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Tump Privatization of FAA-White House formally backs plan to send 30,000 federal workers to private corporation

Current News - Mon, 06/05/2017 - 09:51

White House formally backs plan to send 30,000 federal workers to private corporation
https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/white-house-for...

The scene in the air traffic control tower at Dulles International Airport during a tour by the Federal Aviation Administration along with UPS and United Airlines as they gave a firsthand demonstration of the NextGen technology called Data Communications on Sept. 27, 2016. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

By Ashley Halsey III and John Wagner June 5 at 12:20 PM
The White House on Monday formally endorsed a plan to spin off more than 30,000 federal workers into a private nonprofit corporation, separating the nation’s air traffic controllers and those who work on a $36 billion modernization program from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Trump administration proposal essentially is an endorsement of a plan that failed to gain sufficient traction in Congress last year. The plan is in keeping with the stated desire of the administration and congressional Republicans to streamline government and transfer some functions into private hands.

President Trump condemned the Obama Administration and the FAA for wasting billions on modernization without results.

“The current system cannot keep up, has not been able to keep up for many years,” Trump said at White House ceremony. “We’re still stuck with an ancient, broken, antiquated, horrible system that doesn’t work.”

He said that during the Obama administration the FAA “didn’t know what the hell they were doing” in spending $7 billion to modernize the aviation system.

Monday’s announcement launched a week in which the administration will focus on infrastructure, with Trump traveling to Cincinnati on Wednesday to discuss the movement of freight on inland waterways, and on Thursday he has invited mayors and governors to the White House to discuss their infrastructure needs.

[Trump advisers call for privatizing some public assets to build new infrastructure]

Trump will wrap up the week with a trip to the Department of Transportation to discuss ways to change rules and regulations to expedite project construction, with the goal of compacting the process from an average of eight years to two years or less.

The administration hopes to win congressional approval to spend an additional $200 billion tax dollars on infrastructure in the coming years, administration officials said.

“We absolutely do feel that the infrastructure package can be accomplished this year. We are working every day to that end,” said one administration official.

While the separating air traffic control from the FAA has been discussed for decades and was proposed under the Clinton administration, in its current iteration it has fractured the airline industry, divided the unions that represent the federal workers, raised the ire of private plane operators, been opposed by ranking House Democrats and raised eyebrows in the Senate.

White House officials in briefing reporters said they had given reassurance to the Department of Defense, rural airports and operators of non-commercial planes that their interests would be protected under the proposal.

The Trump administration endorsement, first signaled in a preliminary budget released in March, could provide the momentum needed to get the proposal through both houses and to the president’s desk for his signature.

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, embraced the dormant concept last year and fought to win the approval of his committee. But the bill it passed got no attention on the House floor, and there was muttering on the Senate side that suggested it had no future there.

“I first spoke to President Trump back in 2014 about the need for reform, and I’m glad to be working on it with him in 2017,” Shuster said. “President Reagan once said ‘government is not the solution to the problem; government is the problem.’ Government bureaucracy has held back innovation in American aviation. It’s time to bring our aviation system into the 21st century.”

The issue on Capitol Hill has not been the functioning of the 14,000 air traffic controllers, who are universally subject to praise for their devotion to safety when mentioned in the House or Senate committees that oversee them.

Instead, Congress has expressed enormous frustration over the pace of the FAA’s modernization program, called NextGen.

While commonly referred to as a GPS-based system for directing the flow of aircraft, that simplistic explanation is akin to saying it’s the carburetor that makes a car’s wheels go around.

The reality is that NextGen is a complicated group of systems intended to smooth the flow of airplanes, speed air travel, save fuel and accommodate a 20 percent increase in passengers in the next two decades.

The current system is radar-based and requires planes to fly from one waypoint to the next rather than in a straight line to their destination. (Complaints about low-flying airliners have been legion across the country as the first of several NextGen projects has come on line.)

Selling Congress and the airlines, who would bear some of the cost, on a multibillion-dollar modernization program seemed like a dicey proposition, so about a dozen years ago the FAA came up with a catchy name for all its projects: NextGen.

That gave the FAA a single name to use when it sought money from Congress. But it also gave Congress a single program to hold accountable when elements of NextGen moved slowly, or not at all.

Congress’s perception that NextGen wasn’t moving fast enough was amply bolstered by critical reports from the inspector general’s office and from the Government Accountability Office.

The FAA, however, has been able to point to success in recent years with some elements of NextGen.

When Shuster revived the concept of moving the controllers and the NextGen program to a private nonprofit corporation run by a board of directors, one of the big four airlines — Delta — opposed the move and parted company with the lobbying group Airlines for America, which endorsed it. Operators of small planes and corporate jets — known as “general aviation” to distinguish them from the airlines — pushed back out of fear the airlines would dominate the corporation’s board.

That National Air Traffic Controllers Association backed Shuster’s plan, saying the new corporation would ensure more stable funding than Congress could provide, while the 11,000-member Professional Aviation Safety Specialists union strongly opposed it.

“It is unfathomable, even dangerous, to consider gambling with the future and safety of our air traffic control system through privatization,” PASS President Mike Perrone said in a statement last month.

Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Control Association, whose union supported Shuster’s bill last year, said of the new plan, “We look forward to reviewing the specifics of the air traffic control reform legislation so we can evaluate whether it satisfies our Union’s principles, including protecting the rights and benefits of the ATC workforce.”

Mirroring much of Shuster’s 2016 proposal, a four-page White House proposal underscores that “no group should have the appearance of influence over the board of directors,” countering the argument that the airlines would dominate the board.

The White House plan tinkers with Shuster’s original plan in an attempt to ensure that airlines don’t dominate the board. Rather than assigning seats on the board to entities like airlines, unions, general aviation and the public, the initial selections would be similarly selected.

“We have totally unended that,” said a senior White House official. “Going forward it should operate like any other board and perpetuate itself and not be divided out by special interest groups.”

The new corporation would pay for itself through user fees for airlines and “reasonable” fees passed on to passengers, the administration said. It also would have the authority to adjust air routes after seeking public comment, recognizing that NextGen routing will cause noise over houses that haven’t previously experienced low-flying planes.

The wording of the White House paper may cause concern for union members who would go off the federal payroll. It specifies twice that current employees will retain their pay and benefits and be able to participate in federal retirement and health-care plans. It does not say that the corporation’s new hires should expect the same pay or benefits.

Tags: privatizationair travelunion busting
Categories: Labor News

Tump Privatization of FAA-White House formally backs plan to send 30,000 federal workers to private corporation

Current News - Mon, 06/05/2017 - 09:51

White House formally backs plan to send 30,000 federal workers to private corporation
https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/white-house-for...

The scene in the air traffic control tower at Dulles International Airport during a tour by the Federal Aviation Administration along with UPS and United Airlines as they gave a firsthand demonstration of the NextGen technology called Data Communications on Sept. 27, 2016. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

By Ashley Halsey III and John Wagner June 5 at 12:20 PM
The White House on Monday formally endorsed a plan to spin off more than 30,000 federal workers into a private nonprofit corporation, separating the nation’s air traffic controllers and those who work on a $36 billion modernization program from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Trump administration proposal essentially is an endorsement of a plan that failed to gain sufficient traction in Congress last year. The plan is in keeping with the stated desire of the administration and congressional Republicans to streamline government and transfer some functions into private hands.

President Trump condemned the Obama Administration and the FAA for wasting billions on modernization without results.

“The current system cannot keep up, has not been able to keep up for many years,” Trump said at White House ceremony. “We’re still stuck with an ancient, broken, antiquated, horrible system that doesn’t work.”

He said that during the Obama administration the FAA “didn’t know what the hell they were doing” in spending $7 billion to modernize the aviation system.

Monday’s announcement launched a week in which the administration will focus on infrastructure, with Trump traveling to Cincinnati on Wednesday to discuss the movement of freight on inland waterways, and on Thursday he has invited mayors and governors to the White House to discuss their infrastructure needs.

[Trump advisers call for privatizing some public assets to build new infrastructure]

Trump will wrap up the week with a trip to the Department of Transportation to discuss ways to change rules and regulations to expedite project construction, with the goal of compacting the process from an average of eight years to two years or less.

The administration hopes to win congressional approval to spend an additional $200 billion tax dollars on infrastructure in the coming years, administration officials said.

“We absolutely do feel that the infrastructure package can be accomplished this year. We are working every day to that end,” said one administration official.

While the separating air traffic control from the FAA has been discussed for decades and was proposed under the Clinton administration, in its current iteration it has fractured the airline industry, divided the unions that represent the federal workers, raised the ire of private plane operators, been opposed by ranking House Democrats and raised eyebrows in the Senate.

White House officials in briefing reporters said they had given reassurance to the Department of Defense, rural airports and operators of non-commercial planes that their interests would be protected under the proposal.

The Trump administration endorsement, first signaled in a preliminary budget released in March, could provide the momentum needed to get the proposal through both houses and to the president’s desk for his signature.

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, embraced the dormant concept last year and fought to win the approval of his committee. But the bill it passed got no attention on the House floor, and there was muttering on the Senate side that suggested it had no future there.

“I first spoke to President Trump back in 2014 about the need for reform, and I’m glad to be working on it with him in 2017,” Shuster said. “President Reagan once said ‘government is not the solution to the problem; government is the problem.’ Government bureaucracy has held back innovation in American aviation. It’s time to bring our aviation system into the 21st century.”

The issue on Capitol Hill has not been the functioning of the 14,000 air traffic controllers, who are universally subject to praise for their devotion to safety when mentioned in the House or Senate committees that oversee them.

Instead, Congress has expressed enormous frustration over the pace of the FAA’s modernization program, called NextGen.

While commonly referred to as a GPS-based system for directing the flow of aircraft, that simplistic explanation is akin to saying it’s the carburetor that makes a car’s wheels go around.

The reality is that NextGen is a complicated group of systems intended to smooth the flow of airplanes, speed air travel, save fuel and accommodate a 20 percent increase in passengers in the next two decades.

The current system is radar-based and requires planes to fly from one waypoint to the next rather than in a straight line to their destination. (Complaints about low-flying airliners have been legion across the country as the first of several NextGen projects has come on line.)

Selling Congress and the airlines, who would bear some of the cost, on a multibillion-dollar modernization program seemed like a dicey proposition, so about a dozen years ago the FAA came up with a catchy name for all its projects: NextGen.

That gave the FAA a single name to use when it sought money from Congress. But it also gave Congress a single program to hold accountable when elements of NextGen moved slowly, or not at all.

Congress’s perception that NextGen wasn’t moving fast enough was amply bolstered by critical reports from the inspector general’s office and from the Government Accountability Office.

The FAA, however, has been able to point to success in recent years with some elements of NextGen.

When Shuster revived the concept of moving the controllers and the NextGen program to a private nonprofit corporation run by a board of directors, one of the big four airlines — Delta — opposed the move and parted company with the lobbying group Airlines for America, which endorsed it. Operators of small planes and corporate jets — known as “general aviation” to distinguish them from the airlines — pushed back out of fear the airlines would dominate the corporation’s board.

That National Air Traffic Controllers Association backed Shuster’s plan, saying the new corporation would ensure more stable funding than Congress could provide, while the 11,000-member Professional Aviation Safety Specialists union strongly opposed it.

“It is unfathomable, even dangerous, to consider gambling with the future and safety of our air traffic control system through privatization,” PASS President Mike Perrone said in a statement last month.

Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Control Association, whose union supported Shuster’s bill last year, said of the new plan, “We look forward to reviewing the specifics of the air traffic control reform legislation so we can evaluate whether it satisfies our Union’s principles, including protecting the rights and benefits of the ATC workforce.”

Mirroring much of Shuster’s 2016 proposal, a four-page White House proposal underscores that “no group should have the appearance of influence over the board of directors,” countering the argument that the airlines would dominate the board.

The White House plan tinkers with Shuster’s original plan in an attempt to ensure that airlines don’t dominate the board. Rather than assigning seats on the board to entities like airlines, unions, general aviation and the public, the initial selections would be similarly selected.

“We have totally unended that,” said a senior White House official. “Going forward it should operate like any other board and perpetuate itself and not be divided out by special interest groups.”

The new corporation would pay for itself through user fees for airlines and “reasonable” fees passed on to passengers, the administration said. It also would have the authority to adjust air routes after seeking public comment, recognizing that NextGen routing will cause noise over houses that haven’t previously experienced low-flying planes.

The wording of the White House paper may cause concern for union members who would go off the federal payroll. It specifies twice that current employees will retain their pay and benefits and be able to participate in federal retirement and health-care plans. It does not say that the corporation’s new hires should expect the same pay or benefits.

Tags: privatizationair travelunion busting
Categories: Labor News

Fleet Memo for June 3 2017

IBU - Mon, 06/05/2017 - 08:59
.
Categories: Unions

Unions react to the MAX killings "Best was a well-liked member of the COPPEA chapter of Professional & Technical Employees (PTE) Local 17 at the City of Portland. An army veteran and a father of four, he had been a technician at the city’s Bureau of Devel

Current News - Sun, 06/04/2017 - 18:45

Unions react to the MAX killings "Best was a well-liked member of the COPPEA chapter of Professional & Technical Employees (PTE) Local 17 at the City of Portland. An army veteran and a father of four, he had been a technician at the city’s Bureau of Development Services since 2015.”
https://nwlaborpress.org/2017/06/unions-react-to-the-max-killings/
Jun 2, 2017 Building Community

At the Hollywood Transit Center, an impromptu memorial to the victims of the May 26 attack on the MAX light rail.

By Don McIntosh

PORTLAND — The May 26 attacks on the MAX light rail train hit close to home for many local union members.

Jeremy Christian, an ex-con and self-described political nihilist, got on a westbound train at Lloyd Center at about 4:30 Friday and immediately targeted two African-American girls, one of them wearing a hijab, with a loud and frightening racist rant. Three men stepped forward to defend the girls and were stabbed in the neck by Christian. Micah David-Cole Fletcher survived. Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Rick Best died of their wounds.

Best was a well-liked member of the COPPEA chapter of Professional & Technical Employees (PTE) Local 17 at the City of Portland. An army veteran and a father of four, he had been a technician at the city’s Bureau of Development Services since 2015.

Local 17 posted a tribute to Rick on its website, and asked members to contribute to a GoFundMe pageto fund scholarships for Best’s children: Erik, Isaac, David, and Tramanh. The union also wrote a check to cover COBRA payments for June so Best’s family can maintain health insurance it was getting through the City. Portland City Council is working on ordinance to pay the COBRA payments for three years after that. The PTE 17 board will also consider other ways to honor Rick’s sacrifice and bravery at its June 15 meeting in Seattle, including the possibility of contributing to the Rick Best Memorial Scholarship Fund, since that is where his family would like donations to go.

Other union members dealt with the aftermath of the attacks in the course of doing their jobs, including members of the Portland Police Association, Teamster-represented paramedics who staff American Medical Response, and TriMet police officers and the TriMet light rail operator who halted the train after the attacks occurred. TriMet employees are represented by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757, which has been raising concerns about security on board buses and light rail trains for several years.

A thank you to the Good Samaritans, signed by TriMet operators
But in a May 31 statement about the attacks, ATU Local 757 president Shirley Block expressed opposition to a proposal to increase the presence of armed police officers aboard buses and trains. “Armed police officers aboard transit vehicles intimidate the public, reduce ridership, and provide little more than expensive security theatre,” Block wrote. Instead, Block said, the union is calling for a return to well-trained fare inspectors “who can de-escalate and/or assess the proper response to dangerous situations,” as well as a reinstatement of TriMet’s “Rider Advocate” program, which “recruited and paid individuals from low-income communities and communities of color to ride our buses and trains as liaisons between operators, fare inspectors, riders, and even police.” See the full statement here.

Oregon AFL-CIO president Tom Chamberlain also issued a statement May 31 in response to the attacks: “The unions of the Oregon AFL-CIO offer our sincere condolences to the families and friends of Taliesin Namkai-Meche and Ricky John Best, and we hope Micah David-Cole Fletcher has a complete recovery,” Chamberlain said. “The actions these three took demonstrates a unique combination of bravery and compassion. We hope the two young women who endured a hate-fueled verbal assault can process and ultimately heal from what I can only imagine to be a deeply devastating experience.”

“Incidents of hate and hate crimes have been on the rise in our country, and Friday’s violence remind Oregonians that we all must stand together in opposition to those who seek to divide us through fear and violence. Oregonians are sickened and disturbed by Friday’s events, and I encourage all of us to stand together and continue to take positive actions to protect the rights of us all. It’s through unity and solidarity that we will heal from this tragic incident. It’s through standing together against hatred that we can stop events like this from happening again.”

Tags: PFTE Local 17Portland Racist MurdersMax Light Train
Categories: Labor News

UK: ITUC condemns terrorist attack in London

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 06/04/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITUC
Categories: Labor News

Somalia: IFJ condemns 'farcical' threatened prosecution of journalists’ leader

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 06/04/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: IFJ
Categories: Labor News

Spanish Ports Bracing for Dockworkers’ Strike On June 5th, 7th and 9th

Current News - Fri, 06/02/2017 - 19:07

Spanish Ports Bracing for Dockworkers’ Strike On June 5th, 7th and 9th

https://worldmaritimenews.com/archives/221836/spanish-ports-bracing-for-...

Spanish dockworker unions have decided to keep the call for strikes for next week in order to voice their disapproval of the recently adopted port reform by the country’s parliament.

The strikes are scheduled for the 5th, 7th and 9th of June.

Spanish dockworkers fear the new reform would result in massive layoffs and have protested against the lack of their involvement in the negotiation process on the terms and conditions of the reform. Namely, the government aims to liberalize the hiring process of workers at ports, which in turn is likely to result in firing of unionized workers and replacing them with cheaper labor.

Originally, the country’s union Coordinadora announced a three-week strike advisory during the odd hours on May 24, 26, 29, 31 and June 2, 5, 7, 9 following the passing of the royal decree. However, the strike plans covering the month of May were shelved following a meeting of around 200 stevedores from all Spanish ports with Anesco, port employers’ association.

Nevertheless, the latest move was prompted by the association’s inability to guarantee job security to around 6,000 workers.

International dockworkers unions had said earlier that they would support their colleagues with industrial action across European ports, however their response is yet to be seen after the latest strike announcement.

Container shipping companies are expected to start shifting their calls to alternative neighboring ports so as to avoid delays of cargo due to the strikes.

Danish shipping major Maersk Line already said that its latest fleet addition, the 20,568 TEU Madrid Maersk, will be omitting the port of Algeciras. Instead, the cargo would be discharged in Port Tangier for further connection to Algeciras.

World Maritime News Staff

Tags: Spanish Port StrikeCoordinadora
Categories: Labor News

Canada: CLC Pres says despite Trump Canada must back climate change Just Transition

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 06/02/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Canadian Labour Congress
Categories: Labor News

China: Firm that makes shoes for Ivanka Trump denies missing worker activists' claims

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 06/02/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Guardian
Categories: Labor News

China: Silencing worker activists. Is China offering Ivanka Trump unseemly favors?

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 06/02/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Washington Post
Categories: Labor News

China: CLW appeal to President Trump, Ivanka Trump, for help to release activists

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 06/02/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: China Labor Watch
Categories: Labor News

Vigorous Campaign Revives Transit Union (ATU) Local 1764 in Right-to-Work Virginia

Current News - Fri, 06/02/2017 - 15:01

Vigorous Campaign Revives Transit Union (ATU) Local 1764 in Right-to-Work Virginia
http://labornotes.org/2017/05/vigorous-campaign-revives-transit-union-ri...
May 31, 2017 / John Ertl

After a robust union campaign, the Fairfax Connector went from a unit at risk of decertifying to a strong union shop. Photo: ATU
Going into its latest contract, the transit union in Fairfax County, Virginia, was in tough shape. People weren’t active because they didn’t believe the union could do much—and the union couldn’t do much because people weren’t active.

Management never budged on the issues that stewards brought up. Grievances piled up, unresolved. And since Virginia is a “right-to-work” state, half the workers in the bargaining unit weren’t even members of Transit (ATU) Local 1764.

But after a robust union campaign, in a matter of months the Fairfax Connector went from a unit at risk of decertifying to a strong union shop.

Fairfax County is one of the wealthiest counties in the nation—yet the 600 bus drivers, mechanics, and utilities staff at the Fairfax Connector have no pension, because they work for a private company rather than the county. Many can’t afford to live in the affluent Washington, D.C., suburb where they work.

Workers were seething because they had been cheated out of a retirement plan. In the previous contract, they had given up a 2 percent raise in exchange for a pension. But when a pension plan could not be set up according to the contract’s poorly written terms, the company exploited the loophole and kept the money.

“People saw that the union wasn’t working on their behalf, and they saw that management just did whatever it wanted,” said bus driver Rachid Mhamdi. “There was no trust in the union.”

BACK TO BASICS

How could this situation be turned around? More than a year before the contract was set to expire, the international union embarked on an ambitious campaign to “Fix the (Unfair)fax Connector.” The first step was clear: the union needed a stronger relationship with its members.

ATU staff set out to talk to members and encourage involvement. For starters, to better represent a workforce that includes immigrants from Somalia, Nigeria, Togo, Tanzania, Morocco, Egypt, and India, the local recruited and trained more stewards at each garage, focusing first on re-engaging people who had previously been leaders in the union. A call for volunteers yielded a large contract committee.

For the first time ever, the union began to print newsletters and distribute the contract in Spanish, Amharic, Somali, and Arabic. This was crucial, since the garages are full of “little communities,” says driver John Gillison. “The Middle Easterners hang out and talk to one another, as do the African immigrants and many other groups, but many of them didn’t get involved in the union because of the language barrier.”

Union stewards also created a text-message network where members could get the latest news and shop talk using the mobile phone app WhatsApp. Over half the members joined.

To identify key contract issues, the local surveyed members—something it had never done at this workplace. Stewards distributed surveys to all members in various languages, and received an encouraging response rate of 25 percent after two weeks.

The results showed that a top priority for most members was to achieve parity in wages and benefits among the three Fairfax Connector garages. The two newer garages, which had more recently joined the union, didn’t make as much as the original garage. Other key issues were boosting wages generally, shortening the time it took to reach the top rate of pay, and improving the retirement plan.

There were other problems too. Mechanics reported that maintenance staff would often find water bottles full of urine on buses, as drivers had no other option during uninterrupted shifts of up to 10 hours behind the wheel. Fully half of all the survey respondents said they often went without bathroom breaks. A whopping 74 percent said that fumes on the buses were a big issue.

Before this campaign, “sometimes you’d go to a union meeting and there’d only be seven or eight people there,” shop steward Luis Santiago said. But the activists’ outreach and the new app generated a buzz that began to attract more and more people to membership meetings—until the union struggled to find a room big enough to fit everybody.

OPENING VOLLEY

Local 1764 activists began to pursue the ultimate cause of their misery—not their direct employer, a giant multinational corporation called MV Transportation, but the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

This legislative body, made up of eight Democrats and two Republicans, had contracted out the work since the service began in 1985. Nevertheless, the county still owns the buses, sets the routes, establishes work rules, handles customer complaints, and even reserves the right to make the company fire someone.

To explain the issues that workers were facing, the contract committee attempted to meet with every supervisor on the board. Stunningly, some of the supervisors had never even heard of MV Transportation, despite its $70 million contract with the county. The supervisors sounded sympathetic at first, but they were reluctant to get involved, hiding behind the excuse that they couldn’t take sides in a private matter.

Next the contract committee organized a phone blitz. Members distributed flyers urging their co-workers to call the Fairfax Connector’s complaint hotline—usually used by customers to track down a lost bag or to complain about a late bus. After dozens of workers called to air their grievances about the absent pension, the county stopped taking hotline calls.

Members began to call the supervisors directly. The committee mobilized 30 members to pack a county board meeting, where senior bus driver Robert Snyder testified about the injustice of public servants in one of the richest counties in the nation not being able to retire with a pension or any dignity whatsoever.

RAMPING IT UP

With the company holding out and the county supervisors hiding out, next Local 1764 Trustee Sesil Rubain led a press conference outside the Fairfax County Government Center. Dozens of members marched up to the county executive’s office to deliver a petition with hundreds of signatures.

We flyered at transit stations during rush hour and at public events. Twenty members braved frigid temperatures to educate Virginia Democratic Party bigwigs outside their brunch fundraiser at a posh country club.

To kick off the first day of bargaining, workers held their first informational picket in years—right in front of management’s office. And after a few unproductive bargaining sessions, 100 members rallied in the Fairfax town square, took over Main Street, and marched through the heart of town.

But when the company still refused to address the major issues in the next sessions of bargaining—and went on the offensive by unilaterally implementing background and credit checks on our members—union leaders asked outraged members to take a strike authorization vote.

Around 150 people turned out for the most-attended meeting in the union’s history. When the strike motion came up, the room exploded in cheers. By secret ballot, members voted unanimously to authorize a strike if MV didn’t settle a fair contract.

Gillison called the experience life-changing. “In my 68 years,” he said, “I have never seen a brotherhood and a sisterhood come together at the workplace like that.”

VICTORY AND BEYOND

Setting a strike deadline did the trick. The company finally gave way on many issues, and settled a contract.

The wage progression was shortened from 15 years to five. Top pay for bus operators rose to $32.25 per hour, and the union bridged much of the gap in compensation between garages.

On retirement, while workers didn’t get a pension, the company agreed to increase its 401(k) match by 250 percent. Workers also won back the wages they had given up in the previous contract for the failed pension proposal.

The union won much better language on bathroom breaks, beat back the credit and background checks, and got the company to adopt a number of the union's recommendations to address the fumes. MV replaced the faulty hoses that used to leak coolant that would burn up and cause strong odors in buses. The company retrofitted older buses with longer exhaust tips to prevent exhaust from coming into the air intake vents, and sealed the engine compartments and other vehicle openings to help prevent fumes from seeping into the cabin.

Another upshot of the campaign was the ousting of the much-hated vice president of operations, who had been chiefly responsible for management’s uncooperative attitude. In the wake of his departure, Santiago said, “management started showing us respect that we’d never seen before. They started to talk to us, respond to meetings, and work out issues with the shop stewards.”

Over the course of this campaign, the union signed up nearly 200 new members, bringing its membership rate above 85 percent of the bargaining unit. “Once people started to get educated about the union and began to see all the activity going on,” said Santiago, “they got excited about the union and they wanted to sign up and join.”

John Ertl is a field mobilization specialist for the Amalgamated Transit Union.

Tags: (ATU) Local 1764Fairfax connectorPensionsMV Transportation
Categories: Labor News

Vigorous Campaign Revives Transit Union (ATU) Local 1764 in Right-to-Work Virginia

Current News - Fri, 06/02/2017 - 15:01

Vigorous Campaign Revives Transit Union (ATU) Local 1764 in Right-to-Work Virginia
http://labornotes.org/2017/05/vigorous-campaign-revives-transit-union-ri...
May 31, 2017 / John Ertl

After a robust union campaign, the Fairfax Connector went from a unit at risk of decertifying to a strong union shop. Photo: ATU
Going into its latest contract, the transit union in Fairfax County, Virginia, was in tough shape. People weren’t active because they didn’t believe the union could do much—and the union couldn’t do much because people weren’t active.

Management never budged on the issues that stewards brought up. Grievances piled up, unresolved. And since Virginia is a “right-to-work” state, half the workers in the bargaining unit weren’t even members of Transit (ATU) Local 1764.

But after a robust union campaign, in a matter of months the Fairfax Connector went from a unit at risk of decertifying to a strong union shop.

Fairfax County is one of the wealthiest counties in the nation—yet the 600 bus drivers, mechanics, and utilities staff at the Fairfax Connector have no pension, because they work for a private company rather than the county. Many can’t afford to live in the affluent Washington, D.C., suburb where they work.

Workers were seething because they had been cheated out of a retirement plan. In the previous contract, they had given up a 2 percent raise in exchange for a pension. But when a pension plan could not be set up according to the contract’s poorly written terms, the company exploited the loophole and kept the money.

“People saw that the union wasn’t working on their behalf, and they saw that management just did whatever it wanted,” said bus driver Rachid Mhamdi. “There was no trust in the union.”

BACK TO BASICS

How could this situation be turned around? More than a year before the contract was set to expire, the international union embarked on an ambitious campaign to “Fix the (Unfair)fax Connector.” The first step was clear: the union needed a stronger relationship with its members.

ATU staff set out to talk to members and encourage involvement. For starters, to better represent a workforce that includes immigrants from Somalia, Nigeria, Togo, Tanzania, Morocco, Egypt, and India, the local recruited and trained more stewards at each garage, focusing first on re-engaging people who had previously been leaders in the union. A call for volunteers yielded a large contract committee.

For the first time ever, the union began to print newsletters and distribute the contract in Spanish, Amharic, Somali, and Arabic. This was crucial, since the garages are full of “little communities,” says driver John Gillison. “The Middle Easterners hang out and talk to one another, as do the African immigrants and many other groups, but many of them didn’t get involved in the union because of the language barrier.”

Union stewards also created a text-message network where members could get the latest news and shop talk using the mobile phone app WhatsApp. Over half the members joined.

To identify key contract issues, the local surveyed members—something it had never done at this workplace. Stewards distributed surveys to all members in various languages, and received an encouraging response rate of 25 percent after two weeks.

The results showed that a top priority for most members was to achieve parity in wages and benefits among the three Fairfax Connector garages. The two newer garages, which had more recently joined the union, didn’t make as much as the original garage. Other key issues were boosting wages generally, shortening the time it took to reach the top rate of pay, and improving the retirement plan.

There were other problems too. Mechanics reported that maintenance staff would often find water bottles full of urine on buses, as drivers had no other option during uninterrupted shifts of up to 10 hours behind the wheel. Fully half of all the survey respondents said they often went without bathroom breaks. A whopping 74 percent said that fumes on the buses were a big issue.

Before this campaign, “sometimes you’d go to a union meeting and there’d only be seven or eight people there,” shop steward Luis Santiago said. But the activists’ outreach and the new app generated a buzz that began to attract more and more people to membership meetings—until the union struggled to find a room big enough to fit everybody.

OPENING VOLLEY

Local 1764 activists began to pursue the ultimate cause of their misery—not their direct employer, a giant multinational corporation called MV Transportation, but the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

This legislative body, made up of eight Democrats and two Republicans, had contracted out the work since the service began in 1985. Nevertheless, the county still owns the buses, sets the routes, establishes work rules, handles customer complaints, and even reserves the right to make the company fire someone.

To explain the issues that workers were facing, the contract committee attempted to meet with every supervisor on the board. Stunningly, some of the supervisors had never even heard of MV Transportation, despite its $70 million contract with the county. The supervisors sounded sympathetic at first, but they were reluctant to get involved, hiding behind the excuse that they couldn’t take sides in a private matter.

Next the contract committee organized a phone blitz. Members distributed flyers urging their co-workers to call the Fairfax Connector’s complaint hotline—usually used by customers to track down a lost bag or to complain about a late bus. After dozens of workers called to air their grievances about the absent pension, the county stopped taking hotline calls.

Members began to call the supervisors directly. The committee mobilized 30 members to pack a county board meeting, where senior bus driver Robert Snyder testified about the injustice of public servants in one of the richest counties in the nation not being able to retire with a pension or any dignity whatsoever.

RAMPING IT UP

With the company holding out and the county supervisors hiding out, next Local 1764 Trustee Sesil Rubain led a press conference outside the Fairfax County Government Center. Dozens of members marched up to the county executive’s office to deliver a petition with hundreds of signatures.

We flyered at transit stations during rush hour and at public events. Twenty members braved frigid temperatures to educate Virginia Democratic Party bigwigs outside their brunch fundraiser at a posh country club.

To kick off the first day of bargaining, workers held their first informational picket in years—right in front of management’s office. And after a few unproductive bargaining sessions, 100 members rallied in the Fairfax town square, took over Main Street, and marched through the heart of town.

But when the company still refused to address the major issues in the next sessions of bargaining—and went on the offensive by unilaterally implementing background and credit checks on our members—union leaders asked outraged members to take a strike authorization vote.

Around 150 people turned out for the most-attended meeting in the union’s history. When the strike motion came up, the room exploded in cheers. By secret ballot, members voted unanimously to authorize a strike if MV didn’t settle a fair contract.

Gillison called the experience life-changing. “In my 68 years,” he said, “I have never seen a brotherhood and a sisterhood come together at the workplace like that.”

VICTORY AND BEYOND

Setting a strike deadline did the trick. The company finally gave way on many issues, and settled a contract.

The wage progression was shortened from 15 years to five. Top pay for bus operators rose to $32.25 per hour, and the union bridged much of the gap in compensation between garages.

On retirement, while workers didn’t get a pension, the company agreed to increase its 401(k) match by 250 percent. Workers also won back the wages they had given up in the previous contract for the failed pension proposal.

The union won much better language on bathroom breaks, beat back the credit and background checks, and got the company to adopt a number of the union's recommendations to address the fumes. MV replaced the faulty hoses that used to leak coolant that would burn up and cause strong odors in buses. The company retrofitted older buses with longer exhaust tips to prevent exhaust from coming into the air intake vents, and sealed the engine compartments and other vehicle openings to help prevent fumes from seeping into the cabin.

Another upshot of the campaign was the ousting of the much-hated vice president of operations, who had been chiefly responsible for management’s uncooperative attitude. In the wake of his departure, Santiago said, “management started showing us respect that we’d never seen before. They started to talk to us, respond to meetings, and work out issues with the shop stewards.”

Over the course of this campaign, the union signed up nearly 200 new members, bringing its membership rate above 85 percent of the bargaining unit. “Once people started to get educated about the union and began to see all the activity going on,” said Santiago, “they got excited about the union and they wanted to sign up and join.”

John Ertl is a field mobilization specialist for the Amalgamated Transit Union.

Tags: (ATU) Local 1764Fairfax connectorPensionsMV Transportation
Categories: Labor News

FRA inspects less than 1% of railroad system

Current News - Fri, 06/02/2017 - 10:21

FRA inspects less than 1% of railroad system
http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/659536.pdf
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GAO Government Accountability Office, Rail Safety: Improved Human Capital Planning Could Address Emerging Safety Oversight Challenges, report to Congress, December 2013

Tags: railroad safetyderegulationsafety
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