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Chicago ATU 308 CTA rail union workers favor strike in preliminary vote "Our labor is our weapon."

Tue, 07/11/2017 - 08:23

Chicago ATU 308 CTA rail union workers favor strike in preliminary vote "Our labor is our weapon."

An outbound Green Line train approaches the 35th Street stop of the CTA 'L' on June 1, 2017, in Chicago. CTA rail workers have voted overwhelmingly in favor of a strike in a preliminary, unofficial vote, union representatives said on July 10, 2017. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)
Mary Wisniewski Mary Wisniewski Contact Reporter
Chicago Tribune
Frustrated after 18 months of negotiations for a new contract, CTA rail workers have voted overwhelmingly in favor of a strike in a preliminary, unofficial vote, union representatives said Monday.

About a third of 3,000 union members cast their ballots last week, with 98 percent favoring a strike, said Kenneth Franklin, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308. Members of the union include those who operate "L" trains, janitors, track welders, car repairers and other rail system workers.

Franklin called the preliminary vote, which has not been tried before in Local 308 history, a "good litmus test" to sound out membership on the possibility of a strike. He could not say when an actual, official strike vote could be taken.

CTA spokesman Brian Steele said a strike would be illegal, under state law and the current collective bargaining agreement, which still applies even though it has expired. Franklin disagreed, noting that the union has consulted lawyers on the issue. Franklin said the Chicago Transit Authority's offers have been "disrespectful."

"Their proposals basically gut our rights," Franklin said. "One of the negotiators for the CTA has stated on more than one occasion that they're in the business of saving money."

One issue cited by the union is a CTA proposal to increase employee contributions to health care costs. "It's a real sore subject for our members," Franklin said.

Franklin said the union also wants better working conditions. He said the "swing shift," which has some operators working from 6 to 10 a.m. and then again from 2 to 6 p.m., compromises quality of life.

Franklin said the union also wants CTA President Dorval Carter and Chicago Transit Board Chairman Terry Peterson to participate in negotiations.

"I'm not afraid to discuss striking," Franklin said. "Our labor is our weapon."

Steele said swing shifts are necessary in transit, because peak hours of operation are during the morning and afternoon rush hours. He said the CTA is showing respect in negotiations and wants an "open dialogue" with the union. The transit agency requested arbitration last month.

"We have negotiated in good faith — fairly, openly and honestly," Steele said. He said the agency is looking at some practices and work rules that are "inefficient and costly."

Steele said CTA rail operators are among the highest-paid transit workers in the country and have "generous benefits." The average wage for a CTA rail operator ranges from $21.33 to $32.82 per hour.

CTA rail operators last went on strike in 1979, Franklin said.

The CTA bus driver union, ATU Local 241, said it "fully supports the positions taken by its sister Local 308 with respect to the bargaining process and its expression of frustration on behalf of the hardworking members of both locals." The union is also in negotiations for a new contract.

Twitter @marywizchicago

Tags: ATU 308Contractunion bustingstrikeRalm EmanuelCTA
Categories: Labor News

Chicago ATU 308 CTA train operators vote in favor of strike

Mon, 07/10/2017 - 16:25

Chicago ATU 308 CTA train operators vote in favor of strike

The Chicago Transit Authority train operators voted to authorize a srike, as contract negotiations continue.
By Sarah Schulte and Laura Podesta
Updated 1 hr 27 mins ago
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Transit Authority train operators voted to authorize a strike, their union announced Monday, as contentious contract negotiations continue.

In response, CTA management claims that the union does not have the right to strike.

Working without a contract for 18 months, train operators have apparently had enough. Amalgamated Transit Union Lcal 308 is hoping a preliminary strike vote will put some pressure on negotiations with the CTA.

"We do not want to cause the city a heart attack, but our patience has worn out. Our anger is growing," said Kenneth Franklin, president of ATU Local 308.

One-third of union members participated in the vote, which was 98 percent in favor of strike. No strike date has been set.

Calling on Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CTA President Dorval Carter to come to the negotiating table, the union accuses the city of being disrespectful by offering proposals that Local 308 says would increase part-time workers and diminish pensions.

Train operators said their jobs have never been more stressful.

"Now with the violence that is on the uprise, the homeless we deal with on a daily basis, it is stressful as an operator," said train operator Deborah Lane.

"You have to deal with human feces in the motor cars, you have to deal with drug needles, drug addicts on the train," operator Kevin Wilson said.

While CTA riders are sympathetic, many said a strike would be devastating for their daily lives.

"It would be extraordinarily difficult to get from this location down to the Loop everyday," said rider Melissa Urbanski.

"I would probably lose my job, If couldn't get to work," said Robert Neason, a CTA rider.

The CTA said a strike can't happen because the union contract prohibits its members for striking for any reason. They call the strike vote a publicity stunt.

The transit authority said workers are not being disrespected.

"Our operators are among the highest paid in the nation. They have great wages, good working environments, good benefits and generally supportive management," said Steve Mayberry, a CTA spokesman.

Statement on ABC’s coverage of today’s ATU 308 press conference

July 10, 2017 - please forward

[warning: they're not neutral]
Statement on ABC’s coverage of today’s ATU 308 press conference

ABC at the git-go here attacks the union, going for a strategy of turning the riding public against ATU 308. Corporate media is not neutral in its reporting the news. It takes pains to turn other parts of the working class against the union. And they find their perfect interview:

"Probably lose my job, not being able to get to work. I have to ride the train. I live out south...two trains and a bus," said commuter Robert Neason. [abc7chicago]

This is why the labor movement in Chicago needs its own 21st-century media apparatus, and why it should not simply rely upon the corporate media to report things fairly. The worker quoted above would not face getting fired for missing his job due to conditions he can’t control, IF he had a strong union to represent him where he works. That is what this possible strike is really about: working people need a good union contract to protect them against unjust management decisions.

The CFL should make a public offer that it will send a union organizing team to the place where this unfortunate worker is employed, to make sure that it becomes unionized so that Robert Neason cannot be victimized unfairly if the ATU has a strike. And it would be best if the CFL also had its own robust media outlet to announce this, so that the statement isn’t undercut in some way.

The Chicago Federation of Labor had at one time its own radio station in the late 40s (WCFL) which reported on labor news, and also a newspaper, the Federation News. It has over the years allowed these two media resources to go defunct. Its sole strategy today is to rely on the ‘fairness’ of corporate media (a real throw of the dice!) and a handful of small-size social media-type pro-labor reporting outlets. It has neglected to develop any cable-tv series through utilizing the public access center CAN TV. The CFL has not invested over the years in beefing up its own, serious labor media defense strategy.

Although Labor Beat is a small media organization and is hardly the answer to filling in this gap, we would be glad to meet with and talk with any representatives of the CFL or ATU, or other unions and share what we know about producing a regular labor tv series and YouTube channel. We would also like to benefit from hearing the creative thinking on this from the rest of the labor movement.

This emerging situation over a possible ATU strike is a chance for all of us together to seriously drill down on this problem so that we are not left defenseless when ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox come after the transit union by using their media muscles to underhandedly torpedo organized labor.

In solidarity,

Larry Duncan
Labor Beat co-producer

abc7chicago report:

Labor Beat’s report: ATU 308 Preliminary Strike Vote

Tags: ATU 308right to strikeRahm Emanuelunion bustingcontract fightAmalgamated Transit Union
Categories: Labor News

“The glamour of the job is just a mask” British Airways crew members defy strikebreaking operation

Sun, 07/09/2017 - 10:34

“The glamour of the job is just a mask”
British Airways crew members defy strikebreaking operation
By Ross Mitchell
7 July 2017
British Airways (BA) “mixed fleet” cabin crew at Heathrow airport are striking to oppose poverty pay and in opposition to punitive sanctions against around 1,400 workers involved in previous industrial action.
The strike by crew members—who work a combination of long- and short-haul flights--began on July 1 and will last until July 16. This is the latest job action in one of the longest industrial disputes in the European airline industry this century.
The dispute has comprised a total of 26 days of strikes and bears witness to the resilience and determination of BA workers.
BA mixed fleet crews number 3,000 and have a nominal salary ranging from £12,000 (US $15,561) to £16,000 (US $20,748) with expenses. Some crew members even sleep in their cars between flights to save on accommodation expenses, while others come to work while sick to avoid losing pay.
The sanctions against cabin crew workers, which management describe as the “consequences of striking,” including docking two years of bonuses and removing all staff travel discounts for the next year for anyone joining the strike. The Unite union estimates this would cost strikers an average of £850 (US$1,102).
A statement from the airline read, “We have set out the consequences for crew if they take strike action. The purposes of these consequences are to encourage crew to come to work.”
Management have devised a massive strikebreaking operation. They secured an agreement with the government-backed Civil Aviation Authority--responsible for the regulation of aviation safety in the UK--for the hiring of nine short-haul Airbus A320 jets, plus pilots and cabin crew as well as maintenance workers and an insurance deal from Qatar Airways for the duration of the strike. These are termed “wet-leased” aircraft and are covering for around 30 domestic and European flights a day that have been grounded due to the strike.
Throughout the dispute, the Unite union has sought to keep the strike isolated to the workers at Heathrow. It opposes its extension among the 9,000 workers at other major BA bases at London Gatwick, London City Airport and Stansted airport, let alone workers employed at the international airlines group IAG that BA is part of. IAG employs 60,000 workers worldwide, comprising Iberia, Vueling, Aer Lingus, and EasyJet.
Unite has done everything to stifle the struggle, repeatedly cancelling scheduled strikes and limiting the walkouts they do call. Most recently, it cancelled a strike due to take place between June 16 to 19 to facilitate talks with management at the government’s Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).
Prior to the talks the union drafted up a "final compromise position" behind the backs of its members, which has not been made public.
Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said, "The refusal by British Airways bosses to meaningfully consider our compromise offer is deeply disappointing. A resolution to this long-running dispute was within the grasp of British Airways, but instead of grabbing that opportunity, bosses rebuffed it.” It regretted that “British Airways faces an entirely avoidable two-week strike and prolonged legal action on behalf of over 1,400 mixed cabin crew.”
The fact that workers are employed on such inferior contracts in the first place is the responsibility of Unite. The creation of a two-tiered workforce was imposed following the defeat of the national BA strike in 2010, with Unite and the BASSA union playing a critical role. The imposition and continuation of low pay rates for the mixed fleet is part of the strategy by IAG to restructure its global pay levels downwards to be more competitive.
This allowed BA over the years to steadily replace more expensive, better terms and conditions contracts, with cheap labour with the collaboration of Unite.
Mixed fleet crews operate an increasing number of long-haul and short-haul flights inside and outside Europe. They operate on 32 long-haul flights to international destinations such as Abu Dhabi, Houston, Shanghai, Singapore and Sydney. Short-haul mixed fleet crews cover about 50 European destinations such as Helsinki, St Petersburg, Sofia, Vienna and Kiev.
That such draconian pay levels are now accepted by Unite were made clear in the comments of its spokesperson Alex Flynn, who said prior to the strike, “The issue is now largely around sanctions that have been meted out to the people that went on strike.”
The union’s isolation of workers and their resulting victimisation has resulted in votes in favour of strike action falling. In November 2016, 79 percent of mixed fleet workers voted to strike, with Unite cancelling a planned stoppage at the last minute. A second ballot in December saw 70 percent in favour of a strike. The last ballot in March 2017 saw support down to 56 percent on a turnout of 72 percent.
Back in December 2016 Unite general secretary Len McCluskey personally intervened to call off a planned strike scheduled over the busy Christmas holiday period to oversee negotiations. He declared, “I am delighted that British Airways has heeded our calls for talks. It is only by getting round the table that we can find a solution to my members’ concerns.”
Almost seven months have now elapsed, and BA workers are no further forward in their struggle for better pay and working conditions. 1,400 striking workers are suffering disciplinary sanctions, including removing staff travel, which allows crews to commute with an airline for free to reach the base where they pick up work.
The conditions being imposed on mixed fleet workers are intolerable. One worker speaking anonymously to the World Socialist Web Site said, “We don't have enough money to eat properly in Dubai each time we must stay over until the next flight. The travel enjoyment is not there as we were told as recruits. It has been tough and some of us who strike got punished by management.
“Essentially you are part of the plane. You just fly and stopover and cannot spend because the salaries are crap. Our conditions are not much different from airlines in the Arab countries. The glamour of the job is just a mask.”
Speaking to the Independent, another said she could not buy a house on the money she earned. “I’m required to live within a two-hour radius of Heathrow. I can't buy anywhere with the money I’m on. When I go and ask for a mortgage, they laugh at me." The worker earned less £20,000 last year and said, “I’ve been at British Airways for six years, and I’ve never entered the sickness process.”
The newspaper added, “A male colleague said that he earned more on a zero-hours contract with [budget airline] Ryanair. His P60 [total pay and deductions] showed income for the year at under £18,000.”
According to the Independent, the “Cabin crew say the pay deal comes with unacceptable strings attached: the loss of bonuses and travel concessions for a further year, as punishment for those who go on strike. They must also, say strikers, agree not to carry yellow pens or other yellow symbols. That might sound random, but yellow symbolises to other crew that they are strikers.”
To keep the dispute under its control, Unite has called a further strike to be held over 14 days from July 19, with another call to BA to negotiate “a settlement to this long running dispute.” This is being combined with an appeal to the courts to oppose BA’s leasing of Qatar Airways' aircraft.
Mixed fleet workers at BA must break the stranglehold of the union bureaucracy over the dispute. The prerequisite for a successful struggle is the creation of action committees, independent of Unite and based on the fight to unite airline workers throughout the world in common struggle against the global corporations. Only on this basis can they oppose the dead-end class collaborationist perspective of the trade unions, which has resulted in defeat after defeat.

Tags: BACabin Crewsstrikeliving wagesairline workersUnitesolidarity
Categories: Labor News

Chicago ATU 308 Preliminary 97.4% Strike Vote

Thu, 07/06/2017 - 22:11

Chicago ATU 308 Preliminary 97.4% Strike Vote
Published on Jul 4, 2017
On June 29, 2017 the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308, the union of the rail division at the Chicago Transit Authority, held a city-wide preliminary strike authorization vote among its members. Of 927 members who voted, 97.4% voted YES for a strike. Scenes and interviews from the voting locations.

Tags: ATU 308strike voteCTA
Categories: Labor News

Swedish Dockworkers, APMT Gothenburg Mediation Ends without Result

Thu, 07/06/2017 - 14:06

Swedish Dockworkers, APMT Gothenburg Mediation Ends without Result
Image Courtesy: Svenska Hamnarbetarna
The latest mediation round between Swedish Dockworkers’ Union, section 4, and APM Terminals Gothenburg has been terminated after the latest attempt of reaching a deal on collective bargaining agreement fell through.

Dockworkers union said that it had proposed on Tuesday, July 4 that the parties sign a collective agreement built on a previously proposed mediation bid as a temporary solution, “to try to normalize relations and to work towards a sustainable solution in agreement negotiations forward.”

As disclosed, the conditions were that the agreement would be short and clear.

However, APM Terminals rejected the offer, the union informed, adding that, according to the government-appointed mediators, the company was not interested in a short contract.

Following the latest developments, the mediators announced that there were no preconditions for a reconciliation of the two parties on the matter, terminating the mediation round that was launched on June 16.

In June, APM Terminals Gothenburg served a notice of termination to 160 staff members, out of a total of 450 employees, due to “a sharp fall in volumes over the past year”.

However, earlier this month, the union said that there was no new information about APM Terminals recent announcement that the company will lay off 150 dockworkers in Gothenburg.

“The Swedish Dockworkers’ Union (SDU), which organises some 85% of the dockworkers at the container terminal, is still barred from participating in the redundancy talks and currently lacks insight in the ongoing related negotiations between APMT and the minority union STWU,” the union added.

In May this year, APMT imposed a partial lockout that was in effect from 4 pm (1600 hrs) on 19 May until midnight (2400 hrs) on 30 June.

According to the union, the employer’s industrial action meant that the dockworkers were shut out from the port without pay and that the terminal was shut down between 16.00 and 07.00 on all weekdays during the said period, resulting in production loss of 371 hours.

APMT had justified the move saying that after 14 blockades and nine days of strike action by SDU over the past year, the company needed a way of ensuring reliable service.

APMT Gothenburg is open but is operating slower than usual due to the recent cyber attack on its parent company Maersk.

World Maritime News Staff

Tags: Swedish dockersunion bustingSwedish Dockworkers’ Union (SDU)
Categories: Labor News

Statement By SF Taxi Workers Alliance On Deregulation And Attack On Taxi Workers

Wed, 07/05/2017 - 11:51

Statement By SF Taxi Workers Alliance On Deregulation And Attack On Taxi Workers

The world is experiencing a change in the way taxicab services are delivered on a global scale. The reason for this change is because of the development of an application (app), utilized on a smart phone that calls a person nearby driving his or her own car. The developers of this app, as a taxi service, call the type of business in which they are engaged peer-to-peer or “sharing.” It was based on illegal file-sharing apps (like Napster) which Kalanick was twice found guilty of running. It is different from the old “gypsy cabs” because the app has a Yelp-like rating system, to alert other users about the quality of the driver, and a built in payment system in which both “peers” are identifiable for potential crimes (failure to pay or kidnapping). The developer of the app makes money by charging the driver a percentage of each ride he/she performs. The driver makes money by charging the customer for the price of the ride. The driver (peer) uses the app entirely voluntarily and is an independent contractor paying a fee to a service for calls.

Those whose job it is to regulate vehicles for hire, at both the city and state levels, have allowed them to operate under the rubric of “not wanting to stifle innovation.” SF Mayor Ed Lee declared July 13, 2013 “Lyft day” after his own MTA was issuing Uber “cease and desist” notices (October 20, 2010).” The CPUC then took it upon themselves to usurp regulatory oversight by declaring them (during a hasty two-day meeting) a new form of livery industry, Transportation Network Company (TNC) which they do regulate. They can therefore go anywhere in the state without regulation from local municipalities. Of course, they do not go anywhere, but rather to the cities with the greatest market for their services; that market is San Francisco. Over fifty thousand TNCs now flock to San Francisco daily to pick up fares, contributing to the air pollution and traffic congestion that everyone now recognizes.

This business has decimated traditional for-hire ride services, particularly taxis. Taxi drivers have seen their number of rides (and income) cut substantially by one third to one half. Many drivers have simply quit driving taxi. Some have become Uber drivers. As a result half of the taxi fleets stand idle. Now Uber and Lyft drivers with grievances against the TNCs have approached labor unions and asked for representation. Their desire for labor recognition belies the fact that for taxi workers they are considered the labor equivalent of “scabs.” Neither taxi drivers nor TNC drivers are strictly speaking workers. If not for the decline in their incomes most taxi drivers and TNC drivers would not have any interest in unions. Why, therefore, should the labor movement have any interest in un-organizable independent contractor taxi drivers?

Taxi drivers were among the first occupations to become “independent contractor” in 1978 when the employer-employee relationship broke down due to Proposition K. Cab companies saw the independent contractor status as a way to shift the risk for taxi operation entirely to the driver. The driver now paid a flat “gate” to take the cab out and returned the cab with a full tank of gas. The companies therefore made a definite profit every day regardless of how poorly the driver did. Independent contractor status has now spread far and wide throughout the workforce, undermining labor’s efforts to organize workers. Taxis, however, have been limited by city regulation by the requirement to possess a medallion, which the city issues. Thus taxi drivers have been able to achieve a decent income, despite the intention of the independent contractor status to drag incomes down. With the over-supply of drivers that the TNCs provide, the independent contractor device works and the incomes of taxi drivers and TNC drivers fall below the minimum wage for employer-employee workers.

To be continued . . . .

Tags: UberLyftderegulationindependent contractorsunion busting
Categories: Labor News

UK BA flying pickets are determined to bring bloody awful bosses back down to earth

Mon, 07/03/2017 - 19:47

UK BA flying pickets are determined to bring bloody awful bosses back down to earth
by Dave Sewell

British Airways (BA) cabin crew were back on the picket lines at London Heathrow airport today, Saturday.

Around 3,000 Unite union members in BA’s “mixed fleet” had began a new walkout. It was the launch of their longest strike to date after a three-month gap and a series of talks, set to continue for 16 days.

Workers are angry as ever at their low pay. Jason, who was on picket line at Hatton Cross Tube station, said, “I’ve had to work second jobs to make ends meet.

“It’s really tiring to come back from a trip and instead of recuperating do an eight or ten hour shift at a bar or waiting tables.

“Because our basic pay is so low we have to live off our flight allowances.

“That means your pay is inconsistent too—it depends what you fly in a given month.”

One worker explained that in a bad month they were paid less than half of what they got in a good month. Other workers are in locked in a trap. They have to get advances on their wages one month to pay off the advance on their wages they needed the previous month.

Many still live with their parents, or rely on the income of a partner. Few come close to the total pay BA advertised when they took the job.

Workers rejected BA’s insulting offer to end the dispute. One picket told Socialist Worker, “It just moved around the same pot of money without adding to it—robbing Peter to pay Paul.”


And it came with a sting in the tail—workers who strike have a series of bonuses taken off them, including the staff travel discount. Sarah told Socialist Worker, “I have two little kids to support, and on this wage that’s not possible.

“Now I’m losing the staff travel allowance it means I can’t take them on holiday. And that’s just because I exercised my legal right to strike for what I believe in.”

Despite this, striker Shane said, “It’s liberating to be on strike. I was worrying about it all last night and I’m definitely glad I came down. We can win if we stick together, and more people seem to be taking action this time.

“They’ve seen that the only way to resolve this is by getting behind the strikes. And they’ve seen what striking is—that what you lose is much less than what you stand to win.”

One first time striker, Harry, was driven to join the walkout by the “unfair treatment of my colleagues and myself”. “We’re responsible for evacuating an aeroplane in an emergency,” he said.

“If that’s the case then we should get a fair wage so we can afford to eat and drink and enjoy our lives a bit.”

In response to the strike BA has cancelled some flights, diverted its other fleets to cover some and “wet-leased” other airlines to cover others. Zak pointed out, “In a way this means we’re already winning—they are having to spend millions on wet-leasing, besides the cancellations.”

And for many pickets, the fact that BA would rather spend money on breaking the strike than paying a living wage only made them angrier.

They largely accept the idea that it’s impossible to ask other workers to refuse to fly their routes.

Nevertheless, the potential is there, particularly among BA’s other fleets where many workers support the strike and stand to gain from beating the penny-pinching bosses.

And to overcome BA’s intransigence this question of solidarity will have to be addressed.

Division and low pay is the point of the mixed fleet. It was set up in 2010 to undercut the collective bargaining of BA’s existing workforce.

It relies on a high turnover of workers, bringing lower expectations and a lower level of organisation. Graham said, “The whole model is that after three years they don’t want you any more.”

But there’s something missing from the model. Bosses didn’t reckon with workers’ determination. Jason said, “We’re striking because we love the job—and we want to be able to afford to do it long term.”

Donate to the strike fund at
Send messages of support to @MFUnite on Twitter

Tags: BA Flight Attendants strikecabin crewslave wages
Categories: Labor News

China’s Takeover of the Port of Piraeus in Greece: Blowback

Sun, 07/02/2017 - 10:14

China’s Takeover of the Port of Piraeus in Greece: Blowback
for Europe

John A. Mathews

July 1, 2017
Volume 15 | Issue 13 | Number3
In mid-2016 the Chinese ocean shipping company COSCO succeeded in acquiring a controlling stake in the Greek port of Piraeus. This was the culmination of more than a decade of preparation and prior part ownership, and it represents an important piece in the complex jigsaw of China’s One Belt One Road internationalization strategy linking Europe with Eurasia. Along the way there were major setbacks, and in particular a narrowly avoided ejection of COSCO from Piraeus by the newly elected Syriza government, the far left government elected in Jan 2015 by a Greek people exhausted by the austerity imposed by European creditors. This threatened ejection was narrowly avoided by a more comprehensive set of negotiations, which would have seen China funding the Greek government through purchase of its Treasury bills – thereby enabling the Greeks to get around sanctions being imposed by the European Central Bank.

China’s entry to Europe via Greece, putting in place an essential piece in Beijing’s greater One Belt One Road strategy, must rank as one of the most delicious episodes of blowback in recent history. Institutions like the European Central Bank (ECB) can take sole responsibility for strangling Greece. It was deaf to all pleas for a constructive engagement and restructuring of the debt – as told vividly by Yanis Varoufakis, former Finance Minister of Greece who lived through the entire shameful episode, in his recently published memoirs, Adults in the Room. But as the EU institutions applied the pressure, so they fostered a determined effort on the part of the Greek government to slip the noose. This was done most effectively by allowing China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) to purchase a majority stake in the port of Piraeus. What had started as a demand by the European institutions that Greek public assets be privatized in a ‘fire sale’, became the means to allow China to penetrate Europe’s defences, and build a major transport hub – encompassing rail, road and sea – linking Europe with Eurasia.

While Varoufakis was forced to resign his ministerial position in July 2015, his actions in helping to bring the Chinese and Greek authorities together have borne abundant fruit. While the Chinese had expressed interest in modernizing and expanding Piraeus as far back as 2008, when COSCO acquired a part stake in Pier II at Piraeus, by the time the Syriza government was elected in Jan 2015 there was a real danger that the new ministers would respond to populist pressure and expel the Chinese. Varoufakis describes how he was able to get past these entrenched positions, and create the foundations for a relationship between China and Greece that would give Greece a ‘Get out of Jail’ card from the debtor’s prison imposed by the Europeans.

What happened is a matter of public record. In mid-2016 COSCO was authorized by the Greek government to purchase an initial 51% stake in the Piraeus port, at a cost of $316 million, to be followed by a further 16% stake within five years, at a further cost of $99 million. (For background, see ‘How a Greek port became a “dragon head”’ by Andreea Brinza, The Diplomat, April 25 2016). So much has been on the public record. But Varoufakis’ memoirs flesh out the story, and add further details that reveal what a clear case of blowback this is.

Since being catapulted to global fame in his brief career as the Finance Minister of Greece, from February to July in 2015, Varoufakis has been performing like a man possessed. On top of the two editions of his global analysis of US economic power, using the metaphor of the Global Minotaur, he has also published a lengthy account of the European dilemmas created by the mismanagement of the Eurozone (And the Weak Suffer What They Must?) and most recently his memoirs, Adults in the Room. This latter book provides a vivid and detailed account of his confrontation with the European creditors who were holding Greece to ransom. There is much in this outpouring of personal memoir and robust analysis that is of great value. But one thing in particular struck me as worthy of comment. This is Varoufakis’ first hand commentary on his negotiations with China over the mooted investment by COSCO in the port of Piraeus and wider involvement of China in offering a way out of the Greek debt tragedy.

Piraeus Port Authority

China had been looking for an entry into Europe as part of its One Belt One Road strategy, which involves multiple new maritime and land routes linking the parts of Eurasia. In this endeavor the Greek port of Piraeus plays an important role. China’s COSCO the shipping and ports giant made waves when it was announced in 2008 that it would be allowed to own and operate Pier II of the Piraeus port. It used the intervening years to substantially upgrade and expand this operating base, and to turn Piraeus into a major transport hub, with rail links into Europe such as the Chinese financed high speed rail link between Hungary and Serbia.

What Varoufakis reveals (and I don’t think this is available through any other source) is that as Finance Minister he was setting up a much more comprehensive deal than COSCO merely becoming the owner and operator of the port of Piraeus – subject to all necessary safeguards for employment continuity and labor conditions. What Varoufakis was seeking was to secure a way around the strangulation being imposed by the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt. The ECB was effectively refusing to allow the Greek government to issue Treasury bills, which would have provided one legitimate means to allow it to meet repayments to the ECB and IMF, at least in the short term. The ECB justified this hostile act on grounds that it was protecting Greek banks from purchasing worthless assets. But as Varoufakis explains, this was reversing causality. The T-bills would have been worthless only because the ECB was stopping banks from purchasing them. And so the noose was tightened – in the Eurozone area where the ECB set the rules. But Varoufakis describes how China was seen as a potential player beyond the remit of the ECB – and as one that could potentially break the impasse.

Varoufakis was sufficiently savvy to know that the Chinese had to be offered a substantial incentive to help out – and reviving their bid to enable COSCO to take over the running of Piraeus was a prospect that fitted the bill. And so a grand scheme was set in motion. China would bid for Greek T-bills at the public auctions staged by the Greek government, in sums large enough to break the government’s funding drought. Sums of $1.5 billion were mentioned, for the month of March, with up to $10 billion ultimately being made available. And in return COSCO would be allowed to purchase a controlling stake in the port of Piraeus (subject to all appropriate safeguards). This would provide China entry to Europe, via rail, road and sea, enabling China’s One belt One Road strategy to close the gap between Europe and Eurasia. And it would be done right under the noses of the European institutions that were set on strangling Greece in order to make it an example for other weak indebted countries like Spain, Portugal or Ireland.Had this grand scheme been allowed to come to fruition, the Greek story and the Eurozone crisis might have had a very different outcome. Had China proceeded to bid for $1.5 billion in Greek T-bills, this would have enabled the Greek government to demonstrate to the world that some players in the market valued the T-bills, and so overturn the ECB argument that it could not release liquidity to the Greek economy. And this in turn would have forced the ECB to treat the Greek economy as a ‘normal’ player in the Eurozone, and allow it to begin substantial repayments, allowing for good faith renegotiation of the terms of indebtedness. And this would have ended the arguments that insisted that austerity was the only ‘treatment’ for the disease of imbalance within the Eurozone, with creditor countries like Germany putting unbearable pressure on debtor countries like Greece. And Varoufakis might have been able to stay on as Minister of Finance, and might have been able to proceed with his proposals for sensible restructuring of the Greek debt.

But none of this came to pass – and the reason (as revealed by Varoufakis at page 320/321 of his memoirs) is that the Chinese side never went ahead to make the purchases of the T-bills as agreed. Instead they made bids at two successive auctions of just $100 million each – certainly substantial, but nothing like the agreed bids of $1.5 billion that would have broken the logjam. And the reason they were so cautious, again according to Varoufakis, is that they were covertly warned off – by the German Ministry of Finance. As he tells the story (p. 321), “Someone had apparently called Beijing from Berlin with a blunt message: stay out of any deals with the Greeks until we are finished with them.” This was conveyed to Varoufakis by his Greek Prime Minister, who had sought clarification of what was going on with the Chinese premier in Beijing.

Now this account may or may not be true. Varoufakis is a credible witness -- both because of his own reputation as well as the generally credible nature of his account of the prolonged negotiations between the Greek side and the Europeans over the terms of Greece’s indebtedness. As a claim it deserves some comment or corroboration from the Chinese side – as there is unlikely to be any public comment from the German side or the ECB. Until there is any further comment corroborating or failing to corroborate the story, let us allow that it is likely to be true.

If that is the case, then the Germans shot themselves in the foot by blocking Greece in this way. Effectively their actions in strangling the country forced Greece to find an alternative source of funding, and China was available as a player. While it didn’t deliver on the immediate funding plan negotiated by Varoufakis –it did deliver as a player in the privatization program that the Greek Syriza government was forced to endure. And this is what enabled China to extend its control to include the European port of Piraeus – in spite of objections (no doubt voiced behind the scenes) by the Germans and the European institutions which would see Chinese logistics firms as competitive threats.

The wider story then is that this episode, while failing to provide a circuit-breaker that might have unlocked the Greek crisis and led to a very different outcome, did in fact allow China to enter southern Europe via the purchase by COSCO of a controlling stake in the port of Piraeus. This is blowback for the Europeans, and in particular for the Germans. Had they not been so obstinate in strangling the Greek economy, and insisting so hard on austerity, then the Greek government might not have been so keen to welcome the Chinese as new owners of their port. This episode reveals that in a multipolar world, there are limits to a strategy of imposing ideologically driven austerity on a single country by squeezing its banks and enforcing fire sale privatizations. In the case of Greece this strategy has succeeded in its narrow aims of keeping Greece as a subservient partner in the Eurozone – but at the cost of allowing China to establish its bridgehead in Europe’s transport networks that will be of major long-term strategic significance. And the story provides insight into China’s strategy, where the long-term goals are set and then actions are taken to implement these goals as opportunities present themselves. Greece’s Eurozone crisis was the perfect opportunity for China to sow its ‘dragon head’ investments in Europe, with the port of Piraeus as the focal point of the strategy.

Tags: privatizationPort of Piraeum COSCO
Categories: Labor News

DC ATU 689 Bus Driver Opposes Privatization As Plan For Failure

Fri, 06/30/2017 - 09:11

DC ATU 689 Bus Driver Opposes Privatization As Plan For Failure
DC ATU 689 Bus Operator on why privatization is wrong for Metro

David Stephen
Published on Jun 22, 2017
Bus Operator Diron Jackson speaks on the failure of privatization and why it would be bad for Metro.

Tags: ATU 689privatizationbus driversunion bustinghealth and safety
Categories: Labor News

NYC TWU 100 Transportation workers defend subway clerk accused of ignoring cops inside station

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 16:19

NYC TWU 100 Transportation workers defend subway clerk accused of ignoring cops inside station
NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi
Darryl Goodwin (r.) stands outside Manhattan Criminal Court on Thursday, with other Transport Workers Union members. (JEFFERSON SIEGEL/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)
Thursday, June 29, 2017, 3:01 PM
The subway booth clerk busted for allegedly interfering with a police pursuit of a shoplifter at the 59th St.-Columbus Circle station had a gaggle of defenders in the courtroom Thursday who said he was just doing his job.

“This is an attack against all the station agents,” said Derick Echevarria, vice president of stations for the Transport Workers Union, said of the arrest of his colleague Darryl Goodwin, whom he has known since high school.

He suggested Goodwin didn’t see the cops who were yelling for him to open the gate because he was swamped with a long line of customers.

“We know the rules. We know we’re supposed to open the gate for the cops but we have to see them. What is he guilty of? Maybe not moving fast enough for them,” the union official added.

Goodwin, 54, was arrested for the May 16 incident during which an NYPD lieutenant said he injured his thumb.

Goodwin’s case was called briefly in Manhattan Criminal Court and adjourned to Aug. 10.

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi
Goodwin’s case was called briefly in Manhattan Criminal Court and adjourned to Aug. 10. (JEFFERSON SIEGEL/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)
Cops, who were chasing a suspect they believed had stolen from a nearby CVS pharmacy, said Goodwin refused to open the gate to let them into the station.

But Goodwin’s lawyer, Paul London, said Thursday that his client was busy with a long line of subway riders in need of help when cops claim he brushed them off.

“He was working, he was helping another customer,” London said. “I believe that this lieutenant felt that my client intentionally disrespected him but it was nothing of the sort.”

He said the demand from the officers was “a little odd because law enforcement is provided with free Metrocards as well as keys to the access points.”

London said Goodwin, who was suspended by the MTA at the time of his arrest, was able to return to work on Thursday.

Goodwin is charged with assault, obstruction of governmental administration and resisting arrest.

Tags: TWU 100police repressionattack on station agentsMTA
Categories: Labor News

What we talk about when we talk about Uber and Lyft

Wed, 06/28/2017 - 09:11

What we talk about when we talk about Uber and Lyft

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
By Kelly Dessaint on June 24, 2016 1:00 am

It’s 2:35 a.m. and I’m looking for a cabstand showing signs of life now that everyone’s in motion, either trying to go home or get to an after-hours joint.

In front of 1015 Folsom, a large crowd is milling about in the street among several dozen unmarked sedans blocking the flow of traffic while a few taxis wait patiently outside the club.

As I slow down to suss out the situation, a young guy approaches my window. He wants to know the fare to Berkeley.

“Around $35-$40,” I tell him. “Plus the bridge toll.”

“But Lyft is only $20.” He holds up his phone as proof.

“Then take Lyft,” I say.

I start to roll up my window but he has another question.

“Why are cabs so expensive?” he asks. “Don’t you guys want to be competitive with Uber and Lyft?”

“The City determines taxi rates,” I tell him. “I don’t have any control over them. Neither does my cab company.”

“Really?” he asks, genuinely surprised.

“You think we just charge more because we’re bad at business?”

He’s about to respond when another guy approaches my cab and asks if I’ll take him to the Richmond District for $10.

“You gotta be kidding me?” I laugh. “Sorry, that’s a $20 ride.”

“But an UberPool is only $7.”

“Then take Uber!” I say abruptly.

“I would,” the guy tells me. “But my phone’s dead.”

“You know what, then,” I say with a smirk. “The fare’s now $30. My cab just went into surge pricing.”

The guy scoffs while the first one laughs.

“Come on,” Mr. Richmond pleads. “None of these taxis are going anywhere anytime soon.”

“That may be true, but I still have my dignity. Why don’t you ask another cab driver?”

“I asked them all. You’re the last in line.”

“Then the price to the Richmond is now $40. My surge multiplier just went up!”

“Come on!”

“Tell me something,” I address the two of them. “Do you guys really think it’s acceptable for these companies to charge half the price of a taxi and justify it by calling it a disruptive business model? You know that’s bullshit, right? That’s not disruption. It’s predatory pricing, plain and simple. And who pays for all these cheap rides? Not you. Not Uber. Not Lyft. It’s their drivers who get screwed so you guys can get a good deal.”

“Nobody is forced to do anything,” Mr. Berkeley points out.

“Because jobs grow on job trees?” I ask. “I think most people who decide to use their own cars as taxicabs are doing so out of desperation.”

“Everyone has options,” adds Mr. Richmond.

I decide to change my approach. “Tell me, do you guys support Bernie Sanders?”

“Of course!” Mr. Berkeley declares. “Love him!”

“Bernie’s my man!” says Mr. Richmond.

“Then why are you participating in the exploitation of workers? Isn’t that something Bernie is fighting against?”

They both shrug, not seeing the connection.

“The people who drive for Uber and Lyft don’t make shit and assume all the risk involved with driving a car on the congested streets of San Francisco just to make four or five bucks off a $7 ride. You think that’s cool?”

“I’ve never heard a driver complain.”

“You hold a rating over their heads,” I say. “They’re afraid of losing their jobs.”

“But …”

“Well …”

“Look, you guys are obviously confused about what being progressive means. This new gig economy is regressive. It pushes the most vulnerable members of our society into wage slavery, where they’re paid for piecework rather than given an opportunity to secure a stable income. And what’s worse, instead of seeing their profits increase by working more, due to the constant Uber-Lyft price wars, they actually make less in the process. How can you support a system like that?”

“But if people stopped using these services,” says Mr. Berkeley, “it’ll hurt the drivers more because they won’t have a job left.”

“Yeah, less of something is better than nothing!” Mr. Richmond pipes in.

I’m about to launch into another tirade when I notice the time. It’s 3:15. I’ve already wasted over half an hour arguing with these guys. I might as well be making some money along the way.

“Guess what? My cab just turned into a TaxiPool. I’ll do $10 to the Richmond and $25 to Berkeley. But, goddamn it, you better give me decent tips. Get in and let’s go.”

I don’t even bother hitting the meter as I speed away.

Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. Write to him at or visit his blog at

Tags: UberLyftderegulationworker exploitation
Categories: Labor News

High Cabin Temperatures have Sacramento ATU Division 256 RT Operators Fearing the Worst

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 13:44

High Cabin Temperatures have Sacramento ATU Division 256 RT Operators Fearing the Worst
SACRAMENTO -- Multiple Sacramento Regional Transit District train operators have complained during the extremely hot days that the temperatures in their cabins are so hot it is a safety hazard.

If one of them passes out, the train could potentially be driving itself. Obviously that could, worst case scenario, end in tragedy.

The problem has gotten so bad some operators have called dispatch and said they can't work; they've had to stop and take a break mid-shift or leave the train and ask for a substitution.

"Operators have had to call off...saying, 'Look, I need a break,'" said operator David Allston. "'It's too hot in here. I'm sweating, I'm feeling flush, I need a relief.'"

Each train has a number, either a 100 or 200 designation. The 200 trains are fine, but the 100 trains are problematic. They're older and often the air conditioning stops working, according to Sacramento RT operators who spoke with FOX40.

On 100 trains with functioning air conditioning, FOX40 utilized a temperature gun to monitor the heat. Some areas in the trains reached around 105 degrees, which did not include readings in the cabin, where drivers tell FOX40 it gets even hotter.

Operators say Sacramento RT is aware of the issue, yet year after year the air conditioning still has problems.

"It's as if we don't know who's taking care of the air conditioner...they're adequate when they're maintained correctly," said operator David Allston. "This is a progressive thing that's been happening for the last maybe 3, 4 years."

According to multiple operators if, worst case scenario, an operator passes out mid-ride and their foot slumps off the "deadman," or the pedal, there is a safety mechanism that should automatically stop the train within 5 to 10 seconds. But if one passes out, and their foot does not not slide off the pedal, it's feasible the train could be going full speed without a conscious driver.

Tags: Transit Temperaturestrain operatorshealth and safetyheatSacramento Regional Transit District
Categories: Labor News

MFU & SUP Union for some Hawaii Matson workers threatens to strike over labor dispute

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 09:32

MFU & SUP Union for some Hawaii Matson workers threatens to strike over labor dispute

Monday, June 26th 2017, 9:21 pm PDT
Monday, June 26th 2017, 9:41 pm PDT
By Rick Daysog, ReporterCONNECT

Content starts in 7 sec

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
Matson is facing a strike threat from The Marine Firemen's Union and the Sailors’ Union of The Pacific.

The contract for 135 Matson crew members and engine room workers expires at midnight Friday, and the sides are not anywhere close to resolving their differences; the unions are calling for raises and better job security.

"If they're really going to stick it to us, we're ready to strike,” said Charles Khim, one of the union’s attorney.

Matson says there's still plenty of time to work out a deal.

“Negotiations are in progress, and … Matson's aim is to bargain in good faith toward a fair and equitable agreement,” the company said in an email.

The unions say Matson has told them they can't afford to raise pay rates, but union members say said that's hard to believe when the company is building new container ships, seeking new routes and reported more than $80 million in profits last year.

More than 75 percent of the goods sold in Hawaii come here on container ships, workers say, and any disruption of services could create inconveniences for consumers.

While a strike by these two unions would not shutdown the docks, it would make it difficult for Matson to operate their container ships. Back in 2013, a threatened strike by the same two unions was averted after both sides were able to work out a new contract.

The last strike against Matson, which happened back in 2009, lasted just 12 hours.

Tags: MFUSUPMatson LineHawaiistrike
Categories: Labor News

TWU Campaign For A March On Washington

Sat, 06/24/2017 - 19:49


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:
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

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: TWU 100Healthcare March
Categories: Labor News

ATU Local 1235 Transit Workers Take the Driver's Seat in 'Right-to-Work’ Tennessee

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 11:38

ATU Local 1235 Transit Workers Take the Driver's Seat in 'Right-to-Work’ Tennessee
June 23, 2017 / Chris Brooks

By reaching out to workers—and their families—at every opportunity, ATU Local 1235 in Nashville has seen its membership rate jump from 60 to 80 percent. Photo: Patrick Green
At Labor Notes trainings I hear lots of reasons why union members think their co-workers aren’t involved: They don’t understand labor history. They don’t appreciate all the union has done for them. They watch Fox News. They’re scared or apathetic.

I always say, “Remember what inspires people to organize a union in the first place. They join and stay involved when they experience what it means to wield collective power.”

This story takes place in my home state of Tennessee, where Patrick Green started driving a bus in Nashville in 2008. Back then, he says, here’s how negotiations typically went in Transit (ATU) Local 1235: A month before bargaining, officers “would send out a note to the members asking for the top three things they wanted the union to achieve. Then the executive board would never say another word about it.”

When it was time to ratify, members never saw the deal. “We would come in and vote on the agreement without knowing anything about what was in it,” Green said. The union seemed useless, and for a long time he didn’t get involved.

But that changed in the lead-up to 2015 bargaining, when friends who knew he had a management background and experience with negotiations encouraged him to get involved in the contract somehow.

Union leaders weren’t so enthusiastic. “The leadership rejected all of our attempts to help,” said Green. “Out of this frustration with getting involved, my friends said I should run [for president]. I agreed.” Two other members agreed to run with him.


One member had the idea of hosting town hall-style debates among the candidates—something the local had never done before. Held over multiple Saturdays at a Shoney’s restaurant, the debates drew an enthusiastic response. Members showed up with their families to eat breakfast and lob questions.

The incumbent president had run the local for 18 years. Green had no formal union experience—and says he’s an introvert.

But at the town halls, Green and his slate laid out a different vision for the union. In particular, they pledged transparency and member participation in negotiations.

In a field of four candidates, Green swept 65 percent. The others on his slate won as well. And the new leaders jumped right into negotiations, winning some strong gains—starting wages went up by $3 an hour—in a contract that all members got the chance to read before casting their votes.


It’s no wonder that in “right-to-work” Tennessee, Local 1235 is recruiting new members. A year ago, its membership rate was 60 percent. Now it’s 80 percent.

Organizing conversations are a key recruitment tool. Union officers and stewards meet with workers to hear about workplace problems and plan how to fix them. They reach out at every opportunity, including at new-hire orientation, during training, and when they meet to bid for jobs.

The union doesn’t limit these conversations to new hires—or even to members. “Many times it is the spouse that takes the children to the doctor, so we reached out to talk to them about our medical insurance,” Green said. “We even opened it up to non-members.” The local has also worked alongside a worker center to found a Bus Riders Union.

Since Nashville drivers are employed by a private nonprofit, not the city, they have the right to strike. Green is organizing a meeting in September to talk with members and families about financial planning—both for retirement and for a potential strike.

The meeting is part of involving everyone in a plan to win a better contract. “I will be asking our members to put away $20 per pay period into an account to build up for a strike next year,” Green said. “The bank will be on hand to help them open the account for free.”

Most of us, most of our lives, live with decisions made by others. When we take action together, we change that. Suddenly we have a feeling that another world is possible. Those are the moments that create converts—and sustain those already on board. Those are the moments that unions need to multiply.

Chris Brooks

Tags: ATU 1235solidarityRight To Worktransit workers
Categories: Labor News

Spain: Workers Suspend Dockers Strikes as Companies Quit Anesco

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 10:42

Spain: Workers Suspend Dockers Strikes as Companies Quit Anesco

The Spanish stevedoring unions have decided to shelve their strike plans for the rest of this month as a sign of good will.

The move was prompted by a letter from Javier Vidal, president of the Association of Port Stevedoring Companies of Barcelona, who asked for the suspension of strikes after major port companies left the employers’ association Anesco.

Previously, the unions said that a number of major companies did not support Anesco’s approach to resolving the conflict, and that many vowed to guarantee all jobs to keep the social peace, and remain open for negotiations.

According to Vidal, a new document was signed by workers and port companies that left Anesco aimed at restructuring the association.

In addition, the workers are waiting to set a new meeting to formalize the agreements made with majority of companies.

In light of the latest developments, the unions cancelled the strikes planned for June 23, 26 and 27.

The unions had announced a new wave of 48-hour strikes scheduled for 26 and 29 of June and 3 and 6 of July starting at 0800 a.m.

According to the country’s Ministry of Public Works, minimal level of services had been agreed with the unions so the regular lines and passenger traffic were not affected.

The dockworker strikes have had a major impact on the Spanish economy having in mind that the country relies on its ports for 80 percent of its total imports and 57 percent of its total exports.

The new strikes came on the back of a framework agreement proposal submitted by Anesco to the workers.

However, a joint statement from Coordinadora Estatal de Trabajadores del Mar, Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT), Confederacion Intersindical Galega and General Confederation of Labour of Spain, indicated that the proposal did not guarantee job security to all employees and brought nothing new to the table.

Spanish dockworker unions launched a nation-wide strike on June 5, impacting operations across the country’s 39 cargo ports. Strikes were also held from June 14, 0800 hrs till June 16 0800 hrs, and at odd hours on June 19 and 21, resulting in only 50% of workable time.

World Maritime News Staff

Tags: Spanish Dockworkersstrikederegulation
Categories: Labor News

Striking truck drivers slow traffic at LA, Long Beach ports

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 22:53

Striking truck drivers slow traffic at LA, Long Beach ports

Teamster Local 848 picket at Everport Terminal Services, in San Pedro Calif., in the Port of Los Angeles, protesting XPO Logistics and California Cartage that use contract workers rather than employ them as full-time, hourly workers. Monday, June 19, 2017. ( Photo by Stephen Carr / Press - Telegram / SCNG )

By Rachel Uranga, LA Daily News

Teamster Local 848 picket at Everport Terminal Services, in San Pedro Calif., in the Port of Los Angeles, protesting XPO Logistics and California Cartage that use contract workers rather than employ them as full-time, hourly workers. Monday, June 19, 2017. ( Photo by Stephen Carr / Press - Telegram / SCNG )

L.A.’s mammoth hub, the nation’s busiest container port, reported about 60 picketers outside six different container terminals around 10 a.m., causing occasional traffic delays. But officials said operations inside the gates were not delayed.

“Cargo operations are ongoing at all terminals with occasional traffic delays,” said Phil Sanfield, a spokesman for the Port of Los Angeles.

In Long Beach, a handful of protesters were striking outside three terminals. Officials there also said operations continued as usual.

Backed by the International Brotherhood Teamsters and Local 848, representing about 500 port drivers, those on the picket lines are calling for several port trucking companies to end the practice of hiring drivers as independent contractors. The union is pushing for full-time status for the drivers, including overtime and options for medical and other benefits.

Protests targeted Connecticut-based XPO Logisitics Inc. on Monday, but the strike will expand over the coming days to include more drivers at other trucking companies and will last until the end of the week. This marks the 15th strike in the past four years. Those walking the picket line receive some compensation through a union hardship fund.

“XPO and many other trucking companies are violating workers’ rights by refusing to recognizing they are employees,” said Barb Maynard, who has been organizing port truck drivers for four years as part of Teamster campaign. “This means lower wages, they don’t get benefits like social security, worker’s compensation and their boss can evade the laws that protect workers like minimum wage, overtime and health and safety rules.”

Plus she said, “these companies aren’t paying payroll taxes.”

Union officials said since 2011, port truck drivers have filed at least 875 claims with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. In 376 cases, drivers were found to be employees and owed about $40 million in stolen wages and penalties. More than 100 other cases are still pending, while hundreds more appear to be settled out of court or dealt with by a private arbitrator.

Trucking companies defend such practices, saying they allow drivers to choose their schedules and other freedoms.

There about 16,000 port drivers — most are independent contractors.

Last week, a representative from XPO said the arrangement works well for many drivers.

Tags: LA Port Strikeport truckers
Categories: Labor News

Transit Riders Unions vs. Climate Change, White Supremacy, privatization and Disaster Capitalism

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 12:36

Transit Riders Unions vs. Climate Change, White Supremacy, privatization and Disaster Capitalism


JUNE 19, 2017

Over the past few weeks, Portland, Oregon has been catapulted into the national spotlight as the site of clashes between antiracist and antifascist activists, on the one hand, and white supremacist and militia groups like the Prayer Patriots, Oathkeepers and American Freedom Keepers on the other. The right wing militia groups, along with other assorted Trump supporters, descended on the city in the immediate wake of the May 28th deaths of two out of three men who intervened to stop 35-year old Jeremy Joseph Christian, a self-professed white supremacist, from harassing two young Black women, one of them wearing a hijab. The attacks occurred on the city’s light rail or “Max” line on the eve of Ramadan.

Unremarked, however, in national media coverage of the attacks and their aftermath is the fact that the attack came in the midst of a growing debate in Portland about the militarization of public transportation. The attacks, in fact, came within days of a May 24 vote by the board of Trimet—the tri-county agency that manages Portland’s public transit system—to spend $9.9 million dollars to construct a new transit police facility and jail, and an additional $1.6 million to ramp up policing of public transportation.

The standing room only crowd at the May 24 Trimet Board meeting represented a cross section of Portland progressive community. At the center of the organizing work was the people-of-color-led statewide Portland-based NGO OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, and its member organization Bus Riders Unite! (BRU). OPAL and BRU worked to turn out a strong showing for the hearing, which included activists with union, disability rights, fossil fuel/climate justice, immigrant, houseless and renters’ rights activists, and police accountability activists from Black Lives Matter, Don’t Shoot Portland, and Portland Copwatch. Police violence became a particular flashpoint for the hearing, coming as it did on the heels of the police shooting of a 24-year-old Black man named Terrell Johnson. The shooting occurred within two months of a grand jury decision not to pursue charges against the officer who, in February, shot and killed another Black man, 17-year-old Quanice Hayes.

The shooting occurred within two months of a grand jury decision not to pursue charges against the officer who, in February, shot and killed another Black man, 17-year-old Quanice Hayes.

Barely a month earlier, OPAL activists and their allies in Oregon’s Just Transition Alliance also mobilized thousands to turn out for an April 29 march, part of the global People of Color’s Climate March, calling attention to the disproportionate impacts of climate change on frontline communities of color worldwide. On the same day, white supremacists and Trump supporters held a march down 82nd street, in a neighborhood that has increasingly become home to immigrants and people of color, many of whom have been forced out of the city’s urban core by decades of gentrification. As the Reverend Joseph Santos-Lyons, a long time OPAL board member and Executive Director of APANO (the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon) wrote in an op-ed in the Oregonian, “The sight left me with a feeling of deja vu. I was born and raised in Oregon and I had heard these chants before: ‘Go home,’ ‘Get out of our country,’ ‘You do not belong here.’ Only there was a key difference. The white supremacists were more confident, less ashamed. And perhaps for good reason. Their views are amplified nationally.” . Present on the scene at the April 29th march was Jeremy Joseph Christian, who would go on to slash the throats of three men on the city’s light rail, killing 53-year-old Ricky John Best, and 23-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, of Southeast Portland, and severely injuring 21-year-old Micah Fletcher.

With OPAL activists and their allies regrouping from the April 29 marches and mobilizing to turn out activists for the May Trimet board meeting and budget vote, Portland’s Willamette Week newspaper published a front page story headlined “Governor Kate Brown Might Sell Four Agencies to Private Bidders to Keep Oregon Afloat.” Among the state “assets” slated for sale, as a subheading indicated, is “Portland’s light rail system.” A primary impediment to the sale, the article indicated, however, would be “TriMet’s union employees [who], reporter Nigel Jaquis noted, “exert enormous power and would oppose a sale of any TriMet functions.”

Nationwide, state and local governments are facing increasing pressures in the wake of the manufactured debt crisis, to include public transportation among “assets” to be liquidated in corporate fire sales. The Willamette Week story, and the prospect of the Democratic governor selling off state agencies met with a predictably celebratory response in the conservative Weekly Standard, which responded gleefully to the prospect of the governor “burning the [state’s] household furniture to say warm” , and “rechristen[ing] the University of Oregon ‘Nike U.’” The prospect of the privatization of Portland’s light rail system is a barometer of Brown’s willingness to pursue neoliberal austerity measures, and the power that corporations like Nike and Intel exert in a state with one of the lowest corporate income taxes in the country.

The possibility of privatizing light rail ought to send shock waves throughout Portland. The city, after all, is at the forefront of the national battle to divest from fossil fuels and convert to more sustainable forms of energy. Few cities nationwide are better situated, then, to form a united front to push back against this regressive proposal, given the intersectional organizing already at work in a city that has been profoundly shaken by the resurgence of white supremacy and creeping fascism.

Nationwide, transit riders unions represent an important new front in organizing efforts to not only preserve but strengthen and exponentially broaden investment in and access to public transportation. Privatization of light rail would, of course, represent an incremental step toward privatization of public transportation as a whole, not to mention other public services and infrastructure. It would also deal a major blow to the fossil fuel resistance movement, and living wage jobs throughout the region, which is one of the reasons why privatization of public transportation is being modeled and vaunted by the Koch Brother-funded American Legislative Council (ALEC). But as the broad coalition represented in the May 24 hearing reflected, transit riders unions are on the front lines of a transit justice movement that intersects with multiple organizing fronts—including labor, fossil fuel resistance, climate, food and racial justice, police accountability, immigrants rights, disability rights, and health care access.

A 2016 article in Forbes Magazine entitled “Privatizing Public Transit Lowers Costs and Saves Cities Money” represents the erosion of unions and the power of labor as a primary benefit of privatizing public transportation. Privatizing public transportation has the potential to transform local politics and expand corporate power across the board.

The arguments are based in bait and switch tactics; they promise cost savings from eliminating union wage jobs and benefits, which would ostensibly be used to shore up other public institutions, including “local roads, schools and public pension funding.” Quite clearly, however, the elimination of transit unions would substantially erode the power of labor and would mark an important step toward eliminating and draining public pensions.

In Oregon, then, and across the country, proposals to privatize public transportation should be read as part of a broader attack on public pension funds, living wage jobs, climate justice and progressive policies across the board. “The positive effects of privatization would be largest in areas where union power is strongest,” observes Adam Millsap, a fellow with the State and Local Policy Project at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Unions, Millsap notes, “are able to negotiate for wages above the market rate,” while “[p]rivate, competitive firms have an incentive to minimize costs and consequently will be tough negotiators.” By contrast, “public officials tend to acquiesce at the bargaining table since transit unions are a powerful constituency in local politics.” Predictably absent from Millsap’s analysis is any acknowledgment of the role that unions play in negotiating for higher wages across the board. Privatizing public transportation is, then, an important weapon in shifting the balance toward unrestrained corporate power.

Budget strapped cities with strong labor traditions are in the cross hairs of this initiative, which attempts to pit low income transit-dependent riders against bus and light rail drivers. Millsap, for example, identifies transit riders unions such as the New York City’s Riders Alliance as impediments to this broader assault on labor. Campaigns like the Riders Alliance’s “Fair Fares” campaign, Millsap argues, “might be unnecessary if New York City officials lowered costs by privatizing more of the city’s public transit network.” A 2014 article in Labor Notes heralds the importance of bus riders unions, which “make ready allies for willing unions”. New York, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, Orlando, and Pittsburgh are among a growing number of cities nationwide in which transit riders and bus drivers are forming common cause to beat back transit cut backs and attempts to privatize public transportation.

New Orleans, Long Island and San Diego number among major U.S. cities that have privatized at least parts of their public transit systems, and they provide object lessons in the dangers of doing so. In New Orleans, the privatization of public transit was among the many “shocks” administered following Hurricane Katrina that intensified inequality and racialized disparities in income and wealth. In a phone interview, Robert “Tiger” Hammond, President of the Greater New Orleans AFL-CIO, spoke to the impacts of privatization on labor and living wage jobs. “When you privatize a company, they want to cut jobs,” he stated. “They want to cut benefits, such as health insurance, pensions…. We’re still in a fight for our life everyday in this hostile environment.”

For taxpayers, promised cost savings of privatization routinely fail to materialize, while wages and services are both cut. As Hammond notes, the companies that take over are focused on their own profits rather than community interests. They “always have to make money for the shareholders.” An article in California Watch, a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting, , examines the aftermath of the privatization of bus lines in San Diego. The article notes that the cost-savings have been “quite a bit less than advertised,” while bus drivers’ wages have taken a significant hit, with starting wages dipping from “$14 to $10.50 an hour.” In New York, the Long Island Bus Riders’ Union, a project of Long Island Jobs with Justice, emerged in the wake of outsourcing of bus lines to the massive French-based multinational company Veolia Transportation, the same company that now operates the bus lines and rail lines throughout the country.

In 2011, Veolia absorbed Connex Railroad, the contractor that “provide[d] engineers to the commuter line, MetroLink,” in Los Angeles, which was implicated in a 2008 head-on train collision that killed twenty five people and injured 130. The train engineer was reportedly texting at the time of the accident. The accident resulted in a $200 million settlement, “one of costliest rail settlements” in U.S. history.

With buses under operation by Veolia, The Long Island Bus RidersUnion fought back against threatened cuts to “60% of all routes, and weekend and off-peak service cuts equaling nearly 25% cuts on certain routes.” Not surprisingly, the transit union reported that many of the proposed cuts “appear[ed] to be in low income communities where more people rely on buses to get to work and to access the few health care centers that serve their needs.” The Riders Union publication included an interview with Dr. Niev Duffy of the Center for Social Policy and Community Engagement at SUNY Old Westbury. Duffy indicated that it was “’very difficult or impossible to evaluate the full economic consequences of the cuts,’” given “people los[ing] access to employment” and “cuts forc[ing] more people to use emergency rooms for their health care.” Among several health care facilities slated to lose access in the wake of cuts proposed in 2012 were the Nassau County Department of Health, and the Nassau County Department of Social Services.

The Portland-based Trimet’s proposed $12.9 million dollar expenditure, funded largely by a bond measure, was particularly galling to OPAL, BRU and their allies, given OPAL’s campaign to secure passes for the city’s low income riders at the nearly equivalent cost of $12 million. OPAL organizers note, moreover, that the city is in the process of implementing a flashy new electronic fare card system, the “Hop Fastpass,” the total costs of which are estimated at $35.9 million. OPAL/BRU organizers see the expenditure as evidence of the Trimet Board’s insularity from community needs and interests, including those of low income transit-dependent people, who for decades have been pushed to the outskirts of a city that ranks among one of the most rapidly gentrifying cities–with one of the tightest rental markets in the U.S. OPAL organizers emphasize that “fare evasion” may at times be a necessary survival tactic for low income riders whose quest for lower rents increases the cost of their daily commutes, and who may at times be forced to choose between fare evasion and job loss from missed shifts.

The $11.5 million expenditure, OPAL and BRU contend, represents a ramping up of militarized policing. In a phone interview, BRU organizer Orlando Lopez described Trimet’s practice of conducting mass fare checks or “sweeps.” Riders exiting stations at what Trimet describes as “checkpoints” are met with a gauntlet of three to five armed officers, often with police dogs. Transit police officers, Lopez observed, “use sweeps as a dragnet” to look for people with outstanding warrants. According to OPAL, while sweeps are often used at events like concerts and baseball games, they seem to occur most routinely in lower income areas frequented by people of color, including recent immigrants. At the May 24th hearing, OPAL organizers noted reports of individual Trimet police inquiring not only after fare cards, but into riders’ citizenship status as well, though it’s illegal under Oregon law for local law enforcement to do so—in the absence of suspicion of criminal activity–and Trimet officials have expressly stated that such practices deviate from agency policies.

OPAL organizers cite a pattern of racial profiling that informs fare checks and sweeps. Though individuals are ostensibly selected at random for fare checks, Lopez noted, “if you’re white and wearing a suit, they don’t bother to check.” The same pattern, he noted, applies to fare checking on the city’s light rail. A single individual whose fare is being checked, and who “poses no harm to officers,” may, nonetheless, be surrounded by three or four armed transit police. “Typically what we’ve heard from riders and members,” Lopez observed, “is that they target youth, people of color and people who look homeless or low income first to see if they’ve paid their fares.” Racial and economic disparities in fare enforcement, then, may account in part for the fact that, according to a study conducted by Brian C. Renauer with Portland State University’s Criminal Justice Policy Research Institute, African Americans comprise only 7% of Trimet ridership, but they represent 17.7% of individuals cited for fare evasion, and 22.4% of those who are issued 90 day exclusions that are accompanied by charges of “interfering with public transit” or IPT. “Black folks in Portland,” observed Lopez, an organizer with BRU, observed have higher rates of unemployment, and poverty and lower incomes than whites. According to a 2014 Multnomah County equity report, at 15.9%, unemployment rates for African Americans are nearly double those of whites (8%). “So when [Black riders] are punished, they’re punished for living in poverty,” observed Lopez.

Until this past week, IPTs, as they’re called, qualified as Class A misdemeanors equivalent to DUIs. On June 12, the Oregon legislature voted to reduce them to a Class C misdemeanor.

While IPTs are issued for a variety of offenses from harassing riders and drivers to fare evasion, the latter accounts for 90% of IPTs issued by Trimet police. IPTs for fare evasion result in criminalization and, notes Lopez “set them back financially.” According to Portland’s Street Roots newspaper, the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission determined that, between 2010 and 2014,“in Multnomah County the average jail sentence for an IPT conviction was 15 days at a cost of $2,520 per inmate.”

And while no evidence exists to date of undocumented people being detained or deported by ICE for fare evasion, both locally and nationally, undocumented people with even decades old DUIs are now facing detention and deportation. In January, district attorneys in the counties served by Trimet announced that “their offices will no longer prosecute TriMet fare evasions or exclusions.” . “We’ve been trying to push for the complete removal of IPTs,” noted Lopez, but to date, Trimet continues to issue them. The privatization of light rail might, moreover, erode the progress that OPAL and BRU have helped forge around the issue.

In the days following the nationally publicized murders on the city’s light rail, many in Portland seemed eager to endorse Trimet’s plan for ramped up policing. Lost on some, it seems, was the fact that it was “civilians,” rather than police, who intervened to defend the passengers against Christian’s verbal assault, and who initially chased Christian, still holding his bloody knife, from the scene of the attack. On social media, however, many honed in on the disparities in police treatment of African American Terrell Johnson and the white supremacist. Johnson had reportedly been threatening passengers at a light rail station, but when police approached him, he ran. When Johnson reportedly brandished box cutter or “utility knife” at officers, he was shot– multiple times in the back– and died at the scene. Christian, who reportedly threw his nearly four inch long bloody knife at a moving squad car, was allowed to finish his beer before he was taken safely into custody.

Police conduct during the subsequent showdown on June 4 between progressive, anti-racist and anti-fascist activists on the one hand, and Trump supporters and white supremacists on the other, raised troubling questions for many about the intersections of militarized policing and white supremacy. Police in full riot gear trained their weapons throughout the day exclusively on progressive and anti-fascist activists, and before the day was over, the PPB, with a complement of interagency support, including “Homeland Security,” hit activists with stun—or “flashbang”–grenades, chemical agents and rubber bullets. Homeland Security agents, meanwhile, were caught on tape enlisting the aid of a member of the American Freedom Keepers, a right wing militia group, in pinning and cuffing an antiracist protester. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is reportedly investigating the incident.

The possibility of white supremacist sympathizers within the ranks of the PPB itself, however, would hardly came as news to many in the city. A captain in the PPB was disciplined in 2010 for reportedly erecting a shrine in a local park in homage to five dead Nazi soldiers., and in 2014, then Mayor Charlie Hales signed off an agreementexpunging records of the disciplinary action.

On June 6, Mat Dos Santos, Legal Director of the Oregon ACLU, issued a statement calling the June 4 showdown a “trial for the first amendment and policing” in Portland. Dos Santos took pains to notethat “no other police force in America uses crowd control weapons with the regularity of the Portland Police Bureau…. these ‘less lethal’ weapons are dangerous and indiscriminate.” . Collectively, incidents of the last few weeks have gone a long way toward undermining Portland’s “progressive” reputation. For many longtime Portlander’s the recent events are a grim reminder not only of Oregon’s roots as a “white only state,” but also of the visibility that white supremacists assumed in Portland as recently as the 1980s, that culminated in the 1988 murder of Ethiopian student Mulugeta Seraw, who was beaten to death by baseball bat wielding members of the White Aryan Resistance or WAR. A $12.5 million legal settlement by the Southern Poverty Law Center against WAR leader Tom Metzger played a significant role in breaking the regional power of WAR and curtailing white supremacist organizing in the Pacific Northwest for nearly two decades.

As the city continues to be hit on an almost daily basis with white supremacist threats—from racist leaflets to bomb scares—and Portland activists regroup and strategize ways of contending with the shifting political landscape, Trimet might be a particularly strategic focus for activist energy. At an April breakfast meeting hosted by Portland Business Alliance with sponsorship from Portland General Electric, reported on by Willamette Week, Mayor Ted Wheeler “announced his interest in welcoming driverless cars to Portland by the end of the year.” “’My goal is to have an autonomous vehicle pilot program in Portland, working for Portlanders, by the end of the year….To the inventors, investors and innovators, I’m here to say that Portland is open for business.’” While the development of a fleet of autonomous vehicles may serve as a boon to Portland General Electric, it also sends an ominous signal about the future of public transportation and evokes comparisons to San Francisco. In the latter city, Google’s high tech workers are shepherded to work and back in privately owned buses that not only insulate them from the realities of economically embattled service workers and but give them little reason to want to invest in public transportation.

If Wheeler hoped to lend credence to PGE’s claim to serve as the forefront of Portland’s clean energy movement, in May, regional fossil fuel resistance activists turned out in droves to speak out against PGE’s plan to build a new natural gas plant to replace an existing coal-fired plant. At the meeting, activists “raised the specter of methane leaks from [fracked] gas, unhealthy pollution from gas-plant operations, [and] uncontrolled global warming.” On June 1, the same day the Trump administration announced plans to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, Portland’s city council passed the latest in a series of resolutions affirming its commitment to a fossil fuel future. It voted to power “100 percent of community-wide energy needs with renewable energy by 2050.”

In the coming years, however, Portland’s struggle for a livable, white supremacist-free future may increasingly center on the fate of the city’s public transportation system. Around the country and around the world, the preservation and expansion of public transportation may prove a critical variable in the struggle for a “livable future.” Both nationally and globally, the stakes for frontline communities of color in the crosshairs of both climate change and disaster capitalism couldn’t be higher.

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More articles by:DESIREE HELLEGERS
Desiree Hellegers is a co-founder and affiliated faculty of the Collective for Social and Environmental Justice at Washington State University Vancouver, and author of No Room of Her Own of Her Own: Women’s Stories of Homelessness, Life, Death and Resistance (Palgrave, 2011).

Tags: privatizationrepressionracism
Categories: Labor News

UBER Destroying Public Transit As Capitalist Politicians Refuse to Regulate And Control “Disrupters” Deregulation Gone Wild

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 08:01

UBER Destroying Public Transit As Capitalist Politicians Refuse to Regulate And Control “Disrupters” Deregulation Gone Wild
Is the Uber phenomenon killing transit in Sacramento?
The opening of the Golden 1 Center downtown last fall was billed as a rare opportunity for Sacramento Regional Transit to attract new riders. The agency stepped up its game, scrubbing trains, bolstering security and improving customer service.

By many accounts, it made a good impression. Yet new numbers show SacRT ridership on buses and trains has dropped 12 percent since last summer.

What happened?

The answer is simple. The transit agency’s ongoing challenges are bigger than an arena, and will require more work to address than an image upgrade.

While light rail trains did carry 1,700 fans on some arena nights, that amounts to only a small slice – about 2 percent – of daily transit travel, and those riders materialize only when the arena is hosting major events.

SacRT has been losing ridership almost annually for seven years – a 30 percent decline since 2010. American Public Transit Association data show that transit ridership is dwindling in most other cities as well.

Dan Sperling, founder and head of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis, who is writing a book about revolutions in transportation, says public transit in America is at a pivotal juncture.

“The story is of transit under great duress,” he said. “Transit is under great risk of shrinking. That is not in anyone’s interest.”

Nationally, transit experts point to many factors, including low gas prices that cause more people to get back in their cars. Others point out that poorly funded transit agencies, SacRT included, don’t provide sufficient service to be useful to many.

The most provocative possibility is what transit officials call the “Uber phenomenon.” App-based ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft have arrived on the scene in cities across the country, siphoning riders from traditional, or “legacy,” transit.

Ride-hailing companies do not release ridership details, but an Uber spokesman told The Sacramento Bee earlier this year his company has 2,000 drivers signed up in Sacramento. The streets around Golden 1 Center during event nights tell a story. Cars with U stickers or pink mustache stickers on windows frequently roll through the area, picking up and dropping off fans.

Ride-hailing allows people to hit a button on their cellphone and be picked up within minutes right where they stand, and then be dropped off directly at their destination. The price is typically higher than a bus fare, but the convenience improvement is obvious.

Jim Corless, head of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments regional planning group, says transportation is dealing with a generational disruption.
Sacramento streetcar project effort scores key local funding
“This disruption technology and the drop in ridership numbers means that every transit provider across the country has to rethink their business model,” he said. “They have to understand their competitive advantage.

“It may be what RT can do best is serve high-frequency, high-volume corridors. Nothing will ever beat a frequent, safe and reliable bus or train ... that can move volumes of people.”

While the ride-hailing phenomenon represents a challenge, transit experts say it also provides an inspiration and potential collaboration opportunities.

SacRT has been putting its toe in those waters. The agency teamed up on a test basis with Uber, Lyft and Yellow Cab this winter, offering discount vouchers for light rail riders to take ride-hail services to and from transit stations. Regional Transit officials say they do not have data yet for how that turned out.

Lyft spokeswoman Darcy Nenni also did not offer an analysis of how that went, but, in an email to The Bee, called it “a great learning experience for us and SacRT.”

“We hope to continue working with them on future endeavors,” Nenni said.

Devra Selenis, SacRT communications head, said she envisions a day when a single phone app will tell a person their best bet is to grab an Uber to a light rail station and allow the person to pay for both with a single tap on the phone.

Transit agencies say they realize they must become more tech-friendly in order to attract millennials and future generations of new riders.

SacRT recently added smartphone payment apps, and last week joined eight smaller local transit agencies in introducing “Connect Card,” an ATM-like universal card that riders can use at any of those agencies. Peter Tateishi, president of the Sacramento Metro Chamber, suggests transit agencies might be even bolder by considering merging more of their operations.

But transit officials acknowledge their challenges go far beyond Uber. SacRT’s existing bus route system is out of date. The agency has launched a bus route analysis that likely will result next year in the most dramatic route changes in the agency’s history.

“Travel patterns have shifted, but our bus routes haven’t shifted,” chief operating officer Mark Lonergan said. “That is why we talk about a clean slate.”

SacRT has begun meeting with business leaders on how to attract and retain young people who are less inclined to own cars, and are interested in using transit if it works for them, according to SacRT consultant Wendy Hoyt, who has been pushing SacRT to be more entrepreneurial.

The Metro Edge business group, made up of young professionals, conducted a survey that shows transportation issues are members’ No. 1 concern, up from No. 3 the previous year. That suggests there is an opportunity for SacRT to gain some footing.

Rachel Zillner, Metro Edge chair, uses light rail at times. She said she loves Uber, but considers the ride-hailing service “partially a Band-Aid for the transit connection that is not there yet.”

SacRT officials say the ridership slide is a catalyst for reinvention. The biggest drop in its ridership came in 2010, when the financially strapped agency cut service more than 20 percent. The agency took another ridership hit last year when it raised fares.

That points to another long-standing problem: the lack of sufficient, ongoing funding for public transit, SacRT officials said.

The agency had hoped to get an infusion of money last year from a countywide sales tax measure, but that proposal lost at the ballot box. SacRT and others in transportation circles locally are talking about trying again, especially if they can pass legislation to lower the required voter approval threshold from the current two-thirds.

Nailah Pope-Harden of the Capital Region Organizing Project, which works in disadvantaged neighborhoods, said that a lot of the riders SacRT lost over the last few years are poorer people who feel abandoned by the agency as it focuses on attracting millennials.

Agency officials say they realize their mission includes serving people who don’t have cars, but say they need new, higher-income riders to help fund service that can be used by everyone.

Even with new funds, progress will be incremental, they say.

“It may take some time for people to come back,” said SacRT executive Laura Ham. “It may happen gradually.”

Tags: UberderegulationDisrupterstechnology
Categories: Labor News

BHP Billiton Joins the Push for Autonomous Vessels

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 21:04

BHP Billiton Joins the Push for Autonomous Vessels

Conceptual autonomous ship (illustration courtesy Rolls-Royce)
By MarEx 2017-06-07 19:58:31

Mining company BHP Billiton has thrown its considerable weight behind the concept of autonomous vessels. The firm ships 250 million tonnes of ore on 1,500 voyages per year, making it among the largest dry bulk charters in the world, and it believes that it could significantly improve the bottom line by switching to self-navigating ships. It is easily the largest charterer to date to endorse the concept of vessel autonomy.

"Safe and efficient autonomous vessels carrying BHP cargo, powered by BHP gas, is our vision for the future of dry bulk shipping. We believe that future could manifest within a decade," says vice president of freight Rashpal Bhatti.

The move would mirror BHP's increasingly automated operations on land. The firm already works with driverless trucks at its mines in Australia, reducing overhead and removing human drivers from a potentially hazardous environment. (Competitor Rio Tinto was an early and enthusiastic adopter of these self-driving trucks, and it is also adopting self-driving trains and drilling rigs.) These innovations save labor costs, but they also reduce uncertainty: with increasingly automated operations, miners have fewer concerns about future labor availability and wage levels for their shoreside operations.

Charterers can vote with their contracts

In a keynote address at the Nor-Shipping 2017 conference last week, Bhatti also emphasized shipping's role in reducing CO2 emissions; the promise of new data analytics tools to benchmark vessel performance and facilitate cost-effective chartering decisions; and most of all, the importance of ship operator vetting to improve safety standards. "Due to our size, the decisions BHP makes around the vessels we choose to charter are important symbols for motivating change," he says.

Recalling the Stellar Daisy disaster, Bhatti placed special emphasis on safety: he says that his firm’s goal is to bring dry bulk's standards up to and beyond the benchmark set by the tanker industry. To push operators to improve, the firm only allows shipowners with top environmental and safety records to participate in its eAuction online chartering platform: low day rates are no longer enough.

Tags: Automationautonomous vessels
Categories: Labor News