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USA: Want to Be Happy? Join a Union

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 02/24/2015 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: NY Times
Categories: Labor News

Retirees Facing Severe Pension Cuts

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Tue, 02/24/2015 - 07:44
Ted HartNBCFebruary 24, 2015View the original piece

Whit Wyatt of Washington Court House worked as a teamster truck driver for 33 years. Now Whit and his wife Barb have a comfortable retirement living on Whit's teamster pension and social security.

But Wyatt is one of hundreds of thousands of union retirees who may soon see severe cuts to their monthly pension checks. “I've planned my life around my guaranteed pension and it just looks like that's going to be taken away," Wyatt said.

Click here to read more.

Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

OSHA Employee says the federal whistleblower program isn’t protecting whistleblowers or the public-From Railroads, Airlines And Trucking

Current News - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 17:08

OSHA Employee says the federal whistleblower program isn’t protecting whistleblowers or the public-From Railroads, Airlines And Trucking
Industries With Whistleblower Protection
http://www.nbcbayarea.com/investigations/OSHA-Whistleblower-Investigator...

OSHA whistleblower protection doesn't apply to all workers, everywhere. There are 22 different statutes that determine whether whistleblower protection applies and how a worker might make a complaint. Click the list items below for more info.

Workers can make a formal complaint by contacting their regional OSHA office.

Employee says the federal whistleblower program isn’t protecting whistleblowers or the public
By Vicky Nguyen, Liz Wagner and Felipe Escamilla

From airlines to pipelines, they are the workers on the front lines who speak up when they witness wrongdoing. An NBC Bay Area investigation reveals that the federal program designed to protect whistleblowers may be failing to meet its mission, and insiders say that puts all of us at risk.
Updated 2 hours ago
For decades, whistleblowers have played a pivotal role in exposing wrongdoing in industries that affect public safety and welfare. NSA leaker Edward Snowden, “Deep Throat” Mark Felt and Enron Corporation’s Sherron Watkins famously blew the whistle on their employers.
The federal government established the Whistleblower Protection Program in the 1970s to shield employees from retaliation when they report wrongdoing or safety hazards in their industry. But insiders say the program is failing the very people it is supposed to protect, and jeopardizing public health and safety in the process.
The program is run and managed by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). Current and former OSHA employees, complainants and government reports reveal a system that has botched the investigation and management of whistleblower cases.
“OSHA is hostile to whistleblowers,” said Darrell Whitman, an agency investigator.
For the past five years Whitman has worked in the San Francisco office of OSHA’s Region 9, which oversees four states—California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii—and the U.S. territory Guam. Whitman examines complaints from workers who have been fired for speaking up about problems in 22 industries ranging from pipeline safety and food production to aviation and nuclear defense.

A map of all the regional OSHA offices in the US. Region 9 headquarters are in San Francisco.
Photo credit: OSHA
When people from those sectors blow the whistle, OSHA is supposed to pay attention. But Whitman says that’s not happening.
“It is so incredibly absurd that we have placed our faith in these people who have no intention of following through to protect the public,” he said.
Whitman said that after he began his job in 2010 he discovered a disturbing pattern of what he considers mismanagement by his supervisors. He said superiors pressured employees to rush investigations to eliminate a growing backlog of cases and dismiss complaints even when Whitman found they had merit.
He points to at least six instances where he believes managers bungled the outcome of cases or decided to dismiss them unfairly. Two cases which Whitman calls “slam dunks” involve the environmental testing and aviation industries.
“Slam Dunk” Cases
For three years beginning in 2010 Aaron Stookey worked as a flight service specialist for defense contractor, Lockheed Martin. He helped commercial, private and military pilots plan safe flight paths by advising them of weather conditions in the skies near them.
“I want that pilot to know everything they need to know,” said Stookey, “so everyone aboard that aircraft can safely get to their destination and see their families that night.”
He was certified to assist pilots in just three mountain states—Colorado, Wyoming and Montana—not the entire country. Stookey says often times he would receive calls from locations with which he was not familiar. He says his managers pressured him to answer an increasing call volume and instructed him not to reveal his actual location when pilots called for help. Stookey believed that practice violated laws established by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
“They did not want the pilot to know that they received someone who was not certified in a flight plan area,” he said. “I would say this isn’t safe, this is really deceptive to the aviation community and I am not comfortable with that.”
After repeated warnings, Lockheed Martin fired Stookey for failing to follow company procedures. In a statement the company said specialists are “trained to carefully follow FAA regulations and our standard of care policies to ensure the safety of general aviation pilots.”
Mike Madry also believes he suffered retaliation from his employer and said OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program let him down.
For a decade Madry served as the Phoenix-based quality assurance manager for Em Lab P&K, one of the largest indoor air quality testing companies in the U.S. In 2009, Madry says he documented multiple labs misusing a device that records test results for asbestos, a cancer causing carcinogen found in many older homes and schools. He said the device called into question the accuracy of thousands of samples.
“The compromised testing process could put the whole nation at risk,” Madry said.
He says he also found that a lab in San Bruno was cutting corners by conducting tests in just 20 seconds instead of the standard time of five to 10 minutes.
“I asked repeatedly how these tests were able to be done in such a short period of time and I never got a clear answer from management,” Madry said.
He was fired in 2011. He says according to the company, he was terminated for failing to return from medical leave. In an email Em Lab P&K said it has a “strong basis for defending itself against Mr. Madry’s allegations” but declined to comment further citing pending litigation.
Whitman investigated and determined both companies violated the law by retaliating against Madry and Stookey. His findings called for the employers to rehire the men with back pay. Instead, Whitman says his superiors dismissed the cases.
“I expected those supervisory people in that office to back up my complaint,” Madry said. “They simply kicked me to the curb.”
“When you simply dismiss a case because you don’t like it or don’t want to stand up to business,” Whitman said, “you are basically sending a message to other whistleblowers, don’t file a complaint because we’re not going to take it seriously.”
Whitman was so upset by how his managers dealt with Madry’s case that he petitioned OSHA headquarters to review it. The national office agreed with Whitman and reversed Region 9’s decision.
With regard to Stookey’s case, Lockheed Martin said in a statement “the OSHA investigative process worked as it should have. When all the relevant facts were reviewed by OSHA supervisors and administrators, Mr. Stookey’s claim was found to be without merit.”

A History of Mismanagement
NBC Bay Area’s Investigate Unit spoke with six additional whistleblowers who believe Region 9 managers mishandled or unfairly dismissed their cases.
OSHA statistics show that only a small number of investigations result in merit findings, or a so-called victory for the whistleblower. From 2009 to 2014 OSHA’s Region 9 issued merit findings 16 times out of 562 investigations, or 2.8 percent. The region settled an additional 23 percent of cases. Over the same time period, the Whistleblower Protection Program as a whole found merit in 2.7 percent of cases and settled 15 percent.
Whitman has an explanation for the low percentages:
“They don’t want the investigations done,” Whitman said. “They want numbers.”
Whitman shared emails sent between multiple investigators in his office last year highlighting similar concerns over “pressure to close out more cases” and meet “quotas.”
A former Region 9 whistleblower investigator who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity said managers consider the quantity of cases closed more important than the quality of investigations.
“If all you are doing is an assembly line of investigations you are not assisting anybody,” she said.
A 2010 audit conducted by the Office of Inspector General in the Department of Labor found that OSHA “did not always ensure that complainants received appropriate investigations.” Other internal reviews and reports have criticized OSHA for its low merit rate and inattention to longstanding program weaknesses.
Whitman points to his reports that he says his supervisor altered without his consent. In one instance, he says the conclusion was changed from a merit finding to a non-merit determination.
“This is an example of falsification of documents,” he said.
Whitman has lodged formal complaints all the way up to the U.S. Secretary of Labor, and he now considers himself a whistleblower. He says he has faced discipline for giving complainants information about how he believes OSHA management mishandled their cases, and expects to be fired after NBC Bay Area’s investigation airs.
OSHA declined to comment citing an ongoing personnel investigation but said the department has reinvigorated the Whistleblower Protection Program since 2009 by adding resources, reorganizing staff and establishing an advisory committee to recommend changes.
"Based on the progress we have made in improving the program, the allegations made by some are preposterous," Jordan Barab, OSHA's Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor said in a statement. "We have made progress on addressing the backlog, increased the number of settlements and merit cases and significantly increased the amount of damages from employers who have retaliated against workers."
Whitman says efforts to reform the system have yet to result in meaningful protections for whistleblowers or the public.
“The message has gotten out to a lot of people. You either quit your job or keep your mouth shut because if a company doesn’t fire you or blacklist you, OSHA will destroy your life,” Whitman said. “As a consequence there are a lot of things that aren’t being reported. And that’s the scarier part.”

Tags: oshahealth and safety
Categories: Labor News

New Tank Cars No Safer than Older Ones

Railroaded's Blog - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 15:56

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada says the new CPC-1232 tank cars are no better than the older DOT-111 tank cars that derailed, punctured, spilled 6.5 million litres of crude oil, and burned in July 2013, killing 47 people, seriously damaging the environment and leveling much of downtown Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

In a preliminary report on the February 14, 2015 derailment of a Canadian National Railway oil train near Timmins in northern Ontario, the TSB says at least 19 of the 29 derailed tank cars were breached or partially breached, releasing crude oil which was being shipped from Alberta’s tar sands region (Reuters). Seven of the derailed tank cars caught fire and burned for about 4 days. “Preliminary assessment of the CPC-1232-compliant tank cars involved in this occurrence demonstrates the inadequacy of this standard given the tank cars’ similar performance to the legacy Class 111 tank cars involved in the Lac-Mégantic accident”, said the Board.

The February 16, 2015 derailment of a CSX oil train in West Virginia also involved the newer model CPC-1232-compliant tank cars. About 15 of 27 tank cars that derailed in that crash caught fire and spilled Bakken crude oil into Armstrong Creek and the Kanawha River.

Considering this latest revelation by the TSB, one has to wonder whether it is actually possible to make shipping oil by rail safe. Visit this link for more information on the dangers associated with shipping oil and other dangerous goods by rail.

 


Filed under: shipping oil by rail
Categories: Labor News

Ohio Teamsters want New Leadership

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 12:12

February 23, 2015: Teamsters in Ohio are joining the movement for change in the International union. Ben Sizemore, A YRC driver in Local 407 told the Cleveland meeting yesterday “We’re goin’ to smoke ‘em in the election next year.”

Teamsters from Columbus Local 413 braved nasty weather this past Saturday to hear Tim Sylvester, Fred Zuckerman, and their own local President Tony Jones, lay out their ideas and plans for taking back the IBT for the rank and file membership. 75 Teamsters attended, from various shops and crafts. Members talked about the downhill slide in Teamster contracts and Teamster power during Hoffa’s 16 years in office.

Cleveland-Akron Teamsters came out on Sunday from Locals 24, 407, 964, 377, along with Teamsters from Western Pennsylvania. The room was wall-to-wall solidarity and unity of purpose: building a strong movement to restore Teamster power and pride. 

Categories: Labor News, Unions

ITF welcomes hard-fought deal for ILWU workers on US West Coast

ILWU - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 09:48

21 February 2015

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has welcomed a tentative agreement struck between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) on a new five-year contract covering workers at all 29 West Coast ports of the USA.

Negotiations had been underway since June last year in what had become an increasingly bitter dispute.

The PMA earlier this week ratcheted up their side of the bargaining by banning loading and unloading on nights, weekends and holidays.

The deal was reached with assistance from US Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, and Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Deputy Director, Scot Beckenbaugh.

“This is great news for workers at all 29 West Coast Ports, who can now get on with the job and their lives without a protracted negotiation hanging over their heads,” ITF president and dockers’ section chair, Paddy Crumlin, said.

“I’d like to congratulate ILWU President Bob McEllrath and his negotiating team.

“The ITF and its affiliates have been offering their support and solidarity with the ILWU workers on the West Coast from right around the globe.

“This is a win for dockers the world over.”

A joint statement from ILWU President Bob McEllrath and PMA President James McKenna said that parties will not be releasing details of the agreement at this time and that it is still subject to ratification by both parties.

“After more than nine months of negotiations, we are pleased to have reached an agreement that is good for workers and for the industry,” the joint statement said.

“We are also pleased that our ports can now resume full operations.”

Big ships with capacities of 8,000 to as much as 14,000 20-foot containers call regularly now at West Coast ports.

Some industry experts predict that by 2020 vessels with capacities of 18,000 TEUs will be serving the West Coast.

Vessels of that size are already calling in the Asia-Europe trades, and ports in those regions are struggling to cope with the cargo surges that are created by big ships.

Download a copy of the ITF press release here. (PDF)

 

 

Categories: Unions

Walmart Workers Get a Raise. Hear that UPS?

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 07:33

February 23, 2015: Starting wages for Walmart workers will soon match starting pay for part-timers at UPS. What’s wrong with this picture?

Walmart announced it is raising its minimum wage to $9 an hour and that starting pay will be hiked to $10 an hour in February 2016.

That means wages at Walmart, the nation’s biggest exploiter of low-wage labor, will match starting pay at UPS under our union’s biggest contract. That’s just embarrassing.

Even worse, the contract inked this year by Hoffa and Hall freezes starting pay for part-timers at the $10 level through 2018. Minimum wages are already higher than that in several cities—and many states and even the federal government are considering minimum wage hikes that would top $10 an hour.

Of course, it’s true that UPS part-timers get benefits, union protection and guaranteed annual raises that Walmart workers do not. But UPS part-timers also do back-breaking work and are guaranteed just three-and-a-half hours of work a shift.

Anyway you slice it, part-time starting pay at UPS is a scandal.

Walmart executives aren’t raising wages out of the goodness of their hearts. They are doing it to combat turnover and because the company has been the target of a nationwide grassroots campaign by workers, labor unions and community groups.

The Teamsters Union backs this campaign—and we should. But we should also be taking care of business in our own backyard, starting with UPS. A company that hauls in $4 billion a year in profits shouldn’t be paying anyone $10 an hour.

It’s time to End Part-Time Poverty from Walmart to UPS.


 

Issues: UPS
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Oakland port dispute: dockworkers ordered back to work by arbitrator agreed to by International ILWU

Current News - Sun, 02/22/2015 - 18:52

Oakland port dispute: dockworkers ordered back to work by arbitrator agreed to by International ILWU
http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Oakland-port-dispute-dockworkers-orde...
By Michael Cabanatuan Updated 5:12 pm, Sunday, February 22, 2015

Containers from cargo ships are seen stacked under cranes in the Port of Oakland in Oakland, Calif. Saturday, February 21, 2015. The Port of Oakland recently reached a deal with longshoremen after labor disputes have created a backup of ships with cargo at the port.
Image 9of 11
Trucks line up to enter the Port of Oakland, which was caught in the middle of the conflict<137>, Feb. 20, 2015<137>. “It’s time for all sides to pull together and get cargo moving,” the port’s executive director says.<137>The port resumed operations one day after a shutdown because of an all-day meeting by union workers Thursday. Both sides in the labor dispute returned to the negotiation table Friday.<137>

Dockworkers were ordered to return to work at the Port of Oakland on Sunday night after a dispute over relief breaks caused a daytime disruption on what was to have been the first full day of port operations since a tentative agreement on a contract was reached.
Melvin Mackay, president of International Longshore Workers Union Local10, said the night shift would report for work as scheduled after the day shift halted work in a dispute over breaks. The disruption comes as dockworkers struggle to handle a backload of cargo that stacked up as negotiations dragged on. Crews worked the night shift on Saturday and reported for the day shift on Sunday before halting work in the disagreement over breaks.

“We have to get back into the swing of things,” he said. “You don’t make it up all at once.”
The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shipping companies, did not respond to requests for comment but issued a statement saying an arbitrator had ruled the Sunday work disruption illegal and ordered the dockworkers to resume work.
“The Pacific Maritime Association will continue to address any future work stoppages by Local 10 through the grievance and arbitration process, and, if necessary, in court,” the association said in a prepared statement.
Sunday’s dispute affected only Oakland, not the other 28 West Coast ports covered by a tentative five-year labor agreement reached between the union and the association on Friday. That agreement was reached after President Obama pressured the two sides to settle the dispute, which caused backups on docks and ships from Seattle to San Diego.
At the Port of Oakland, spokesman Mike Zampa said the port, which leases land to the shipping companies and is not directly involved in negotiations, was distressed by the ongoing tensions.
“The Port of Oakland is bitterly disappointed,” he said. “Cargo movement has slowed for months, our customers have suffered significant reversals because of this, and now being, they’re being forced to take another hit. It’s just not right.”
Michael Cabanatuan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: mcabanatuan@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @ctuan

Tags: ilwuArbitratorPMAfirings
Categories: Labor News

Maldives: Sheraton workers take to the sea to deliver Shame on Sheraton message

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 02/22/2015 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: IUF
Categories: Labor News

Global: Count Us In! - ITUC Statement on International Women’s Day 2015

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 02/22/2015 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITUC
Categories: Labor News

Ukraine: Unions banned by pro-Russian separatists in Luhansk

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 02/22/2015 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Ukraine Solidarity Campaign
Categories: Labor News

Whatcom-Skagit Wobblies Help Spread Berry Boycott

IWW - Sun, 02/22/2015 - 14:52

By X331980

read more

Categories: Unions

2/27 Defend OSHA Whistleblowers-Rehire Federal Attorney Darrell Whitman Who Is Defending Workers Fighting For Our Health And Safety

Current News - Sun, 02/22/2015 - 13:21

2/27 Defend OSHA Whistleblowers-Rehire Federal Attorney Darrell Whitman Who Is Defending Workers Fighting For Our Health And Safety
2/27 SF Press Conference And Rally

Friday February 27, 2015 4:00 PM
San Francisco Federal Building
7th And Mission St.
San Francisco, California

OSHA Federal Attorney Darrell Whitman is one of only 3 attorneys in the 9th Region of OSHA protecting health and safety for whistleblowers for a region that covers nearly 40 million workers. Whitman has been fighting the systemic violation of the rights of OSHA whistleblowers. He has challenged the systemic corruption in at OSHA and the DOL top management which not only refuse to enforce the law but has allowed some managers to falsify federal documents and illegally suppress the rights of whistleblowers.
This is not only a worker issue but the right of the public and communities to be protected on the highways with trucks, on the railways, airlines, at oil refineries, nuclear plants and even our health and safety in buildings and other work and industrial sites.

As a result of fighting for whistleblowers, Whitman himself and other AFGE members in this unit have come under attack being bullied and threatened for following and enforcing the law to protect OSHA whistleblowers. Whitman is also a shop steward for AFGE Local 2391 and a delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council. This press conference will report on this case and also the connection to the workers and communities in the bay area and the nation. There will also be testimony of some of the Federal OSHA whistleblower that Whitman was seeking to defend.

Initial Sponsors by
Injured Workers National Network IWNN.org
United Public Workers For Action www.upwa.info
No Nukes Action Committee
Transport Workers Solidarity Committee www.transportworkers.org

For More Information and to endorse this contact:
(415)282-1908 info@upwa.info

Tags: OHSARailairlineshealth and safetywhistleblowers
Categories: Labor News

Facebook bus drivers unanimously approve union contract; here are the terms

Current News - Sun, 02/22/2015 - 08:21

Facebook bus drivers unanimously approve union contract; here are the terms
http://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2015/02/21/facebook-bus-drivers-...
Feb 21, 2015, 2:54pm PST UPDATED: Feb 21, 2015, 3:29pm PST

David Paul Morris
These workers are getting on a Google bus, which became a symbol of the tech shuttle issue.

Greg Baumann
Editor in Chief-
Silicon Valley Business Journal

Facebook Inc. shuttle drivers employed by bus contractor Loop Transportation voted to approve a labor contract that will give them higher pay and better working conditions, a signal moment in organized labor's effort to unionize more contract support workers in Silicon Valley.
Eighty seven Loop drivers who are affiliated with the Teamsters voted unanimously to approve the contract, said Doug Bloch, a political director with the Teamsters.
Under the new contract, drivers will earn between $21 and $28.50 an hour for various driving assignments. Rome Aloise, an international vice president with the Teamsters who heads the Local 853, said drivers at Loop previously were making in the range of $17 an hour.
The vote on the contract precedes a Feb. 27 vote by drivers employed by Compass Transportation who shuttle Apple Inc., Yahoo Inc., Zynga Inc. and Genentech Inc. workers on whether they want to join the union.
"Some of the Compass drivers came to the Loop meeting today to witness the process," Aloise said in an interview. "I think when the people at Compass Transportation see what the Loop drivers, the Facebook drivers, won through organizing with a union, I think they're going to want that too."
The new Loop contract gives workers an array of new benefits:
• Seniority provisions
• Guaranteed hours based on scheduled shifts
• Guaranteed overtime
• Paid jury duty
• 11 paid holidays, plus whatever extra days Facebook takes
• Up to five weeks paid vacation
• Personal leave for medical, maternity, rehabilitation and school visits
• Paid bereavement leave
• Nine days paid sick leave
• Grievance and arbitration procedures
• Health care for workers and family of full time workers, fully paid by Loop
• $10,400 in contributions for a defined contribution retirement plan for each full time worker over the length of the three-year contract
• Workers who don't want to work split shifts are guaranteed a minimum six-hour day
• Those who work splits get a better salary
• Pay-rate protections for working shifts that pay lower wages should the worker return to the higher-rate job
Now Loop will have to work out details of the contract with Facebook, Aloise said.
Contacted by email for comment, Loop CEO Jeff Leonoudakis issued a statement: "Loop Transportation doesn't negotiate through the media. However, I can tell you that we have made progress in our negotiations, but we don't have an agreement at this time."
Greg Baumann is editor in chief at the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

Tags: FacebookDriversteamstersIBT
Categories: Labor News

Dispatch from a union town: How the ILWU created 'the American dream' in San Pedro

Current News - Sat, 02/21/2015 - 23:05

Dispatch from a union town: How the ILWU created 'the American dream' in San Pedro
http://www.scpr.org/news/2015/02/20/49950/dispatch-from-a-union-town-how...
Ben Bergman February 20 2015
About one in four people in San Pedro and the surrounding area either work for the union or retired from it, and most businesses have a sign supporting the ILWU in their window.

One of the first things you notice walking the streets of San Pedro these days is nearly every business – whether a café, a new vape shop, a Crossfit gym, or a barbershop – has posted a blue and white sign out front that says, “We Support the ILWU & They Support Us." One coffee shop has four signs posted in its windows.

“This is the city of the port," said Junior Ramirez, the owner of The Shop Barbers. "We need those guys working. We need those ships empty.”

Next door, Louis Lee, who runs JD Hobbies, said anybody who doesn't have a union sign in the window would be shunned.

"There’s no doubt," he said. "It doesn’t behoove you to be against them.”

About one in three people in San Pedro are associated with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, according to Dave Arian, vice president of the Port of Los Angeles Harbor Commission. They work for the union, retired from the union or have a relative who works for the union.

A billion plus

“My dad was a longshoreman. My daughter works on the waterfront. My sister retired off the waterfront,” said Arian, who worked 44 years on the docks and was an ILWU President. "But there are some families who have five generations and 30 people down here.

“The payroll for Southern California is a billion plus," he said, "and that money then circulates through the community."

And as powerful as the ILWU is in its hometown, the small union of about 18,000 workers and retirees can do more than bankrupt a coffee shop. It has the power to cripple the economy.

The effects of a labor standoff at West Coast ports have been felt around the world. Each side is blaming the other for a slowdown of goods: Shippers say workers are slowing down; workers blame a shortage of truck chassis.

In any case, the result is huge: Car assembly lines in the Midwest are missing crucial parts, billions of dollars worth of produce are rotting before it reaches Europe, a shortage of French Fries has hit Japan.

Since July, 20,000 ILWU West Coast dockworkers have worked without a contract. The vast majority work at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, according to Craig Merrilees, a spokesman for the ILWU.

The union won't say exactly what it's bargaining for – and members are banned from talking to the press – but a key issue in negotiations has been the right of the ILWU to choose an arbitrator to settle disputes. Wages and benefits don't seem to be a sticking point.

'The ILWU is the American dream'

Shipping companies say dockworkers have average pay of $147,000 per year. Arian said if you take out a few specialized, higher-paying positions, the average annual salary is closer to $80,000. Either way, it's a good salary, especially for non-college grads.

Arian said the union can negotiate good wages in part because it has the power to shut down all 29 West Coast ports, unlike the much larger International Longshoremen's Association, which represents 65,000 longshoremen on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts and generally negotiates contracts individually.

“I don’t believe longshoremen are any more militant than autoworkers were or mineworkers were," said Arian. "But we have something they didn’t have: a strategic position where you can choke off capital.”

Arian is well aware that the ILWU is an anomaly, a throwback to the days when blue-collar workers could routinely join a union and live a comfortable middle-class life, complete with a generous pension and full benefits.

About one in three American workers were part of a union in the mid-1950s. Last year, just one in 10 were, the lowest number in nearly a century.

“The ILWU is the American dream,” Arian said.

And everybody knows it.

360,000 applicants for 16,000 spots

Arian said the last time the union opened the rolls to new members, it got 360,000 applications. That was 10 years ago.

The union resorted to a lottery to pick about 16,000 "casuals": people hired to do overflow work full-fledged members don’t want, sometimes just one day a week. Casuals can work as long as a decade before they graduate to full "class-B" membership.

But there are lucky ones, like Carol Randolph, who was only a casual for a year and a half.

“I’m kind of embarrassed to say it," said Randolph. "My son has a casual card now, and he’s been there seven years.”

Randolph’s father-in-law and uncles were in the ILWU, and her brother and brother in law are still in it now. Both of her sons are casuals, and so is her daughter. She raised all three as a single parent, working at the docks.

“This job has provided me with a decent home, clothes for my kids, food on the table, and they went to college," said Randolph. "We’re not going to Europe on vacation, but we do take vacations.”

Randolph has enough seniority now that she can take one of the most desirable jobs – a vessel planner — but she says the stakes are high.

“We pretty much decide on what order the containers will have to be coming off the shift," said Randolph. "If you don’t do it right, you can break the ship. Literally break the ship. The dangerous cargo that has hazardous explosives has to stored in certain positions.”

Waiting for your number

Those who work less specialized jobs have a harder time getting shifts, especially right now, with shippers cutting premium overtime work to put pressure on the union to end the dispute.

Three times a day, longshoremen crowd inside ILWU Local 13’s union hall hoping their number will be called so they can work. Outside, Abel Brady sat dejected Wednesday. Once again, his number wasn’t called.

“I came down here tonight to get a job, and I didn’t get it," Brady said. "We have to have so many hours to get our benefits. If we don’t get those hours, we don’t get our benefits.”

Like everyone else in San Pedro and beyond, Brady is hoping the dispute will be over soon and a new contract will be signed.

"It doesn't just affect us," he said. "It affects the whole world."

This week, U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez met with both sides in San Francisco. He called the meetings positive and productive, but no agreement was announced.

Tags: san pedroilwu
Categories: Labor News

Dispatch from a union town: How the ILWU created 'the American dream' in San Pedro

Current News - Sat, 02/21/2015 - 23:05

Dispatch from a union town: How the ILWU created 'the American dream' in San Pedro
http://www.scpr.org/news/2015/02/20/49950/dispatch-from-a-union-town-how...
Ben Bergman February 20 2015
About one in four people in San Pedro and the surrounding area either work for the union or retired from it, and most businesses have a sign supporting the ILWU in their window.

One of the first things you notice walking the streets of San Pedro these days is nearly every business – whether a café, a new vape shop, a Crossfit gym, or a barbershop – has posted a blue and white sign out front that says, “We Support the ILWU & They Support Us." One coffee shop has four signs posted in its windows.

“This is the city of the port," said Junior Ramirez, the owner of The Shop Barbers. "We need those guys working. We need those ships empty.”

Next door, Louis Lee, who runs JD Hobbies, said anybody who doesn't have a union sign in the window would be shunned.

"There’s no doubt," he said. "It doesn’t behoove you to be against them.”

About one in three people in San Pedro are associated with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, according to Dave Arian, vice president of the Port of Los Angeles Harbor Commission. They work for the union, retired from the union or have a relative who works for the union.

A billion plus

“My dad was a longshoreman. My daughter works on the waterfront. My sister retired off the waterfront,” said Arian, who worked 44 years on the docks and was an ILWU President. "But there are some families who have five generations and 30 people down here.

“The payroll for Southern California is a billion plus," he said, "and that money then circulates through the community."

And as powerful as the ILWU is in its hometown, the small union of about 18,000 workers and retirees can do more than bankrupt a coffee shop. It has the power to cripple the economy.

The effects of a labor standoff at West Coast ports have been felt around the world. Each side is blaming the other for a slowdown of goods: Shippers say workers are slowing down; workers blame a shortage of truck chassis.

In any case, the result is huge: Car assembly lines in the Midwest are missing crucial parts, billions of dollars worth of produce are rotting before it reaches Europe, a shortage of French Fries has hit Japan.

Since July, 20,000 ILWU West Coast dockworkers have worked without a contract. The vast majority work at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, according to Craig Merrilees, a spokesman for the ILWU.

The union won't say exactly what it's bargaining for – and members are banned from talking to the press – but a key issue in negotiations has been the right of the ILWU to choose an arbitrator to settle disputes. Wages and benefits don't seem to be a sticking point.

'The ILWU is the American dream'

Shipping companies say dockworkers have average pay of $147,000 per year. Arian said if you take out a few specialized, higher-paying positions, the average annual salary is closer to $80,000. Either way, it's a good salary, especially for non-college grads.

Arian said the union can negotiate good wages in part because it has the power to shut down all 29 West Coast ports, unlike the much larger International Longshoremen's Association, which represents 65,000 longshoremen on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts and generally negotiates contracts individually.

“I don’t believe longshoremen are any more militant than autoworkers were or mineworkers were," said Arian. "But we have something they didn’t have: a strategic position where you can choke off capital.”

Arian is well aware that the ILWU is an anomaly, a throwback to the days when blue-collar workers could routinely join a union and live a comfortable middle-class life, complete with a generous pension and full benefits.

About one in three American workers were part of a union in the mid-1950s. Last year, just one in 10 were, the lowest number in nearly a century.

“The ILWU is the American dream,” Arian said.

And everybody knows it.

360,000 applicants for 16,000 spots

Arian said the last time the union opened the rolls to new members, it got 360,000 applications. That was 10 years ago.

The union resorted to a lottery to pick about 16,000 "casuals": people hired to do overflow work full-fledged members don’t want, sometimes just one day a week. Casuals can work as long as a decade before they graduate to full "class-B" membership.

But there are lucky ones, like Carol Randolph, who was only a casual for a year and a half.

“I’m kind of embarrassed to say it," said Randolph. "My son has a casual card now, and he’s been there seven years.”

Randolph’s father-in-law and uncles were in the ILWU, and her brother and brother in law are still in it now. Both of her sons are casuals, and so is her daughter. She raised all three as a single parent, working at the docks.

“This job has provided me with a decent home, clothes for my kids, food on the table, and they went to college," said Randolph. "We’re not going to Europe on vacation, but we do take vacations.”

Randolph has enough seniority now that she can take one of the most desirable jobs – a vessel planner — but she says the stakes are high.

“We pretty much decide on what order the containers will have to be coming off the shift," said Randolph. "If you don’t do it right, you can break the ship. Literally break the ship. The dangerous cargo that has hazardous explosives has to stored in certain positions.”

Waiting for your number

Those who work less specialized jobs have a harder time getting shifts, especially right now, with shippers cutting premium overtime work to put pressure on the union to end the dispute.

Three times a day, longshoremen crowd inside ILWU Local 13’s union hall hoping their number will be called so they can work. Outside, Abel Brady sat dejected Wednesday. Once again, his number wasn’t called.

“I came down here tonight to get a job, and I didn’t get it," Brady said. "We have to have so many hours to get our benefits. If we don’t get those hours, we don’t get our benefits.”

Like everyone else in San Pedro and beyond, Brady is hoping the dispute will be over soon and a new contract will be signed.

"It doesn't just affect us," he said. "It affects the whole world."

This week, U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez met with both sides in San Francisco. He called the meetings positive and productive, but no agreement was announced.

Tags: san pedroilwu
Categories: Labor News

Labor fight at West Coast ports comes to an end — for now Trade-dependent businesses know that this isn't the end of drama on the nation's screwed-up docks.

Current News - Sat, 02/21/2015 - 22:37

Labor fight at West Coast ports comes to an end — for now
Trade-dependent businesses know that this isn't the end of drama on the nation's screwed-up docks.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/02/21/labor-fight-a...

By Lydia DePillis February 21 at 10:34 AM

These container ships at the Port of Los Angeles can finally get back to work. (EPA/MICHAEL NELSON)
Last night, the owners of 29 West coast shipping terminals and the union of dockworkers that staff them reached a tentative deal for a new contract, after nine months of negotiations that culminated in four days of meetings with two cabinet secretaries. The ports can now resume normal operations -- or at least start working on the backlog of stalled goods that have been waiting to move in and out.

Retailers, manufacturers and agricultural exporters had been infuriated by the delay, as work slowdowns and lockouts created a massive traffic jam on the docks, and greeted the announcement with relief. But their responses also came with heavy sighs and wagging fingers, signifying a lasting exasperation over the disruption to business as usual -- and worry about whether this might mark the end of these confrontations.

“As we welcome today’s news, we must dedicate ourselves to finding a new way to ensure that this nightmare scenario is not repeated again," said National Retail Federation president Matthew Shay. "If we are to truly have modern international trade, supply chain and transportation systems, we must develop a better process for contract negotiations moving forward."

Industry frustration had taken a long time to build. The National Association of Manufacturers had released a study before negotiations even started last July, projecting billions of dollars in losses if there were to be a work stoppage at the West Coast ports, which handle goods that account for 12.5 percent of the U.S. economy. They know what kind of havoc a full shutdown can cause, having weathered a similar one back in 2002. Exporters and importers started re-routing their supply chains even before this contract expired, anticipating the worst.

Now, everyone involved is asking: Is there some way to change the process so that this kind of thing doesn't happen in the future?

The same question came up the last time the east coast ports came to an agreement with their longshore union, in 2012, when a shutdown was narrowly averted. Although the east coast dockworkers haven't actually gone on strike since 1977, periodic contract negotiations cause widespread unease among shippers, who are looking for some sort of assurance that commerce wouldn't grind to a halt. The process has changed over the decades -- now the ports negotiate all together rather than one by one. But while that prevents smaller-scale strikes, it raises the stakes of coast-wide negotiations that could shut them all down at once.

The problem is, the threat of business interruption is the only thing that gives a union leverage, so it's unlikely workers would agree to significant changes. Unlike most unions, the Longshoremen have only become more powerful over the last few decades of increasing trade, since they now control the movement of a larger percentage of the economy -- if they can maintain it. And indeed, when the east coast union leader Harold Daggett was asked last year whether he would be open to tweaking the negotiation process, the answer was a firm "no."

Thus, the only check on supply chain devastation is the threat of executive branch intervention under the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947. President Obama raised that specter by sending Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker to mediate the dispute. But actually ordering the ports back to work is politically dicey, with Obama reluctant to antagonize union allies, and a lot of economic damage can happen before any president takes that step.

Besides, as I described last week, there's a lot more going wrong with the ports than simply labor relations: Rising container trade and evolving shipping alliances have snarled logistical procedures, requiring substantial and time-consuming investment in infrastructure to fix. And industry groups recognize that too.

“Today’s slowdown on the West Coast may be the result of contract negotiations, but the impact it had on retailers provides a window into the future as increasing volumes and complexity will create similar backups, delays, higher costs and lost productivity,” said Kelly Kolb, vice president for government relations of the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

Lydia DePillis is a reporter focusing on labor, business, and housing. She previously worked at The New Republic and the Washington City Paper. She's from Seattle.

Tags: ilwuCoast Contract
Categories: Labor News

Longshore dispute

Current News - Sat, 02/21/2015 - 22:30

Longshore dispute
http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/letterstoeditor/article/Letters-to-th...
Regarding “Dispute threatens U.S. economy” (Feb. 19), despite their power to shut down international trade, longshore workers are not to blame for this months-long slowdown. The slowdown is about employer pressure on the union to capitulate on the issues, and almost nothing to do with workers actions. The employers want to break this historically strong union, through sweetheart deals (as in West Coast grain ports) and automation, while the workers seek to protect their jobs and their safety on the docks. Yet, workers are being threatened by both the employers and the Obama government with lockouts and the antilabor Taft-Hartley Act.

Why are there no workers actions in response to this employer onslaught? The longshore workers are saddled with a weak and subservient union leadership, which should have called for a walkout when the contract terminated last July. Instead of no contract, no work, they dilly-dallied. Longshore workers need to use their power to stop concessionary contracts, and all working people should have their back.

Chris Kinder, Oakland

Tags: longshoreTaft-Hartley
Categories: Labor News

USA: The cost of a decline in unions

Labourstart.org News - Sat, 02/21/2015 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: NY Times
Categories: Labor News

Greece: Labour Minister vows collective bargaining, workers’ rights central to recovery

Labourstart.org News - Sat, 02/21/2015 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: UNI Global Union
Categories: Labor News

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