largest international airline by traffic, is engaged in a rare tussle with its own cabin-crew staff.

According to current and former staff, cabin-crew employees have been complaining internally about a host of issues, including accusations the airline is asking crew to work more hours and shortening layovers between connecting flights. In response, Emirates is holding a series of unprecedented meetings where staff can air grievances directly to senior management. It also recently suspended a performance-evaluation system of cabin staff—conducted after each flight—that employees complained was too critical.

Labor trouble is a frequent headache for global carriers, where strikes and other job action can disrupt service. But in Dubai, a semiautonomous monarchy that is part of the United Arab Emirates, strikes and unions are banned.

Emirates has long been a demanding employer, especially for cabin-crew personnel—requiring rigorous training, including in etiquette and grooming. But cabin-crew staff also enjoy benefits not typical at many other airlines, including free accommodation and transportation to and from work. That has all helped keep a lid on labor strife among its roughly 20,000 cabin-crew employees until now.

The dissent comes as the airline is growing rapidly and recruiting aggressively to fill its cabins. Emirates carried 44.5 million passengers in its latest financial year, and forecasts 70 million passengers by 2020.

It plans to hire 5,000 more cabin staff this year, to accommodate growth and attrition. That fast clip is straining current staff, according to some employees.

Flight attendants say they are having to work more shifts, with shorter layovers. First-class attendants, who typically work their way up to their postings in premium cabins, are being asked to work in economy to make up for shortages there, according to these employees. Many cabin-crew staff had some annual leave allocation deferred last year, they said.

Emirates said in a statement that it hasn’t shortened layover times, and any changes to staff routines are exceptions that comply with safety rules. Staff have to work in other cabins at times, the carrier said. Emirates didn’t immediately respond to a request seeking comment about deferred leave.

The company also declined to comment generally about cabin-crew complaints, and to make executives available for interviews. Saif Al Suwaidi, director general of the General Civil Aviation Authority, the U.A.E.’s airline regulator, said issues about airline labor conditions are a matter to be sorted out between staff and management.

‘There are a number of subjects that are causing concern at the moment’
—Terry Daly, Emirates’ senior vice president of service delivery, in an email to staff.
The gripe sessions initiated this year are one way Emirates is trying to manage the complaints. In an email in January to staff announcing the meetings, Terry Daly, Emirates’ senior vice president of service delivery, wrote he was “aware that there are a number of subjects that are causing concern at the moment.” He called the meetings “an opportunity to talk about these directly with me,” according to a copy of the email reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Emirates has held three sessions so far. The first meeting, held last month at Emirates’ Dubai headquarters, lasted double the scheduled two hours, according to three attendees. In a statement, Emirates said the forums last month were just one of many ways employees could communicate with management. “We have always encouraged open dialogue,” the carrier said.

Emirates Chief Executive Tim Clark has weighed in. Late last year, he started to send a quarterly “update” email to employees, soliciting feedback from staff. But he also warned about gossip mongering: “I’m astonished by the range of colorful stories that sometimes do the rounds in our company,” he wrote in October. His advice, he continued, according to a copy of the email, is to “keep well away from naysayers and gossips and focus instead on our ambition to be one of the most loved lifestyle brands.”

Write to Rory Jones at rory.jones@wsj.co

Tags: Emirates Airlinelabor
Categories: Labor News

Target Becomes the Latest Big Box Retailer to Raise Workers’ Wages

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 07:24
Arielle ZiontsIn These TimesMarch 23, 2015View the original piece

Starting next month, Target will raise its minimum wage to $9 an hour. Sound familiar? That's because Target’s decision comes just one month after its competitor Walmart said it would raise its starting wage to $9 and eventually $10 per hour. T.J. Maxx and Marshalls have also announced a new $9 an hour base. These minimum wage increases reflect an improving economy and the impact of widespread protest through campaigns like the fast food strikes and OUR Walmart. 

The business press, unsurprisingly, chalks up the hikes to an improving economy. The Wall Street Journal writes, "Target’s move is the latest example of a tightening labor market and rising competition for lower paid workers amid declining joblessness and signs that consumer confidence is returning." At 5.5%, the country's unemployment rate is at its lowest in six years. Earlier this year, a review of several studies found that higher wages led to more productivity and lower turnover rates, which can then lead to higher profits for companies. 

Click here to read more at In These Times.

Issues: Labor Movement
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Significant pension cuts loom for retirees

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 07:22
Mark WilliamsThe Columbus DispatchMarch 23, 2015View the original piece

Since Whitley Wyatt retired in 2000 after 33 years as a trucker, he’s collected a pension of $3,300 a month.

Now, the 71-year-old says as much as $2,000 of his monthly check is at risk because of legislation passed by Congress last year that is meant to help underfunded multiemployer pension plans bolster their finances by giving them a way to cut benefits for some retirees.

Click here to read more at The Columbus Dispatch.

Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

‘Uber is a rip-off for its drivers and the public’: Cab Drivers Protest Rideshares in Chicago

Current News - Sun, 03/22/2015 - 19:35

‘Uber is a rip-off for its drivers and the public’: Cab Drivers Protest Rideshares in Chicago
http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/17662/uber_ripoff
THURSDAY, FEB 19, 2015, 1:38 PM
‘Uber is a rip-off for its drivers and the public’: Cab Drivers Protest Rideshares in Chicago
BY REBECCA BURNS

Cab drivers protest Uber outside Chicago's City Hall on Wednesday. Mayor Rahm Emanuel's brother, Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel, is a major investor in the company. (CDU / Facebook)

If you’ve taken an Uber recently, you probably forked over an extra dollar for a “Safe Ride Fee,” a recently-added cost that the tech giant says will help ensure that drivers and their vehicles are fit for the road. Soon, you will also be able to share details of your location and ETA with people waiting at the other end of your Uber ride, just in case your driver decides to drive you to a secluded location, sexually assault you, and/or hit you over the head with a hammer—all offenses that Uber drivers have allegedly committed against riders during the past year.

Uber denied liability in these incidents, as well as in the death of a 6-year-old girl struck by one of its drivers in San Francisco last year. But in December Uber hired a “head of global safety” and pledged to ramp up precautions. Riders may or may not be comforted by the results so far: Among them, an assurance that they will now be able to press an app-based “panic button” if things in the passenger seat start to go awry. But they’re consistent with Uber’s approach of letting the free market to take the wheel—while continuing to collect commissions of up to 25 percent. Uber is currently valued at $40 billion.

The company has faced a slew of bad headlines in Chicago as of late, including two alleged sexual assaults by its drivers over a three-week period in January. Nevertheless, the city announced this week that it would license Uber to operate as a “transportation network provider” (TNP), a new category of commercial vehicle transportation created last year.

On Wednesday, more than 100 Chicago cab drivers rallied at City Hall to protest the decision, which they say harms their livelihoods as well as public safety. Chicago cab drivers must pass background checks and drug and physical exams each year as a condition of license renewal, leading cabbies to complain that they’re victims of a “two-tier” system that subjects them to onerous regulation while giving a free pass to Uber, Lyft and other app-based ride services.

“The issues are piling up and the city is not solving them,” said Ismail Onay, who has been a licensed taxi driver in Chicago for 14 years. “Driving a cab used to be a pathway to the middle class, but Uber is disrupting and killing our industry.”

While Chicago caps the number of cabs that can operate at any given time to about 6,500, there are as many as 13,000 Uber drivers in the city according to Cab Drivers United, a labor group affiliated with AFSCME Council 31 that staged Wednesday’s protest. The United Taxidrivers Community Council, another labor group, staged a separate protest against Uber on Tuesday.

App-based “sharing economy” companies have long enjoyed a regulatory Wild West, but Chicago, Boston and several other cities have moved recently to impose new rules on ridesharing. After passing an ordinance last spring that established a licensing process and protections against price surging, Chicago issued the first TNP licenses to Lyft and Sidecar in November.

According to the ridesharing ordinance, companies whose drivers log an average of more than 20 hours per week must obtain a “Class B” license, which requires drivers on the platform to obtain a public chauffeur’s license and submit to background checks and annual vehicle inspections conducted by the city. But both Lyft and Sidecar were granted the less restrictive and expensive “Class A” license created by the ordinance, under which the companies must pay $10,000 for the licenses but can continue to conduct their own background and vehicle inspections.

The city allows companies to choose which license they apply for, and then allows them to self-report their own data on driver hours to prove that they are complying with its regulations. As a result, say cab companies and other critics of the ordinance, few companies are likely to opt for the more expensive and onerous license—effectively continuing the unregulated status quo for ridesharing.

Uber also applied for a TNP license, but the city had delayed its approval in the wake of the alleged sexual assaults by its drivers. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the city’s decision this week to license Uber is contingent on a “promise” from the company to implement a list of additional safety measures in Chicago, including cooperating with police in investigations of its drivers, employing off-duty police officers to conduct monthly safety audits and checking the city’s list of suspended, denied and revoked chauffeur’s licenses and deactivating any drivers who appear on this list. (Neither the City of Chicago nor Uber responded to requests for comment on this decision).

Cab drivers believe this is woefully inadequate.

“After two years of operating illegally in Chicago, the city’s response to allow Uber, a politically connected, billion-dollar corporation to operate based on a ‘promise’ is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” said Cheryl Miller, a member of CDU.

They’re not the only ones crying foul. Alderman Bob Fioretti, who is running for mayor in Chicago’s elections this month, has accused current Mayor Rahm Emanuel of political favoritism towards Uber. The mayor’s brother, Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel, is a major investor in Uber, though his William Morris Endeavor agency has declined to state exactly how large its ownership interest is.

The mayor has said that his advocacy of ridesharing regulations are “just the opposite” of favoritism. “Let me say this about Ari. He doesn’t need his older brother to get rich. Think of it as me getting back at him,” Emanuel told the Chicago Sun-Times last year.

Uber passengers, of course, aren’t the only ones being taken for a ride by Silicon Valley. As In These Times has reported previously, drivers on the Uber platform have been staging protests of their own in opposition to what they say are erratic fare cuts and a dwindling share of the company’s profits.

Cab Drivers United (CDU), which began organizing Chicago taxi drivers last year, says that it currently has 4,000 members, none of them UberX drivers. But a spokesperson says that the group would welcome drivers who work on app-based platforms, given the exploitative nature of the industry.

Following efforts by AFSCME to organize cab drivers in New Orleans, CDU has been working to reduce the rates drivers pay to lease their vehicles; improve the process for adjudicating complaints and citations, for which drivers can lose their licenses; and decrease the maximum fines drivers can receive for violations like rider complaints or traffic violations. The group is not officially a union, and AFSCME says it has no plans at present to file for an election, but CDU was successful in passing a “taxi driver fairness” ordinance through the city council that will take effect this month.

Still, taxi drivers say that Uber is cutting into their fares and that the city needs to create a level playing field.

“Uber is a rip-off for its drivers and a rip-off for the public,” said cab driver and CDU member David Boakye. “This is our first big protest against Uber in Chicago, but if we need to we will escalate.”

Tags: UberCDU
Categories: Labor News

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