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Panama Canal Tugboat Captains Locked in Heated Dispute with Management Over Safe Manning of Tugs

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 19:08

Panama Canal Tugboat Captains Locked in Heated Dispute with Management Over Safe Manning of Tugs
http://gcaptain.com/panama-canal-tugboat-captains-locked-in-heated-dispu...

April 18, 2018 by Mike Schuler

Here you can see the split line configuration used by a tugboat maneuvering a ship through the Expanded Panama Canal’s Neopanamax locks. Photo: Panama Canal Authority
Panama Canal tugboat captains are locked in a heated dispute with the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) regarding the authority manning and safe operation of tugboats in the new Neopanamax locks after the authority unilaterally and without warning reduced the number of deckhands available to the tugs.

The ACP is the agency of the Panamanian government that is responsible for the operation and management of the Panama Canal, a major economic driver for the country.

The dispute escalated in recent days since the ACP announced sanctions against some tugboat captains who the ACP accused of interrupting the performance of the Canal and causing economic loss by refusing to transit vessels on April 12.

The union representing the tugboat captains, UCOC Panama, has denied the ACP’s accusations of purposefully interrupting transits and maintains that any actions taken by their captains were based solely on their duty to maintain the security of ships in canal waters.

We spoke to a representative from the UCOC who described what is behind the dispute.

Unlike the Canal’s original locks, which use “mules” to maneuver ships through, the new Neopanamax locks require two tugboats, one forward and aft, that connect to transiting ships using a “split line” configuration. We are told the safest way to do this is by having three deckhands on the tugboats, particularly on the forward one which is most at risk while inside the locks.

According to the UCOC spokesperson, beginning at midnight on April 12, Panama Canal management unexpectedly refused to the provide the third deckhand for the forward tugboat, as has been the standard since the Expanded Panama Canal opened, and no explanation was provided for the change of procedure.

“The unconsulted and sudden decision of the Panama Canal Administration to eliminate a tugboat sailor from the bow, endangers the safety of customers, workers and the Canal’s own facilities,” the UCOC said in a statement over the weekend.

“It is false that the tugboat captains refuse to do their job; the events of the last 48 hours are due to discrepancies in issues that specifically affect the safety of navigation and the operation of the Panama Canal,” the statement added.

The UCOC cited an incident last November in which a deckhand was killed on a tugboat connected to the stern transiting vessel. Despite starting operations with three sailors, the aft tugs now only use two sailors, which the union believes may have contributed to the incident. “We do not want history to repeat itself,” the UCOC said.

On Tuesday, ACP Deputy Administrator Manuel Benítez took to Panamanian radio to defend the move to two deckhands and publicly blame the tugboat captains for interrupting canal operations.

“No one has the right to stop the traffic in the channel, because we have an authority structure where it is established that the work is done and then one complains. The channel is required to operate with discipline,” said Mr. Benítez, who also revealed that the April 12 stoppage impacted the transit 8 ships.

The ACP further defended its actions in a statement provided to gCaptain. It reads, in part:

The Panama Canal has normalized transits through its Neopanamax locks following a brief and isolated service interruption that occurred on April 12 when several tugboat captains refused to comply with mandatory procedures, endangering the Canal’s performance and causing economic loss…

…The Panama Canal is constitutionally mandated to ensure the waterway’s uninterrupted operation and has therefore taken steps to determine the necessary measures to discipline those responsible, as is required by Panamanian regulations.

We are told that, so far, at least one tugboat captain has received a letter of separation from the ACP, but the ACP has threatened further action against as many as 22 tugboat captains, according to the UCOC representative we spoke to.

“The sanctions imposed on April 12 removed those responsible for the incident from their functions,” a spokesperson for the ACP told gCaptain.”The Panama Canal Administration has started to officially investigate the group of tugboat captains that refused to comply with this decision as to their motivations for non-compliance.”

On Wednesday, the UCOC, which has accused the ACP of trying to privatize tugboat operations, said a mediation meeting with the ACP to try and resolve the dispute had failed to bring about any reasonable path forward.

The ACP has denied claims accusations that it is trying to privatize tugboat operations.

The Expanded Panama Canal opened larger vessels in June 2016. Since then, more than 3,000 vessels have made the transit through the new locks, far exceeding the initial traffic estimates for the waterway.

The operations of the existing Panamax locks have not been affected by the dispute. As of now, both the Panamax and Neopanamax locks operate as normal.

Tags: Panama Canal Tugboat Captains striketug workers
Categories: Labor News

Greek Ferry Crews Strike The reform is coming on top of pension cuts, rising unregistered labor and work without any insurance, PNO said.

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 18:30

Greek Ferry Crews Strike
The reform is coming on top of pension cuts, rising unregistered labor and work without any insurance, PNO said.
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April 18, 2018 by Reuters

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Piraeus Port Authority building and ferries in passenger port of Piraeus, Athens, Greece. Milan Gonda / Shutterstock.com
ATHENS, April 18 (Reuters) – Greek ferries remained docked at the country’s ports on Wednesday as seamen, marine engineers and ship cooks walked off the job to protest against planned government reforms which they say will further hurt their labor rights.

The 24-hour strike was organized by Greece’s seamen federation (PNO), which said the leftist-led government was preparing a reform allowing non-European flagged transport ships to sail in Greece, leading to job losses for Greek crews.

The reform is coming on top of pension cuts, rising unregistered labor and work without any insurance, PNO said.

PNO said later on Wednesday that the strike would be extended until Friday morning. “No more blows against our sector,” it said in a statement.

Passenger traffic was slow at Piraeus port on Wednesday morning. Traffic has been picking up as the summer, the top tourism season for the Mediterranean country, approaches.

Marine unions have strongly resisted reforms liberalizing the shipping sector, which along with tourism is a pivotal industry for Greece, a country of proud seafarers and shipowners.

Since its worst debt crisis in decades broke out in 2010, Greece has sold management rights and majority stakes at its two largest ports, as demanded by its foreign lenders, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

The Greek state is considering concession deals for the development of about 850 small ports and marinas. (Reporting by Renee Maltezou Editing by Richard Balmforth)

Tags: Greek sailors strikereforms
Categories: Labor News

Criminal Negligence By Southwest Airlines Chief Operating Officer Mike van de Ven-Outsourcing Work To Increase Profits Southwest Airlines mechanics union warned of too much outsourcing of maintenance work

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 15:59

Criminal Negligence By Southwest Airlines Chief Operating Officer Mike van de Ven-Outsourcing Work To Increase Profits

Southwest Airlines mechanics union warned of too much outsourcing of maintenance work

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/southwest-mechanics-union-warne...

MANDATPRU CREDIT
The engine on a Southwest Airlines plane is inspected as it sits on the runway at the Philadelphia International Airport. (AMANDA BOURMAN/AP)
BY
MEGAN CERULLO
JANON FISHER
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Thursday, April 19, 2018, 6:31 PM
Weeks before the engine failure caused a passenger death, Southwest Airlines mechanics union warned of a “ostrich-like head-in-the-sand approach” regarding problems with the company’s aircraft maintenance program, according to a report.

In a Feb. 26 email, Bret Oestreich, the national director of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, cautioned Southwest Airlines Chief Operating Officer Mike van de Ven that there was too much outsourcing of maintenance work.

The head of the mechanics union warned that 75% of the maintenance work was farmed out to third-party vendors, according to the Chicago Business Journal.

“The truth is there exists a serious concern regarding the degradation of safety within Southwest’s maintenance program as determined by the Federal Aviation Administration,” the labor leader wrote. “The truth is sometimes difficult to digest and accept. In addition, the view from the top you enjoy as chief operating officer may be breathtaking, but the distance from the high perch which you sit up on to day-to-day operations has obviously blurred your perception of reality.”

The mechanics union is currently in contract negotiations with Southwest, a fact that van de Ven suggested was behind Oestreich’s warning, according to the business journal.

“You would be derelict in your duties as a chief operating officer were you to continue with the ostrich-like head-in-the-sand approach to the serious problems that exist within our maintenance program and culture,” the union chief wrote.

At the beginning of April, the Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO report found that nearly a quarter of aircraft maintenance was done offshore in foreign maintenance bays.

“The dangerous dirty secret of the airline industry is their use of low paid mechanics in foreign countries to maintain passenger aircraft,” New York City subway union workers president John Samuelsen said. “It is a fact that Southwest and many other United States' airlines have overhaul work done overseas by mechanics who are not required to meet the stringent standards and requirements adhered to inside the United States. It's the ultimate example of a ‘profits before people’ business plan and it has created a clear and present danger to America's air travelers.”

Southwest Airlines also opposed a recommendation last year to inspect fan blades like the one that caused an engine failure, leaving one passenger dead Tuesday.

AP PROVIDES ACCESS TO THIS THIRD PARTY PHOTO SOLELY TO ILLUSTRATE NEWS REPORTING OR COMMENTARY ON FACTS DEPICTED IN IMAGE; MUST BE USED WITHIN 14 DAYS FROM TRANSMISSION; NO ARCHIVING; NO LICENSING; MANDATORY CREDIT
Shrapnel from a Southwest Airlines engine shattered a window, resulting in the death of a woman who was partially sucked out of the plane. (MARTY MARTINEZ/AP)
Engine-maker CFM had proposed safety checks on its engines last June after a fan blade separated from a Southwest engine in August 2016, federal documents show.

That plane also made an emergency landing after debris from the engine tore a foot-long hole above the plane’s left wing.

Investigators found that the fan blades showed signs of metal fatigue.

The FAA proposed making CFM’s recommendation mandatory in August but never issued a directive.

The Dallas-based carrier pushed back on the recommendation, saying it needed more time to complete the checks.

“SWA does NOT support the CFM comment on reducing compliance time to 12 months,” Southwest Airlines wrote in a comment about the proposed rule.

CFM told the Daily News that Southwest had complied with two service bulletins issued in 2017.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday that fatigue cracks were found on the inside of the fan blade that broke on Southwest Flight 1380.

One dead after Southwest Airlines plane engine fails, explodes mid-flight
Passenger Jennifer Riordan died after she was partially sucked out a window that had been bashed by shrapnel from the engine.

Southwest said Tuesday that it would move to complete inspections within 30 days.

The FAA said Wednesday that it would order the inspection of some CFM jet engines following the deadly incident — which marked the first death in a U.S. commercial aviation accident since 2009.

The FAA mandate will require inspections of CFM56-7B engines that have flown a certain number of times.

Experts suggest that Southwest Airlines’ shorter flight cycles could be to blame for the wear and tear on the fan blades.

It’s unclear exactly how many engines will require inspection, but it’s expected to be more than the FAA’s initial estimate of 220 engines.

Former NTSB chairman Mark Rosekind said the safety board will investigate why the FAA never required the inspections it had proposed in August 2017.

“There did not seem to be an urgency” at the FAA to finalize the inspections, he said.

Tags: SWA safetycriminal negligenceoutsourcingprofiteering
Categories: Labor News

French Rail Workers & Their Fight Against Anti-labor Attacks With CGT Retiree Maurice Amzallag

Tue, 04/17/2018 - 11:21

French Rail Workers & Their Fight Against Anti-labor Attacks With CGT Retiree Maurice Amzallag
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=DUMNBN6EW8A
Maurice Amzallag, a retired French railroad worker who was a member of the CGT, talks about the attacks on railroad workers in France by the Macron government and their fight to protect the rights of railroad workers and other workers in France. He also discusses the fight against privatization. This presentation was made during the Railroad Workers United RWU conference in Chicago on April 6, 2018.
For more info: www.railroadworkersunited.org
Production of Labor Video Project www.laborvideo.org

Tags: CGTFrench Rail WorkersprivatizationMacronunion busting
Categories: Labor News

UK RMT On Hostile Takeover Bid For First Group

Fri, 04/13/2018 - 12:24

UK RMT On Hostile Takeover Bid For First Group
https://www.rmt.org.uk/news/rmt-on-hostile-takeover-bid-for-first-group/

12 April 2018
RMT Press Office:

RMT on hostile takeover bid for First Group by US private equity group Apollo Management

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said;

"This looks like yet another bunch of speculators and asset strippers homing in on the British transport sector.

"First have been propped up by the Government on the Great Western routes for many years now and are currently in dispute with this trade union over the threat to axe guards on South Western Railway. Where this hostile bid leaves their UK bus and rail operations is anyone's guess.

"The only solution to this kind of uncertainty and instability is public ownership and the threat of a US-based hostile takeover of First Group just reinforces that core message."

Ends

Tags: privatizationTake-overApollo management
Categories: Labor News

More Come Out Including USW Against The Decision To Let The MMA Evade Justice-Canadian Government Refuses To Prosecute Bosses For Rail Catastrophe

Sun, 04/08/2018 - 15:03

More Come Out Including USW Against The Decision To Let The MMA Evade Justice-Canadian Government Refuses To Prosecute Bosses For Rail Catastrophe

http://hardingdefense.org/2018/04/05/more-come-out-against-the-decision-...
admin April 5, 2018Uncategorized
Steelworkers Denounce Dropping of Lac-Mégantic Criminal Case Against MMA
NEWS PROVIDED BY
United Steelworkers (USW)

Apr 04, 2018, 14:24 ET

MONTREAL, April 4, 2018 /CNW/ – The United Steelworkers is denouncing a decision to abandon criminal proceedings against the Montreal Maine & Atlantic (MMA) railway in connection with the Lac-Mégantic train derailment that killed 47 people in July 2013.

“The government was quick to prosecute workers, but it’s an entirely different story when it comes to corporate leaders who did not ensure that everything was done to prevent what happened,” said Pierre Arseneau, regional co-ordinator for the Steelworkers union (Syndicat des Métallos).

“Now that workers have been severely hard-hit after enduring four years of criminal proceedings, the corporate prosecution is abandoned. The result is that those who are truly responsible get away without facing any formal charges, any prosecution or any judgment.”

To date, neither MMA President Ed Burkhardt, nor his administrators, nor his company have had to face criminal prosecution. Yet, in its report on the disaster, the Transportation Safety Board extensively called into question a culture of negligence at MMA regarding safety issues.

“This would have been the opportunity to discuss the federal government’s deregulation policies in the railway sector, for which MMA strongly advocated,” saidSteven Hadden, President of Steelworkers Local 1976, representing railway and transportation workers across Canada.

“But no one is talking about that anymore.”

Prior to the Lac-Mégantic disaster, the federal government approved a regulatory change allowing MMA to operate its trains with only one engineer on board. Following the disaster, the practice was prohibited for trains carrying hazardous cargo.

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information: Jocelyn Desjardins, Syndicat des Métallos/USW Communications, 514-604-6273, jdesjardins@metallos.ca

Tags: MMALac-Mégantic Criminal Case
Categories: Labor News

Former Kansas Waste Management worker claims he was fired as retaliation for union activities

Tue, 04/03/2018 - 08:16

Former Kansas Waste Management worker claims he was fired as retaliation for union activities
https://www.kshb.com/news/local-news/former-waste-management-worker-clai...
Sarah Plake
5:22 PM, Apr 2, 2018

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- A former worker for Waste Management said he was fired as retaliation for trying to start a union to mitigate intolerable working conditions, though the company and a labor relations board say otherwise.

The two recently settled a lawsuit in Wyandotte County court.

Former Waste Management worker Anthony Lewis said his troubles with his employer started last spring and they're only now being settled.

"We looked into trying to bring in a union," Lewis said.

Lewis worked for the company as a helper to the trash truck drivers for about a year and a half. He said employees are overworked and underappreciated.

"They made the working conditions very intolerable for one, then you got these big routes that may take you 12 to 13 hours to complete and you're just one truck," Lewis said.

Lewis said, for example, his Tuesday route covered 1,700 customers.

"Some of that compost is pretty heavy. One house may have 20 bags, one house may have 50 bags. And there's compost on both sides of the street, so this one block is going to take at least about an hour," Lewis explained.

Lewis provided numerous pay stubs that show he would average anywhere from 17 to 21 hours of overtime per week. It was paid overtime, but still exhausting.

"These drivers are under these conditions, and they just quit," Lewis said.

Waste Management said overtime is common in the trash industry.

E-mails obtained by 41 Action News show that in the summer of 2017, the Unified Government of Wyandotte County fined Waste Management $67,703 for failing to pick up trash from 162 homes. Waste Management received a complaint from the UG on June 8, 2017, and the issue wasn't resolved until June 11.

The contract between the UG and Waste Management mandates that if they fail to pick up trash within 24 hours of a complaint, they will be fined $200.00 for each 24-hour period the failure continues.

Lewis said that pressure contributes to lapses in service.

"That's why they pull people from Lee's Summit, Independence, Overland Park to go to Wyandotte, but those routes they pulled us from are left on the ground," Lewis said.

Lewis and a few other workers started talking to union reps, but then noticed managers started threatening discipline and harassing them about their union activities.

"Once the company got wind of us trying to bring a union in, they brought in their HR guys," Lewis said. "You can't do that."

Lewis filed a complaint against the company to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The NLRB and Waste Management settled on the issue last summer, forcing the company to post a notice for 60 days assuring employees they wouldn't interfere in any way with union activities. The company also took back a disciplinary warning against one employee.

In September, Lewis was fired for a second seat belt violation. He believes it was retaliation.

In another complaint filed to the NLRB, Lewis mentioned examples of other employees receiving multiple written warnings but never being terminated.

"Sometimes when it's raining, I'm jumping in and out going from house to house. The rules say you have to have seatbelt on, but supervisors have said you don't need it on when you're on route, so it's definitely a gray area, Lewis said.

Waste Management's spokesperson, Paul Howe, could not go on camera with 41 Action News, but sent us a response to Lewis's claims:

"Safety is a priority at Waste Management. As such, we have adopted life critical rules, which include, for example, wearing a seat belt while operating a vehicle."

Howe went on to say, that "As a practice, Waste Management does not discuss individual personnel matters externally. However, per public record, the National Labor Relations Board dismissed the claim."

The NLRB did not find that Lewis was fired as retaliation.

Lewis said he hoped he would get more support, so he filed a lawsuit against Waste Management in January for retaliation against a whistleblower.

Last month, the parties settled in Wyandotte County court. Lewis cannot talk about how much Waste Management paid out, but says he's satisfied this has come to a resolution.

Tags: Waste Managementunion bustingdiscriminationretaliationBullying
Categories: Labor News

NY Demo Wants TWU 100 Transit Union Workers To Pay For Transportation Crisis

Tue, 04/03/2018 - 08:04

NY Demo Wants TWU 100 Transit Union Workers To Pay For Transportation Crisis
“The unions have to understand … with the deals that they have now,” she said, “you can’t hope to make improvements to the trains in a fiscally responsible way … Everybody’s got to pull together, and everybody’s got to make sacrifices.

http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/21026/cynthia_nixon_andrew_cuono_u...

Under Fire from Unions Over MTA Comments, Cynthia Nixon Says She Wants Sacrifices from Billionaires

Working In These Times
Friday, Mar 30, 2018, 6:08 pm

BY Kate Aronoff

Cynthia Nixon speaks to people at the Bethesda Healing Center in Brooklyn, New York on March 20, 2018 at her first event since announcing that shes running for governor of New York. (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Speaking with a local news reporter this week, recently-announced New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, an actress and education activist best known for her role as Miranda Hobbes on the HBO series Sex and the City, was asked for her thoughts on how to fix the MTA, the city’s state-funded and oft-beleaguered public transit system. “The unions have to understand … with the deals that they have now,” she said, “you can’t hope to make improvements to the trains in a fiscally responsible way … Everybody’s got to pull together, and everybody’s got to make sacrifices.

The New York State AFL-CIO and Transport Workers Union were quick to fire back. Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO, said in a statement Thursday that Nixon’s comments represented an “alarming disregard for working men and women.”

“Instead of attacking unions and the contracts they negotiated in good faith with their employers, Ms. Nixon should recognize the contributions of a highly trained and skilled workforce,” Cilento continued. “It is astounding at just how misguided and uninformed Ms. Nixon is on the vital role working men and women play in the economic and social well-being of our great state.”

The TWU issued a similar statement, with President Tony Utano scolding, “If Cynthia Nixon is talking about transit workers and wants to learn about our sacrifices, she should attend the funerals of the two transit workers who were killed on the job in the last eight days.”

Nixon—a longtime member of the Screen Actors Guild—exclusively told In These Times Friday in a statement sent over email that, “I am and have been a proud union member for forty years. My wife Christine was a union organizer. I opposed Governor Cuomo’s vile attacks against teachers and public sector unions during his first term,” referencing the governor’s active backing in 2014 of a generous set of protections for charter school operators. “I always have and always will stand with working families and my union brothers and sisters.”

On the MTA system in particular, Nixon added, “Union families should never have to foot the bill for Cuomo’s mismanagement of the MTA.” She said she is prepared to go after the “cronyism and mismanagement that has led to a neglected, congested system where transit users, taxpayers and workers are left holding the bag.”

Nixon's team said the statement provided is not meant as an apology for her previous comments, emphasizing that this statement is intended to clarify her position on fixing New York's transit system.

Nixon's statement appeared to refer to several facts uncovered by an extensive investigation by Brian M. Rosenthal for the New York Times late last year. The probe found that contracts negotiated between the state, MTA contractors and unions included payment for work, such as repairs along a 3.5 mile stretch of the Long Island Railroad, that could not be proved to have been needed. “The leaders entrusted to expand New York’s regional transit network have paid the highest construction costs in the world, spending billions of dollars that could have been used to fix existing subway tunnels, tracks, trains and signals,” Rosenthal noted.

Several transportation experts and contractors the Times spoke with observed inflated contracts and staffing. One tunnel-boring machine in the city, for example, was operating with upwards of 20 staffers, where in most cities that machinery would be run with fewer than 10. “I’m the union, and sometimes I’m saying to myself, ‘What the hell are they even doing?’” Richard Fitzsimmons, a Local 147 business manager, told the Times.

The report further contrasted the conditions governing the MTA with the Parisian Metro system, where workplace protections are notoriously strong. A construction project in Paris, France that involved similar work and goals as the Second Avenue Subway, which opened last year in Manhattan, cost $450 million per mile, compared with the $2.5 billion per mile spent on the MTA expansion project.

“Construction companies and consulting firms,” Nixon says, “drive up the costs because they get a cut as profit for themselves. Then they turn around and donate massive amounts of money to politicians like Andrew Cuomo. It’s a pay-to-play system that lines the pockets of people on top while working families pay the price. … The lack of funding to fix our subway system and shortchanged safety measures means the jobs of our union workers become that much harder and dangerous as workers struggle to keep the trains running with too few hands on deck.”

As the Times investigation also highlighted, construction companies and consultants that handle MTA contracts have donated generously to Cuomo over the course of his administration. The New York Daily News, in a recent report, found that Tully Construction Co. was recently awarded a $282.5 million MTA contract this month. After submitting the lowest bid for the tunnel repair project, they added on an additional $68 million. Company head Peter Tully has given more than $221,000 in campaign contributions to Cuomo. In total, Tully Construction has collected $468 million in state Department of Transportation contracts.

Cuomo has also collected roughly $890,0000 from two dozen of his political appointees—including to the MTA board—along with $1.3 million more from those appointees’ spouses, children and businesses.

“When I’m talking about sacrifices, I’m talking about making tough decisions about whether we prioritize the daily functioning of our crumbling subway system or throw money down the drain in pay-to-play cronyism and mismanagement,” Nixon wrote in reference to her original statement. “When I’m talking about sacrifices, I’m talking about millionaires and billionaires, real estate developers, and Wall Street bankers who are not paying their fair share.”

This week’s exchange highlights what an uphill battle Nixon could face in gaining support from organized labor in New York. Since she declared her candidacy, a number of the state’s unions, while stopping short of full-on endorsements, have issued glowing praise of Cuomo to the press. “We have to complete our internal process, but I am totally confident that the union will be 100 percent with the governor,” Bob Master, assistant to the vice president of the Communication Workers of America District 1, told Politico. “He has been a steadfast ally, he has stepped up whenever we’ve asked his assistance and he’s delivered for working people,” Master added.

SEIU 32BJ president Héctor Figueroa offered similar praise: “We are going through our internal endorsement process at 32BJ but we fully expect that the governor’s progressive record of standing with working families—the strongest of any governor in the country—will earn him our members’ support.”

A longtime labor operative in New York state, who preferred to speak anonymously given their ongoing work in state politics, wasn’t surprised by the pile-on of support. “It’s very widely known that the governor and his team are extremely aggressive in making calls to their allies to be public in their opposition” to his political opponents, the source told In These Times. “In all fairness, labor leaders have to make some hard decisions for their members, and the relationship between existing government leaders is vital.”

Given labor's close ties to Cuomo -- and that most union endorsement processes are ongoing -- finding labor operatives willing to go on record questioning union support for the governor can be difficult.

While his administration has seen the passage of a plan for $15 minimum wage, paid family leave and, just recently, a gradual increase to a $19 wage for airport workers, Cuomo’s relationship to unions hasn’t always been unambiguously friendly. Before his 2014 charter school push, Cuomo made challenging union power in Albany one of the mainstays of his 2010 gubernatorial campaign. As the New York Times wrote of an interview they did with the governor shortly before that election, Cuomo pledged to “mount a presidential-style permanent political campaign to counter the well-financed labor unions he believes have bullied previous governors and lawmakers into making bad decisions.”

As “right to work” efforts were being rolled out in states like Wisconsin and Michigan, Cuomo also accepted tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from David Koch, an influential conservative donor who has funded anti-union efforts around the country. During her first speech as a candidate, Nixon quipped that “The Koch brothers donated $87,000 to Andrew Cuomo when he first ran in 2010 because they knew a good investment when they see one.”

Of Nixon’s comments about the MTA, the labor source says that the gubernatorial candidate “potentially touched on a nerve inadvertently. Because the transit system situation is so fraught, labor unions are extremely sensitive that their workers being used as scapegoats to hide what the needs are for the subway: more money for infrastructure, and more support.”

“It’s natural to have a learning curve when talking about labor,” the source continued. “Everything you say is not going to be perfect, and what campaigns do is use whatever gaffe that comes out to say this person will be anti-labor. I haven’t seen that from her.”

On Cuomo, the source said, “I think he’s nervous … the narrative here is that, ‘If she wins, the whole world will come apart. We’re delivering. We have a good plan. We’re working hard together as a movement. We can’t shake things up, and we need you to be out there. This is a candidate that doesn’t have what it takes to become governor.’ It’s not a fair way to do it. The labor movement is not at the whim of the governor, but there is pressure.”

The source also observes that Cuomo has a history of becoming more overtly pro-labor around election seasons, noting that the governor became more explicitly progressive after his primary challenger in 2014, Zephyr Teachout, garnered 34 percent of the vote that year. “I think the shift was very real when he realized the power unions and labor have,” the source told In These Times. “What he realized is that he could not take that relationship for granted.”

Tags: TWU 100Cynthia NixonBillionaires
Categories: Labor News

What will it take to win the IAM union at Delta?

Mon, 04/02/2018 - 23:30

What will it take to win the IAM union at Delta?
https://socialistworker.org/2018/04/02/what-will-it-take-to-win-the-unio...
April 2, 2018
A campaign by flight attendants and baggage handlers at Delta Air Lines to form a union with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) is gaining ground, with a rally planned for this Wednesday, April 4, in St. Paul, Minnesota. But Delta is ramping up their anti-union propaganda, too. Danny Katch asked a Delta worker to describe the grievances that are driving the campaign and how the organizing is going.

Baggage handlers load a passenger jet at Delta Air Lines

WHY DID you get involved in this campaign and why do you think Delta ramp workers need a union?

I'VE ALWAYS thought of myself as a progressive person, someone who believes in fairness, justice and equality. I also believe that over the last 40 years, the working class has gotten poorer, while CEOs like Delta's Ed Bastian have gotten richer.

Specifically, I got involved in this campaign because, as a Delta worker, I feel like I'm getting the short end of the stick. As a Ready Reserve who does equal work for unequal pay, I constantly feel like the company devalues what I'm doing to produce tremendous profits for them.

CAN YOU explain what the Ready Reserve program is?

OVER THE last 20 years, Delta has continually replaced full-time, benefitted positions with part-time, temporary, un-benefitted employees who they call Ready Reserves. You don't receive paid vacations, flexible holidays or yearly raises. We top out at $15 an hour while full time tops out at $30.

They've gone to a model where they're continually replacing full-time workers--one full-time worker with two Ready Reserves, and I'm tired of it.

WHAT ARE some of the other issues leading workers to want to form a union?

WHAT YOU CAN DO
If you're in or near the Twin Cities, join a rally for Delta baggage handlers and flight attendants on April 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation, 353 W. 7th Street.
Delta workers who would like to request an election authorization card can fill out this form online.

A FEELING of job insecurity is one. People feel like there's not going to be that full-time career around the corner. For instance, I was told in my interview that full-time would be possible after one or two years. Now Delta is telling us it's five years.

There are broken promises, like cutting our profit-sharing in half at a time when they are most profitable in their entire history. There are so many different reasons that people feel that unionizing is what's necessary.

Then there's safety--people are destroying their bodies doing this work. If you take on this job as a career you're more likely to walk away with several surgeries than no surgeries at all.

Let's just take a typical Delta flight, with an MD88 aircraft. There are maybe 100 bags that need to be loaded onto a plane. It used to be that you'd have three or four people responsible for moving those bags in order to get them into the cargo bins and the rest.

Nowadays, Delta sometimes puts one person in the bin responsible for moving all 100 bags in a matter of five to 10 minutes--and we're talking about bags that weigh 50 to 70 pounds apiece.

So people develop all types of back and shoulder injuries--and knee injuries since you're on your knees when you're in the bin.

WHAT ARE some of the ways that employees having more of a voice and rights on the job could address safety issues?

TO BECOME more profitable, management has forced fewer and fewer people to do more work in order to become more profitable and more efficient. A union would be one way to guarantee that we have more workers doing the things that are required of us in order to get flights out on time, in order to move and transport bags.

We could have a health and safety committee that essentially has the power to make sure that workers' best interests are being accounted for in the process of doing the work, so that we don't go home destroyed by the jobs we do.

HOW IS the campaign going so far?

IT'S GOING well. When I talk to my coworkers they're happy there's a campaign going on. They're willing to sign cards. They recognize their jobs are being de-skilled and devalued, and they're insecure in a lot of ways.

The main task is extending that awareness and making sure that everyone knows what's going on with the union drive.

HOW HAS the company been responding to this campaign?

DELTA RECENTLY did a mass e-mail that they sent to all of us with a bunch of anti-union propaganda. In the past, they've spent millions and millions of dollars hiring lawyers in order to convince my co-workers not to organize. And then they call people in for meetings with management, where they tell people that they can't talk about union organizing on the job.

We constantly have to push back against them in order to utilize our federally protected rights.

WHAT DO you think it's going to take to win?

IT'S GOING to take building organizing committees in all of our different stations. It's going to take organizing ourselves as if we're a union already, doing things like the profit-sharing petition we've circulated.

When Delta cut our profit-sharing, they decided to reinstate it two years later, because they "said it was a mistake." But they didn't give us retroactive pay for the two years that they cut profit-sharing--and those were the two years that Delta was most profitable.

So we made a petition to demand that we get retroactive pay for profit-sharing, which is just a way that we show what unions fight for, even though we're not unionized yet. We need to give our co-workers the practical experience of what it means to be in a union so that they understand why they need to vote yes.

Other than that, it's going to take winning public support. In a lot of ways, a passenger's conditions on a plane are an airline employee's working conditions. More baggage handlers to get bags on a plane means that fewer passengers are going to have their bags lost. More space on the plane for flight attendants means it's less cramped for passengers as well.

So there are definite reasons why the public should support us and why we need that support for our campaign for fairness, equality and justice on the job.

WHAT WOULD a successful campaign at Delta mean for the wider labor movement?

UNIONS HAVE been attacked and destroyed for the last 40 years, and the private sector in particular has taken enormous losses in terms of wages, benefits and working conditions.

A successful union drive of 40,000 Delta flight attendants and ramp workers could potentially be a catalyst for all types of workers who might be inspired to organize in their workplace to rebuild the labor movement and hopefully begin to beat back the employer offensive and build a society that's more equal and more democratic.

Tags: IAMDelta workersramp workersFlight Attendants
Categories: Labor News

Here Are The Disturbing New Details Emerging From Complaints Made By Air Canada Employees

Mon, 04/02/2018 - 17:09

Here Are The Disturbing New Details Emerging From Complaints Made By Air Canada Employees

https://www.narcity.com/news/here-are-the-disturbing-new-details-emergin...

Here Are The Disturbing New Details Emerging From Complaints Made By Air Canada Employees

This is disgusting.

Jasmine Girn
Here Are The Disturbing New Details Emerging From Complaints Made By Air Canada Employees featured image
On Thursday, we covered a story regarding allegations made against Air Canada by their employees. The union that represents Air Canada employees has filed a human rights complaint against the airline due to numerous incidents where their workers were treated unfairly.

Some of the previous allegations claimed that female attendants were encouraged to show more cleavage and to wear makeup on the job. They were also asked to line up for a physical inspection where managers made comments about how they looked.

@aircanadaembedded via

According to Global News, the last complaint is much more concerning than we originally thought. According to a complaint filed on March 7th, flight attendants were lined up in a hallway and individually marked on their appearances. They were literally graded on their looks.

The attendants were displayed in a "runway" type of show where they were expected to display their flight attendant outfits for their peers to see. They were graded on how they wore the uniform, their bodies, makeup, clothes and nails.

@aircanadaembedded via

The worst part about the allegations is that during the ritual "runway" training sessions, there was allegedly racist comments made about the Air Canada employees.

According to the claim, comments were made about their "eyes were too small" or skin colour was "too white". Even further, flight attendants are also claiming to have endured incidents of sexual harassment and discrimination.

@aircanadaembedded via

One pregnant attendant was reportedly told during her debriefing that her pregnancy could cause "negative alterations on her mood" and she should be aware of it so it doesn't affect her work.

The new details coming out from Air Canada employees are very troubling. Click here to read the full report by Global News on the latest claims made by their flight attendants.

Tags: Air Canada EmployeesdiscriminationSexual Harassmentfemale attendants
Categories: Labor News

Chicago Railroad Workers Protest over Safety & Deaths at Executives Conference

Sun, 04/01/2018 - 19:36

Chicago Railroad Workers Protest over Safety at Executives Conference
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkoYkG-Fhxk
Published on Mar 15, 2018
As railroad industry corporate executives held their conference at the Union League Club of Chicago, a militant protest took place outside on the sidewalk. It was organized by BMWED - IBT, other railroad workers groups and community activists on March 12, 2018. They alerted the public to the alarming statistics on railroad safety, taking the lives of railroad workers and of people living in communities the trains travel through. Chicagoland, they pointed out, “is the primary rail hub for North America’s sensitive cargo supply chains". Deaths and injuries could be avoided if the industry were forced to stop skimping on needed maintenance in their gluttony for profits.

Tags: Chicago Railway WorkersUnion League Club
Categories: Labor News

India Blacklists Two UAE Companies for Abandoning Seafarers 10 Seafarers the crew of ‘ABS-1’ Abandoned on unseaworthy ship owned by ‘ALCO Shipping Services LLC http://alcoshipping.com in UAE waters for over 2years, salaries unpaid since 2015 in 2 cases

Fri, 03/30/2018 - 17:36

India Blacklists Two UAE Companies for Abandoning Seafarers

10 Seafarers the crew of ‘ABS-1’ Abandoned on unseaworthy ship owned by ‘ALCO Shipping Services LLC http://alcoshipping.com in UAE waters for over 2years, salaries unpaid since 2015 in 2 cases. Deprived of fresh food and drinking water. #Abuse #Torture #Slavery

https://worldmaritimenews.com/archives/248498/india-blacklists-two-uae-c...

The Government of India has blacklisted two companies from United Arab Emirates (UAE) for seafarer abandonment.

The companies in question are shipping and management firm Shah Al Arab Marine Agency and M/s Alco Shipping Services LLC, the Directorate General of Shipping said in a circular on Monday.

The decision was prompted after Indian seafarers were left stranded in Dubai for 22 months on board eight ships.

These include oil tankers Enjaz 1 and 2, MT Dharma, M.T. Ocean Prestige, Ocean Grace, general cargo vessel Ajwa, production testing vessel Sharjah Moon, and M.V. Azab.

The directorate said that seafarers were unpaid for months and hadn’t been repatriated after their contract completion. However, despite these issues being public, the companies in question continue to recruit Indian seafarers and several recruitment agencies have been found to have deployed seafarers to these vessels.

“Since the above-listed companies/recruiting agents have been found to be habitual defaulters in terms of payment of seafarers wages and basic provisions, it has been decided to blacklist them,” the circular reads.

As a result, the recruitment and placement agencies who have recruited and placed Indian seafarers on board the above-said vessels were ordered to immediately withdraw Indian seafarers and repatriate them. The government also warned that future recruiting should not be conducted for the said ships and companies.

“The immigration authorities are also requested not to give immigration clearance to the seafarers for boarding above said vessels,” the directorate added.

Alco Shipping is a repeat offender with regard to seafarer abandonment.

As World Maritime News reported in July last year, seafarers, comprising nine Indian, three Pakistani, one Sri Lankan and one Myanmarian national, manning the UAE-flagged products tanker MT IBA, owned by Alco Shipping Services, had their basic human rights breached.

Maritime charity Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) informed that the crew had been stranded on an unsafe vessel, anchored off the coast of UAE, without fresh food or fresh water, unpaid and denied access to medical treatment.

Furthermore, in July 2017, the stranded Indian crew members of MV Sharjah Moon managed to return home after several months of ordeal in UAE.

The sailors had been abandoned by the shipowner, who was refusing to cooperate on the matter and had not been paid their salaries for over six months.

The five Indian men were among almost a hundred of Indian seafarers left stranded in the UAE waters, according to India’s Consulate General in Dubai.

World Maritime News Staff

Tags: abandoning seafarersUAE mistreatment of sailors
Categories: Labor News

San Francisco MTA let Uber, Lyft kill taxi market, SF Fed Credit Union lawsuit says

Fri, 03/30/2018 - 16:37

San Francisco MTA let Uber, Lyft kill taxi market, SF Fed Credit Union lawsuit says
https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/San-Francisco-let-Uber-Lyft...
By Carolyn SaidMarch 29, 2018 Updated: March 29, 2018 2:40pm
Photo: Michael Macor / The Chronicle 2017San Francisco Taxi cabs line up in front tot the Westin St. Francis Hotel in Union Square in San Francisco. The San Francisco Federal Credit Union, which made loans to cabbies to buy expensive medallions, is suing the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, saying the transit agency let the taxi market collapse.
San Francisco taxi medallions have nose-dived in value since the advent of Uber and Lyft.

Now the San Francisco Federal Credit Union, which made loans to cabbies to buy the $250,000 medallions, is suing the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, saying the transit agency let the taxi market collapse, walking away from promises that it would guarantee the medallions’ value.

The suit, filed this week in San Francisco Superior Court, said the credit union backed $125 million worth of loans for more than 700 of the medallions and has had to foreclose on 99 of them, while hundreds more drivers are seeking to surrender their medallions. It seeks $28 million in damages and wants the SFMTA to pay millions more to repurchase all the medallions.

The SFMTA “elected to stick its head in the sand while the credit union and hard-working taxi driver medallion owners are saddled with all the burdens,” the suit said.

John Coté, a spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, said the city has received the case and is reviewing it.

Some of the lawsuit’s allegations may be hard to prove. San Francisco and the SFMTA have no jurisdiction over ride-hailing services, as they are regulated at the state level. Taxi companies long complained that the lighter state regulations allowed the startups to erode their business.

But other allegations, such as that SFMTA reneged on specific financial guarantees to the credit union, may have more teeth.

The city realized $64 million in revenues from the sale of the medallions backed by the credit union, the lawsuit said.

MORE ON RIDE-SHARING

Uber settles with Arizona self-driving car crash victim’sUber puts the brakes on testing robot cars in California afterLyft tests monthly subscriptions starting at $199
San Francisco medallions used to be free, granted to drivers after they spent 15 or more years on a waiting list since the total number was capped. Since medallions became available only when drivers died, retired, became disabled or lost their licenses, more than 3,000 people were on the list. In 2010, the city started to sell medallions for $250,000 each to create “a money-making machine” to help with budget shortfalls, the suit said.

“The SFMTA created an expensive asset out of thin air,” the suit said — but the plan relied on finding a lender to finance medallion purchases, since most cabbies couldn’t afford $250,000.

San Francisco approached numerous lenders and got many rejections, but the credit union eventually agreed to back the purchases, although it was concerned about the risks. The SFMTA gave it confidential data on taxi-driver income, agreed to facilitate a way for drivers to resell the medallions, guaranteed that the price would not fall below $250,000, and said it would retransfer foreclosed medallions, the lawsuit said.

In 2012, taxi drivers with medallions could bring in an average $9,500 a month, both by their own driving and by renting their medallions and cabs for second daily shifts, the lawsuit said. But by 2016, that number had plunged to $4,500, as cab revenues declined and “it became nearly impossible to find a second driver” for a second shift.

“Some days a taxi driver was lucky to earn $50” after expenses for a 10-hour shift, the suit said.

Starting in 2013, as Lyft and Uber began to win market share, the credit union started to worry and repeatedly asked the SFMTA how it would respond.

“We can’t fund taxi loans if (the SFMTA) are going to let the business erode away,” Credit Union CEO Steven Stapp wrote in an email to a colleague in 2013.

Throughout 2016, “the SFMTA repeatedly promised the credit union that it would take steps to reinvigorate the taxi industry,” the lawsuit said. It promised actions such as reforming the transportation code, aggressively marketing medallions and commissioning expert studies, but never brought those up at board meetings, the lawsuit said.

By fall 2016, 485 medallion holders were on a wait list to surrender their medallions; the SFMTA is supposed to pay them $200,000 each, so medallion holders presumably could use that money to repay their loans from the credit union.

Carolyn Said is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: csaid@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @csaid

Tags: UberLyftderegulationMTA
Categories: Labor News

New ACLU Charges Allege Pregnancy Discrimination Against Dockworkers at West Coast Ports & Challenge By ILWU

Thu, 03/29/2018 - 16:08

New ACLU Charges Allege Pregnancy Discrimination Against Dockworkers at West Coast Ports & Challenge By ILWU

New ACLU Charges Allege Pregnancy Discrimination Against Dockworkers at West Coast Ports
https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2018/03/29/18807986.php
by American Civil Liberties Union
Thursday Mar 29th, 2018 9:54 AM
Policies Block Women from Higher Wages and Union Membership
LOS ANGELES, March 29, 2018 — The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, the law firm of Outten & Golden LLP, and Los Angeles attorney Brenda Feigen filed pregnancy discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission today on behalf of female longshore workers across ports on the west coast.

The charges against the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents west coast shipping and terminal companies, and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) challenge unequal policies allowing workers who are absent to accrue the work hours necessary for promotion to higher wage brackets and union membership. Those who miss time due to on-the-job injuries or military service are awarded such time, but women absent due to pregnancy and after childbirth are not.

“This policy penalizes female longshore workers for having children,” said Gillian Thomas, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “By bumping women who are pregnant or who have recently given birth to the end of the line, PMA and ILWU are systematically blocking women from the high wages and excellent benefits that offer a path to economic security for them and their families.”

The women whose individual stories are outlined in the charges represent a group of thousands of non-union dockworkers known as “casuals” — the lowest rung on the port employment hierarchy. The class includes workers in 29 ports from north of Seattle down to San Diego.

So-called casual workers can only receive higher pay and ultimately coveted union membership by accumulating thousands of work hours. While the PMA and ILWU grant hours credit to workers who are unable to work due to job-related illness, injury, or disability, as well as military service, there is no such credit for absences due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. That means that pregnant women and new mothers who cannot work lose hundreds of hours and fall far behind their peers, losing a year or more of work credit per pregnancy and jeopardizing their chances of advancing to higher wage levels — from $31 an hour and up — as well as union membership, which brings job security and benefits like a pension and medical coverage. The union elevates casual workers on an ad hoc basis, sometimes waiting as long as a decade to open its ranks to new members.

By refusing to extend the same work hour accrual policy to workers absent due to pregnancy and childbirth as other absent workers, the ILWU and PMA are in violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the charges say.

“The Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires employers and unions to give pregnant workers the same opportunities as those provided to non-pregnant employees,” said David Lopez, a partner at Outten & Golden LLP and former general counsel of the EEOC. “These charges are a necessary first step to ensure PMA and ILWU’s policy complies with the law.”

This is not the first time the PMA and ILWU have been the subject of class-wide sex discrimination claims. In 1983, they settled a lawsuit by 500 female longshore workers alleging systematic exclusion from union membership. At the time, just seven women were ILWU members. The settlement resulted in a consent decree — known as the “Golden Decree,” named for the lawsuit’s lead plaintiff — that stayed in effect for 16 years and resulted in as many as 1,000 women joining the union.

“As a casual longshore worker, the prospect of falling so far behind my coworkers in the long road toward joining the union, just because I had a baby, is heartbreaking. You work toward that goal for so long,” said Tracy Plummer, whose treatment as a longshore worker at Los Angeles and Long Beach ports is outlined in a charge to the EEOC. “Having a family means I need good wages and benefits more than ever. I look forward to the day when the PMA and ILWU recognize that mothers should be treated the same as our coworkers.”

Plummer’s full amended charge can be found here:
https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/plummer-v-pacific-maritime-associati...

https://www.aclu.org/news/new-aclu-charges-allege-pregnancy-discriminati...
https://www.aclu.org/

Statement from the ILWU
by Jennifer Sargent Bokaie Thursday Mar 29th, 2018 11:42 AM
We were surprised to read about the ACLU’s allegations in the media because we have not yet seen the charges, nor have we been contacted by the ACLU. Had the ACLU talked to the union before going to the media, they would have learned that the ACLU lawyers have the facts wrong. In reality, there is no policy or practice of granting hours credit for absences of any kind, except for military veterans as required by federal law. The ILWU and our employers have a liberal policy of allowing longshore workers abundant leave as needed for pregnancy.
http://www.ilwu.org

Tags: ILWU Sex Discriminationpregnancy discriminationPMA
Categories: Labor News

New Leadership Has Not Changed Uber Its modus operandi is to subsidize fares and flood streets with its cars to achieve a transportation monopoly. In city after city, this has led to huge increases in traffic congestion, increased carbon emissions and the

Wed, 03/28/2018 - 22:13

New Leadership Has Not Changed Uber
Its modus operandi is to subsidize fares and flood streets with its cars to achieve a transportation monopoly. In city after city, this has led to huge increases in traffic congestion, increased carbon emissions and the undermining of public transportation.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/26/opinion/leadership-uber-business-mode...

By Steven Hill
March 26, 2018
The recent killing of a pedestrian by a self-driving Uber vehicle is the source of the latest negative headlines about this company. But there’s a much deeper problem. While the leadership has changed — Dara Khosrowshahi replaced Uber’s co-founder Travis Kalanick as chief executive last August after a series of scandals — the company itself has not evolved.

The problem with Uber was never that the chief executive had created a thuggish “Game of Thrones”-type culture, as Susan Fowler, an engineer, described it in a blog post. The problem was, and still is, Uber’s business model: Its modus operandi is to subsidize fares and flood streets with its cars to achieve a transportation monopoly. In city after city, this has led to huge increases in traffic congestion, increased carbon emissions and the undermining of public transportation.

Most customers who love Uber don’t realize that the company subsidizes the cost of many rides. This is likely a major factor in Uber’s annual losses surging from 2.8 billion in 2016 to $4.5 billion in 2017. This seemingly nonsensical approach is actually Uber’s effort to use its deep pockets to mount a predatory price war and shut out the competition. That competition is not only taxis and other ride-sharing companies, but public transportation.

Studies have found that half to 61 percent of Uber passengers in the United States say that they would have used public transportation, ridden a bicycle or walked, or not have made the trip at all, if Uber had not been available.

Thanks in part to Uber, people are turning away from forms of transportation that are better for the environment.

Recently I asked a colleague why he used Uber. He said that the bus would cost $2.25, and Uber would cost about $5. So I asked him, “What if the price for Uber was $10?” He said he would take the bus. So because he was only paying half the cost of the ride, he used Uber.

He’s not alone. Ridership on public transportation is down in nearly every major American city, including New York City (which recorded its first ridership dip since 2009). This is hurting the revenue that public transportation needs to sustain itself. Uber passengers and public transportation users alike now find themselves stuck in heavy traffic for far longer because of what’s been called “Uber congestion.” In Manhattan, there are five times as many ridesharing vehicles as yellow taxis, which has caused average speeds to decline by 15 percent compared with 2010, before Uber.

The company’s new leadership continues to deny that it is contributing to these ill effects. Mr. Khosrowshahi even insists that Uber can help solve congestion by adding a small number of electric cars, and that it could start using flying taxis in five to 10 years (which is preposterous — Uber doesn’t even have a prototype).

But a study of the effects of ride-sharing by researchers at the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis, found that ridesharing has resulted in a significant rise in the number of trips made and miles driven in an auto. The study also found that the vast majority of ride-sharing users (75 percent) still owned a car, and the small number who have eliminated their own vehicle (9 percent) have merely swapped it for someone else’s car — their ride-sharing driver’s. From an environmental standpoint, Uber is taking us backward.

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Ride-sharing services could potentially add something positive to our transportation options, but only if they are regulated properly.

First, regulators should limit the number of ride-sharing cars. Traditional taxis already have a sensible limit to minimize congestion. A balance must be found between having enough taxi-type vehicles but not so many that the streets are choked with traffic. Fix NYC, a panel appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, has called for all Ubers, Lyfts and taxis to be outfitted with GPS technology to track congestion and to charge a fee on for-hire vehicles that could help reduce traffic and generate hundreds of millions of dollars for public transportation.

Second, Uber should be prohibited from subsidizing its fares. It should be required to charge at least the true cost of each ride. If Uber refuses, a “fairness fee” should be added to each fare.

Third, ride-sharing companies and their vehicles should be required to follow the same laws as traditional taxis, especially in terms of background checks for drivers and insurance requirements.

Fourth, Uber should be required to share its data with regulators, including information about its drivers and their contact information, so that members of this “distributed work force” can more easily contact one another and organize collectively if they choose.

Finally, regulations should ensure that Uber treats its drivers fairly. Mr. Khosrowshahi asserts that drivers’ wages are adequate, but according to one study, more than half of Uber drivers earn less than the minimum wage in their state, and some even lose money once the costs of driving are taken into account. That helps explain why, according to Uber’s own internal study, half of its drivers leave after a year.

When he took on his role, Mr. Khosrowshahi said he would learn from the company’s mistakes. But it remains to be seen whether he is willing to fix Uber’s biggest misstep: a business model that harms drivers and the environment, and drains away passengers and revenue from public transportation.
Steven Hill, a journalist in residence at the Berlin Social Science Center, is the author of “Raw Deal: How the ‘Uber Economy’ and Runaway Capitalism Are Screwing American Workers.”

Tags: Uberderegulationflood streets
Categories: Labor News

Anti-union Group Launches 'Subway Scam' Campaign in NYC Against Building Trades

Wed, 03/28/2018 - 06:18

Anti-union Group Launches 'Subway Scam' Campaign at MTA Against NYC Building Trades

A new campaign is pinning the city's mounting subway problems on construction unions.

http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/transit/2018/03/27/center-for-union-...
"They are primarily focused with scoring the most expensive contracts they can for themselves," Luka Ladan, a spokesman for the Center for Union Facts, said in a phone interview. "But in the process, they're leaving subway riders behind with a dirty, delayed, and dangerous subway system."

The Center for Union Facts is a shadowy Washington-based group that has long campaigned against organized labor. This month, it began targeting the unions that staff the MTA's major capital projects, such as the construction of the Second Avenue Subway.

Their new "Subway Scam" campaign charges that "expensive work rules and cost overruns" drive up the MTA's expenses at the expense of maintenance.

"We've seen subway transit construction costs in New York run seven times higher than the global average," Ladan said.

The center won't say who is paying for the campaign, which features a website, billboards, and full-page newspaper ads. The campaign singles out Gary LaBarbera, the head of the Building and Construction Trades Council.

The council declined to comment on allegations of overstaffing and other waste, but it blasted the Center for Union Facts as "a front group for anti-union forces."

"This pseudo campaign is replete with lies, half-truths, and a repulsive anti-union, anti-worker agenda. The cowards funding this effort should stop hiding," the council said in a statement.

A recent New York Times series, as well as a study by the Regional Plan Association, highlighted the soaring construction costs associated with transit projects in the city.

"In New York, you've got 25 people on a tunnel boring machine," said Nicole Gelinas, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. "In Western European countries, you may have seven people on the same machine, you may have as few as five."

MTA officials said they are looking at how to save money in its construction program.

"We can't ask the public to provide more money for our transit system, even though it's desperately needed, unless we can prove that we can invest it efficiently and appropriately," MTA Board Member Scott Rechler said.

So far, the MTA has not come up with any specific proposals to rein in union costs.

Tags: NYC Building Tradesunion bustingCenter For Union Facts
Categories: Labor News

Bosses disregard for safety led to Washington Amtrak Wreck

Sat, 03/24/2018 - 11:36

Bosses disregard for safety led to Washington
Amtrak derailment

http://www.themilitant.com/2018/8212/821254.html

Vol. 82/No. 12 March 26, 2018

Bosses disregard for safety led to Washington
Amtrak derailment

BY EDWIN FRUIT
SEATTLE — Debate continues in Washington state over who is responsible for the derailment of Amtrak’s maiden voyage over new track between Tacoma and Portland, Oregon, that led to the death of three people and injured dozens Dec. 18. While Amtrak bosses insinuate that the train’s engineer was responsible, inadequate training, management’s hurry to get the service going to generate income and the bosses’ disregard for safety lay behind the disaster.
“There’s still a lot more that will come out concerning the derailment,” John Hiatt, a former Burlington Northern Santa Fe engineer and 25-year veteran railroad accident investigator for the Bremseth Law firm in Minnesota, told the Militant. Hiatt lives in Washington and has talked to Amtrak workers there about the accident. “A big concern is that the engineer had only one trip on the throttle in the southbound direction and that was at night.”

The National Transportation Safety Board released an interview with the unnamed engineer. He said he had no reservation about his readiness to make the run, that he had operated the equipment on three training runs — one southbound and two going north. He said he knew there was a sharp curve and speed reduction after milepost 18, but that he didn’t see the sign.

He said the fact that there was a conductor training on the run on the engine with him didn’t distract him. When he did see a sign posted 30 mph he jammed on the brake, but it was too late and the train derailed. He was seriously injured in the accident.

Garrick Freeman, the training conductor on the engine, filed a lawsuit against Amtrak Jan. 3. The suit said Amtrak violated the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, which requires management to ensure a workplace free of dangerous conditions. It also said Amtrak bosses failed to adequately train its employees to operate trains safely on the new route. Freeman also was injured in the derailment and spent the month of January in a rehab facility.

Pennie Cottrell, a passenger on the train who suffered broken ribs, a fractured clavicle and internal injuries, filed a lawsuit charging Amtrak management with responsibility. They ran the train after installing Positive Train Control, which can stop trains that fail to slow down, the suit explains, but they didn’t make the system operational.

In response to the public outrage over the Amtrak derailment and deaths, the state Senate Labor and Commerce Committee held hearings on rail safety Feb. 22. A number of rail workers, members of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation union, known at SMART, testified about unsafe operations BNSF managers pressed on workers.

“I have operated an unsafe train, safely over territory,” former engineer Lacy Rodriguez testified. “The reason that I and others have done things like that is because of harassment from the railroad.”

Mark McGaffey, a conductor and a safety representative for the SMART union, described a rescue of rail workers his crew had to make after BNSF sent trains out into a blizzard, stranding one crew in a tunnel for 10 hours.

State Sen. Patty Kuderer, from Bellevue, responded to the testimony, saying federal safety rules are stacked against workers, who can’t match the money and power of the railroads.

“Their health and safety were threatened, their lives were put in jeopardy for real,” she said. “That happened because of decisions made by management at BNSF, and nobody’s taking responsibility for it.”

Tags: Amtrak derailmenthealth and safetytrain wreck
Categories: Labor News

French Civil Servants And Rail Workers Strike In Test For Macron

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 15:46

French Civil Servants And Rail Workers Strike In Test For Macron

https://popularresistance.org/french-civil-servants-and-rail-workers-str...

French Civil Servants And Rail Workers Strike In Test For Macron

By Staff, France24.com
March 23, 2018

Above Photo: Reuters/ Stephanie Platiau

Some 30% of flights to and from Paris were cancelled while only 40% of high-speed TGV trains were running Thursday amid a strike action against labour reforms. Independent estimates by French media put the number of protesters in Paris at 47,800.

Tens of thousands of protesters rallied in the streets of France on Thursday and strikes caused travel misery for millions in a showdown between trade unions and President Emmanuel Macron that could be decisive for his reform efforts.

Seven unions representing staff in the public sector had called for strikes and protests on Thursday, while a third of railway workers walked out to join the demonstrations against 40-year-old Macron’s bid to shake up the French state.

The strikes meant that less than half of the country’s high-speed TGV trains were running, while flights, schools, daycare centres, libraries and other public services such as garbage collection were disturbed to varying degrees.

Police fired teargas and water cannon in central Paris during sporadic clashes between security forces and groups of students which appeared to have been infiltrated by far-left anarchists.

At least one office window was smashed, police said, and a car had been set on fire.

But while commuters faced problems in some areas, particularly in the suburbs of Paris, and many parents were forced to find last-minute childcare solutions, the turnout at the protests and the severity of the strikes appeared low by historic French standards.

“The real question for today is how many people are going to join the action?” hard-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon told reporters in Paris as he arrived with other leftist political leaders, including the incoming head of the Socialist party Olivier Faure.

March 22 had been chosen deliberately to echo the start of student protests in 1968 that led to a crippling strike that paralysed the country and culminated in notorious street battles between police and demonstrators in May of that year.

On Thursday, protests in major cities such as Marseille and Lyon saw around 10,000 people and rail unions claimed around 25,000 took part in Paris, but the numbers were smaller than previous demonstrations against labour reforms rammed through by Macron last year.

HAXIE MEYERS-BELKIN REPORTS FROM PROTESTS IN PARIS

The centrist leader was reported to have told advisors in private this week that he was feeling “serene” as Thursday approached, adding that the day of strikes was “not a cause for panic”, according to the investigative newspaper Le Canard Enchaine.

Public opinion is largely behind his bid to remove some of the pension privileges and job guarantees for new employees hired by the railways, while his bid to shake-up the civil service and education system were announced during his election campaign last year.

A long battle?

Thursday’s strikes were the start of possibly months of protests against Macron after rail unions announced stoppages on two days out of every five between the beginning of April and June.

“For the unions, the objective today was to convey the sense that there is anger rising around the country,” Chloe Morin from the left-wing Jean-Jaures Foundation told AFP, adding that the success of their confrontation with Macron “will depend on their ability to mobilise people and get public opinion behind them.”

France’s once fearsome unions have regularly forced governments into policy U-turns in the past, but Macron and his ministers have vowed not to yield and Morin said she saw little reason to believe the government would change course.

Thousands of public servants had already staged a one-day strike in October against Macron’s plans to cut 120,000 jobs over his five-year term, as well as a pay freeze and a plan for more outsourcing and voluntary buyouts that unions say will remove job security.

“The government needs to be paying much more attention to how things really are,” Force Ouvriere union chief Jean-Claude Mailly told BFM television on Thursday, citing “serious worries” among public sector workers.

Roughly a third of flights into and out of three Paris airports — Charles de Gaulle, Orly and Beauvais — were cancelled because of a strike by air traffic controllers.

The SNCF said that 35.4 percent of employees were on strike, meaning just two of every five high-speed TGV trains were running Thursday, and half of regional trains across France had been cancelled.

Four Eurostar trains between London and Paris were cancelled, as were about a quarter of the trains serving other foreign destinations.

© FRANCE 24

A quarter of teachers were striking on average across France, according to the largest SNUipp-FSU union, with up to 55 percent not heading into schools in the Seine-Saint-Denis region just north of Paris.

Macron has vowed to press ahead with what he has promised will be a “transformation” of France to make it more business-friendly and less dependent on government spending and debt.

His approval rating is at 37 percent, according to a survey by the Ipsos polling group published Wednesday, with 55 percent holding a negative view of his presidency — the highest level since the start of his term last year.

A separate survey on Thursday by the Elabe group showed that 58 percent of respondents thought he was implementing his programme but 74 percent throught it was unfair.

Tags: Macronrail strikepublic workersPensions
Categories: Labor News

French President’s Next Target: The Railroads. Strikes Loom.

Thu, 03/22/2018 - 13:17

French President’s Next Target: The Railroads. Strikes Loom.
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/21/world/europe/france-railways-strike.html
By ALISSA J. RUBINMARCH 21, 2018
Photo

Employees of the French rail operator SNCF working on the tracks near the Gare de l’Est train station in Paris. CreditJoel Saget/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
PARIS — The soaring 19th century train stations that grace French cities are an iconic image of the nation. Even France’s vaunted high-speed TGV is more than a train; it is a symbol of French planning and ambition, a riposte to an American vision of individualism embodied in the automobile.

But if France’s young president, Emmanuel Macron, has made one thing clear, it is that he is not afraid to shake up France and take on its venerable institutions.

Now it is the turn of the heavily subsidized and deeply indebted French rail system.

Mr. Macron says he wants to erase the railway workers’ special status, which gives them more generous benefits than almost any other workers, including a guarantee of early retirement.

In doing so, he has set himself a new and formidable challenge in his expanding campaign to reshape France’s society and economy, which started last year with a law that made it easier for private companies to hire and fire workers, a near revolution for France.

But the railway workers are a public-sector work force, one of the most powerful in the country, with a chokehold on as many as five million riders daily. When they go on strike, the whole country feels it.Most of the rail unions have already pledged to join a strike by public-sector employees planned for Thursday to resist Mr. Macron’s proposals, which could be pushed through Parliament using a special procedure that avoids debate on the specifics.

The rail workers then plan weeks of strikes starting in April that will be staged on a rolling basis — a two-day strike every three days.

A map of former railway lines in the station hall of Dinan, in western France.CreditDamien Meyer/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Mr. Macron said in a recent exchange with a rail worker that he would not “break everything” but that “the world is not the way it was before” and that the state-owned rail company, SNCF, and its employees “had to adapt,” like other French workers.

French rail workers’ current, ample benefits — including in some cases, the option of retiring at 52 — date to the first half of the 20th century, when many railway jobs involved hard, physical labor such as shoveling coal and clearing the rails of snow.

What Mr. Macron proposes in the name of containing costs and improving service is forcing one of the country’s last, but still powerful state-owned industries to treat its workers more like private-sector employees.

Others have tried to do so before, and failed spectacularly.

The last time a politician tried to make wholesale changes in the rail workers’ benefits was in 1995, when a center-right government under Alain Juppé, then the prime minister, sought cost savings. In response the rail unions went on strike and, after three weeks, Mr. Juppé had to withdraw his proposals.

Today, with Mr. Macron having already reduced private workers’ benefits, it may be more difficult for the railway employees to find sympathy from their fellow workers.

It is also not clear that the planned strikes will help the rail workers’ cause since many riders already feel frustrated by interruptions in service caused by breakdowns.

Mr. Macron has pledged to follow the railway plan with an overhaul of the unemployment system later in the year. Next year he intends to take on the French pension system.

His practical reason for making the rail overhaul now is a European Union requirement that all members open their national train systems to competition by 2019.

Passengers waiting for their train to depart from the station in Le Tréport, northwestern France. The railway line connecting Le Tréport to Abbeville is scheduled to be taken out of service.CreditCharly Triballeau/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Mr. Macron has seized on the deadline to push for a broader overhaul that, for new hires, would end advantages like guaranteed jobs, automatic pay raises and generous social security benefits.

Other benefits, such as deeply discounted trips for workers and their families, could remain in place.

The railway unions are staunchly opposed to the Macron plan. Philippe Martinez, the head of the C.G.T. union, the largest among rail workers, bristled at what he perceived as critical comments from the government about the rail workers’ benefits and the description of them as employees with special “privileges.”

“Is it a privilege to work night shifts and weekends?” Mr. Martinez asked rhetorically.

The government is intent on “picking a fight,” he said last week after meeting with Prime Minister Édouard Philippe.

Unions also argue that erasing the special status for new employees will end the payments that fund all railway workers’ retirement plans.

Their fear, as well as that of many on the left, is that the government’s next step will be to privatize the system, much as Britain has done with largely negative consequences: higher prices, frequent delays and periodic train cancellations.

Mr. Philippe, the prime minister, said the government had no intention of privatizing the rail system. But he and others say that the state-owned rail company must be updated if it is to hold its own with the coming competition from private companies.

For Mr. Macron changing the employment terms for railway workers appears to be part of a larger crusade to push French workers into the 21st century.

The train station at Quesnoy-le-Montant, in northwestern France. A lack of investment and expensive high-speed lines have drained money from local and regional commuter lines.CreditCharly Triballeau/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
“There is a symbolic dimension to the reforms and an economic dimension,” said Yves Crozet, an economics professor at the University of Lyon, who has studied transportation systems.

The symbolic, he said, has much to do with Mr. Macron’s ambition to remake the French labor market and show that he can do what previous politicians have been unable to: break the grip of the unions, which for decades have stymied efforts to control costs and reduce jobs.

“Mr. Macron wins if he resists the strikes,” Mr. Crozet said.

The economic dimension has to do with the far more challenging project of reducing the cost to the government of public transportation, while maintaining its quality.

Although the French train system remains in the top tier of European railways, its rating has dropped to seventh, according to the most recent Boston Consulting Group report that evaluates and compares European railways.

The French rail system is both heavily subsidized and deeply in debt, to the tune of 55 billion euros, or about $68 billion. About two-thirds of the debt is attributable to the construction of the high-speed lines or TGV, which were extremely expensive to build, and have drained money from more prosaic commuter lines.

The situation is particularly bad for those living in the greater Paris suburbs and surrounding areas, known as the Ile de France, who use trains to get to work.

“We know there needs to be more investment in the Ile de France,” said Joel Hazan, a partner in the Paris office of the Boston Consulting Group and one of the authors of the report. He added that there needed to be more investment overall.

Yet it is far from clear that changing rail workers’ benefits will make much difference in the near term, analysts say.

A staff member of the French rail company SNCF waiting to give the departure signal to a high-speed TGV train at the Gare de l’Est station in Paris. CreditLudovic Marin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Improved financial performance for the rail company suggested that efforts to tighten operations even without getting rid of the workers’ special benefits were having some impact.

Historians and economists who study the system say neither the government nor the unions are altogether right about whether the rail workers still deserve special treatment.

“One has to look at the new working conditions, the routines have been upended by new techniques, you have to start from scratch,” said George Ribeill, a historian and sociologist who used to be director of research at l’École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées.

If the reforms go through with little protest from the French, as appears likely, it will be a signal of France’s changing priorities.

Until the 1970s, but especially in earlier eras, many rail workers came from the villages and small towns across France, creating a deep network of support for the railways and the workers.

Increasing urbanization changed that, and the political support faded for a vast train network that reached into every corner of the land. As that sense dulled so did the sense that the French train system had a special place in the country’s cultural imagination.

Certainly Mr. Macron, who is the grandson of a rail worker, made clear in his brief conversation with a railway worker who approached him with questions about the proposal that any romance the trains held was long gone. “You do not have the same work rhythm as my grandfather,” he said.

The changes, he said, “will be better for you.”

Aurelien Breeden and Assia Labbas contributed reporting.

Strikes in France disrupt rail, air service in opening shot against Macron’s labor plans
By James McAuley March 22 at 10:31 AM
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/strikes-in-france-disrupt-ra...

People take part in a demonstration in Paris as part of a nationwide day of protest against French president multi-front reform drive. (Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images)
PARIS — Railway workers and air traffic controllers led strikes across France on Thursday, opening a bitter showdown over labor overhauls sought by French President Emmanuel Macron.

The strikes — which disrupted travel across the country — signal a critical test for Macron as his government seeks to challenge France’s tightly controlled public-sector labor markets in attempts to stimulate a stagnant economy.

Macron, a 40-year-old former investment banker, faced only minimal resistance to the first wave of workplace changes last fall, and unemployment figures have already begun to drop.

But France’s powerful public sector, which employs more than 5 million people, is putting its foot down against the next stage: proposals to cut 120,000 public-sector jobs, hire more contract workers and slash budgets across the board.

Rail workers planned to go for the jugular with a new type of “rolling” protest: a two-day strike every three days, a major upheaval to a transport system that handles millions of passengers every day.

Many high-speed trains — including the renowned high-speed TGV service — were canceled between Paris and other French cities in Thursday’s opening salvo. Commuter train service within the capital was also suspended.

Meanwhile, the Eurostar, connecting Paris with London, canceled some runs through the English Channel tunnel, and many short-haul flights at the Paris-area airports of Orly, Beauvais and Charles de Gaulle were grounded.

An employee of the French stat- owned railway company SNCF walks by empty platforms at the Gare de Lyon railway station in Paris. (Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images)
Teachers and other workers also joined the strike.

Elisabeth Borne, Macron’s transport minister, defended the labor plans as crucial to ensure the strength and survival of France’s state-owned railway company.

“This is a necessary, indispensable reform,” Borne said, appearing on France’s BFM TV on Thursday. “My hope is not a test of strength; my hope is for negotiations.”

So far, Macron has been spared the kind of devastating strikes that have unraveled previous French governments.

For his earlier, extensive labor revisions, Macron and allies reached out to union leaders during a long process of dialogue. The changes, which included broader rules to hire and fire employees, sailed through with relatively little outcry.

The public-sector plans — which still need parliamentary approval — may prove to be a different story.

Macron seeks to forge ahead with these changes without the same level of calculated exchange with labor leaders.

[Opinion: France is now proving ground for Europe’s labor battles]

On a deeper level, these new changes — particularly with regard to the railways — strike at the heart of a system that has long been a model of the French state’s collective commitments, both to transport and to those who run it.

Railway workers have long enjoyed expansive benefits, including generous pensions and, for some employees, the option of retirement at age 52, a full decade before the official retirement age of 62.

These benefits stem from an era when the job entailed intense manual labor — a time Macron has said is long gone.

“How old are you?” the young president responded to a railway worker at an agricultural fair last month, when asked about the proposals.

“You do not have the same work rhythm as my grandfather, who was a railway man,” Macron added. Macron’s grandfather, André Macron, was an employee of France’s state-owned railway company in the northeastern Somme region.

Students joined the demonstrations in Paris. (Yoan Valat/European Pressphoto Agency)
Opinion polls suggest most French voters agree with Macron’s proposals, but the looming transport strikes have yet to take their full toll. Regardless of social station, few French citizens will be unaffected by the planned strikes.

In the past, governments have quickly backed down.

In 1995, the center-right government of Alain Juppé withdrew proposals to overhaul railway pensions after a strike brought the country to a standstill.

Union leaders are threatening much the same this year, said Jean-Marc Canon, secretary general of UGFF-CGT, a large public-sector union.

There is also symbolism at work. Thursday marks the 50th anniversary of a 1968 student uprising that grew into the largest public protest in modern French history.

“Either they listen to us and it will have been just a warning shot, or they don’t listen to us and then, let me tell you that public-sector workers are very mobilized,” Canon said Thursday, speaking on French radio.

Tags: French Railroad WorkersstrikesPensions
Categories: Labor News

NYC TWU 100 Transit workers want answers after fatal fall as MTA upgrades subway safety Fiberglass railings are being installed after St. Clair Richards-Stephens' death.

Thu, 03/22/2018 - 08:00

NYC TWU 100 Transit workers want answers after fatal fall as MTA upgrades subway safety
Fiberglass railings are being installed after St. Clair Richards-Stephens' death.
https://www.amny.com/transit/mta-fare-toll-hike-1.17583076

After MTA worker St. Clair Richards-Stephens died when he fell inside a Harlem subway tunnel Tuesday, the transit group Progressive Action held vigil and spoke out about safety concerns. Photo Credit: Marisol Diaz-Gordon

By Vincent Barone and Matthew Chayes
vin.barone@amny.com, matthew.chayes@newsday.com @vinbarone
Updated March 22, 2018 6:11 AM
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The MTA has begun taking steps to prevent the tragic death of track worker St. Clair Richards-Stephens from happening again, agency brass said Wednesday, hours before transit workers gathered to memorialize his life and seek answers.

A protective wooden railing snapped early Tuesday morning, leading to Richards-Stephens’ fatal fall from the upper-level tracks of the 6 line to the lower-level express track for 4 and 5 trains at the 125th Street station.

NYC Transit president Andy Byford said crews worked overnight to replace the damaged railing with a fiberglass equivalent. Fiberglass railings were also installed along “a number of other locations” on the same lines, and the MTA is currently surveying other areas to make the same changes, Byford added.

“The location in question had wooden railings. There were two railings: One about waist-high and one a bit lower that were protecting this drop from the higher to the lower level, or were ostensibly there to do that,” Byford said. “For whatever reason yet to be established, the rail did not manage to restrain our member of staff when it appears that he leaned on that (the railing).”

Later Wednesday afternoon, dozens of current and retired transit workers marched from the 125th Street 4/5/6 mezzanine in Harlem to the downtown platform, where they lit a candle, prayed and sung to honor Richards-Stephens.

Tramell Thompson, a conductor who works mostly on the Q train, criticized the Transport Workers Union leadership for what he sees as insufficient focus on worker safety and too much coziness with the governor.

“The MTA is responsible for his death. Cuomo is responsible for his death,” Thompson said after crouching to light a memorial candle.

“SAFETY OVER PROFITS” read one sign held at the vigil. “R.I.P. OUR BROTHER” read another.

TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano met with the Richards-Stephens’ family Wednesday to provide consolation and offer the support of the union.

“These guys are playing politics with this young man’s tragic death,” Utano said. “It’s just horrible and disgraceful. This isn’t a time for politics. It’s time to help plan a funeral and make sure the family is taken care of.”

When he fell, Richards-Stephens was in the process of what’s known among workers as “clearing up,” or the act of moving off the tracks and out of the right of way of an oncoming train, a union source said.

An investigation into the incident is still ongoing, said MTA chairman Joseph Lhota, who held a moment of silence for Richards-Stephens at the beginning of Wednesday’s board meeting.

“I can’t overemphasize enough the amount of work and the amount of strenuous work that all of our transit workers do day in and day out,” Lhota said. “And, as Tony Utano, the president of the union said, while we sleep at night thousands of transit workers are down in the system making sure it’s prepared and getting it to a better and better state of reliability.”

Byford met Tuesday with the family of Richards-Stephens, 23, who began working for the authority about six months ago. The Transit president said he arranged for a staffer to organize Richards-Stephens’ benefits for his family, to streamline the process during the difficult time. He also gave the family a direct line to reach his office.

“The one thing I do not want is that family, you know, encountering NYCT bureaucracy,” Byford said.

Ronald Limage, 39, of the Bronx, brought his wife and kids and a bouquet to the vigil, even though he didn’t know Richards-Stephens.

“This type of thing could happen to any one of us,” said Limage, an afternoon conductor on the 1, 2 and 5 lines. “I see a lot of people on the tracks all the time. I say ‘what’s up’ to them. They’re like family.”

Eric Josephson, 66, a retired track worker and inspector who left the job in 2013 after nearly 30 years with the MTA, said: “It’s a shame and a crime the way that this newly hired brother was pretty much sacrificed to keep the trains running.”

By Vincent Barone and Matthew Chayes
vin.barone@amny.com, matthew.chayes@newsday.com @vinbarone

Tags: TWU 100NYC Metrohealth and safetydeath on the job
Categories: Labor News

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