Friday, November 21, 2014

Port truck drivers vote to end strike at 3 companies after mayor intervenes


Port truck drivers and Teamsters took down picket lines at three companies after Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called a truce. The port drivers are still striking two companies at the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach. The Justice for LA/LB Port Drivers campaign tells us on Facebook:
Picket lines strong today at Pacer Cartage and Harbor Rail Transport (HRT) (NYSE: XPO) #wagetheft #portstrike #blackfriday
According to Andrew Khouri at the Los Angeles Times,
The companies -- QTS Inc., LACA Express and WinWin Logistics Inc. -- agreed to “respect drivers' right to choice with regard to unionization," according to the joint statement. 
Since Monday, some drivers from the firms had set up picket lines at marine terminals as company trucks entered, then took their lines down when the vehicles left the locations, organizers said. 
The drivers from the three companies are the latest to go back to work, in a larger job action at the ports. Drivers from Total Transportation Services Inc. and Pacific 9 Transportation previously did so. 
Drivers from two companies remain on strike, organizers said. 
The drivers say they are improperly classified as independent contractors, leaving them with fewer workplace protections and lower pay than if they were company employees.
We love this comment:
What these trucking companies are doing is illegal and corrupt. They lease the trucks back to the drivers and then they cannot solicit work from any other company. This is an end run around labor laws. These companies should be fined or put out of business.
By the way, here's another company that misclassifies drivers: FedEx (you guessed it).  CNN Money has a terrific story about a misclassified FedEx Ground driver who sued the company and won:
Reggie Gray thought working for FedEx was his ticket to a better life. 
It turned out to be anything but: His years as a driver for FedEx Ground ended with him filing for bankruptcy and taking the company to court. 
Gray is one of the thousands of FedEx (FDX) drivers who have sued the company for classifying them as contractors, rather than employees. Many, including Gray, have won. 
"We all signed up for what we thought was the American dream," said Gray. "We received the exact opposite. It was a really bad deal."
Read the whole thing here.



Today's Teamster News 11.21.14

Teamster News
Los Angeles, Long Beach Port Truck Drivers Urge Long Beach Harbor Leaders To Help  Long Beach Press Telegram   ...Truck drivers who move goods through the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports urged Long Beach harbor leaders Wednesday to do what they can to support their fight for fair wages and safer working conditions...
50 Walmart workers join striking port truck drivers on picket line in Los Angeles  TeamsterNation   ...Continuous picket lines held in Los Angeles by striking port drivers and Teamsters got a shot of energy today from 50 Walmart workers, even as Walmart workers in Ohio struck stores in Dayton and Cincinnati...
Brockton Public Schools Workers Choose Teamsters Local 653 Representation  teamster.org   ...Custodians, craftsmen and truck drivers who work for Brockton Public Schools in Brockton, Mass., have voted by an overwhelming 5-1 margin in favor of representation by Teamsters Local 653 in South Easton, Mass...
Charles "Chuck" R. Schumacher, Janesville, WI (1940-2014)  WCLO   ...He was a longtime member of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Loyal Order of Moose, and the Teamsters Union #579, where he served on the Teamster’s Credit Union Board...
Statement In Opposition To Proposed New York City Bag Tax From Teamsters Local 237 President Greg Floyd  teamster.org   ..."We stand in opposition to Intro 209, that would charge a fee on plastic and paper retail bags distributed to consumers in New York City stores. We believe this legislation would lead to irreparable harm to the unionized plastic bag manufacturing industry in New York City in favor of reusable bags that are made overseas...
Trade
Commission Launches Transparency Initiative For TTIP And Lobbying  EurActiv   ...From 1 December 2014, the European Commission plans to post all contacts of Commissioners, those of their cabinet employees and their directors-general with lobbyists and interest representatives on the institution’s register...
Leaked documents on TTIP and Banking regulations  Pressenza   ...We have already heard a lot about the TTIP toxic effects for the economy, lowering of standards for regulations about the environment, health and safety as well as the looming privatisation of public services, in particular Health Services, with governments being unable to develop their own policies as they will be sued in specially established courts to defend private companies’ interests...
State Battles
Maine Minimum Wage Hike Supporters Keep Pressing, Eye Statewide Vote In 2016  Bangor Daily News   ...Also in the works is a Portland City Council vote that will contemplate setting a new minimum wage for the state’s largest city. An advisory committee has recommended the city increase the minimum wage to $9.50 per hour by 2015 and to $10.68 by 2017...
Voter ID Laws Reduce Indiana’s Election Turnout (opinion)  Lafayette Journal Courier   ...Pretending to eradicate fraud, the ID laws in reality made it harder for two Democratic-leaning segments of the population, the poor and elderly, to vote. Voter ID laws, on average, decrease turnouts by 4 to 5 percentage points...
Atlantic City Casino Workers Protest Trump Taj Mahal Shutdown On Boardwalk  NJ.com   ...Hundreds of casino workers filled the frigid boardwalk Wednesday to protest the impending shutdown of Trump Taj Mahal following a painful summer season that saw four casinos close. Shouting “shame on you!” as they passed the shuttered Trump Plaza, which closed in September, the local union workers said they shouldn’t have to make concessions on health care benefits for the casino to stay solvent...
War on Workers
Walmart Workers Strike Today As Report Says Wages So Low Many Can't Feed Families  Cleveland Plain Dealer   ...Many Walmart workers serve as poster children for food insecurity because their low pay doesn't allow them to adequately feed their families, according to a new report...
Kmart To Employee: ‘If You Do Not Come To Work On Thanksgiving, You Will Automatically Be Fired’  ThinkProgress   ... Twelve retail chains will be open, requiring millions of people to leave home. Erratic and last-minute schedules are rampant in the industry, so others may also be in limbo waiting to find out whether they will miss out on time with friends and family...
AFL-CIO questions Wall Street's 'revolving door' compensation practices  The Hill   ...The AFL-CIO is questioning whether major financial institutions incentivize top executives to leave for government work with hefty bonuses...
New York Fed, Goldman in Criminal Investigation for Sharing Confidential Information  naked capitalism   ...this sharing of confidential information can be a crime and the authorities are giving a serious look into that very question...
Americans of All Stripes Agree: The System Is Stacked Against Them  Wall Street Journal   ...The last time disenchantment hit the same level was in July 1992, amid economic jitters and the heat of the Clinton vs. Bush campaign, but that was a brief spike. This time, alienation has built steadily since 2002, when just over a third of Americans felt the system was stacked against them...
An Uber Battle  The Progressive   ...The business model of these so-called transportation network companies is based on exploiting the labor and capital investments of people who use their personal cars as unlicensed taxis..
Noblesville foundry worker killed on the job  Indianapolis Star   ...A 21-year-old worker at a Noblesville foundry was killed on the job today...
Workers who died at Dupont Texas plant lacked respirators: lawyer  Reuters   ... Four workers killed at a DuPont and Co’s chemical plant in Texas on Saturday did not have access to safety equipment like respirators when there was a deadly release of a hazardous chemical...
Worker Dies at Salt Facility  New England Cable News   ...Capt. Michael McCabe says emergency personnel were called to the Cargill Salt facility just before 11 a.m. Wednesday for a report of a person "seen in an awkward position on a conveyor belt."...
Worker dies in Alcoa plant accident near Port Lavaca  Associated Press   ... the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration says the contract supervisor was hit by a door that was being installed on a tank by a crane...
Worker dies after fall through skylight in Decatur  Associated Press   ... Police in Decatur say a worker on the roof of the Aquadome Recreation Center was killed when he stepped through a skylight and fell about 25 feet onto basketball courts inside the facility...
Miscellaneous
FAA can regulate drones   CNN Money   ...The Federal Aviation Administration won a key ruling this week allowing it to regulate drone flights. The decision by the National Transportation Safety Board was a setback for those who had argued drones should be allowed to fly without all the regulations that apply to more typical manned aircraft... 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

New York sanitation workers mourn the loss of another of their own

Memorial to NYC sanitation worker Steven Frosch on Nov. 19
New York City sanitation workers are mourning the death of Robert Meehan, a private sanitation worker killed on Nov. 13 when a 10-foot dumpster fell on him at a Staten Island country club.

Brother Meehan died just days before a memorial was unveiled for Steven Frosch, a New York City sanitation worker killed in June by a street sweeper that struck him at a garage in Queens.
Sanitation work is among the most dangerous in the United States. Sanitation workers die at twice the rate of police officers (who earn nearly twice as much) and nearly seven times the rate of firefighters, according to a study, Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City, Aol Jobs reported.

Sanitation workers are killed by traffic, by dangerous machinery, by heavy lifting and by the garbage itself. Compactor blades can burst open bagged trash, exposing workers to flying metal objects and clouds of poison.

But don't take our word for it. Read a letter to the editor of the Staten Island Advance from Brother Plinio Cruz, member of Teamsters Local 813:
As a fellow private sanitation worker, I was horrified to read of the death of Robert Meehan on Staten Island. The tragic truth is that this is not uncommon in our industry, every night when we step out there we know that it could be our last. 
During the day, you see the men and white trucks of the Department of Sanitation working the streets. Their work is dangerous too, but they are also unionized and have strict safety protections. 
We work at night, and it feels like another world entirely. 
Private sanitation workers pick up from restaurants, offices, and any private company not serviced by DSNY. 
The city government has turned its back on us, with virtually no oversight of the companies to protect workers, or the communities we work in. The owners of companies pressure their workers to break all kinds of laws in order to complete the impossible amount of work they assign them. Furthermore, the trucks and equipment in most of the companies are unsafe. 
I've seen guys lose hands. I've seen workers splashed with acid, and bleach and paint thinner. And I've seen guys go out to work at night and not come back. 
We need Mayor De Blasio and the City Council to take responsibility for our safety. Every time a sanitation worker dies, it is a tragedy. Please don't forget us. Please don't wait until another one of us goes before doing something.
Stay safe out there, brothers and sisters.

50 Walmart workers join striking port truck drivers on picket line in Los Angeles

Walmart workers join striking port drivers on the picket line today in Los Angeles
Continuous picket lines held in Los Angeles by striking port drivers and Teamsters got a shot of energy today from 50 Walmart workers, even as Walmart workers in Ohio struck stores in Dayton and Cincinnati.

The solidarity among Walmart workers and port drivers shows the movement is growing to raise wages and empower workers. The fall 2014 strike season may bring the most sustained, intense strike activity by low-wage workers to date.

A year ago, an Ohio Walmart held a canned food drive for its own workers. Today, workers held their own food drive and went on strike to protest the firing or disciplining of their coworkers. Walmart has retaliated against workers who spoke out about hours so short and wages so low they can't feed their families. A report issued today supports their claims.

Port drivers endure similar injustice. Two port drivers were fired in retaliation for protesting their misclassification as independent contractors. (The good news: They were ordered by a court to return to work as employees.) The port drivers' employers don't pay them for hours waiting in line at the port and deduct fuel, maintenance and fees from their paychecks. Like Walmart workers, port truck drivers are left with little money to survive at the end of the month.

One port driver actually had to decide one night whether to get a tire for his truck or take his sick son to the hospital.

One Walmart worker says she takes a sandwich to work and that about it for the day. She drinks a lot of tea to feel full, eggs are a luxury and once in a blue moon she'll go to Save-A-Lot and buy meat.

Last night, port drivers asked leaders of the Port of LA/Long Beach to support their fight for fair wages and safer working conditions, Karen Robes Meeks at the Long Beach Press Telegram reported.
Drivers and their supporters appeared before the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners to ask them to do whatever they can to help them fight against area trucking companies that misclassify them as independent contractors instead of employees.... 
“We are fighting for better working conditions,” said trucker Fidel Gonzalez, adding that the truckers will continue to fight “for as long as it takes.”
Progressive Railroading took note of the picket lines at intermodal rail yards:
The drivers are demanding a more fair wage that incorporates time spent waiting for dispatch to issue a load, waiting in line at the ports and sitting in traffic on nearby roads. They also want to eliminate what they characterize as illegal barriers to unionization, obstacles to workplace protections and effects from being classified as independent contractors. 
Members of the Teamsters and other unions in the Los Angeles/Long Beach area have supported the strikes at the terminals and intermodal yards. 

Today's Teamster News 11.20.14

Teamster News
FedEx Freight Workers In Charlotte Vote To Join Teamsters Local 71  teamster.org   ... A group of 222 drivers at FedEx Freight’s Charlotte, N.C., terminal voted today to join Teamsters Local 71...
Sysco And Us Foods Teamsters Protest Sysco Shareholders Meeting  teamster.org   ...Teamsters employed at Sysco and US Foods protested outside Sysco’s shareholders meeting today to demand answers to tough questions from the company’s Board of Directors about its proposed purchase of US Foods and the impact on thousands of jobs...
Facebook Drivers Vote To Join Teamsters  teamster.org   ... Drivers who shuttle Facebook employees to and from the company headquarters in Menlo Park., Calif., have voted in favor of representation by Teamsters Local 853 in San Leandro, Calif...
Yonkers, Teamsters employees agree to new 10-year contract  MidHudson News   ...The City of Yonkers and Teamsters Local 456 have agreed to a new 10-year contract for city employees. The pack, supported by 80 percent of the union’s membership, is retroactive to 2009 and will expire in 2018, Mayor Michael Spano announced Wednesday...
Trade
Conservatives and Liberals Agree, TPP Hates Your Freedom (opinion)  Huffington Post   ...This supposed trade deal has far-reaching legal implications for our nation and beyond but it has been negotiated in secret without oversight from Congress or the American People...
Obama Is Pushing Two Giant Trade Deals — Here’s What You Need to Know  Campaign for America's Future   ...only eight House Democrats are on record as favoring fast-track. On the other side of the aisle, as I noted in January, the tea party wing of the Republican Party has dubbed the TPP “Obamatrade,” and is warning, in the words of one “analyst” on the Tea Party News Network, that TPP is a “weapon aimed straight at our Constitution, straight at our sovereignty and straight at Christians around the world.”...
State Battles
S.F. Supervisors Vote 10-0 To Approve "Bill Of Rights" For Formula Retail Workers  San Francisco Business Journal   ...San Francisco restaurant and retail workers will have more predictable schedules and more opportunities for full-time work under two ordinances passed unanimously by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday...
Voter ID Laws Scrutinized For Impact On Midterms  New York Times   ...In North Carolina, early voting was cut by seven days. In Kansas, 22,000 people were stopped from registering to vote because they lacked proof of citizenship. And in Texas, Democrats say the country’s toughest voter ID law contributed to a one-term congressman’s losing a tight race to his Republican rival....
Unions Aren't The Problem For Alabama Workers (opinion)  Montgomery Advertiser   ...union workers earn nearly $4 more per hour than non-union workers for the same work. They have significantly better benefits and retirement plans. And they receive raises and bonuses more frequently. Additionally, unions keep the gap between worker pay and CEO pay closer and they reduce the amount of tax dollars spent on employee training and re-training, because the unions usually ensure its members are properly trained...
Report That Poverty Declined Under Brownback Was Misleading  WIBW   ...A state agency acknowledges it sent out a news release shortly before November's election that incorrectly claimed poverty in Kansas had declined under Gov. Sam Brownback's administration...
UC tuition-hike plan advances, but debate just beginning  San Jose Mercury News   ...University of California regents voted Wednesday to raise tuition annually for the next five years if the state doesn't give the system more funding, making an aggressive -- if wildly unpopular -- first move in a high-stakes state-funding fight...
War on Workers
Push To Protect Immigrant Farm Workers  Wall Street Journal   ...Farm workers and some agriculture industry officials are making a last-minute push for President Barack Obama to include protections for undocumented agricultural workers in his new immigration policy, worried that the pending executive action may be the last opportunity to change immigration rules for a while...
Amazon Worker Forces Changes As Labor Board Settles Claim  Bloomberg Businessweek   ...the settlement requires the online retailer to post notices at its fulfillment centers notifying employees that they have the right to form unions and work with each other for collective benefits...
Senate Report Criticizes Goldman and JPMorgan Over Their Influence in Commodities Market  New York Times   ...A two-year Senate-led investigation is throwing back the curtain on the outsize and sometimes hidden sway that Wall Street banks have gained over the markets for essential commodities like oil, aluminum and coal...
Walmart Workers Rally in "Global Day of Action for Decent Work"  truthout   ...On November 19, Walmart workers in 10 countries are holding demonstrations to highlight the company's poor labor practices from its retail stores throughout the entire supply chain, and to call for a living wage for Walmart's global workforce and countless supply chain workers...
Tracy Morgan Fighting To Recover From ‘Severe Brain Injury,’ Lawyer Says  New York Times   ...A Walmart truck slammed into a limo van that was carrying Mr. Morgan and several friends on their way back from a show in Delaware. One person was killed, and three others were injured, two seriously. Mr. Morgan, 46, spent several weeks in a hospital and in rehabilitation...
Chesapeake police ID worker killed in accident  Associated Press   ...Chesapeake police have identified a worker who died after he was run over by truck. Officer Kelly O'Sullivan tells media outlets that 47-year-old Nouel Fallejo of Virginia Beach was working on the truck...
Lawsuit settlement in death of film worker in Ga.  Associated Press   ... The family of a film worker killed when she was hit along train tracks while shooting a biographical movie about singer Gregg Allman announced a settlement Wednesday with several defendants...
West Texas worker killed under semitrailer  Associated Press   ...Authorities in West Texas say a worker has died after being crushed under a semitrailer that he was working on...
Miscellaneous
Bill To Restrict N.S.A. Data Collection Blocked In Vote By Senate Republicans  New York Times   ...Tuesday’s vote only put off until next year a debate over security and personal liberties. While a Republican-controlled Senate is less likely to go along with the kinds of reforms that were in the bill, which sponsors had named the U.S.A. Freedom Act, the debate could further expose rifts between the party’s interventionist and more libertarian-leaning wings...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

All along the supply chain, workers demand change in 10 countries and one port

As the Los Angeles port truck drivers who haul Walmart goods continued their strike in the sixth day, Walmart workers who make and sell the goods demanded change in 10 countries.

The Orange County Register reported the port drivers struck six companies by Tuesday. With the support of the Teamsters, they have tenaciously held continuous picket lines from the beginning of the strike. According to the Register, it's having an impact:
The strike is exacerbating congestion at the ports, which is already high due to a lack of truck chassis and rising trade volume from the improving economy. 
Dockworkers with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union have been working without a contract since July and have faced recent accusations from the Pacific Maritime Association that the union is intentionally orchestrating the slowdown. 
Drivers from QTS Inc., LACA Express and WinWin Logistics Inc. went on strike Monday, and drivers from Pacer and Harbor Rail Transport struck on Tuesday. 
Port truck drivers want to be classified as employees and not independent contractors. As employees, they would be able to form a union and receive workplace protections. 
This afternoon, the striking drivers marched on the boss and delivered petitions demanding dignity and respect.

Around the world, Walmart workers took action to demand better wages, better working conditions and an end to retaliation. Twitter tells us:

In India, street vendors protested by Walmart Gurgaon (Haryana)

Workers in over 2100 stores signed the petition were delivered in the rain RIGHT to #WalmartGlobal office in Miami 
Another Walmart protest in Brasil. @UGT_BRASIL calls for #LivingWages & Decent Work.

Strike season appears to be upon us!

Sysco, US Foods Teamsters rally for answers about their jobs

Sysco and US Foods Teamsters from IL, MO, WI, CO, AZ, CA, WA, IN, OH, TX
Sysco and US Foods Teamsters protested outside Sysco's shareholder meeting today in Houston and demanded to know if thousands of jobs will be cut if the two companies merge.

Sysco has made vague statements that 'all employees will become Sysco associates Day One' if the merger is approved.

Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall says the men and women who work for the two companies deserve to know what that means.

“Thousands of workers at Sysco and US Foods are concerned about their livelihoods," Hall said in a statement. "Will Sysco honor its existing collective bargaining agreements at both companies? How does it intend to save $600 million over the next four years, and will its loyal, long-term employees pay that price?”

Sysco’s planned merger with its only national competitor, US Foods, is still far from inevitable. The company has twice announced delays in closing the deal since it was announced in December 2013.

Steve Vairma is the Teamsters Warehouse Division Director, which represents 120,000 warehouse workers and nearly 12,000 at Sysco and US Foods. Vairma said,
It’s time Sysco clears the air. We are here to show the company that we will do whatever it takes to protect Teamsters employed at Sysco and US Foods.
The Federal Trade Commission is putting the deal under intense scrutiny. The transaction was structured by executives who stand to gain from it. No shareholder had a vote. The companies' workers and customers along with anti-monopoly groups warn the merger could significantly harm competition in U.S. markets.

Scott Laughlin, a Sysco employee, said,
Executives are poised to line their pockets from this merger, but we could lose our jobs and the company won’t even tell us if it plans to sell our warehouse or close it altogether.
Forty-six executives stand to pocket cash bonuses on completion of the merger. Chief Financial Officer Robert Kreidler has already cashed in $429,000 and will earn another $715,000 if the transaction closes. Three other executives will split nearly $1.5 million if the deal is approved.

In addition to the rally outside the annual meeting, several Teamsters inside the meeting raised concerns about the merger to Sysco’s senior executives and board members. Shelly Allsup, a Teamsters representative from San Diego, Calif., said:
Investors don't know what the composition of a newly combined company would look like. A possible anti-trust remedy from the FTC could call for divestitures from certain markets.