Labor Musicians Sing Out At Richmond, CA Railroad Meeting
J.P. Wright, a railroad worker and co-chair of Railroad Workers United RWU and Leith Kahl, a Seattle longshoreman played labor music during a break at a railroad workers conference in Richmond California on March 14, 2015.
For more of their music:
Production of Labor Video Project www.laborvideo.org
Strike by Lufthansa pilots continues
By Philipp Frisch and Ulrich Rippert
21 March 2015
The strike of Lufthansa pilots has intensified since the beginning of the week. On Wednesday, the pilots' union Cockpit decided to continue the strike on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. This is the twelfth series of strike actions that have taken place since the industrial dispute began.
On Wednesday, short- and medium-haul pilots took action. On Thursday, the strike then hit long-haul flights and Lufthansa Cargo. On Friday, short- and medium-haul planes were again affected. Pilots working for the two large Lufthansa subsidiaries, German Wings and the long-haul budget airline EuroWings founded last autumn, were not included in the strike.
Hundreds of flights were cancelled at major hubs. In Frankfurt, 480 flights were cancelled on Wednesday; in Munich, 129 takeoffs and 143 landings did not take place. At many other airports domestic flights to Frankfurt and Munich were cancelled, as well as about 50 flights at Berlin Tegel Airport. Overall on Wednesday some 750 flights, just over half the usual 1,400 daily flights, were cancelled.
Lufthansa had previously cancelled a negotiating meeting scheduled for Tuesday, tabled to discuss a collective agreement covering approximately 5,400 pilots. For months, the pilots have met with intransigence on the part of Lufthansa. The management want to force the pilots to submit and make an example of them in order to push through worse conditions for the other 110,000 staff.
A year ago, on March 20, 2014, pilots had voted in a ballot by 99.1 percent for strike action to defend their incomes and pensions against radical cuts. Since then, management has refused to negotiate seriously and is attempting to isolate the pilots and put them under massive pressure.
Politicians and the media are conducting a systematic campaign against the pilots’ collective struggle, accusing them of defending “privileges”. It is necessary once again to make clear that the pilots’ demands are fully justified.
The current strike concerns transitional early retirement rules. These have been systematically eroded over the last decades. Originally, it was possible for a pilot who reached the age of 55 to take early retirement or work part-time. In 2013, however, the threshold for the rules to apply had increased to 59 years old, although the 2012 contract meant it was not possible to work beyond age 60. The transitional rules would not apply to newly hired pilots.
However, the pilots’ anger is aimed primarily against the cuts plans by Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr. Some months ago, Spohr justified his plan to restructure the company and to reduce the personnel costs through transferring out permanent staff in order to deal with increased price competition in international air travel. The crash in oil prices during the past few months has increased the pressure on Lufthansa.
Lower oil prices should mean lower air fuel costs. However, Lufthansa used complicated financial transactions to hedge against rising costs for kerosene, which are now proving to be expensive. Given the large proportion fuel costs account for in the overall balance sheet of an airline, airlines based in the oil-rich regions, such as the Arab Emirates, industry giants enjoy significant advantages, aggravating the competition.
For example, when Spohr presented the preliminary annual report in February, he had to admit that despite Lufthansa making an operating profit of €954 million, according to German accountancy practice this was in fact a €732 million loss. When Spohr said this meant the shareholders would not receive a dividend, the value of Lufthansa shares fell by 5.4 percent.
The subsidiaries GermanWings and EuroWings are to be built up in the price war with the low-cost airlines, such as Irish company Ryanair, and with the state-subsidised airlines of the Arab peninsula, and supplemented by a long-haul company. Lufthansa plans to purchase seven Airbus A330 for this purpose. Via a holding company, these three companies would then be taxed outside Germany to fight off the international competition. The price war is being conducted on the backs of the employees.
The existing company-wide contract is being eroded. Old-age care for newly hired pilots is to be abolished. In future, they will have to save for their early retirement, which equates to a massive wage cut. The extension of a two-class system among the pilots means those paid under the existing company contract will become fewer and fewer. Today, there are some 5,400 Lufthansa pilots out of more than 9,000 paid under the company contract.
But the plans for cuts go even further. Up to 14 leased aircraft will be used by Lufthansa under the “Jump” brand to serve destinations to which the company would otherwise not fly. The leased aircraft would be flown by pilots employed by the lessor, at lower rates of pay. There will also be fewer cabin staff. Moreover, the company has put the EuroWings pilots under massive pressure to accept even worse conditions.
It is to be expected that Spohr intends to push down all pilots’ wages to the level of their EuroWings colleagues, or even lower. In February, Lufthansa directors Karl Ulrich Garnadt and Bettina Volkens wrote to the workforce explaining the wage level the management was aiming for. They complain that the wage level of employees paid under the company contract is more than 40 percent above those working at EasyJet and Turkish Airlines. “Of course, our personnel costs cannot remain permanently and considerably above the level of the competition,” their letter says.
Cockpit complains about this blackmail, but has done nothing to oppose it. According to spokesman Jörg Handwerg, the sector union is not trying to “hinder strategic business decisions.”
“Those who regard every contract as a restriction on entrepreneurial freedom are labouring under a misconception that makes the conclusion of new agreements de facto impossible,” he added.
Again and again, the pilots’ union has offered to collaborate with the management. For example, Cockpit helped Lufthansa cement the low wages at EuroWings. Under the collective agreement, a young EuroWings captain earns €77,000 a year, almost €60,000 less than a colleague at Lufthansa. Overall, wages at EuroWings are about 40 percent lower than at Lufthansa.
Cockpit supports the capital market orientation of management, but is demanding a “collective bargaining partnership.” This nationally limited and business oriented outlook of Cockpit means the union does not dare call things by their name and say openly that the attacks by Lufthansa on the pilots are part of the international attacks by the airlines on their employees at the behest of the financial markets.
Throughout Europe and the world, similar struggles are taking place. At present, air traffic controllers in Italy are also undertaking strike measures. Last year, pilots in France conducted a bitter dispute that was broken off by the union at precisely the point it had developed into a struggle against the Hollande government.
Instead of mobilising employees at all the European and international airlines in a common struggle, Cockpit is trying push the Lufthansa management into closer cooperation and a “collective bargaining partnership” through limited pinprick tactics and selective strikes.
Two of its functionaries sit on the Lufthansa supervisory board. Last year, Ilona Ritter, chair of the union’s contract policy department, and Stefan Ziegler received over €100,000 for their duties on the supervisory board.
The ten so-called employee representatives on the supervisory board play a key role in agreeing and implementing Spohr’s cuts plans. Deputy head of the supervisory board Christine Behle (Social Democratic Party) is a member of the federal executive of the service union Verdi, replacing Verdi boss Frank Bsirske (Green Party) 18 months ago on the Lufthansa Supervisory Board. Bsirske had supported all the cuts.
A year after the pilots began their industrial dispute, and following 12 limited strike actions, it is time to take stock. The nationally limited politics of Cockpit based on collaboration with management (social partnership) prevent the necessary European-wide and international struggle by pilots alongside all airline workers.
US oil train accidents won't go away any time soon
Published 6:41 am, Friday, March 20, 2015
There have been several high-profile oil-by-rail accidents in the last couple of months.
Should we be worried about shipping crude oil by rail?
The short answer is yes.
The longer answer is that it's complicated. And this mode of transporting oil isn't going away anytime soon.
The rate of accidents has actually declined
Transporting crude oil involves a lot of different interests. On one hand, there's a lot of money involved. Oil is a huge part of the national economy, and it needs to get from its source, largely in the Midwestern and Southern US, to refineries on the East and West coasts. Pipelines can't transport it all, and rail is the next best option.
Even as use of rail is increasing, the rate of of accidents nationwide have actually been going down. This chart, from Reuters' analyst John Kemp, shows that train accidents have been declining pretty steadily since 2004:
On the other hand, even a 0.001% failure rate is a big deal. Rail cars carrying crude oil have a tendency to explode in flames when they derail. And the number of rail cars carrying crude has boomed in the last six years. Almost 500,000 carloads of crude oil were transported by rail in 2014, up from 9,500 in 2008. It now accounts for "1.6% of total carloads for U.S. railroads," according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).
Rail tankers carrying crude go through cities and along rivers
Railroad infrastructure was built to connect cities. And because they connect people, they go through heavily populated areas rather than around them.
Railroads also often wind along rivers, because that's where it's easiest to build. When a train derailed in Illinois earlier this month, hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude threatened the Mississippi River.
Ed Greenberg, a spokesperson for the AAR told Business Insider, "no accident big or small is acceptable, anytime there is an incident the industry takes steps to learn from it to prevent it from happening." The AAR will spend $29 billion to upgrade rail infrastructure in 2015, and it has reduced maximum speeds for crude-carrying trains to 40 mph through high-threat urban areas.
The safety standards could improve
But an op-ed in the New York Times by Marcus Stern questioned the safety of the railroad infrastructure after the Illinois derailment:
...The only significant government intrusion into the railroads’ self-regulation of the nation’s 70,000 to 100,000 railroad bridges is a requirement that the companies inspect them each year. But the Federal Railroad Administration, which employed only 76 track inspectors as of last year, does not routinely review the inspection reports and allows each railroad to decide for itself whether or not to make repairs.
Crude oil wasn't even considered a hazardous material until a few years ago, according to David Willauer, who is the chair of the Subcommittee on Crude Oil Transportation at the Transportation Research Board and the transportation manager at IEM, a global security consulting firm. But because of the huge increase in the volume being transported, it now presents a problem for railroads. (The same can be said for ethanol — also newly produced and transported in large quantities, as well as highly flammable — by the way.)
Shale crude oil is more combustible
And the crude coming from the shale basins, a big part of American production, is typically lighter, with more butane gas in it than other kinds of oil, which makes it more flammable. When a train derails, it creates a ton of heat. If the steel outer shell of the car gets punctured, it's likely to be hot enough to start a fire, which causes the whole care to explode. The heat from that explosion causes the surrounding cars to warp and tear, leaking oil, which catches on fire, creating more explosions. Pretty soon you've got multiple cars exploding and a giant oil or ethanol fire.
"The kinds of fires we've been seeing have just been monumental," says Willauer. And that is the big problem. Fighting an oil fire isn't the same as fighting a house fire.
He says that the biggest concern for the TRB's crude oil subcommittee right now is getting information out there to emergency responders around the country about what to do if one of these fires happens in their response area.
The biggest crude-by-rail disaster in recent memory was at Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, where 47 people died in 2013. The largest source of casualties, Willauer explained, was at a bar near where the train derailed.
"People came out to watch the fired," he explained, and first responders "didn't get people out in time." When the cars exploded, it was too late.
YRC Worldwide Inc.'s top executives received large increases in total compensation in 2014, according to the company's annual proxy statement.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Overland Park-based less-than-truckload carrier (Nasdaq: YRCW) filed its annual proxy statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The filing disclosed the amount paid to YRC's top executives and directors in 2014.
Click here to read more.Issues: Freight
For NY Tug Captain, Job That Runs in Family Turns Deadly Off Long Island
By COREY KILGANNON
MARCH 18, 2015
A tugboat and a barge on the East River in February. Tugboats do the pushing, pulling and guiding for work boats, freighters and other vessels. CreditAndrew Lichtenstein/Corbis
There was rain, thick fog and an ocean swell — in other words, just another day on the water for Donald Maloney, 60, as the Sea Bear, the tugboat he was captaining, traveled along the South Shore of Long Island on Saturday.
The Sea Bear, which had three other crew members, had finished a dredging job in a bay just west of the Hamptons, and the blue and white tug was headed toward New York Harbor to pick up a barge.
The tug was about a mile from the Pines section of Fire Island, a few miles south of where Mr. Maloney grew up in a tugboat family in Farmingville, N.Y. He was scampering onto tugboats while still in diapers and accompanying his father, Donald Sr., also a captain, on the family’s tug.
“Donnie came from a long tradition of tugs in our family,” recalled Kevin Maloney, 58, one of Mr. Maloney’s four brothers, and also a tug captain h
Kevin Maloney, one of Donald Maloney’s four brothers, is also a tug captain. Donald died in a tugboat accident over the weekend. CreditHeather Walsh for The New York Times
Mr. Maloney’s crew members were able to put on insulated survival gear, known as immersion suits, that would help them avoid hypothermia. They went into the water and awaited rescue. Mr. Maloney, who had been a captain nearly all of his adult life, was apparently bent on trying to save the vessel. He finally abandoned ship but was unable to put on his suit.
In the icy water, he quite likely died within minutes and was separated from his bobbing crew, the authorities said. He was found about three hours later by another tugboat crew that had responded to the Sea Bear’s Mayday call.
News of the sinking spread quickly in the close-knit tugboat community, from owners to deckhands to relatives. Mr. Maloney’s death was devastating but not shocking, given the nature of tug work.
“I’ve pulled up a dead man crushed between two barges; I’ve had a deckhand with his fingers ripped off,” Kevin Maloney recalled. “You teach young guys that once they step on that deck, anything can happen.”
The Sea Bear was one of hundreds of tugs that ply the waterways in and around New York Harbor, along the Hudson River and on Long Island Sound. They are the muscle that powers the vibrant maritime economy, ushering millions of tons of cargo and fuel moving through the region’s waters.
Compactly built around a large engine, tugboats do the heavy pushing, pulling and guiding for work boats, tankers, freighters and cruise ships, crudely shoving them through strong currents and chop but also delicately steering them into narrow berths.
Donald Maloney, who died on Saturday.
Crews often remain together, sleeping on board, and shifts can last weeks or even months.
The Sea Bear, a 62-foot-long boat built in 1991, was one of the harbor’s smaller tugs. Its 1,000-horsepower diesel engine was more than adequate for working with barges, as well as maneuvering and assisting work boats.
Continue reading the main story
Donald Maloney had been captaining the Sea Bear for about five months. He worked with the same crew, two weeks on and two weeks off, and was close to them. They were nearly at the end of a two-week shift on Saturday.
The tug called for help shortly after 2 p.m., and the three crew members grabbed life rings and abandoned ship in their survival suits, Suffolk County police officials said. But an executive from Wittich Brothers, the tug company based in Bayonne, N.J., that owned the Sea Bear and employed Mr. Maloney, said the captain was delayed in abandoning the vessel.
“He was trying to do something about the situation, and something unfortunately happened that precluded him” from getting into his survival suit, said the executive, who spoke on the condition that his name not be published because of the delicate nature of the situation.
Soon after the distress signal, Coast Guard vessels rushed to the location. Suffolk police officials said that their rescue boats were prevented from responding because of icy waterways, and that the agency’s helicopter was unable to fly because of poor weather conditions.
Photographs of the Maloney brothers are on display in Kevin Maloney's home.CreditHeather Walsh for The New York Times
The surviving crewmates — Lars Vetland, 43, of Staten Island; Jason Reimer, 38, of Leonardo, N.J.; and Rainer Bendixen, 22, of Bay Head, N.J. — were not injured, the authorities said. None would return calls requesting comment. A woman who answered the door at the address of Mr. Vetland’s home on Staten Island, when asked how he was feeling, said, “Have you ever tread water for three hours?”
That is about how long Mr. Maloney was in the water when he was found around 5 p.m. by another tugboat, the Captain Willie Landers, which had volunteered to help in the search after hearing a radio distress call, the Suffolk County Police Department said.
Mr. Maloney was taken to the Fire Island Coast Guard station, where he was pronounced dead.
The survivors were in the water for about two hours before being rescued by the Coast Guard, the authorities said.
Coast Guard officials said on Tuesday that they were still trying to determine what caused the tug to sink, and that they were conducting an investigation that would include recovering the boat from the ocean floor.
Kevin Maloney said he was angered at widely published news reports describing his brother as having panicked and going into the water without putting on his immersion suit. “I can assure you Donnie didn’t panic — he’s been in plenty of situations like this over the years,” he said.
A photograph of the Mary Turecamo, a tugboat that Mr. Maloney's father, Donald Sr., worked on during his career. CreditHeather Walsh for The New York Times
The Wittich Brothers executive said that he had listened to the crew’s account, and that they said Mr. Maloney “showed complete valor to the very end.”
The Maloney family grew up talking tugboats around the dinner table, Kevin Maloney said. Their father, a tug owner, would take the family on vacations on the Hudson while he pulled barges.
Donald Maloney worked as a deckhand on his father’s tug, the Altoona, after high school, and began working as a captain a few years later. He worked for a half-dozen tugboat companies and became known as an easygoing but firm captain, widely respected for his skill and adamant about teaching new deck hands about the importance of safety, Kevin Maloney said.
Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
“He broke in a lot of guys,” Kevin said. “He knew his stuff and he knew how to deal with tough situations.”
The Maloney family has had many close calls.
In summer 1960, Donald Sr., who died in 2007, was forced into the waters of the Hell Gate section of the East River along with a dozen other crew members after their tug, the Devon, was rammed by a tanker. Steven Maloney, Donald and Kevin’s brother, was nearly killed when a tug he was working on sank in the Cape Cod Canal in 1983.
Kevin Maloney shared these stories from his home in Sayville, N.Y., on Monday. The Cape-style house was decorated in a nautical theme and adorned with photos of the family’s life on the water.
“It was his passion,” he said of his brother Donald. “He was doing the profession he loved.”
When Kevin Maloney learned of his brother’s death on Saturday, he was at work, pushing oil barges in New York Harbor. Still, he completed his shift, because “you have to finish what needs to be done.”
Ruth Bashinsky and Nate Schweber contributed reporting.Tags: tanker workerhealth and safety
Let's continue to thank these transit workers every day...for keeping us moving!
ILWU members in Portland joined other union and community activists on March 9 to protest the latest “free trade” agreement, called the “Trans-Pacific Partnership” (TPP). Corporate interests are trying to ram the deal through Congress using a process known as “Fast Track” – the same tactic used to streamline passage of the NAFTA with Mexico and subsequent deals with Colombia and Korea.
Fast Track farce
To pass the controversial “free trade” deal, corporate-friendly legislators are proposing the Fast Track maneuver that was originally created during the Nixon-era to expand Presidential powers and weaken Congressional oversight of international agreements. While the U.S. Constitution gives Congress authority over trade legislation, and it makes sense to delegate some power to the President to negotiate new deals, it makes no sense to allow the President to do so in secret, without any accountability for meeting negotiating goals set by Congress.
Under Fast Track, Congress must limit debate to just 90 days and then conduct a simple majority, “yes” or “no” vote without allowing any changes or amendments. Corporate goodies Like NAFTA, the TPP is being sold with claims that it will expand trade, create jobs and include “labor and environmental protections” in order to win votes from Congressional Democrats. But unions say these claims amount to little more than window dressing, and fail to address all of the corporate deals concealed inside the secret pact. These include generous patent and intellectual property protections that generally benefit the 1% at the expense of everyone else, especially the working class.
The actual TPP agreement is cloaked in secrecy. Even members of Congress who wish to view the text are required to read it in a secure room, are not allowed to take notes, and cannot bring a staffer with them. The secure room is filled with “experts” from the U.S. Trade Representative’s office – the agency responsible for negotiating and promoting the agreement.
Threat to U.S. laws
The TPP includes provisions for bypassing national sovereignty –allowing U.S. laws to be challenged by corporations who claim our laws amount to unfair trade barriers. This can be used to file claims against environmental protection laws, “Buy American” contract preferences, and public investment programs to promote new energy and transportation industries. Such claims would be reviewed by a three person binding arbitration panel. The ramification is that a multi-national corporation could sue for damages if they believe a U.S. law is cutting into their profit margin.
Money & politics
Corporations hoping to benefit from the TPP have been making campaign donations to Senate and House members in order to influence votes on the trade pact. As with previous “free trade” agreements, this deal has exposed a fault-line in Congress that pits corporate- friendly Republicans and Democrats against progressives and labor allies. Groups outside Congress that oppose Fast Track include National Nurses United, the Sierra Club, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Citizen and the AFL-CIO. Leading proponents include anti-union business lobbies such as the National Retail Federation, Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers.
Friends & foes
Last year, 152 House Democrats, including James Clyburn (the third most powerful Democrat in the House) and former California representative George Miller signed letters opposing fast track. Senate minority leader Harry Reid has independently expressed his opposition to Fast Track. House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi has avoided taking a clear position, in the same way she did before backing NAFTA in 1993, but she recently expressed concerns about Fast Track when speaking to members of the Steelworkers Union.
Pelosi’s second-ranking House Democrat, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, also claims to be “undecided” but tipped his hand in late January by declaring that Fast Track could pass despite opposition from many fellow Democrats.
He went on to assert that previous free trade deals have been “good for the country and for workers.” Former Clinton Labor Secretary and NAFTA booster Robert Reich has flipped sides and now opposes Fast Track and the TPP, which he calls a “corporate Trojan horse.” And two famous Nobel Prize-winning economists, Paul Krugman and Joseph Stieglitz, recently announced their opposition, as did prominent free trade economist Jeffrey Sachs.
ILWU Opposes TPP
At the 35th International Convention of the ILWU in 2012, delegates passed a resolution opposing the TPP, and this resolution continues to guide ILWU policy.
Horrors in Colombia
The passage of the Colombian Free Trade agreement in 2012 has been devastating for longshoremen in that South American nation. Public docks have been privatized and union workers bypassed. Labor provisions in the free trade agreement were supposed to protect workers’ rights, but have proven ineffective. Assassinations, death threats and anti-worker paramilitaries continue to operate in Colombia with impunity. Port operators have bypassed the union in favor of hiring directly off the street. Workers have been forced to live inside containers on the docks when they aren’t needed to load or unload vessels.
Union members who resist these abuses have been blacklisted and union officials are receiving death threats. Some longshoremen have been forced to sign letters promising that they won’t join the union.
The proposed TPP provides a “docking mechanism” that allows additional nations to join after the deal is enacted. Vietnam is of particular concern because it is illegal in that country to form an independent union, and persons who do so can be imprisoned. Similar concerns could apply to other nations, including Burma – renamed “Myanmar” by the military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1962 to 2011.
What we can do
To help stop Fast Track and the TPP, call your Senators and Representatives by dialing 855-712-8441 and let them know:
• The TPP is bad for America.
• Fast Track authority should be opposed.
• You will not re-elect any politician who sells out workers and our country.
Many members of Congress are already doing the right thing by opposing Fast Track and the TPP, such as U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and Representative Peter DeFazio. More grassroots pressure can help others make the same choice. An injury to one is an injury to all.
– Matt Theisen, Local 8
PMA Bosses Want Gov To Bring ILWU Under More Restrictive Anti-Labor Laws Like RLA- Placing port labor under the RLA “would be more harmonious, as we haven’t seen in recent years the kind of actions in the railways that we have seen in the port industries,
PMA Bosses Want Gov To Bring ILWU Under More Restrictive Anti-Labor Laws Like RLA- Placing port labor under the RLA “would be more harmonious, as we haven’t seen in recent years the kind of actions in the railways that we have seen in the port industries,”
Shippers seek to fix broken US labor-management system
Mark Szakonyi, Associate Managing Editor | Mar 18, 2015 4:38PM EDT
WASHINGTON — After finally getting Congress and the Obama administration to turn their attention to U.S. West Coast congestion exacerbated by union slowdowns, shippers are pushing for a change to what they consider a broken labor-management system.
The most likely vehicle for reforming the system that allowed the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association to stretch contract talks to nine months and jeopardize supply chains appears to be placing unionized port labor under the Railway Labor Act. The RLA oversees railroad and airline workers. Putting longshore labor under system would allow the National Mediation Board, which has a near-perfect record of helping conclude cases without interruption to commerce, to get involved after one of the parties declares an impasse and one side invites mediators.
Under the National Labor Relations Act, the law currently governing port labor negotiations, there aren’t any protections against tit-for-tat blows between the union and waterfront employers, and both sides have to agree to invite federal mediators to the table. The ILWU denied it was engaging in slowdowns, and the PMA, which represents waterfront employers, rejected accusations from the union that it wasn’t intentionally not hiring workers.
Putting waterfront labor under the RLA will be a heavy legislative lift with a divided Congress and a union-friendly White House. And, it’s unclear if such a move would prevent “economic warfare” — whether from union slowdowns and the withholding of labor, or employers’ refusal to hire workers.
The window for change is narrowing. Congress and the Obama administration generally have a short attention span and there are plenty of other issues on their plate, ranging from Middle East terrorism to talks with Iran over its nuclear capabilities. There’s been no legislation introduced in either chamber seeking to place port labor under the RLA, but there has been some chatter about the topic in Washington.
U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who helped the ILWU and PMA reach a tentative five-year agreement on Feb. 20, said at a Washington event Tuesday that the model for waterfront labor-management negotiations needs to be reformed. He didn’t elaborate, according to attendees of the event hosted by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.
Perez’s comments came two weeks after Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the third-ranking Senate Republican, suggested suggested that putting port labor under the RLA could provide added protections for supply chains. At a March 3 Senate committee hearing, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx reacted quickly. Foxx said he didn’t think he could currently support “those type of changes.” Balance is needed between labor and the business community, he added.
Sen. John McCain, D-Ariz., “likes the idea” of putting port labor under the RLA, said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, a center-right policy institute. Holtz-Eakin, who was McCain’s policy director during his 2007-2008 presidential campaign, spoke with his former boss about a month ago on the subject. McCain’s office wasn’t immediately available to comment on whether the senator planned to introduce legislation relating to the issue.
The news media, a driver of the congressional agenda, have given little attention to the idea of reforming the port labor-management system. Thune’s comments were highlighted in a short story by PoliticoPro, a subscription news service for a Beltway audience, and by an Orange County Register guest editorial that supported his proposal. But as the recent West Coast port debacle showed, it takes coverage from the big players like CNN, Fox News, The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal to grab the general public’s attention, and spur legislators to respond.
Even so, shippers aren’t letting the West Coast crisis go to waste. National Retail Federation President Matthew Shay used a speech at the TPM conference this month to passionately urge Congress and the Obama administration to reform the labor-management system for ports. The NRF is looking at various ways the union labor-management negotiation model could be changed, Jon Gold, the group's vice president of supply chain and customs policy, told JOC.com
“If both sides know they will end up in mediation, it changes the dynamic,” said Doug Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office.
Now, the only way the government can prevent a port strike or terminal lockout is to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act, a “break the glass and sound the alarm” option, he said. Despite strong pressure from shippers to use the act to end the ILWU-PMA deadlock, Obama resisted. His predecessor, President George W. Bush, invoked the act to end a 10-day lockout on the West Coast in 2002.
Putting port labor under the RLA is “by no means a panacea for labor-management strife,” Holtz-Eakin said. He pointed to how unionized airline baggage handlers, which are under the purview of the RLA, still engage in sickouts as a negotiating tactic during contract talks.
That’s because the mechanisms within the RLA to prevent such actions, known as “economic warfare,” aren’t airtight, said Paul Heylman, who represents employers as a Washington, D.C.-based labor attorney at Saul Ewing LLP.
Under the RLA, either the employers or union can declare an impasse, starting a 10-day clock in which the National Mediation Board can be brought to the table if one side requests they do so. It’s rare for the 10-day clock to run out without at least one of the parties asking mediators to join the negotiations, Heylman said. Whether port union-management negotiations would follow a similar path has yet to be tested.
What’s unclear is whether the RLA would prevent the tit-for-tat actions between the opposing sides, such as union slowdowns or marine terminals’ not hiring longshoremen. Under the RLA, the offended side would have to seek a federal injunction against the other, theoretically triggering a race to the courthouse for a temporary restraining order. The question then comes down to which side can bring a stronger case to the federal judge.
Placing port labor under the RLA “would be more harmonious, as we haven’t seen in recent years the kind of actions in the railways that we have seen in the port industries,” Heylman said. Aside from some construction unions, the ILWU has a stronger bargaining position than most other U.S. unions, thanks to its “cohesive structure and geographic monopoly,” he said. The International Longshoremen’s Association, which works East and Gulf Coast ports, is seen as less powerful, partly because the ILA is less centralized, which dilutes headquarters’ ability to rein in local unions, and because the ILA has non-union competition at some of its ports.
Interest in reforming the port labor-management negotiating model may fade as the West Coast marine terminals regain productivity. Shippers’ fears of the next showdown between labor and employers won’t, however. Although the ILA and United States Maritime Alliance said they may begin discussion on a new-long term contract more than three years before their current contract expires in September 2018, shippers haven’t forgotten the protracted talks and strike threats that marked the last ILA-USMX negotiations. And they hope something changes before the next round of ILWU-PMA bargaining in 2019.
Contact Mark Szakonyi at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: @szakonyi_joc.Tags: PMARLA
“New” ILWU/PMA Arbitration system is being kept secret by the ILWU. WHY?
03/05/15 / Jim Tessier / / Default
It is no secret that the ILWU, specifically Big Bob, wanted to get rid of Arbitrator David Miller.
What is secret is why Big Bob wanted to get rid of the Unions choice, ILWU Local 63 member David Miller, who has been the Southern California Area Arbitrator since 2002.
Big Bob, in a letter to all Longshore Division Locals and Pensioners dated February 11, 2015, accused without naming, David Miller, of having “openly engaged in conduct that clearly compromises their impartiality, including the development of close and personal relationships that affect decision-making and the failure to disclose these particular relationships and conflicts of interest”. McEllrath Letter 2-11-15
Big Bob does not identify specifically what conduct he his alleging compromised David’s impartiality.
Big Bob also fails to identify which “close and personal relationships” he is concerned about, or which of Miller’s Decisions were “affected”.
Big Bob wraps up his letter with a false claim; “Both parties have recognized at the bargaining table that there is a problem, but, since the bias favors the employers, PMA is refusing to take corrective action.”
Bob’s claim is a flat out lie. The only one at the bargaining table that had a problem was Big Bob.
Big Bob forced the PMA to agree to throw out an arbitration system that has been in place since 1934, without ever filing any complaints related to any inappropriate behavior or any biased Decisions, because he wanted to have his own member David Miller removed. 1934 Arbitration Decision
Bob agreed to replace the current 4 (2-PMA 2-ILW) Arbitrators with 4 panels of 3 Arbitrators (1-ILWU 1-PMA 1-Neutral Professional), so now 12 Arbitrators will do the work of resolving PCLCD disputes, adding 1-2 million dollars per year to the cost of Arbitration which is split on a 50/50 basis.
Under the “new” system, on-the-job disputes like safety, picket lines, and claims of onerousness or speedup, will be heard by either the ILWU or PMA Arbitrator based on the flip of a coin.
All other disputes will be heard by the panel of 3 Arbitrators; 1-ILWU. 1-PMA, and 1 neutral professional.
Which means all the important decisions involving discipline, and all other disagreements, will be decided by a neutral professional lawyer or retired Judge. The ILWU pick and the PMA pick will cancel each other, so all the decisions will get made by a lawyer or retired Judge who knows nothing about the Longshore Industry.
How is that better for the ILWU or the PMA?
Big Bob refused to drop his demand to have David Miller removed, and under pressure from the Secretary of Labor, PMA offered the Union a deal they thought the Union would reject, only they accepted and now both parties are saddled with a whole new Arbitration procedure.
The “new” procedure will be 3 times more expensive and, more importantly, the Union will lose all the benefits associated with having Union members decide longshore issues related to discipline and manning, and everything else referred to the “new” Arbitrator panel’s lawyer or retired Judge. You can forget about all the past practices arguments, they will be gone.
What were you thinking, Big Bob?Tags: ILWU ArbitrationBig Bob
You may donate money for a lawyer here: https://fundly.com/free-keith-brown-el
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Keith has been arrested on purely fabricated charges...
Keith Brown El is a dear friend to many. He is an active member of Missouri Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE), the IWW, and the Ida B. Wells Coalition (IBWC,) as well as a volunteer programmer on 90.1 FM/KKFI's Jaws of Justice radio program and a tenacious advocate for homeless people and people in prison. Mr. Brown El has been imprisoned in Jackson County Detention Center since February 10th for a completely bogus weapon’s charge.
IT’S TIME TO STAND UP! ASK QUESTIONS AND DEMAND ANSWERS!
After 10 months of longshore contract negotiations and reaching a 5-year tentative agreement (TA) the ILWU membership is still being kept in the dark. Some members have resorted to reading the shipowners’ Journal of Commerce (which now claims to have a copy of the TA) to get information. Other members have even gone to the PMA bosses’ website. Members can go to the Caucus March 30 at the Holiday Inn; 1500 Van Ness at Pine St. in SF. Find out what’s happening. That’s your right!
The first of ILWU’s 10 Guiding Principles states:
“A Union is built on its members. The strength, understanding and unity of the membership can determine the union’s course and its advancements. The members who work, who make up the union and pay its dues can best determine their own destiny. If the facts are honestly presented to the members in the ranks, they will best judge what should be done and how it should be done. In brief it is the membership of the union which is the best judge of its own welfare; not the officers, not the employers, not the politicians and the fair weather friends of labor.”
Questions that need answers:
1. Why has the Coast Committee agreed to bring back the arbitrators without a ratified agreement? Those who built this militant union said our strength has always been standing together in unity when there is a beef on the job. The new TA providing for a 3-member arbitration panel isn’t the answer.
2. In PMA’s final offer they demanded the removal of the IBT/Teamster Memorandum of Understanding (pg. 227) signed by Harry Bridges in 1961. Was it removed? Will outside truckers be able to drive under the hook to load or unload a container? Port truckers should be organized into ILWU.
3. What about fighting automation? In the past Local 10 has called for 4 shifts @ 6 hours work with 8 hours pay. That adds another shift and maintains wages. This new TA claims to trade wage increases for the loss of jobs. That’s a bad trade off for workers. It widens the gap in wages between skilled and basic jobs while not protecting those jobs on the bottom. What exactly is the yard manning and crane manning on the ship, tractors and on the dock? If we get one more dockman, that’s still not equal to LA manning.
Anthony Leviege #9576 Stacey Rodgers # 101236
March 19, 2015Tags: ilwuCoast CaucusPMAJournal of Commerce