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Strike in the port of Koper

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 20:04

Strike in the port of Koper
http://libcom.org/blog/strike-port-koper-24072016

Report on strike in the port of Koper, Slovenia in summer 2016, which affected the supply chain in central Europe - published originally in German in issue no.100 of Wildcat.

The Slovenian government is trying to contain increasing state debt – from 22 percent of the GDP in 2008 to 83 percent in 2015 – with privatisations. On the European level the rulers want to deregulate the ports with new law packages (Port Package). This means that the government and the EU attack the relative protected workers in the semi state-owned enterprises – one of these is the port of Koper, which is 67 percent state-owned. Container handling and profit have continuously increased in the last years, new piers were constructed, new cranes were bought, the basin was dredged; new railways and hinterland terminals are being planned. Since 2011 the port is the most important one for Austrian industry, its volume almost doubling from 2006 to 2014. Koper is the biggest port in the North Adriatic Ports Association (NAPA: Koper, Ravenna, Venetia, Triest, Rijeka). Already in 2011 the workers organized a wildcat strike and were able to win improvements (see Wildcat 94). In July 2016 they struck again to prevent the sellout of the port – and they won. There wasn't a single word about it in the German-language media.

Relative workers control

One peculiarity at the port is that the workers – at the head of which are the crane operators, organized into an »anarchist rank-and-file union« 1 – have achieved representation on the supervisory board (three out of nine heads) and on the management board (one out of four) of the operating company Luka Koper Inc. They have, de facto, a say about who will be CEO and what decisions can be made. There have been three CEOs in the past three years – the current one is a thorn in the government's side, because he rejects privatisation.

Since the summer of 2013 the government has tried every trick in the book to privatize the port and to wrest from the workers their control over cash flows and investments. In the past three years there have been substantial wage increases because the workers know the finances. Today, crane operators working without nightshifts and weekends earn as much money in one month as they did in 2013 with those shifts – about 1,500 Euros net – this is almost twice as much as a Slovenian worker's average wage.

Additionally, privatization would mean that a Port Authority would be installed, which has the total control over managing the concessions of the piers/terminals. The concessions would be sold to different enterprises which then operate the terminal, so that the workers in the same port would be employed by different enterprises, introducing separations and setting up in-house competition. Today that's common practice in every »modern« port.

Till now this has been blocked with the model of the supervisory and management board. »We are one staff,« a crane operator says, who is in the supervisory board. But even without the Port Authority there are separations: there are already 40 active subcontractors, and crane operators earn more than other workers.

Koper Leaks

At the end of June 2016 the Slovenian infrastructure minister sent an e-mail to the national holding, in which he explained that he wants to »improve« the supervisory board and install a new port administration. The contract with Luka Koper Inc. should be »revised« and a second operational company should be established. In our language: »If the current management structure is disempowered, we can finally privatize the port.«

This writing was leaked, and the workers got their hands on it. Though it only contained what the workers had suspected for a year and a half. The e-mail was not decisive for the strike, the crane operator assured us. What was crucial was the annual general assembly of the Luka Koper Inc. shareholders on July 1.

Just before, workers and solidarity groups had organized a demonstration in Koper on June 28, in which minority shareholders participated – citizens, workers, etc. – who own 33 percent of the shares and are affiliated in an association (Vseslovensko Združenje Malih Delničarjev, VZMD, Panslovenian Investors and Shareholders Association; one can find nationalists in it, too!). Port workers, minority shareholders and women from different organisations and from other enterprises spoke. Four thousand people marched through the city (Koper has 25,000 inhabitants). Speeches at the demonstration had to do with the catastrophic effects of privatisation and about the corruption of the Slovenian government.

Stavka! (Slo. »strike«)

In fact, one group of port workers only wanted to block the shareholders meeting, but police prevented that – so they decided to block the port. The crane operator artfully says that this happened totally spontaneously: »Suddenly everybody downed tools, the office workers, too, and met at the gates.« In the end there were about 800 people assembled. The workers blocked the port entrance, so that no scabs were able to enter. The only cargo loaded was perishables. Everything else – iron ore for Austrian steel mills, timber for Styrian paper mills, cars of every brand for import/export, containers with consumer goods for Europe, etc. – went unhandled. By July 2, 40 trains to the hinterland were backed up; six couldn't even leave the port. Railway operators moaned about a loss of 700,000 Euros a day, but the crane operator says it was part of the negative media-campaign. A worker from the Cargo Center Graz reports that the number of incoming containers decreased dramatically in a very short time (with 16 weekly connections, the CCG is the most important hinterland-terminal of the port).

The crane operator says: »The carriers are under extreme pressure – with global decreasing volumes it is very important to be faster than everyone else; the best way in Europe is using the port of Koper, because one saves two to three days in one direction and a lot of money compared to Hamburg.«

Besides the cancellation of the planned changes in the management structure, the port workers demand the resignation of the infrastructure minister and of a secretary of the ministry of finance. They directed their demands to the Slovenian prime minister Miro Cerar, with whom they wanted to meet. He appeased them at first. It wasn't acceptable that workers would dictate anything to his government »from the streets«. Bourgeois media ran the usual defamation campaign: »terrorists«, blah, blah, blah… Against this, many friends and family members, even children of the workers, came out, joining the workers at the gates. On Sunday, July 3, there were about 1,500 people protesting in front of the port.

After only the first couple of hours of the strike on July 1, the shareholders decided to cancel the layoff of the three worker-friendly supervisory board members – instead the head of the state holding resigned. Nevertheless the workers continued striking till the early shift on July 4 in order to maintain their demands that the government members resign and that they get a meeting with Cerar. On July 5–6 the workers ran only one shift (out of the normal three) per day.

On July 6 the prime minister decided that he wanted to meet with the workers after all – this time his defense was that nobody wanted to privatize the port and that the workers had obviously been lied to. The workers listened to the prime minister, and came to the conclusion that he had no clue. They explained the situation to him and demanded commitment. Afterward, they went back to normal operations because their main goal – the cancellation of the plans of the national holding – has been reached. On the July 13 the minister of finance and his state secretary resigned. »Now we just need to run off the infrastructure minister too,« the crane operator proclaims confidently.

Self-organised workers are powerful

Unfortunately there were nationalists in the mix in the days of protests and striking – poison for every workers' struggle. Everywhere in Europe one can see what harm this does. Particularly in the southeastern European states, protests have developed strength only if they were explicitly anti-nationalist.

During the strike there was a solidarity slowdown in the neighboring Italian port of Triest, where workers took one-and-a-half days to unload ships instead of a half-day. From the neighboring Croatian port of Rijeka came one of many solidarity letters – that port is already privatized. Workers in Koper said Rijeka workers should also write to the Slovenian government (these three ports are historically linked by experiences of struggle: there was a »parallel choreography of worker unrest« from 1966 to 1971 2).

People from all over the region understand that it's only going to go well for them if it goes well for the workers. That's why a lot of people express their solidarity. The struggle represents their common interests.

The attack of the rulers has failed for now. The workers were able to maintain their status quo advantage. They show how strong a workforce that is self-organized and that sticks together can be.

The rulers will try to learn from their failure. They have to keep an eye out, so that there are no more uprisings like in 2012/13, or in Bosnia in 2014. 3 In any case, the port workers of Koper will walk very self-confidently into future conflicts.

Post scriptum:

In the middle of July, carrier websites report that COSCO was able to successfully bypass a strike of Greek railway workers who carry commodities from the port of Piräus to the hinterland – they redirected their vessels to Koper. SMS from the crane operator: »I will check for COSCO. The problem is that Koper uses our port pretty regularly anyway. I'll see whether anything changes.«

Footnotes:

[1] The Sindikat Žerjavistov Pomorskih Dejavnosti, i. e., the union of crane and seafaring activities, has organized about 220 crane-operators. The union has about 390 members out of 840 directly employed by Luka Koper AG. Including its subsidiary enterprises there are 1,150 people. Another 500 work in all the sub-firms (temp agencies, etc.). One old union, which is, however, almost entirely inactive, remains, and it has fewer than 60 members. Ten women are members of the Anarcho-union, and generally women work only in the offices at the port.

[2] Sabine Rutar, of the Regensburger Institute for East and Southeast European Research, delivers a nice description of these strikes in »Epistemological Limits and European Contemporary History with Examples From the Northeastern Adriatic,« in: Europa Regional 22.2014 (2015), 3-4, p. 192-206 (German).

[3] See:
in English:
Slovenia: The end of transition, autumn 2013
in German:
Wildcat 96: Aufstand in Bosnien, Frühling 2014
Wildcat 94: Slowenien: Das Ende der Transformation, Frühjahr 2013 (mit Update vom 2.11.13 zu den Kämpfen auf dem Balkan).

Tags: Port of KoperSlovenian Portdockers
Categories: Labor News

Senator Backed by Rail Companies Introduces New Bill That Would De-Regulate Rail Industry

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 08:18

Senator Backed by Rail Companies Introduces New Bill That Would De-Regulate Rail Industry
Now, with over 100 years of history showing the rail industry's refusal to implement safety measures until enough people have died, the industry is again pushing to regulate itself in order to avoid proven safety technologies for the sake of “keep[ing] more of their profits.” Congress and the anti-regulatory officials now in the Trump administration are working hard to allow this to happen.

https://www.desmogblog.com/2017/07/25/senator-backed-rail-companies-intr...
By Justin Mikulka • Tuesday, July 25, 2017 - 12:06

A new bill by one of the rail industry’s favorite senators looks to change how the industry is regulated to allow “market forces to improve rail safety.” In June, Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), who happens to chair the Senate Surface Transportation Subcommittee, introduced the Railroad Advancement of Innovation and Leadership with Safety (RAILS) Act.

In essence, the bill seeks to shift the rail industry toward a self-regulatory — and more difficult to enforce — approach to safety known as “performance-based regulation,” an effort first reported by DeSmog after a Congressional hearing in May.

In that hearing, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) advocated for performance-based regulations for safety, saying that government should “allow the railroad industry to keep more of their profits.” That's what you should expect when moving to a system relying on market forces to improve safety.

Speaking of market forces, it should come as no surprise that the top donor to Senator Fischer’s election campaigns is rail company Union Pacific. Or that four of her top eleven donors are rail companies, which include Berkshire Hathaway (owner of rail company BNSF), Norfolk Southern, and CSX.

That helps explain why she is pushing to allow the industry to self-regulate via performance-based regulations. Even in a pro-industry opinion piece in the publication RailwayAge, written by a former employee of rail lobbying group, the Association of American Railroads, it wasn’t possible to sell the bill without noting that it allows industry to regulate itself:

“…performance-based safety standards mean rather than the [Federal Railroad Administration] prescribing particular actions, such as mileage-based brake tests and specific operations and maintenance procedures, the agency would specify a safety outcome — such as a maximum accident-type rate or component failure rate — and allow each railroad to devise its own cost-effective means of achieving that target.”

What could go wrong if you allow each railroad to devise its own cost-effective means of achieving safety? Let’s take a look at Exhibit A: Lac-Mégantic.

Lac-Mégantic: When 'Market Forces' Regulate Safety

Shortly after the deadly oil-by-rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Canada, a columnist at The Guardian stated, “the explosion in Lac-Mégantic is not merely a tragedy. It is a corporate crime scene.” There is a mountain of evidence to prove how corporate cost-cutting caused the July 2013 accident in the small Quebec town.

The fire on the locomotive that started the whole deadly chain of events was the result of cutting costs for engine repair. A report from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada stated that “This temporary repair had been performed using a polymeric material, which did not have the strength and durability required for this use.” That was the first mistake due to cost-cutting shortcuts.

The company operating that oil train had also been allowed to run the trains with a single person crew. Another cost-saving measure that railroad labor unions oppose and one that the rail industry in America is lobbying hard to make standard.

And then there was the corporate policy of not using all of the braking systems in order to save time, which we wrote about on DeSmog last year:

What has been overlooked is the corporate policy of not engaging the “automatic brake” when leaving a train on the tracks. Harding [train engineer] set the independent brake and handbrakes but did not set the automatic brake because that was corporate policy.

The brakes he did apply were sufficient to hold the train. But then the locomotive caught fire that night and the fire department cut power to the locomotive, which led to the loss of pressure in the independent brake and the train “running away” down the hill towards Lac-Mégantic.

It would have taken Harding 10 seconds to engage the automatic brake. If this had been done, the train most likely would have remained in place until it was scheduled to continue the next morning. But company policy was to not engage the automatic brake even when parking a loaded train of explosive Bakken oil on a hill above a town. Why not?

Because while it only takes 10 seconds to engage the braking system, it takes between 15 minutes to an hour to disengage the system when the train is restarted the next day. And in the rail industry, time is money.

This is what happens when market forces drive safety precautions. And that is why it is accurate to describe Lac-Mégantic as a corporate crime scene.

'Sound Science' and ECP Braking

The new bill from Sen. Fischer include the section “Sound Science,” which requires that regulations be based on things like “appropriately validated models and formulas.” It does not mention how one goes about “appropriately” validating models and formulas.

This approach of claiming that safety regulations aren’t based on sound science or that the “science is still out” has already proven to be a very effective approach for delaying further safety measures for the rail and oil industries. It has been the main argument allowing the oil industry to continue to transportvia train a dangerous and volatile oil that could easily be stabilized and made safer to ship.

In the RailwayAge opinion piece supporting Fischer's industry-friendly bill, it notes that the industry is particularly interested in rolling back the requirement to have electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes on oil trains, saying this regulation was “troubling to railroads and the scientific community.”

When DeSmog asked RailwayAge to provide evidence that the scientific community found the regulations requiring ECPbraking “troubling,” the author of the piece — former Association of American Railroads (AAR) employee Frank Wilner — directed DeSmog to the Transportation Technology Center, Inc. According to its website this organization is “a wholly owned subsidiary of the Association of American Railroads.”

So, scientists on the payroll of the rail industry’s main lobbying group find a proven safety technology “troubling.” What should be more troubling to anyone concerned about rail safety is a bill introduced by a senator taking large amounts of money from the rail industry, a bill which is then promoted by not only the industry's lobbying group but also a former lobbying group employee, claiming in an industry trade magazine that industry-paid scientists are the final word on safety.

As repeatedly noted on DeSmog, there is ample evidence that ECP brakes are safer.

But perhaps the strongest argument for ECP brakes is that they are required on trains hauling nuclear waste. Why would this be required if these brakes offer no safety benefits? In 2004, the AAR gave a presentation on why trains should be allowed to move spent nuclear fuel (SNF) and clearly noted that ECP brakes were important for safety. Yet 13 years later, this group is purporting that it is an unproven technology.

And that's not all. There's evidence that ECP brakes would have prevented the Lac-Mégantic disaster.

Performance-Based Regulation or Profit-Based Regulation?

“Railroad rules have been written in blood.” This line comes from the annual report of the Commissioner of Railroads for the state of Michigan — in 1901. It implied that safety rules were only implemented when enough blood had been spilled.

One hundred and fifteen years later, in an opinion piece on rail safety for CNN, rail expert Fred Failey essentially said the same thing, opening his piece with the statement, “The rules by which trains operate on American railroads were written in blood.”

Now, with over 100 years of history showing the rail industry's refusal to implement safety measures until enough people have died, the industry is again pushing to regulate itself in order to avoid proven safety technologies for the sake of “keep[ing] more of their profits.” Congress and the anti-regulatory officials now in the Trump administration are working hard to allow this to happen.

The only performance that will improve when implementing performance-based regulations is the performance of railroad stock prices and the fundraising efforts of politicians like Sen. Deb Fischer.

Tags: Rail safetyderegulationrail bossesunion bustingprofits
Categories: Labor News

The defiance of an 'untouchable' New York TWU 100 subway worker

Tue, 07/25/2017 - 22:29

The defiance of an 'untouchable' New York TWU 100 subway worker
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-40702242?SThisFB

25 July 2017
From the section India

Gidla was the first Indian woman to be employed as a conductor on the New York City Subway
The memoir of an Indian woman who was born a so-called untouchable and now works as a conductor on the New York City Subway has been hailed by critics for its unflinching account of caste and family in India. Journalist Sudha G Tilak spoke to Sujatha Gidla about her life story and how it became Ants Among Elephants.
In Sanskrit, the main language used by scholars in ancient India and sometimes referred to as the language of gods, her first name means one of noble birth.
The irony is laid bare by Sujatha Gidla whose recent memoir speaks of her life and her family and the plight of 300 million Dalits ("oppressed" in Sanskrit), formerly known as untouchables in India.
An expressive personal examination of her life, her parents, especially her mother, grandparents and Satyamurthy, a Maoist uncle who hoped revolution would help improve the caste discrimination his people suffered, Ants Among Elephants has quickly become the toast of critics and readers in America.
What is India's caste system?
Why are Dalits in Narendra Modi's India angry?
India's Dalits still fighting untouchability
The New York Times said the "unsentimental, deeply poignant book" gives "readers an unsettling and visceral understanding of how discrimination, segregation and stereotypes have endured throughout the second half of the 20th Century and today".
Reviewer Michiko Kakutani wrote that Gidla's family stories reveal how "ancient prejudices persist in contemporary India, and how those prejudices are being challenged by the disenfranchised".
The Minneapolis Star Tribune described the book as the "boisterous life of an Indian family that fought the caste system".
"Gidla is our Virgil into the world of the untouchables and their acts of defiance; not just as an observer, but as a participant," wrote reviewer Peter Lewis.
"She is bitten by the revolutionary bug, and bitten hard: arrested by the Indian authorities, tortured, left to rot, released. She has been party to the heights and the depths of living a revolution."
<_97054386_sujathaandabraham.jpg>
Image caption
Sujatha Gidla with her brother, Abraham
Michael D Langan, a culture critic for NBC-2.com, wrote that Gidla breaks away her "indomitable soul" and tells her family stories, adding: "They are not stories of shame, but of grace."
Gidla's story is one of personal struggle and a certain freedom she has found in America today.
She writes that caste is an accursed state in India, especially for Dalits: "Your life is your caste, your caste is your life."
With her memoir, Gidla joins the ranks of India's many Dalit women who are telling stories to be heard and counted in a system that seeks to keep them down.
Gidla hails from the Dalit community of Kazipet, a small town in southern Telangana state.
Unflinching look
The 53-year-old subway conductor has been luckier than most Dalits back home, women especially, who suffer unspeakable cruelty, are employed in menial jobs including cleaning of human excreta and are segregated by their communities.
Unlike most of her lot, her family was "middle class", thanks to the help of Canadian missionaries in her region who aided in education and offered them religion. Her family was thus Christian and benefited with education. Her parents held jobs as college teachers.
Gidla says that proselytization didn't help her lot. "Christians, untouchables - it came to the same thing. All Christians in India were untouchable. I knew no Christian who did not turn servile in the presence of a Hindu."
The book chronicles unflinchingly the caste slurs and segregation Gidla and Dalits like her have to endure in India.
<_97054384_antsamongelephants.jpg>
Gidla lists how she and other Dalits are humiliated in India by other castes.
They are forced to eat from separate plates and glasses in eateries; barred from the community's main source of drinking water; allowed to ride a bicycle or wear footwear only in segregated areas; rejected in love and denied opportunities. She recalls her hurt when a junior school classmate refused to touch the sweet she offered. Things like this are constant reminders to Dalits of their status as social outcastes.
Since her teens Gidla was spurred to rebel with her uncle, the rebel Telugu language poet Shivasagar, setting an example. His call to join the Communists and later the guerrilla movement of the region demanding social justice held appeal for the young Gidla.
'Culture of protest'
Gidla admits that she has had it better than many Dalit students who are "driven to suicide" despite securing education under affirmative practices She was able to study physics in an engineering college in south India. She also joined India's top and most sought-after engineering school, the Indian Institute of technology (IIT), as a researcher in applied physics.
In Madras (now Chennai) she found most of her classmates clearing the tests to study further abroad.
"For me, what was appealing was the idea of America, especially Bob Dylan's music, the culture of protest, and the draw of joining a society where debates on rights and equality could be articulated," she told the BBC.
She moved to America when she was 26.

There are some 300 million Dalits in India
There, she says, she faced racism. And caste was right here too. She says she found "petty caste discrimination" among the Indian community.
Yet life was much more liberating. As she says: "If you are educated like me, if you don't seem like a typical untouchable, then you have a choice."
Her siblings, too, have left their life behind in India to find livelihoods and build families. Her sister is a physician in America and her brother is an engineer in Canada.
Writing the book has almost been a family affair as well, with her mother who was "involved in this book as it is her story too" and her young niece Anagha who wanted to design the book.
'Hindu conductor'
After she was laid off from her bank job in 2009, Gidla took up the job at the New York subway. She was the first Indian woman to be employed as a conductor on one of the busiest mass transit systems in the world.
In her job she is often identified as "that Hindu conductor", she says.
She is "a novelty", she says, to fellow Indian commuters. And if she hears an Indian language she is familiar with, especially the south Indian language Telugu, she calls out a greeting and watches them in glee "as they do a double take" and smile back.
In America, writes Gilda, "people know only my skin colour, not birth status".
"One time in a bar in Atlanta I told a guy I was untouchable, and he said, 'Oh, but you're so touchable'."
Sudha G Tilak is a Delhi-based journalist

Tags: TWU 100discrimination'untouchable'
Categories: Labor News

Technology, Automation, Internationalism, Longshore Workers And The Future Of Work: A Presentation by Professor Raquel Varela

Tue, 07/25/2017 - 11:48

Technology, Automation, Internationalism, Longshore Workers And The Future Of Work: A Presentation by Professor Raquel Varela
https://youtu.be/J2YmVVs9hPM
Technology, Internationalism, Longshore Workers And The Future Of Work was the focus of a presentation by labor professor Raquel Varela who lives and works in Lisbon, Portugal. Her research is centered on dockers and shipyard workers including technology and automation.
The presentation was made at an educational conference at ILWU Local 10 in San Francisco on July 15, 2017 titled Longshore Work , Automation, Technology and the Future of Our Work and Lives.
It was part of LaborFest.net and sponsored by ILWU Local 10, LaborTech.net, laborfest.net and the TWSC.
For more media:
https://youtu.be/SNcU37rL2Ng
https://youtu.be/FNbvWfS1HYs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGTcJXCDjq0
https://youtu.be/FNbvWfS1HYs
https://youtu.be/WHjq-MNnr5s
https://raquelcardeiravarela.files.wordpress.com/2017/07/studyautomation...
Production of Labor Video Project
www.laborvideo.org

Tags: TechnologicalAutomationdockers jobslongshore workshorter workweek
Categories: Labor News

Despite criticisms, new study finds DC Metro Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 workers’ pay and benefits are typical for industry.

Sat, 07/22/2017 - 21:54

Despite criticisms, new study finds DC Metro Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 workers’ pay and benefits are typical for industry.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/despite-criticisms-new-study-finds-...

A new study shows Metro workers’ pay and benefits are in line with those of other major transit systems, blunting long-standing criticism of the agency’s labor costs.A plane lands at Dulles airport as workers build the second phase of Metro's Silver Line to Dulles. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)
By Robert McCartney July 20
But Northern Virginia Republican lawmakers said it would still be necessary for Metro to restrain costs and weaken union powers to persuade the GOP-led General Assembly in Richmond to back increased funding for the transit system.

The report by a consulting firm hired by the state of Virginia undermined complaints that Metro’s labor costs are excessive — an allegation aired frequently by critics including GOP political leaders.

The study by the firm WSP USA said total employee compensation at Metro was $56 for every hour worked by a Metro employee, compared with an average of $58 at four other transit systems that, like Metro, do not allow workers to strike.

The average was $61 for four systems that do permit strikes.

[Virginia Gov. McAuliffe taps Ray LaHood to head panel to study Metro.]

The study is the first significant report released publicly to guide the work of a politically important commission that is studying Metro and is chaired by former U.S. transportation secretary Ray LaHood.

LaHood plans to issue a report in September recommending changes in Metro’s funding and governance aimed at winning broad support across the Washington region.

The new study, on which LaHood will rely, weakens the case for seeking a major rollback of labor costs and union power, as some GOP lawmakers in Virginia and Congress have advocated.

“Basically what we’re finding is both wages and benefits [at Metro] are average for the transit industry,” said WSP consultant Roy Kienitz, who conducted the study for the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

Kienitz presented the results Wednesday evening at a public committee meeting of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission in Arlington.

[Lawmakers suggest Metro unions derailing efforts for internal cost-cutting.]

The WSP study found Metro was more generous than other transit systems in a few respects. Unlike most systems, Metro credits overtime pay in calculating pension benefits. Also, the average Metro union employee contributes just 3.1 percent of salary to their pension, compared with an average of 7.1 percent for U.S. public employees.

But Metro was squarely in the mainstream by numerous other measures:

●The average Metro employee earns 106 percent of the amount needed for one adult and one child to attain “a modest yet adequate standard of living” in the D.C. region — equal to the average for eight other major transit systems.

●Average retirement benefits at Metro are 56 percent of final salary, compared with 60 percent for 20 selected local governments.

●Metro’s pensions are 77 percent funded, which is the average for the nation’s 100 largest public pension funds.

Some previous studies have also found that Metro’s pay levels were generally in line with industry norms. But critics have said it was necessary nonetheless to strengthen management’s hand in bargaining with unions over pay and operating procedures.

[Metro GM proposes ‘new business model’ and $500 million a year in extra funding to save D.C.-area transit agency.]

At the Wednesday meeting, Virginia Del. James M. LeMunyon (R-Fairfax) pressed Kienitz to explain why Federal Transit Administration data show Metro’s rail operating cost is 62 cents per passenger mile, compared with 32 cents in San Francisco and 39 cents in Chicago.

Kienitz said the higher costs were attributable to higher maintenance expenses at Metro, and because Metro keeps trains in service for more hours each week relative to its ridership. He also noted Metro pays more than other systems for riders’ comfort, offering “big wide cars and nice, comfy seats.”
After the meeting, LeMunyon questioned that those factors alone could explain such a large cost difference.

“I have a hard time buying that,” he said.

Metro has said it needs at least $500 million a year in additional funds, starting mid-2018, for new equipment and maintenance to restore it to a state of good repair.He also told the transportation commission meeting the Virginia legislature would need to see a much more detailed plan for a Metro turnaround before it agreed to give the system additional funds.

“If you want them [legislators] to invest in something, they want to know what they’re investing in,” LeMunyon said.

In a related development, Loudoun Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) presented a four-page document urging changes in Metro’s collective bargaining agreement with its largest union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, to save money and improve efficiency.

The proposal included calls to allow Metro to hire more part-time employees, and allow management to fix work schedules without being subject to outside arbitration.

Tags: ATU 689DC Metro
Categories: Labor News

Statement by the Organizing Committee for the National Workers Conference to Organize the Fightback & Build a Solidarity Network (Oct 6-8, Chicago, at UAW 551 Union Hall)

Fri, 07/21/2017 - 17:46

Statement by the Organizing Committee for the National Workers Conference to Organize the Fightback & Build a Solidarity Network (Oct 6-8, Chicago, at UAW 551 Union Hall)

The Organizing Committee for the National Workers Conference to Organize the Fightback & Build a Solidarity Network calls for full support of the struggle of Chicago Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 241/308 transit workers who have been working without a contract for over 18 months. They face dangerous working conditions, retaliatory firings and are fighting for living wages and benefits in the face of an attack on all transit workers and public workers in Chicago, Illinois and the country.
The effort by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Bruce Rauner to scapegoat public workers and to destroy public services is a threat not only the workers and services but to all our communities, youth and students. The future of all the people in Chicago and Illinois are at risk.
Our network supports your struggle and also calls for a united front of all transit workers and public workers in Illinois with communities and the public to band together to defend each other. We cannot isolate our struggle and fight alone if we are to be successful.
While these politicians claim that there is no money to provide for decent wages, benefits, pensions and services the number of billionaires and millionaires grows in Illinois and throughout the country. Working people in Chicago, Illinois and the US should not bear the cost of this crisis.
We support the actions of ATU 241 and ATU 308 in their just and righteous fight for not only themselves but all of us. We call on unions and allied organizations to pass a form of the resolution below and join any support rallies with your banners and your organizations. Also join us on October 6,7&8 at United Auto, Aerospace, Agricultural Implement Workers (UAW) 551 in Chicago for a national workers conference.

An Injury To One Is An Injury To All
National Workers Conference to Organize the Fightback & Build a Solidarity Network
https://www.facebook.com/ events/371406356586798/

Whereas,
The 20,000 public transportation working and retiree families of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and PACE suburban buses have been working without a new contract for over eighteen months, and,
Whereas,
On July 6, 2017, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 308 held a pre-strike authorization vote where over 97% and over 900 workers voted in favor. They held a press conference a few days later to let the public know they may need to stop public transit service because the city negotiators are demanding massive take-aways knowing workers can not accept, and,
Whereas,
About 7,000 transit workers safely move 1.5 million people every day in Chicago. Almost every worker is a leader of a family and a leader in our communities. However, transit workers, like other members of the working class, are under constant attack by the city administration and their appointed managers. Workers are disrespected, harassed and forced into extremely dangerous working conditions.
Transit workers face a lack of respect for the complex, dangerous and important work they do. They face massive surveillance of their work alongside punitive and excessive discipline policies. They face dangerous sleeping and work schedules which is very dangerous to the riding public. Work speed-ups are causing repetitive stress injuries and the appointed managers attempt to criminalize workers who try to take time off work to heal or help their families. Misdirected violence from the legitimate anger of passengers is a constant concern, and,

Whereas,

The arrogant city, state and national government of the super wealthy believe that they have transit workers in a legal straight-jacket. They have written unjust laws in an attempt to scare workers away from using their human right to collectively withhold their labor, and,

Whereas,

Workers around the United States and around the world are under attack and are searching for ways to effectively fight back and win. The public transit workers of Chicago urgently need to know that they are not alone. Should they decide to stop the buses and trains, the transit workers need to know that major sections of the international working class would rise to support them.

Therefore, be it resolved

[labor union, organization, undersigned individuals or simply your individual name] hereby publicly state: “We support the transit workers of Chicago in their fight for dignified working conditions. Their fight is our fight!”

Therefore, be it further resolved,

[labor union, organization, undersigned individuals or simply your individual name] hereby resolve to take the following immediate practical steps to support transit workers.

1. Distribute and make this resolution immediately public though all means available (social media, newsletter websites, etc.).
2. Encourage affiliated unions, groups and allies to make similar resolutions. (forwarding this resolution electronically, etc.)
3. Send copies of this resolution to Amalgamated Transit Union international office and also to Chicago locals 241 and 308. [Include names and contact information of contact persons for direct collaboration.]
-ATU international, address, phone, email
-308...address, phone, email
-241...address, phone, email

Therefore, be it finally resolved,

Should transit workers be forced to strike or take other direct collective action, [labor union, organization, undersigned individuals or simply your individual name] shall take at least the following immediate actions:

1. Build and participate in solidarity organizations helping the transit workers to win.

2. If in the Chicago area, join the mass demonstrations, rallies and picket lines led by the transit workers. If in the United States, arrange for bus or other transportation to attend and participate in the actions. If outside of the United States, distribute the literature of the unions and other allied organizations internationally to build international support for the workers.

Tags: ATU 308solidarityChicago Transit
Categories: Labor News

Chicago ATU 308 Kenneth Franklin of the CTA on Chicago Radio About Contract Fight, Union Busting And Health And Safety

Fri, 07/21/2017 - 08:56

Chicago ATU 308 Kenneth Franklin of the CTA on Chicago Radio About Contract Fight, Union Busting And Health And Safety
https://soundcloud.com/chicagosprogressivetalk/kenneth-franklin-of-the-c...
Chicago ATU 308 Kenneth Franklin talks about the union busting attack and privatization by Mayor Ralm Emanuel. UAW 551 Vice President Scott Houldierson called in to support the transit workers in their fight for a contract.

Tags: ATU 308Ralm EmanuelsolidarityUAW 551privatization
Categories: Labor News

Southwest Airlines Bullies, Abuses and Fires Too Many People, TWU 555 Labor Union Leader Says

Fri, 07/21/2017 - 08:55

Southwest Airlines Bullies, Abuses and Fires Too Many People, TWU 555 Labor Union Leader Says
https://www.thestreet.com/story/14238377/1/transport-workers-union-leade...
Ted Reed Follow Jul 21, 2017 9:55 AM EDT

The president of the Transport Workers Union, the largest labor union at Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV) has written a scathing letter that condemns "intolerable and cancerous" working conditions for the carrier's groundworkers and decries mistreatment including 2,700 disciplinary actions and 468 terminations since January 2015.

"Groundworkers are flagrantly mistreated and abused by management," wrote John Samuelsen, president of the New York-based union that represents 12,000 Southwest groundworkers as well as 15,000 flight attendants. The letter refers to the ground workers, members of TWU Local 555.

In 2017, Samuelsen said, "Southwest is writing up nearly three workers per day and firing one worker every other day."

"The outright hostility to the workforce has obliterated morale, which can only have a negative impact on the passenger experience," he wrote. "The TWU finds it hard to believe that Southwest finds this to be an ideal business model."

The letter, sent late Wednesday, was signed by Samuelsen, Local 555 President Greg Puriski and 13 other TWU leaders. They said they are available to meet with airline executives as soon as possible.

In morning trading, Southwest shares were down 0.51%.

Russell McCrady, Southwest's vice president of labor relations, said the carrier is committed to "efforts to maintain strong, constructive relationships with our employees' representational groups including TWU 555.

"Discipline is a necessary part of business but any discipline we administer is far from 'arbitrary,'" McCrady said in a prepared statement. "We do not take for granted that Southwest continues to be named a best place to work and best employer by national publications and we are very proud that our employee culture is the foundation for these designations."

McCrady said Southwest will respond to Samuelsen's letter and welcomes the opportunity to meet.

Southwest employs about 54,000 workers including about 7,200 hired in both 2016 and 2015, said spokeswoman Beth Hardin. She said the number of terminations over three years is not atypical for the number of workers involved.

Local 555 signed a five-year contract in 2016. In an interview, Samuelsen said the letter is not related to contract negotiations but rather represents an effort "to fight Southwest on working conditions that are now entrenched on the property, on an antiquated labor relations model designed to drive production {that} drives morale down across Southwest properties."

TWU has about 200,000 members, including 42,000 in Local 100, which represents New York City bus and subway workers. Samuelsen headed Local 100 until he took over the TWU presidency in May.

"I'm a new president, taking note of a situation at Southwest where people are being fired and unfairly disciplined," he said. "I found that to be intolerable."

Tags: Bullyingworker rightsunion busting
Categories: Labor News

Southwest Airlines Fires And Bullies Too Many People, TWU 555 Labor Union Leader Says

Fri, 07/21/2017 - 08:17

Southwest Airlines Fires And Bullies Too Many People, TWU 555 Labor Union Leader Says
"Southwest is writing up nearly three workers per day and firing one worker every other day.”
"intolerable and cancerous" working conditions for the carrier's groundworkers and decries mistreatment including 2,700 disciplinary actions and 468 terminations since January 2015.
https://www.thestreet.com/story/14238377/1/transport-workers-union-leade...
Ted Reed Follow Jul 21, 2017 9:55 AM EDT

The president of the Transport Workers Union, the largest labor union at Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV) has written a scathing letter that condemns "intolerable and cancerous" working conditions for the carrier's groundworkers and decries mistreatment including 2,700 disciplinary actions and 468 terminations since January 2015.

"Groundworkers are flagrantly mistreated and abused by management," wrote John Samuelsen, president of the New York-based union that represents 12,000 Southwest groundworkers as well as 15,000 flight attendants. The letter refers to the ground workers, members of TWU Local 555.

In 2017, Samuelsen said, "Southwest is writing up nearly three workers per day and firing one worker every other day."

"The outright hostility to the workforce has obliterated morale, which can only have a negative impact on the passenger experience," he wrote. "The TWU finds it hard to believe that Southwest finds this to be an ideal business model."

The letter, sent late Wednesday, was signed by Samuelsen, Local 555 President Greg Puriski and 13 other TWU leaders. They said they are available to meet with airline executives as soon as possible.

In morning trading, Southwest shares were down 0.51%.

Russell McCrady, Southwest's vice president of labor relations, said the carrier is committed to "efforts to maintain strong, constructive relationships with our employees' representational groups including TWU 555.

"Discipline is a necessary part of business but any discipline we administer is far from 'arbitrary,'" McCrady said in a prepared statement. "We do not take for granted that Southwest continues to be named a best place to work and best employer by national publications and we are very proud that our employee culture is the foundation for these designations."

McCrady said Southwest will respond to Samuelsen's letter and welcomes the opportunity to meet.

Southwest employs about 54,000 workers including about 7,200 hired in both 2016 and 2015, said spokeswoman Beth Hardin. She said the number of terminations over three years is not atypical for the number of workers involved.

Local 555 signed a five-year contract in 2016. In an interview, Samuelsen said the letter is not related to contract negotiations but rather represents an effort "to fight Southwest on working conditions that are now entrenched on the property, on an antiquated labor relations model designed to drive production {that} drives morale down across Southwest properties."

TWU has about 200,000 members, including 42,000 in Local 100, which represents New York City bus and subway workers. Samuelsen headed Local 100 until he took over the TWU presidency in May.

"I'm a new president, taking note of a situation at Southwest where people are being fired and unfairly disciplined," he said. "I found that to be intolerable."

Tags: Bullyingretaliationharassmenthealth and safety
Categories: Labor News

ILWU Dockworkers squeezed by automation, abandoned by politicians

Thu, 07/20/2017 - 20:27

ILWU Dockworkers squeezed by automation, abandoned by politicians
http://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Dockworkers-squeezed-by-automati...
By Jack Heyman

July 20, 2017 Updated: July 20, 2017 4:21pm

The ink wasn’t even dry on the West Coast longshore contract when the head of the employers’ group, the Pacific Maritime Association, proposed to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union a three-year extension, making it an eight-year contract. While the number of registered longshore jobs, 14,000, is the about same as in 1952, the volume of cargo passing through the 29 ports has increased 14 times to a record-breaking 350 million revenue tons a year.

Under the current contract, employers have eliminated hundreds of longshore jobs through automation on marine terminals such as the fully automated Long Beach Container Terminal and the semi-automated TraPac freight-forwarding facility in the Port of Los Angeles.

“By the end of an extended contract in 2022, several thousand longshore jobs will be eliminated on an annual basis due to automation,” warned Ed Ferris, president of ILWU Local 10 in San Francisco. With driverless trucks and crane operators in control towers running three cranes simultaneously, the chance of serious and deadly accidents are enormous.

Now maritime employers are pulling out all stops to push through this job-killing contract extension, using both Democratic and Republican politicians, high-powered PR firms and even some union officials.

On July 18, The Chronicle published an Open Forum by Democrats Mickey Kantor, former U.S. secretary of commerce who led the U.S. negotiations to create the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement, which cost millions of jobs, and Norman Mineta, also a former secretary of commerce.

The authors of this pro-employer piece talk of preserving “labor peace” and refer to West Coast port shutdowns over the last 15 years. Yes, there is a class war on the waterfront, but it’s being waged by the employers: Those port closures were caused by employer lockouts in 2002, 2013 and 2014 during longshore contract negotiations.

The 2002 lockout was ended after Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called on President George W. Bush to invoke the antilabor Taft-Hartley Act — not against the maritime employers’ lockout but against the longshore union. The only time the ILWU shut down Pacific Coast ports between 2002 and today was May Day, 2008, in protest of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — the first-ever labor strike in the United States to protest a war.

In their Chronicle commentary, the two Democrats cite figures for wages and pensions that reflect only the highest skill level after a lifetime of work in one of the most dangerous industries. And then they threaten that “if the contract proposal is rejected,” it could lead Republicans and Democrats alike to impose antistrike legislation on the waterfront.

The ILWU backed Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary and then Hillary Clinton in the election. Yet no matter who leads it, the Democratic Party represents Wall Street on the waterfront. Clearly what’s needed is a workers’ party to fight for workers’ interests. And that includes fighting for nationalization without compensation of the transport industry while establishing workers’ control.

The so-called “friends of labor” Democrats have been enlisted by the Pacific Maritime Association because earlier this year at the Longshore Caucus, a union meeting representing West Coast dockworkers, the San Francisco delegates voted unanimously to oppose a contract extension. Saturday, they held a conference at their union hall on automation and the proposed contract extension. One proposal was to make automation benefit dockworkers by reducing the workweek to 30 hours while maintaining 40 hours pay, creating another work shift.

There are tens of millions of unemployed people in this country. The labor movement should launch a new campaign for a shorter workweek at no loss in pay as part of a struggle for full employment to benefit all, not President Trump and his Wall Street cronies. In resisting this contract extension, ILWU waterfront workers can stand up for all workers.

Jack Heyman, a retired Oakland longshoreman, chairs the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee. https://www.transportworkers.org/

The ILWU, Automation, Longshore Workers & The 8 Year Contract With Jack Heyman
https://youtu.be/WHjq-MNnr5s
Jack Heyman a retired ILWU Local 10 member and chair of the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee spoke at a conference on Longshore Work, Automation, Technology and the Future of Our Work and Lives. The conference took place on July 15, 2017 at ILWU Local 10 in San Francisco.
For additional media:
http://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Dockworkers-squeezed-by-automati...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGTcJXCDjq0
https://youtu.be/FNbvWfS1HYs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LbMYXeRElM&feature=
https://youtu.be/SNcU37rL2Ng
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGTcJXCDjq0
https://raquelcardeiravarela.wordpress.com/2017/07/20/automation-in-port...
https://raquelcardeiravarela.files.wordpress.com/2017/07/studyautomation...
Production of Labor Video Project
www.laborvideo.org

Tags: ILWU Local 10Automationtechnology8 year contractpoliticians
Categories: Labor News

Labor, Dockers, Technology, Internationalism & Imperialism with Professor Rachel Varela

Thu, 07/20/2017 - 14:49

Labor, Dockers, Technology, Internationalism & Imperialism with Professor Rachel Varela
https://youtu.be/SNcU37rL2Ng
Rachel Varela who is a history professor and researcher at IISH, UFF, UNL, discusses the attacks on dockers, shipyard workers, technology and imperialism on 7/17/17 in San Francisco.
For more information:
AUTOMATION IN PORTS AND LABOUR RELATIONS IN XXI CENTURY-Raquel Varela International Dock Workers Council Miami Meeting SEP 2016
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGTcJXCDjq0
For more information
AUTOMATION IN PORTS AND LABOUR RELATIONS IN XXI CENTURY
https://raquelcardeiravarela.wordpress.com/2017/07/20/automation-in-port...
Posted on July 20, 2017
By Raquel Varela, labour historian IISH, UFF, UNL) , Henrique Silveira, mathematician (IST)
robertngregg@yahoo.comholdfam@comcast.netbobirm@sbcglobal.netleithkahl@gmail.comsasha@greens.org
Abstract. In this part of the work we analyse mathematically the costs and benefits of automation in ports. In particular we analyse automation in cranes and its implications to labour, unemployment, and net financial benefits and losses for the operators. We studied the concept of eficiency viewed by operators and by port clients. We concluded that automation is in general not profitable for the operators. We discussed briefly the losses for the public of the automation process, measured in net loss of taxes collected by the states and by unemployment subsidies conceded to discharged dockers. Finally we discussed the losses in GNP generated by the processes of automation. This is a general study using averages to generate general results applicable to almost all cases, we had to make general simplifying assumptions always trying to minimize possible errors. Particular studies can be rendered with actual data
from each local port and social and legislative data for each particular country.
In the second part of this work in the first section we relate the analysis of precarious work to the state, in particular, as a direct participant functioning as both employer and mediator. In the second section we present a short overview of the evolution of casualization in the context of employment and unemployment in contemporary Portugal (1974-2014). In the third section we discuss state policies on labour relations, particularly in the context of the welfare state. Finally, we compare this present analysis with Swedish research done from the perspective of the state as a direct participant and mediator
over the past four decades.
Full study in pdf
https://raquelcardeiravarela.files.wordpress.com/2017/07/studyautomation...
Production of
Labor Video Project
www.laborvideo.org

Tags: dockersAutomationshipyard workerstechnologycapitalismimperialismsolidarity
Categories: Labor News

Raquel Varela International Dock Workers Council Miami Meeting SEP 2016

Thu, 07/20/2017 - 12:49

Raquel Varela International Dock Workers Council Miami Meeting SEP 2016
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGTcJXCDjq0
For more information
AUTOMATION IN PORTS AND LABOUR RELATIONS IN XXI CENTURY
https://raquelcardeiravarela.wordpress.com/2017/07/20/automation-in-port...

Posted on July 20, 2017

By Raquel Varela, labour historian IISH, UFF, UNL) , Henrique Silveira, mathematician (IST)

Abstract. In this part of the work we analyse mathematically the costs and
benets of automation in ports. In particular we analyse automation in cranes
and its implications to labour, unemployment, and net nancial benets and
losses for the operators. We studied the concept of eciency viewed by operators
and by port clients. We concluded that automation is in general not
protable for the operators. We discussed brie y the losses for the public of
the automation process, measured in net loss of taxes collected by the states
and by unemployment subsidies conceded to discharged dockers. Finally we
discussed the losses in GNP generated by the processes of automation. This is
a general study using averages to generate general results applicable to almost
all cases, we had to make general simplifying assumptions always trying to
minimize possible errors. Particular studies can be rened with actual data
from each local port and social and legislative data for each particular country.
In the second part of this work in the rst section we relate the analysis of
precarious work to the state, in particular, as a direct participant functioning
as both employer and mediator. In the second section we present a short
overview of the evolution of casualization in the context of employment and
unemployment in contemporary Portugal (1974-2014). In the third section we
discuss state policies on labour relations, particularly in the context of the
welfare state. Finally, we compare this present analysis with Swedish research
done from the perspective of the state as a direct participant and mediator
over the past four decades.

Full study in pdf

https://raquelcardeiravarela.files.wordpress.com/2017/07/studyautomation...

Keywords Labour Relations, automation, employmnet, unemployment,
precarity, automated crane

Tags: International Dockworkers CouncilIDCAutomationtechnology
Categories: Labor News

Why dock workers can change the world

Wed, 07/19/2017 - 08:42

Why dock workers can change the world
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1paOv1xdwQY&feature=youtu.be

Raquel Varela

Raquel Varela is a historian, researcher and university professor. Starting Grant from the Foundation for Science and Technology / New University of Lisbon / IHC and Fellow of the International Institute for Social History (Amsterdam). International visiting professor at the Fluminense Federal University, where she teaches a chair in the area of​​global history of work in the postgraduate program in History. He is a member of the NIEP. She is an international evaluator of CNPQ / Brazil. She is Vice-Coordinator of the Portuguese Network for the Study of Labour, Labour Movements and Social Movements (RE), she coordinates the labour network of the European Social Science History Conference (2012-2014 - ESSHC). In 2013 she was awarded the Santander Prize for Internationalization of Scientific Production.
Raquel Varela obtained her graduation in 2005 in ISCTE-IUL (cum laude), post graduation in FCSH-Universidade Nova de Lisboa (cum laude), and her PhD (cum laude) in Political and Institutional History at ISCTE, Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, in 2010. Previously she studied Law at the Law Faculty of Coimbra University (1997-2000).Raquel Varela publishes at a high level in the field of the history of labour relations. She is the author of 4 books, editor of 9 books (one published in German, one in English and 5 in Portuguese) and the author of 58 chapters in books, both nationally and internationally published.
She is the author of 23 articles published in peer-reviewed academic journals (independently from her PhD supervisor). Of these, 5 were published in major multidisciplinary scientific journals, including Hispania and Revista Brasileira de História. 5 of these 19 peer-reviewed articles are indexed in the ISI Thompson and in Capes A. In 2014 she was nominated national scientific coordinator of the Historical Itinerary of 25 April 1974 – National Official Celebrations.
She is a member of the editorial board of a peer-reviewed international history journal (Workers of the World. International Journal on Strikes and Social Conflicts, Campinas, Amsterdam), and referee for several international journals. In 2011 she was invited to the Board of Trustees of the ITH-International Conference of Labour and Social History, an international network of associations, research institutes and historians of labour and social movements (based in Vienna, Austria). She is the president (2 mandates 2011-2013; 2013-2015) of the academic association International Association Strikes and Social Conflicts. Her main areas of interest are global labour history, history of labour relations, and contemporary history of Portugal.
http://socialhistory.org/en/staff/raquel-varela
http://ihc.fcsh.unl.pt/pt/ihc/investigadores/item/1242-rcvarela
raquel_cardeira_varela@yahoo. co.uk

Tags: dockersglobalizationjust in time productionsolidarity
Categories: Labor News

Shills For Shipping Maritime Bosses Along With ILWU International Leadership Want ILWU Members To Support 7 Year Contract

Tue, 07/18/2017 - 09:47

Shills For Shipping Maritime Bosses Along With ILWU International Leadership Want ILWU Members To Support 7 Year Contract
http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Contract-extenstion...
Keep 29 West Coast Ports Open
Contract extension at West Coast ports would support jobs, trade
By Mickey Kantor and Norman MinetaJuly 17, 2017 Updated: July 17, 2017 4:26pm

Photo: JOSH EDELSON, JOSH EDELSON / SAN FRANCISCO CHR
IMAGE 1 OF 2Erasmo Barrera, an employee for Impact Transload and Rail, moves a pallet of beer at the Port of Oakland on Jan. 26, 2017. The port is trying to convince shipping companies arriving from Asia to first visit its ... more

Twice in the last 15 years, labor disputes between dockworkers and the maritime companies that employ them have led to severe disruptions at West Coast ports. Now these parties have an opportunity to preserve labor peace and solidify West Coast trade for the foreseeable future. Doing so would be good for workers, good for the industry and good for the millions of Americans whose jobs depend on trade.

This summer, International Longshore and Warehouse Union members from Southern California to the Pacific Northwest will vote on a proposal that would extend their current labor contract through 2022. It would raise wages, preserve virtually no-cost health care coverage and increase pensions — all at a time when unions nationwide are facing challenging headwinds.

Approving this contract would send a strong signal to retailers, manufacturers and others who rely on the ports that the West Coast intends to remain competitive, despite slipping market share in recent years. It would also reward dockworkers by raising base wages to more than $46 per hour, while preserving no-premium health insurance that features $1 prescriptions, and increase pensions to a maximum of more than $95,000 per year, according to news reports.

Among those who would breathe a sigh of relief would be West Coast agricultural growers, whose trade association reported that sales to Asian markets were down as much as 25 percent during the latest disruption in 2014-2015. Also impacted were automakers and other manufacturers, as well as retailers — large and small — across the country.

The stakes are high in markets from Washington state to Southern California. An estimated 2 in 5 Washington-state-area jobs are connected to international trade. In Southern California, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach support enormous economic activity, and are investing $6.5 billion in capital projects toward a clean and reliable future for this crucial international gateway.

The Port of Oakland is the fourth-busiest of the 29 West Coast ports, ranking behind Los Angeles, Long Beach and Tacoma.

A report by maritime economist John Martin estimates that West Coast ports support upwards of 9 million American jobs. The cargo moving through these ports has a value in the trillions of dollars, supporting a healthy chunk of U.S. Gross Domestic Product.

Strong West Coast ports are also important for the environment. California and Washington ports are leading the way to reduce harmful emissions from ships, and by updating cargo terminals with the latest in low-impact environmental technology. That means electric yard equipment, more on-dock rail and other advances toward green terminals. In this case, environmental and economic growth can go hand in hand.

Few Americans understood the huge impacts of maritime trade on the national economy before the 2002 port shutdown, in which West Coast ports were shuttered for 10 days until President George W. Bush ordered them re-opened. The subsequent disruptions during the last contract talks — which once again required federal intervention — have left some wondering if the relationship between ILWU dockworkers and their employers, represented by the Pacific Maritime Association, is permanently broken.

Given the current political climate, there are those in Washington who have considered extreme solutions that would handcuff future negotiators and transfer local decision-making to Washington, D.C.

Such proposals would no doubt gather steam if the contract proposal is rejected, likely leading to acrimonious talks again in two years. Yet by agreeing to a contract extension now, workers and their bosses can show that no such intervention is needed, and that the West Coast can continue to be a thriving and vital trade hub with a stable and reliable workforce.

It is rare to have an opportunity in which workers, industry and the U.S. economy can all so clearly be winners. This is one such opportunity. At a time of much uncertainty, passage of this contract would be a step in the right direction.

Mickey Kantor served as both U.S. trade representative and secretary of commerce. Norman Mineta, who represented San Jose in Congress for two decades, served as both secretary of commerce and secretary of transportation.

Tags: ilwuShipping BossesMaritime bosses shillsstrikesDisruption
Categories: Labor News

Longshore, Automation, Technology & The Future of Our Work & Lives By MUA Queensland Branch Secretary Bobby Carnegi

Tue, 07/18/2017 - 09:19

Longshore, Automation, Technology & The Future of Our Work & Lives By MUA Queensland Branch Secretary Bobby Carnegi
https://youtu.be/FNbvWfS1HYs
Longshore Work , Automation, Technology and the Future of Our Work and Lives was the title of an education conference held at the ILWU Local 10 in San Francisco on July 15, 2017. This presentation was made to the conference by Bobby Carnegi, MUA Queensland Branch Secretary.
The conference was sponsored by LaborTech.net, LaborFest.net, ILWU Local 10, Transport Workers Solidarity Committee TWSC.
For additional media:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LbMYXeRElM&feature=
Production of Labor Video Project
www.laborvideo.org

Tags: technologyMUALaborTech.net
Categories: Labor News

Automation and jobs in the world's docks

Tue, 07/18/2017 - 09:15

Automation and jobs in the world's docks

https://weknowwhatsup.blogspot.com/2017/07/automation-and-jobs-in-worlds...
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Automation and jobs in the world's docks

Below is a brief summary of a conference on automation that the author attended.

By Joel Schor
Member, Sailors Union of the Pacific S.U.P.
Casual working under the contract of: International Longshore and Warehouse Union ILWU- Local 10.

The unions basically had the position most of us would, that the primary issue is not whether automation will happen or not but who will control it in the workplace and beyond that, how will a fight be initiated for a shorter work day/week to create more work for all?

A speaker who came later in the day was somewhat interesting in tying the development of automation to the increase of fixed long term costs ( machinery) over variable costs (mostly labor ) in this industry as leading to the declining overall rate of profit.

The particular speaker, a professor from Lisbon Portugal who had apparently studied maritime labor relations the world over, was very focused on what she termed "the advanced core nations of the world" as opposed to the "peripheral nations". What was missing from her analysis as well as most of the union leaders who spoke from the Maritime Union of Australia and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in the West Coast of America, is the phenomena of China. Is it a "developed" country or a "developing" country?

The professor emphasized that automation only or mainly occurs in the "core" countries where wages are high and automation makes the long-term costs of expensive machinery worthwhile. Why then is the most advanced automated facility in the world in China ahead of Europe and the United States? It could be argued that wages in China are relatively high in certain key industrial sectors, but from what I understand the conditions and wages of the Chinese stevedores lags behind most of the countries where unions have been around longer.

Chinese stevedores work in excess of 12-hour shifts with no extra pay; they sleep and eat in the ports where they work. I can see that much has improved for them in having been there over a 12-year period on ships from 2002 to 2012. In that period China took on on economies of great scale and it continues to seek to capture and control markets. Chinese companies including the state subsidized shipping conglomerate Cosco spent over $20 billion last year up to June investing in and buying up European ports. (Financial Times 7-17-17)

In the last period of China's rapid export growth, that country’s share of world exports was large enough to make economies of great scale possible for their enterprises. There is much more that could be discussed about this. *

As far as the union leadership is concerned, ignoring the fact of China's rapid growth by conquering markets gives a false message to the rank and file. We had presentations from the Maritime Union of Australia talking about partially automated ports where the workforce has been cut down in container terminal operations.
Longshore, Automation, Technology & The Future of Our Work & Lives By MUA Queensland Branch Secretary Bobby Carnegi
https://youtu.be/FNbvWfS1HYs
There has also been much discussion about a port on the US West Coast in Longbeach which will be fully automated and operational in 2020.

The fact is, China is fully automated and operating now. The emphasis on ports in Europe and America where this imminent reality of full scale automation has not manifested itself as it has in China, creates a vague hope for the workers to fight against the threats to their jobs and security.The reality is much more imminent than what is being presented to them by the leadership. Perhaps the union leaders don't even know or want to know about this, or possibly they have some other plan which remains to be seen at this point.

Tags: AutomationdockssolidarityChinese dockers
Categories: Labor News

British Airways cabin crew strikers prepared for long haul

Sat, 07/15/2017 - 23:22

British Airways cabin crew strikers prepared for long haul
Mixed fleet staff have fought for better pay for six months but, despite plans for further action, the airline won’t settle
BA cabin crew demonstrate outside parliament in February.
BA cabin crew demonstrate outside parliament in February; the airline insists the action is not affecting passengers nor its bottom line. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jul/15/british-airways-cabin-c...

Gwyn Topham
Saturday 15 July 2017 11.00 EDTLast modified on Saturday 15 July 2017 17.00 EDT

The sweep of silver hair, fierce stare and rousing speech by Bolsover MP Dennis Skinner was vintage 1980s strike-era. “I’m as proud of you as I was of the miners,” he told striking British Airways cabin crew demonstrating outside parliament this week.

Most were born long after Margaret Thatcher closed down the pits, but the comparison was rapturously welcomed. If this 21st-century action, mainly organised via social media, has had little of the miners’ economic or political impact, it has already, under the radar, become a six-month-long standoff.

BA insists the action is not affecting its customers, or its bottom line unduly, even as thousands of its youngest, newest recruits angrily walk out.

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A two-week strike comes to an end on Sunday; a further fortnight of strikes has been called from Wednesday. It encompasses a significant minority of BA’s cabin crew: the “mixed fleet”, around one-third of the airline’s 16,500 crew, operating both short-haul and long-haul flights.

All new recruits join the flexible mixed fleet, set up in 2011 during the last bitter BA industrial dispute, and have poorer terms and conditions than other crew. Around 3,100 have joined Unite and voted to strike, concluding that pay on the “flexible” fleet doesn’t represent a living wage.

Pay was the trigger for the dispute: basic salary starts at £12,100, although BA said an independent audit showed full-time crew earned at least £21,000 with add-ons. The union says £16,000-17,000 is a typical figure, and crew at the Westminster rally agree: one, now a customer service manager earning £27,000, says they had worked for five years before promotion “and every P60 says I’ve earned under £20k”.

Long-haul stopovers have lost their allure for many, with allowances that do not cover the cost of the cheapest meal in most airport hotels abroad where staff stay – even before the value of the pound tumbled. “We take Pot Noodle in our luggage because food costs so much,” says Suzie, a striking crew member.

Unite reps say second jobs for supposedly full-time crew are not uncommon. Alex, a purser with three years’ service at BA, moonlights in hospitality on her days off. “They should be rest days after long flights, acclimatising to UK time. Instead, I work for £10 an hour in central London, serving drinks, on a zero-hours contract. When I joined BA I thought it would be different.” She was recently turned down for a small bank loan. “They said my payslips don’t show the figures BA tells people we earn.” Allowances, incentives and bonuses over basic pay count for little when applying for a mortgage, crew say.

People say, why don’t you quit and get a better-paid job? But I love the job. I just want a living wage
Alex, BA purser
While a pay deal of 7% over three years has been agreed in principle, crew have refused to accept sanctions against those involved in earlier walkouts: the withdrawal of bonuses and travel perks. That has been exacerbated by £250 rewards dangled before those who now come to work: paid for from bonuses stripped from strikers, as internal emails to staff show.

Labour has backed the strikers: an early-day motion tabled by Lisa Nandy MPnotes that group chief executive Willie Walsh is paid 533 times the starting basic pay of a mixed fleet crew member. Nandy says: “MPs from all parties have been shocked to hear from young women in particular, struggling on poverty wages at the national carrier, having to take out payday loans to survive. This is not an acceptable face of British business.”

She adds: “BA could resolve this simply and easily if it stopped spending time and energy on trying to break the strike and instead spent it on its own staff.”

Wet-leasing, or hiring aircraft and crew from elsewhere, has allowed BA to operate 99.5% of its flights during the recent action. Nine Qatar Airways planes, otherwise grounded by sanctions brought by neighbouring countries in the Gulf, have been flying a chunk of BA’s short-haul schedule.

The airline refuses to discuss costs, instead focusing on what it says is the most important thing: that every passenger will get to their destination during the strikes. Walsh, who has faced down strikes at numerous airlines, said earlier this year that the strike was having “no impact at all”, although he conceded that BA’s costs might run to a few million pounds. He said there are no shortage of recruits; BA puts the number of job applications at 17,000 this year.

British Airways cabin crew to stage six-day walkout in pay dispute
Read more
Compared to the damage recently caused by one technician accidentally pulling the power in BA’s computer nerve centre, which led to widespread cancellations and headline news, the strike is having relatively little immediate impact. But City analysts have expressed concern about the reputational damage.

BA insists that customer service has been unaffected, yet internal emails from managers admit that flights have operated with fewer crew than usual. Some customers who did find themselves on Qatar’s planes have enthused about the apparent upgrade: more comfortable cabins and the return of complimentary refreshments recently axed by BA.

For now, there’s little prospect of an immediate resolution to the dispute: no talks are likely, and those who have gone on strike for better pay have been infuriated by BA’s financial recriminations. Among the crew, Alex’s feeling is commonly echoed: “People say, why don’t you quit and get a better-paid job? But I love the job. I just want a living wage.”

Tags: BA Cabin Workers StrikeUNITE UnionUK BA
Categories: Labor News

7/15 ILWU Local 10 "Longshore Contract, Automation, Technology and the Future of Our Work and Lives"

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 08:46

7/15 ILWU Local 10 "Longshore Contract, Automation, Technology and the Future of Our Work and Lives"

24th Annual LaborFest 2017
The Future is in Our Hands
This year marks the 83rd anniversary of the San Francisco General Strike and West Coast Maritime Strike. The General Strike was not only a victory for the ILWU longshoreman but also for hundreds of thousands of workers who joined unions from hotel workers and clerical workers to public workers. (Labor Fest)
www.laborfest.net

Longshore Contract, Automation, Technology and the Future of Our Work and Lives
July 15 @ 10:00 am - 4:00 pm Henry Schmidt Room, ILWU Local 10
400 Northpoint St.
San Fancisco

Longshore Contract, Automation, Technology and the Future of Our Work and Lives – Conference

The drive to automate the docks and the maritime industry is moving forward rapidly and, in some European ports, the transfer of cargo has been automated forcing thousands of longshore workers out of the industry. The capitalists are also already working on designing automated ships with almost no crews to cut their labor costs and increase their profits. This educational conference will look at the history of containerization in the past and what longshore workers face today and in the future to defend labor union and worker rights.

Initial Speakers:

Ed Ferris: President of ILWU Local 10
Bob Carnegie: Maritime Union of Australia Queensland Branch Secretary
Raquel Varela: Instituto de História Contemporânea
Honorary Fellow IISH (Amsterdam), Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Study Group on Labor and Social Conflicts
Ken Riley: President of Charleston ILA 1422 and International Dockworkers Council, North American Representative

Jack Heyman: ILWU Local 10 pensioner

Sponsored by LaborTech.net, ILWU Local 10, LaborFest, TWSC

Tags: longshorelabortechAutomationAI
Categories: Labor News

Letter To NYC TWU 100 For National March On Washington For Healthcare

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 08:43

Letter To TWU 100 For National March On Washington For Healthcare
https://campaignforamarchonwashington.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/why-union...
CAMPAIGN FOR A MARCH ON WASHINGTON
ABOUT

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Why Unions Must Take the Lead and Call a March on Washington to Defend Healthcare – An Open Letter to John Samuelsen, TWU International and Local 100 President
june 15, 2017 by campaignforamarchonwashington
The following letter from TWU Local 100 members was sent to TWU International and Local 100 President John Samuelsen on May 30, 2017. For more information, and to add your name to the list of signatories, write to: campaign4amarchonwashington@gmail.com.
To:
John Samuelsen
Transport Workers Union
International and Local 100 President
May 30, 2017
President Samuelsen:
We are writing to urge you to use your position as TWU Local 100 president and as the TWU’s recently elected International president, to support the call for this country’s unions to take the lead in mobilizing a March on Washington to defend healthcare.
President Trump and the Republicans in Congress are using divide-and-conquer tactics, launching one attack after another on the rights and living standards of working-class and poor people.
First they targeted Muslims, immigrants, and Blacks and Latinos with their “Muslim travel ban,” mass deportations, and end to federal oversight of local police departments found responsible for egregious and systematic racism.
Now they are targeting healthcare, pushing for reforms that will have devastating consequences for tens of millions.
And tomorrow they promise to deal a catastrophic blow to the labor movement, including TWU Local 100, by making anti-union “right-to-work” statutes the law of the land. These statutes, of course, are more accurately referred to as “right-to-scab” laws because they deny unions the right to win the requirement that all workers in an enterprise be represented by a union and have union fees collected from them.
Trump has repeatedly declared his commitment to this union-busting attack and Vice President Pence has brought prominent Republicans to the White House to discuss how to win this battle. Trump has already secured an anti-union majority on the Supreme Court and now right-wing billionaires like the oil industry’s Koch brothers and Walmart-owning Walton family are competing to bring right-to-work cases targeting public sector unions before it. Meanwhile Republicans in Congress have already introduced House Resolution 785 that would apply “right-to-work” nationwide in the private sector.[1] The consequences of these “right-to-work” attacks could be so devastating that prominent figures in the labor movement are referring to it as a potentially “extinction-level-event” for unions in this country.[2]
All these attacks are deeply connected.
Trump and the Republicans’ plan to overturn “Obamacare,” combined with their proposed budget, will:
leave an estimated 23 million people without health insurance over the next ten years;[3]
cut $1.4 trillion in funding from Medicaid;[4]
remove many of the forms of care, such as maternity care, that insurers are currently required to include in their plans as “essential coverage;”
allow states to opt out of covering pre-existing conditions and charge more to people they claim have adverse health histories
defund Planned Parenthood, which is many women’s only health care provider;
allow insurers to increase the prices of their plans; and
it will do all this so that the rich can be gifted massive tax cuts.[5]
Waiting until the next elections with the hope of voting for candidates who promise to undo this damage means accepting the suffering and death of untold numbers of working-class and poor people. Mobilizing now to defeat these outrageous attacks is a matter of life and death.
At “town hall” meetings across the country, thousands have vented their outrage at Trump and the Republicans’ plans. No matter how inspiring they have been, however, it’s clear that such scattered protests will not be enough to stop this attack. The White House’s first attempt to pass its healthcare legislation only failed because some Republicans insisted on even more draconian attacks! So the time is now, while the Senate is considering their latest legislation, to take the protests to another level. And our unions are the only mass organizations to which working-class people can turn to make that happen.
If this country’s unions announced a March on Washington to defend healthcare and then seriously organized for it, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, could be expected to rally in support. That could that deal a massive blow to Trump and the Republicans’ plans. It could create momentum to win the long-standing demand of the TWU and most other unions – quality government-provided healthcare for all, as well as embolden the struggle against Trump’s racist attacks. And it could win widespread public support for our unions – support that we will need if we are to have any hope of defeating the coming “right-to-work” attacks.
In TWU Local 100, morning- and evening-shift meetings of the Track Workers’ Division have already voted unanimously in favor of motions for you and Local 100’s Executive Board to urge all this country’s unions and union federations to call such a March on Washington, so the Division’s officers can be expected to bring it before the Executive Board for a vote at its next meeting. Meetings of the Train Operators’ Department similarly declared unanimous support for taking the idea up, with more Department meetings to come. But why wait?
President Samuelsen, you have just become president of the TWU International and so you are perfectly placed to take this initiative forward by publicly calling on all unions, union federations and councils – as well as organizations dedicated to the rights of women, Blacks and Latinos, immigrants and other oppressed people – to join and build a March on Washington to defend healthcare.
We hope you will do the right thing by advancing this call and look forward to receiving your response.
Jonathan Beatrice, NYCT​ ​Conductor,​ ​Shop​ ​Steward​ ​TWU​ ​Local​ ​100,​ ​Democratic​ ​Socialist​s ​of​ ​America*
John Ferretti, NYCT Conductor, Shop Steward TWU Local 100, Revolutionary Transit Worker newsletter
Jason Hicks, NYCT Track Worker, TWU Local 100 member, Democratic Socialists of America*
Eric Josephson, Retired NYCT Track Worker, TWU Local 100 member, League for the Revolutionary Party
Eric Loegel, NYCT Train Operator, Shop Steward TWU Local 100
Seth Rosenberg, NYCT Train Operator, TWU Local 100 member, Revolutionary Transit Worker newsletter
* Organization listed for identification purposes only
NOTES

1. Michael Paarlberg, With all eyes on Trump, Republicans are planning to break unions for good,” The Guardian, February 2, 2017; Walker’s Wisconsin could be a model for Trump on unions, Chicago Tribune, February 6, 2017.
2. Harold Meyerson, Donald Trump can kill the American union, Washington Post, November 23, 2016.
3. Rob Pear, G.O.P. Health Bill Would Leave 23 Million More Uninsured in a Decade, C.B.O. Says, New York Times, May 24, 2017.
4. Niv Elis, Trump releases budget that slashes government programs, The Hill, May 23, 2017, .
5. Sullivan, What the GOP’s plan to kill essential health benefits means, The Hill, March 23, 2017;
Sarah Kliff, The American Health Care Act: the Obamacare repeal bill the House just passed, explained, The Hill, May 4, 2017; Josh Barro, This chart shows why the GOP health plan will make health insurance more expensive, Business Insider, March 16, 2017; and Michael Hiltzik, All the horrific details of the GOP’s new Obamacare repeal bill: A handy guide, Los Angeles Times, May 4, 2017.

Tags: healthcareTWU 100solidarity march
Categories: Labor News

Should Uber be shut down? Harvard business professor says the real problem in the tech industry is a "contagious" culture of lawbreaking that society shouldn't tolerate

Tue, 07/11/2017 - 17:44

Should Uber be shut down?
Harvard business professor says the real problem in the tech industry is a "contagious" culture of lawbreaking that society shouldn't tolerate
http://48hills.org/2017/07/06/should-uber-be-shut-down/
BY TIM REDMOND - JULY 6, 2017
Everyone’s talking about Uber’s latest problems with management style, sexual harassment, company culture … and CEO Travis Kalanick, who embodied all of that, has been forced out.

Big investors hope Kalanick’s resignation and a deep internal investigation will help position the company for an IPO. They want Uber to go public pretty soon, and all of these scandals are tamping down the stock price.

Uber driver blocks the bike lane on Valencia — but who cares? The company was founded on a spirit of lawbreaking
But there’s another interesting perspective on Uber (and Lyft, and some of the other tech disrupters) that has appeared not in The Nation, or Mother Jones, or 48hills but in the Harvard Business Review, the voice of the eminently establishment Harvard Business School.

Harvard Associate Professor Benjamin Edelman presents what sounds like a radical hypothesis, but it actually makes perfect sense. He says that Uber can’t be fixed, that the corporate culture was poisoned from the start – and that the only solution is for regulators to shut it down.

The company’s cultural dysfunction, it seems to me, stems from the very nature of the company’s competitive advantage: Uber’s business model is predicated on lawbreaking. And having grown through intentional illegality, Uber can’t easily pivot toward following the rules.

His analysis also applies to Lyft – and to Airbnb. These companies, he argues, are the equivalent of Napster – they’ve developed a useful new application of technology, but in the process violated a long list of existing laws. Now that the tech is out there, society needs to say: No, you can’t do this.

The end of Napster, which at this point most people agree was a rogue operation, didn’t mean the end of shared online music – we have itunes, and Spotify, and Pandora. The customer still gets the advantages – but the musicians get their royalties and the system that we have carefully evolved to protect the rights of artists hasn’t been completely destroyed.

Let me talk for a second about Napster.

Wow, that was cool: Just sign up and you’ll never pay for music again. The entire entertainment industry was torn up, which is what so many tech types want. Disruption.

And some good friends of mine, who were in bands that were what writers call “mid-list” – that is, not Kendrick Lamar or Bruce Springsteen, but popular enough that they could make a modest living selling records – were totally screwed.

Suddenly, record companies weren’t paying advances any more for mid-list bands to go into the studio and record (which takes time and money). Suddenly, unless you were a superstar who could sell out huge stadiums for live shows, you were out of luck. Suddenly, you couldn’t make new music anymore.

Yeah, startups got rich, and the already rich did fine – but ordinary working musicians saw a threat to their livelihoods. That has been the model for the tech industry: Disrupt and make quick cash for a few (already rich) investors and the lucky folks who found a cool app – but destroy the lives of tens of thousands of working people who had a decent middle-class life.

Napster was shut down; the entertainment industry has a lot of clout. The cab drivers of the world don’t.

Uber, Edelman notes, wasn’t the first to come up with the idea of offering rides through a smartphone app in private cars. That was Lyft. And Kalanick, who was doing a limo service at the time, was among the first to note that it was utterly illegal:

In a remarkable April 2013 posting, Kalanick all but admitted that casual drivers were unlawful, calling Lyft’s approach “quite aggressive” and “nonlicensed.” (After I first flagged his posting, in 2015, Uber removed the document from its site. But Archive.org kept a copy. I also preserved a screenshot of the first screen of the document, a PDF of the full document, and a print-friendly PDF of the full document.) And in oral remarks at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in June 2013, Kalanick said every Lyft trip with a casual driver was “a criminal misdemeanor,” citing the lack of commercial licenses and commercial insurance.

More:

Given Kalanick’s statements, you might imagine that Uber would have filed a lawsuit or regulatory complaint, seeking to stop unfair competition from a firm whose advantage came from breaking the law. Instead, Uber adopted and extended Lyft’s approach. Others learned and followed: Knowing that Uber would use unlicensed vehicles, competitors did so too, lest they be left behind. In normalizing violations, therefore, Uber has shifted the entire urban transport business and set an example for other sectors.

No help from City Hall

When Uber and Lyft starting violating San Francisco’s law by running illegal taxis, I met with Chris Hayashi, who was the head of the city’s taxi commission. We sat in her office and she showed me a pink Lyft mustache that she’d bought online. Anyone could buy one, she said; anyone – including criminal predators – could pretend to be a cab driver.

There were reasons that the city had regulations about who could drive a taxi. Uber and Lyft were breaking those rules every single day, with impunity.

In an interview with the Examiner after she left her job, she noted:

Here I am, trying to steer the Titanic and someone hits me over the head with a baseball bat, is pretty much what the TNC issue is like,” Hayashi said. “We were about to clear, and all of a sudden here comes billions of dollars of venture capital for people who are willing to break every law in the book.”

She had no support in the Mayor’s Office, where Gavin Newsom and then Ed Lee were all about supporting tech innovations, no matter who got hurt.

I called Edelman, who has both a law degree and a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard, last week and we talked for about half an hour. He told me that the most common tech-industry response to his arguments is that the laws these companies are breaking were bad laws anyway, and that consumers were better off with Uber and Airbnb.

“But a lot of laws weren’t written just to protect buyers and sellers, but to protect third parties,” he said. Car-safety and pollution regulations aren’t just in place because they’re more convenient for drivers, many of whom would never voluntarily pay for them.

“Suppose you go into a parking lot and there are six handicap spots, and nobody is using them, and you are only going to be there for five minutes,” he said. “As an individual, you might say it’s dumb for all those parking spaces to not be available to you. But you still can’t park there.

“There might be conditions – a perfect, flat highway – where it would be safe for me to drive 95, but I still can’t.”

Edelman has been researching hotel fires from the 1940s, when large fatalities weren’t uncommon. “There are reasons that we put in place laws to protect strangers,” he said. “There are reasons hotels have extra exits, sprinklers, bedding that’s more fire resistant. Those rules are basically wise. And Airbnb would prefer to get rid of them.”

Nobody, Edelman says, “wants to pay extra for safety precautions. But if your taxi service doesn’t include a surcharge for wheelchair cabs, then there aren’t going to be any wheelchair cabs.”

A climate of lawbreaking

Edelman argues that allowing one or two companies to break that law is “contagious.” Which is exactly what’s happened in San Francisco.

In the past few years, under Mayor Lee, we have had a climate of consistent, repeated lawbreaking on a level that’s hard to imagine – and was almost never reported in the mainstream news media.

Landlords violated zoning laws to replace industrial jobs with tech offices – with impunity. Airbnb convinced more than 6,000 people in San Francisco to violate the short-term rental laws, every single day – and nobody did anything about it.

Tech companies on the Peninsula chartered private buses that parked in public Muni stops, where ordinary mortals would get a $275 ticket – and City Hall under Ed Lee had a “handshake deal” to look the other way.

Is it any surprise that landlords evict tenants for bogus “owner move-in” claims? Why not? This city never enforces its laws anyway.

Napster wasn’t legislated out of existence – what it was doing was already illegal. When the lawsuits started piling up, though, the company’s assets were soon less than its liabilities.

Edelman suggests that every city where Uber has illegally run taxis (and the same could be applied to Airbnb) should file suit and seek $1,000 in damages for every unlawful ride. That would be enough to force the companies to shut down.

It wouldn’t be the end of the model they have developed; it would just leave room for a service that follows that same model to do it legally.

The result wouldn’t be a cheap as Uber (or Napster) – but he argues that all of us, society as a whole, would be better off.

But making society better off doesn’t seem to be a part of the — yeah, let’s just say it — uber-capitalism that has been driving public policy in this city. It’s not just generic lawbreaking; it’s this idea that the rules don’t apply to the tech masters, because they are better than the rest of us. And that’s what needs to get disrupted.

Tags: UberCriminal Enterpriselawbreaking
Categories: Labor News

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