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China's Silk Road, One Belt One Road "Socialism With Chinese Characteristics" Privatizing More Ports Around the World

Wed, 12/13/2017 - 10:53

China's Silk Road, One Belt One Road "Socialism With Chinese Characteristics" Privatizing More Ports Around the World
Sri Lanka, Struggling With Debt, Hands a Major Port to China
" In recent months, however, there have been signs that China’s partners are starting to become wary over the terms being dictated to build projects under the One Road banner. Pakistan, Nepal and Myanmar have all recently cancelled or sidelined major hydroelectricity projects planned by Chinese companies. The projects would have been worth a total of $20bn.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/12/world/asia/sri-lanka-china-port.html?...

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By KAI SCHULTZDEC. 12, 2017
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The Hambantota port on Sri Lanka’s southern coast. China has been shoring up its presence in the Indian Ocean. CreditLakruwan Wanniarachchi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
NEW DELHI — Struggling to pay its debt to Chinese firms, the nation of Sri Lanka formally handed over the strategic port of Hambantota to China on a 99-year lease last week, in a deal that government critics have said threatens the country’s sovereignty.

In recent years, China has shored up its presence in the Indian Ocean, investing billions of dollars to build port facilities and plan maritime trade routes as part of its “One Belt, One Road” initiative to help increase its market reach.

Along the way, smaller countries like Sri Lanka have found themselves owing debts they cannot pay. Sri Lanka owes more than $8 billion to state-controlled Chinese firms, officials say.

Sri Lankan politicians said the Hambantota deal, valued at $1.1 billion, was necessary to chip away at the debt, but analysts warned of the consequences of signing away too much control to China.

“The price being paid for reducing the China debt could prove more costly than the debt burden Sri Lanka seeks to reduce,” said N. Sathiya Moorthy, a senior fellow specializing in Sri Lanka at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation.Sri Lanka has long been in India’s orbit, but its relationship with China has strengthened in recent years. As Western nations accused Mahinda Rajapaksa, the country’s former president, of grievous human rights abuses during the final stages of Sri Lanka’s nearly 26-year civil war, China extended billions of dollars of loans to Mr. Rajapaksa’s government for new infrastructure projects.

In July, the state-controlled China Merchants Port Holdings Company signed a deal with the Sri Lanka Ports Authority to control a 70 percent stake in the Hambantota port, which lies on the southern coast of the country.

Last Friday, Sri Lanka’s Parliament voted to grant tax concessions to a joint venture led by China to develop the port. On Saturday, the government completed the handover of the port to two state-controlled entities run through China Merchants Port Holdings, which has already made its first payment of $300 million to the Sri Lankan government.

“With this agreement, we have started to pay back the loans,” Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in an address to Parliament. “There will be an economic zone and industrialization in the area which will lead to economic development and promote tourism.”

Critics said the lease could set a precedent for Sri Lanka and other countries that owe money to China to accept deals that involve the signing over of territory. After the original port deal was signed in July, Namal Rajapaksa, a member of Parliament and son of the former president, asked on Twitter whether the government was “playing geopolitics with national assets.”

Perceiving a threat to its regional hegemony, India has also watched with suspicion as cranes operated by Chinese firms began to dot the skyline in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital. To reset the imbalance, India has partnered with Japan to develop a port on Sri Lanka’s eastern coastline, and it has entered into talks to invest in an airport near Hambantota.

“India has been overwhelmed by China’s offensive in its strategic backyard,” said Constantino Xavier, a fellow at Carnegie India in New Delhi.

But across South Asia, there have been some signs of pushback to Chinese investment, including the recent sidelining of hydropower projects in Nepal, Pakistan and Myanmar.

Mr. Xavier said Sri Lanka’s dependency on China has alarmed some countries. “Countries in the region are beginning to realize the long-term costs of Beijing’s massive investment promises,” he said.

China signs 99-year lease on Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port

Critics denounce move as an erosion of country’s sovereignty
https://www.ft.com/content/e150ef0c-de37-11e7-a8a4-0a1e63a52f9c

China signs 99-year lease on Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port Critics denounce move as an erosion of country’s sovereignty Read next Manufacturers respond to health edicts in food and drink recipes For Beijing the Hambantota port project is a linchpin of the 'One Belt One Road' initiative
Kiran Stacey in New Delhi DECEMBER 11, 2017 4 Sri Lanka has formally handed over its southern port of Hambantota to China on a 99-year lease, which government critics have denounced as an erosion of the country’s sovereignty. The $1.3bn port was opened seven years ago using debt from Chinese state-controlled entities. But it has since struggled under heavy losses, making it impossible for Colombo to repay its debts. In 2016, Sri Lankan ministers struck a deal to sell an 80 per cent stake in the port to the state-controlled China Merchants Port Holdings. But that agreement sparked protests from unions and opposition groups, forcing the government to renegotiate it. Under the new plan, signed in July, the Chinese company will hold a 70 per cent stake in a joint venture with the state-run Sri Lanka Ports Authority. Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sri Lanka’s prime minister, welcomed the deal during the official handing over ceremony at the weekend. He said: “With this agreement we have started to pay back the loans. Hambantota will be converted to a major port in the Indian Ocean. “There will be an economic zone and industrialisation in the area which will lead to economic development and promote tourism.” Share this graphic But the renegotiated plan has failed to quell dissent within Sri Lanka. When it was first signed Namal Rajapaksa, Hambantota’s MP and son of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, tweeted: “Government is playing geopolitics with national assets? #stopsellingSL”. For Beijing, the Hambantota project is a linchpin of the “One Belt One Road” project, which aims to build a new Silk Road of trade routes between China and more than 60 countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe. That project is underpinned by a network of harbours across the world that have put China in a position to challenge the US as the world’s most important maritime superpower. Other similar developments in the region include the Gwadar port in Pakistan, which is the centrepiece of the $55bn China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. But some have accused Beijing of using projects such as this to increase its regional political power, noting the length of the lease agreed by Sri Lanka is the same as that which gave Britain control over Hong Kong in the 19th century. Constantino Xavier, a fellow at foreign policy think-tank Carnegie, said: “This is part of a larger modus operandi by China in the region. Hambantota port lying virtually empty last month © Simon Mundy “Beijing typically finds a local partner, makes that local partner accept investment plans that are detrimental to their country in the long term, and then uses the debts to either acquire the project altogether or to acquire political leverage in that country.” New Delhi has become so concerned about Beijing’s plans at Hambantota that it has entered talks with Sri Lanka to operate an airport nearby. In recent months, however, there have been signs that China’s partners are starting to become wary over the terms being dictated to build projects under the One Road banner. Pakistan, Nepal and Myanmar have all recently cancelled or sidelined major hydroelectricity projects planned by Chinese companies. The projects would have been worth a total of $20bn.

Tags: ChinaOne BeltOne RoadSocialism With Chinese Characteristics
Categories: Labor News

NTSB blames captain, bad safety culture for loss of El Faro

Wed, 12/13/2017 - 08:11

NTSB blames captain, bad safety culture for loss of El Faro
http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/ntsb-issue-probable-el-faros-sinking-...
By JASON DEAREN, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Dec 12, 2017, 6:08 PM ET

The Associated Press
WATCH Discovered Data Recorder May Shed Light On the Mystery of El Faro
A ship captain's unwillingness to listen to his crew's suggestions to change course from the path of a raging hurricane. A weak corporate safety culture that left crewmembers ill-prepared to deal with heavy weather. An old ship with outdated lifeboats, open to the elements.

All these factors contributed to the sinking of the El Faro in the fury of Hurricane Joaquin on Oct. 1, 2015, which killed all 33 people on board, the National Transportation Safety Board announced on Tuesday. The report concludes a 2-year investigation into the worst U.S. maritime disaster in modern history.

The NTSB issued 53 safety recommendations along with its findings, which investigators hope will be adopted by the industry, maritime safety inspectors and weather forecasters to make the seas safer for future generations.

"I hope that this tragedy at sea can serve as a lighthouse to guide the safety of marine transportation," said Robert Sumwalt, the board's chairman.

The El Faro, which means lighthouse in Spanish, sank between Jacksonville and San Juan, Puerto Rico after losing engine power in the Category 3 storm. The NTSB retrieved the ship's voyage data recorder, or "black box," from the sea floor near the Bahamas, 15,000-feet (4,570 meters) under the surface. The device held 26 hours of data, including audio of conversations on the ship's bridge as the frantic crew struggled to save the ship and themselves.

While the board found no fault with El Faro Capt. Michael Davidson's decision to leave port in Jacksonville, they did blame his reliance on an emailed weather forecasting system that contained hours-old data, rather than online updates from the National Hurricane Center. Investigators believe, based on his decisions and recorded comments, that he wasn't aware of the delay in the data, and that instead of skirting the storm, he sent the El Faro on a collision course with the hurricane.

"Although up-to-date weather information was available on the ship, the El Faro captain did not use the most current weather information for decision-making," NTSB investigator Mike Kucharski said at the meeting, held in Washington, D.C. "The captain did not take sufficient action to avoid Hurricane Joaquin, thereby putting El Faro and its crew in peril."

The board also criticized the "weak safety culture" of ship owner TOTE Maritime, Inc., including the lack of employee training for dealing with heavy weather situations and flooding. A hatch had been left open, allowing water from the roiling sea to flood an interior hold; this led to the ship tilting, disrupting the flow of oil to the engines. Once the freighter lost engine power, it was at the mercy of battering swells.

Also, the ship's wind gauge, called an anemometer, was broken and the 40-year-old freighter's open-top lifeboats would not have protected the crew, even if they had been able to launch them. The El Faro was legally allowed to carry lifeboats that expose people to the elements — just like the lifeboats on the Titanic and the Lusitania — due to safety-rule exemptions for older ships.

Whether the crew could have survived Joaquin's punishing winds and high seas had the El Faro been equipped with the closed-top lifeboats used by newer ships is unknown, but NTSB safety investigator Jon Furukawa said it could have helped crewmembers fighting for their lives .

"We believe that would've been the best method of departing the vessel under these conditions. It is still challenging, and we don't know if they would've survived," Furukawa said. "But enclosed lifeboats are the current standard and the El Faro did not have the current standard."

The board is not only recommending closed-top boats for all merchant ships, but also that the entire industry require crewmembers to carry personal locator beacons to better locate them during marine emergencies.

The El Faro had an older emergency position-indicating radio beacon, or EPIRB, which did not transmit global position system coordinates, and that made locating the ship more difficult for search-and-rescue crews. Given the heavy weather, rescuers probably couldn't have reached the ship any sooner, but the board believes the new requirement would help in future sea accidents.

The NTSB's draft recommendations are not law, but are used to guide industry changes or updates to existing safety procedures overseen by the U.S. Coast Guard and so-called "classification societies" like the American Bureau of Shipping, which conducts a large percentage of marine inspections on the Guard's behalf. The recommendations also can be used by Congress to create new laws meant to improve safety.

Larry Brennan, a maritime law professor at Fordham Law School and retired U.S. Navy captain, said the NTSB's recommendations highlighted major safety problems in the entire industry, including the Coast Guard and classification societies that are in charge of inspecting vessels for safety.

"El Faro was a worn, aged ship which succumbed to heavy weather in large part because of multiple unseaworthy conditions, poor leadership and bad decisions by the captain, American Bureau of Shipping, the owners as well as inadequate surveys and inspections by the U.S. Coast Guard," Brennan said.

——

Follow Jason Dearen on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/JHDearen

Tags: NTSBsafetyEl Faro deathsEl Faro sinking
Categories: Labor News

California judge rules COSCO-affiliated port truckers were misclassified

Tue, 12/12/2017 - 16:14

California judge rules COSCO-affiliated port truckers were misclassified
https://www.supplychaindive.com/news/port-truck-driver-misclassification...
AUTHOR

Jennifer McKevitt
@mckvt
PUBLISHED

Dec. 6, 2017
Dive Brief:

In a driver misclassification case, Judge Dickie Montemayor ruled against Intermodal Bridge Transport (IBT), stating the company violated federal law by engaging in unfair labor practices, including misclassifying its drivers as independent contractors instead of employees, Trucks.com reported.
IBT is a subsidiary of the Chinese-owned COSCO Group. In Montemayor's ruling, the company was also ordered to cease and desist from behavior that includes interrogating, threatening or coercing employees who support union membership at its Wilmington, Calif. terminal.
California truckers have filed more than 800 wage claims, alleging they have been misclassified as independent contractors since 2011, and have been awarded roughly $40 million in compensation across 300 cases as a result.
Story continues below

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Recognition and favorable litigation toward misclassified drivers is growing, with legal tolerance correspondingly shrinking. In Los Angeles, the port of L.A. is considering blocking access to companies relying on contract labor, while companies such as Celadon and Swift have moved to mitigate the risk by turning away from using owner operators in the case of Celadon, or are setting aside large cash reserves should a negative ruling occur in the case of Swift.

Differing legal views of the situation are common.

"By misclassifying the drivers, IBT is preventing the individuals taking concerted activity, and depriving them of rights that employees are entitled to under the National Labor Relations Act," Jordan Schwartz, Partner, Labor and Employment Practice at Conn Maciel Carey LLP told Supply Chain Dive.

In other words, by denying the drivers the right to talk about working conditions or form a union, protections they would otherwise be entitled to, were they not misclassified, have been infringed upon.

Other attorneys attribute at least some of the emerging precedents to location.

"California is all over this issue," David Ritter, Partner at Barnes and Thornburg, LLP told Supply Chain Dive. "They're digging in, because the state and federal government are not receiving their fair share of taxes."

Ritter further notes the specific conditions of the case.

"IBT had full control over the means and the manner of work performed by the drivers," he said. "They established the rules, and when those rules were broken, drivers were disciplined."

"In fact, IBT even tried to cover its tracks by changing some of the contract wording," he added, "which further implicated the company. This is a situation where the black letter of the law is applied: in other words, if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, chances are, it's a duck."

Tags: CoscoPort Truckers Misclassified
Categories: Labor News

Another Worker Death Underscores ‘Atrocious Safety Record’ at Hutchison Terminal in Jakarta

Tue, 12/12/2017 - 15:47

Another Worker Death Underscores ‘Atrocious Safety Record’ at Hutchison Terminal in Jakarta
http://gcaptain.com/itf-another-worker-death-underscores-atrocious-safet...

December 11, 2017 by gCaptain

container terminal
Photo: By tcly / Shutterstock
Another worker has died in an accident at the Hutchison terminal in Jakarta, marking the fourth fatality in just the past 15 months at the terminal, the International Transport Workers’ Federation has reported.

The incident is the latest to underscore the what the ITF described as an “atrocious” safety record at the Hutchison terminal.

“We are shocked and alarmed by the continuing carnage at the Hutchison’s terminal in Jakarta. Two workers have died within two months, and four within the past 15 months. This is an atrocious record that speaks for itself,” said Nova Hakim, chair of the Serikat Pekerja Jakarta International Container Terminal (SPJICT).

While details of the accident are unclear, the ITF said the worker died as the result of a fall.

The ITF and SPJICT are calling on the company to conduct an official inquiry into the death and the circumstance “surrounding how the worker fell overboard,” the ITF said in a statement.

“Hutchison needs to answer serious questions,” commented ITF president, Paddy Crumlin. “Was this man provided with adequate fall protection? Was the outboard fencing on this vessel complete and compliant with international and class standards?

“Falls from height – and falls overboard – are 100% preventable. On a modern vessel, there is no reason why a worker should die from a fall from height with proper inspections, proper management of the work environment, proper equipment and engineering controls.

“When a person falls overboard, management are often quick to blame the worker. We need to dig deeper to find the root causes of this horrible tragedy,” Crumlin said.

Tags: death in Jakartahealth and safetyHutchison Terminal Jakarta
Categories: Labor News

MN ATU 1005 Metro Transit workers rally in Minneapolis as negotiations continue to avert Super Bowl strike

Tue, 12/12/2017 - 10:22

MN ATU 1005 Metro Transit workers rally in Minneapolis as negotiations continue to avert Super Bowl strike
http://www.twincities.com/2017/12/11/metro-transit-workers-rally-as-nego...
By RYAN FAIRCLOTH | rfaircloth@pioneerpress.com | Pioneer Press
December 11, 2017 at 8:53 pm

Around 70 unionized transit workers assembled at a Metropolitan Council transportation committee meeting in Minneapolis Monday to voice concerns over an ongoing contract dispute.

Job safety, arduous schedules and employee benefits were among many concerns raised by the Metro Transit workers. The demonstration coincided with a new round of contract negotiations in St. Paul between the Met Council and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 that extended into the early evening.

“We care about getting a decent and fair contract, and we’re willing to fight to have a fair contract. It just seems a shame that we are not treated like the backbone to this company,” said Metro Transit bus driver Theresa Collins, who attended the demonstration.

Unionized transit operators and support personnel rejected the Met Council’s contract offer in November, citing operator safety as a main concern. Assaults on Twin Cities bus and light-rail operators have grown more common over the past five years. In 2016, 162 assaults were reported among more than 1,500 Metro Transit operators.

Collins has driven Metro Transit buses for 29 years. She said she’s been assaulted, spat on and threatened during her career.

“Driver assault is really big on the forefront right now for all of us,” Collins said. “I personally think that every driver that’s going to retire from this company will have been assaulted at least one time in their career.”

Union workers have called for Metro Transit to retrofit buses with protective driver enclosures in response to assault concerns, and have threatened to strike during the Feb. 4 Super Bowl if their demands aren’t met. The transit agency announced Dec. 1 that protective shields would be installed in 20 buses in the coming weeks as part of a pilot test.

David Dittbenner, a Metro Transit mechanic who attended the demonstration, said workers deserve a contract that offers better wages, benefits and scheduling.

Despite working for Metro Transit for 16 years, he said he isn’t able to get full weekends off from work.“We’re here for a better contract than what they originally offered,” Dittbenner said.

Mark Lawson, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005, said the two parties made progress in negotiations Monday.

“On some things we’ve come closer to each other, and there’s a few key points where we’re not there yet as far as coming to an agreement,” he said.

Transit workers presented the Met Council with an updated proposal Monday evening, Lawson said, adding that a mediator will return with a response from Metro Transit by the end of the week.

He said he’s hopeful an agreement will be reached before a potential Super Bowl strike.

Tags: ATU 1005health and safetycontract rights
Categories: Labor News

MN ATU 1005 Metro Transit workers rally in Minneapolis as negotiations continue to avert Super Bowl strike

Tue, 12/12/2017 - 10:22

MN ATU 1005 Metro Transit workers rally in Minneapolis as negotiations continue to avert Super Bowl strike
http://www.twincities.com/2017/12/11/metro-transit-workers-rally-as-nego...
By RYAN FAIRCLOTH | rfaircloth@pioneerpress.com | Pioneer Press
December 11, 2017 at 8:53 pm

Around 70 unionized transit workers assembled at a Metropolitan Council transportation committee meeting in Minneapolis Monday to voice concerns over an ongoing contract dispute.

Job safety, arduous schedules and employee benefits were among many concerns raised by the Metro Transit workers. The demonstration coincided with a new round of contract negotiations in St. Paul between the Met Council and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 that extended into the early evening.

“We care about getting a decent and fair contract, and we’re willing to fight to have a fair contract. It just seems a shame that we are not treated like the backbone to this company,” said Metro Transit bus driver Theresa Collins, who attended the demonstration.

Unionized transit operators and support personnel rejected the Met Council’s contract offer in November, citing operator safety as a main concern. Assaults on Twin Cities bus and light-rail operators have grown more common over the past five years. In 2016, 162 assaults were reported among more than 1,500 Metro Transit operators.

Collins has driven Metro Transit buses for 29 years. She said she’s been assaulted, spat on and threatened during her career.

“Driver assault is really big on the forefront right now for all of us,” Collins said. “I personally think that every driver that’s going to retire from this company will have been assaulted at least one time in their career.”

Union workers have called for Metro Transit to retrofit buses with protective driver enclosures in response to assault concerns, and have threatened to strike during the Feb. 4 Super Bowl if their demands aren’t met. The transit agency announced Dec. 1 that protective shields would be installed in 20 buses in the coming weeks as part of a pilot test.

David Dittbenner, a Metro Transit mechanic who attended the demonstration, said workers deserve a contract that offers better wages, benefits and scheduling.

Despite working for Metro Transit for 16 years, he said he isn’t able to get full weekends off from work.“We’re here for a better contract than what they originally offered,” Dittbenner said.

Mark Lawson, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005, said the two parties made progress in negotiations Monday.

“On some things we’ve come closer to each other, and there’s a few key points where we’re not there yet as far as coming to an agreement,” he said.

Transit workers presented the Met Council with an updated proposal Monday evening, Lawson said, adding that a mediator will return with a response from Metro Transit by the end of the week.

He said he’s hopeful an agreement will be reached before a potential Super Bowl strike.

Tags: ATU 1005health and safetycontract rights
Categories: Labor News

Tunisians maritime unions declare boycott of U.S. ships after Trump’s Jerusalem move

Sun, 12/10/2017 - 23:23

Tunisians maritime unions declare boycott of U.S. ships after Trump’s Jerusalem move
https://english.palinfo.com/news/2017/12/10/Tunisians-declare-boycott-of...

Short url
TUNIS, (PIC) +-
A Tunisian labor union on Sunday evening announced its decision to boycott U.S. ships docking at a seaport in the country’s southern region of Sfax following Trump’s recognition, on Wednesday, of Occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Spokesman of the Popular Conference for the Palestinians Abroad, Ziad al-Aloul, said on Facebook that the regional executive office of Tunisia’s Trade Unions decided to boycott all American ships docking at Sfax commercial harbor.

As part of the boycott move, workers at the seaport will not empty the shipments onboard boats tied up at Sfax seaport after they had set sail from the U.S.

Prior to the boycott, mass rallies had swept Tunisia with thousands of protesters holding up Palestinian flags and banners. Protesters also burned the U.S. flag and others stepped on images of Israeli flags.

Tags: labor boycott of USPalestiniansTunisian unions
Categories: Labor News

Tunisians maritime unions declare boycott of U.S. ships after Trump’s Jerusalem move

Sun, 12/10/2017 - 23:23

Tunisians maritime unions declare boycott of U.S. ships after Trump’s Jerusalem move
https://english.palinfo.com/news/2017/12/10/Tunisians-declare-boycott-of...

Short url
TUNIS, (PIC) +-
A Tunisian labor union on Sunday evening announced its decision to boycott U.S. ships docking at a seaport in the country’s southern region of Sfax following Trump’s recognition, on Wednesday, of Occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Spokesman of the Popular Conference for the Palestinians Abroad, Ziad al-Aloul, said on Facebook that the regional executive office of Tunisia’s Trade Unions decided to boycott all American ships docking at Sfax commercial harbor.

As part of the boycott move, workers at the seaport will not empty the shipments onboard boats tied up at Sfax seaport after they had set sail from the U.S.

Prior to the boycott, mass rallies had swept Tunisia with thousands of protesters holding up Palestinian flags and banners. Protesters also burned the U.S. flag and others stepped on images of Israeli flags.

Tags: labor boycott of USPalestiniansTunisian unions
Categories: Labor News

Australia Melbourne’s VICT Grinds to a Halt amid MUA Industrial Action The Supreme Court has ordered the Maritime Union of Australia to stop the picket.

Sun, 12/10/2017 - 18:01

Australia Melbourne’s VICT Grinds to a Halt amid MUA Industrial Action

The Supreme Court has ordered the Maritime Union of Australia to stop the picket.

https://worldmaritimenews.com/archives/237439/melbournes-vict-grinds-to-...

Over 1,000 containers are kept motionless at Port of Melbourne’s container terminal at Web Dock after members of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) walked off the job amid an industrial dispute.

Workers have been picketing at the Webb Dock for two weeks due to an ongoing dispute involving a casual worker who was denied a security clearance because of a criminal record.

Anders Dommestrup, Chief Executive of Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT), said the union officials organising the picket at Webb Dock were demanding that VICT offer work to an MUA member with a criminal record that “makes it illegal for him to work in the secure areas at Webb Dock under Federal law.”

According to Dommestrup, the individual in question started working as a casual employee in November 2016 and applied for a Maritime Security Identification Card (MSIC) in February this year.

“He was notified in March that he had failed to gain an MSIC and informed VICT of this in November, after which VICT informed him he would no longer be offered shifts due to these circumstances,” he added.

Dommestrup stressed that the picket is having a huge impact on many small and medium-sized businesses, putting perishable goods at risk, damaging Victoria’s reputation and giving Sydney’s Port Botany a competitive leg-up.

“It’s time the officials abandon the picket, allow VICT staff back on site, stop preventing trucks entering and leaving the site and permit Victoria’s importers and exporters to start doing business again.

“The MUA is party to VICT’s enterprise agreement and this means that they approved it,” he continued.

The protest has resulted in ships being diverted to Adelaide and other Victorian ports, endangering over AUSD 100 million worth of business, local media reported.

The Port of Melbourne risks becoming an international laughing stock if industrial action that has shut
down VICT for the past 10 days is permitted to continue, the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) warned.

“It is an affront to every Port of Melbourne stevedore and freight operator working in and around the port that the Victorian economy is continuing to be held to ransom by the MUA over what we now understand is a legal reason for this individual being ineligible for employment at the docks,” said VTA CEO Peter Anderson.

“VICT is already losing business to other Port of Melbourne stevedores through this action, but if foreign exporters determine Melbourne is an unreliable destination for freight forwarders they will send their business to ports in other states, at a massive cost to our economy,” Anderson said.

Anderson called on all stakeholders involved in the action to “put the interests of the Victorian economy first and work constructively to bring an end to industrial action.”

The Supreme Court has ordered the Maritime Union of Australia to stop the picket.

Separately, MUA has announced industrial action of its members working on pilot cutters operated by the Port Authority from Port Jackson and Port Botany on December 13.

The industrial action is being pursued as the Port Authority of New South Wales and the Australian Maritime Officers Union (AMOU) and MUA failed to reach a deal on a replacement Enterprise Agreement for its Sydney workforce. Talks on the new deal are ongoing since February 2017.

World Maritime News Staff

Tags: MUAMelbourne VICT Strike
Categories: Labor News

Australia Melbourne’s VICT Grinds to a Halt amid MUA Industrial Action The Supreme Court has ordered the Maritime Union of Australia to stop the picket.

Sun, 12/10/2017 - 18:01

Australia Melbourne’s VICT Grinds to a Halt amid MUA Industrial Action

The Supreme Court has ordered the Maritime Union of Australia to stop the picket.

https://worldmaritimenews.com/archives/237439/melbournes-vict-grinds-to-...

Over 1,000 containers are kept motionless at Port of Melbourne’s container terminal at Web Dock after members of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) walked off the job amid an industrial dispute.

Workers have been picketing at the Webb Dock for two weeks due to an ongoing dispute involving a casual worker who was denied a security clearance because of a criminal record.

Anders Dommestrup, Chief Executive of Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT), said the union officials organising the picket at Webb Dock were demanding that VICT offer work to an MUA member with a criminal record that “makes it illegal for him to work in the secure areas at Webb Dock under Federal law.”

According to Dommestrup, the individual in question started working as a casual employee in November 2016 and applied for a Maritime Security Identification Card (MSIC) in February this year.

“He was notified in March that he had failed to gain an MSIC and informed VICT of this in November, after which VICT informed him he would no longer be offered shifts due to these circumstances,” he added.

Dommestrup stressed that the picket is having a huge impact on many small and medium-sized businesses, putting perishable goods at risk, damaging Victoria’s reputation and giving Sydney’s Port Botany a competitive leg-up.

“It’s time the officials abandon the picket, allow VICT staff back on site, stop preventing trucks entering and leaving the site and permit Victoria’s importers and exporters to start doing business again.

“The MUA is party to VICT’s enterprise agreement and this means that they approved it,” he continued.

The protest has resulted in ships being diverted to Adelaide and other Victorian ports, endangering over AUSD 100 million worth of business, local media reported.

The Port of Melbourne risks becoming an international laughing stock if industrial action that has shut
down VICT for the past 10 days is permitted to continue, the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) warned.

“It is an affront to every Port of Melbourne stevedore and freight operator working in and around the port that the Victorian economy is continuing to be held to ransom by the MUA over what we now understand is a legal reason for this individual being ineligible for employment at the docks,” said VTA CEO Peter Anderson.

“VICT is already losing business to other Port of Melbourne stevedores through this action, but if foreign exporters determine Melbourne is an unreliable destination for freight forwarders they will send their business to ports in other states, at a massive cost to our economy,” Anderson said.

Anderson called on all stakeholders involved in the action to “put the interests of the Victorian economy first and work constructively to bring an end to industrial action.”

The Supreme Court has ordered the Maritime Union of Australia to stop the picket.

Separately, MUA has announced industrial action of its members working on pilot cutters operated by the Port Authority from Port Jackson and Port Botany on December 13.

The industrial action is being pursued as the Port Authority of New South Wales and the Australian Maritime Officers Union (AMOU) and MUA failed to reach a deal on a replacement Enterprise Agreement for its Sydney workforce. Talks on the new deal are ongoing since February 2017.

World Maritime News Staff

Tags: MUAMelbourne VICT Strike
Categories: Labor News

DC ATU 689 Jackie Jeter is still Metro union president

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 22:00

ATU 689 Jackie Jeter is still Metro union president
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dr-gridlock/wp/2017/12/07/jackie-jet...
by Martine Powers December 7
Jackie L. Jeter, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, was reelected to complete her fourth three-year term as head of the union. (Photo by Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)
Members of Metro’s largest union voted Wednesday to reelect Jackie L. Jeter president, in a special election that was monitored by the Department of Labor after accusations of election fraud.

In a statement Thursday, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 said Jeter garnered 68 percent of the vote from members who participated — “a wider margin than the first election in December of 2015,” the union noted in its news release.

The other four major leaders of the union were also reelected.

The special election was mandated earlier this year, after a federal judge voided the December 2015 election results, saying union representatives had failed to address allegations that they had flouted rules for election eligibility. A lawsuit filed against the union by former U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez alleged that Jeter and others allowed a select list of members to pay their membership dues late and re-gain their eligibility to run for office.

The lawsuit also alleged that the union violated federal regulations, and its own bylaws, by sending election notices to members in the mail one day later than the 15-day advance-notice deadline.Jeter and others denied those accusations. But the Department of Labor motioned for new elections, and U.S. District Judge George J. Hazel granted the request.

According to the unofficial tally, Jeter received 2,886 votes in Wednesday’s election, over 2,000 votes more than either of her two opponents.

“One thing that everyone at Local 689, and throughout this region, can agree on is that Metro is at a breaking point,” Jeter said. “I am thankful to the membership for reelecting me and allowing me to continue my service to our members as we stand together to make Local 689 a more perfect union and Metro a better system.”

Normal terms for union leadership are three years long, and the next regularly-scheduled election will take place in December 2018.

Tags: ATU 698election
Categories: Labor News

East Coast ILA Dockworkers Walk Out of Labor Talks over automation issues

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 20:33

East Coast ILA Dockworkers Walk Out of Labor Talks over automation issues
Union members rankled by discussion of automation; ‘I was absolutely shocked’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/dockworkers-walk-out-of-labor-talks-1512687779

The Port of Savannah PHOTO: STEPHEN B. MORTON/ASSOCIATED PRESS
By Jennifer Smith
Dec. 7, 2017 6:02 p.m. ET
4 COMMENTS
Labor negotiations between employers and unionized dockworkers at East Coast and Gulf Coast ports got off to a rocky start this week after union leaders walked out of contract-extension talks.

The main point of disagreement was about how ports define automation, according to the International Longshoremen’s Association. Earlier this year the union’s president, Harold Daggett, said the issue of job losses due to technology would be central during negotiations to extend the current contract, which expires in September 2018. He has pledged to prevent container terminals from automating to the same degree as many European ports.

The ILA and the United States Maritime Alliance Ltd., or USMX, which represents terminal operators and container shipping lines at ports from Maine to Texas, had agreed to meet Tuesday and Wednesday in Hollywood, Fla., but ended talks early on the second day.

“They got upset about some discussions we were having around automation and then they left,” said David Adam, USMX’s chief executive. “I was absolutely shocked.”

This week’s meeting was meant to pave the way for an extension. A deal would put East Coast ports on a more even footing with ports on the West Coast, which compete for some of the same freight. West Coast employers and dockworkers in August agreed to extend a separate labor contract through 2022, giving retailers and manufacturers more certainty that cargo shipped there won’t get delayed by walkouts or slowdowns, which have dogged past negotiations.

A union spokesman said the dockworkers’ representatives disagreed with how USMX wanted to define what constitutes a fully automated terminal.

“ILA suggested language that any unmanned equipment would be considered automated,” spokesman James McNamara said. The union was “definitely frustrated and not happy,” he said. “We weren’t able to get the assurances and the language we felt comfortable with to move forward,” so Mr. Daggett instructed the delegates to go back to their ports and resume local bargaining.

The breakdown follows tensions earlier this year at East Coast gateways like South Carolina’s Port of Charleston, where a labor slowdown jammed truck traffic at one terminal. The head of the local union there also called for a one-day shutdown of ports from Maine to Texas so members could rally in Washington, D.C., over jobs lost to automation and the use of nonunion labor, though Mr. Daggett asked members to hold off on the proposed walkout.

The early end to the meeting was reported earlier by the Journal of Commerce.

USMX has issued a statement saying it expects the talks to continue “at some point in the future.”

It isn’t clear when the next formal meeting will take place. There are about 10 months left on the contract, which provides for some wiggle room.

“Typically the East Coast [union] is not as bad as the West Coast,” said Frank Guenzerodt, chief executive of Dachser USA Air & Sea Logistics Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of German logistics firm Dachser SE. “I kind of trust in them to actually reach an agreement and not run into a strike.” ​

Still, the breakdown of talks increases pressure on East Coast port associations and terminal operators that saw more cargo flow their way during the earlier West Coast labor battle.

“We strongly urge both sides to return to the bargaining table and reach an equitable agreement,” a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said in an email.

Tags: ILAcontract fightAutomationContract
Categories: Labor News

Pilots stop 222 asylum seekers being deported from Germany by refusing to fly

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 19:45

Pilots stop 222 asylum seekers being deported from Germany by refusing to fly

The decision not to carry a passenger was made on a 'case-by-case decision', says Lufthansa spokesman Michael Lamberty

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/german-pilots-refuse-depo...

Jon Sharman Thursday 7 December 2017 07:01 GMT

Pilots have stopped 222 deportations of asylum seekers from Germany by refusing to take off with them on board.

Many of the pilots refused to take control of flights taking people back to Afghanistan, where violence is still rife following years of war and occupation by Western forces.

One of the airlines involved said pilots made the decisions on a "case-by-case" basis if they believed "flight safety could be affected".

Between January and September, a total of 222 planned deportations were classified to have "failed" due to pilot refusal, according to German government figures. Most – 140 – occurred at Frankfurt airport. Others refused to fly from Cologne-Bonn airport. Germany has deemed Afghanistan a "safe country of origin" in some cases, despite ongoing violence and repression in parts of the country.

The figures were obtained by the Die Linke political party, which is commonly referred to as the Left Party.

Some of the flights belonged to Lufthansa and its subsidiary, Eurowings.

The decision not to carry a passenger, was ultimately down to the pilot on a "case-by-case decision", Lufthansa spokesman Michael Lamberty told the Westdeutsche Allegeimeine Zeitung newspaper which originally reported the story.

He added: "If he has the impression that flight safety could be affected, he must refuse the transport of a passenger.

"Should security personnel at the airports have some sort of information in advance which indicates that a situation could escalate during a deportation, they can decide ahead of time not to let the passengers board."

German publication RBB24 quoted a Lufthansa pilot who did not want to be identified as saying pilots would normally refuse to take off if a potential deportee answers "no" when asked if they want to take the flight.

"We have to prevent anyone from being freaked out during the flight, and we have to protect the other passengers as well," the pilot reportedly said.

Pilots can face disciplinary measures if they refuse to fly on moral grounds.

Lufthansa Group spokesman Helmut Tolksdorf told RBB24 that he was not aware of "any case where one of our pilots has refused to take them for reasons of conscience".

Germany processed more asylum applications than all 27 other EU countries combined. European statistics agency Eurostat, said the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) decided 388,201 asylum cases in the first six months of 2017.

Tags: pilotsimmigrationasylumlufthansaimmigration rights
Categories: Labor News

Pilots stop 222 asylum seekers being deported from Germany by refusing to fly

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 19:45

Pilots stop 222 asylum seekers being deported from Germany by refusing to fly

The decision not to carry a passenger was made on a 'case-by-case decision', says Lufthansa spokesman Michael Lamberty

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/german-pilots-refuse-depo...

Jon Sharman Thursday 7 December 2017 07:01 GMT

Pilots have stopped 222 deportations of asylum seekers from Germany by refusing to take off with them on board.

Many of the pilots refused to take control of flights taking people back to Afghanistan, where violence is still rife following years of war and occupation by Western forces.

One of the airlines involved said pilots made the decisions on a "case-by-case" basis if they believed "flight safety could be affected".

Between January and September, a total of 222 planned deportations were classified to have "failed" due to pilot refusal, according to German government figures. Most – 140 – occurred at Frankfurt airport. Others refused to fly from Cologne-Bonn airport. Germany has deemed Afghanistan a "safe country of origin" in some cases, despite ongoing violence and repression in parts of the country.

The figures were obtained by the Die Linke political party, which is commonly referred to as the Left Party.

Some of the flights belonged to Lufthansa and its subsidiary, Eurowings.

The decision not to carry a passenger, was ultimately down to the pilot on a "case-by-case decision", Lufthansa spokesman Michael Lamberty told the Westdeutsche Allegeimeine Zeitung newspaper which originally reported the story.

He added: "If he has the impression that flight safety could be affected, he must refuse the transport of a passenger.

"Should security personnel at the airports have some sort of information in advance which indicates that a situation could escalate during a deportation, they can decide ahead of time not to let the passengers board."

German publication RBB24 quoted a Lufthansa pilot who did not want to be identified as saying pilots would normally refuse to take off if a potential deportee answers "no" when asked if they want to take the flight.

"We have to prevent anyone from being freaked out during the flight, and we have to protect the other passengers as well," the pilot reportedly said.

Pilots can face disciplinary measures if they refuse to fly on moral grounds.

Lufthansa Group spokesman Helmut Tolksdorf told RBB24 that he was not aware of "any case where one of our pilots has refused to take them for reasons of conscience".

Germany processed more asylum applications than all 27 other EU countries combined. European statistics agency Eurostat, said the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) decided 388,201 asylum cases in the first six months of 2017.

Tags: pilotsimmigrationasylumlufthansaimmigration rights
Categories: Labor News

12/10 SF Forum- FedEx Murder For Profit: Health And Safety, OSHA And Trump's Nominee FedEx VP Scott Mugno

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 16:45

12/10 SF Forum- FedEx Murder For Profit: Health And Safety, OSHA And Trump's Nominee FedEx VP Scott Mugno
Our Lives and Health and Safety

Speakers:
Gary Brent FedEx Health and Safety officer and Driver Trainer
Matthew Zugsberger, UBC 34 Diver and OSHA Whistleblower at Park Service
Other Speakers

December 10, 2017 2:00 PM
Bernal Heights Library
500 Cortland Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94110

President Trump has nominated FedEx Scott Mugno who is VP for Safety, Sustainability and Vehicle Maintenance at FedEx Ground. There have been over hundreds of deaths of FedEx workers in the last 15 years. Scott Mugno has also personally retaliated against health and safety whistleblowers like Guy Cobb in Memphis, TN. who exposed serious potential dangers of an earthquake at FedEx buildings. He was targeted, bullied and fired by FedEx. Another whistleblower was Brian Gruzulski who was a FedEx mechanic at LAX who saw serious safety problems from rust and was bullied, retaliated against and fired. Gary Brent was a health and safety officer and driver trainer at FedEx ground and when he tried to enforce OSHA and EPA rules he was harassed and terminated.

At the same time Scott Mugno was also a lobbyist for the American Trucking Association ATA and he was pushing for complete deregulation of trucking with an large increase in size of trucks threatening the public and the roads. What these whistleblowers also discovered was that FedEx had captured OSHA and other federal agencies like the EPA. Officials in these agencies colluded with the company to limit their liability and prevent them being held acceptable to the workers and the public.

This forum will look at what is happening at FedEx OSHA and also the case of OSHA whistleblower and UBC 34 diver Matthew Zugsberger who reported on serious health problems at a job at Drakes Estero Rack Removal. He reported health and safety hazards and was retaliated by the Park Service, his employer and OSHA officials who engaged in a cover-up of the illegal activity.

The issue of protecting health and safety whistleblowers is critical to all and fighting for their protection is critical to the public.

Sponsored by
WorkWeek Radio
United Public Workers For Action http://www.upwa.info
Workers Solidarity Action Network
https://www.facebook.com/workerssolidarityactionnetwork/
Injured Workers National Network
https://www.facebook.com/Injured-Workers-National-Network-IWNN-108362552...

Just Say No to Scott Mugno as OSHA Director-Fired Federal OSHA Whistleblower Darrell Whitman Speaks Out

FedEx Truck Accident History
https://www.frg-law.com/carriers/fedex/
In the 24-month period prior to December 3, 2017, FedEx Express drivers were reported to have been involved in 1762 crashes, 575 involving injuries, including 41 deaths. From 2012, the number of crashes has increased by 254.5%; the number of injuries has increased by 192%; and the number of fatalities has increased by 273%.

FedEx Worker Gary Brent Fired For Taking Pictures of Trailers and Trailers
http://askthetrucker.com/osha-awards-damages-for-fired-truck-driver/
I am a former FedEx Express Driver Instructor that was fired for taking pictures of unsafe FedEx Ground Trailers and FedEx Express Tractors and Trailers. I refused to use these unsafe FedEx Tractors and Trailers because, I would not violate any FMCSA Regulations. I
believed if FedEx terminated me for refusing to use this dangerous unsafe equipment, OSHA and The FMCSA would come to my aid, and was I wrong. I filed all the required Whistle Blower forms with the
local Fort Lauderdale, FL., OSHA Office. I also filed complaints with the TN and PA FMCSA against FedEx for violating FMCSA Regulations. I believed that OSHA was going to work closely with the FMCSA in TN and PA., because they administer a portions of the STAA Whistle Blower Act. What I leaned from dealing with Federal Agencies was, each agency will make up their own interpretations of
Federal Laws and try to dissuade you from pursuing your Whistle Blower Claim. The OSHA case worker I had in Fort Lauderdale didn’t
even want to review my pictures of the unsafe FedEx Vehicles and my complaints against FedEx with the PA and TN FMCSA. I had numerous documents and witnesses that OSHA wouldn’t even look at. OSHA in Fort Lauderdale ruled against me, so I appealed their decision through OSHA in Washington. I was told by the OSHA Appeals Office, that I would have to pay my witnesses air fare and lodging in my appeal. Is this a Government by and for the people?
A fellow Whistle Blower, Brian Gruzalski, Aircraft Mechanic at FedEx
has endured the same corruption by FedEx and the U.S. Government
that I have. OSHA, FMCSA and FAA are corrupt.

FedEx Casts Away Air Safety for Profits
https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/fedex-casts-away-air-safety-for...
Abrolat Law pc pursues safety violation allegations against FedEx

Dec 11, 2013, 11:11 ET from Abrolat Law pc

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 11, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently found FedEx Express (FedEx), the world's largest airline in terms of freight tons flown and the world's fourth largest airline in terms of fleet size, in violation of federal safety requirements. FedEx's fleet is primarily made-up of retired jetliners purchased at discount prices. The average FedEx jetliner is 20 to 40 years old. These older aircraft require significant ongoing work to ensure flightworthiness, and FedEx loses massive amounts in profit each day that one of its jetliners is on the ground for repair and maintenance.

Several Technicians from FedEx's Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) location have filed complaints with the FAA alleging that FedEx does not repair and maintain its aircraft consistent with FAA safety requirements.

These Technicians allege that FedEx knowingly falsified repair and maintenance records documenting work that was never actually performed and allowed jetliners to return to flight without necessary safety repairs and maintenance. The Technicians also contend that FedEx's safety violations resulted in FedEx aircraft flying across the United States with corrosion so extensive, that there were visible external cracks in the fuselage.

The FAA's investigation of the Technicians' complaints confirmed that FedEx has committed safety violations. Current FedEx employees contend that despite these FAA findings, FedEx has not changed its repair and maintenance practices and continues to place FedEx employees and the public at risk.

In a whistle-blower, wrongful termination lawsuit against FedEx filed this summer in Los Angeles Superior Court (Case No. BC512638), a former Technician at FedEx's LAX location, Brian Gruzalski, alleges that he repeatedly complained to FedEx about its practice of violating safety regulations. Gruzalski commented, "FedEx has been trying to cut corners to increase profits by simply not doing the required safety maintenance on very old planes." Gruzalski also claims that while employed, he observed FedEx impose unreasonable time limits on safety maintenance work: "It should be understood that maintenance on old, worn-out jetliners is going to take longer to properly repair than new planes."

According to the lawsuit, which is being pursued by Gruzalski and Abrolat Law to stop these practices, FedEx has retaliated against experienced, senior Technicians who complain about the safety violations, and ultimately fired Gruzalski due to his complaints.

Anyone with information relevant to our investigation is encouraged to call: 866-884-4228

Contact: Nancy Abrolat, Esq.

310-615-0008

JUST SAY NO TO THE MUGNO NOMINATION:
An Open Letter to Congress and the American People

By Darrell Whitmani

On December 5, the U.S. Senate will open hearings into President Trump’s nomination of Scott Mugno to be the Director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). It’s traditional to give a President the discretion to appoint whomever she/he wants to a federal office. However, there’s a reason Congress has a say in these appointments, which is to ensur the public interest is not put at jeopardy. The nomination of Scott Mungo is one of those where
Congress must just say no to protect the public interest.

In 1969, the Senate rejected the nomination of Clement Haynsworth to the U.S. Supreme Court, a federal court judge with a history of rulings hostile to labor and civil rights. Then in 1970, the Senate rejected the nomination of G. Harrold Carswell, a federal judge who had earlier supported
racial segregation. These two judges had deeply held beliefs which affected their conduct as federal judges, and they were rejected in spite of the tradition of deferring to Presidential
nominations, because they were out of step with national interests in race and social justice.

An appointment to direct OSHA is of the same caliber as an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. While Supreme Court decisions carry great weight in setting national standards for rights and the protection, OSHA manages a key program in bringing those rights and protections to life
through its Whsitleblower Protection Program. This Program acts as the gate-keeper for 22 federal statutes which protect private sector employees who responsibly report threats to safety, health and financial security. When OSHA fails to ensure the Program works, bad things happen.
Some of these bad things include: OSHA’s failure for more than twenty years to timely inspect and enforce the regulations regarding fertilizer storage, which in 2013 led to a massive explosion in West, Texas which killed 15 people, twelve of whom were first-responder firemen; OSHA’s
failure in 2006 to report serious fraud in residential mortgage lending by Country-Wide Financial, which made a substantial contribution to the 2008-2009 financial meltdown; OSHA’s
repeated failures, beginning at least in 2010, to report consumer financial fraud by Wells Fargo, that led to victimizing at least 3.5 million bank customers and calls into question the regulation of the banking industry; and since the 1980s, OSHA’s practice of substantially discounting fines
issued to corporate scofflaws, which has contributed to a general belief among renegade companies that violations of safety, health, and financial security regulations carry no
consequences.

Scott Mungo comes to this OSHA appointment as a senior safety and health officer at Federal Express, and as a major figure advocating on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for lower regulatory protection. Workplace-based illnesses, injuries, and deaths have been rising, as has
fraud in the financial industry. Yet, OSHA’ response has been to water-down its reporting of work-place casualties, and step back from watch-dogging the financial industry. This argues
OSHA needs new, strong leadership rooted in the public interest, rather than a director who will accelerate its capture by scofflaw corporations. FedEx has been one of those scofflaw companies that have actively sought to undermine workplace, and thereby public, regulatory protection by
attacking employees who report violations of safety, health, and financial security regulations. Coming from this culture is hardly an endorsement of Mugno’s commitment to the public
interest.

The issue isn’t Scott Mungo per se, or the President’s right to determine nominations: it’s the national interests. As the nation’s primary gate-keeper for regulating the private sector through its WPP, OSHA plays a key role in regulatory governance. It’s inconceivable OSHA can carry out the mission of the WPP under the supervision of someone who’s a devoted opponent of regulation, and whose own history is tainted by a disregard for safety and health regulation. A
thorough vetting of the Mugno nomination is required, and that vetting should include testimony from present and former FedEx employees who know the real stories that don’t appear in FedEx’s public relations gambits. There is a long line of these employees waiting to testify, if the Senate chooses to know the facts and not just FedEx public relations. Once this larger picture is visible, Congress must then just say no to Mugno and yes to public safety to protect its own
integrity as well as that of OSHA and the federal regulatory system.

i Dr. Darrell Whitman is an attorney, scholar, union official, and former Regional Investigator working in OSHA’s
Whistleblower Protection Program. He was fired in May 2015 after publicly challenging corruption in the Program,
which he reported to the federal Office of Special Counsel. The OSC is currently considering an investigation of
OSHA and other federal agencies and officials to determine the extent of the corruption of the national regulatory
system.

(c)

Texas Family files wrongful death lawsuit in FedEx mechanic death at Lubbock airport

http://www.kcbd.com/story/36727763/family-files-wrongful-death-lawsuit-i...

Tuesday, October 31st 2017, 8:52 am PST

By Amber Stegall, Digital Content ManagerCONNECT

FedEx plane at the Lubbock airport (Source: KCBD)
LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) -
The law firm of Glasheen, Valles & Inderman has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against FedEx Freight, Inc. in Lubbock County District Court Tuesday on behalf of Tandi Wagner and Kristi Ramirez for the wrongful death of their father, 60-year-old Michael Merton. Merton was killed on October 17 when he was crushed inside of the airplane on which he was working.

Officials have not released any identifying information or specifics on what happened and FedEx officials said they were cooperating with the investigative authorities.

Officials with the FAA released a statement saying, "We will investigate the accident to determine whether the maintenance was being performed in accordance with approved safety procedures and if the mechanic had received adequate training."

FedEx officials also issued a statement saying, "We are deeply saddened by this tragic accident. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and colleagues affected by the loss of our team member. We are cooperating fully with investigating authorities."

The lawsuit is the first information provided to the media about what possibly happened that day.

The lawsuit names FedEx Freight, Inc., Merton’s employer, as the sole defendant, and it alleges that FedEx failed to train its employees regarding safety procedures, failed to follow safety procedures, and failed to provide a safe place to work. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are seeking exemplary damages for the loss of their father.

Kevin Glasheen, the attorney for the plaintiffs, said one of the reasons for filing the lawsuit was the complete lack of information and communication from both FedEx and the Federal Aviation Administration.

"My Clients want to know why their Dad died, and they want to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else. These kinds of work injuries are usually a failure of the lockout/tagout procedure that’s supposed to make sure machinery isn’t activated during maintenance. That will be our first line of inquiry," said Glasheen.

Tags: oshaScott MugnoFedEx crimessafety cover-up
Categories: Labor News

12/10 SF Forum- FedEx Murder For Profit: Health And Safety, OSHA And Trump's Nominee FedEx VP Scott Mugno

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 16:45

12/10 SF Forum- FedEx Murder For Profit: Health And Safety, OSHA And Trump's Nominee FedEx VP Scott Mugno
Our Lives and Health and Safety

Speakers:
Gary Brent FedEx Health and Safety officer and Driver Trainer
Matthew Zugsberger, UBC 34 Diver and OSHA Whistleblower at Park Service
Other Speakers

December 10, 2017 2:00 PM
Bernal Heights Library
500 Cortland Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94110

President Trump has nominated FedEx Scott Mugno who is VP for Safety, Sustainability and Vehicle Maintenance at FedEx Ground. There have been over hundreds of deaths of FedEx workers in the last 15 years. Scott Mugno has also personally retaliated against health and safety whistleblowers like Guy Cobb in Memphis, TN. who exposed serious potential dangers of an earthquake at FedEx buildings. He was targeted, bullied and fired by FedEx. Another whistleblower was Brian Gruzulski who was a FedEx mechanic at LAX who saw serious safety problems from rust and was bullied, retaliated against and fired. Gary Brent was a health and safety officer and driver trainer at FedEx ground and when he tried to enforce OSHA and EPA rules he was harassed and terminated.

At the same time Scott Mugno was also a lobbyist for the American Trucking Association ATA and he was pushing for complete deregulation of trucking with an large increase in size of trucks threatening the public and the roads. What these whistleblowers also discovered was that FedEx had captured OSHA and other federal agencies like the EPA. Officials in these agencies colluded with the company to limit their liability and prevent them being held acceptable to the workers and the public.

This forum will look at what is happening at FedEx OSHA and also the case of OSHA whistleblower and UBC 34 diver Matthew Zugsberger who reported on serious health problems at a job at Drakes Estero Rack Removal. He reported health and safety hazards and was retaliated by the Park Service, his employer and OSHA officials who engaged in a cover-up of the illegal activity.

The issue of protecting health and safety whistleblowers is critical to all and fighting for their protection is critical to the public.

Sponsored by
WorkWeek Radio
United Public Workers For Action http://www.upwa.info
Workers Solidarity Action Network
https://www.facebook.com/workerssolidarityactionnetwork/
Injured Workers National Network
https://www.facebook.com/Injured-Workers-National-Network-IWNN-108362552...

Just Say No to Scott Mugno as OSHA Director-Fired Federal OSHA Whistleblower Darrell Whitman Speaks Out

FedEx Truck Accident History
https://www.frg-law.com/carriers/fedex/
In the 24-month period prior to December 3, 2017, FedEx Express drivers were reported to have been involved in 1762 crashes, 575 involving injuries, including 41 deaths. From 2012, the number of crashes has increased by 254.5%; the number of injuries has increased by 192%; and the number of fatalities has increased by 273%.

FedEx Worker Gary Brent Fired For Taking Pictures of Trailers and Trailers
http://askthetrucker.com/osha-awards-damages-for-fired-truck-driver/
I am a former FedEx Express Driver Instructor that was fired for taking pictures of unsafe FedEx Ground Trailers and FedEx Express Tractors and Trailers. I refused to use these unsafe FedEx Tractors and Trailers because, I would not violate any FMCSA Regulations. I
believed if FedEx terminated me for refusing to use this dangerous unsafe equipment, OSHA and The FMCSA would come to my aid, and was I wrong. I filed all the required Whistle Blower forms with the
local Fort Lauderdale, FL., OSHA Office. I also filed complaints with the TN and PA FMCSA against FedEx for violating FMCSA Regulations. I believed that OSHA was going to work closely with the FMCSA in TN and PA., because they administer a portions of the STAA Whistle Blower Act. What I leaned from dealing with Federal Agencies was, each agency will make up their own interpretations of
Federal Laws and try to dissuade you from pursuing your Whistle Blower Claim. The OSHA case worker I had in Fort Lauderdale didn’t
even want to review my pictures of the unsafe FedEx Vehicles and my complaints against FedEx with the PA and TN FMCSA. I had numerous documents and witnesses that OSHA wouldn’t even look at. OSHA in Fort Lauderdale ruled against me, so I appealed their decision through OSHA in Washington. I was told by the OSHA Appeals Office, that I would have to pay my witnesses air fare and lodging in my appeal. Is this a Government by and for the people?
A fellow Whistle Blower, Brian Gruzalski, Aircraft Mechanic at FedEx
has endured the same corruption by FedEx and the U.S. Government
that I have. OSHA, FMCSA and FAA are corrupt.

FedEx Casts Away Air Safety for Profits
https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/fedex-casts-away-air-safety-for...
Abrolat Law pc pursues safety violation allegations against FedEx

Dec 11, 2013, 11:11 ET from Abrolat Law pc

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 11, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently found FedEx Express (FedEx), the world's largest airline in terms of freight tons flown and the world's fourth largest airline in terms of fleet size, in violation of federal safety requirements. FedEx's fleet is primarily made-up of retired jetliners purchased at discount prices. The average FedEx jetliner is 20 to 40 years old. These older aircraft require significant ongoing work to ensure flightworthiness, and FedEx loses massive amounts in profit each day that one of its jetliners is on the ground for repair and maintenance.

Several Technicians from FedEx's Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) location have filed complaints with the FAA alleging that FedEx does not repair and maintain its aircraft consistent with FAA safety requirements.

These Technicians allege that FedEx knowingly falsified repair and maintenance records documenting work that was never actually performed and allowed jetliners to return to flight without necessary safety repairs and maintenance. The Technicians also contend that FedEx's safety violations resulted in FedEx aircraft flying across the United States with corrosion so extensive, that there were visible external cracks in the fuselage.

The FAA's investigation of the Technicians' complaints confirmed that FedEx has committed safety violations. Current FedEx employees contend that despite these FAA findings, FedEx has not changed its repair and maintenance practices and continues to place FedEx employees and the public at risk.

In a whistle-blower, wrongful termination lawsuit against FedEx filed this summer in Los Angeles Superior Court (Case No. BC512638), a former Technician at FedEx's LAX location, Brian Gruzalski, alleges that he repeatedly complained to FedEx about its practice of violating safety regulations. Gruzalski commented, "FedEx has been trying to cut corners to increase profits by simply not doing the required safety maintenance on very old planes." Gruzalski also claims that while employed, he observed FedEx impose unreasonable time limits on safety maintenance work: "It should be understood that maintenance on old, worn-out jetliners is going to take longer to properly repair than new planes."

According to the lawsuit, which is being pursued by Gruzalski and Abrolat Law to stop these practices, FedEx has retaliated against experienced, senior Technicians who complain about the safety violations, and ultimately fired Gruzalski due to his complaints.

Anyone with information relevant to our investigation is encouraged to call: 866-884-4228

Contact: Nancy Abrolat, Esq.

310-615-0008

JUST SAY NO TO THE MUGNO NOMINATION:
An Open Letter to Congress and the American People

By Darrell Whitmani

On December 5, the U.S. Senate will open hearings into President Trump’s nomination of Scott Mugno to be the Director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). It’s traditional to give a President the discretion to appoint whomever she/he wants to a federal office. However, there’s a reason Congress has a say in these appointments, which is to ensur the public interest is not put at jeopardy. The nomination of Scott Mungo is one of those where
Congress must just say no to protect the public interest.

In 1969, the Senate rejected the nomination of Clement Haynsworth to the U.S. Supreme Court, a federal court judge with a history of rulings hostile to labor and civil rights. Then in 1970, the Senate rejected the nomination of G. Harrold Carswell, a federal judge who had earlier supported
racial segregation. These two judges had deeply held beliefs which affected their conduct as federal judges, and they were rejected in spite of the tradition of deferring to Presidential
nominations, because they were out of step with national interests in race and social justice.

An appointment to direct OSHA is of the same caliber as an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. While Supreme Court decisions carry great weight in setting national standards for rights and the protection, OSHA manages a key program in bringing those rights and protections to life
through its Whsitleblower Protection Program. This Program acts as the gate-keeper for 22 federal statutes which protect private sector employees who responsibly report threats to safety, health and financial security. When OSHA fails to ensure the Program works, bad things happen.
Some of these bad things include: OSHA’s failure for more than twenty years to timely inspect and enforce the regulations regarding fertilizer storage, which in 2013 led to a massive explosion in West, Texas which killed 15 people, twelve of whom were first-responder firemen; OSHA’s
failure in 2006 to report serious fraud in residential mortgage lending by Country-Wide Financial, which made a substantial contribution to the 2008-2009 financial meltdown; OSHA’s
repeated failures, beginning at least in 2010, to report consumer financial fraud by Wells Fargo, that led to victimizing at least 3.5 million bank customers and calls into question the regulation of the banking industry; and since the 1980s, OSHA’s practice of substantially discounting fines
issued to corporate scofflaws, which has contributed to a general belief among renegade companies that violations of safety, health, and financial security regulations carry no
consequences.

Scott Mungo comes to this OSHA appointment as a senior safety and health officer at Federal Express, and as a major figure advocating on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for lower regulatory protection. Workplace-based illnesses, injuries, and deaths have been rising, as has
fraud in the financial industry. Yet, OSHA’ response has been to water-down its reporting of work-place casualties, and step back from watch-dogging the financial industry. This argues
OSHA needs new, strong leadership rooted in the public interest, rather than a director who will accelerate its capture by scofflaw corporations. FedEx has been one of those scofflaw companies that have actively sought to undermine workplace, and thereby public, regulatory protection by
attacking employees who report violations of safety, health, and financial security regulations. Coming from this culture is hardly an endorsement of Mugno’s commitment to the public
interest.

The issue isn’t Scott Mungo per se, or the President’s right to determine nominations: it’s the national interests. As the nation’s primary gate-keeper for regulating the private sector through its WPP, OSHA plays a key role in regulatory governance. It’s inconceivable OSHA can carry out the mission of the WPP under the supervision of someone who’s a devoted opponent of regulation, and whose own history is tainted by a disregard for safety and health regulation. A
thorough vetting of the Mugno nomination is required, and that vetting should include testimony from present and former FedEx employees who know the real stories that don’t appear in FedEx’s public relations gambits. There is a long line of these employees waiting to testify, if the Senate chooses to know the facts and not just FedEx public relations. Once this larger picture is visible, Congress must then just say no to Mugno and yes to public safety to protect its own
integrity as well as that of OSHA and the federal regulatory system.

i Dr. Darrell Whitman is an attorney, scholar, union official, and former Regional Investigator working in OSHA’s
Whistleblower Protection Program. He was fired in May 2015 after publicly challenging corruption in the Program,
which he reported to the federal Office of Special Counsel. The OSC is currently considering an investigation of
OSHA and other federal agencies and officials to determine the extent of the corruption of the national regulatory
system.

(c)

Texas Family files wrongful death lawsuit in FedEx mechanic death at Lubbock airport

http://www.kcbd.com/story/36727763/family-files-wrongful-death-lawsuit-i...

Tuesday, October 31st 2017, 8:52 am PST

By Amber Stegall, Digital Content ManagerCONNECT

FedEx plane at the Lubbock airport (Source: KCBD)
LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) -
The law firm of Glasheen, Valles & Inderman has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against FedEx Freight, Inc. in Lubbock County District Court Tuesday on behalf of Tandi Wagner and Kristi Ramirez for the wrongful death of their father, 60-year-old Michael Merton. Merton was killed on October 17 when he was crushed inside of the airplane on which he was working.

Officials have not released any identifying information or specifics on what happened and FedEx officials said they were cooperating with the investigative authorities.

Officials with the FAA released a statement saying, "We will investigate the accident to determine whether the maintenance was being performed in accordance with approved safety procedures and if the mechanic had received adequate training."

FedEx officials also issued a statement saying, "We are deeply saddened by this tragic accident. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and colleagues affected by the loss of our team member. We are cooperating fully with investigating authorities."

The lawsuit is the first information provided to the media about what possibly happened that day.

The lawsuit names FedEx Freight, Inc., Merton’s employer, as the sole defendant, and it alleges that FedEx failed to train its employees regarding safety procedures, failed to follow safety procedures, and failed to provide a safe place to work. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are seeking exemplary damages for the loss of their father.

Kevin Glasheen, the attorney for the plaintiffs, said one of the reasons for filing the lawsuit was the complete lack of information and communication from both FedEx and the Federal Aviation Administration.

"My Clients want to know why their Dad died, and they want to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else. These kinds of work injuries are usually a failure of the lockout/tagout procedure that’s supposed to make sure machinery isn’t activated during maintenance. That will be our first line of inquiry," said Glasheen.

Tags: oshaScott MugnoFedEx crimessafety cover-up
Categories: Labor News

Growing length of U.S. freight trains in federal crosshairs after crashes: GAO

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 10:06

Growing length of U.S. freight trains in federal crosshairs after crashes: GAO

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-train-safety/growing-length-of-u-...

Eric. M. Johnson
The GAO will launch its study on safety and other impacts of longer trains in February, GAO spokesman Chuck Young told Reuters on Tuesday. The action was prompted by a Nov. 7 letter, seen by Reuters, from U.S. Representatives Peter DeFazio and Michael Capuano, both Democratic members of the House Transportation Committee.

DeFazio said his office has received complaints over safety and traffic jams at rail crossings.

CSX, the No.3 U.S. railroad by revenue, told investors in October its freight trains have increased more than 400 feet to 6,833 feet (2.08 km) on average since March, when newly appointed Chief Executive Officer Hunter Harrison launched his plan to boost profits and streamline operations.

CSX’s eastern U.S. rival Norfolk Southern Corp’s (NSC.N) trains average longer than 5,500 feet, a year-to-date record, the company said in the third quarter.

Western U.S. railroad Union Pacific said it posted record third quarter “train size performance” after hitting a record in 2016.

“Longer trains maximize crews, locomotives, fuel and other resources,” said Union Pacific spokeswoman Raquel Espinoza.

FRA data shows CSX's train accidents and incidents as a portion of miles traveled at the highest level in a decade after climbing in each of the last five years. (tinyurl.com/ybf6bqyy)

A long CSX train came off the tracks in Crestline, Ohio on June 11 as seen in this handout photo received December 6, 2017. SMART Transportation Union/Handout via REUTERS
SMART Union transportation division spokesman John Risch told top rail regulator the Surface Transportation Board (STB) at an October hearing on CSX service problems the average U.S. train is up to 1.5 miles long (2.41 km), but CSX has routinely operated trains two or even three miles long since Harrison took over.

The STB declined interview requests.

CSX spokesman Bryan Tucker said the industry trend toward longer trains is a “tried and proven way to increase efficiency.”

The latest concerns follow the fiery derailment of a 178-car CSX freight train in Hyndman, Pennsylvania in August, and the Nov. 27 derailment of a CSX train with 192 cars - nearly 2 miles long excluding locomotives - in Lakeland, Florida, spilling hazardous molten sulfur.

Slideshow (3 Images)
The FRA told Reuters it is also investigating the June derailment of a 13,147-foot CSX train in Crestline, Ohio.

National Transportation Safety Board rail division head David Bucher told Reuters train length and build were “an important part of the investigation” into the Hyndman crash, adding he was hesitant to draw conclusions about an ongoing investigation.

“Train lengths are increasing across the country,” Bucher said. “It is becoming more and more common, not just with CSX.”

The NTSB, FRA, and STB do not collect data on train length, except for specific accidents or mediations.

The American Association of Railroads (AAR) declined to comment.

CSX employees and union officials said many conductors lack experience to run long trains.

CSX’s Tucker said the railroad’s crews are fully qualified to operate longer trains and CSX uses computer modeling before running longer trains on a new route.

One CSX manager told Reuters FRA inspectors have showed up almost daily in recent weeks looking for long trains and conducting inspections at terminals in Cincinnati, Ohio, Waycross, Georgia, and elsewhere.

“They (FRA inspectors) do more blitzes than they used to, where several inspectors will show up in a place and stay for a couple days,” the manager added.

Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Lisa Shumaker
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tags: Train crashesderegulationGAOCSXtrain size increase
Categories: Labor News

Growing length of U.S. freight trains in federal crosshairs after crashes: GAO

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 10:06

Growing length of U.S. freight trains in federal crosshairs after crashes: GAO

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-train-safety/growing-length-of-u-...

Eric. M. Johnson
The GAO will launch its study on safety and other impacts of longer trains in February, GAO spokesman Chuck Young told Reuters on Tuesday. The action was prompted by a Nov. 7 letter, seen by Reuters, from U.S. Representatives Peter DeFazio and Michael Capuano, both Democratic members of the House Transportation Committee.

DeFazio said his office has received complaints over safety and traffic jams at rail crossings.

CSX, the No.3 U.S. railroad by revenue, told investors in October its freight trains have increased more than 400 feet to 6,833 feet (2.08 km) on average since March, when newly appointed Chief Executive Officer Hunter Harrison launched his plan to boost profits and streamline operations.

CSX’s eastern U.S. rival Norfolk Southern Corp’s (NSC.N) trains average longer than 5,500 feet, a year-to-date record, the company said in the third quarter.

Western U.S. railroad Union Pacific said it posted record third quarter “train size performance” after hitting a record in 2016.

“Longer trains maximize crews, locomotives, fuel and other resources,” said Union Pacific spokeswoman Raquel Espinoza.

FRA data shows CSX's train accidents and incidents as a portion of miles traveled at the highest level in a decade after climbing in each of the last five years. (tinyurl.com/ybf6bqyy)

A long CSX train came off the tracks in Crestline, Ohio on June 11 as seen in this handout photo received December 6, 2017. SMART Transportation Union/Handout via REUTERS
SMART Union transportation division spokesman John Risch told top rail regulator the Surface Transportation Board (STB) at an October hearing on CSX service problems the average U.S. train is up to 1.5 miles long (2.41 km), but CSX has routinely operated trains two or even three miles long since Harrison took over.

The STB declined interview requests.

CSX spokesman Bryan Tucker said the industry trend toward longer trains is a “tried and proven way to increase efficiency.”

The latest concerns follow the fiery derailment of a 178-car CSX freight train in Hyndman, Pennsylvania in August, and the Nov. 27 derailment of a CSX train with 192 cars - nearly 2 miles long excluding locomotives - in Lakeland, Florida, spilling hazardous molten sulfur.

Slideshow (3 Images)
The FRA told Reuters it is also investigating the June derailment of a 13,147-foot CSX train in Crestline, Ohio.

National Transportation Safety Board rail division head David Bucher told Reuters train length and build were “an important part of the investigation” into the Hyndman crash, adding he was hesitant to draw conclusions about an ongoing investigation.

“Train lengths are increasing across the country,” Bucher said. “It is becoming more and more common, not just with CSX.”

The NTSB, FRA, and STB do not collect data on train length, except for specific accidents or mediations.

The American Association of Railroads (AAR) declined to comment.

CSX employees and union officials said many conductors lack experience to run long trains.

CSX’s Tucker said the railroad’s crews are fully qualified to operate longer trains and CSX uses computer modeling before running longer trains on a new route.

One CSX manager told Reuters FRA inspectors have showed up almost daily in recent weeks looking for long trains and conducting inspections at terminals in Cincinnati, Ohio, Waycross, Georgia, and elsewhere.

“They (FRA inspectors) do more blitzes than they used to, where several inspectors will show up in a place and stay for a couple days,” the manager added.

Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Lisa Shumaker
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tags: Train crashesderegulationGAOCSXtrain size increase
Categories: Labor News

Safety concerns drive ATU Local 1005 transit operators dispute: Twin Cities bus drivers,Cities bus drivers, light-rail operators are being assaulted more often; threaten strike

Sun, 12/03/2017 - 23:07

Safety concerns drive ATU Local 1005 transit operators dispute: Twin Cities bus drivers,Cities bus drivers, light-rail operators are being assaulted more often; threaten strike
By Ryan Faircloth / St. Paul Pioneer Press on Dec 2, 2017 at 8:23 p.m.

Metro Transit bus operator David Stiggers at Union Depot Station in St. Paul on Thursday, Nov. 30. Stiggers has driven Metro Transit buses for 11 years. In that time he has been frequently verbally harassed, pelted with objects and received death threats. (Jean Pieri / St. Paul Pioneer Press)1 / 2
ST. PAUL — Jane Hanson was clearing her light-rail train at Union Depot one morning when a heroin-abusing passenger struck her from behind.

Jeanne O'Neill has been assaulted, groped and spat on in her 17 years as a Metro Transit bus driver.

David Stiggers has fielded verbal abuse and death threats while driving his bus routes.

In the Twin Cities, assaults on operators have grown more common over the past five years, with many incidents stemming from conflicts as minor as fare disputes. Operator-safety concerns recently became a major sticking point in a contract dispute between unionized workers and the Metropolitan Council, which runs the Metro Transit system. Drivers and transit personnel are threatening a Super Bowl strike unless protective measures are taken.

"(Assaults are) a constant stress that transit operators all over the country face," said Mark Lawson, president of Amalgamated ­Transit Union Local 1005, which authorized the strike.

Last year, 162 assaults were reported among the more than 1,500 Metro Transit operators. The incidents range from serious ­felony-level assaults to disorderly conduct and threats.

The 2016 assaults represent a nearly 17 percent jump from 2013. Early numbers on 2017 assaults suggest they'll keep pace with last year's total.

Metro Transit, which operates its own police force, said the safety of its employees and passengers remains a priority. From de-escalation and self-defense training to public awareness campaigns, the agency says it takes numerous steps to protect its train and bus operators.

Operators, though, say their safety concerns have gone largely unaddressed, creating a work environment where tense confrontations are commonplace.

"I want us all to be protected. I want us to be able to go home at night and not have a black eye or be spit on," Hanson said.

Transit officials maintain there's no uniform approach to protecting all drivers from harm.

A common occurrence

Hanson suffered five bulging discs in her neck from her light-rail assault in 2015. She required three to four months of rehabilitation before returning to work.

"Every time that I pulled in (to the garage after the attack), I requested police because there was no way I was going to go through that again," she said.

Hanson transitioned from light-rail to bus operation last year. She still encounters aggressive passengers on occasion.

Stiggers first started driving Metro Transit buses 11 years ago. He quickly learned which routes were desired and avoided by operators.

"You end up watching people get beat up, you end up watching people get cussed out," he said. "Sometimes you get some legitimately crazy individuals on your bus."

Stiggers' situational awareness has grown with his experience, helping him sense warning signs and defuse conflicts before they escalate.

O'Neill said she's experienced multiple instances of sexual harassment as a driver. A passenger once stood behind her and muttered sexual suggestions as she drove her route.

Sometimes, she said, situations became physical.

"I've had my butt grabbed by what turned out to be an unregistered sex offender," O'Neill said. The incident occurred as she attempted to secure a wheelchair on the bus.

" 'Don't touch the driver' is a message I would like to tell the public," she said.

Current deterrents

Metro Transit announced Friday that 20 buses would be retrofitted with plexiglass driver enclosures in the coming weeks as part of a test.

"There's a renewed desire to do a pilot exploration to see, is this going to be something that solves or eliminates (these concerns)?" said Brian Funk, Metro Transit's deputy chief operating officer for bus.

Drivers will have the option to open or close the clear plexiglass shields, he said.

The shields will likely be tested over the course of six months so transit officials can seek feedback from operators, Funk said. Metro Transit will extend the demonstration if more input is needed.

"We want to go through the process and ensure that it is something our employees do want," Funk said.

Metro Transit spokesman Howie Padilla said officials use various methods to deter operator assaults, like publicizing penalties imposed on offenders. A Minnesota law that took effect in 2013 heightened penalties for certain degrees of assault, subjecting assailants to gross misdemeanor charges.

"I'm out there all the time talking about 'we will hold people accountable,' " Padilla said.

Buses and trains are retrofitted with cameras, Padilla said, and transit police make an effort to sit in on routes when available.

Metro Transit also offers annual pepper-spray classes for operators who want to defend themselves, Funk said.

Striking for safety

Unionized transit workers rejected the Met Council's most recent contract offer last month, citing safety as one of their primary concerns. Plexiglass enclosures on buses were among their demands.

O'Neill said a protective shield would have prevented incidents where she was struck or spat on.

Union President Mark ­Lawson said workers want to collaborate with Metro Transit to find the best-suited safety enclosure for the bus fleet.

"I just feel like the goal ought to be a fully integrated design on every single bus," he said.

If the dispute isn't resolved by January, transit operators and support personnel say they will go on strike during Super Bowl LII, which will be held Feb. 4 in Minneapolis.

Lawson and Local 1005 union workers met with the Met Council for another round of negotiations on Nov. 22. The discussions were largely unproductive, Lawson said.

"As of this point, there are no more talks scheduled," he said.

Metro Transit workers last went on strike in 2004. It lasted roughly six weeks.

Operator assaults felt nationwide

Assaults on operators have driven transit agencies across the country to implement safety measures.

New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority earlier this year retrofitted the last of the city's 4,700-bus fleet with protective partitions. NYC transit union officials believe the partitions are responsible for a drop in reported operator assaults.

Buses in Washington, D.C., have also been retrofitted with protective shields, but not all assaults have been avoided.

A woman was arrested in August for throwing a cup of her own urine around a protective shield at a D.C. bus driver. And last month, a man wielding a knife reached around a D.C. bus driver's partition and threatened to kill him.

Finding the right fix

Metro Transit officials will evaluate the effectiveness of the plexiglass shields to ensure no new safety hazards are introduced, Funk said.

"We don't want to introduce something that could lead to other issues such as additional glare, or a situation where if there's a crash ... the barrier is no longer operable and it puts the operator in a compromising position," he said.

Funk also said not all operators embrace the idea of being enclosed.

Polly Hanson, director of security, risk and emergency management for the American Public Transportation Association, said transit agencies are most successful when taking a multifaceted approach to operator safety.

"It's a layered approach that most properties take: public awareness campaigns, enhanced penalties, looking at the configuration of the bus, and then getting the message out about prosecutions when they occur to have that as a deterrent effect as well," she said.

Still, Jane Hanson said ­having a protective enclosure on her Metro Transit bus would make her job much less nerve-racking.

"That would make me ­happy," she said. "I love the public, I love the contact, I just don't like the bad ­people."

Tags: ATU 1005St. Paul Transit StrikeMetro Transit
Categories: Labor News

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