June 18, 2015: Teamster retirees from across the Midwest and South at the US Senate this morning to support the Keep Our Pension Promises Act.Issues: Pension and Benefits
Ohio congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, Bernie Sanders offer new legislation to repeal private pension cut provisions
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, are introducing legislation Thursday to repeal pension cut provisions in the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014.
The act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in December, would allow significant pension payment cuts to hundreds of thousands of retirees — primarily retired union members — covered by troubled and severely underfunded multiemployer plans.
Click here to read more at the Akron Beacon Journal.Issues: Pension and Benefits
Global: ITUC challenges football associations and sponsors to push for independent FIFA reform commission
USA: New Report: Walmart Uses a Secret Web of Subsidiaries in Tax Havens Allowing them to Dodge Taxes Around the Globe
In what could be an explosive decision, the California Labor Commission has found that a driver for Uber in San Francisco is an employee of the company. That’s from aruling filed in state court on Tuesday and first reported by Reuters. It’s pretty damning. “Defendants hold themselves out as nothing more than a neutral technological platform, designed simply to enable drivers and passengers to transact the business of transportation,” the commission writes. “The reality, however, is that Defendants are involved in every aspect of the operation.”
The driver, Barbara Berwick, has been awarded roughly $4,000 in unpaid expenses, plus interest. Uber is appealing the ruling. The company didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Click here to read more at Slate.Issues: Labor Movement
Uber must die
Posted on June 16, 2015 in Taxicab industry
Taxicab workers protesting Uber in Toronto
By David Bush
The transportation network company Uber has had a rough couple of weeks in Toronto. Two weeks ago over 500 cabbies protested Uber by surrounding City Hall, snarling traffic in the downtown core. Days later an UberX driver crashed into a taxicab injuring two passengers. Just a couple of days after that when Toronto’s subway unexpectedly shutdown and taxicabs were at a premium, Uber’s real time supply and demand pricing system was charging five times the normal rate for a ride. Stranded passengers were at the mercy of Uber’s price gouging. And just the month before an Uber driver in Vaughan was arrested on charges of sexual assaulting a passenger.
All of these events were taking place just as the city of Toronto is pursuing a permanent injunction against Uber’s activities. The city is arguing that Uber is a taxicab company and therefore they must be regulated like one.
Uber’s lawyer argued that the company is “simply putting passengers in touch with drivers. They do not trigger the municipal licensing code’s scheme and are not subject to them.”
Uber also argued that regulating their company is in effect a violation of their charter right to free expression. The company’s position is that they are an informational network that connects drivers and passengers for a small fee. The case is still before the courts, though if the reaction of Judge Sean Dunphy to the city’s arguments is anything to go by, Uber looks set to avoid meaningful regulation.
This is an outcome that would please Mayor John Tory who is an Uber supporter. In fact two key members of Tory’s 2014 campaign team, John Duffy and Nick Kouvalis, were hired by Uber – Duffy is now a lobbyist for Uber at City Hall, while Kouvalis is pollster working for Uber.
The Uber model
Founded by Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp in San Francisco in 2009, Uber is now a billion dollar multinational company that is the face of the new so-called “sharing economy.” Uber appeared in Toronto in 2012 as a simple web app that connected taxicabs and customers. Last fall it launched UberX in Toronto, its real time ride-sharing app allowing anyone with a car and insurance to offer rides for a fee.
Uber’s corporate model, like much of the sharing economy, aims to connect users and producers of services for a small fee using accessible web technology. This is supposed to create greater choice for users and greater flexibility for producers of services by bypassing traditional corporate control and government regulation. Uber sees itself not as a taxicab company but merely a web-based communications company facilitating those connections.
It in fact actively denies it is even an employer. Uber describes its operation as “seamlessly connecting riders through our apps, we make cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers.”
Taxicab worker protesting Uber in Toronto
In reality Uber operates a business that depends on a low-wage and extremely precarious workforce. It not only pays a pittance to its drivers, but it offloads the risk and responsibility onto its workers. Uber claims to offer a five million dollar insurance plan for its users. But in reality their insurance policy, which it has failed to disclose despite a court ruling to do so, does not provide comprehensive or sufficient coverage for drivers or passengers. UberX drivers are required to have valid personal automobile insurance but it is unclear whether operating as a commercial vehicle through Uber invalidates that insurance. When UberX drivers do get in an accident they are summarily fired or “deactivated” in Uber parlance and routinely have trouble accessing Uber’s insurance information.
UberX drivers are required to be over 21, have a four-door car that is no older than a 2005 model. On average Uber collects 20 percent off each ride – but the pricing is set by Uber’s real-time pricing index, which is designed to gouge customers in times of need. This fluctuating pricing mechanism also hurts drivers as Uber’s model is about undercutting cab fares with bargain basement prices. Lower prices, means lower wages, more rides and more kilometres for drivers.
By the end of the year Uber plans to expand its driver pool in Ontario to 15,000, most of whom will be located in the GTA. And Uber is just the beginning. Another U.S. based ride-sharing company, Lyft, is already lobbying the city of Toronto to enter the market.
Uber’s model aims to eliminate meaningful regulation. It operates under the free-market assumption that user ratings will self-govern the industry. Customers rate their experience out five and drivers who fall below a base standard set by the company, roughly a 4.6 rating, are fired or in Uber parlance “deactivated”. Passengers are also rated and ones with a lower rating may not be picked up. While the self-governing protocols of the industry might be a good way to discipline workers to work harder, it by no means is a substitute for real regulation.
The taxicab industry
The denial of standard employment relations is nothing new in the taxicab industry, where workers are classified as independent contractors. This classification prevents workers forming legally recognized unions and weakens their ability to exert their collective bargaining power. What is different about Uber is that so far its model skirts even the basic standard regulations found in the industry.
To be a taxicab driver in Toronto means being regulated. That means having a criminal record check, driving a qualified car, taking training courses, having $2 million in commercial automobile insurance, having your fares regulated by the city, your driving background reviewed yearly and paying for a license from the city to operate.
Toronto has had nearly four years of continuous review of taxicab licenses. Currently there are just over 4,800 taxicab licenses issued (3,451 standard, 1,313 ambassador and 85 accessible) with over 10,000 drivers. Last year city council passed legislation phasing in a single Toronto Taxi License which requires holders to drive 167 hours a month (previously a license holder could purchase a license and then rent or lease it out without driving). In effect the reform was a move towards an owner-operator fleet.
With big money at play this reform, which was supported by the iTaxiworkers Association but opposed by current license holders, will be reopened after the city decides what to do with Uber.
Lowering the floor or fighting back?
And what should be done with Uber? It is hard to imagine an industry that is more exploitative and more disempowering for workers than the taxicab industry. But somehow Uber and the advocates of the sharing economy have found a way to lower the bar.
A protest of Uber workers in San Francisco
While Uber’s operations are expanding around the globe, the company has also faced stiff opposition from both municipalities and workers themselves. In Montreal taxicab workers have been protesting Uber for months and authorities have begun to step in. Vehicles from UberX drivers have been seized and the offices of Uber have been raided. Across the U.S. in cities such as Los Angeles, Seattle and New York Uber workers have protested the company’s exploitative practices. In California a group of Uber workers have formed a driver’s association affiliated with the Teamsters. Similar efforts by UberX drivers across Europe are also taking place.
With precarious employment and inequality on the rise in Toronto (and across the country) workers and the labour movement are fighting back by demanding a raise in the minimum wage and decent work. These struggles have the potential to not only materially improve workers’ lives, but to build solidarity and strength across the whole working class. But if Uber is allowed to further erode workplace standards this will dramatically hinder those efforts.
Uber and other sharing economy companies are running roughshod over regulations, work standards and workers. This will only embolden other employers and encourage them to adopt some of Uber’s hyper-exploitative practices. This must be challenged not just in the courts, but also in the streets. And ultimately if Uber is intent on ignoring workers’ rights and undermining basic regulations and ruining workers’ lives, then Uber must die.Tags: Ubertaxi workersToronto
Contract talks break down between NJ Transit, labor unions
JUNE 16, 2015, 1:05 PM LAST UPDATED: TUESDAY, JUNE 16, 2015, 1:09 PM
BY CHRISTOPHER MAAG
STAFF WRITER | THE RECORD
The latest round of talks between NJ Transit and its labor unions has broken down, signaling increased tensions between the two sides over pay and benefits. Union members have been working without a new contract for four years, union leaders said.
The next step in the process requires intervention from President Obama, who must create a three-member Presidential Emergency Board to keep the sides negotiating and prevent a strike or labor lockout that could cripple the region’s economy. Nearly 955,000 people ride NJ Transit buses, trains and light rail every workday.
NJ Transit and its unions started negotiating through the National Mediation Board in 2011, soon after the old contract expired. As the process dragged on, more unions joined in, eventually creating a coalition that includes all 17 of NJ Transit’s unions, together representing 4,263 workers, said Thomas Roth, a labor consultant hired to represent the unions in the next round of negotiations. The final union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, joined the coalition last week, Roth said.
“To have all the unions that represent all the workers on the property, it’s very rare,” said Roth, who has been involved in labor disputes for 40 years. “In fact this is the first time we’ve ever had a coalition like this.”
After years of negotiation went nowhere, the unions asked the National Mediation Board to release them from talks. On Monday the board agreed, an indication that the sides are so far apart on subjects including salary increases, benefits and work rules that an agreement now is impossible.
“In the few instances where it’s obvious the two sides are so far apart they’ll never agree, the National Mediation Board can conclude it can’t do anything and release them from negotiation,” Frank N. Wilner, who covers railroad labor relations for Railway Age magazine.
To prevent the unions from going on strike or NJ Transit management from locking workers out, either the board or Governor Christie can recommend to the White House that it create a three-member Presidential Emergency Board to hear the dispute, Wilner said. The board will have 120 days to try and reach an agreement. If that doesn’t work, the President can empanel a second emergency board, which has another 120 days. If the two sides still don’t agree, Congress may step in and impose a new contract, usually based upon a blueprint suggested by the second emergency board, Wilner said.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgTags: IBEWNew Jersey Transit Workers
June 16, 2015: Teamsters are converging on the Capitol on June 18 to support the “Keep our Pension Promises Act” which will be introduced that day in the US Senate and House.
By cars, vans, and busses retirees and active Teamsters form North Carolina, Ohio, New York, Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, and other states will stand with Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur and Senator Bernie Sanders, who are the initial sponsors of the act.
If you want to be present this Thursday morning, you can RSVP to the Pension Right Center and you can contact TDU at 313-842-2600 for all the details.
Also present will be union leaders and advocates for retirees and seniors, who are joining together behind this bill.
The Keep our Pension Promises Act would provide protection for workers who earned pensions through a lifetime of honest work and now face cuts that may be imposed under the pension-cut law that sneaked through last December as an amendment to the federal budget.
“This is about protecting promises made to thousands of retirees and active workers,” said Mike Walden who will be there from Akron, Ohio. “We’re there to make our voices felt, and to visit the offices of our representatives to urge them to get on board.“
The Keep our Pension Promises Act would provide relief through a “legacy fund” in the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
Millions of workers in many pension plans may be affected by cuts that could hit soon. The largest group is the Central States Fund, but there are a number of Teamster funds in the New York and New Jersey area that are also under the gun.
Here is the press advisory from the Senator.Pension and Benefits
Qatar Airways urged to scrap policy allowing it to sack pregnant cabin crew
International Labour Organisation rules airline discriminated against women with clause stating it can terminate contracts over pregnancies
Year-long investigation followed complaints by workers at the state-owned airline. Photograph: Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images
Tuesday 16 June 2015 10.02 EDTLast modified on Tuesday 16 June 2015 11.43 EDT
The International Labour Organisation has called on Qatar Airways to scrap contracts that allow it to sack cabin crew members for being pregnant.
Following a year-long investigation sparked by complaints by workers at the state-owned airline, the labour arm of the United Nations ruled it discriminated against women by including in employment contracts a clause stating: “The company reserves the right to automatically terminate your contract as a flying cabin crew member should you become pregnant.”
The ILO said on Tuesday the contract breaches its 57-year-old convention against discrimination at work, which has been ratified by 172 countries. It has also demanded the Doha-based airline review a ban on female cabin crew being dropped off or picked up from work by men other than their brother, father or husband, which Qatar Airways insisted was “a cultural norm”.
It has also asked the Qatar government for more evidence about the impact on women of a clause in Qatar Airways workers’ contracts that they must “obtain prior permission from the company in case [he or she] wishes to change marital status and get married” – a requirement the airline says has now been dropped.
Asked to respond to the ILO’s findings, Akbar Al Baker, the chief executive of Qatar Airways, accused the organisation of having a “vendetta” against both Qatar and its national airline. “I don’t give a damn about the ILO – I am there to run a successful airline,” he told Reuters in Paris. “This is evidence of a vendetta they have against Qatar Airways and my country. My country has responded to the ILO accusations in a very robust way. We clarified the clauses in our contract.”
Eighty per cent of Qatar Airways’ cabin crew are women and about 90% of its staff are migrant workers. The airline said on Monday it made a $103m (£66m) profit in the last financial year and announced an order for 14 new Boeing 777 planesvalued at almost $4.8bn (£3bn). It employs 9,000 cabin crew and sponsors Barcelona, the European club football champions.
The case was brought against Qatar by the International Transport Workers’ Federation and the International Trade Union Confederation. The ILO said that since the rights groups reported the allegations of discrimination at Qatar Airways in June 2014, the airline had made changes to contracts but these had not gone far enough.
Qatar Airways buys 10% of British Airways owner IAG
An earlier contract said women must notify the airline as soon as they know they are pregnant and Qatar Airways would then be free to terminate the contract. Failure to admit to pregnancy or attempts to conceal it would be a breach of contract. The current contract maintains the airline’s right to terminate pregnant women’s contracts, but says they can apply for a ground position if available, and the government said it is company policy for its managers to “diligently search for alternative jobs on the ground for pregnant cabin crew.
The ILO ruled: “The provisions ... providing the company with the possibility to automatically terminate the employment of women cabin crew on the sole basis of pregnancy are discriminatory under convention no 111, and should be removed.”
“This decision is a game-changer,” said the ITF president, Paddy Crumlin. “A year ago we put Qatar and Qatar Airways in the dock and today it has been proved that we were right to do so. The changes made to the rules for staff failed to fool the ILO. Now the airline must make them for real. It’s time to make Qatar Airways free from fear.”
Sharan Burrow, the general secretary of the ITUC, said: “The gaze of world opinion is locked on the behaviour of the Qatari government – over Qatar Airways, over its abhorrent treatment of migrant workers, and over the World Cup. In Geneva today, Qatar has been proved wanting. The nation is on trial. It cannot evade its responsibilities. It has to begin to do the right thing.”
The ITF and ITUC told the Geneva-based organisation that since September 2013, serving and former cabin crew have come forward to complain of discrimination by the airline. They said the right to fire pregnant workers has been used on many occasions and that many women felt compelled to resign to avoid the humiliation of dismissal and the right to repatriation assistance by the company.
They claimed that in practice there was a bar on marriage during the first three to five years of employment and after that it was at the discretion of the company with any refusal resulting in the employee having to resign in order to get married.
The complaints included allegations that mandatory 12-hour rest periods before flights included staff being confined to company premises, restricted from moving from assigned accommodation and a ban on overnight stays away from that accommodation, even when off duty. There were also reports of fire escapes and windows being sealed to prevent employees leaving.
Crew members said they were reluctant to submit complaints due to fear of retaliation, possible termination of their contracts and deportation from Qatar.
The Qatari government responded by claiming the allegations came from a small group of anonymous people and were based on the earlier contract which has been replaced by new terms, in force since December for all new staff. It said half of the existing crew had already transferred to the new contract and the other half would do in the coming months.
It said since the new contract came in, no pregnant cabin crew had left except for personal reasons and a few had taken jobs on the ground. It said there was now no contractual demand that workers request permission to marry. It still insists the prohibition on women being accompanied by men other than their father, brother or husband, was compliant with a Qatari cultural norm. It said its policy on rest periods was of great importance and is applied in the same way to both men and women with respect to sanctions in the case of violation.Tags: Qatar AirlinediscriminationWomen pregnancy
A union representing Walt Disney World performers is challenging a policy forbidding them from revealing online or in print media what characters they portray.
The company has long discouraged its entertainers from advertising which princesses or animated animals they play in the theme parks.
Click here to read more at the Orlando Sentinel.Issues: Labor Movement
Support the Swedish bus drivers who protested against racist advertisement
BY SACSYNDIKALISTERNA ON JUNE 4, 2015 • ( LEAVE A COMMENT )
Buss drivers of SAC syndikalisterna protested against racist advertisement on buses. Employer Keolis answer: taking them to Court.
In the autumn 2014 the section of SAC- bus drivers in Stockholm, SBSS, started a blockade against driving busses with advertisement for the racist party SD, the Swedish democrats, displaying hatred towards beggars. Keolis answer was to sew the drivers.
More than 60 different nationalities are working for Keolis. Keolis policy for equality and diversity states: “openness, human rights and dialogue is supposed to permeate all activity at Keolis” and “it’s zero tolerance considering discrimination and harassment”. Despite that, Keolis did not just accept the advertisement- now they choose, through the bosses union, to sew the union who reacted against the racist advertisement. SBSS did not only act according to the guidelines of Keolis, they did something each and everyone of us should do: reacting against the racist threats against one of the most exposed groups in our society.
They did act and showed civil courage. After the elections we’ve seen a catastrophic increase of violent attacks against beggars, most of the times really poor Roma people from different countries in Eastern Europe. Shooting against beggars and their camps getting burned up, in at least two cases people have been killed. The racist threats from the Swedish Democrats, the advertisement on the busses among other things, have contributed to this.
The bus drivers of SAC did what they could to stop the normalisation of racist attacks on one of the most exposed groups within our society. At this point, Keolis chooses to focus on a tiny legal detail in the strike notice, where the interpreting of the laws is unclear, sewing the section on 100 000 Swedish crowns. The 9/6 is is the date for oral negotiations in the labour court.
All support to the syndicalistic bus drivers! Stop the normalisation of racist attacks!
We urge all comrades to show our bus driving comrades support by:
-Send statements off support
– Follow them on Facebook (SBSS) and Twitter (@sbss08)
– Send email to the employer Keolis and tell them what you think about that they taking our comrades to Court and defending racist propaganda