In a decision issued August 11, 2014, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) has found that truck owner Terry Unrein fired truck driver Rebecca Barnhard for refusing to drive a truck with a defective steer tire and for complaining that a headlight on the truck operated only intermittently. Unrein owned and operated five trucks, and transported goods under contract with Gulick Trucking.
OSHA ordered Unrein to reinstate Ms. Barnhard to her former position as a truck driver, to pay her back pay, and to pay her attorney fees. OSHA also ordered Unrein to post a copy of a notice at its work place indicating that Ms. Barnard had won her case, and that the Surface Transportation Assistance Act protects drivers from retaliation for making complaints about violations of commercial vehicle safety regulations, and for refusing to drive in violation of a commercial vehicle safety regulation.
Ms. Barnhard states, “I am delighted with OSHA’s decision and feel that my decision to refuse to drive an unsafe truck has been vindicated. My employer wanted me to take shortcuts to sidestep DOT regulations and I am happy that the law protected me when I refused to take shortcuts with safety.”
Mr. Barnhard was represented by Paul O. Taylor, an attorney with Truckers Justice Center in Burnsville, MN. www.truckersjusticecenter.com
ILWU Longshore Caucus delegates reconvened in San Francisco on July 21 and 22 to review the status of ongoing Longshore contract negotiations.
Caucus Chair Joe Cortez quickly brought the session to order, then turned over the podium to International President Bob McEllrath who asked delegates to dedicate their meeting in memory of former Local 13 member and Caucus delegate Alberto Bonilla, who died unexpectedly on May 17 at the age of 43. His son, Albert Bonilla, Jr., attended the Caucus and was recognized by delegates with a warm and sustained standing ovation.
Other dedications for fallen members included Armando Castro and Dwayne Washington from Local 10 in the Bay Area; former Local 12 President Wally Robbins of Coos Bay, Oregon; Night Business Agent and Executive Committee member John “Johnny Canuck” Collins from Local 502 of Surrey, British Columbia, Canada; Gerald Pirtilla of Local 52 in Seattle and Jeffrey Jewell of Local 24 in Aberdeen.
The 88 Caucus delegates were joined by dozens of fraternal representatives from Hawaii, Alaska and Canada who came to express their solidarity, along with many Pensioners who attended from the Bay Area and beyond.
McEllrath recognized International Vice President-Hawaii, Wesley Furtado who attended with Hawaii Longshore Division Negotiating Chairman Elgin Calles, Co-Chairman Dustin Dawson, Spokesman William Haole and Business Agent Dennis Morton. Chairman Elgin Calles provided a brief overview of the Hawaii Longshore Division’s contract negotiation effort, noting that they have been in talks with their employers for about two months.
Also recognized was ILWU Canada President Mark Gordienko who attended the Caucus with Business Agent Reno Voci. “I’ve made it clear to our employers that we won’t be touching any U.S.-bound cargo if there’s trouble,” said Gordienko. He also described how ILWU Canada members have been conducting outreach efforts to educate crewmembers on grain ships involved in the lockout by Mitsui-United and Columbia-Marubeni Grain companies. “When those ships come north, we’re talking with crewmembers and educating them about the ILWU struggle.”
Delegates thanked outgoing Puget Sound and Washington Area Benefits Director Nick Buckles, who is retiring at the end of July. His replacement, Andrea Stevenson, was recently appointed by the Plan Trustees. The former Local 52 President and 3rd generation longshore worker from Seattle thanked Nick Buckles, saying she had “big shoes to fill.”
McEllrath outlined the status of the negotiations, emphasizing the Committee’s efforts to maintain good health and pension benefits. He said the ILWU has consistently worked to see that the health plans operate properly, and has long urged employers to come forward with any evidence of waste or abuse so it can be addressed without harming beneficiaries. McEllrath noted a July 16 announcement by federal prosecutors that three individuals associated with a private surgical center in Southern California have been charged with defrauding several insurance plans, including the ILWU/ PMA Coastwise Indemnity Plan.
McEllrath minced no words, saying: “I’m glad to see that the government’s doing their job. Crooks who break the law and take advantage of our health care plans belong in jail.”
Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr. was equally passionate about protecting the health plan from fraud. “I was born into this plan and our families depend on it. Anyone who defrauds us is harming our families – and all the members who came before us who sacrificed so we can enjoy these benefits today. The people who perpetrate fraud against our plan deserve no mercy as far as I’m concerned.”
The Caucus did not set a time to reconvene, but President McEllrath said delegates should be ready to meet quickly at a future date that will be dictated by the progress – or lack of progress – at negotiations.
“We’ve got a plan to get things done that meets the goals adopted by the Caucus, but I can’t tell you how soon we will finish. Just keep pumpin’ and don’t listen to any rumors,” he said.
On Eve of Protest, a Betrayal Remembered Israel’s Zim Line and San Francisco’s Shame
AUGUST 13, 2014
On Eve of Protest, a Betrayal Remembered
Israel’s Zim Line and San Francisco’s Shame
by JEFFREY BLANKFORT
Over the years there have been scores of demonstrations in front of Israel’s San Francisco consulate and dozens of marches and rallies in the city’s streets protesting Israel’s recurring, pre-planned, episodes of bloody suppression of Palestinian resistance and its devastating wars on Lebanon.
None, however, have been as memorable as the one that took place across the San Francisco Bay on June 24, 2010, when more than 1200 community and labor activists, supported by workers from ILWU Local 10, set up a picket line and shut down the Port of Oakland terminal where a container ship owned by the Israeli Zim line was scheduled to dock and be unloaded.
That action had been called to protest Israel’s deadly attack on the Turkish ship Marvi Marmara as it was attempting to break Israel’s sea blockade of Gaza and bring humanitarian supplies to the residents of the world’s largest outdoor prison. In that incident, which evoked world-wide protests, Israeli commandos murdered nine Turks and one Turkish-American, all of whom were unarmed.
On Saturday, August 16th, building on the hundreds of thousands of people across the globe who have been in the streets protesting Israel’s latest genocidal war on Gaza, a coalition of groups, including Palestinian and Arab American youth, anti-war organizations, and labor union activists are hoping to replicate the success of the 2010 action. They will be gathering at 5 AM, as they did last time, at the gate to the Port of Oakland’s terminal 57, where two Zim ships are scheduled to arrive and be unloaded.
There is an important back story to the appearance of Zim’s ships in Bay Area ports that includes one of the most shameful episodes in San Francisco’s history. It bears repeating now since most of those picketing on Saturday are unaware of it and it is not likely to be mentioned by any of the speakers. It illustrates the degree to which the pro-Israel Lobby controlled local politics and politicians then, as it does now and for the past half century on Capitol Hill, and will continue to do so until an enraged public puts an end to it
Our story begins with what turned out to be a naïve decision on the part of the otherwise, politically astute mayor of San Francisco, (now Senator) Dianne Feinstein, to accept an invitation by the Soviet Union to visit Leningrad in 1985 which, in the period of Glasnost, was looking to sign a sister-city arrangement with an American city and it was San Francisco that Mikhail Gorbachev had his eyes on.
As the Los Angeles Times (Oct. 12, 1987) described it:
“Leningrad began courting San Francisco, home of the Russian Hill and the only Soviet Consulate in the United States outside Washington. It too seemed an ideal match, a union between cities that many consider the beauties of their nations.
“They even have bridges in common. Leningrad, called the Venice of the North, is a city of islands linked by bridges. And, of course, San Francisco has its Golden Gate.”
Feinstein heard the call and traveled to the Soviet Union, and, according to the Times, “was wined and dined in Leningrad. She and Leningrad’s mayor emerged from a private tete-a-tete and announced their civic engagement. But it was not to be.”
San Francisco, as Feinstein must have been aware, was home to a Jewish Community Relations Council whose raison d’etre appeared to be organizing rallies in front of the Soviet Consulate demanding “freedom” for Soviet Jewry and outside of New York City, there was probably no Jewish community in the country more active (or mis-informed) on that issue.
Consequently, when Feinstein returned to San Francisco and announcing the city’s new sister city relationship that she had learned that she had kicked over a political hornet’s nest.
Despite the fact that Feinstein had previously used her office to assist some 36 Jews in leaving the Soviet Union, she was blasted on all sides by Jewish leaders, joined by former mayor, Art Agnos who had previously been arrested at a protest in the Soviet Union on behalf of that country’s Jews.
What added strength to their accusations that Feinstein was insensitive to Jewish concerns was that she had never visited Israel (today, a sine quo non for every aspiring big city mayor), and, it was whispered, that not having a Jewish mother, she was technically not an MOT (Member of the Tribe).
‘So how come you visited the USSR and never been to Israel?’ she heard from so many sides that she quickly did the expedient thing. She canceled the sister-city contract with Leningrad and announced her plans to visit Israel and re-new San Francisco’s sister-city pact with Haifa which, at the time, had a sister-city arrangement with Cape Town in apartheid South Africa, a fact that the local media, if it was aware of it, did not see fit to publicize.
So away whisked Mayor DiFi to Haifa and upon her return, she proudly announced that she had not only established new cultural ties with Haifa, she had convinced the head of the Zim Line, Matty Morgenstern, to shift its Northern California business from the Port of Oakland to that of San Francisco.
For some years, before that, the use of the Port of Oakland by the Zim American-Israeli Shipping Co., had apparently drawn no attention from pro-Palestinian or anti-apartheid activists despite the fact that Zim was providing the crucial trade conduit between the two apartheid nations.
Suddenly, with Feinstein’s announcement, it was in the news and the reports that Zim did business with South Africa created a problem for San Francisco’s very liberal board of supervisors because, just three months earlier, on January 21, 1986, the supervisors had passed an ordinance that prohibited the city from signing contracts with any company that was doing business with South Africa which simply Zim clearly was.
One of the city’s two African-American supervisors, Willie Kennedy, who had been a co-sponsor of the anti-apartheid legislation, reported that her staff had learned of Zim’s South African ties and argued that approving the contract with the Israeli company and allowing it to unload its goods in San Francisco was in violation of the letter and spirit of the ordinance.
Feinstein’s response, backed by the City Attorney, was to deny that the supervisors had any jurisdiction over the port and that any effort to block the contract was “sabotaging” the port’s “rebirth.”
The response of the Zim Line came in a letter to E.L. Gartland, director of the Port of San Francisco, on April 23, from Dov Teitler, Zim’s number one West Coast official, based in Los Angeles. As could have been expected, he denied that any of the Zim’s ships did any business with South Africa:
“As Senior Vice-President of the Zim American Israeli Shipping Company, Inc.,” he wrote. “I am responsible for all operations of the West Coast Region. I also, of course, am familiar with our operation throughout the world, and I can categorically state that this company has no service to South Africa for carriage or cargo, either to or from that nation.
“At a prior time we did have such service, but it has been cancelled. Unfortunately, our advertising agency did not make the necessary correction, and for a period of time certain publications indicated we serve South Africa.
“If you have any further questions, please feel free to call me at any time. I authorize you to represent the above facts to your board of supervisors by giving them a copy of this letter.”
Teitler was clearly lying, but how to prove it beyond the shadow of a doubt or, at least enough to convince the Board of Supervisors to reject the contract? The answer was, to use a term that had yet to be born, a “no brainer.”
I simply attached a cassette recorder to my phone and called Zim’s offices in Cape Town and Durban in South Africa and New York, Toronto, Houston, and New Orleans and asked them “when is the next Zim ship leaving for Israel from Durban?” Not surprisingly, they all told me and further informed me that there were two sailings every month to the Israeli ports of Ashdod and Eilat.
I then made transcripts of the conversations and delivered them to each of the supervisors’ offices at City Hall and awaited their action at the next meeting, naively believing that there was no way, in the face of this new evidence, could they possibly approve the contract.
At that meeting, then Supervisor Harry Britt, another one of the ordinance’s co-sponsors, courageously but unknowingly, put a cap on political career when he stood up, with the transcripts gripped tightly in one hand, and declared that Zim was in obvious violation of the ordinance and that its contract with the city’s port should be rejected.
But this was Israel, in the form of the Zim Line, that the SF Board of Supervisors was dealing with, and, as anyone familiar with American politics knows or should know by now, Israel and its institutions are not only held to different standards, it is fair to say, as we have seen in Gaza, that they are held to no standards at all.
Bulldozed by liberal attorney and later judge, Quentin Kopp, who a few years earlier had served as a volunteer in the Israel Defense Forces as it was engaged in its second war on Lebanon, the board rolled over and the contract was approved by an 8-2 vote with Britt and Kennedy dissenting. The most pathetic moment came when the other African-American woman on the board, Doris Ward, appeared to be so clearly distressed at voting for what she knew was wrong, that her “Yes” vote was almost inaudible, requiring the board chair to ask her to repeat it more loudly.
Ward’s vote for the Zim contract, for those wondering about it, simply reflected the political reality facing black politicians in America who, like Ward was at the time, up for re-election. They are largely dependent for campaign funds on liberal Jewish donors who will cut them off without a dime and back another candidate if they speak out against Israel’s actions or racist policies. The last two members of the Congressional Black Caucus to do so, Cynthia McKinney and Earl Hilliard, took the risks, knowingly, and paid the price.
The following year, after the death of San Francisco Congresswoman, Sala Burton, Harry Britt threw his hat in the ring, challenging Democratic Party fundraiser, Nancy Pelosi and three others, including Ward, in the race to replace her. By then, Britt should have learned that his attempt to thwart the Zim contract had been an act of political suicide, that he had no future in the Democratic Party.
Casting principle aside in favor of deluded ambition, Britt flew to Washington where he apparently threw himself at the feet of some Israel Lobby bigwigs, no doubt begging their forgiveness for having challenged their sacred shipping line’s business dealings with South Africa, although that’s not quite how the San Francisco Chroniclereported it. (2/24/87). According to the paper, “He said he also will meet with labor leaders and with a number of ‘Jewish political action committees,” to assure them that he views Israel as “a beleaguered nation that must have unqualified support to defend itself.”
That was followed by an ad in the Northern California Jewish Bulletinwhich depicted a photo of Britt standing next to the Russian Jewishrefusnik, Anatoly (now Natan) Sharansky, and committing him “to the issues we care about most.”
Topping a list of ten were: ‘Support full military and economic aid to guarantee the strength and security of Israel,” “Oppose any negotiations with the PLO,” and “Defend Israel against scapegoating in the international arena.”
Since the ad would fit on a letter sized page, I made a dozen copies of it and send it to some friends. One of them ended up in Britt’s hands which he proudly held up at a candidates’ forum at the city’s Raoul Wallenberg Democratic Club, declaring that “somebody mass produced that ad and sent it to every liberal and lefty activist in the city” and that now, he, too, (a former Methodist minister) had “experienced anti-Semitism.”
After an unnamed San Francisco Jewish leader told the SF Bay Guardian that the “community” would never forgive Britt for his efforts to reject the Zim contract, he lost by a few percentage points to Pelosi in the primaries in a surprisingly close vote, but didn’t challenge her again.
His turning his back on the anti-apartheid struggle and jumping in bed with the San Francisco’s pro-Israel establishment, however, did not appear to tarnish his reputation among the city’s left and liberal communities. The most emphatic proof of that would be his endorsement in the congressional race by the city’s Rainbow Coalition which voted to support him and “urged all members to take an active role” in his campaign.
“We commend your commitment to working directly with the people in our community to solve the problems of our time,” wrote Lyle “Butch” Wing, coalition co-chair, in a letter to Britt.
Except among the minority committed to Palestinian rights, his pro-Israel stance did not hurt him in the gay community in which he had portrayed himself as the late Harvey Milk’s successor which, in one sense, he was.
Following Milk’s assassination along with that of Mayor George Moscone by fellow supervisor Dan White in 1978, the new mayor, Feinstein, appointed Britt to the board as Milk’s replacement where he served until 1990, eventually becoming its president. Throughout the remainder of his tenure, following the Zim vote, he never lost an opportunity to voice his support for Israel.
In 1988, he would get another chance, taking the lead against Proposition W, a measure placed on the San Francisco ballot through the efforts of members of the city’s Arab-American community, that would have had the city go on record as endorsing a “two-state” resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Trampling on the reputation of his much admired predecessor, Britt sent out a city-wide mailing, telling San Franciscans that “a bullet may have struck Harvey down, but it couldn’t kill the vision that guides us today—or the voice that still echoes in our memory. It’s in the name of that incomparable vision—and that inimitable voice—that I ask you to defeat Prop. W.”
It was, with Harry’s help. But to be fair, he wasn’t alone. The campaign to defeat the ballot measure, which had an early lead in the polls, exposed the degree to which the American political process, on this issue at least, had already become the provenance of the Israel Lobby.
The same SF Jewish Community Relations Council that had almost brought Feinstein to her knees two years earlier, was able to secure the names of virtually every elected state official from San Diego to the Oregon border to place on the slick mailing pieces that went to the city’s voters, opposing Prop. W.
Four years later, in 1992, adding to the city’s shame and checkered history of activism, Britt would be appointed chair of the Harvey Milk program on “humanities and social activism” at San Francisco’s “alternative” New College which went broke and closed its doors in 2008.
At the end of its 10-year contract with the Port of San Francisco , Zim took advantage of Oakland’s superior container facilities and, like most of the other international shipping lines, arranged for it ships to unload and pick up new cargo there.
End Note: In 1989, three years after the Zim contract with San Francisco went into effect, I called Polaris Ltd., the agency that had taken over Zim’s South African operations and asked the same questions I had before: “When will the next ship be leaving Durban for Israel?” and “How many sailings are there from South Africa to Israel each month?” When I got the same answers as before, I sent them together with the earlier transcripts to the Investor Responsibility Research Center Inc. (IRRC) in Washington DC, which maintained a directory of companies doing business with apartheid South Africa. On September 27, 1989, I received a letter from the IRRC notifying me that, thanks to the record of those conversations, Zim had been added to its list.
I have often wondered what would have happened had the San Francisco Board of Supervisors the courage to reach the same conclusion in 1986.
Jeffrey Blankfort is a journalist and radio host currently living in Northern California. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.orgTags: Zim LIneSan Francisco Labor Councilapartheid South Africa
The fight to derail privatization! Report From Korean Railway Workers Union KRUW At ITF 2014 Conference
The fight to derail privatization! Report From Korean Railway Workers Union KRUW At ITF 2014 Conference. The KRWU calls for an international network and campaign against rail privatization.
Published on Aug 12, 2014
The Korean Railway Workers' Union (KRWU) were on strike for 23 days to try and stop privatisation of the railway. Myeonghwan Kim leader tells us what it was like and why events like the rail privatisation fringe at #itfcongress2014 are key to making this fight a global one.
Rail Workers Revolt against Driving Solo
August 12, 2014 / Alexandra Bradburyenlarge or shrink textlogin or register to comment
Railroaders are racing to put the brakes on a secret deal between their union officers and Warren Buffett's railroad. It would allow huge freight trains to rumble through towns across the western U.S. with just an engineer onboard, no conductor. Photo: Spouses & Families Against One Man Crews.
“There’s a real rank-and-file rebellion going on right now,” says Jen Wallis, a Seattle switchman-conductor for Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway. “People who’ve never been involved in the union, never went to a union meeting, they are showing up and they’re joining Railroad Workers United in droves.
“People are saying, ‘We have to take action now to stop it. We can’t let our union officers do this to us.’”
What’s all the fuss? On July 16, thousands of railroaders abruptly learned their union officers had held secret negotiations with BNSF, one of the country’s biggest freight carriers, and reached a deal to allow single-person train crews: a safety disaster.
Ballots on the tentative agreement went out in early August, and are due back in early September. If the vote goes up, huge freight trains could rumble through towns across the western U.S. with just an engineer onboard, no conductor.
This would be a first on a major railway, and a foot in the door for the whole industry. BNSF is owned by Warren Buffett, one of the world’s richest people.
“Members had no clue this was even coming,” said John Paul Wright, a locomotive engineer working out of Louisville, Kentucky. “The membership is basically saying, “What in the hell is going on? We never thought our own union would sell us out.’”
Wright is co-chair of the cross-union, rank-and-file group Railroad Workers United, which has been campaigning against the looming threat of single-person crews for a decade. With just weeks to go, its members are suddenly busy sending out “vote no” stickers and appealing to local labor councils to pass resolutions backing two-person crews.
“We weren’t expecting it this soon,” says Robert Hill, a BNSF engineer in Spokane, Washington. “We were expecting it.”
Railroaders are seeking out RWU and a new Facebook group, “Spouses & Families Against One-Man Crews,” to get information and coordinate the push for a “No” vote. Much of the opposition is being led by railroaders’ family members.
Engineers and conductors are represented by separate unions. The conductors, members of SMART, are the ones voting on this contract.
“This vote will affect far more people than just the ones that vote on it,” said James Wallace, a BNSF conductor in Lincoln, Nebraska, and RWU co-chair, “because it is going to set a precedent for all freight railroads in the U.S., and potentially endanger the job of every conductor in this country.”
A Strike against One-Person Crews
Till now it seemed the front line of the single-person train crews fight was a smaller freight carrier, Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway.
A hundred members of BLET Local 292 struck against W&LE last September, shutting down its operations in Ohio and Pennsylvania, when the company tried imposing single-person trains unilaterally. A federal temporary restraining order sent them back to work.
“With just 16 hours notice, we had 100 percent compliance [with the strike call],” Local Chairman Lonnie Swigert said. “And when we are ‘released’ we will do it again if we have to.” Their bargaining remains deadlocked over the issue.
And a short-line carrier, Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, made headlines last summer when a runaway train carrying crude oil exploded in the town of Lac Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people—just months after it had begun operating with a single-person crew.
The single engineer wasn’t on board the train at the time of the disaster. He had parked on a steep grade for the night.
“The rail industry of course says there’s no evidence to show if they’d had a conductor the train wouldn’t have rolled away,” Kaminkow says. “But one can surely speculate that if he’d had the ability to sit in the cab while a trainman went back and did the brake air test…”
Federal Law or Rule?
In the outcry that followed, two Maine Congressmembers proposed a bill to require two-person crews on all freight trains, H.R. 3040. The bill hasn’t gotten much traction yet—but attention and online petition signatures for it have spiked since the BNSF deal came out.
And the Federal Railroad Administration is looking at making some kind of a rule requiring two-person crews on hazardous cargos like crude oil. (BNSF claims the new deal excludes these kinds of trains anyway, but there’s nothing to hold the carrier to that promise.)
Railroaders point out, though, that the dangers of one-person crews aren’t limited to explosive oil trains. The FRA rule might not cover the coal and grain trains that make up a lot of Buffett’s bread and butter.
DOWN TO TWO
At its 20th-century peak, railroad employment totaled 2 million. Today it’s 10 percent of that.
That’s not because the country is shipping less freight. On the contrary, says Ron Kaminkow, RWU’s general secretary and a working engineer in Nevada, “We’re moving more tonnage than ever before.”
But as feuding unions allowed new technologies to replace workers, rail freight crews dwindled from five to two. These days a train carries an engineer, who drives the train, and a conductor, who does everything else.
Here’s an incomplete list of those activities: hopping off to throw the switch that moves the train to another track; adding and removing cars; updating the list of which cars have hazardous materials in them (crucial for first responders in case of a wreck); problem-solving if a busted air hose or some other mechanical problem stops the train; and conferring with the engineer about hazards, approaching speed restrictions, and pedestrian or road crossings coming up.
Crucially, the conductor also helps make sure the engineer is still awake and alert. If that sounds like it shouldn’t be necessary, consider how freight railroaders are generally scheduled: on 12-hour shifts and on-call 24/7, with no predictable schedule.
“Sometimes you’re up 48 hours at a time, with maybe five hours of sleep,” says Wallis. “There have been times we’re both hallucinating at 3 o’clock in the morning, trying to keep each other awake.”
The conductor may also be teaching the engineer details of the complex job. “It takes about two years to really learn what you’re doing,” Wallis said. “It’s this classroom in the cab. It’s scary, you could have two people in the cab with six months’ experience between them. But at least there’s two of them.”
And the conductor is on hand in case the engineer has, say, a heart attack while at the helm of a 15,000-ton train. As SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich pointed out in a memo opposing the BNSF deal, “No one would permit an airliner to fly with just one pilot, even though they can fly themselves.”
A SAFETY DISASTER
The proposed pact would pull conductors off the trains, replacing several with a single “master conductor” who’d drive around in a van, on-call for radio dispatch to any train that might need assistance.
How many trains would one conductor cover? Four, eight? There’s no limit—like much else in the deal, it’s left to the carrier’s discretion.
It’s not hard to spot the risks in this plan. Freight tracks cross remote territory. The train might get stopped where there’s no road for miles and miles. It could take the conductor a long time to arrive. And the engineer loses a second pair of eyes to help prevent accidents.
Part of the excuse for single-person crews is the coming of yet another new technology, positive train control, which Congress is mandating the rail carriers all adopt by 2015. This automated system will track trains’ speed and position, and apply the brakes in certain situations.
Railroaders call this tech advance a good thing—but as an additional boost to safety, not something you’d want to rely on to replace a human. “The railroad unions have been asking for PTC to be implemented as a safety overlay, not in place of a crew member,” Wright says.
Even as companies have been lobbying to delay PTC because of its cost, they’ve also been eyeing it as an opportunity to cut labor costs.
They will save billions of dollars if they can implement one-person crews, says Kaminkow. “So for the occasional pedestrian who gets run over or car that gets hit, the railroad is willing to roll the dice.”
“I haven’t come across a single engineer who is for this at all,” says Wallace. “They would rather have someone there to keep them alert, to job-brief as situations change—and somebody just to keep them company.
“We will often spend 12 or more hours on a train every day. At times when we’re busy, we spend up to 70 hours a week on the train.
“It’s going to be a large portion of engineers’ lives they’re going to be spending alone.” (For more on how working alone hurts solidarity, see this article).
However, engineers aren’t voting on this deal. Conductors are, and the deal has sweeteners in it for them—a signing bonus, higher pay for the lucky few who become “master conductors,” and the promise of buyouts or layoffs with full pay.
But most, especially newer conductors, won’t see those perks. Instead, they’re likely slated to become engineers, whether that’s their plan or not.
Though the unions are separate, most engineers are drawn from conductors’ ranks. You can volunteer to go to engineer school, but you can also be forced into it, from the bottom of the seniority list, if more engineers are needed.
“Probably a lot of these conductors won’t ever work under this contract,” Wallace said. “They’ll end up as engineers, working alone in a cab by themselves.”
‘THE CRAFT WAR’
The secret pact is controversial even among leaders of SMART. But division leaders responsible for the contract are pushing it hard.
The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, a Teamsters division, represents most engineers. Both SMART and the BLET formally oppose one-person crews, though they haven’t exactly presented a strong united front.
The rivalry between the unions—and a fatalistic sense that the change is inevitable—have fueled a series of backstabbing deals. As crews dwindled, the rail unions mainly battled over who would represent the remaining workers.
“While the unions had been on and off paying lip service to the idea of a two-person crew and intolerance for single-person crews, they’ve also been hedging their bets, saying ‘Meanwhile we’re going to cut whatever deal we need to make sure if there’s going to be a last man standing, by God, it’s going to be us,’” sighs Kaminkow.
“We call it the craft war. I’d much rather fight the class war.”
As it happens, the same week the union held its meeting in Seattle, climate change activists locked themselves down to the railroad tracks in nearby Anacortes, blocking a BNSF oil train for hours. They were protesting the proposal to build a big crude-oil-by-rail terminal at the Port of Vancouver.
Wallis, with deep roots in both worlds, is working hard to build a bridge between railroaders and environmentalists. They clearly have a common enemy in Buffett, who “controls an entire supply chain of oil and gas being shipped out of the U.S. for pennies on the dollar and burned in China and India,” she points out.
There’s suspicion on both sides—viewed one way, “it looks like they’re trying to take our jobs,” Wallis says. “But that’s not true. I think we can have both, jobs and the environment.”
A pair of activist projects just getting underway, Solutionary Rail and the Buffett Legacy Campaign, will push for green jobs, including high-speed passenger rail.
SMART leaders immediately launched a PR tour, taking a PowerPoint presentation on the road to promote the deal.
“A lot of the presentation and the campaign to get this is focused on fear,” Wallace said. “There’s a lot of fear that if we don’t accept this contract it’ll just be a lot worse down the road, that we won’t have any bargaining power to negotiate anything better.”
Among their first stops was Seattle, where they met with raucous opposition. “Once I found out about it I immediately created a Facebook event for the meeting, and invited everyone I know,” Wallis said.
That meant not just railroaders but also teachers, Teamsters, guitar players, environmentalists. After all, “one-person crews are not just dangerous for workers, but for the environment and the communities we live in,” she said.
Other railroaders, too, see the writing on the wall for them if this deal goes through. “I had four Union Pacific guys show up at my picket line,” Wallis said. And since that night, “We’re getting emails every day from all over the country saying ‘We saw what you did. How do we do that?’”
The next night’s meeting in Spokane brought out 60 angry railroaders and their families. “A lot of people were in disbelief,” reports Hill. The touring officers started the PowerPoint, but “the president of Local 426 told them to shut it off, we weren’t interested in looking at their propaganda. We wanted to start asking questions.”
When the officers’ answers to their questions about contract specifics were “a lot of could or should or possibly,” Hill said, “it turned a little hostile… Everybody started getting pretty fired up.
“A lot of [members] were accusing [the officers] of taking buyouts, payouts. A lot of our leaders are close to retirement.”
A second Spokane meeting, planned for the next morning, was canceled.
And in Creston, Iowa, opponents of the deal aren’t waiting till the August 25 meeting—they’re holding rallies twice a day, all month.
Click here to hear engineer John Paul Wright sing "The One-Man Train Blues."
Grain Inspections resume at United Grain; ILWU longshore union prepares for ratification vote
Picketers at the Columbia Grain terminal in February.
By Mike Francis
Neither the longshore union nor the three grain-handling companies who operate in the Portland area will talk publicly about the tentative contract they agreed to late Monday night. Nobody wants to affect the outcome of the union's ratification vote, which will be announced Aug. 25.
But at the grain terminal hardest hit by the contract impasse and subsequent lockout, grain was again being loaded onto ships Tuesday afternoon for delivery to offshore buyers.
"We have a ship loading at the dock" at the United Grain terminal in Vancouver, said Pat McCormick, the spokesman for United Grain,Columbia Grain and Louis Dreyfus Commodities grain terminals. He said United "is behind" schedule for August shipments, but expects to catch up.
Key to resuming work was the return of grain inspectors from the Washington Department of Agriculture. The inspectors, who must certify most shipments for export, said late last month they would no longer cross the longshore union's picket line at United Grain, citing safety concerns.
"Inspectors are prepared to report today to the port, resuming the inspections that allow the flow of grain to resume," said Bud Hover, director of the Washington Agriculture Department, in a statement Tuesday morning.
Grain shipments were not disrupted at terminals operated by Columbia Grain or Louis Dreyfus Commodities.
A spokesperson for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union said the union wouldn't comment on the contract until the members of five local unions vote on it. Jennifer Sargent said "reduced picket lines" will continue at United Grain and Columbia Grain this month while members vote. She said the contract, if ratified, would cover roughly 174-200 workers at four Northwest grain terminals.
If the locals ratify the agreement, longshore workers will return to the grain handling jobs that have been performed for about 18 months by grain company employees and non-union, temporary workers [i.e. scabs-mm]. Following ratification, the temporary workers would be released and the company employees would return to their non-grain-handling duties.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee greeted news of a tentative agreement as "outstanding." And the federal mediator overseeing talks between the companies and the longshore union called the tentative agreement "an amazing achievement."Tags: ilwuNorth West GrainReduced Picket LInes
Israel: Union fights Israel ‘security risk’ claims to ban Palestinian union activists from West Bank workplaces
Company Enriches Shareholders While Maintaining Inadequate Working Conditions
NEW YORK, NY - The Industrial Workers of the World, Starbucks Workers Union released a report today, “Low Wages and Grande Profits at Starbucks” with an analysis of company performance over the last decade. The report describes how Starbucks has dramatically improved profitability at the company since the Great Recession of 2008-2009, and that the company has enriched shareholders at the expense of its nearly 200,000 workers.
A tentative agreement for a new contract covering grain terminals in the Pacific Northwest was reached on August 11, by a negotiating committee representing five ILWU local unions: Local 4 in Vancouver, Local 8 in Portland, Local 19 in Seattle, and Local 21 in Longview and Local 92 in Portland. The membership of each local will review the tentative agreement and vote according to their internal rules, with results to be announced August 25. Terms of the agreement will not be made public until members have a chance to review and vote on the tentative agreement which covers Mitsui-United Grain (UGC) in Vancouver, Marubeni-Columbia Grain in Portland, and Louis Dreyfus in Portland and Seattle. Reduced picket lines will remain at Mitsui-UGC and at Marubeni-Columbia Grain while members vote on the agreement.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Scot L. Beckenbaugh, Acting Director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS), issued the following statement today on a tentative agreement reached just prior to midnight (PST) last evening between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and Pacific Northwest Grain Companies.
“After engaging in difficult and contentious bargaining for over two years, including multiple marathon mediation sessions held under the auspices of the FMCS, the announcement of the tentative agreement, subject to the ratification of ILWU membership, represents an amazing achievement of a potentially positive outcome in a labor dispute that has gained national attention.
“The ILWU, with its recommendation, will submit the tentative agreement to its members for ratification.
“The FMCS commends both labor and management representatives for their successful negotiation and for their commitment and dedication to the process of collective bargaining. Clearly the parties maintained strongly held competing views on the many issues that divided them during this process. In the end they found a way, in the time-honored tradition of the collective bargaining process, to reach mutually agreeable solutions that will allow the employees and the employers to move forward in their relationship. Equally important to our nation, is the knowledge that this tentative agreement, subject to the approval of affected ILWU membership, represents the opportunity to ensure that grain exports important to the U.S. economy and the world will proceed without disruption for years to come.
“These were difficult and contentious negotiations to be certain. I am grateful for the professionalism and cooperation the parties exhibited in mediation process during which they were able to reach what they believe will be acceptable and mutually beneficial solutions to the issues which have separated them for so long. I especially commend the leadership demonstrated by the representatives of ILWU and the representatives of the Grain Handlers. Though fierce in their representation of their respective positions, they never lost sight of their responsibility to reach a mutually acceptable solution.
“On a personal note, I want to commend the extraordinary efforts of FMCS Director of Mediation Services, Beth Schindler and FMCS Commissioner Gary Hattal who provided mediation assistance to the parties during some of the most difficult times in the negotiations process.”
Out of respect for the ratification process and consistent with the Agency’s longstanding policy on confidentiality, FMCS will neither comment on nor disclose the terms of the agreement.
# # #
The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, created in 1947, is an independent U.S. government agency whose mission is to preserve and promote labor-management peace and cooperation. Headquartered in Washington, DC, with 10 district offices and 67 field offices, the agency provides mediation and conflict resolution services to industry, government agencies and communities.
For Immediate Release: Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Contact: John Arnold, Director, Office of Public Affairs
Web site: www.fmcs.gov
Phone: (202) 606-8100
Tentative deal in Northwest grain terminal dispute with ILWU
Tentative deal in Northwest grain terminal dispute
Federal mediator announces tentative deal in long running Northwest grain terminal dispute
By Steven Dubois, Associated Press
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service announced a tentative agreement in the contentious two-year labor dispute at Northwest grain terminals.
The agency in Washington, D.C., says the agreement was reached just before midnight Monday in talks between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Northwest grain companies.
The agency says the union will recommend the agreement to its members for ratification.
If approved, the agreement should ensure that U.S. grain exports will proceed without disruption as harvest approaches.
An ILWU spokeswoman did not immediately return a message seeking comment. Pat McCormick, a spokesman for the grain companies, said he needed to be briefed on the deal before making a statement.
More than a quarter of all U.S. grain exports move through nine grain terminals on the Columbia River and Puget Sound. The contract dispute initially involved six of those terminals that operate under a single collective bargaining agreement with the ILWU: United Grain, based in Vancouver, Washington; Columbia Grain, based in Portland; Louis Dreyfus Commodities, which has grain elevators in Portland and Seattle; and Temco, which has elevators in Portland and Tacoma, Washington.
Temco broke away from the alliance in early December 2012 and negotiated separately with the union.
United Grain, which has the largest storage capacity of any West Coast grain export facility, imposed a lockout in February 2013 after saying a worker represented by the ILWU sabotaged company equipment. Columbia Grain Inc. followed suit with a lockout that began in May 2013.
The agreement comes shortly after U.S. Department of Agriculture grain inspectors refused to walk past picket lines into the United Grain terminal.
The action was taken shortly after state grain inspectors stopped entering the terminal, because of picketing longshoremen.
Federal law requires inspections for grain exports, so the refusal to cross the picket line crippled shipments from that terminal and put pressure on the owner to reach a deal.
The two-year labor dispute was primarily about workplace rules, not money. The grain companies said throughout that they are at a competitive disadvantage because the longshoremen at their terminals had more favorable rules than those in the Washington cities of Kalama and Longview.
What was agreed to late Monday has not been divulged. Early contract offers from the grain handlers would have taken away some perks and grievance procedures. Other concessions include letting employers go to court to end work stoppages immediately and allowing supervisors to perform work during health-and-safety disputes.Tags: ilwuGrain tradeLockout
August 11, 2014: Over 200 Teamsters turned out on August 9 in Louisville, Kentucky and Dayton, Ohio to hear Fred Zuckerman, Sandy Pope, Tim Sylvester and Tony Jones talk about the growing coalition to take back our union in 2016.
The meetings were sponsored by Take Back Our Union.
The Dayton meeting drew Teamsters from Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Akron, Columbus and Lima, Ohio, as well as Dayton, and a few who made the trip from Indianapolis.
A packed hall in Louisville showed their agreement with the speakers that our union is going in the wrong direction and it’s time for a change. Members from Local 89 were the largest contingent but there were also Teamsters attending from Atlanta Local 728, Chattanooga Local 519, Paducah, Kentucky Local 236, Owensboro, Kentucky Local 215 and a carload from Columbus, Ohio Local 413.
Each speaker spoke to aspects of what it will take to win: a grassroots mobilization, getting delegates elected at the local level, member-to-member contact and info distribution, fundraising, organizing ongoing campaign committees, local meetings, and so much more.
Sandy Pope, the president of New York Local 805, ran for General President in 2011 and has a long record of experience and service to our union. Fred Zuckerman, president Louisville Local 89, was an outspoken critic of concessions in the recent UPS contract. Tony Jones is the president of Columbus Local 413; he and Zuckerman ran for International vice president in 2011. Tim Sylvester is the president of New York Local 804, where he and an active membership won the best UPS contract supplement in the country.
Australia Adelaide bus drivers vote for industrial action, refuse to collect fares from next Tuesday on South Link and Transfield
Australia Adelaide bus drivers vote for industrial action, refuse to collect fares from next Tuesday on South Link and Transfield
• DAVID NANKERVIS
• THE ADVERTISER
• JANUARY 21, 2014 6:00PM
Passengers board a bus bound for the city. Passengers on two of Adelaide's three bus services will ride for free from next Tuesday after drivers voted to strike.
ADELAIDE bus passengers will ride for free from next week after drivers voted for industrial action in support of claims for higher wages and better working conditions.
Transport Workers Union members voted "resoundingly'' in favour of specific action, which can include refusing to collect fares, overtime bans and rolling 24-hour strikes.
The union's first action involves its members refusing to collect fares indefinitely from Tuesday next week as it seeks public support and to put financial pressure on two of Adelaide's three bus companies , which carry the majority of passengers.
SA Branch secretary Ray Wyatt has not ruled out future strikes.
But he said "in recognition'' of outstanding public support drivers will not strike over the Australia Day Long weekend.
"We would like to thank the travelling public of SA and as of Tuesday there will be non-collection of fares or validating of tickets indefinitely,'' he said.
This action will be taken on the services provided by bus companies South Link and Transfield Services, which account for about two thirds of the network.
Mr Wyatt expects up to 15,000 passengers a day will travel free as a result of the planned action at a daily cost of around $100,000 in unpaid fares.
Union members, representing about two thirds of drivers, are concerned about a recent spate of violence against them , fatigue caused by work rosters and a lower wage rise offer than sought. Drivers wanted a 5 per cent pay increase but had been offered just 2.8 per cent by South Link and Transfield Services.
Transport Services Minister Chloe Fox said the State Government is not directly involved in negotiations "due to the privatisation of the bus contracts by the previous Liberal Government''.
"However, the Government has been talking regularly with the TWU and the two companies to ensure negotiations continue in good faith,'' she said.
The TWU sent about 600 members a ballot paper just before Christmas, seeking endorsement for industrial action.
The paper asked members to recommend specific industrial action, including refusing to collect fares, overtime bans and rolling 24-hour strikes.
More: Police to target buses, interchanges after bashings
Voting closed this afternoon and the union must give three days' notice to Adelaide's three bus companies before taking action.
At least 50 per cent of drivers must vote in favour for industrial action to go ahead.
A TWU survey last year showed 27 per cent of bus drivers had witnessed a passenger being assaulted and more than one in 10 drivers said they'd been bashed on the job.
The union said work rosters causing driver fatigue were a safety issue for its members and other road users.
TWU senior SA organiser Ian Gonsalves said no public transport bus company was in breach of fatigue laws over rosters but they were in need of change.
"Some companies do a maximum four hours and 50 minutes driving in the first portion of their shift, have up to 70 minutes break and then do another four hours and fifty minutes driving,'' he said.Tags: Transport Workers Union