Tucson Teamsters Union Local 104 Bus Drivers Strike, Stranding 50,000 Commuters
Story by AZPM Staff
LAST UPDATED AUGUST 6, 2015
PHOTO: Maria Inés Taracena, AZPM
This story will be updated throughout the day. Last update, 1:31 p.m.
Nearly 50,000 Tucson commuters were stranded Thursday when Teamsters Union drivers and mechanics called a strike against the city's Sun Tran bus system.
Sun Tran officials said they would operate buses on five of the metro area's busiest routes using managers as drivers. More would be added when possible, said Kandi Young, Sun Tran spokeswoman.
The bus system made its "firm and final offer," but it was rejected, a Sun Tran press release said. The Teamsters Union Local 104 vote was 98 percent against the contract, said Andy Marshall, the union's principal officer.
“Until Sun Tran either makes another offer or comes back to the table, we will be out on strike, for as long as it takes," he said.
He said 530 drivers, mechanics and bus station workers were on strike, and picketing at Ronstadt Transit Center and the northwest side maintenance facility. He said because the offer included no pay increase for current workers for the next three years, it is unacceptable.
"We're willing to talk, period," said Andy Marshall, the union's principal officer. "The ball is in the court of management."
Also in contention are driver safety and mold issues at the northwest facility, he said.
Sun Tran brought up those issues during the negotiation, but the parties were unable to come to a conclusion the union accepted, Young said.
Sun Tran General Manager Kate Riley said in a press release that management had made what she considered to be a good offer.
"I'm disappointed that we couldn't come to an agreement," Riley was quoted as saying. "We believe the offer we had on the table was a fair offer, and we're available to continue talking to the negotiating committee should they choose."
Sun Tran announced that limited service would be available from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on:
• 6th Street's Route 3
• Broadway's Route 8
• Alvernon Way's Route 11
• Oracle Road's Route 16
• South 6th Avenue's Route 18
The company is using administrators who are not covered by the union, and who are former drivers, to offer limited continued service, Young said. If more drivers are available the company will broaden the routes offered during the strike, but Young said she could not comment on whether temporary workers will be hired during the strike.
Drivers are paid an average of $16.72 an hour with nearly half at the top pay of $19.22, Sun Tran said in a statement.
It said its offer was for continuation of all benefits, including fully paid pension contributions and health insurance, addition of an 11th holiday each year and a 3.3 percent increase in starting pay for drivers, to $13.80 an hour.
Union members voted Saturday by a margin of 363-4 to reject the proposal. Marshall said Sun Tran managers acknowledged returning $2.2 million to the city's general fund in 2013 and 2014, money he said could have gone for raises.
"We tried everything possible, including working with a federal mediator in the last two days," Marshall said. "We sympathize with the 50,000 citizens who ride the bus, and we ask them to look at the situation and ask why money was given back."
The strike does not affect the streetcar, Sun Van service for the disabled and elderly or Sun Shuttle.
The strike has left some scrambling for alternative transportation options. Tucson Unified School District has its drivers doubling up on routes to cover the students who normally ride Sun Tran buses to school, said Stephanie Boe, the district's spokeswoman.
“It’s a little bit earlier than their normal Sun Tran bus routes, the schools were seeing the kiddos arriving at 6:45 this morning," Boe said. "It’s an early wake-up call for our high schoolers, but it’s the very best that we could do under these circumstances.”
The district will continue to accommodate its Sun Tran riders, she said, but it will come at a cost.
“We’re prepared to do what we need to do as long as it needs to be done. It’s costing the district about $2,000 a day to do this," she said.
Will Uber drivers get class-action status for employment case?
By Carolyn SaidAugust 6, 2015
August 6, 2015 5:19pm
Uber driver Sara Knapp (middle) answers questions during a press conference at the plaza entrance of 450 Golden Gate Ave. in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, August 6, 2015. Drivers discuss the O'Conner vs. Uber lawsuit seeking to reclassify Uber drivers in California as employees. Knapp became an Uber driver New Years day this year.
Uber driver Sara Knapp (middle) answers questions during a press conference at the plaza entrance of 450 Golden Gate Ave. in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, August 6, 2015. Drivers discuss the O'Conner vs. Uber lawsuit seeking to reclassify Uber drivers in California as employees. Knapp became an Uber driver New Years day this year.
A lawsuit by Uber drivers seeking to be deemed employees could become a bludgeon against the ride company or end up as a mere mosquito, depending on the outcome of a court hearing in San Francisco.
U.S. District Judge Edward Chen heard arguments Thursday about whether O’Connor et al vs. Uber Technologies deserves status as a class-action case representing 160,000 current and past Uber drivers in California, or whether it should be confined to the three drivers who brought the suit. His decision is not expected for several weeks.
The case’s outcome also looms over other on-demand companies because workers deemed employees have mandates on wages and benefits that contractors do not. It’s the furthest along of a recent raft of worker lawsuits against such firms, and potentially involves the largest numbers of plaintiffs.
Chen appeared skeptical of Uber’s arguments at the hearing’s outset. “Isn’t it contradictory that Uber says every single driver is an independent contractor and yet also says they are dramatically different from one another and thus can’t be certified as a class?” he asked.
Once the suit moves to a jury trial, where it will be decided on its merits, much of the “rights of control” that would be debated are uniform among drivers, Chen said, seeming to indicate that he’s leaning toward certifying the case as a class action. He also indicated that he can see evidence on both sides, pointing out that Uber doesn’t control drivers’ schedules or routes, while it does control fares and monitor their performance using star ratings.
In fact, Uber’s rating system, in which passengers rate drivers with up to five stars, is a major factor. Chen scoffed at Boutrous’ assertion that only some driver contracts specify that they can be “deactivated” for low ratings. “Is Uber going to say that it doesn’t have authority to control someone who … can’t cut it?” he asked.
Uber submitted as evidence statements from 400 drivers saying they prefer being independent contractors. While that sounds initially impressive, Chen said, measured against the 160,000 potential class members, it’s not even 1 percent. It would carry more weight if those drivers were randomly selected, he added. “I gather that’s not the case,” he said.
Chen also questioned whether the plaintiff drivers had much backing among other drivers. “There’s nothing in the record to show mass support for the position of your three named plaintiffs,” he said to the drivers’ attorney, Shannon Liss-Riordan.
The law is what matters, not drivers’ desires, she said. “This isn’t a popularity contest,” she said. “It’s not a question of what people want.”
She said 1,700 Uber drivers, more than half of them from California, have contacted her firm asking how they can be involved in the case.
Ted Boutrous, Uber’s lead outside counsel, claims that granting drivers employee status would force Uber to clamp down on the freedom they now enjoy, exerting control over when, where and how drivers work. Chen also took issue with that portrayal, saying Uber told the drivers who submitted declarations that they’d lose flexibiTags: UberDrivers
Bus drivers of the #60 line of Buenos Aires, which includes 10 popular bus routes, carried out a protest action on July 27 2015, disrupting traffic on a number of arterial roads. Helping the drivers to block roads were workers acting in solidarity, including activists of the FORA (Argentine section of the IWA-AIT). The picket on the Pan-American Highway at the intersection of Highway #197 was brutally dispersed by the National Police, injuring at least 18 people.
Workers of the #60 bus line have been fighting for more than a month with the company owner. They had previously announced that they were going to block the La Noria Bridge and the Pan-American Highway at General Pacheco (a city in Buenos Aires province). The first picket was held without major incidents, but the second, in the northern part of the capital region, was met with repression by the police.
The forces of “order” attacked the protesters around 7:20 a.m., and the drivers answered with a hail of rocks. Three workers were arrested. At least 18 people were injured, including journalists.
Around 10:00 a.m., the scene was repeated at the La Noria Bridge. The police used tear gas and rubber bullets, while the workers defended themselves with whatever they could get their hands on.
One of the workers’ delegates, Santiago Menconi, explained that the protest was held because “currently there is no dialogue” with the company and the Ministry of Labour. “Fifty-three comrades are still fired.” He demanded a signed agreement on working conditions and the rights of workers’ delegates, and also payment to the workers for all idle time since the beginning of the conflict.
The protesters blamed the clashes on the police and demanded the immediate release of three persons who were arrested.
The conflict began on June 25 2015, when the drivers, as a sign of protest, stopped collecting fares from the 250,000 passengers who use the #60 line everyday. They demanded the re-instatement of Ariel Alejandro Benítez, fired the day before without any explanation.
A day later, at a hearing at the Ministry of Labour, the authorities rendered a mandatory decision according to which the drivers were obliged to abandon their protest actions, and the firm – to re-instate Benítez.
However on June 27 Benítez was prevented from resuming his job, and the employer would not allow the buses to leave the terminal, initiating a lockout. In addition, the DOTA company, which operates 46 bus lines in the capital region, issued 50 notices of dismissal. After this, the #60 line did not operate for five days.
Then the workers themselves reopened the route, still without charging fares. The police force, enforcing a court order requested by the company, blocked Ingeniero-Maschwitz depot, and the drivers were forced to sit out their working hours without being able to drive their routes.
The next court order required the resumption of normal services. However, the drivers have stated that it’s impossible to do so, since the company is still not allowing them to drive their routes.
On July 11 and 12, a representative of the official union UTA (Unión Tranviarios Automotor) essentially took the side of the company, blaming the shutdown of the buses on “a small group of ill-intentioned persons” not belonging to the union.
In response, the workers of the #60 line stated: “The workers and delegates are informing users of the bus service that there have never been any meetings about resolving the labour dispute, and that the company continues to enforce the lockout, while we, the workers, are in our depots and ready to work. We’re sticking with our demands for the re-instatement of the 53 fired workers, payment for idle time, alteration of working conditions, etc.”
A few days later, when the workers were holding an assembly in the Constitución district of Buenos Aires, a large police squad appeared with orders to disperse the crowd. A quick response on the part of comrades and various organizations acting in solidarity prevented the carrying out of this order.
Later the drivers staged a festival in Constitución in order to voice their demands and call on the resumption of negotiations with the company. Due to the lack of a response to their demands, the drivers organized the first blockade of the Pan-American Highway, although one lane was left open. On July 27 the second blockade took place.
Thanks to aitrus.info for collating this material.Tags: ArgentinastrikesPublic TransitTransport Workers
August 4, 2015: James Hoffa has given up on protecting Teamster pensions, but not his own millionaire retirement plan. In 2014 the IBT put $65,004 of your dues money into Hoffa’s pension.
You read that right, Hoffa got $65,004 paid into his pension in just one year. It would take a YRC Teamster over 17 years to earn in pension contributions what members paid Hoffa last year alone.
Hoffa’s been in office going on 16 years, so do the math. He’s taken in a million bucks in pension contributions and could retire today with a lump-sum payment of over $2 million—plus free family health care for life.
Hoffa’s retirement windfall comes courtesy of the Retirement and Family Protection Plan, an exclusive fund reserved only for International Union officers and the International staff.
Last year the IBT put $16 million into the Family Plan to make sure those lump sum payouts are funded and fully-protected.
When union officers look after themselves, instead of Teamster members and unorganized workers, it’s time for them to go.
With the millions in dues money they will take with them into retirement, there will be no reason to feel sorry for them.Issues: Hoffa Watch
By Chelsea Harris - Labor Notes, July 23, 2015
“I don’t know who you people are!” barked Joe Walker, the owner of Pandora’s Adult Cabaret, a Seattle-area strip club, to the workers gathered in his office. “Why don’t you all go flip burgers!”
But despite this confrontational language—typical of how he often spoke to employees—within hours Walker would give in to their demand for the back pay he owed them.
As a boss, Walker is abhorrent, showing no respect for or concern for the safety of his club’s servers or dancers. Employees had horror stories of working around bodily fluids and other filth with no safety procedures, frequent illness with no health benefits or sick leave, and dancers being stalked and sexually assaulted at the club.
Add to this abusive language and shady bookkeeping. Managers had told bartenders and servers not to report tips. Instead, managers were reporting employee tips as $5 a week.
On April 1 the Seattle minimum wage went up to $11 per hour (the first step in a process towards a $15 per hour minimum wage, which won’t go into effect for two to six years).
But two weeks later, Walker was still paying his servers the old minimum wage of $9.47. When Alyssa, a server at the club, asked when they could expect a wage increase, she was fired.
Lindsay, another server fed up with Walker’s hostility whenever she asked about wages, put in her two weeks’ notice—but was promptly fired too. “You’re beneath this job,” he told her.
Unfortunately for him, Lindsay is in a union: the Seattle branch of the Industrial Workers of the World (the “Wobblies”), which anyone can join, except people with the power to hire and fire. After meeting with the union’s Seattle general organizing committee, Lindsay and Alyssa began an escalation plan.
FW Patrick, Press Secretary - Kentucky IWW, August 4, 2015
After much tinkering, the KY IWW GMB has developed a way to collect dues on-line. We feel this is an easy way for those members who are from far-off, or simply unable to attend certain meeting days, to remain part of the One Big Union.
You can follow the link through our “Dues and Membership” page to pay dues now or in the future. The link there will direct you to an external page where you can select your dues range and remain a member in good standing.
We’re also hopeful that we’ll have more options through the page in the future, including ways to join the KY IWW on-line, donate to the branch, purchase branch stamps, and so on.
One (or two) final thing(s): notes from the July meeting–including a long think piece on movement music–are forthcoming. Stayed tuned for that. And finally, be sure to join us for the KY IWW GMB open house THIS SATURDAY, 8:00 p.m., at our space in The Mammoth. Hope to see you all there!
By The Houston IWW Solidarity Network - Houston IWW, July 29, 2015
The Houston IWW is engaged in a fight with a local contractor, Felipe Serna, responsible for wage theft of three former employees: Hector, Pancho, and Mauricio. These three men were hired by Felipe Serna in May of 2015 for the remodeling of a house in Sweeny, Texas. They were offered $150/day each for their services and provided room and board at the house. Several days in Serna decides $150 is too much and instead wants to pay them $100/day instead. The men held their ground, stating $150 was the agreed upon wage, and Serna backed off.
While at work one day, Serna tells the men he is letting them go. The men ask for payment for the previous three days of labor and Serna refuses, accusing them of stealing equipment. To add insult to injury, Hector, Pancho, and Mauricio weren’t driven back to Houston, but told to make their own way. It cost them $100 total for them to get transportation back to the city.
Serna and his actions are not an isolated event nor is he an employer that is merely a “bad apple that spoils the bunch.” In fact, Serna is representative of a social force that is exploiting immigrant labor in Houston and in this country. In fact, $750 million in wages are stolen each year in Houston alone! Despite a recent ordinance passed in Houston to curb wage theft, it hasn’t stopped it nor could it. The reality is that Houston capitalists depend on wage theft to maintain existing profit rates and the social hierarchy. This exploitation is backed by a racist Sheriff’s office run by Adrian Garcia that complies with 287g, Secure Communities, a program of collaboration between the police and ICE to deport and detain immigrants.
In the spirit of this perspective, on Friday, July 24th, the Houston IWW with Hector and Pancho marched to The Growing Tree Academy, a daycare facility in the Gulfton area of Houston to deliver demands to Serna, owned by his wife’s family. Because contractors often operate in the shadows, working from their homes and vehicles, they are difficult to track down. Hector read the demand letter in the presence of our union to the staff who kept interrupting him and declaring they have nothing to do with what happened. Serna wasn’t there but showed up later when most of us had left to say he wanted to talk and he was instructed to follow up on the letter.
We are demanding $1,450 in stolen wages including $100 for transportation.
Hector, Pancho, and Mauricio aren’t afraid of these employer thugs who prey on working class people. And neither is the IWW. Work itself is theft. But to steal the little subsistence we are given to reproduce ourselves and our families is despicable. The only way to deal with bosses like Serna is to organize together and fight together.
Thirty-five years ago, the brutal murder of ILWU Local 37 officials Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes sent shock waves through Seattle and the international labor movement. Supporters spent decades gathering evidence of a high-level conspiracy that involved former dictator Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines – and exposed complicity by U.S. officials who backed his bloody regime.
Family members, friends and community supporters gathered in San Francisco on July 17 at ILWU Local 34 to screen a new documentary film about the slain ILWU leaders who led a reform campaign against corruption in Local 37 that represented a predominantly Filipino immigrant workforce employed in Alaskan salmon canneries.
The film, “One Generation’s Time: The Legacy of Silme Domingo & Gene Viernes,” was produced by Shannon Gee. The 1-hour documentary explains how the pair of union activists were also active in the Union of Democratic Filipinos, known as the “KDP,” a left-wing political organization that supported improvements for immigrant Filipino workers and the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship. The KDP’s goals spurred hostility from the Marcos regime and from thugs who preyed on union members in ILWU Local 37.
When Viernes and Domingo were gunned down in the union hall on June 1, 1981, the murders were initially reported as isolated acts of violence, and two shooters with gang connections were convicted. But friends and family were convinced there was more to the story, and organized the Committee for Justice for Domingo and Viernes (CJDV) which eventually confirmed that Philippine
President Ferdinand Marcos had ordered the murders. A civil lawsuit eventually returned a $15 million jury verdict against Marcos.
In 1989, a federal jury agreed with the CJDV, and found Marcos guilty of the murders in 1989. Two years later, former Local 37 president and Marcos supporter Constantine “Tony” Baruso, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Viernes.
In 2011, the Inlandboatmen’s Union, Region 37, created an annual scholarship to honor the memory of Domingo and Viernes by assisting students at the University of Washington’s Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies Following the film, a discussion was led by Terri Mast, Silme Domingo’s widow and Secretary-Treasurer of the Inlandboatmen’s Union. Joining her was Domingo’s sister, Cindy, who serves as Chief of Staff to Seattle Councilmember Larry Gossett.
“The film has been shown many times on Seattle public television,” said Mast, “and soon copies of the DVD will be more available for the public.”
Anyone wishing to see the film online can do so at www.seattlechannel.org/CommunityStories?videoid=x21162
A diverse delegation of ILWU leaders joined hundreds of community supporters who marched to support workers at the Sakuma Brothers berry farm on July 11.
The effort was organized to help a two-year struggle by Sakuma farmworkers against one of Washington State’s largest berry growers who is refusing to recognize the workers’ independent union: Familias Unidas por la Justicia (Families United for Justice).
Walking for justice ILWU leaders from Locals 9 and 19 in Seattle, and Local 25 in Anacortes, joined forces with ILWU Pensioners, Puget Sound District Council members, and members of the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU). They met in the morning near Interstate 5 in the Skagit Valley then marched along a side road that passed through miles of lush berry fields, before arriving at Sakuma’s processing facility and labor camp.
Signs of struggle
As marchers arrived at the complex, they could see that Sakuma’s retail “farm stand” and “u-pick” operation were both closed because of growing community opposition to the company’s anti-worker stance. Sakuma even tried giving away their berries for free at one point, but local opposition has made the company’s PR gimmicks ineffective.
Skagit Valley is ground zero
Sakuma’s operation in the beautiful Skagit Valley is located just an hour north of Seattle. The valley’s mild temperatures are perfect for growing strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. An astonishing 3 million pounds of raspberries are grown there annually and each berry must be carefully harvested by skilled hands.
Berry farming is big business
During the past 85 years, Sakuma has grown from a small family farm to a large corporate enterprise that includes a processing plant, controlled storage, commercial nursery and retail operation. The corporation is no longer being managed by the family, confirmed by the hiring of a new CEO last March. Sakuma sells fresh berries to supermarkets and warehouse stores like Costco through the giant Driscoll brand. They also provide berries used in Häagen-Dazs ice cream and other high-profile products.
Strikes past and present
Sakuma workers are all immigrants from southern Mexico, most of whom speak indigenous languages like Mixteco and Triqui. Two years ago they organized a strike against Sakuma over poor pay and working conditions.
Another strike occurred this June when Sakuma berry pickers walked off the job during the first two days of the blueberry harvest. A factor in the recent strike was management’s scheme to isolate union supporters by dividing the workforce into small groups with different start times. Despite the company’s divide-and-conquer tactics, nearly 200 workers expressed support for last month’s work stoppage.
“This was a reprisal action against the union,” said Benito Lopez a member of the executive committee of Familias Unidas por la Justicia. “They wanted to separate us into groups of 10 people, and have each group begin at different times, 15 minutes apart, but we stuck together and walked out of the field in unity against another unjust labor practice. On top of the low wages, now we have to put up with these practices.”
Breaking laws, paying fines
Despite Sakuma’s insistence that they are an exceptional employer, the company has been caught red-handed cheating workers. In 2013, Sakuma agreed to pay an $850,000 settlement for cheating workers out of pay by denying breaks and refusing to pay for hours worked. The cheated an estimated 1,200 farmworkers who will benefit from a lawsuit that the company agreed to settle instead of facing a judge or jury.
Using visas to bust unions
One tactic used by Sakuma and other growers to keep labor costs low and unions out of the fields is the recruitment of guest workers from Mexico. In 2013, Sakuma hired 70 temporary workers from Mexico using the Federal H2A guest worker visa program –claiming that they faced a “labor shortage.”
“Free market” farce
Employers who claim they’re suffering from labor shortages can use the H2-A visa program to avoid raising wages to attract local workers – a flagrant violation of “free market” principles that politicians often adore and companies frequently employ to argue against unions.
Immigrant workers with H2-A visas are easily exploited because employers can quickly return a complaining worker back to Mexico. Even workers who don’t complain can only stay in the U.S. for less than a year, must remain at the same employer, and must immediately return home after their work is finished.
Ski resorts & call centers
Employer abuse of the guest worker visa system is widespread in the agriculture industry but not limited to field work. The hospitality industry is increasing using a similar visa program to hire poor eastern Europeans for “temporary” work in ski resorts and summer lodges. Abuse of guest worker visas has been sanctioned by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and the White House, and a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center called it “Close to Slavery.”
The hi-tech industry has successfully used a similar visa scam, known as the H1-B program, to secure scientists, engineers and programmers at low-wages ,= displacing domestic workers. Employers justify their use of the program by making false claims of an alleged “shortage” of high-tech workers. Employers have even used temporary immigrants to replace domestic workers at call centers and customer service operations – all to avoid raising wages or improving conditions.
Public pressure helps
In 2014, Sakuma Farms requested 438 new visas for the year, alleging that it faced a labor shortage. At the same time, it sent strikers letters saying they’d been fired. After workers signed letters saying they were available to work, exposing Sakuma’s lies, the company withdrew its application as pressure mounted on the U.S. Department of Labor to turn down Sakuma’s request.
Trending in wrong direction Photojournalist David Bacon has spent time meeting and interviewing workers, and notes that a decade ago, there were few H-2A workers in Washington State. But by 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor had certified 6,251 applications – a number he says doubled since 2011.
“The irony is that one group of immigrant workers, recruited by growers using the H2-A visa program, are being pitted against another group of recent immigrants from Mexico who have been hired by Sakuma for years,” said Bacon.
Rosalinda Guillén, who directs a local group called “Community2Community” in Bellingham, agrees. “The H-2A program limits what’s possible for all workers,” she says. The community- based group is advocating for farm worker rights as part of a just, sustainable food system.
Boycott Driscoll & Häagen-Dazs
Supporters are now calling for a boycott of all berries marketed under the Driscoll’s label. Driscoll’s is the largest berry marketing operation in the world, that sells to thousands of supermarkets and warehouse stores, including Costco.
Driscoll’s markets Sakuma’s blueberries, and Familias Unidas por la Justicia charges that it is equally responsible with Sakuma for denying workers fair wages and the right to negotiate a union contract. Sakuma also sells strawberries used in Häagen-Dazs ice cream.
The struggle by Sukuma farm workers was discussed at the ILWU’s 36th International Convention in June. The issue was explained by Rich Austin, President of the Pacific Coast Pensioners Association. Delegates learned of Sakuma’s many abuses, and they took action by unanimously adopting a resolution to support workers and a boycott:
“RESOLVED: that the ILWU calls upon other labor organizations and legislators and congressional delegations to support a boycott of Sakuma Brothers Farms, Haagen-Dazs, and Driscoll’s Berries until the demands of Familias Unidas Por La Justicia are met.”
The day before the march, ILWU leaders joined other supporters for strategy discussions with union leaders from Familias Unidas por la Justicia.
Other union leaders from Washington State, California and Mexico also attended the meeting. Washington State Labor Council President Jeff Johnson marched with workers and supporters the following day.
“This is an important campaign that crosses borders to unite the common concerns of workers,” said Austin, noting that berry workers in Mexico’s Baja California have also been striking– and that those berries are also sold by Driscoll. “It’s not an easy fight, but the important fights are never easy,” he said. “Solidarity and unity are the best weapons we have to fight injustice and capitalist greed.”
On July 20, I lost a friend and the Teamsters Union lost a warrior for workers, women’s rights when Gillian Furst passed away.
I met Gillian and her husband, Randy Furst, at the 1989 TDU Convention in Pittsburgh. That convention was the kick-off of Ron Carey’s campaign, and where TDU voted to endorse Carey. Gillian had worked as a Teamster for years at the Honeywell instrument factory in Minneapolis, but had no contact with TDU.
As soon as she joined, she was fully committed.
Gillian and Randy had activist experience, and when they got excited about TDU, they never looked back.Gillian was elected a delegate from Local 1145 to the 1991 IBT Convention. She rose to second a nomination for VP at-large: “When I think of fearlessness, I think of Diana Kilmury. When I think of honesty, I think of Diana Kilmury…it is with joy in my heart that I second the nomination of Diana Kilmury.”
Gillian Furst at the 1991 IBT Convention
Kilmury was the first woman ever elected to the General Executive Board, on the Ron Carey slate. Carey appointed Gillian to be a member of the IBT Ethical Practices Committee.
Gillian and Randy became key organizers for TDU in Minnesota, and she served for a time on the TDU International Steering Committee. She has long been retired, but stayed active, until recently, when her failing health made that impossible.
She was always ready to support a strike and to help workers organize. Her home was frequently a center of activity.
As recently as this April, we held a fundraiser at Gillian and Randy’s home, where she delighted in teasing me about various things. I had a lot of fun with Gillian over the years.
Randy, true to form, remains active in TDU in Minnesota and in supporting the Teamsters United campaign.
Gillian passed away peacefully at home, at the age of 81. Our thoughts go out to Randy and Gillian’s three children.
We will try to live up to the high standard that she set for us.
Ken Paff, National Organizer of Teamsters for a Democratic Union
Issues: TDU History
Thousands of ILWU members, their families, community supporters and elected officials gathered at parks, cemeteries and union halls up and down the West Coast to mark the 81st anniversary of Bloody Thursday and pay respects to those who sacrificed their lives in 1934 in order to build the ILWU.
Southern California’s Bloody Thursday tradition in the Harbor Area involved up to 2,000 ILWU members, friends and family.
Morning for martyrs
The first – and some say most important part of the day – began with a morning assembly at Gardena’s Roosevelt Memorial Park where ILWU members gathered to honor the first two martyrs killed in the bloody 1934 struggles that gave birth to the union.
First Blood of 1934
Dickie Parker and John Knudsen were both buried at Roosevelt Park after being shot, along with five other union members, by company-employed goons shortly after midnight on May 15, 1934 at Berth 145 in Wilmington. The first deadly confrontation on the docks that year between strikers and strike-breakers involved the employer’s use of armed private guards. Dickie Parker died on the way to the hospital while John Knudsen lingered for weeks before dying of his wounds. Public response to the killing of both men was impressive, with an estimated 8,000 lining the streets from San Pedro to Gardena to witness the procession of cars that stretched six miles. Law enforcement warned of a riot following the funeral, but because both events were peaceful, public support increased for the union cause.
Eighty-one years later at a few minutes after 10am, Local 13’s Angel Blanco called together 50 participants – most of whom arrived in dozens of tricked-out classic cars and scores of motorcycles from the Longshoremen’s Motorcycle Club. They gathered quietly at the graveside of Dickie Parker, offering prayers and reflections.
“The picnic later this afternoon is great, but this event is the most important part of the day for me and everyone here,” said Blanco. The service started with a beautiful solo rendition of the national anthem following a soulful benediction and prayer.
Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr., noted that the remains of more than100 charter longshore union members are found in the surrounding graves at Roosevelt Memorial Park, making it “hallowed ground.” He thanked Local 65 brothers from the Port Police for attending and providing their motorcycle escort for the car caravan that followed the service.
He concluded by reminding everyone that sacrifices made this year by longshore workers struggling for a new contract cannot be forgotten – because they are part of a larger struggle by one generation after another – beginning with the ultimate sacrifice made by Dickie Parker and John Knudsen in 1934.
Pensioner Jerry Brady read his Bloody Thursday poem that brought tears to the eyes of some, followed by Pensioner and former International President Dave Arian who reminded the group that today’s ceremony had been dropped for decades before being restored during the 1980’s.
At 10:30, engines roared to life in the classics, cruisers, hot-rods and Harleys that slowly pulled out of the Memorial Park behind a symbolic hearse provided by All Soul’s Mortuary in Long Beach. The mock funeral procession made its way through a ten-mile trek south to San Pedro, passing along the waterfront and going up 7th Street through downtown before arriving at Peck Park where hundreds of family members were already gathered for the Bloody Thursday picnic.
Local 13 member Bobby Rodriguez and his wife Liz brought up the rear of the caravan, So Cal style, in their tastefully lowered, very cherry 1937 Chevy Master Deluxe, part of the Solo Riders Car Club.
“We come every year!” they said.
Picnic with a purpose
Union members arriving at the park could hear it was happening from blocks away, thanks to the excellent live music provided by three local bands that are connected through The band “Jamin’ Mood” opened the event, followed by a mid-day performance from the group “Low-Key,” and ended with DW-3 who closed out the event before heading to Miami for a big gig there. Dancing increased during the afternoon as the crowd increased.
A wide-range and food and drinks were available at no cost to members and families that included hot dogs, hamburgers, tacos and burritos. But the BBQ pits seemed to generate the most heat between cooks and patrons, with notable contributions from the Longshoremen’s Motorcycle Club and Heavy-Hitters softball team, with Nacho Sanchez and Shakey Namahoe from the Hitters especially proud of their tri-tip. Local 13’s team of Johnny and Manuel Amaro grilled hundreds of jalapeno peppers that went into their burritos and were cooled with icy agua frescas.
Kids had a blast
Much of the picnic festivities focused on entertainment for kids – which gave grown-ups a chance to relax and socialize while their children played safely on a dizzying assortment of activities that included several bounce houses, slides, basketball, two video-game arcade trucks and face painting.
Pensioner & Auxiliary presence
The Southern California Pensioners Group had a booth with tables, chairs, food and goodies available for dozens who dropped-by. The always active ILWU Federated Auxiliary Local 8 ladies worked the crowd, selling raffle tickets for a local benefit.
Just a dash of politics
An impressive roster of politicians attended the picnic to mingle, shake hands and provide mercifully short greetings. Introduced by Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr., the elected officials paid their respects to the union’s bloody beginnings and expressed support for the union’s recent battle for the new longshore contract. Attendees included Congress members Janice Hahn and Alan Lowenthal, State Treasurer John Chiang, State Senator Isadore Hall, ILWU-endorsed State Senate candidate Warren Furutani, State Senator Ricardo Lara (represented by staffer Cory Allen), Los Angeles City Councilmember Joe Buscaino (represented by staffer Gabby Medina), Long Beach City Councilmember Roberto Uranga, Long Beach City Prosecutor Doug Haubert, Assemblymember Mike Gipson (represented by staffer Chris Wilson) and Long Beach School Board member Felton Williams.
Olvera also introduced several ILWU union officials who attended the event from out of state, including Local 8 member Jim Daw from Portland who serves on the ILWU International Executive Board, Local 23 President Dean McGrath from Tacoma, Local 8 member and Coast Committeeman Leal Sundet and Local 19 President Cameron Williams from Seattle. Longtime Local 13 member and retiring Coast Committeeman Ray Ortiz Jr., was also recognized and thanked for his many years of service.
Planning for success
“We planned to handle up to 2,000 guests and came pretty close,” said Jose Olivaras who chaired the Bloody Thursday Committee that included Steve Linares, Melon Cesar, Nacho Enriques and Paul Zuanich – plus a team of 120 volunteers that included more than a dozen volunteers from the Beacon House Association of San Pedro.
“We started putting this together three months ago, and it all came together in a good way, thanks to everyone’s hard work,” said Olivaras.
Scores of ILWU members, pensioners and their families gathered at the Local 10 hall in San Francisco for the traditional Bloody Thursday memorial serviced sponsored by the Bay Area Longshoremen’s Memorial Association (BALMA) and Locals 10, 34, 75 and 91.
ILWU member Scott Barton performed taps once again to honor the waterfront strikers who were killed in 1934. Talented singer Aaliyah Washington-Purry, who has also performed at previous Bloody Thursday memorials, sang the National Anthem again this year. Local 10 President Melvin Mackay welcomed everyone to the Local 10 hall and reminded them that the wages and working conditions enjoyed by ILWU members today were built on the sacrifices of those who fought and died in 1934 – and the generations of longshore workers who continued that struggle.
Local 10 pensioner Lawrence Thibeaux served as the master of ceremonies for the event. Following Melvin Mackay’s speech, ILWU historian Harvey Schwartz recounted the failed strikes at West Coast ports in 1916 and 1919 that faltered because of the disunity that prevailed until 1934.
ILWU pensioner and former ILWU
Librarian Gene Vrana gave a concise history of the 1934 strike, its impact and legacy. Other speakers at the event included BALMA Treasurer Mike Villeggiante, Local 34 President Sean Farley, former Local 10 Presidents Cleophas Williams and Joe Lucas, and ILWU Pensioner George Romero.
Farley’s address highlighted recent legislation being pushed by Republican Senator John Thune that would greatly expand the Taft-Hartley provision of the National Labor Relations Act by empowering state governors to intervene in strikes or worker “slow downs” at the nations ports.
Farley said this was a serious and historic threat to the ILWU’s strength and would weaken the ability of port workers to fight for fair wages and safe working conditions.
After the memorial, Local 10 hosted a full day of activities in their hall including a catered lunch of pizza and pasta, live music and dancing, and plenty of activities for kids that included a magic show, face painting, balloon art and caricature drawings.
Puget Sound picnic with a purpose
Puget Sound ILWU families celebrated Bloody Thursday on July 5th at the Vasa Park & Resort along the shores of beautiful Lake Sammamish.
The all-day gathering at was located just 8 miles away from Seattle, but the cool waters and beautiful forest seemed a world apart from the hustle and bustle of the city and docks.
An estimated 700 union members and family participated in the July 5 event that combined an important ceremony that remembered the union’s past – while providing some serious entertainment and relaxation opportunities for hard-working family members and kids.
The food was plentiful and delicious, with barbequed ribs, brisket, chicken, hot dogs and hamburgers – along with grilled tofu that was said to be surprisingly tasty.
To honor Bloody Thursday, Local 19 pensioners John Fisher and Carl Woeck led a ceremony recognizing each of the seven union martyrs who were killed during the 1934 west coast maritime strike that established the foundation for today’s ILWU. After Fisher and Woeck struck the bell 7 times to honor the 1934 martyrs, they struck the bell again for each ILWU member and pensioner who had passed during the previous year.
Awesome fun and games
A nearby boat ramp allowed some members to bring their own boats, but most of the action focused on shore side activities. A waterslide was provided especially for the picnic and proved to be among the most popular amusements, but there was stiff competition from the bouncy house and airbrush face and arm-painting booth. Some drove their classic cars to the event and= put them proudly on display. There were no speeches from politicians – although Local 19’s own John Persak, who’s running for Seattle City Council, was welcomed and made the rounds.
A local sound ordinance ruled-out a live band, but Local 19 member Leith Jasinowski-Kahl brought his banjo and played some classic union songs.
The successful event required many volunteers who generously gave their time to help 700 participants enjoy a special day. The volunteer team included: Mike Callahan, Dusty Crabtree, Sarah Esch, Warren Fairbanks with kids Jeremy & Anna, John Fisher, Mary Fuller, Cosette Hill, Mike Hurlock, Leith Jasinowski-Kahl, Scott Martinez, Dan Philo, Max Proctor, Alice Thacker, Randy Wilber, Charlie Wilbert and Carl Woeck.
“The volunteers were fantastic and made a great day possible for hundreds of hard-working families to relax and celebrate a important date in union history,” said Local 19 Executive Board member and Trustee Justin Hirsch who helped coordinate the event.
Tacoma picnics at the lake
Local 23 members in Tacoma honored Bloody Thursday with their traditional picnic held at beautiful Spanaway Lake Park, located 15 miles south of Tacoma on 135 acres of forested shoreline.
An estimated 600 family members participated at this year’s event that featured a barbeque lunch where hundreds and dogs and burgers were served. Special attractions provided for children were a big hit, especially the inflatable bounce toys that included a pirate ship. Pony rides were popular with the younger ones, and a local artist painted dozens of faces and arms for both children and adults.
The event was planned and executed by a hard-working team that included Trustees Eric Sowers, Art Jackson, Kyle Copeland, Perry Smith and Dan Witker. Volunteers included Jeff Clowers and Dave Barker who headedthe kids’ games with help from many others. As usual, Local 23 Pensioners were generous about volunteering their time to make the event a success.
PPT and Buses for Baldwin had a booth at Baldwin's community day on Saturday! Here we are sharing the great news about bus service coming back to Baldwin. Over 70 folks came out to a community meeting on July 22nd to celebrate the win and learn more about the route coming to their community. Residents are excited to ride!
Thank you to Port Authority for providing information about the bus service at the events in Groveton and Baldwin.
On Wed Sept 9th, residents from Groveton and Baldwin will ride the 20 Kennedy and 44 Knoxville and meet downtown at 9 am! For the Baldwin flier, click here. Groveton flier is forthcoming.
A Cook County judge has handed a stinging rebuke to John Coli, a major union backer of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, ordering him and a Teamsters local that represents more than 12,000 government employees to pay more than $2.3 million to resolve a lawsuit over a broken lease for offices in Des Plaines.
Judge Raymond W. Mitchell ruled in favor of the Des Plaines building’s owners, who had sued Coli and Teamsters Local 700. The union represents city of Chicago, Cook County, state and suburban workers.
Click here to read more.Issues: Labor Movement