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Canadian Ottawa Taxi drivers so angry about Uber 'it’s going to be out of control,' union leader warns

Current News - Wed, 07/08/2015 - 12:43

Canadian Ottawa Taxi drivers so angry about Uber 'it’s going to be out of control,' union leader warns
Published on: July 6, 2015 | Last Updated: July 6, 2015 5:39 PM EDT

OTT0212(2008)-(OTTAWA)-TAXI-Vanier Parkway at Montreal Rde--a convoy of taxis arrived at city hall this morning to protest the decision by city council to have them install expensive in-cab security cameras--for CITY standalone. PHOTO by PAT McGRATH, THE OTTAWA CITIZEN (CANWEST NEWS SERVICES) ASSIGNMENT NO. 88629 ----taxis; cabs; rally; demonstration PAT MCGRATH / THE OTTAWA CITIZEN

Ottawa’s cabbies are so furious over the city’s slack treatment of car-hiring company Uber that they’re practically out of control, the leader of the union at Capital Taxi said Monday.

Georges Chamoun had just come from a meeting with Mayor Jim Watson and other city officials. He and the leaders of union units at Ottawa’s other taxi companies want more charges laid against drivers who use Uber to find paying passengers without having taxi-driving licences or the city-issued plates that are deliberately kept scarce to make sure driving cabs pays decently.

“We’re looking for more enforcement to the bylaw at the municipality level,” Chamoun said, standing in a semicircle of about eight taxi-union leaders in the atrium at City Hall. Uber began operating in Ottawa last fall and the bylaw department has laid dozens of charges against its drivers since, but it’s not enough, he said.

“We are doing all the steps before the drivers, before we will lose control (of) what the drivers are going to do in the future,” Chamoun said. “They’re not listening to us anymore, the drivers. They don’t believe that we are doing enough and we are not fast enough to get out of this crisis, because the past nine months they’ve been suffering. They’ve been losing money. They can’t any more keep up with their bills, with their mortgages. They all have families and I can see it, that in the near future, is there is not any more control. We cannot control them any more. They’re going to go on the street. They’re going to, I don’t know. I don’t know. We heard it a lot from many drivers, they’re going to go out on the street and it’s going to be out of control.”


Licensed, plate-holding cabbies have usually made big investments in their occupations: the plates that let them drive taxis legally can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The city issues them but lets them be bought and sold rather than returned when a cabbie leaves the industry. Drivers who own their own plates or pay steep monthly rents to drive have a lot at stake if they can be undercut by plateless Uber drivers.

The cabbies want more bylaw enforcement and more involvement by the police (whose enforcement of the separate Highway Traffic Act can lead to stiffer punishments). Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, who chairs the police-services board, said the bylaw and police departments have worked together on blitzes and stings and will continue to. He’ll talk to Chief Charles Bordeleau about other ways they can co-operate, he said.

“I feel for them, I really do,” he said of the taxi drivers. He’s regularly “swarmed” at church by drivers who want to know what the city’s doing about bandit cabs, Uber and not.

The cabbies also want louder support from the city for legislation at Queen’s Park to toughen the system, Chamoun and the others with him said.

Two private-member’s bills that would do that are stalled in the provincial legislature because it doesn’t sit in the summer. They’re both from Ottawa MPPs, the Liberals’ John Fraser and the Progressive Conservatives’ Lisa MacLeod. Among other things, they would let bylaw officers give tickets that include demerit points, which now only police officers can.

As it stands, the city’s bylaw regulating the taxi industry clearly forbids private drivers’ picking up passengers and driving them for money. The city’s secured guilty pleas under it from drivers who’ve used Uber to find those paying passengers. But the legal status of Uber as a company isn’t as clear. It insists it’s a technology company, not a taxi brokerage, and not covered by any city rules.

A court ruling last week, interpreting Toronto’s similar bylaw, agreed with that. Uber is more like a phone company that relays messages back and forth, not a taxi company that takes calls and dispatches drivers, Judge Sean Dunphy ruled.

“Our mayor took a strong position against Uber,” said Amrik Singh, the leader of the union covering all of Ottawa’s cabbies, standing next to Chamoun. “He told us he’s going to say in the open that Uber is operating illegally and he will do anything to stop Uber from operating in the City of Ottawa.”

Well, sort of.

“Mayor Watson was very clear in today’s meeting that Uber is operating in violation of the city’s bylaw,” his spokesman Brook Simpson said. “Representatives from the taxi industry were reassured that the city’s bylaw officers will continue to enforce the laws as they are written. Mayor Watson also told those present today that he is urging the provincial government to pass John Fraser’s bill and that the city will do what it can, within its given powers, to enforce its bylaws.”

The city’s just about to embark on a review of its taxi bylaw.

“My instinct is to approach this in the role of the regulator,” said Coun. Diane Deans, who chairs the city council committee that regulates the taxi industry. “It’s not primarily to protect the way the taxi industry is currently operating. It’s to ensure that the safety of the public and consumer protection are paramount,” she said. Nobody inspects Uber drivers’ cars or makes sure they’re insured, for instance.

“Beyond that, I think the public will drive this industry and the changes that will go forward. So to a certain extent the industry has to recognize this is a disruptive technology and it’s not going away any time soon and there are going to have to be some changes,” Deans said.


Tags: Canadian Ottawa Taxi driversUber
Categories: Labor News

"No Peace, No Work," 2008 Mayday Longshore Strike Against the War Seattle ILWU Local 19 Stops Work Against Iraq War

Current News - Tue, 07/07/2015 - 12:26

"No Peace, No Work," 2008 Mayday Longshore Strike Against the War Seattle ILWU Local 19 Stops Work Against Iraq War


Uploaded on Jun 4, 2008
It was a moment without historical precedent, American workers striking against a war that their government is waging. On Mayday this year, the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) shut down every port on the west coast of the United Stated--all 26 of them--in opposition to the US war against the people of Iraq. A few weeks back we reported on the struggle of Iraqi labor unions in the Basra area, who are fighting against the privatization of Iraqi ports and oil fields. As US missiles rained down on their houses, and the puppet government tried to arrest union leaders, they called for international solidarity and support from organized labor. The ILWU answered that cry bigtime. Now, on "Indymedia Presents" ----we bring you a report of the Mayday strike that completely shut down every port on the west coast for at least 8 hours. Longshoremen stayed off the job and in major port cities they marched, proud, in their union jackets, banners unfurled. In response, dock workers in Iraq shut down the port there for two hours. It was like a blinking signal light on a distant shore at night, acknowledging that the message of solidarity had been received.

The Seattle Times reported that "dozens" of dock workers protested in Seattle. In our report you can clearly see the demonstration is 5 lanes wide, stretching back past the focus of the camera. There were "dozens" just in the first row or two. PepperSpray was there to document this heroic moment. It was a bit of a cinematographer's dilemma: how do you show something like a stop work situation, where the story is "something's NOT happening." We arrived at the hall early and union members showed us where to get beautiful shots of the idle port. Later we captured the march, the music, the mood. We're proud of the ILWU, and it shows in this report.


Be the Media!

Public Access producers, community screeners, and IMCs (Independent Media Centers) are encouraged to screen or air "Indymedia Presents". To obtain the show on a regular basis, please contact us, Pepperspray Productions, at pepperspray@riseup.net.

Tags: ILWU Local 19Iraq War Work Stoppage
Categories: Labor News

Teamster Retirees’ Campaign Against Pension Cuts Draws Support from Bernie Sanders

Current News - Tue, 07/07/2015 - 10:00

Teamster Retirees’ Campaign Against Pension Cuts Draws Support from Bernie Sanders
MONDAY, JUL 6, 2015, 3:36 PM
Teamster Retirees’ Campaign Against Pension Cuts Draws Support from Bernie Sanders

Over 100 Teamsters from across the country recently protested possible pension cuts at a meeting of the Teamster Central States Pension Fund. tdu.org

Less than six months after getting started, a grassroots campaign among Teamsters union retirees to protect their pensions appears to be picking up steam, attracting the support of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and threatening to influence the outcome of the union’s own leadership elections next year.

The retirees are demonstrating in the streets and barraging members of Congress in outrage over a slow-moving plan to cut their pension benefits. Such cuts were authorized by special legislation—the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014 (MPRA)—passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama late last year. One leader of the campaign against the cuts estimates that thousands of union retirees could see their pension slashed by as much a 30 percent by the end of this year.

The campaign against cuts has seen “a big change in the six months since we started,” says Bob Amsden, a retired truck driver from the Milwaukee area. Since organizing work began in January, some 23 local committees of pensioners have been formed across the Midwest, he says. The work has been strongly supported by the union reform organization Teamsters for a Democratic Union, he adds, as well as by the Washington, D.C.-based Pension Rights Center. Some support is also building in Congress to repeal the new pension law.

In the highest-profile action yet, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Independent-Vt.) held a press conference June 18 to introduce repeal legislation.

“If we do not repeal this disastrous law, retirees all over this country could see their pensions cut by 30 percent or more. We cannot let that happen. Instead of asking retirees to take a massive cut in their pension benefits, we can make these plans solvent by closing egregious loopholes that allow the wealthiest Americans in this country to avoid paying their fair share of taxes,” Sanders said.

The Sanders repeal bill was immediately endorsed by the elected leaders of the Teamsters, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).

IAM spokesperson Frank Larkin tells In These Times that the Machinists “were one of the loudest opponents” of the pension bill last year and will continue its opposition now by supporting the Sanders bill. “This law should be the concern of every union. When you open this door [to large pension cuts], we are all at risk,” he says.

The immediate threat to union retirees like Amsden is that the new law will be used to authorize cuts from the financially troubled Central States Pension Fund, a joint labor-management organization that administers pensions on behalf of more than 400,000 Teamster members and retirees. The MPRA law allows such cuts from any union pension fund, subject to government approval, if pension administrators can demonstrate that the fund is in danger of insolvency unless the cuts are made. Officials of Central States have made clear that the fund faces precisely this kind of danger and that cuts may be coming.

Recognizing the political sensitivity of the issue, the Obama administration took steps in June to deflect any potential criticism. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced June 17 that he is appointing New York lawyer Kenneth Feinberg to oversee any pension cuts to ensure there is a “balanced process” in determining which retirees suffer. Feinberg became prominent a decade ago as administrator for claims by the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and more recently played a prominent role in awarding compensation claims in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster and the General Motors ignition switch scandal.

Feinberg may well become the lightning rod for criticism as the process move forward. Amsden tells In These Times that his group is agitating for a Congressional hearing, or a Congressional investigation, into the Central States Fund. Congress should look especially at lavish compensation to fund administrators and extravagant fees to financial advisers, he says, so that improper payments can be retrieved to benefit pensioners. Meetings with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) give him hope that the Senate will hold hearings, Amsden says.

Meanwhile, the potential pension cuts are emerging as an issue in the internal Teamsters presidential election set for next year, Amsden continues.

A major challenge to incumbent union President Jim Hoffa is already underway by Tim Sylvester, president of Teamsters Local 804 in New York. The Sylvester campaign—also backed by Teamsters for a Democratic Union—is currently collecting signatures from union members so the candidate and his slate can be accredited as official opponents of the incumbent administration.

Some of the pension activists are rallying to Sylvester’s support, Amsden says, because they feel that Hoffa did not do enough to protect pensions when the MPRA legislation was being considered last year. Retirees do not have the right to vote in union elections, “but that doesn’t mean we can’t campaign,” he says. And many Teamsters who can vote are just as concerned about their pensions as the retirees, he adds.

“They’re scared” that the pension issue will hurt their chances for re-election, according to Amsden, referring to Hoffa and other elected union leaders.

Tags: IBTPensions
Categories: Labor News

ATU Transit Union Head Applauds Bernie Sanders

Current News - Tue, 07/07/2015 - 09:44

ATU Transit Union Head Applauds Bernie Sanders
Election 2016: As Labor Grapples With Candidate Endorsements, Transit Union Head Applauds Bernie Sanders
By Cole Stangler @colestangler c.stangler@ibtimes.com on July 07 2015 8:15 AM EDT

Transit union president Larry Hanley, pictured here, breaks labor leaders' silence on 2016. Image courtesy Amalgamated Transit Union
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., says he wants to fight the “billionaire class," the signature phrase of a presidential campaign that's thrived by pitting beleaguered American workers against the rich and powerful. And as the self-described socialist continues his steady rise in the polls against Democratic primary opponent and presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, he’s winning support from the American underdogs par excellence: trade unionists.

No major unions have made White House endorsements, and the national AFL-CIO has yet to formally back a candidate. Still, a couple of state labor federations have passed resolutions backing Sanders’ bid (even though they were rebuked in an AFL-CIO memo for breaching the federation’s endorsement process); thousands of rank-and-file union members have signed up with the grassroots Labor for Bernie network; and last week, the recently retired head of one of the nation’s largest unions joined Bernie’s campaign team as a volunteer.

In a recent interview with International Business Times -- before the AFL-CIO fired off its warning memo last week -- the head of the nation’s largest transit union cheered Sanders’ “willingness to get outside the bubble.” The Amalgamated Transit Union’s Larry Hanley did not endorse the senator, and the union, which represents some 200,000 people, hasn’t decided whom to back yet. But the ATU's Hanley credited Sanders for raising the sorts of problems, beyond bread-and-butter labor ones, that he says hurt American workers: things like unnecessary military spending, environmental degradation and prohibitively costly college tuition. Hanley becomes the first president of a major union to weigh in publicly -- and candidly -- about the Democratic primary matchup.

“This model doesn’t work,” said the outspoken labor leader in a wide-ranging conversation about national politics and the 2016 campaign. “It’s not working for our unions, it’s not working for our members, it’s not working for our people and we have to change the model. It’s not enough for us to just put our logo up on some candidate who’s gonna stand up for the status quo.”

“We are at a critical point in our history because our economy is inevitably going to be crippled by this ridiculous war spending, and our environment is teetering on the brink of disaster every day, and these are issues that have been neglected or made worse by the policies of the neocons, which obviously, includes people on both sides of the political aisle.”

Hillary Clinton vs Bernie Sanders | InsideGov

In particular, Hanley praised Sanders’ support for free education at four-year public universities -- a plan that Clinton has not endorsed.

“Everybody running for president should just check that box; it shouldn’t be a hard one, but I’m waiting to see if they will,” he said. “Certainly anybody who’s running in the party that claims to represent average working people ought to be saying, ‘Yeah, you know what? There’s no reason why we have to burden our kids with debt, why we have to make them come out of college with something comparable to a mortgage to pay before they get a job.’ I mean, come on, this stuff is obvious.”

“We live in a bubble of false discussion, and both sides, Democrats and Republicans, refuse to break out of that bubble,” Hanley continued. “I think Bernie has shown more of a willingness to get outside the bubble, outside the box and have those discussions. As a consequence of that, I think he’s a very good addition to the race. I think hopefully that he will encourage people in the Democratic Party to remember where they came from and remember their roots.”

At the same time, Hanley offered some praise for Clinton. A former bus driver from the New York City borough of Staten Island, Hanley rose through the ranks of the transit union before his election to the top office in 2010. As he was serving as president of his New York City local, in 2000, he supported the then-first lady’s successful Senate campaign. “I have a long history of fond affection for Hillary Clinton -- she has stood up and done many things in her lifetime of a historic nature,” he said. Nevertheless, Hanley added -- with a flair of ambiguity -- “the truth as I know it is much more frequently expressed by Bernie, and even more than Bernie, by Elizabeth Warren.”

But unions are in a pickle: Is it worth getting behind the underdog or does it make more sense to accept conventional wisdom and plan accordingly? After all, “if the election’s between Hillary and just about any one of the Republicans that have come forward,” Hanley said, “it’s gonna look like heaven and hell.”

“I’m going to confess to being conflicted, and I think as a matter of fact, the whole labor movement is conflicted over this,” Hanley said. “While we see Bernie being a champion for many of our issues, we’re anguished waiting on Hillary to take the lead on that, too.”

In the ATU at least, Hanley said, leaders are expressing more frustration with the general political climate than during the last open Democratic presidential primary. (Exasperation, in general, jibes more with Sanders’ calls for “political revolution” than Clinton’s mild-mannered liberalism.) In 2007, a few years before Hanley took over the reins, the union endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, eventually spending more than $70,000 on her failed primary campaign.

“People are united in the notion that we can’t accept the status quo, that the Democratic Party no longer is the party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, it’s more like the party of Nelson Rockefeller and the Republicans are more like the party of the Ku Klux Klan. That’s kinda the way America’s shifted,” he said. “There is a boil going on right under the surface in America and the advantage Bernie has, by being willing to talk about this kind of stuff, is that he may just make that pot boil over.”

Tags: atuLarry HanleyBernie Sanders
Categories: Labor News

Uber Seeks Police Protection in Johannesburg Local taxi drivers have coerced some Uber users to ride in their cars instead

Current News - Mon, 07/06/2015 - 17:38

Uber Seeks Police Protection in Johannesburg
Local taxi drivers have coerced some Uber users to ride in their cars instead

Uber has amassed its $41 billion valuation by upending the heavily regulated taxi marketplace, expanding into 57 countries in six years. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS
July 6, 2015 2:02 p.m. ET
JOHANNESBURG—Uber Technologies Inc. on Monday asked police to protect drivers and passengers using its ride-sharing service from taxi drivers in South Africa’s biggest city, who have lashed out at a company they say is cutting into their business.

“Recent intimidation...only underlines why people are increasingly choosing safe, reliable alternatives like Uber,” the San Francisco-based company wrote on its website.

Several Uber users reported being harassed into taking metered taxis in Johannesburg’s business district Sunday and Monday instead of the cars they had hailed via Uber’s smartphone app.

“They said Uber as a non-African organization was taking a significant cut of the business away from locals,” Roheid Ojageer, an analyst at a health-care nonprofit, said of the taxi drivers who coerced him to ride in one of their cars Sunday evening at three times the fare Uber charges.

Uberpop uses drivers without professional licenses, allowing it to offer lower prices.


Dozens of metered taxi drivers also protested Friday outside Uber’s offices in Johannesburg, after city officials said they wanted Uber to comply with affirmative action legislation here meant to overcome decades of racial discrimination under white-minority rule.

Uber says many of its 2,000 drivers in South Africa come from groups discriminated against under apartheid. The company is also fighting a licensing dispute in Cape Town, where officials have impounded hundreds of its drivers’ cars this year.

Alon Lits, Uber’s general manager in Johannesburg, said most of its drivers in Johannesburg were still operating uninhibited. “There have been isolated incidences. It’s not widespread,” he said.

Opa Sikhosana, chairman of the Johannesburg Regional Metered Taxi Council, condemned the intimidation Uber passengers have experienced this week, but said he sympathized with his frustrated members.

Uber, he said, should operate under the same category of license they are subjected to, rather than the charter service categorization the government has assigned Uber drivers to date.

“They go to the extent of intimidating passengers because they want authorities to apply the law equally,” he said.

The backlash in Johannesburg is the latest in a long string of battles Uber has fought with regulators and rivals from Portland to London to Beijing.

On Friday, the company suspended one of its most popular services, Uberpop, in France until a constitutional court ruling on the service’s legality later this year.

Courts in Spain, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands have also banned Uberpop. Last month, Indonesian police said they were investigating Uber, and in May, authorities in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou raided an Uber office.

Uber has amassed its $41 billion valuation by upending the heavily regulated taxi marketplace, expanding into 57 countries in six years. With its next round of funding targeting a $50 billion valuation, Uber could become the most valuable venture-backed startup in history. Only Facebook Inc. attained a $50 billion valuation before going public.

In South Africa, Uber users requested 2 million rides in the first half of this year, compared to 1 million in all of 2014, says Mwambu Wanendeya, Uber’s communications director for Africa.

Drivers in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg cater to passengers with smartphones and a credit card, a level of affluence that excludes the millions of South Africans who rely on accident-prone minibuses known here as taxis to get around.

Those minibuses are operated by a network of powerful business owners with a history of solving disputes over routes and revenue through violence. But so far Uber had operated with little interference because the existing metered-taxi industry here is relatively small.

Now those metered taxi owners appear to be pushing back.

Mr. Ojageer, who was coerced late Sunday into taking a metered cab instead of the Uber ride he had hailed, said he would watch closely to see whether it seemed safe to try his smartphone app again.

“If there seems to be a lot of unrest I’d probably want to keep using the cab system as expensive as it is to avoid causing any more problems,” he said.

Write to Patrick McGroarty at patrick.mcgroarty@wsj.com and Alexandra Wexler at alexandra.wexler@wsj.com

Tags: UberSouth Africa
Categories: Labor News

IBT BLE Railroad whistle-blower at Warren Buffet's BNSF awarded $1.25M for being bullied, targeted and terminated twice "BNSF officials in Washington colluded to provide inaccurate information to a mediator"

Current News - Mon, 07/06/2015 - 16:05

IBT BLE Railroad whistle-blower at Warren Buffet's BNSF awarded $1.25M for being bullied, targeted and terminated twice "BNSF officials in Washington colluded to provide inaccurate information to a mediator"
Railroad whistle-blower at Warren Buffet's BNSF awarded $1.25M for being bullied, targeted and terminated
Originally published July 1, 2015 at 6:45 pm
Jury awards former union safety official $1.25 million for retaliation and termination over reporting safety violations on tracks running from Tacoma to Vancouver.

By Mike Carter
Seattle Times staff reporter
A railroad whistle-blower has been awarded $1.25 million by a federal jury in Tacoma after a six-day trial in which the former union and safety official proved he was targeted and terminated on a pretext in 2011 after reporting dozens of safety violations to federal authorities.
The unanimous verdict, which was reached late Wednesday, includes $250,000 in rare punitive damages against Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad for its efforts to discredit Michael Elliott after he raised the safety concerns and then fired him — twice.
Those efforts, according to testimony and court documents, included evidence that a supervisor set up a physical confrontation with Elliott in a BNSF parking lot, and then had him arrested and charged with assault. Elliott spent two days in jail but was acquitted in Pierce County court. The railroad used the incident to justify his dismissal.
Evidence also showed that BNSF officials in Washington colluded to provide inaccurate information to a mediator about whether Elliott had properly reported a 2007 felony conviction for drunken driving and vehicle assault. Elliott insisted he had, and internal emails he produced at trial indicated BNSF supervisors knowingly provided the mediator with inaccurate information, according to Sara Amies, one of Elliott’s Seattle attorneys.
Gus Melonas, a spokesman for BNSF, said the railroad was “proud of its safety record” and repeated the company’s assertions that Elliott was fired for “unrelated rules violations,” which were rejected by the eight-member jury.“This is vindication for Mike after he’d been hung out to dry for four years,” said another lawyer, James Vucinovich. “The jury agreed that you can’t treat whistle-blowers like that.”
“BNSF is exploring its post-trial options,” he said.
Elliott was a 16-year veteran locomotive engineer for BNSF and elected chairman of the Washington State Legislative Board of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), which represents roughly 750 union workers at BNSF, Union Pacific and Amtrak. As such, Elliott’s focus was on worker safety, according to court documents.
According to the complaint, Elliott reported several complaints about overgrown vegetation blocking the signal system along BNSF-owned tracks between Tacoma and Vancouver, Wash., along with several potentially catastrophic signal malfunctions. The signal system is designed to keep trains from colliding on tracks that are owned by BNSF and shared by passenger and cargo trains.
The lawsuit alleges BNSF was slow to address the issue, and in January 2011, after receiving no response, Elliott bypassed the railroad and took his concerns to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The FRA conducted a six-week inspection in which it found more than 375 violations, including one that resulted in a $1,000 fine.

While minimal, the fine was the first in the area in years and “it stuck in their craw,” Vucinovich said.
Many of the violations were in territory overseen by a BNSF supervisor, Dennis Kautzmann, whom Elliott accused in his lawsuit of plotting a confrontation in the parking lot in which Kautzmann jumped on the hood of Elliott’s vehicle as he tried to leave. A scuffle ensued, and Elliott punched Kautzmann, according to court documents.
That March 2011 incident was used to terminate Elliott and have him charged with criminal assault, according to court documents. Vucinovich said there was evidence that Elliott was set up by Kautzmann, whose story was rejected by a criminal-court jury but used by BNSF to fire him.
While that incident was under internal review, BNSF officials claimed they discovered Elliott’s alleged failure to report the earlier felony conviction, and he was fired in April 2011. In September 2011, after its review of the incident with Kautzmann, the company called him in and fired him a second time, according to court documents.
The federal jury awarded him $1 million in compensatory damages, including loss of future pay, and imposed $250,000 in punitive damages against the railroad.
Vucinovich said Elliott was “ecstatic” with the verdict. He said the trial judge, U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton, will decide if Elliott should have the option of taking his job back. If he does, the attorney said the $1 million verdict will be reduced by the amount he was awarded for future wages.
Mike Carter: mcarter@seattletimes.com or 206-464-3706

Tags: BLTBNSFWarren Buffethealth & safetyosharetaliation
Categories: Labor News

Iran: Union leader jailed on his way to attend global union congress

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 07/05/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Education International
Categories: Labor News

Greece: 'Troika' must get serious about negotiating debt relief for Greece

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 07/05/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITUC
Categories: Labor News

Kenya: Chaos at Kenya Ports Authority as police evict workers sacked for leading strike

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 07/05/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: The Standard
Categories: Labor News

China: Tensions rise as China’s taxi drivers and factory workers strike in record numbers

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 07/05/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: China Labour Bulletin
Categories: Labor News

Boston USW Local 8751 school bus drivers step up the fight

Current News - Sun, 07/05/2015 - 14:32

Boston USW Local 8751 school bus drivers step up the fight
By Joe Mchahwar posted on July 4, 2015

Garry Murchison, Steve Kirschbaum, Andre Francois, Steve Gillis
The struggle between the Boston School Bus Drivers Union, Steelworkers Local 8751, on the one hand, and the Boston city administration and the international union-busting corporation Veolia — now renamed Transdev — on the other, is being taken to new heights.

The union’s new leadership, elected April 30, is bringing the demands of rank-and-file workers to the forefront. These demands center around 700 unresolved grievances, unfair labor practice charges against Veolia, winning a just contract and the company’s GPS/telematics surveillance of drivers that breaks the existing contract. A key workers’ demand is the reinstatement of four fired leaders who have been off the job for 22 months.

The four fired leaders — President Andre Francois, Vice President Steve Kirschbaum, Financial Secretary Steve Gillis and Grievance Chair Garry Murchison — were elected to these key positions by a wide margin in April.

Long hours of negotiations have transpired between the new leadership and Veolia, the city, and the Boston Public Schools. The union has brought its fighting spirit to the negotiating table, using struggle tactics to further its goals. Developments are coming by the minute, so the union hasn’t had a moment to breathe between punches.

Bus yard rallies and picket lines, a regular occurrence, have brought the fight straight to Veolia’s headquarters. An occupation of the Freeport bus yard by the entire executive board on June 22 lasted nearly nine hours — the last two while police were threatening to evict them.

“We were holding company officials in near round-the-clock meetings regarding mass noncompliance with the contract, including use of GPS and other telematic technology to route buses and pay drivers less, and Mayor Walsh’s administration was scabbing out some of our work to non-union outfits,” Gillis explained. “These meetings came in the wake of a Boston Globe investigative report about BPS/Veolia’s record of late bus routes based on GPS routing, leading up to a scheduled contract negotiations session.”

Freeport is the same bus yard where Stevan Kirschbaum was framed up on four felony charges during a demonstration last year. Kirschbaum was declared innocent in court this year, winning his case with the help of fellow workers and solidarity from the community.

On June 25, the union held more spirited rallies in all four bus yards.

Then on June 27 Veolia issued what the union called “a declaration of war.” The union received an illegal, fraudulent “last best offer” from the company, stating that if the membership did not accept this ultimatum by July 10 the drivers would not receive retroactive pay that had previously been agreed to. These pay increases date back to July 1, 2014, when the old contract expired.

This so-called offer, which violates several labor laws, includes the following concessions to management: introduction of spy cameras on the buses, elimination of one of two health care plans, increased discipline and erosion of language guaranteeing flat rate pay protection. Veolia, Boston Public Schools and Mayor Walsh also stubbornly refuse to reinstate the four illegally fired leaders.

So the company ultimatum was a shamelessly transparent attempt to entice and threaten members to accept a bad contract and turn their backs on their leaders.

City concedes two vital points, but not Veolia

Local 8751 has no truck with any of this. On June 29, another marathon session/occupation took place at City Hall with the mayor’s lawyer, Paul Curran, and Chief Operating Officer of BPS Kim Rice. That ended when the city made the following two concessions: they told the union the threat to take away retroactive pay was a mistake, and the Union Security Agreement protecting jobs, seniority and 40 years of collective bargaining gains would continue.

Expressing their rock-solid solidarity, community leaders who joined these negotiations included veteran City Councilor Charles Yancey; activist Chuck Turner; Sandra MacIntosh, of Coalition for Equal Quality Education; Charles Clemons, of TOUCH 106.1 radio; Haitian community leader Jean Claude Sanon; and representatives of the International Action Center, Women’s Fightback Network and Massachusetts United Against Police Violence.

Less than an hour later, however, Veolia reinstituted the threat, overriding what BPS and City Hall conceded to. Veolia’s double-cross was not only a slap in the face to the union, but to its community supporters. Veolia is refusing to bargain in good faith, which constitutes an unfair labor practice.

But it proves the Marxist truth: Capitalists tell the government what to do, not the other way around.

In an attempt to further intimidate the workers into accepting its rotten “offer,” Veolia mailed a five-page letter, in Haitian and Cape Verdean Creole, Spanish and English, to workers’ homes.

“Veolia is running amok with a series of warlike communications and actions,” said Kirschbaum. These include threatening hundreds of workers, laid off for the summer, with discharge if they do not report for a “mandatory recall” to bid on summer work.

The new player in negotiations is Veolia’s vice president for labor relations, Thomas P. Hock, notorious for his role in the Bay Area Regional Transit strike of 2013 during which two workers died. Hock, whose Cincinnati-based law firm has engaged in professional union busting in mass transit for 40-plus years, is president and founder of Professional Transit Management. PTM’s Northeast regional manager is also Veolia’s General Manager Alex Roman. In addition to breaking unions, PTM is the subject of numerous complaints of racist discrimination and sexual harassment.

Solidarity in action

Despite having to fight for its own survival, Local 8751 continues to uphold its rich legacy of politically active unionism. Local 8751 poured out for the Haitian flag day parade on May 17, proclaiming support for Fanmi Lavalas candidate for the Haitian presidency, Dr. Marcis Narcisse. On June 13, they marched in Pride, showing the unwavering support for the lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer community from one of the first unions in the United States to win contractual anti-discrimination rights for lesbian, gay and bi workers. Trans rights will be included in the new contract.

One day after Local 8751 picketed Veolia headquarters on June 18, they were in the streets again for Juneteenth to “Say no to racism, police murder and violence, racist terror from Boston to Charleston to Baltimore to Ohio!”

This is the activism the company-friendly former union officials tried to use against the Francois-Kirschbaum slate in the election. “It backfired,” said Kirschbaum. “Team Solidarity, with its militant, class-conscious program and tactics, swept all 18 leadership positions by a landslide. Our record of struggle provided the best antidote for the poison of red baiting!”

The situation is changing day by day, but the rank and file are ready to strike and have spoken as one: “No amnesty, no contract, justice — no work!”

Veolia has made a calculated effort to bleed the four fired leaders dry. The workers and leadership haven’t blinked in the face of this onslaught. Their reserves are running low, however. These leaders need solidarity and financial support now more than ever. Anything supporters can contribute will be repaid in the struggle tenfold. To send money online, go to tinyurl.com/mzbfdyu. Or send checks to Friends of the School Bus 5, P.O. Box 141, Stoughton, MA 02072.

Tags: Boston USW Local 8751 school bus drivers
Categories: Labor News

Ryanair threatens to exit Denmark if unions blockade flights

Current News - Sat, 07/04/2015 - 17:40

Ryanair threatens to exit Denmark if unions blockade flights
July 3, 2015 4:36 pm
Ryanair threatens to exit Denmark if unions blockade flights
Richard Milne, Nordic Correspondent

Ryanair is threatening to pull out of Denmark if unions in the Nordic country blockade the low-cost airline’s flights.
Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s chief executive, said on Friday the Irish airline would move its sole Copenhagen-based aircraft to Kaunas in Lithuania beginning July 14.

This follows a Danish labour court ruling this week that allowed unions to strike and blockade Ryanair aircraft if the airline refuses to sign a collective agreement with workers.
On Friday, Mr O’Leary called the ruling “bizarre” and said the company would appeal to the European Commission and courts in Brussels.
He threatened to close Ryanair’s base in Billund, home to Legoland and headquarters of the Danish toy company, with its two aircraft if unions went ahead with the blockade.
“Then we would have to close Billund, even if we don’t want to. Copenhagen is more important to us than Billund, even if we love Billund dearly. I’ve been to Legoland myself,” Mr O’Leary said in a press conference in Copenhagen.
The court ruling against Ryanair represents one of the biggest threats to the business model of Europe’s biggest low-cost airline. It opens the door to similar actions in other countries, following complaints in France and Belgium.
Ryanair has argued that its Copenhagen-based staff should be subject to Irish law. But Danish unions claim this allows Ryanair to pay its cabin crew half the salary of staff in Cimber, a local low-cost rival. Unions said they would look to strike from the middle of this month.
Ryanair is not giving up on customers in Denmark, however, as it announced it would open up three new routes into Copenhagen. All 14 of its routes to and from Copenhagen would be operated by aircraft based outside Denmark as they cannot be blockaded by Danish unions, it added.
“Sadly, Copenhagen will lose out on these high-paid Ryanair jobs,” Mr O’Leary said.
He also hit out at the ruling for allowing what he called “competitor airline unions” — those active at Scandinavian flag carrier SAS — to blockade his aeroplanes.
The dispute has taken on a personal tone as the Social Democrat mayor of Copenhagen and several others cities banned their staff from using Ryanair for official business. Ryanair hit back with mocking adverts and said their bookings in Copenhagen had risen substantially.
Danish municipalities and investors have also divested themselves of Ryanair’s shares, which have risen 75 per cent in the past year.

Tags: RyanairDenmark
Categories: Labor News

Canada: We don't have to choose between jobs and climate action

Labourstart.org News - Sat, 07/04/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: rabble
Categories: Labor News

Kenya: Port Sacks Strike Leaders

Labourstart.org News - Sat, 07/04/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Maritime Executive
Categories: Labor News

Kenya's main port sacks 27 strike leaders as losses hit $2 mln

Current News - Sat, 07/04/2015 - 08:26

Kenya's main port sacks 27 strike leaders as losses hit $2 mln
By Joseph Akwiri

By Joseph Akwiri

MOMBASA (Reuters) - East Africa's biggest port in the Kenyan city of Mombasa said on Saturday it had dismissed 27 workers it believed were behind a strike this week that paralysed operations for two days and cost the port at least $2 million.

Over 2,000 workers went on strike on Wednesday and Thursday in protest against higher deductions for the government's national health insurance scheme, prompting port management to threaten to fire them, having advertised their positions.

The work stoppage has disrupted business at the biggest port in the region, which handles imports such as fuel for Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.

"The management has identified the organizers of the strike and they have been summarily dismissed," the port's managing director, Gichiri Ndua, told a news conference in Mombasa, adding that the strike was illegal and more workers could be dismissed.

He said losses suffered by the port as a result of the strike had reached 200 million shillings ($2 million) with the work stoppage costing the entire region served by the port an estimated 1 billion shillings.

The strike also resulted in a backlog of 2,500 containers at the port, said Ndua, but added that nearly all the striking workers had resumed work after the sacking warning, and that they would clear the cargo by Monday.

Union officials vowed to fight on.

"It is going to result in the calling of another bigger industrial action," Simon Sang, the union secretary general, told Reuters, as he went into a crisis meeting with other union officials.

At a nearby college owned and run by the port, at least 10 people were injured in a stampede on Saturday morning, as thousands turned up for the advertised interviews to replace the earlier striking workers.

The strike was to protest the government's decision to increase the monthly National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) deductions from 320 shillings ($3.22) to 1,700 shillings without increasing their salaries, union officials say.

($1 = 99.4000 Kenyan shillings)

Tags: Kenya port workersstrikefirings
Categories: Labor News

China: Factory collapse, 14 missing

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 07/03/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: BBC
Categories: Labor News

Uber to Suspend One of Its Main Services in France “Uberpop needed to be banned.”

Current News - Fri, 07/03/2015 - 12:06

Uber to Suspend One of Its Main Services in France “Uberpop needed to be banned.”
Car-hailing service to suspend Uberpop immediately in response to violence against Uber drivers

A taxi in the area of Porte Maillot in west Paris, on June 26, bearing a banner against Uber. Taxi drivers protested what they saw as unfair competition from the car-hailing service. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
Updated July 3, 2015 12:05 p.m. ET

PARIS—Uber Technologies Inc. said Friday it is suspending one of its main services in France, caving in to authorities’ demands to stop operating days after French prosecutors indicted two top Uber executives on charges of helping unlicensed taxis cheat regulations.

Uber said it would suspend the service called Uberpop immediately in France, while awaiting a constitutional court decision due in late September on the service’s legality. Uberpop uses drivers without professional licenses, rather than licensed taxis or car services, allowing it to offer lower prices.

Previously, Uber had rejected government declarations that Uberpop is illegal, and said it would continue to operate the service until a court ordered it to stop.

Thibaud Simphal, General Director of Uber France, at the company’s French headquarters in Paris.

“Today is a black day for the 500,000 regular users of Uberpop in France, as well as for the drivers that regularly use the platform,” Uber said, adding that other Uber services using professional drivers are unaffected. “It is now up to us to explain what we are doing and the advantages of the Uber platform.”

Uber attributed its about-face to an effort to protect some 10,000 Uberpop drivers and their passengers, after a series of violent protests last week by taxi drivers across France. During those protests, in which taxis demanded swifter action against Uberpop, and several Uber vehicles were attacked.

Mark MacGann, Uber’s head of public policy for Europe, Middle East and Africa, said the company also made its decision to suspend Uberpop after several days of intense discussions with the French government.

“We think everyone needs to move forward with a more cool head,” Mr. MacGann said. “What we want is a positive conclusion to the current situation.”

Uber said the suspension would take place over several hours for logistical reasons and would be complete by 8 p.m. Paris time.

“This decision demonstrates that the government’s resolve has paid off,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls said, according to his office, adding: “Uberpop needed to be banned.”

Taxis also expressed satisfaction with Uber’s retreat. Paris firm Taxis Bleus on Friday said it “salutes the work of public authorities” in “restoring public order by applying the law.”

Uber’s services that use nonprofessional drivers have been a flash point globally, leading to protests and lawsuits from taxis. In Europe, where those services are called Uberpop, courts have ordered bans on the service in several countries, including Germany and Spain.

In France, under a new transport law aimed at reining in companies like Uber, operating a system like Uberpop is punishable with a fine of as much as €300,000 ($332,000) and two years in prison.

On Tuesday, French prosecutors ordered Uber executives Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty and Thibaud Simphal to appear before magistrates on Sept. 30 to face charges of breaking that law, as well as charges of deceptive commercial practices, and illicit storage of personal data. Uber as a company was also charged.

Despite the retreat on Uberpop, the company isn’t abandoning its combative posture. Mr. MacGann reiterated Uber’s position that the new transport law being used to charge its executives is ill-conceived and will be thrown out. The firm has challenged multiple elements of the law before France’s constitutional court, and has also made a complaint against France to the European Union.

On Friday, Uber also launched a new social-media campaign to marshal public support. The company sent French users an email urging them to contribute testimonials to a new website named uberetmoi.com, meaning “Uber and me.” The site also encourages users to send tweets to accounts of several government officials, including French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and the head of communications for President François Hollande.

Despite facing indictment, Uber is demanding changes to French transport laws to make it easier for individuals to become licensed car-service drivers. The company argues expensive licensing requirements and a backlog for allowing new car-service drivers was what made Uberpop necessary.

“We are confident that the government is going to take its responsibilities with regard to those drivers that want to drive for a living,” Uber’s Mr. MacGann said. “The current regulatory regime is locking them out of the market.”

Write to Sam Schechner at sam.schechner@wsj.com

Tags: Ubercriminaltaxi workersPrision
Categories: Labor News

ILWU Local 10 leads protest against police brutality

Current News - Fri, 07/03/2015 - 09:54

ILWU Local 10 leads protest against police brutality
Local 10 leads protest against police brutality

• MAY 20, 2015 11:21 AM

On May 1, 200 ILWU members from Locals 10, 34, 61, 6 and the Inlandboatmen’s Union joined with hundreds of community members to march from the Port of Oakland to Oakland’s City Hall
Local 10 leads protest against police brutality
• MAY 20, 2015 11:21 AM

Solidarity from the Southland: (Left to right): Local 63 Secretary/Business Agent Richard Finlay, Local 13 member Adelita Finlay and Local 10 President Melvin Mackay.
On May 1, 200 ILWU members from Locals 10, 34, 61, 6 and the Inlandboatmen’s Union joined with hundreds of community members to march from the Port of Oakland to Oakland’s City Hall. Their purpose was to protest violent and racist actions by abusive police officers.

The protest was sparked by a series of high profile killings of unarmed Black men by police in cities across the country, some of which were caught on video. Estimates on the size of the march ranged from 800 to 2,000. Local 10’s membership and Executive

Board initiated the action by voting to move their regular “stopwork” union meeting from Thursday evening to the following Friday morning on May 1. The contract requires such changes to be approved by PMA employers, which they agreed to do.
The show of solidarity was prompted by the shocking murder of Walter Scott, an unarmed African American man who was shot eight times in the back by a police officer in North Charleston, South Carolina. Dramatic video of the event went viral and sparked conversations and consciousness- raising across the country.

Walter Scott had several relatives who were members of the International Longshoreman’s Association (ILA) Local 1422, based in Charleston, South Carolina. Local 10’s decision to march and protest were praised by leaders of ILA 1422 and officials from the South Carolina AFL-CIO.

Local 10 Executive Board member Stacey Rodgers helped initiate the protest, explaining that “Local 10 members had been talking about the murder of Walter Scott, and about other people getting shot by the police. I felt that we needed to do something.”

Some Local 10 members have been directly affected by police violence, with two relatives killed by law enforcement in recent years. Jeremiah Moore was killed by Vallejo police who responded to a domestic disturbance call at his home in 2012. One of the police officers involved had already killed two suspects in less than 6 months, was named as a defendant in two “excessive force” lawsuits – yet received a promotion by the Department who cleared him of any wrongdoing, along with the County District Attorney.

Richard “Pedie” Perez was killed by a Richmond, CA police officer who stopped the 24-year-old man in 2014 for allegedly being intoxicated and resisting arrest. Both cases are the subjects of lawsuits that dispute police accounts of the shootings.
ILWU Local 10 President Melvin Mackay said the march was peaceful, orderly and praised members for initiating the action and showing their concern. Mackay handled over a dozen inquiries from the news media, most calling to ask why workers organized the action and whether circumstances justified protesting instead of working the day shift on May 1.

“I told them that longshore workers have a long tradition of protesting injustice in the community, and that recent events deserve a strong response from all Americans.”

On the day of the event, Local 10 President Melvin Mackay said, “We aren’t out here saying all cops are bad. We respect the hard job that they have. But at the same time we are here to say that police misconduct and the improper use of deadly force by the police cannot go unpunished. The public shouldn’t be afraid of the people who are supposed to protect them.”

Tags: ILWU Local 10Police TerrorRacist Terror
Categories: Labor News

Milwaukee ATU 999 transit workers strike

Current News - Thu, 07/02/2015 - 18:35

Milwaukee ATU 999 transit workers strike
By Christopher Davion
2 July 2015
Bus drivers and mechanics working for the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) began a 72-hour strike early Wednesday, July 1, after working without a contract for two months and overwhelmingly rejecting management’s four-year contract offer.
The 750 workers, members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998, are employed by the private, not-for-profit Milwaukee Transport Services. On Monday, 93 percent of the workers voted against the offer made by management last Friday, with an equal margin voting to strike if no deal was reached during a federally mediated bargaining session on Tuesday.
The three-day strike is the first strike by Milwaukee County Transit System workers since 1978, when a walkout lasted 39 days. MCTS officials announced they would not use managers to replace drivers.
MCTS provides around 150,000 passenger rides a day, with another 20,000 passengers riding buses during the city's annual Summerfest that is currently taking place. In addition to operating transit services in Milwaukee, MCTS is also under contract with Ozaukee County, whose service has also been halted by the strike. Strikers are angered over plans to hire hundreds of part-time drivers, poor working conditions, including the lack of bathroom breaks, stagnant wages and management demands for increased out-of-pocket health care costs. Nevertheless, ATU Local 998 President James Macon claimed the work stoppage “is not about money.”
The present contract allows a meager four minutes for a bus driver, at the turnaround point of their route, to find and walk to a business with an available restroom after clearing the bus of passengers. MCTS bus drivers have reported having to go as far as resorting to wearing Depends diapers due to the lack of bathroom breaks and to prevent falling behind schedule on their return route.
Since the 2008 economic collapse, part-time employment has been used to cut labor costs throughout the economy, including transit systems in major metropolitan areas that have been hit by federal, state and local budget cuts and ever higher debt servicing costs.
Milwaukee County Transit System had not previously relied on part-time bus drivers. Under the MCTS proposal, part-time employees would receive starting pay of $18.13 an hour and would not be part of the union. In addition, part-time drivers would not receive employer-paid pension or health care benefits.
Current drivers are paid an average hourly wage of $23.78 or around $50,000 a year without overtime. Under the contract proposal they would only receive a one percent increase over two years, raising hourly wages to $24 in 2016 and $24.45 in 2017.
The transit system claims the average annual earning of a MCTS bus driver is $63,000. But this would be the case only if he or she worked overtime hours, which were the equivalent of a sixth full time shift per week. The plan to hire several hundred part-time drivers is designed at eliminating overtime pay that are a major source of income for workers and their families.
Under the present contract, bus drivers would continue receiving cost-of-living pay increases of up to two percent each year. However, the new contract would also reduce annual cost-of-living adjustment for pensioners that retire after December 31, 2015 from two percent to one percent.
The rejected contract offer would also change retirement eligibility. The previous contract allowed bus drivers and mechanics to qualify for full pension and health care benefits after 27 years of work. Under the parameters of a new “rule of 85,” workers would only be able to retire with full benefits when their number years on the job plus their age equaled 85. This would increase the minimum retirement age by several years for younger workers.
The strike pits workers against Democratic mayor Tom Barrett who has presided over more than a decade of budget cutting since taking office in 2004. Far from opposing the attack on public sector workers, the ATU and other Wisconsin unions have collaborated with the Democrats’ austerity program. Barrett failed to unseat Wisconsin’s deeply hated Republican governor Scott Walker in the 2012 gubernatorial election despite the best efforts of the unions to promote this right-wing politician as a friend of working people.

Tags: ATU 998Milwaukee Strike
Categories: Labor News

USA: AFL-CIO leader tries to quell pro-Sanders revolt

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 07/02/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Politico
Categories: Labor News


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