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Shell games How trucking companies that cheat drivers dodge penalties

Current News - Thu, 10/26/2017 - 12:37

Shell games How trucking companies that cheat drivers dodge penalties

https://www.usatoday.com/pages/interactives/news/rigged-shell-games-how-...

By Brett Murphy
October 26, 2017
In 2015, a California labor court judge ordered Fargo Trucking to pay its drivers $8.7 million – as much as $370,000 each – for cheating them out of fair wages.

It was the largest judgment ever imposed in an industry notorious for exploiting its workers and running afoul of state labor laws.

But instead of writing checks to their drivers, Fargo’s owners set in motion a plan to make their company vanish. They jettisoned their retail clients and stripped the company of its assets. Then, they moved it all under new company names, safe from the judgment of the courts.

Today, they are back in business under the name Express FTC – hauling goods in the same trucks, for the same clients, out of the same office building that once belonged to Fargo.

Drivers still have not been paid.

A year-long USA TODAY Network investigation found that port trucking companies like Fargo have successfully used legal loopholes, shell companies and bankruptcy protection to dodge the punishment labor court judges have handed down.

Containers are stacked and stored after being unloaded from ships in the Port of Long Beach.

Omar Ornelas, USA TODAY Network
It’s the latest revelation in an ongoing investigation into how port trucking companies that serve the nation’s top retailers take advantage of drivers, often forcing them to work around the clock while paying them pennies per hour.

The Network examined California labor commissioner and court cases filed by more than 1,100 port truck drivers and traced the outcomes for almost 60 companies found by the courts to have violated the law.

At least a dozen have so far avoided all or most of their labor judgments after shifting assets into new business names. Many delayed paying for two years or more, then filed for bankruptcy protection or pressured drivers to accept settlements that gave them a fraction of what the labor commissioner said they were owed.

The vast majority of the owners still operate today, moving goods out of California ports and on their way to major national retailers.

“The idea that companies are still around without paying the full boat is a point of outrage in and of itself,” said Jay Shin, directing attorney at the Wage Justice Center, a nonprofit that has provided legal help for drivers and contracted with the labor commissioner to collect judgments.

From 2012 to 2016, port truck drivers were awarded $37 million in back pay and penalties. It’s not clear how much has been paid out because state records don't show most private settlements or pending negotiations. But the labor commissioner has been able to track only $3 million that has gone to drivers.

Executives at eight of the 12 companies that appear to have moved assets after workers filed labor claims declined to comment for this story or did not respond to interview requests. The other four said they had done nothing wrong but did not answer questions about their business moves.

In email exchanges with USA TODAY Network, Fargo CEO Philip Ting said most of his drivers are successful, and those who aren’t have the freedom to quit and pursue other jobs. He said he has paid his drivers fairly.

“We have put operators’ children through college, bought them homes,” Ting said. “We provided them the opportunity and somehow we become the villains in all this.”

But for almost two years, while his drivers sought payment through wage complaints, Ting chronicled the good life with posts on Facebook and Instagram. Courtside selfies at Lakers and Clippers games. Rolex and Audemars Piguet watches.

As his drivers waited to be repaid, Fargo Trucking CEO Philip Ting chronicled the good life on his social media pages, bragging about Dom Perignon champagne, Rolex watches and world travels, including a post from Rio during the Summer 2016 Olympics. USA TODAY Network screenshots of Philip Ting's Facebook and Instagram posts
In early 2014, he was in the market for a private chef. On June 26, 2014, three days after the last driver sued him, Ting bought a $1.8 million East Village condo, property records show.

In spring 2015 – around the time Fargo lost its labor cases – Ting flew first class to Hawaii, then to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. That September, he traveled to Miami and New York. Then Taipei, Taiwan, and Japan in December. Last year, he posted from Paris, the Philippines, Rio, Colombia, and a mountaintop in Park City, Utah. Sometimes he traveled by private G4 jet.

“Some unwholesome lifestyle sh---,” he posted on Instagram alongside a picture of Dom Perignon champagne at an outdoor club. “Who lives like this?”

Meanwhile, drivers like Carlos Garcia are left waiting for a check that may never come.

The 56-year-old former Fargo driver has no savings. Much of his weekly income was eaten up by his truck expenses.

Fargo charged him $300 each week to lease a rig, plus hundreds in additional fees for insurance, maintenance, fuel, parking – even the company toilet paper and office supplies.

Carlos Garcia's disappearing paycheck

This is an example of a typical week's deductions, from his Fargo pay stub on Feb. 20, 2009. Garcia estimated the weekly diesel and maintenance costs, which he paid out of pocket.

Gross weekly earnings $896.80
Clean truck incentive $200
Insurance -$123
Lease -$292
Diesel -$300
Maintenance -$90
Remaining amount $291.80
SOURCE Carlos Garcia’s pay stub

Two years ago, the California labor commissioner awarded him more than $200,000 in back pay and penalties.

“I know we’re never seeing a dime of that,” said Garcia, who has gone into debt to pay his bills and now fears bankruptcy.

“Who cares if we starve, right?”

How it all began

Until Fargo Trucking was hit with the biggest labor judgment in the port trucking industry, it was an unremarkable company, a mid-sized operation in a crowded field that moves containers from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to nearby warehouses.

Then, in 2008, California passed a law that banned aging big rigs from serving the ports, part of an effort to cut down on deadly diesel fumes. The industry faced the prospect of buying 16,000 new trucks.

As the USA TODAY Network first reported in June, dozens of trucking companies in southern California – where almost half of America’s imports come into the country – pushed the cost onto their independent truckers by forcing them into company-sponsored lease-to-own programs for new trucks.

Drivers found themselves working as much as 20 hours a day for pay that dropped to pennies per hour after expenses. Some drivers worked a full week only to owe their boss money on payday.

The setup kicked off labor complaints against more than 140 companies, including Fargo.

Fifty Fargo drivers, many who spoke little English, testified that the company pressured them to sign truck leases to keep their jobs. Many couldn’t understand the contracts because they were not translated.

Carlos Garcia, a former driver for Fargo Trucking, was awarded $206,000 a year ago, but still has not been paid. "I know we're never seeing a dime of that", he said.

Omar Ornelas, USA TODAY Network
Half of them testified that managers forced them at times to work past the federal safety limit for commercial truckers, sometimes by withholding paychecks until they got back on the road.

A dozen said the company overcharged them for truck insurance, as much as twice the going rate.

Fargo executives denied those claims at the hearings. But on July 16, 2015, more than two years after the first complaint was filed, a hearing officer for the California labor commissioner sent out a 360-page bulk ruling, ordering Fargo to pay $8.7 million.

The rulings say Fargo failed to pay overtime and improperly charged for truck expenses but do not address other allegations by the drivers.

In the months leading up to the judgment, Fargo Trucking appeared to have plenty of money, including at least 58 trucks registered in its name, according to the company’s IRS filings and port entry records. Approximate value: $7.5 million.

The company has moved containers for businesses all over the country, including UPS, the vacuum company Bissell and manufacturing giant 3M, according drivers’ manifests matched with shipping data from the trade research firm Panjiva.

In January, 2016, Fargo received a court order demanding payment on the labor commissioner judgments. Weeks passed, and then months.

No checks arrived.

Follow the trucks

When companies try to dodge civil court judgments, they do it by moving money out of the business and stashing it under new corporate names or with individuals who aren’t subject to the civil court ruling.

If lawyers can’t trace the money and show that the intent was to hide it, their clients can’t collect.

Three experts said Fargo’s moves in recent years show classic signs of owners trying to protect their assets.

The company appeared to create a tangle of entities around Fargo “so that there is nothing, no assets from which the drivers can collect,” said Erik Gordon, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

The trucks tell the story.

Using registrations, lease contracts, tax filings and millions of records of port gate move data, the USA TODAY Network found that at least 50 trucks once used by Fargo were transferred to other businesses run by people associated with the trucking company.

The transfers occurred between 2015 and 2016, the period leading up to and after drivers won their judgments from the labor commissioner.

California secretary of state records show that one of the companies, CKT Logistic, was created by 68-year-old June Ou, Fargo’s founder and Ting’s mother. CKT is the lienholder of at least one of the former Fargo trucks, according to registration documents provided by a driver.

The other company, Express FTC, was incorporated by Gershom Shing, Fargo’s former accountant. He registered the company on July 13, 2015, three days before the labor court judgments against Fargo were sent out in the mail.

More than 50 Fargo trucks now regularly appear as Express FTC in records that track the drivers and companies entering the gates at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

In various public documents, Express FTC lists several different addresses, including Shing’s home and an office space that traces back to port trucking consultant Kurt Oliver, Fargo’s former risk manager who spoke on behalf of the company in labor commissioner hearings.

But the real office, where Express FTC drivers pick up their checks and park their trucks, is at 2727 East Del Almo St. in Rancho Dominguez – the same building previously used by Fargo.

In August, drivers’ lawyers sued the company alleging conspiracy to commit fraud for hiding up to 90 trucks in CKT.

Shing is “a false president,” said Garcia, the former Fargo driver, echoing a sentiment from three current employees who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation. “He’s just an accountant. They're hiding the business by doing that.”

Shing and Ting declined to answer questions about Express FTC or CKT Logistic. Oliver said he had never heard of either company.

Ou said in a brief phone interview she doesn’t know anything about the unpaid judgments to drivers. “I’m retired,” she said before hanging up.

Jan. 2013
Fargo Trucking drivers begin filing labor complaints against their employer to the California labor commissioner.

March 20, 2014
Fargo owner June Ou incorporates CKT Logistic.

July 13, 2015
Former Fargo accountant Gershom Shing incorporates Express FTC

July 16, 2015
California labor commission mails out a 360-page ruling, ordering Fargo to pay employees $8.7 million in backpay and penalties, as much as $370,000 each.

Jan. 2016
Fargo owners receive civil court order to pay the labor commissioner judgment. They had not appealed the ruling.

March 2016
One-time Fargo trucks start showing up at California ports as trucks hauling goods for Express FTC

August 2016
On IRS tax documents, Express FTC reports having 58 trucks once owned by Fargo

August 2017
Former Fargo drivers sue their old employer, alleging the company was moving assets to avoid paying their court judgment

Sept. 2017
Fargo CEO Philip Ting calls former Fargo truckers to a meeting and offered them $7,000 each to settle the case. Drivers, most owed more than $100,000, declined.

SOURCE USA TODAY NETWORK

Brett Murphy and Frank Pompa, USA TODAY NETWORK

Widespread practice

The USA TODAY Network found that one in five port trucking companies ordered to repay drivers moved assets or tried stalling enforcement in ways similar to Fargo.

In at least six of those cases, attorneys for the drivers have accused the companies of fraud in court documents and introduced evidence that owners transferred customers, trucks or cash to new businesses with ties to the original owner.

Facing $9.4 million in labor claims and lawsuits, QTS Inc. and its sister companies moved at least $600,000 -- mostly in the form of rent payments -- into the owners’ family trust, according to bank statements and emails that lawyers subpoenaed to detail the transactions.

Then QTS gave away its biggest client to a new company created by one of its employees, according to executives’ depositions and California secretary of state records. In a brief interview, former QTS executive Ki Yoon denied hiding assets and said the company had few left to move after paying its legal bills.

In 2015, a bankruptcy judge found that Seacon Logix “stripped away” almost all of its business, going from $12.8 million in annual income one year to $227,000 the next. The executives or their business associates owned a network of trucking operations that began delivering containers for Seacon’s former customers out of the same address.

When asked about the company’s operations, a former Seacon president, Jason Goh said, “I’d rather not talk about it. The company’s not even open anymore.”

The companies in each of those cases and many others filed for bankruptcy after everything was gone, arguing they no longer had enough assets to pay back drivers and stay in business.

“It seems the end goal,” said Briana Rivera, “is to circumvent payment altogether.” Rivera is a lawyer at Rivera & Shackelford, a San Diego firm representing some Fargo drivers in a separate civil suit.

Most companies, including QTS and Seacon, wind up settling with drivers for some amount, usually less than the labor judgment. But at least six companies have paid nothing to some drivers who won labor cases, the USA TODAY Network found.

From 2013 to 2014, 23 drivers filed labor complaints against Superior Dispatch, a small port trucking company based in Lynwood, California.

At the time, the company had at least 30 trucks moving goods for retailers, California port records show.

But as the drivers waited for their cases to be heard, Superior’s trucks and customers began to disappear. By the time drivers were awarded $2.4 million in back pay in Spring 2015, the company was well on its way to shutting down.

According to a lawsuit filed by the drivers, the company assets didn’t go far. Superior Dispatch owner Melinda Melgar gave them to her son, who operates his own hauling operation, Roadking Trucking, the suit alleged. Last year, at least seven former Superior Dispatch trucks appeared at the harbor hauling loads for Roadking at least once, port records show.

Superior Dispatch drivers still have not been paid.

“It’s classic fraudulent transfer if you transfer things to your relatives and you’re not given valuable consideration,” said attorney Stephen Glick, who represents the drivers.

Melgar did not respond to interview requests. Melgar’s son, Michael Noles, who still operates Roadking Trucking, did not respond to phone messages or letters seeking comment.

ADVERTISEMENT

Double Standard

Trucking companies can easily hide assets and avoid paying judgments, in part, because of how long it takes officials to process cases and a patchwork of enforcement strategies that often leaves drivers to fend for themselves.

The average time between complaint and judgment is almost 21 months, according to the USA TODAY Network’s analysis of California labor commissioner records. Some cases took more than three years.

Anthony Mischel, a retired hearing officer at the California labor commissioner’s office, said an overworked staff and poor enforcement “gives people a long time to go out of business or disappear.”

“They’ve never had adequate staffing for all their functions,” he said. “The longer it takes, the harder it is to collect.”

California Labor Commissioner Julie Su.

California Labor Commission
California Labor Commissioner Julie Su said her office has been scrambling to keep up since an influx of port trucking cases started in 2011. Almost 900 port trucking cases fell on a single office, staffed by 43 people, in Long Beach, where lease-to-own programs took hold in port trucking nearly a decade ago.

Neither Su nor the California legislature added or shifted significant staff to the Long Beach office to handle the demand.

Three new attorney positions were added to process wage cases in general. But Su said that hasn’t been enough.

“We are playing whack-a-mole,” Su said. As her agency has handed down more judgments, port trucking companies have evolved, using “elaborate schemes to cheat drivers.”

As a result, she estimated, a third of the companies simply ignore the judgments they receive, while many of the rest wage long legal battles to fight them.

Another problem: After a company is ordered to repay its workers, labor commissioner attorneys rarely get involved in enforcing the judgments. In fact, they are prevented from doing so if the workers have hired their own private attorney or if drivers don’t formally request help from the state.

“I’m not gonna paint a rosy picture,” Su said. “I’m not going to sit and say we have done all that we need to do. We have more to do.”

A USA TODAY investigation finds America's retail giants have spent a decade ignoring signs of labor abuse in their supply chains, sometimes fighting government efforts to crack down, even as thousands of truckers were driven into debt and poverty.

Scott Hall, USA TODAY NETWORK
In early September – more than two years after drivers won their cases against Fargo – CEO Philip Ting and his accountant Gershom Shing called about 20 of them to a meeting in a warehouse.

Ting gave the drivers a choice: accept $7,000 now or he would file for bankruptcy, an action that could erase any hope they had of collecting. Most of them are owed more than $100,000.

“He said, ‘We don’t have that money,’” recalled someone at the meeting, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity because he fears retaliation. Two other employees independently described a nearly identical scene.

So far, drivers have not accepted Ting’s offer, or subsequent ones for more money.

“They go after at us at our weakest point,” one worker said, worried about losing his job, his truck and any possibility of getting paid back if the company goes under.

“Where does that leave us? No loads. No work for us.”

Every day, thousands of trucks enter the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, where nearly half of all imports come into the country on their way to retailers nationwide.

Omar Ornelas, USA TODAY Network
Brett Murphy began reporting this story while in the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT BY: Angelo Cocci, Mitchell Thorson, Shawn Sullivan, Chad Palmer, Frank Pompa, Ramon Padilla and Jim Sergent, USA TODAY.

Tags: Truckerswage theftslave laborunionization
Categories: Labor News

Shell games How trucking companies that cheat drivers dodge penalties

Current News - Thu, 10/26/2017 - 12:37

Shell games How trucking companies that cheat drivers dodge penalties

https://www.usatoday.com/pages/interactives/news/rigged-shell-games-how-...

By Brett Murphy
October 26, 2017
In 2015, a California labor court judge ordered Fargo Trucking to pay its drivers $8.7 million – as much as $370,000 each – for cheating them out of fair wages.

It was the largest judgment ever imposed in an industry notorious for exploiting its workers and running afoul of state labor laws.

But instead of writing checks to their drivers, Fargo’s owners set in motion a plan to make their company vanish. They jettisoned their retail clients and stripped the company of its assets. Then, they moved it all under new company names, safe from the judgment of the courts.

Today, they are back in business under the name Express FTC – hauling goods in the same trucks, for the same clients, out of the same office building that once belonged to Fargo.

Drivers still have not been paid.

A year-long USA TODAY Network investigation found that port trucking companies like Fargo have successfully used legal loopholes, shell companies and bankruptcy protection to dodge the punishment labor court judges have handed down.

Containers are stacked and stored after being unloaded from ships in the Port of Long Beach.

Omar Ornelas, USA TODAY Network
It’s the latest revelation in an ongoing investigation into how port trucking companies that serve the nation’s top retailers take advantage of drivers, often forcing them to work around the clock while paying them pennies per hour.

The Network examined California labor commissioner and court cases filed by more than 1,100 port truck drivers and traced the outcomes for almost 60 companies found by the courts to have violated the law.

At least a dozen have so far avoided all or most of their labor judgments after shifting assets into new business names. Many delayed paying for two years or more, then filed for bankruptcy protection or pressured drivers to accept settlements that gave them a fraction of what the labor commissioner said they were owed.

The vast majority of the owners still operate today, moving goods out of California ports and on their way to major national retailers.

“The idea that companies are still around without paying the full boat is a point of outrage in and of itself,” said Jay Shin, directing attorney at the Wage Justice Center, a nonprofit that has provided legal help for drivers and contracted with the labor commissioner to collect judgments.

From 2012 to 2016, port truck drivers were awarded $37 million in back pay and penalties. It’s not clear how much has been paid out because state records don't show most private settlements or pending negotiations. But the labor commissioner has been able to track only $3 million that has gone to drivers.

Executives at eight of the 12 companies that appear to have moved assets after workers filed labor claims declined to comment for this story or did not respond to interview requests. The other four said they had done nothing wrong but did not answer questions about their business moves.

In email exchanges with USA TODAY Network, Fargo CEO Philip Ting said most of his drivers are successful, and those who aren’t have the freedom to quit and pursue other jobs. He said he has paid his drivers fairly.

“We have put operators’ children through college, bought them homes,” Ting said. “We provided them the opportunity and somehow we become the villains in all this.”

But for almost two years, while his drivers sought payment through wage complaints, Ting chronicled the good life with posts on Facebook and Instagram. Courtside selfies at Lakers and Clippers games. Rolex and Audemars Piguet watches.

As his drivers waited to be repaid, Fargo Trucking CEO Philip Ting chronicled the good life on his social media pages, bragging about Dom Perignon champagne, Rolex watches and world travels, including a post from Rio during the Summer 2016 Olympics. USA TODAY Network screenshots of Philip Ting's Facebook and Instagram posts
In early 2014, he was in the market for a private chef. On June 26, 2014, three days after the last driver sued him, Ting bought a $1.8 million East Village condo, property records show.

In spring 2015 – around the time Fargo lost its labor cases – Ting flew first class to Hawaii, then to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. That September, he traveled to Miami and New York. Then Taipei, Taiwan, and Japan in December. Last year, he posted from Paris, the Philippines, Rio, Colombia, and a mountaintop in Park City, Utah. Sometimes he traveled by private G4 jet.

“Some unwholesome lifestyle sh---,” he posted on Instagram alongside a picture of Dom Perignon champagne at an outdoor club. “Who lives like this?”

Meanwhile, drivers like Carlos Garcia are left waiting for a check that may never come.

The 56-year-old former Fargo driver has no savings. Much of his weekly income was eaten up by his truck expenses.

Fargo charged him $300 each week to lease a rig, plus hundreds in additional fees for insurance, maintenance, fuel, parking – even the company toilet paper and office supplies.

Carlos Garcia's disappearing paycheck

This is an example of a typical week's deductions, from his Fargo pay stub on Feb. 20, 2009. Garcia estimated the weekly diesel and maintenance costs, which he paid out of pocket.

Gross weekly earnings $896.80
Clean truck incentive $200
Insurance -$123
Lease -$292
Diesel -$300
Maintenance -$90
Remaining amount $291.80
SOURCE Carlos Garcia’s pay stub

Two years ago, the California labor commissioner awarded him more than $200,000 in back pay and penalties.

“I know we’re never seeing a dime of that,” said Garcia, who has gone into debt to pay his bills and now fears bankruptcy.

“Who cares if we starve, right?”

How it all began

Until Fargo Trucking was hit with the biggest labor judgment in the port trucking industry, it was an unremarkable company, a mid-sized operation in a crowded field that moves containers from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to nearby warehouses.

Then, in 2008, California passed a law that banned aging big rigs from serving the ports, part of an effort to cut down on deadly diesel fumes. The industry faced the prospect of buying 16,000 new trucks.

As the USA TODAY Network first reported in June, dozens of trucking companies in southern California – where almost half of America’s imports come into the country – pushed the cost onto their independent truckers by forcing them into company-sponsored lease-to-own programs for new trucks.

Drivers found themselves working as much as 20 hours a day for pay that dropped to pennies per hour after expenses. Some drivers worked a full week only to owe their boss money on payday.

The setup kicked off labor complaints against more than 140 companies, including Fargo.

Fifty Fargo drivers, many who spoke little English, testified that the company pressured them to sign truck leases to keep their jobs. Many couldn’t understand the contracts because they were not translated.

Carlos Garcia, a former driver for Fargo Trucking, was awarded $206,000 a year ago, but still has not been paid. "I know we're never seeing a dime of that", he said.

Omar Ornelas, USA TODAY Network
Half of them testified that managers forced them at times to work past the federal safety limit for commercial truckers, sometimes by withholding paychecks until they got back on the road.

A dozen said the company overcharged them for truck insurance, as much as twice the going rate.

Fargo executives denied those claims at the hearings. But on July 16, 2015, more than two years after the first complaint was filed, a hearing officer for the California labor commissioner sent out a 360-page bulk ruling, ordering Fargo to pay $8.7 million.

The rulings say Fargo failed to pay overtime and improperly charged for truck expenses but do not address other allegations by the drivers.

In the months leading up to the judgment, Fargo Trucking appeared to have plenty of money, including at least 58 trucks registered in its name, according to the company’s IRS filings and port entry records. Approximate value: $7.5 million.

The company has moved containers for businesses all over the country, including UPS, the vacuum company Bissell and manufacturing giant 3M, according drivers’ manifests matched with shipping data from the trade research firm Panjiva.

In January, 2016, Fargo received a court order demanding payment on the labor commissioner judgments. Weeks passed, and then months.

No checks arrived.

Follow the trucks

When companies try to dodge civil court judgments, they do it by moving money out of the business and stashing it under new corporate names or with individuals who aren’t subject to the civil court ruling.

If lawyers can’t trace the money and show that the intent was to hide it, their clients can’t collect.

Three experts said Fargo’s moves in recent years show classic signs of owners trying to protect their assets.

The company appeared to create a tangle of entities around Fargo “so that there is nothing, no assets from which the drivers can collect,” said Erik Gordon, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

The trucks tell the story.

Using registrations, lease contracts, tax filings and millions of records of port gate move data, the USA TODAY Network found that at least 50 trucks once used by Fargo were transferred to other businesses run by people associated with the trucking company.

The transfers occurred between 2015 and 2016, the period leading up to and after drivers won their judgments from the labor commissioner.

California secretary of state records show that one of the companies, CKT Logistic, was created by 68-year-old June Ou, Fargo’s founder and Ting’s mother. CKT is the lienholder of at least one of the former Fargo trucks, according to registration documents provided by a driver.

The other company, Express FTC, was incorporated by Gershom Shing, Fargo’s former accountant. He registered the company on July 13, 2015, three days before the labor court judgments against Fargo were sent out in the mail.

More than 50 Fargo trucks now regularly appear as Express FTC in records that track the drivers and companies entering the gates at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

In various public documents, Express FTC lists several different addresses, including Shing’s home and an office space that traces back to port trucking consultant Kurt Oliver, Fargo’s former risk manager who spoke on behalf of the company in labor commissioner hearings.

But the real office, where Express FTC drivers pick up their checks and park their trucks, is at 2727 East Del Almo St. in Rancho Dominguez – the same building previously used by Fargo.

In August, drivers’ lawyers sued the company alleging conspiracy to commit fraud for hiding up to 90 trucks in CKT.

Shing is “a false president,” said Garcia, the former Fargo driver, echoing a sentiment from three current employees who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation. “He’s just an accountant. They're hiding the business by doing that.”

Shing and Ting declined to answer questions about Express FTC or CKT Logistic. Oliver said he had never heard of either company.

Ou said in a brief phone interview she doesn’t know anything about the unpaid judgments to drivers. “I’m retired,” she said before hanging up.

Jan. 2013
Fargo Trucking drivers begin filing labor complaints against their employer to the California labor commissioner.

March 20, 2014
Fargo owner June Ou incorporates CKT Logistic.

July 13, 2015
Former Fargo accountant Gershom Shing incorporates Express FTC

July 16, 2015
California labor commission mails out a 360-page ruling, ordering Fargo to pay employees $8.7 million in backpay and penalties, as much as $370,000 each.

Jan. 2016
Fargo owners receive civil court order to pay the labor commissioner judgment. They had not appealed the ruling.

March 2016
One-time Fargo trucks start showing up at California ports as trucks hauling goods for Express FTC

August 2016
On IRS tax documents, Express FTC reports having 58 trucks once owned by Fargo

August 2017
Former Fargo drivers sue their old employer, alleging the company was moving assets to avoid paying their court judgment

Sept. 2017
Fargo CEO Philip Ting calls former Fargo truckers to a meeting and offered them $7,000 each to settle the case. Drivers, most owed more than $100,000, declined.

SOURCE USA TODAY NETWORK

Brett Murphy and Frank Pompa, USA TODAY NETWORK

Widespread practice

The USA TODAY Network found that one in five port trucking companies ordered to repay drivers moved assets or tried stalling enforcement in ways similar to Fargo.

In at least six of those cases, attorneys for the drivers have accused the companies of fraud in court documents and introduced evidence that owners transferred customers, trucks or cash to new businesses with ties to the original owner.

Facing $9.4 million in labor claims and lawsuits, QTS Inc. and its sister companies moved at least $600,000 -- mostly in the form of rent payments -- into the owners’ family trust, according to bank statements and emails that lawyers subpoenaed to detail the transactions.

Then QTS gave away its biggest client to a new company created by one of its employees, according to executives’ depositions and California secretary of state records. In a brief interview, former QTS executive Ki Yoon denied hiding assets and said the company had few left to move after paying its legal bills.

In 2015, a bankruptcy judge found that Seacon Logix “stripped away” almost all of its business, going from $12.8 million in annual income one year to $227,000 the next. The executives or their business associates owned a network of trucking operations that began delivering containers for Seacon’s former customers out of the same address.

When asked about the company’s operations, a former Seacon president, Jason Goh said, “I’d rather not talk about it. The company’s not even open anymore.”

The companies in each of those cases and many others filed for bankruptcy after everything was gone, arguing they no longer had enough assets to pay back drivers and stay in business.

“It seems the end goal,” said Briana Rivera, “is to circumvent payment altogether.” Rivera is a lawyer at Rivera & Shackelford, a San Diego firm representing some Fargo drivers in a separate civil suit.

Most companies, including QTS and Seacon, wind up settling with drivers for some amount, usually less than the labor judgment. But at least six companies have paid nothing to some drivers who won labor cases, the USA TODAY Network found.

From 2013 to 2014, 23 drivers filed labor complaints against Superior Dispatch, a small port trucking company based in Lynwood, California.

At the time, the company had at least 30 trucks moving goods for retailers, California port records show.

But as the drivers waited for their cases to be heard, Superior’s trucks and customers began to disappear. By the time drivers were awarded $2.4 million in back pay in Spring 2015, the company was well on its way to shutting down.

According to a lawsuit filed by the drivers, the company assets didn’t go far. Superior Dispatch owner Melinda Melgar gave them to her son, who operates his own hauling operation, Roadking Trucking, the suit alleged. Last year, at least seven former Superior Dispatch trucks appeared at the harbor hauling loads for Roadking at least once, port records show.

Superior Dispatch drivers still have not been paid.

“It’s classic fraudulent transfer if you transfer things to your relatives and you’re not given valuable consideration,” said attorney Stephen Glick, who represents the drivers.

Melgar did not respond to interview requests. Melgar’s son, Michael Noles, who still operates Roadking Trucking, did not respond to phone messages or letters seeking comment.

ADVERTISEMENT

Double Standard

Trucking companies can easily hide assets and avoid paying judgments, in part, because of how long it takes officials to process cases and a patchwork of enforcement strategies that often leaves drivers to fend for themselves.

The average time between complaint and judgment is almost 21 months, according to the USA TODAY Network’s analysis of California labor commissioner records. Some cases took more than three years.

Anthony Mischel, a retired hearing officer at the California labor commissioner’s office, said an overworked staff and poor enforcement “gives people a long time to go out of business or disappear.”

“They’ve never had adequate staffing for all their functions,” he said. “The longer it takes, the harder it is to collect.”

California Labor Commissioner Julie Su.

California Labor Commission
California Labor Commissioner Julie Su said her office has been scrambling to keep up since an influx of port trucking cases started in 2011. Almost 900 port trucking cases fell on a single office, staffed by 43 people, in Long Beach, where lease-to-own programs took hold in port trucking nearly a decade ago.

Neither Su nor the California legislature added or shifted significant staff to the Long Beach office to handle the demand.

Three new attorney positions were added to process wage cases in general. But Su said that hasn’t been enough.

“We are playing whack-a-mole,” Su said. As her agency has handed down more judgments, port trucking companies have evolved, using “elaborate schemes to cheat drivers.”

As a result, she estimated, a third of the companies simply ignore the judgments they receive, while many of the rest wage long legal battles to fight them.

Another problem: After a company is ordered to repay its workers, labor commissioner attorneys rarely get involved in enforcing the judgments. In fact, they are prevented from doing so if the workers have hired their own private attorney or if drivers don’t formally request help from the state.

“I’m not gonna paint a rosy picture,” Su said. “I’m not going to sit and say we have done all that we need to do. We have more to do.”

A USA TODAY investigation finds America's retail giants have spent a decade ignoring signs of labor abuse in their supply chains, sometimes fighting government efforts to crack down, even as thousands of truckers were driven into debt and poverty.

Scott Hall, USA TODAY NETWORK
In early September – more than two years after drivers won their cases against Fargo – CEO Philip Ting and his accountant Gershom Shing called about 20 of them to a meeting in a warehouse.

Ting gave the drivers a choice: accept $7,000 now or he would file for bankruptcy, an action that could erase any hope they had of collecting. Most of them are owed more than $100,000.

“He said, ‘We don’t have that money,’” recalled someone at the meeting, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity because he fears retaliation. Two other employees independently described a nearly identical scene.

So far, drivers have not accepted Ting’s offer, or subsequent ones for more money.

“They go after at us at our weakest point,” one worker said, worried about losing his job, his truck and any possibility of getting paid back if the company goes under.

“Where does that leave us? No loads. No work for us.”

Every day, thousands of trucks enter the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, where nearly half of all imports come into the country on their way to retailers nationwide.

Omar Ornelas, USA TODAY Network
Brett Murphy began reporting this story while in the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT BY: Angelo Cocci, Mitchell Thorson, Shawn Sullivan, Chad Palmer, Frank Pompa, Ramon Padilla and Jim Sergent, USA TODAY.

Tags: Truckerswage theftslave laborunionization
Categories: Labor News

The Critical Role of Internationalism In Workers Struggles With Bob Carnegi MUA Queensland & IDC

Current News - Thu, 10/26/2017 - 12:18

The Critical Role of Internationalism In Workers Struggles With Bob Carnegi MUA Queensland & IDC
https://youtu.be/vgtZqnpMxI0
Bob Carnegi who is Secretary of the Maritime Union Of Australia MUA Queensland Branch and a representative of the International Dockworkers Council IDC spoke at the founding conference of the Workers Solidarity Action Network WSAN. It was held on October 7, 2017 at UAW Local 551 in Chicago.
For more media:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNbvWfS1HYs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmTbfEhDWPQ
For more information:
https://www.facebook.com/events/371406356586798/
Production of
Labor Video Project
www.laborvideo.org

Tags: MUAQueensland MUAworkers strugglesdemocracy
Categories: Labor News

Canada: Unifor revokes award to Aung San Suu Kyi

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 10/24/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Unifor
Categories: Labor News

What Taxi and Uber Drivers Really Think About the Ride-Sharing Boom

Current News - Tue, 10/24/2017 - 10:33

What Taxi and Uber Drivers Really Think About the Ride-Sharing Boom
http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/20624/Traxi-Uber-Lyft-ride-share-a...

FRIDAY, OCT 20, 2017, 4:25 PM

BY TEKE WIGGIN

Yellow Cab driver Asterfo Payano stands in front of his car. (Teke Wiggin)

Tony Cobain, a recent college graduate in Washington, D.C., drives part-time for Lyft and Uber, so he can support himself while he pursues a career in entertainment. Along the way, he’s built his network and even snagged the occasional date.

Ride-hailing apps have been less kind to New York City yellow cab driver Asterfo Payano: He says he works harder and still earns much less than he did five years ago.

And Raul Rivera, a full-time New York Lyft and Uber driver, calls his job a “modern form of slavery.”

Ride-hailing apps have brought a new level of convenience to many consumers and provided new work opportunities. But these benefits have often come at the expense of full-time drivers’ wages and job stability. Both traditional taxi drivers and ride-hailing drivers are feeling increasingly squeezed.

Whether there’s room for improvement in this tradeoff depends on whom you ask. Many workers are pushing for a fairer deal, but some consumers and drivers, particularly part-timers, are leery of stricter regulation or driver unionization. Aggressive campaigning by ride-hailing companies has helped fuel opposition to such measures.

“The problem is that we haven’t figured out how to appropriately regulate ridesharing yet, so that we can capture the benefits without enabling all these harms,” Brishen Rogers, a labor law professor at Temple University, told In These Times.

“[Ride-hailing apps] are able to ensure that customers never have a very long wait or a very high cost for a ride,” Rogers said. However, he added, “the convenience is coming at the cost of a decent standard of living for drivers.”

“I just do this to get Twitter followers”

Cobain typically works for Uber and Lyft from 3:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. four days a week, earning around $28 an hour after the cost of gas, he says.

The 23-year-old said he doesn’t have to worry about paying for maintenance and car insurance, because he uses his parents’ car. And he’s also covered by their health insurance plan.

The part-time work has allowed Cobain to build a music video company and a non-profit that makes films for people who suffer from debilitating mental illnesses.

“I don’t want to keep asking parents for money and stuff,” he said. “I kind of use both of these platforms to fund my business ventures, and whatever is left over is gas and Whole Foods money.”

Plus, he says he has turned many of his passengers into fans.

“This is how you get girls,” one female passenger teased him after she proposed drinks. “I was like, ‘no, no. I just do this to get Twitter followers.’”

There’s no doubt that ride-hailing apps have made it easier and cheaper to hire a driver.

But like many “sharing-economy” companies, ride-hailing services “are really providing services to Yuppies,” Rogers argues.

Hard times for drivers

Meanwhile, full-time drivers like Payano, a 70-year-old yellow cab driver with 12 years of experience, are paying a price.

He shuttles passengers around Manhattan from 5:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. six days a week, earning $14 an hour on a good day, after expenses. That’s down from roughly $20 an hour five years ago, before Uber caught on, according to Payano

“I have to work a lot harder,” he said. “I can’t afford to take three breaks in the day. I take one.”

But even though times are tough, Payano and some of his peers say it still beats working for Lyft or Uber.

“I can see my income is going low, low, less, less,” said MD Asadullah, another New York City yellow cab driver. “If I go Uber, it will be way less.”

Indeed, long gone are the days when Uber and Lyft drivers could often make a killing, many drivers and analysts say (although Cobain might beg to differ).

Flooding the market with drivers while continually hacking away at fees hasn’t only squeezed taxis: Uber and Lyft drivers must compete more for passengers while earning less from each ride, said Rogers, the Temple University professor.

Ride-hailing drivers today earn roughly half the hourly wage that they did five years ago, reckons Harry Campbell, an industry expert who publishes the blog The Rideshare Guy.

On average, Uber drivers bring in $15.68 per hour and Lyft drivers $17.50 per hour before expenses, according to a survey of more than 1,000 drivers that Campbell conducted with help from researchers at Stanford University. After expenses, those figures likely fall by $4 or $5, according to Campbell.

“They [ride-hailing companies] aren’t saying, ‘Hey, you’re going to make as much as a McDonald’s cashier,’ but that’s turning out to be the situation for many drivers and maybe even a majority of drivers,” he said.

Asked about allegedly worsening conditions for full-time drivers, Lyft spokesman Scott Coriell said that the company has extended economic opportunities that didn’t previously exist to hundreds of thousands of people.

Lyft is “constantly working to help drivers succeed,” he added, pointing to the company’s introduction of tipping, same-day payments and “low-cost [car] rentals.”

Uber declined to comment for this article.

"I don’t like regulations, but sometimes they’re necessary"

Ride-hailing companies may profess a commitment to their drivers. But it doesn’t feel that way to Raul Rivera, a full-time Uber and Lyft driver who says he has been treated like a serf.

About a year ago, he signed a lease-to-own contract for an expensive SUV so he could provide higher-paying luxury rides.

Soon after, Uber instituted a new policy that required drivers to have a customer satisfaction rating of at least 4.8 to give luxury rides, he said. The driver’s rating fell short, so his investment has backfired.

He must work 70 hours a week to eke out $700 in profit (which works out to $10 an hour), and he said he is shackled by his lease.

The government should increase minimum fares and restrict the number of drivers, he said: “I don’t like regulations, but sometimes they’re necessary.”

Collective bargaining on the horizon?

Encouraging collective bargaining would be another way to protect drivers, although the fact that they tend to be classified as contractors makes formally unionizing “incredibly difficult,” Rogers said.

The App-Based Drivers Association, a Teamsters-affiliated group for Seattle ride-hailing drivers, and the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA) are among organizations that have successfully pushed for better working conditions for drivers.

But the drivers they represent don’t have traditional collective bargaining rights. That could change in Seattle if a law that was passed in 2015 to allow taxi and ride-hailing drivers to formally unionize can survive legal challenges.

In addition to legal barriers, resistance from part-time drivers, who might see unions as a threat to the work flexibility afforded by ride-hailing apps, could prove an obstacle to collective bargaining, according to Campbell. Some Seattle drivers have spoken out against unionization, and a handful have sued the city to try to prevent it.

“They’re not as invested,” Campbell said. “For them to join a union is a much bigger ask.”

Representing the majority of ride-hailing drivers, part-time drivers benefit most from the ability to set their own hours, and they are less sensitive to price cuts and policy changes, according to Campbell, the publisher of the Ride Share Guy blog.

“The messaging that comes out from the app-based companies is more one of fear, telling them that somehow by collective bargaining… they’re going to lose flexibility, and nothing could be further from the truth,” said Leonard Smith, director of organizing and strategy at Teamsters Local 117, which hopes to negotiate contracts for Seattle taxi and ride-hailing drivers.

"The drivers are going to win eventually"

Cobain, who began driving for Uber and Lyft less than six months ago, says he’s heard Lyft and Uber don’t pay as well as they used to, and some drivers ask him how he can make the numbers work.

He says he drives early in the morning to cash in on “surge pricing,” when Uber and Lyft boost fares amid high demand and low driver supply.

For now, the work is a leg for him to stand on while he pursues his passions.

“I would oppose a union,” he said. “I actually prefer it the way it is. More flexibility.”

Labor activist Jonathan Rosenblum thinks such an attitude can change, having watched different groups of drivers find common cause in Seattle.

“I’m confident that the drivers are going to win eventually, and then Uber and the other companies are going to have their day of reckoning of having to sit down with the drivers and negotiate the terms of their work,” he told In These Times. “And that is a good thing.”

TEKE WIGGIN
Teke Wiggin covers labor, economic inequality and housing. Follow him at @tkwiggin.

Tags: UberregulationTaxi
Categories: Labor News

What Taxi and Uber Drivers Really Think About the Ride-Sharing Boom

Current News - Tue, 10/24/2017 - 10:33

What Taxi and Uber Drivers Really Think About the Ride-Sharing Boom
http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/20624/Traxi-Uber-Lyft-ride-share-a...

FRIDAY, OCT 20, 2017, 4:25 PM

BY TEKE WIGGIN

Yellow Cab driver Asterfo Payano stands in front of his car. (Teke Wiggin)

Tony Cobain, a recent college graduate in Washington, D.C., drives part-time for Lyft and Uber, so he can support himself while he pursues a career in entertainment. Along the way, he’s built his network and even snagged the occasional date.

Ride-hailing apps have been less kind to New York City yellow cab driver Asterfo Payano: He says he works harder and still earns much less than he did five years ago.

And Raul Rivera, a full-time New York Lyft and Uber driver, calls his job a “modern form of slavery.”

Ride-hailing apps have brought a new level of convenience to many consumers and provided new work opportunities. But these benefits have often come at the expense of full-time drivers’ wages and job stability. Both traditional taxi drivers and ride-hailing drivers are feeling increasingly squeezed.

Whether there’s room for improvement in this tradeoff depends on whom you ask. Many workers are pushing for a fairer deal, but some consumers and drivers, particularly part-timers, are leery of stricter regulation or driver unionization. Aggressive campaigning by ride-hailing companies has helped fuel opposition to such measures.

“The problem is that we haven’t figured out how to appropriately regulate ridesharing yet, so that we can capture the benefits without enabling all these harms,” Brishen Rogers, a labor law professor at Temple University, told In These Times.

“[Ride-hailing apps] are able to ensure that customers never have a very long wait or a very high cost for a ride,” Rogers said. However, he added, “the convenience is coming at the cost of a decent standard of living for drivers.”

“I just do this to get Twitter followers”

Cobain typically works for Uber and Lyft from 3:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. four days a week, earning around $28 an hour after the cost of gas, he says.

The 23-year-old said he doesn’t have to worry about paying for maintenance and car insurance, because he uses his parents’ car. And he’s also covered by their health insurance plan.

The part-time work has allowed Cobain to build a music video company and a non-profit that makes films for people who suffer from debilitating mental illnesses.

“I don’t want to keep asking parents for money and stuff,” he said. “I kind of use both of these platforms to fund my business ventures, and whatever is left over is gas and Whole Foods money.”

Plus, he says he has turned many of his passengers into fans.

“This is how you get girls,” one female passenger teased him after she proposed drinks. “I was like, ‘no, no. I just do this to get Twitter followers.’”

There’s no doubt that ride-hailing apps have made it easier and cheaper to hire a driver.

But like many “sharing-economy” companies, ride-hailing services “are really providing services to Yuppies,” Rogers argues.

Hard times for drivers

Meanwhile, full-time drivers like Payano, a 70-year-old yellow cab driver with 12 years of experience, are paying a price.

He shuttles passengers around Manhattan from 5:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. six days a week, earning $14 an hour on a good day, after expenses. That’s down from roughly $20 an hour five years ago, before Uber caught on, according to Payano

“I have to work a lot harder,” he said. “I can’t afford to take three breaks in the day. I take one.”

But even though times are tough, Payano and some of his peers say it still beats working for Lyft or Uber.

“I can see my income is going low, low, less, less,” said MD Asadullah, another New York City yellow cab driver. “If I go Uber, it will be way less.”

Indeed, long gone are the days when Uber and Lyft drivers could often make a killing, many drivers and analysts say (although Cobain might beg to differ).

Flooding the market with drivers while continually hacking away at fees hasn’t only squeezed taxis: Uber and Lyft drivers must compete more for passengers while earning less from each ride, said Rogers, the Temple University professor.

Ride-hailing drivers today earn roughly half the hourly wage that they did five years ago, reckons Harry Campbell, an industry expert who publishes the blog The Rideshare Guy.

On average, Uber drivers bring in $15.68 per hour and Lyft drivers $17.50 per hour before expenses, according to a survey of more than 1,000 drivers that Campbell conducted with help from researchers at Stanford University. After expenses, those figures likely fall by $4 or $5, according to Campbell.

“They [ride-hailing companies] aren’t saying, ‘Hey, you’re going to make as much as a McDonald’s cashier,’ but that’s turning out to be the situation for many drivers and maybe even a majority of drivers,” he said.

Asked about allegedly worsening conditions for full-time drivers, Lyft spokesman Scott Coriell said that the company has extended economic opportunities that didn’t previously exist to hundreds of thousands of people.

Lyft is “constantly working to help drivers succeed,” he added, pointing to the company’s introduction of tipping, same-day payments and “low-cost [car] rentals.”

Uber declined to comment for this article.

"I don’t like regulations, but sometimes they’re necessary"

Ride-hailing companies may profess a commitment to their drivers. But it doesn’t feel that way to Raul Rivera, a full-time Uber and Lyft driver who says he has been treated like a serf.

About a year ago, he signed a lease-to-own contract for an expensive SUV so he could provide higher-paying luxury rides.

Soon after, Uber instituted a new policy that required drivers to have a customer satisfaction rating of at least 4.8 to give luxury rides, he said. The driver’s rating fell short, so his investment has backfired.

He must work 70 hours a week to eke out $700 in profit (which works out to $10 an hour), and he said he is shackled by his lease.

The government should increase minimum fares and restrict the number of drivers, he said: “I don’t like regulations, but sometimes they’re necessary.”

Collective bargaining on the horizon?

Encouraging collective bargaining would be another way to protect drivers, although the fact that they tend to be classified as contractors makes formally unionizing “incredibly difficult,” Rogers said.

The App-Based Drivers Association, a Teamsters-affiliated group for Seattle ride-hailing drivers, and the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA) are among organizations that have successfully pushed for better working conditions for drivers.

But the drivers they represent don’t have traditional collective bargaining rights. That could change in Seattle if a law that was passed in 2015 to allow taxi and ride-hailing drivers to formally unionize can survive legal challenges.

In addition to legal barriers, resistance from part-time drivers, who might see unions as a threat to the work flexibility afforded by ride-hailing apps, could prove an obstacle to collective bargaining, according to Campbell. Some Seattle drivers have spoken out against unionization, and a handful have sued the city to try to prevent it.

“They’re not as invested,” Campbell said. “For them to join a union is a much bigger ask.”

Representing the majority of ride-hailing drivers, part-time drivers benefit most from the ability to set their own hours, and they are less sensitive to price cuts and policy changes, according to Campbell, the publisher of the Ride Share Guy blog.

“The messaging that comes out from the app-based companies is more one of fear, telling them that somehow by collective bargaining… they’re going to lose flexibility, and nothing could be further from the truth,” said Leonard Smith, director of organizing and strategy at Teamsters Local 117, which hopes to negotiate contracts for Seattle taxi and ride-hailing drivers.

"The drivers are going to win eventually"

Cobain, who began driving for Uber and Lyft less than six months ago, says he’s heard Lyft and Uber don’t pay as well as they used to, and some drivers ask him how he can make the numbers work.

He says he drives early in the morning to cash in on “surge pricing,” when Uber and Lyft boost fares amid high demand and low driver supply.

For now, the work is a leg for him to stand on while he pursues his passions.

“I would oppose a union,” he said. “I actually prefer it the way it is. More flexibility.”

Labor activist Jonathan Rosenblum thinks such an attitude can change, having watched different groups of drivers find common cause in Seattle.

“I’m confident that the drivers are going to win eventually, and then Uber and the other companies are going to have their day of reckoning of having to sit down with the drivers and negotiate the terms of their work,” he told In These Times. “And that is a good thing.”

TEKE WIGGIN
Teke Wiggin covers labor, economic inequality and housing. Follow him at @tkwiggin.

Tags: UberregulationTaxi
Categories: Labor News

Australia: Police Raid on Union Offices a Media Stunt

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITUC
Categories: Labor News

Australia: AFP raids Australian Workers Union headquarters in Sydney and Melbourne

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Guardian
Categories: Labor News

fleet memo for October 21 2017

IBU - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 15:40
.
Categories: Unions

fleet memo for October 14 2017

IBU - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 15:40
.
Categories: Unions

Chicago CTA Rail Transit Workers Signal Trouble Ahead

Current News - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 14:27

Chicago CTA Rail Transit Workers Signal Trouble Ahead
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARts1Zjcn-4

Published on Oct 12, 2017Chicago’s Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308 (rail) members and officers are telling the public about their fight for a fair contract. On October 5, 2017 they leafleted and spoke with sympathetic transit riders at the big Howard Street Red Line transit hub on the north side. Working without a contract now for over a year, they may have to strike. Interviews with CTA switchmen, railmen, flagmen, trainmen.

Labor Beat is a CAN TV Community Partner. Labor Beat is a non-profit 501(c)(3) member of IBEW 1220. Views are those of the producer Labor Beat. For info: mail@laborbeat.org, www.laborbeat.org. 312-226-3330. Labor Beat, 37 S. Ashland Ave., Chicago, IL 60607. For other Labor Beat videos, visit YouTube and search "Labor Beat". On Chicago CAN TV Channel 19, Thursdays 9:30 pm; Fridays 4:30 pm. Labor Beat is a regular cable-tv series in Chicago, Rockford, Urbana, IL; Philadelphia, PA; Princeton, NJ; Cambridge, MA.

Tags: Chicago CTAATU 308strikeno contract
Categories: Labor News

Chicago CTA Rail Transit Workers Signal Trouble Ahead

Current News - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 14:27

Chicago CTA Rail Transit Workers Signal Trouble Ahead
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARts1Zjcn-4

Published on Oct 12, 2017Chicago’s Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308 (rail) members and officers are telling the public about their fight for a fair contract. On October 5, 2017 they leafleted and spoke with sympathetic transit riders at the big Howard Street Red Line transit hub on the north side. Working without a contract now for over a year, they may have to strike. Interviews with CTA switchmen, railmen, flagmen, trainmen.

Labor Beat is a CAN TV Community Partner. Labor Beat is a non-profit 501(c)(3) member of IBEW 1220. Views are those of the producer Labor Beat. For info: mail@laborbeat.org, www.laborbeat.org. 312-226-3330. Labor Beat, 37 S. Ashland Ave., Chicago, IL 60607. For other Labor Beat videos, visit YouTube and search "Labor Beat". On Chicago CAN TV Channel 19, Thursdays 9:30 pm; Fridays 4:30 pm. Labor Beat is a regular cable-tv series in Chicago, Rockford, Urbana, IL; Philadelphia, PA; Princeton, NJ; Cambridge, MA.

Tags: Chicago CTAATU 308strikeno contract
Categories: Labor News

Canadian USWA Local 1014 Taxi union renews call for safety measures after 'brutal' attack on driver

Current News - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 13:47

Canadian USWA Local 1014 Taxi union renews call for safety measures after 'brutal' attack on driver

http://ht.ly/CUXB30g1ZAP

ALEX MACPHERSON, SASKATOON STARPHOENIX
Published on: October 19, 2017 | Last Updated: October 19, 2017 6:00 AM CST
The union representing Saskatoon’s taxi drivers called on city council to reopen a debate on driver safety after a “brutal” attack by a passenger left a cabbie with severe bruising to the face over the weekend.

“With three recent, serious incidents against drivers, the time to act is now,” United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1014 president Malik Draz said in a statement, referring to the beating late Friday night and two unrelated incidents in March.

“We must work together to legislate protective equipment and ensure that the violent perpetrators are held criminally accountable for these assaults.”

The latest attack happened around 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 13 after a Comfort Cabs driver picked up a man and two women on 22nd Street and they started fighting and “becoming belligerent,” according to Saskatoon police spokeswoman Julie Clark.

The driver, whose name was not released, told the passengers to get out of the vehicle but they refused, Clark said in an email. At that point, the driver and a 20-year-old man stepped out of the vehicle and “a physical altercation” ensued, Clark wrote.

The suspect fled but was soon found, arrested and charged with assault. The remaining two passengers were arrested and subsequently released. The driver suffered “minor injuries” and was checked out by paramedics at the scene, according to Clark.

Draz’s call to re-open the debate comes months after city administrators, in response to a request from USW Local 2014, said safety shields designed to separate drivers from passengers should be optional because taxis already have sufficient safety equipment.

The union subsequently requested council’s standing committee on transportation consider the installation of flashing amber lights on taxis, which can be used to signal an emergency. The committee referred the request to administrators.

“These assaults are not isolated incidents and these three attacks are just the ones that were reported,” USW staff representative Mike Pulak said. “Many drivers face verbal and physical assaults. City hall needs to take action to improve their working conditions now.”

amacpherson@postmedia.com
twitter.com/macphersona

Tags: USWA 1014Saskatoon's tax driversracismxenophobiaimmigrant workers
Categories: Labor News

Canadian USWA Local 1014 Taxi union renews call for safety measures after 'brutal' attack on driver

Current News - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 13:47

Canadian USWA Local 1014 Taxi union renews call for safety measures after 'brutal' attack on driver

http://ht.ly/CUXB30g1ZAP

ALEX MACPHERSON, SASKATOON STARPHOENIX
Published on: October 19, 2017 | Last Updated: October 19, 2017 6:00 AM CST
The union representing Saskatoon’s taxi drivers called on city council to reopen a debate on driver safety after a “brutal” attack by a passenger left a cabbie with severe bruising to the face over the weekend.

“With three recent, serious incidents against drivers, the time to act is now,” United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1014 president Malik Draz said in a statement, referring to the beating late Friday night and two unrelated incidents in March.

“We must work together to legislate protective equipment and ensure that the violent perpetrators are held criminally accountable for these assaults.”

The latest attack happened around 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 13 after a Comfort Cabs driver picked up a man and two women on 22nd Street and they started fighting and “becoming belligerent,” according to Saskatoon police spokeswoman Julie Clark.

The driver, whose name was not released, told the passengers to get out of the vehicle but they refused, Clark said in an email. At that point, the driver and a 20-year-old man stepped out of the vehicle and “a physical altercation” ensued, Clark wrote.

The suspect fled but was soon found, arrested and charged with assault. The remaining two passengers were arrested and subsequently released. The driver suffered “minor injuries” and was checked out by paramedics at the scene, according to Clark.

Draz’s call to re-open the debate comes months after city administrators, in response to a request from USW Local 2014, said safety shields designed to separate drivers from passengers should be optional because taxis already have sufficient safety equipment.

The union subsequently requested council’s standing committee on transportation consider the installation of flashing amber lights on taxis, which can be used to signal an emergency. The committee referred the request to administrators.

“These assaults are not isolated incidents and these three attacks are just the ones that were reported,” USW staff representative Mike Pulak said. “Many drivers face verbal and physical assaults. City hall needs to take action to improve their working conditions now.”

amacpherson@postmedia.com
twitter.com/macphersona

Tags: USWA 1014Saskatoon's tax driversracismxenophobiaimmigrant workers
Categories: Labor News

Puerto Rico and the Jones Act Conundrum

Current News - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 09:09

Puerto Rico and the Jones Act Conundrum
https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/10/23/puerto-rico-and-the-jones-act-co...
by JACK HEYMAN

OCTOBER 23, 2017

When Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on September 20, the whole transportation and communication infrastructure went down- the power grid, bridges, roads, cell towers- devastating the entire island. Most people are still without the basic necessities of life, a month later. Emergency logistics are dysfunctional and telephone service barely exists.

FEMA’s bumbling for one month has looked like a rerun of a Keystone Cops movie. Although the marine terminals were loaded with commercial cargo since before the hurricane, there was no way for workers to reach the port facilities nor power to operate the port safely. Day after day cargo sat idle as people’s desperation for water, food and life-saving medicine mounts. The early death toll was 48, but NPR has reported an additional 49 deaths since the storm and Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Reporting found 69 hospitals had morgue at “capacity” as isolated towns and villages are reached the death toll will climb.

The Jones Act Under Attack……Anew

Often when a major accident occurs the mainstream media are quick to blame workers. However, in the case of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, many liberals and leftists have joined in the union bashing charging the Jones Act, which is supported by maritime unions, with stopping vital shipments of aid. While it may be true that Jones Act cargo may cost more, it is not true that the Act (which requires that shipping between U.S. ports be in U.S.-registered vessels) is preventing necessary aid from reaching the people. However, no such protectionist U.S. laws, including the Jones Act, should be imposed on the colony of Puerto Rico, and that goes for the U.S. imperialist embargo on trade with Cuba and trade sanctions on Venezuela and Russia as well.

The fact is there are plenty of U.S. bottoms to sail to the island. The Maritime Administration (MARAD) and the Department of Defense (DOD) manage 300 commercial vessels. And there are 4 Jones Act shipowners, Horizon, Sea Star, Crowley and Trailer Bridge that operate 5 container vessels and 12 barges on the Puerto Rico trade.

The blame for the lack of transportion and distribution of vital goods lies squarely with the U.S. government and its colonial oppression of Puerto Rico.

The Jones Act may pass on higher prices to an impoverished colonial people and that should not be, but there is another aspect to this question. Some of the most reactionary forces of the U.S. ruling class are trying to use the Puerto Rican hurricane relief crisis to get rid of the Jones Act, not because it would aid Puerto Rico but because it provides jobs for shipbuilders and seamen in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Much left opposition to the Jones Act comes from ignorance of the law and a knee jerk reaction to appear “anti-imperialist”. What it shows is their disconnect with the working class and blindness toward the capitalists’ machinations.

Capitalists and their news media often claim that good union wages cost the public higher prices. That’s the mantra of Walmart and the non-union big box stores who extol their “virtues” of the profit system. The danger is that this cacophony, unwittingly supported by “progressives”, could lead to repeal of the entire U.S. Jones Act, a longtime campaign of the right wing, anti-union National Review, Senator John McCain and most of the Wall Street banksters.

The 1920 Merchant Marine Act or the Jones Act as it is known was promulgated to protect the American shipbuilding and seafaring industries.

The Jones Act does not include the territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands nor should it include the colony of Puerto Rico. Both should be independent. However, it should remain intact for the continental U.S. Calling to free Puerto Rico from the restrictions of this U.S. cabotage law is part of the struggle for independence, but to call for abolition of the Jones Act in the U.S would mean the destruction of maritime unions and the loss of hard-won union jobs.

A Colony Faces Natural Catastrophe & Imperial Oppression

Today, the colony of Puerto Rico is in debt $70 billion dollars and is basically bankrupt. The island just sustained damage from Hurricane Maria up to $95 billion dollars, according to Moody’s Analytics. While President Trump has offered Puerto Rico a loan of $9.4 billion dollars, the state of New Jersey was granted $50 billion in emergency federal aid after Hurricane Sandy. But Puerto Rico is a colony.

U.S. army veteran Ricardo Ortiz a patient in the VA Hospital in San Juan warns “American troops, just like in Haiti a few years ago after the earthquake there, are not here in Puerto Rico to aid the people. They are an imperialist occupying force and no imperialist army can free a colonized nation. ” Blackwater, the murderous military security firm, is patrolling the streets of San Juan. Ortiz went on to say that barrios in his hometown, Caguas, are self-organizing humanitarian efforts to clean the streets, distribute and share food, drinking water and medicines. The demand should be raised for all U.S. forces, including the private security firm Blackwater, out of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico is run by the Control Board set up by Obama in 2016 under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA). Puerto Ricans on the island didn’t vote for this Control Board just as they have no congressional representation or right to vote for president. It is a colony under naked imperialist rule. The 10 day waiver of the Jones Act has ended. It must be extended and Puerto Rico excised from it.

Yet, blaming the Jones Act is really a diversion. The real capitalist drive is for privatization. That gem is the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), the largest publicly-owned utility in U.S.-controlled territory. With 90% of the electric grid down, the “green” capitalist Elon Musk offered to help rebuild the electric grid (and bulk up his profits). And Governor Rosello, the comprador bourgeois politician, suggested Musk make this his “flagship” project.

Both Democrat and Republican parties support the colonization of Puerto Rico and U.S. imperialist war policies. Their neo-liberal capitalist privatization schemes have targeted for years anything public, i.e. schools, prisons, social security. Many leftists oppose privatization of PREPA but support abolition of the Jones Act which would effectively eliminate U.S. merchant marine jobs as companies would use foreign flag registry to avoid union contracts.

Why were leftists silent 25 years ago when the Puerto Rican government-owned Navieras de Puerto Rico which owned several ships was privatized and sold to the North American capitalists, Bankers Trust? The ships were later sold to Sea Star Line, a joint venture of Saltchuck (45%), Matson (45%), and Taino (10%), the Puerto Rican “pitiyanqui” capitalists. Saltchuck moved aggressively to buy out Matson.

Higher shipping rates on the Puerto Rico run were due, not to the Jones Act per se, but to actual price-fixing. In 2008, six executives of Saltchuck’s Sea Star Line, Crowley Maritime and Horizon Lines, all involved in the Jones Act trade of Puerto Rico were sentenced to prison for conspiring to fix ocean freight rates and cargo allocations. They incurred criminal fines, legal expenses and settlements of $100 million. Now, Saltchuck’s Sea Star Lines and Crowley Maritime are each building two new Jones Act containerships for the lucrative Puerto Rico trade.

In 2015, Saltchuck’s rush for profit drove its Tote Maritime ship, El Faro, into the eye of Hurricane Joaquin en route from Jacksonville to San Juan resulting in the loss of the entire crew of 33. The U.S. Coast Guard, in the pocket of the maritime companies, blamed the hapless captain who went down with his ship and couldn’t defend himself.

The Downside of the Jones Act

The contradiction in the Jones Act is that while it provided fertile grounds for union organizing, other motivations were national security and protectionism. Two seminal acts during the anti-communist McCarthy period made that clear by introducing toxic policies, one for foreign policy the other domestic. Both opened the floodgates for union-busting runaway flag ships. The anti-Soviet Marshall Plan began the process of transferring U.S. merchant vessels to registration in other countries like Greece, part of a campaign to encircle the Soviet Union and the Soviet Bloc countries. U.S. financing of anti-communist parties and trade unions was well known in Europe, especially in France and Italy where the left led mass parties of the working class. It’s no wonder that charges of Russia interfering in recent American elections are met with laughter and derision in those countries.

The second dose of toxicity was the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, called the slave labor bill by unions. Aside from forcing workers on strike back to work, it banned reds from holding union office and made sympathy strikes illegal, all essential building blocks of the labor movement. On top of that the Coast Guard screened thousands of maritime workers from ships and ports, branding them communists. Many of them were black and brown, including Puerto Ricans and Jamaicans. A couple years before the crew of a merchant ship organized by the Communist-influenced National Maritime Union (NMU) sent President Truman a telegram protesting their transport of French soldiers back to Vietnam to recolonize that country. That was the first U.S. protest against the imperialist war in Vietnam.

The evisceration of the maritime unions was complete when militants of all stripes were purged by union officials-turned-finks like Joe Curran, president of the NMU. What began as a trickle of runaway flag ships with foreign registry became a flood. The Jones Act only protected coastwide trade not trade union jobs. But by then the deep sea unions were left defenseless with no militants to organize internationally.

The West Coast ILWU was the only maritime union to remain unscathed by the anti-red terror and became a haven for many who were purged from other unions. It was the only maritime union to have opposed U.S. imperialist wars from the Korean War to the Middle East. On May Day 2008, the longshore union shutdown all West Coast ports to demand an end to the imperialist wars. ILWU even called for Puerto Rican independence and opposed the U.S. using the island of Vieques as a military target practise.

Retired longshoreman Jose Ojeda Jimenez, like his father before him, worked in the port of San Juan. He identifies himself as a proud ”independentista and socialista” who opposes the Jones Act being imposed on Puerto Rico. A member of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) Local 1575 he fought within his union for years against a discriminatory practise that denied Puerto Rican locals equal benefits like the pension and Container Royalty. Those benefits are provided for all longshoremen in the Master Contract, but shamefully not for those in the colony of Puerto Rico. ILA locals, especially the predominantly African American locals in the Southeast and Gulf ports, should demand equal treatment for all longshore union members.

U.S. Stops International Humanitarian Aid to Puerto Rico

An offer of teams of doctors and medical aid from Cuba was made to Puerto Rico, but President Trump has denied the humanitarian aid and continues to ramp up the illegal blockade of Cuba. Venezuela President Maduro pledged a “special plan of support and solidarity” assumed to be donated petroleum. That too has been rejected. Why? Venezuela is the majority owner of CITGO which maintains state-of-the-art refineries in Texas. Russia’s state-owned Rosneft owns 49.9% of CITGO and U.S. sanctions against both countries are what sank that offer of aid. Likewise, the Hess Oil refinery on the U.S. territorial island of St. Croix adjacent to Puerto Rico, and half-owned by the Venezuela government was closed in 2012. At the time it was the largest petroleum refinery in the world. Its shuttering reeks of U.S. imperial designs in the Caribbean.

Hostile relations against Russia, Cuba and Venezuela didn’t start with Trump. The U.S., has attempted to militarily overthrow the government in each of those countries: Russia (U.S. Expeditionary Force 1918-1920), Cuba (Bay of Pigs 1961) and Venezuela (U.S.-backed military coup 2002). Vietnam is a big exporter of rice to Cuba. Shipping rice to Puerto Rico would not be in violation of the Jones Act, however it could jeopardize relations with the U.S. that Vietnam has been cultivating through the TransPacific Partnership (TPP).

United Socialist Islands of the Caribbean

Perhaps the arrogant imperial disdain for the plight of the working people of Puerto Rico will stir the cauldron of their desire for freedom and independence. That struggle must transcend the narrow confines of U.S. bourgeois democracy which even denies that Puerto Rico is a colony while the comprador bourgeoisie is besotted with their imperialist American partners. A revolutionary Puerto Rican socialist movement, the embers of which were seen in the celebration of the release of Puerto Rican freedom fighter Oscar Lopez Rivera after 36 years in prison, could rise up with the call for independence and reach out to the working class in the Virgin Islands, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti and Trinidad and forge a united socialist islands of the Caribbean.

Jack Heyman (jackheyman@mac.com) is chair of the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee www.transportworkers.org and a retired longshoreman who writes on labor politics and history.

Tags: Puerto RicoJones ActILA
Categories: Labor News

Ford Owned SF Chariot Bus Service Using Drivers Without Proper Training-IBT Supporting Privatization of Transportation in SF With Chariot To Get New Members

Current News - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 06:58

Ford Owned SF Chariot Bus Service Using Drivers Without Proper Training-IBT Supporting Privatization of Transportation in SF With Chariot To Get New Members
Chariot, an app-enabled private bus service owned by Ford Motor Company

CHP inspections revealed some Chariot drivers drove without proper licenses

http://www.sfexaminer.com/chp-inspections-revealed-chariot-drivers-drove...

Regulators ordered private bus service Chariot to cease operations in California last Wednesday. Now, records obtained by the San Francisco Examiner reveal why.

On three separate California Highway Patrol inspections, at least seven Chariot drivers were found to be driving without Class B licenses, which certify them to drive buses, according to inspection documents obtained by the Examiner in a public records request.

CHP inspectors traditionally review a sample of all vehicles, leaving open the possibility of more drivers without proper licenses. Chariot did not respond to requests for comment.

CHP spokesperson Sgt. Rob Nacke said those inspections revealed some of Chariot’s drivers were driving with Class C licenses instead of Commercial Class B licenses — a violation of California law.

“We trust you are aware of the seriousness of this situation and will take immediate action to correct the deficiencies,” CHP Capt. L. M. Bishop wrote to Chariot CEO Ali Vahabzadeh in an Aug. 27 letter obtained by the Examiner.

The letter outlines meetings between the CHP and Chariot where they were warned non-compliance would result in the California Public Utilities Commission suspending Chariot’s authority to operate.

Though the distinction in licenses may seem minor, the Teamsters union, which recently organized Chariot’s 215 Bay Area drivers, said the expertise is important.

“We are deadly serious about those laws,” said Doug Bloch, political director with Teamsters Joint Council 7, which represents thousands of Teamsters statewide.

Chariot, a jitney service that’s accessible by smartphone app, falls under regulatory oversight by the CPUC and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. The SFMTA passed new regulations for Chariot last Tuesday, which requires wheelchair accessibility and data reporting for its 14-passenger vans.

“Our board voted to establish new local requirements to ensure that current and future private transit services operate in a way that is safe,” SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said.

Those new regulations take effect in November.

Last Thursday, however, Chariot abruptly ceased operations, leaving its 3,000 to 4,000 customers in San Francisco stranded — all for want of licenses.

Commercial Class B licenses show training has been attained in driving vehicles more than 26,000 pounds, or a three-axle vehicle weighing over 6,000 pounds, farm labor vehicles, or — crucially in this case — buses.

A Class C license is the one most everyday commuters carry in their wallets, allowing drivers behind the wheels of sedans and similar sized vehicles.

The CHP inspections of Chariot’s vehicles on the road in Napa in October 2016, as well as inspections of Chariot’s 95 Minna St. bus yard in March and August 2017, all found violations, according to inspection records obtained by the Examiner.

CHP inspected 20 vehicles and found one violation in 2016, according to an inspection document, and gave Chariot an “unsatisfactory rating.”

In the March inspection, the CHP found two violations out of 20 inspections.

In August, however, the CHP found its most drivers without licenses to date, as five of the drivers inspected were without Class B licenses, according to inspection documents.

Chariot did not ask for reviews of the CHP inspections.

When the Teamsters organized Chariot’s drivers in May, “this is something we found out,” Bloch said, of the need for Chariot’s drivers to attain Class B licenses. The Teamsters organized a license training program in San Francisco that operates Monday through Thursdays.

“The very first order of business for the union after we organized the workers was to educate them with Class B licenses,” Bloch said. “We did that before we organized the contract.”

Chariot paid for the training courses, Bloch said.

Ford Pushing Transit Privatization In San Francisco With Chariot
“This company is another one of these companies based on ‘We’re going to break the law, and go to city government to ask for forgiveness,’” said Sue Vaughan, who sits on the SFMTA’s citizen advisory council and has been a staunch critic of private transit services.
Vaughan has catalogued Chariot vehicles double parking to let out passengers, blocking Muni buses and engaging in other “scofflaw” behavior in dozens of photographs.
http://www.sfexaminer.com/new-sf-jitney-rules-ban-chariot-competing-dire...
New SF jitney rules ban Chariot from competing directly with Muni
Chariot, an app-enabled private bus service owned by Ford Motor Company, is the only company of its kind operating in The City. (Daniel Kim/Special to S.F. Examiner)
By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez on September 14, 2017 1:00 am
San Francisco jitney vans are set to see historically new regulations.Proposed rules to govern private transit vehicles — essentially buses run by companies — will go before the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors for a vote at their next meeting Tuesday.
The new rules, if approved, will be instated 30 days after the meeting and apply to any private transit service working explicitly within San Francisco. Only one such company exists right now — the app-enabled bus service, Chariot.
Among this new legal framework is a clause addressing a chief public concern: Private transit will be banned from replicating Muni routes.
“These regulations would require any new route does not duplicate Muni service,” said Alex Jonlin, an SFMTA transportation analyst, at a media briefing on the rules Wednesday.
Much of Chariot’s existing network replicates Muni Express and Rapid bus routes aimed at downtown workers. Those routes will be “grandfathered in,” Jonlin said.
New private transit routes that match Muni routes “75 percent” or more will not be allowed, Jonlin said, along with other requirements.
Exceptions would be made for routes that mimic Muni lines outside of its service hours, or connect to regional transit (except on Market Street), or serve substantially different stops.
The move to essentially cut off direct competition between private and public buses is one among many concerns the SFMTA will address with the new regulatory framework. Additionally, private transit companies will be required to share GPS data of its vehicles, ridership numbers, register for California Highway Patrol vehicle inspections, bolster safety training and provide equal access for people with disabilities.
The program will cost $250,000 annually to administer, according to the SFMTA, which will be recovered nearly entirely through administrative fees to Chariot. State law requires SFMTA only recoup the costs of such a program.
Chariot would not comment directly on the regulations, and said it would continue working with the SFMTA. Ford Motor Company bought Chariot, a startup, late last year. The sale price was not disclosed, but Business Insider cited sources who pinned the sale at “more than” $65 million.
Private jitney buses have operated on San Francisco streets for as long as automobiles have existed. Jitneys ferried San Franciscans to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915, and many Muni lines today run on former private bus lines.
However, private jitney service declined in the 1970s. At the time, jitneys were loosely regulated through a patchwork of laws at the San Francisco Police Department and elsewhere.
“Our big concern is public safety,” Kate Toran, head of SFMTA taxi services, said of creating new rules for jitneys in San Francisco.
The rules come after neighbors have complained of Chariot vehicles double parking, stopping in Muni bus stops and blocking driveways, according to the SFMTA.
The public made 62 complaints through email or 311 about Chariot and other private transit services, which are now defunct, since September 2015, according to the SFMTA. There have been 28 complaints in 2017 alone.
“This company is another one of these companies based on ‘We’re going to break the law, and go to city government to ask for forgiveness,’” said Sue Vaughan, who sits on the SFMTA’s citizen advisory council and has been a staunch critic of private transit services.
Vaughan has catalogued Chariot vehicles double parking to let out passengers, blocking Muni buses and engaging in other “scofflaw” behavior in dozens of photographs.
San Francisco State University geography professor Jason Henderson, who focuses on urban transportation, said even if Chariot is not allowed to compete with Muni, the regulations don’t go far enough.
“The City needs to be asking a soul searching question — is private transit really the right way to do things?” he said.
Though Henderson admits some San Franciscans simply don’t want to use Muni, either because they complain it’s too dirty, too crowded, or not as comfortable as hopping on a Chariot van, he said that’s beside the point.
Henderson added that two different modes of transit, a luxury option for those who can afford it, and a public option that faces possible disinvestment, doesn’t reflect San Francisco values.
“I think the solution is for those kinds of people to get over themselves,” he said.

Tags: IBTPublic TransitChariotFord
Categories: Labor News

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LabourStart headline - Source: Huffington Post
Categories: Labor News

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Categories: Labor News

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Categories: Labor News

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