Teamster Local 554 member Sarah Miles, the daughter of another Nebraska UPS Teamster Jeff Benson, found out what UPS management thinks of its pregnant workers. Put on a weight restriction by her doctor, Sarah was told by UPS that no light-duty work was available, and that she did not qualify for Family Medical Leave.
And Sarah isn’t the only one. When North Carolina UPS driver Nichele Fulmore was told by her doctor that she could not lift more than 20 pounds during her pregnancy, she assumed that UPS would make accommodations so that she could continue working, as they had done for others in the past at her center.
But UPS said they would not provide light duty work. So Nichele found herself out of work, and after 26 weeks on disability, out of health benefits, with three months to go until her due date.
These are not isolated incidents. UPS is imposing a company-wide policy change that denies pregnant woman with health restrictions the right to perform alternate duties. In the process, UPS management is denying women access to medical benefits (which run out after six months on disability leave) and, frequently, the right to use their Family Medical Leave (FMLA) benefits.
FMLA lets employers deny benefits to workers if they have fewer than 1,250 hours worked in the previous year. The majority of UPS’s workforce is part-time. That means that many women who are planning to use their FMLA benefits after the birth of their child may come up short on hours if they are refused the right to keep working during their pregnancy.
In the past, UPS generally provided light-duty work to pregnant employees with work restrictions. This practice was written into the union contract in 1997. But now UPS claims that they only have to honor the contract in states that have their own laws regarding pregnancy and light-duty work. It’s a good deal for them: the only state known to have such a law is California.
The IBT has refused to fight over the issue, claiming that a bad arbitration decision makes it a done deal.
But members and families see it differently, and aren’t ready to give up. Last month, Sarah Miles’ mother Susan Benson conducted a one-person picket in front of UPS in Omaha, Nebraska, and got noticed by UPS management in the process. She went back the next week, this time after notifying the media. Management really started paying attention.
“They just ticked me off,” Benson said. “You don’t take a young woman who’s worked hard for you for three years, and kick her into the street with no pay and no insurance because she’s pregnant. My husband works for UPS, and we’ve had to deal with them for 24 years on insurance issues. Now they’re hurting my daughter.”
Getting management’s attention is one thing, getting this issue resolved is another. Pressure needs to be brought to bear on management, through the union and the public. UPS’s actions need to be brought out in the open.
To make that happen, we need to gather information. If you have been affected by UPS’s policy or know of other pregnant UPS Teamsters who have been, please contact TDU.
Concession Bargaining Gets "tentative labor agreement" At Golden Gate Bridge "This was not just a one-sided concession. Both sides made concessions in order to come to terms and not impact our customers."
Concession Bargaining Gets "tentative labor agreement" At Golden Gate Bridge "This was not just a one-sided concession. Both sides made concessions in order to come to terms and not impact our customers."
Golden Gate Bridge workers unions, district reach tentative contract agreement
By Jessica Kwong @JessicaGKwong
• JESSICA KWONG/THE S.F. EXAMINER
• Golden Gate Bridge workers unions and the bridge district have reached a tentative labor agreement after bus workers announced last week that they intended to strike Friday.
Two Golden Gate Bridge workers strikes, including one that paralyzed ferry service, failed to move labor negotiations, but the threat of a third strike that would have halted bridge bus service today may have turned the tide, as a tentative agreement was reached Thursday.
The tentative agreement - for which details remain confidential pending votes from all 13 bridge worker unions and the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District - came after both sides met for the first time since Teamsters Locals 856 and 665 announced Oct. 9 a planned bus strike. District spokesman Priya Clemens did reveal that "healthcare is an area where a compromise was reached."
"It was a long day. Nobody took any breaks. Everybody worked very hard to make this compromise happen," she said Thursday. "This was not just a one-sided concession. Both sides made concessions in order to come to terms and not impact our customers."
Clemens also credited Gov. Jerry Brown's office for offering counsel and advice.
The district had offered a contract with three-percent wage increases each year for the next three years, but union members claimed that health insurance premium increases would cost two percent in wages. The Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition, which represents the 13 unions, has been at the bargaining table since April and without a contract since July 1.
"This is the first district proposal that we have actually taken to the members for a vote," said coalition co-chair Alex Tonisson.
As to whether the planned bus strike was the tipping point for concessions, Tonisson said: "I think that the Teamsters going on strike and shutting down bus service is a clear escalation and impacts even more customers; that's just kind of a fact and we'll see what the end result is."
On a typical weekday, about 22,000 people use the Golden Gate Transit bus service and about 9,000 people use the ferry service, according to the district.Tags: Golden Gate Bridge WorkersConcession Bargaining
October 17, 2014: FedEx Freight workers in Philadelphia voted for this first time to join the Teamsters. Con-way workers in Laredo did the same. How can we build on this momentum?
For the first time in years, there’s excitement in the air about Teamster organizing in the trucking industry. Can we turn that into some real Teamster power?
Local 657 organized the Laredo Con-way terminal. Local 107 lost a vote at FedEx Freight in New Jersey, but then won the NLRB vote at the Philadelphia terminal. These were the first-ever organizing wins at FedEx or Con-way terminals.
The companies are starting to respond, with both threats and pay hikes.
Other locals are taking action. There are organizing votes scheduled at several FedEx Freight and Con-way terminals in the next few weeks, from Los Angeles to Harrisburg Pa. Leaders of several locals report that FedEx Freight and Con-way workers in their areas are ready to organize.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) supports this organizing in a core Teamster industry and urges locals and members to get involved and turn this into a movement.
So far, the International union has not put major resources in the campaign: no financial backing to locals, no boots on the ground.
The IBT Organizing Department has held biweekly conference calls for locals to exchange information, and designed leaflets and signs. That’s a start. But no local union’s resources can be a match for the anti-union campaigns of these corporate giants.
Local unions and freight workers are stepping up to take action. The IBT needs to get behind this movement and help drive it to victory.
The Hoffa administration has to put some power behind our freight Teamsters. The best field organizers are freight Teamsters who are proud of our union.
Troy Justis, an ABF driver in Columbus Local 413 summed it up: “It’s great that we’re finally making some gains in organizing FedEx Freight and Con-way. But if we’re going to win on a wide scale, we need to shore up Teamster pride in freight. That starts with much better contract enforcement.”Issues: Freight
Israel Corp. to spin off stake in Zim container line
Corianne Egan, Associate Editor Journal of Commerce | Oct 14, 2014 12:42PM EDT
Israel Corp. will shift its stake in Zim Integrated Shipping Services, along with several other companies, to a holdings company that will be listed on stock exchanges in New York and Tel Aviv, the company announced.
The company said it will move its stakes in four companies, including container carrier Zim, to Kenon Holdings, which incorporated in Singapore. Kenon, which will be valued at $1.5 billion, will also receive an influx of nearly $100 million and a $200 million line of credit from Israel Corp., according to Middle Eastern news outlet Haaretz.
Israel Corp. announced it will split into two parts, a restructuring expected to be completed by the end of 2014. Led by new CEO and former CFO Avisar Paz, the restructuring requires Israel Corp. to transfer its stakes in Zim, along with stakes in Chinese automaker Qoros, computer chip manufacturer TowerJazz and electric power company IC Power, to Kenon.
Israel Corp. will continue to manage its stake in Israel Chemicals, Oil Refineries, and IC Green.
Zim entered the final stages of debt restructuring after reaching an agreement with the Israeli government in late July. As part of that deal, Israel Corp. agreed to a nearly $3.4 billion deal, which included $200 million in new equity, along with forgiving nearly $225 million in loans.
JOC.com has reported that Zim, the only major carrier not aligned with a major east-west alliance, would likely seek to join forces with other carriers after the restructuring was completed.
The carrier has been in the news of late because of pro-Palestine group protests in a few U.S. ports, which have prevented ships from unloading in Port of Oakland and caused delays in docking at the Port of Tampa Bay.
According to Alphaliner, Zim ranks 19th on the Top 100 list of carriers, deploying a fleet totaling 336,861 TEUs, 1.8 percent of the global fleet.
Contact Corianne Egan at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter: @CEgan_JOC.Tags: Zimboycott
Iran: ITUC calls on the P5+1 countries to focus on human rights, and labour rights in particular with Iran
FedEx Freight and Con-way Freight, two of the largest non-union LTL carriers in the nation, are battling organizing efforts by the Teamsters union in a closely watched unionization effort.
Workers at FedEx Freight’s Philadelphia facility recently voted 28-16 in favor of representation by the Teamsters union. That follows a rejection of union organization weeks earlier by FedEx Freight workers in Cinnaminson, N.J., a suburb of Philadelphia.
Click here to read more at Logistics Managment.
FedEx Freight drivers at a Philadelphia terminal voted in favor of Teamsters representation, becoming the first workers at the less-than-truckload carrier to become union members.
The vote by a reported 26-18 margin came four days after drivers at the Cinnaminson, New Jersey, terminal voted against becoming Teamsters. The New Jersey vote was the first-ever unionization balloting at the nation’s largest less-than-truckload company. No vote count was disclosed for the New Jersey vote.
Click here to read more at Transport Topics.Issues: Freight
10/22 Global World Protest-Uber Drivers International Protest Against UBER-It's Time To Stop The Machine
10/22 Global World Protest-Uber Drivers International Protest Against UBER-It's Time To Stop The Machine
12 noon PST At Every Local Uber Office Worldwide
Uber World Headquarters
1445 Market St. San Francisco
For the first time ever Uber drivers world wide in one united front, say enough, switch the tide around, get off your ass, get the world around 10/22 noon at your local uber office. Be there This is it, hummer time baby!!!
Enough of the unfair rating system
Enough of the ridiculous pricing
Enough of the 20% that's on it's way to 25% cut
Enough of the gray insurance coverage
Enough of flooding the streets with drivers
Enough is enough Kallaprick
Uber needs to take better care of us
Uber Drivers Across The Country Are Organizing Their Largest Protest Yet
Uber drivers in New York, San Francisco and London are already on board, one of the organizers told BuzzFeed News.
posted on Oct. 3, 2014, at 2:40 p.m.
Uber Drivers Network in New York protest Uber X fare cuts outside of the Long Island City office in Queens in September. BuzzFeed News | Johana Bhuiyan
The California App-Based Drivers Association (CADA) – a non-profit dedicated to protecting fairness and transparency in the app-based car service industry – ismobilizing Uber drivers across the country and in some parts of the world to participate in what may be the largest coordinated Uber protest yet.
CADA, which is tied to the Teamsters Local 986 in L.A. , will be protesting at Uber’s L.A. offices on October 22 at noon and has encouraged all Uber drivers to gather at their local Uber offices.
“Scattered protests, while allowing the drivers to vent locally, are generally drowned out in the white noise of the local news cycle,” a post on their Facebook page read. “However, if we coordinate our efforts on ONE DAY … for just THREE HOURS, our combined efforts WILL break through that white noise!”
So far, joining the movement are the Uber Drivers Network in New York — whichprotested at the Long Island City offices twice last month — and the Uber drivers network in San Francisco, which according to the site boasts 1,923 drivers, one of the primary organizers of the San Francisco network, who identified himself as Ramzi, told BuzzFeed News. Ramzi will also be flying to London to help organize the protests there.
Uber drivers in both San Francisco and New York were recently hit with the news that the 20% cuts to Uber X fares that were introduced as a temporary promotion are now permanent. The drivers plan to protest those discounted prices, as well as demand that the company introduce tips and lower its own commission.
Contact the reporter with more information at email@example.com.
The insurance secret that Uber doesn’t want you to know
POSTED BY ADAM CECIL ON OCT 8, 2014
Reduce the risk of getting t-boned by Uber
Consider this insurance horror story:
Someone pulls up an app on their phone, types in the address of where they need to go, and orders your car. You turn around and drive to pick them up.
While you're driving, you look over to your phone to make sure you're still heading in the right direction. While you're looking the other way, you hit a car. It's not a big accident (luckily), but it's bad enough that the other driver calls the police (and you have to cancel your pick-up).
The police get there, they take down all of your info, including the fact that you were driving for a company called "Uber." You submit your claim to your auto insurance company and go about your life.
A few days later, your insurance company calls you. Unfortunately, your claim has been denied because you were performing a business activity. You're now on the hook not only for your own car repairs, but the other driver's, too. Oh, and by the way: your car insurance policy has been canceled.
You contact Uber to see if their insurance policy is going to cover the damages. Nope, says the woman on the other end of the phone. Since you didn’t have a passenger in the car, they’re not liable. Consider yourself lucky you didn’t hurt anyone.
A Taxi By Any Other Name
You've probably heard of Uber, the app that lets you hail a taxi from your smartphone. You may also have heard of its competitors Lyft and Sidecar. While Uber has a number of commercially licensed black car services, it also has a product it calls UberX. Just like Lyft and Sidecar, UberX lets you hail a car driven by... some dude?
That's right: unlike traditional taxi medallion companies or a black car service, almost anyone can drive for UberX, Lyft, and Sidecar. All you need is a car and a smartphone app. This is controversial for a number of reasons, ranging from worker's rights tosafety issues. Writer David Fagin went undercover as an Uber driver for Huffington Post. He didn’t have any trouble: "[Uber will] pretty much take anyone, as is demonstrated by the downloadable video test you have to pass, which is about as hard to master as tying your shoes. From there, as far as I can tell there's no license check; you simply get your vehicle's paperwork and head to a nearby Holiday Inn.”
Lyft and Sidecar have described their services as "ride-sharing." They're not taxi companies, or even a driving service - instead, they provide "marketplaces" where drivers can offer their services and users can get a ride. Lyft even goes so far as to describe their users, on both ends, as a "community." It's "your friend with a car,"according to the website - not a driver you're hiring.
Critics, especially traditional taxi drivers, see this as deceptive. You pay a "suggested donation" to your Lyft driver, for instance, and if you don't pay it, you'll be blocked from the service. They are, for all intents and purposes, taxis.
The tension between our traditional idea of a taxi and the updates to the model that UberX, Lyft, and Sidecar provide is at the heart of the debate between government regulators and the companies in question. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) went so far as to categorize UberX, Lyft, and Sidecar as an entirely new category of transportation services: transportation network companies, or TNCs.
The issue of what exactly a transportation network company is has plagued Uber and its competitors across over thirty U.S. states and almost a dozen countries. So far, government officials have been unimpressed by the companies' insistence that they are not taxis, and therefore get to skirt around regulation.
Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar would rather have you think of them as technology companies. As Uber wrote in a legal filing with the CPUC:
Uber operates no vehicles, and does not hold itself out or advertise itself as a transportation service provider. In fact and law, Uber does not provide transportation services of any kind and does not own, lease or charter any vehicles for the transportation of passengers. On the contrary, Uber is a technology company that licenses the Uber App to transportation service providers. The transportation service providers pay a fee to Uber to use its software technology; the passenger of the transportation service provider pays the transportation service provider for transportation services received.
Ed Healy, taxi driver and writer of the Phantom Cab Driver blog, retorts:
They set the rates for both the passengers and the drivers. They collect the money and pay the driver. They hire the drivers. They blackball undesirable passengers. They tell their drivers where the best places to pick up are and, if the drivers don't pick up a high enough percentage of the fares, Uber fires them. But Uber isn't in the transportation business. Right!
Government agencies and regulators overwhelmingly agree with Healy’s take: Uber is a taxi company, whether they like it or not. (If you were to ask Uber and its defenders, however, they would probably tell you that regulators are in the pockets of a deeply entrenched taxi industry.)
How governments have chosen to deal with these companies has varied wildly. Some, like California and Colorado, don't see the point in completely outlawing TNCs, especially since they've proven incredibly popular compared to traditional taxis.
Colorado, the second state to enact regulation for TNCs, took a liberal approach to the services. Unlike Colorado's taxi drivers, TNC drivers will not have to go through criminal background checks. As Colorado's Governor John Hickenlooper declared, "rules designed to protect consumers should not burden businesses with unnecessary red tape or stifle competition by creating barriers to entry."
Police in Houston, Madison, and Pittsburgh, on the other hand, have issued citations to Uber and Lyft drivers for "operating an illegal taxi." Many states where Uber has set up shop have issued cease-and-desist orders until legislators can enact regulations.
The Insurance Secret Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar Don't Want You To Know
All of that backstory is very important in understanding the debate happening across the country right now: who, exactly, is liable when a driver gets into an accident?
It's a question that strikes at the heart of how these companies self-identify. If they are just facilitating a relationship between a third-party driver and a user, as they claim they do as "technology companies," then they shouldn't be liable for much, if anything.
That leaves much of the insurance burden on the drivers, who are using their own personal cars and their own personal car insurance (PCI). What these drivers may not know, however, is that their PCI policy may not cover them if they're driving for Uber, Lyft, or any other "ride-sharing" app.
Despite the Lyft website describing their drivers as "your friend with a car," auto insurance companies see them as commercial drivers. If you have a PCI policy, insurers typically won’t cover an accident that occurs while you’re conducting a commercial activity. Some drivers have reported being able to file a claim with the insurance company fully aware of their status as a TNC driver, but KQED speculates that since CPUC’s first step in regulating TNCs, insurance companies have been more cautious about TNC drivers. Post-regulation, the auto insurance companies have been clear: PCI policies don't cover any "vehicles used for transporting passengers for a charge,"according to the Personal Insurance Federation of California.
There have even been reports of insurance companies like Geico canceling PCI policiesor refusing to renew them because of a driver's UberX or Lyft activity. KQED, a public media company in Northern California, reported on several California drivers being turned down for insurance after revealing their plans to drive for TNCs.
This is in direct opposition to statements from both Uber and Lyft. In a blog post from February of 2014, Uber posted an infographic that shows, according to them, when a PCI policy ends and when Uber's insurance begins. When the Uber app is off, a driver's PCI covers them. When the Uber app is on and the driver has a passenger, Uber's insurance covers them. The gap in between those two periods - when the Uber app is on but there's no passenger in the vehicle - has become a lightening rod for controversy and debate between TNCs, regulators, and drivers.
(Image source: Uber Blog, February 2014)
This insurance gap came to the public's attention at the beginning of this year, when Syed Muzzafar, an UberX driver in San Fransisco, struck an entire family with his Honda SUV, killing six-year-old Sofia Liu. Liu's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Uber, though Uber is denying that it is liable for any damages because Muzzafar did not have a passenger in his car at the time of the accident.
In response to this incident, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) re-examined its insurance requirements for TNCs. Assembly Bill No. 2293, signed into law on September 17, institutes a number of new requirements for TNCs operating in California, all of which must be met by July 1, 2015.
• TNCs are now required to provide insurance from the moment a driver turns on their app.
• Drivers are responsible for maintaining primary liability insurance coverage of at least $50,000 per person and $100,000 per occurrence of death and personal injury, as well as $30,000 of coverage for property damage. This insurance can be paid for by the driver or the insurance company.
• TNCs are required to provide, at minimum, $1,000,000 in coverage from the time someone is picked up until the transaction is complete or the passenger has left the vehicle, which ever one happens later.
• Drivers are required to carry proof of insurance coverage. The bill also suggests that private auto insurance companies come up with new plans to cover the mixed personal/business use that TNC drivers exhibit.
This is only one state, however, and elsewhere in the country, TNCs are no under no obligation to offer coverage for drivers when they don't have a passenger. Many drivers remain unaware that they may not be covered by their personal auto insurance policy. Hopefully, auto insurance companies will be encouraged by California's new regulations to create hybrid personal and commercial insurance policies, but questions still remain about how those policies would work. As New York Time's Ron Lieber put it:
The bill also encourages insurers to develop new policies for drivers that could handle both commercial and personal vehicle use; it remains to be seen whether companies like Uber and Lyft will buy it for drivers, whether the drivers will have to buy it themselves, what it will cost, how much the additional costs will add to customers’ fares and whether other states and cities will adopt similar rules.
How do drivers protect themselves?
If you’re a driver for one of these companies, you might be a little nervous after reading all of that. If you want to make sure you’re covered, there are a few things you can do.
The easiest thing to do would be to buy commercial auto insurance, but for many part-time drivers, this isn’t cost effective. You might be better off contacting your current insurance provider and asking questions about how they deal with claims filed by TNC drivers.
You should also see what kind of local or state regulations are in place for TNCs and their drivers. If your state requires that TNCs provide insurance, contact the company you work for and get proof of insurance for your car.
In the meantime, you can also push your state representative to push forward legislation that would regulate TNCs. You can also contact your insurance company and let them know that you support the creation of hybrid personal/commercial policies.Tags: UberWorld Protest
Corporate Controlled SF Mayor Ed Lee Appointed SFO Board Gives Free Hand to Sidecar ride company to operate airport rides
Corporate Controlled SF Mayor Ed Lee Appointed SFO Board Gives Free Hand to Sidecar ride company to operate airport rides
Sidecar first ride company to win OK from SFO for airport rides
By Carolyn Said
October 14, 2014 | Updated: October 14, 2014 4:52pm
Michael Macor / Michael Macor / The Chronicle
Sidecar became the first on-demand ride service okayed to work at SFO. Rider JoAnna Karem prepares to take a short trip in San Francisco with Sidecar driver Eric Janson.
In a big win for a small company, Sidecar became the first on-demand ride service approved to operate at San Francisco International Airport — and the first allowed at any California airport — under an agreement announced Tuesday.
The San Francisco company said it will start SFO rides within 30 days. Meanwhile bigger rivals Uber and Lyft said they are still pursuing SFO’s OK.
“This permit reflects our commitment to new business models at SFO, and ensures safe, consistent service for our customers,” said Airport Director John Martin in a statement. “I applaud Sidecar for taking the lead in their industry with the first authorized service at SFO. Their proactive approach sets an example for other transportation network companies to follow.”
SFO spokesman Doug Yakel said Sidecar will pay the airport $3.85 per trip, on par with what taxis and limos pay. Sidecar said that cost will be passed directly to passengers. It will also pay a permit activation fee and monthly fee.
To avoid congestion, Sidecar drivers will both drop off and pick up passengers on the airport’s upper level, the departure level, Yakel said. SFO will set up a staging area, next to the cell-phone waiting area, where Sidecar drivers can wait for ride requests so they don’t have to circle the airport.
“When regulators and innovators work together consumers win,” Sidecar co-founder and CEO Sunil Paul wrote in a blog post. “We commend SFO for their forward thinking, and for developing a framework that will allow Sidecar to provide safe and affordable transportation to people who live in and visit our city. SFO is one of our most in-demand places for ride requests.”
Sidecar’s permit is part of a pilot program that SFO will use to study its impact on traffic congestion, Paul wrote.
For-hire vehicles working without permission at airports are considered to be trespassing. SFO and other airports have cracked down on nonprofessional drivers using their own cars for app-summoned paid rides, issuing hundreds of verbal admonishments and dozens of citations (for repeat offenders) to drivers, Yakel said. State regulators warned UberX, Lyft, Wingz and Sidecar in June that their entire companies risked being shut down if they continued to give airport rides without permission. Some drivers for UberX and Lyft said the companies encouraged them to operate at the airports and said they would cover the hefty fees imposed on violators.
UberX and Lyft drivers are still subject to warnings and citations at SFO, Yakel said.
Uber spokeswoman Eva Behrend applauded the news in a statement that was unusually congenial for the famously combative company.
“SFO is embracing the convenience, reliability, and seamless experience that the ridesharing industry offers travelers and it is clear that the countless hours we have spent working with airport officials on a solution has paid off,” she said. “This is a win for the people who live (in) and visit the Bay Area.”
Lyft pointed out that it has the only other airport deal in the nation, at Nashville International Airport. “Lyft continues to have productive conversations with SFO,” it said in a statement. “These agreements are the first of many steps toward securing nationwide coverage and authorization for (transportation network companies) at airports.“
A UC Berkeley study this year found that about 61 percent of on-demand San Francisco ride customers used Uber (mainly its lower-cost UberX service); 30 percent used Lyft and 7 percent used Sidecar.
Carolyn Said is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: @csaidTags: sidecarEd Lee
by Bryan D. Palmer
The radical teamsters of Minneapolis showed what democratic unionism looks like.
National Archives and Records Administration / Wikimedia Commons
It is no secret that the American worker is in trouble. Jobs are increasingly precarious, and real wages have been trending downward for decades. Unions, once strong and aggressive, now often seem to be in retreat, forced into a defensive conservatism. Barely one in ten wage earners pays union dues. 21 percent of the 14.5 million union members in the US live in two states, New York and California.
In many other regions of the country, trade unionism is a dirty word. The spirit and solidarity of the labor movement are pilloried as alien to the principles of a free (market) society.
To be sure, there are signs that many workers want to rebuild militant trade unionism. But how is this to be done? If we want to rebuild the labor movement, it’s first important to appreciate what workers accomplished in the past, and examine how they managed to win struggles in conditions that were arguably much worse than those confronting workers today. If we want to resurrect the political unconscious, Fredric Jameson’s injunction “Always historicize!” is an apt place to begin.
This year marks the eightieth anniversary of one of the most important class struggles in the history of the US labor movement. Over the course of seven months in 1934, Minneapolis teamsters waged three strikes. These historic battles set the stage for a new kind of trade unionism later in the 1930s. And, decades later, they are still relevant for a flagging labor movement.
Making a Union Town Against the Odds
In the 1920s, Minneapolis was dominated by reactionary, anti-labor employers. They were organized in a powerful body known as the Citizen’s Alliance, formed in the pre-World War I years. This Alliance blacklisted labor organizers; kept tabs on radicals; and hired spies, company guards, and stool pigeons. Strikes were crushed. Minneapolis was known as a haven for scabs.
Radicals understood the dimension of their defeat. In a 1920 Minneapolis May Day parade they decked out a donkey with a placard. “I and all of my relatives work in an open shop,” read the sign on the ass.
Yet by the end of 1934, Minneapolis was a union town. The seemingly all-powerful Citizen’s Alliance had been defeated.
The General Drivers’ Union (GDU), Local 574 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), was the unlikely engine of this transformation in class relations. With fewer than 175 truck-driving members scattered throughout small Minneapolis trucking and taxi companies in 1933, the GDU looked like anything but a vehicle of militant mobilization.
Local 574’s leadership was an ossified officialdom, hostile to militant action of any kind. Teamster International President Dan Tobin of Boston was an old-style American Federation of Labor (AFL) business unionist. Reluctant to sanction strikes, he lauded the respectability of his trucking fraternity, “craftsmen” Tobin regarded as superior to the unskilled immigrant and “colored” workers who toiled at unorganized, low-paying, and insecure jobs. Tobin did his best to insulate the Teamster ranks from the currents of radicalism that had been swirling around trade unionism for decades.
One of those currents was rooted in Minneapolis. At first, in the late 1920s and early 1930s, it seemed buried deep in the city’s coal yards. Few in number, these militants were shunned by the Teamster bureaucracy, kept out of the union, and attacked publicly as dangerous “reds.” They decided to constitute an informal organizing committee, composed of barely a dozen mostly non-union drivers and coal heavers.
From these inauspicious beginnings, the rebel contingent organized and led the 1934 strikes that changed the balance of class forces in Minneapolis. Membership in Local 574 burgeoned to seven thousand, and the union became a vibrant force. It headed up an eleven-state organizing drive that brought tens of thousands of over-the-road truckers into the labor movement, swelling the ranks of the national IBT to five hundred thousand by the early 1940s.
The handful of radicals who charted this new course were a revolutionary bunch. Key figures among them had been members of the Industrial Workers of the World or the Socialist Party. Having grown frustrated with these bodies, they helped establish the Communist Party (CP) in the 1920s. The increasing Stalinization of the Communist International, and its reverberations inside the American party, sat uneasily with them, however.
In 1928–1929, the Minneapolis dissidents criticized the Soviet Union-aligned CP, leading to their expulsion, en masse, from a party they had done much to build. They became part of a small Trotskyist movement centered in New York named the Communist League of America (CLA); the organization was renamed the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in 1938.
The Minneapolis CLA was led by Carl Skoglund, a Swedish socialist who had immigrated to America in 1911 after organizing strikes and a mutiny of conscripted soldiers, and Vincent Ray Dunne, arguably Minnesota’s most public “red” throughout the 1920s. The Trotskyist duo grasped that organizing the transportation industry in Minneapolis was pivotal to reviving labor militancy in the doldrums of the Great Depression.
They knew the official IBT hierarchy, implacably conservative, would be of no help. So Skoglund, Dunne, and other CLAers went to work on their own. Talking union with their fellow workers, these militants drew a small number of workers into their inner circle. They widened discussions of longstanding grievances among discontented rank and file workers, both union members and unorganized laborers.
From these small beginnings grew working-class awareness that there was an alternative to the local IBT bureaucracy. All could have been squandered, however, if this volunteer organizing committee had jumped the gun, calling a strike precipitously and leading the workers to defeat. Indeed, as Dunne was fired from his job at a fuel distribution depot at the end of the 1933 coal season, the employers tiring of his public presence in protests of the unemployed, there were calls for a walkout. Dunne and Skoglund knew that spring (with coal deliveries dropping off to nothing) was not the time for a confrontation with the bosses.
The Trotskyist agitators continued their work among the teamsters. They further consolidated relations with disgruntled workers, but they also developed an adroit strategy of neutralizing the local IBT bureaucracy. First, the Trotskyist militants cultivated close working relationships with two non-CLA IBT officials who exhibited a fighting spirit, winning them over to their perspective. Second, they also secured a seat on Local 574’s executive board, getting Dunne’s brother a paid position within the GDU local, where he pressed the elementary need for workers to be prepared for possible job action.
As Farrell Dobbs would later note, “the indicated tactic was to aim the workers’ fire straight at the employers and catch the union bureaucrats in the middle. If they didn’t react positively, they would stand discredited.” All of this pushed conservative labor leaders into corners where they were forced to at least give lip service to building the kind of fighting trade unionism that they actually abhorred. This, in turn, whet the appetite for change among the workers in the industry, both organized and unorganized.
One result of this was that Local 574 actually endorsed a strike vote with a mere thirty-four union members present. Soon, however, meetings promoted by the volunteer organizing committee were drawing hundreds of boisterous workers. They demanded militant action, not the usual IBT slumber parties.
A First Strike
Some of the most pivotal of these “alternative” union meetings were scheduled on Sunday afternoons, secure in the knowledge that IBT bureaucrats would not attend. They agitated among the workers to get a sense of what the strike demands should be and promoted the need to wrestle concessions from the bosses.
The walkout finally came during a cold stretch in February 1934. With the companies needing to get fuel to customers’ furnaces, Skoglund and Dunne understood that the teamsters tasked with delivering the coal had some leverage.
On the day of the strike, the militant leaders locked their trucks inside the coal yards. Picket captains had been chosen, and they were provided with mimeographed instructions outlining the tasks and responsibilities of strike leaders. Given the large number of work sites scattered throughout the city, pickets needed to be mobile. Coal trucks and automobiles were commandeered to form “flying squadrons.” They headed off scab trucks, seized them, and dumped their loads in working-class neighborhoods; scavengers quickly gathered up the free coal.
Within hours, sixty-five of the sixty-seven coal yards in Minneapolis were closed, and 150 coal dispatching offices had been shut down. The mainstream IBT leaders, the coal bosses, and the trucking enterprises were all dumbfounded. None had anticipated the strike’s dramatic effectiveness.
The owners conceded after two and half days, and the GDU accepted a partial victory in which wages were increased modestly. More importantly, the bosses were forced to acknowledge the union during an actual strike, something that had not happened in over twenty years.
Organizing Workers to Win
In the aftermath of the February 1934 strike, the CLA revolutionaries effectively took over Local 574. They had won the workers’ respect in an actual battle with the bosses. They had also built a critical beachhead inside the IBT local, consolidating relations with those few Teamster officials who actually wanted to extend unionism in Minneapolis and promote class struggle. From this base of control, the CLA created an infrastructure that could nurture and sustain rank-and-file militancy.
The result was two strikes in May and July. Much larger and more protracted than the February walkout, they were planned down to the last detail. But the stakes had changed. The principal battle of these class struggles was over a new kind of inclusive industrial unionism.
A decisive difference between the Tobin-led IBT bureaucracy and the CLA-led Minneapolis General Drivers’ Union was that for the militants the 1934 strikes were fought to encompass all workers in the industry. Local 574 would be built by fighting — against both bosses and union bureaucrats — to include all of those who moved goods, loaded trucks, and prepared produce in Minneapolis’s market and warehouse districts.
To further marginalize their cautious opponents among the trade union tops, who wanted nothing to do with mass unionism in the trucking sector, the CLA leadership created a “Strike Committee of 100” that dwarfed the remaining reluctant GDU bureaucrats. CLA members and advocates now staffed all of the smaller, and critically important, organizing and negotiating committees.
The employers and their allies fought back viciously, relying increasingly on the Citizen’s Alliance. Municipal and state power was quick to rally to the side of law and order.
The mayor backed a vindictive police force led by a chief determined to crush the workers and willing to execute strikers and strike supporters in the street if necessary. “You have shotguns, and you know how to use them,” Police Chief Johannes instructed his officers in July 1934.
A picket captain described the police carnage in one infamous battle, memorialized as “Bloody Friday”: “They just went wild. Actually they shot at anybody that moved. … they kept on shooting until all the pickets had either hid or got shelter somewhere. Oh, they meant business.” Novelist Meredel Le Sueur’s account was more gruesomely lyrical: “[T]he cops opened fire. … men were lying crying in the street with blood spurting from the myriad wounds buckshots make. Turning instinctively for cover they were shot in the back. … Not a picket was armed with so much as a toothpick.”
Two workers died on “Bloody Friday”: Henry Ness, a striker, riddled with buckshot, succumbed to his wounds almost immediately. John Bellor, an unemployed strike supporter also critically injured in the battle died, days later. Forty thousand lined the streets and marched in Ness’s funeral procession.
To add insult to injury, Governor Floyd B. Olson, in spite of proclaiming himself a friend of the worker, called the National Guard into the increasingly stormy picture, arresting the strike leaders and taking over union headquarters.
Strike leaders were prepared for such opposition. They developed an extensive intelligence network of secretaries working for various enterprises who explained what the trucking magnates were preparing for next. The union took to the skies and the streets. It enlisted an airplane to promote labor’s cause with airborne banners and a squad of teenaged motorcyclists to courier strike leaders reports of goings on throughout Minneapolis.
Eventually, as the July-August strike made class war the central drama in the city, dividing Minneapolis irrevocably into camps of pro- and anti-strike, the CLA leadership started a daily strike newspaper, theOrganizer, staffed by an experienced Trotskyist cadre from New York.
The union set up its headquarters in a block-long vacant garage. The “nerve center” of strike headquarters was a bank of telephones staffed by volunteers. Into this phone bank flowed calls from picket captains across a designated fifteen city districts, outlining conditions and appealing for help if it was required. A short-wave radio was used to monitor police communications. Dunne and Dobbs then oversaw the dispatching of pickets.
A commissary was outfitted. Farmers donated food for the kitchen, outfitted to feed five thousand workers a day. Cooks lined up to prepare meals. A makeshift hospital was established in a section of the headquarters to care for wounded workers and their supporters. Sympathetic doctors and nurses staffed the facility on their off hours. An unemployed workers organization was established; those in its ranks were made honorary members of the GDU.
A women’s auxiliary attracted wives and daughters, mothers and aunts. All helped build the union. Integrated into the struggle, these women served meals, sandwiches, and coffee to the strikers; distributed the union newspaper; raised funds; marched on city hall; and even fought, clubs in hand, on picket lines.
Local 574 was also made into a model of democratic procedure and open discussion. Regularly convened mass meetings kept the membership apprised of strike developments. When they actually secured paid union positions after their 1934 strike victories, the Trotskyists guiding the teamsters’ insurgency changed the salary scales for Local 574 functionaries, ensuring that union officials were paid no more than those working in the industry.
In the end the workers won, and they won big. Unionism was secured in Minneapolis. Wages rose, to be sure, and conditions on the job improved. But perhaps even more importantly, unionists saw themselves and the world differently. The possibilities of what collective struggle and solidarity could achieve now factored into how workers understood their lives.
Class War Warriors and the Red Scare
All of this left the bosses apoplectic. Local 574 and its Trotskyist leadership were vilified in the mainstream newspapers. Anti-communism blanketed Minneapolis in 1934 like a dense fog.
Employers and their sociocultural allies no doubt drove the city’s Red Scare that year, but conservative labor leaders like Tobin also contributed. One striker wrote to the Organizer that as “a member of 574,” he was “a Chippewa Indian and a real American,” “not a communist,” but he deplored the way in which certain IBT leaders were adding “fuel to the fire” with their persistent red-baiting.
A leading member of Local 574 was Ray Rainbolt, a Sioux Nation trucker who credited Dunne with recruiting him to labor’s cause. Rainbolt went on to play a decisive role in the 1934 strikes, serving on a number of crucial committees and facing off against Governor Olson.
In the later 1930s, Rainbolt joined the SWP and headed up the Union Defense Guard (UDG). This body formed when fascists known as the Silver Shirts threatened to organize in Minneapolis. The Silver Shirts understood the importance of infiltrating the now-powerful unions, making them nurseries of recruitment to the Right, and replacing class-based understandings of the social order with their pernicious racism and antisemitism. Rainbolt, who had military experience in World War I, drilled the rifle-bearing trade unionists of the UDG, training them in the event of a reactionary attack that never materialized.
Extending the Meaning of Local Struggle
Minneapolis was not the only hot spot in the 1934 class war. Other strikes, including those waged by Toledoauto-parts workers and San Francisco longshoremen, were also momentous battles. They, too, were led by “reds.” But their leaderships were neither as embedded within the locale and its particular industry, nor as successful, as the Minneapolis Trotskyists.
The Minneapolis strikes erupted at a time when the American labor movement was poised to take an important step forward. In theaters across the United States, millions saw film shorts showing workers, police, and Citizen’s Alliance-recruited “special deputies” fighting in the streets of the Minneapolis market district. Working-class audiences saw Minneapolis laborers responding to violence — not with submission, but with resistance.
At the May 22 “Battle of Deputies Run,” strikers had routed the 1,500 “special deputies.” Described as a rag-tag assembly of “salesmen, clerks, and patriotic golfers” whipped into a frenzy against “red dictators,” the Citizen’s Alliance anti-strike recruits also included university fraternity “boys,” paid thugs, playboys, and socialites, including some who came to picket lines in jodhpurs and polo-hats or cleated mountaineering boots (not the best footwear for a fight in alleyways paved with cobblestones).
Two of their number — Citizen’s Alliance attorney, local businessman, and pillar of respectable Minneapolis society, Arthur Lyman, and a marginal “penny capitalist” in the wood-hauling sector, Peter Erath — succumbed to injuries sustained in a deadly market clash with strikers already embittered by police brutality.
Meridel Le Sueur wrote of an “emergent world … coming from the past … into the future. … It is the point of emerging violence … the point of departure of growth.”
United Mine Workers of America leader John L. Lewis saw the strike similarly. As one of Lewis’s early biographers, Saul Alinsky, wrote in 1947, when “Blood ran in [the streets] of Minneapolis,” it got the burly, idiosyncratic head of the miners union to sit up and take notice.
Lewis was no friend of militant, democratic labor organization, but he could still appreciate that the moribund unionism of the AFL needed to be revitalized. The Congress of Industrial Organization (CIO) mass production unionism that Lewis would soon advocate was thus born of the insights and activities of the Minneapolis CLA leaders and the struggles of the militant rank and file that they mobilized.
A Revolutionary Leadership’s Day in Court
For all the success of the Minneapolis workers’ revolt of 1934, its achievements would not be allowed to survive into the post-World War II era. Workers following the leadership of Trotskyists, beating back bosses and trade union bureaucrats and, in the face of fascist threat, arming themselves in a Union Defense Guard, certainly caught the attention of powerful opponents.
As these same workers brought the lessons of Minneapolis into the IBT interstate organizing drive of the late 1930s, the Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the employers, a newly elected Republican governor of Minnesota, the IBT bureaucracy (with a young and later to be infamous Jimmy Hoffa playing a leading role), and even left-wing rivals such as the Communist Party, colluded during World War II to displace and defeat the Trotskyists in the Minneapolis Teamster leadership.
Using the notorious 1939 Smith Act, which stifled dissent by labeling it treason, the state relied on the war climate of 1940-43 to haul twenty-nine SWP members and Minneapolis Teamster leaders into court on trumped-up charges; eighteen, including much of the leadership of the US Trotskyist movement, were railroaded to jail.
Tobin and the IBT bureaucracy, relying on state labor union certification boards, sweetheart contracts with employers, and bands of Hoffa-led thugs, attacked the Minneapolis local in the courts and on the streets. Driven out of the AFL and into the CIO, and then forced to concede that it could not sustain a union against recalcitrant employers, the state, and the official Teamster bureaucracy, the Trotskyists who had reinvigorated unionism in Minneapolis were forced to abdicate their positions of leadership to the Tobin/Hoffa forces. It was a sorry denouement.
Those who wish to rebuild the labor movement can learn — and in some cases, have learned — from the Minneapolis events of 1934.
The Chicago teachers’ strike of 2012, for instance, originated in a small organizing committee of militants who managed to bring a union that had avoided overt class struggle since 1987 into an epic confrontation with a neoliberal mayor. Not surprisingly, the Caucus of Rank and File Educators, on the way to this successful mobilization, held reading groups for organizers that focused on Farrell Dobbs’s account of the 1934 strikes, Teamster Rebellion.
From the Occupy movement to the protests in Wisconsin, from the minimum-wage victories in Seattle and elsewhere to the struggles to organize Walmart, workers are showing they are capable of fighting to win and that class struggle is, once again, on the agenda.
But most of these current fights, as crucially important as they are, remain weakened by a lack of the kind of political leadership that guided the 1934 strikes in Minneapolis. Decades later, a member of the “Strike Committee of 100” recalled: “The rank and file was really the power of the whole movement, but they still needed that leadership to lead them. I don’t care how good the army is, without a general they’re no good.” The struggle for trade-union revival in the age of neoliberal capitalism is simultaneously the struggle to rebuild the revolutionary left.
The Minneapolis Trotskyists provide an example of what that left might look like. They were not, contrary to Citizen’s Alliance red-baiting, making “Revolution in Minneapolis” in 1934. Their aim was far more modest. They wanted to build democratic, mass-production unionism, creating a defense for the working class against the worst excesses of capitalist exploitation and transcending the narrow job-trust conception of labor organization promoted by Dan Tobin and his ilk.
In their militant and principled refusal to succumb to business unionism, the leaders of the Minneapolis strikes built important bridges to radical possibility. It was this dogged militancy that impelled the state and capital, aided by conservative unionists, to attack and marginalize the leadership of the 1934 Minneapolis strikes and its understanding of how trade unionism in the US could be rebuilt.
Eighty years later, these strikes, with their lessons about the capacity of workers to fight even in bad times, still live for us as a pathway to possibility.Tags: teamstersMinneapolisTrotskyists