Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hope on wheels: Tennessee Teamsters band together for Katrina victim

UPS Teamster Alex "Kalo" Kalogeropoulos
In our ongoing look back at Hurricane Katrina on the 10th anniversary of the storm, today's story is about Teamsters in Tennessee who pulled together to help out a fellow member -- relocated from New Orleans -- whose life was turned upside down by the Katrina disaster.

In late 2005, a group of UPS workers in Tennessee began meeting privately to discuss what to do about their newest coworker Alex “Kalo” Kalogeropoulos. Following Hurricane Katrina, the displaced UPS driver and Local 270 member was putting on a brave front, but his fellow Teamsters could sense the stress and hopelessness on Kalo’s face. They also began to notice he was the first to arrive and last to leave every day – the result of having to share one car between the entire family for a more than two-hour commute to and from the UPS Center in Masman, TN.

As shop steward for the unit, Tracy Wallace learned of the situation and led the effort to get Kalo back on his feet by getting him a ride of his own:
He reminded me of a lost puppy – he didn’t have a home and had been through so much. Once I got to know him, I learned how difficult a time it was for the family. He never complained, but I knew it was taking a toll. He was dealing with so much. After he told me his truck was lost in the storm and the family was sharing one car, I realized why he was always in the parking lot by himself before and after work. So, we came together and raised enough money to buy a used van that I was able to fix up. We were happy to help.
The parking lot was crowded with Teamsters the morning the van was presented to Kalo, who says he was moved to tears by the generosity of his union brothers and sisters at Local 480. It made “a world of difference” for the family during a very difficult time, he adds:
Crazy thing is, I was just so happy to be working again that I refused to let the commute get me down – as long and frustrating as it was at the time. Being able to work again brought me sanity, then having such welcoming co-workers lifted me up. But when they surprised me with the car, it was beyond anything imaginable … It was overwhelming for a lot of reasons. First, because it was the greatest surprise I’d ever had. Second, because I knew right away the difference it was going to make for the family. And boy, what a world of difference it made for all of us.
Tracy Wallace
Tracy continued to look out for Kalo, taking him under his wing and inviting his family to join him and his wife at their home for dinners. When time came to meet with management to discuss union issues, Tracy asked Kalo to join him: 
We became close and I started taking him to some meetings with management. He was so interested in my role as steward and had so many questions. There was no doubt he was going to become more active when he got back to New Orleans.
Honored to play a role in union discussions with management, Kalo returned to New Orleans in 2006, inspired and determined to put Tracy’s teachings to practice by becoming a steward for Local 270 members at UPS. Today, he credits Tracy and members at Local 480 for making him “more Teamsters than ever”:
If you lived through Katrina, then you have a story to tell. My story wouldn’t be possible without the help of my union brothers and sisters at Local 480, especially Tracy. He looked out for me and picked me up when I was at my lowest. He was more than just my friend, he was also my mentor. He taught me the power of the union comes from being an active union member. There’s a lot of pride that comes from being a steward. I feel it every day.
Following the Katrina story in the latest issue of Teamster magazine, the two stewards spoke for the first time in years, Wallace said during a recent phone interview:
We talked for nearly two hours catching up with each other. We even made plans to visit one another in the next year…He’s just a good ole boy. I’m glad we could help him.

Today's Teamster News 08.27.15

Teamsters
The Teamsters Take on Tech Shuttle Unions  SF Weekly  ...Bauer's enjoys a cozy relationship with San Francisco's political establishment. But that relationship is about to be tested by the Teamsters union, which is determined to ensure that the jobs created by tech shuttle companies are union jobs. Just days after union organizers contacted Bauer's workers, Bauer's management started its own "independent" union called the "Professional Commuter Drivers' Union"...
Hawthorne Race Course Members Unanimously Ratify New Contract  Local 727  ...Teamsters Local 727-represented starters and jockey valets at Hawthorne Race Course voted unanimously to ratify a new contract for the Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 meets. The one-year contract protects the members’ wages, benefits and working conditions and also includes an economic re-opener in the event that gaming legislation is passed...
Labor Trouble With Pilots Deepens At Republic Airways  CBS  ...The Teamsters group representing pilots at Republic Airways is balking at allowing a vote on the company’s contract offer, deepening the rift between labor and management at the regional airline. The Indianapolis company’s shares plunged 37 percent on Wednesday. Republic has threatened to begin a restructuring process if pilots don’t approve the proposal it offered last week...
ATA rebutts Teamsters, other labor groups on drug testing changes, urges Congress to allow hair tests  OverDrive  ...The American Trucking Associations has sent a letter to Congress asking lawmakers to retain in a trucking regulatory reform bill a provision that would allow carriers to use hair testing to satisfy driver drug screening requirements. The letter comes a week after the Teamster and other groups called on Congress to remove the drug testing reform measure...

Global Labor & Trade
Trans-Pacific Partnership Won’t Work Until the Cows Come Home  Teamsters Canada  ...With negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) now delayed, the Teamsters Union in Canada would like to remind Canadian negotiators that the 6000 dairy workers they represent are strongly against making any changes to our supply management system. The TPP has brought together several big players in the dairy industry, like Quebec’s Union des producteurs agricoles, the Dairy Farmers of Canada, and several other unions...
Obama, Japan's Abe discussed quickly concluding trade deal  Reuters  ...U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed in a call on Tuesday their commitment to concluding the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement as soon as possible, the White House said on Wednesday...
TTIP controversy: The European Commission and Big Tobacco accused of cover-up after heavily redacted documents released  Independent  ...The European Commission has been accused of a cover-up after refusing to release details of talks between its officials and the tobacco industry during negotiations over the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) treaty. Corporate lobbying campaigners published documents that revealed the EU’s executive body had met and corresponded with lobbyists from British American Tobacco and Philip Morris.
Mustapa : No light at the end of the tunnel yet on TPPA  Malaysia Reserve  ...After five years of intense negotiations, Malaysia is still lobbying for resolutions on key sensitive areas in the controversial United States-led Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said he still could not see "the light at end of the tunnel" in the areas of Bumiputera rights, state-owned enterprises (SOE) and labour...
China’s Meltdown Goes Deeper Than the Stock Market  The Nation  ...Even by conventional measures, China’s real economy was slumping well before the latest market shocks. China’s nominal GDP growth had been slipping in both construction and manufacturing-related industries while the financial sector surged, signaling the profound disconnect between the trading floor and the shop floor. The key difference is that stock-market volatility hurts share prices; turbulence in the real economy plunges workers into poverty and lethal risks at work...
Thai Official Gets 22 Years for Human Trafficking  Solidarity Center  ...Nurul Islam and three other Thai men from his village in Rakhine state believed the Rohingya brokers who promised to take them to Malaysia for jobs. Instead, the men were herded at gunpoint deep into a forest with 350 other migrant women, men and children, and told if they did not pay up to $2,300 each, they would be beaten and killed...

State & Living Wage Battles
California voters support increasing tobacco tax, raising minimum wage  SacBee  ...About two-thirds of California voters support increasing the state cigarette tax by $2 a pack, and a similar percentage would back a minimum wage hike to $15 an hour, according to a Field Poll released Wednesday. Proposals to raise the tobacco tax or increase the minimum wage have been introduced in the Legislature or as voter initiatives in recent years...
Kansas debate over voter ID law far from over  KSN ...The state’s voter ID law has been the target of protests since well before it was enacted last year. Kobach’s law is being challenged again in court by two people who say the law violates their right to vote. Next week, Kobach is expected to purge more than 34,000 would-be voters throwing out their registration forms...
Call made to revisit state's minimum wage  Chicago Tribune  ...Families can't make it on their own making $7.25 an hour, Indiana's minimum wage, said state Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, who said she filed legislation to increase the rate for two or three years, but none of the bills received a hearing. Still, Tallian said she'll try again this year. She said she'll be filing another bill, this time asking that the minimum wage in Indiana be increased to between $9 and $11.50 an hour...
Alabama Risks Making It Much Harder To Get Required Voter ID  Huffington Post  ...The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said Monday that proposed budget cuts would force it to close all but four driver's license offices, even though the state requires government-issued photo identification, like a driver's license, to vote in elections. The 45 other locations would be closed in phases, the agency said, if the Republican-controlled state legislature were to pass the kind of "drastic" budget cuts it's now considering...
Shumlin, Smith call for paid sick leave on Women's Equality Day  VT Digger  ...On the 95th anniversary of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote, officials gathered to call for passage of a paid sick days bill in the next legislative session. Boosters say the legislation would bring Vermont a step closer to women’s equality. Gov. Peter Shumlin, state lawmakers and local activists held a news conference...

U.S. Labor
NLRB orders Manhattan College adjuncts' ballots counted  Politico  ...The National Labor Relations Board's regional director has ordered Manhattan College adjuncts' ballots to be counted in their vote for union recognition. The NLRB's decision came after it had ordered the ballots temporarily impounded following the vote. The college has said its adjuncts do not fall under the NLRB's jurisdiction...
Greenpeace Workers Strike for Job Security and a Union  Socialist Alternative  ...In San Diego and Sacramento, Greenpeace canvassers have gone on strike for job security and a union. The strike, which began on August 5, now includes the majority of both San Diego and Sacramento Frontline programs, Greenpeace’s in-house fundraising program. The striking workers demand increased job security through reforming the quota system, and a union...
Union files grievances with Haggen, Vons and Albertsons  LA Times  ...A union has filed grievances with Haggen Inc., Vons and Albertsons, alleging that recent layoffs and reduced hours for employees at Haggen stores violated a collective bargaining agreement. The grievances, which are called official complaints, were given to the companies Monday, said Rick Icaza, president of UFCW Local 770. The union also asked for a formal meeting...
Tucson, workers' union agree on labor contract  Arizona Daily Star  ...The city and a labor union representing its blue-collar workers compromised and reached an agreement Tuesday under the guidance of a federal mediator, quickly ending a contract dispute. AFSCME Local 449 Chairman Jerry Gebell said he couldn’t disclose details of the labor agreement, which must be approved by the Tucson City Council...
Chicago Mayor Proposes School Closures To Close Billion Dollar Budget Deficit, Parents Hunger Strike  Think Progress  ...A small group of parents and community members in the South Side of Chicago have gone on a hunger strike until the Chicago Board of Education agrees to a proposal to revitalize a local school. To understand what is happening in Chicago, and why the story has gained national attention in the news and on social media, you have to look at the long, heated fight between the Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel...
Longer Hours, More Stress, No Extra Pay: It’s Not Just Amazon, It’s the Modern Workplace  The Nation  ...American employers enjoy an inordinate amount of power over their employees, at all pay grades and skill levels. The vast majority of professionals say they work more than 50 hours a week. Retailers keep their workers on edge about whether or not they’ll work a given day or demand they work two shifts in one day. Few of us have the ability to push back when a boss tells us they want us working late or starting early...

Social Justice & Other News
Progressives Call on Clinton to End Wall Street-to-Washington Revolving Door  Common Dreams  ...Decrying what they describe as "a barely legal, backdoor form of bribery," a coalition of eight progressive groups representing nine million Americans is asking Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to condemn the controversial practice of Wall Street firms paying large bonuses, or "golden parachutes," to executives who take on government jobs...
The Drug War Has to End: David Simon on "The Wire" & Over-Policing of the Poor  Democracy Now  ...Earlier this year, President Obama described "The Wire" as "one of the greatest, not just television shows, but pieces of art, in the last couple of decades.” Simon said he aimed to portray how "raw, unencumbered capitalism" devalues human beings. Nearly a decade ago in Slate, Jacob Weisberg wrote: "No other program has ever done anything remotely like what this one does, namely to portray the social, political, and economic life of an American city...
Maryland Launches New Effort to End Racial Profiling by Police  Common Dreams  ...Maryland on Tuesday took a significant step to curb racial profiling and other discriminatory policing tactics, releasing broad new rules that aim to limit law enforcement officers from targeting individuals based on race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, among other characteristics. The state's Attorney General Brian Frosh issued a nine-page memorandum to police...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A union's unsung heroes: New Orleans Teamsters who stayed behind to help

Matthew Shropshire, a Teamster hero at ABF
Observing the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, we continue our look back at the disaster and the heroism of Teamsters who helped those in need. Today's post tells the story of two Teamsters in New Orleans who risked their lives to help those less fortunate in the community. 

Matthew Shropshire, an ABF driver and 30-year member of Local 270 in New Orleans, was ready to leave town when he received a call from one of his church members asking to help evacuate elderly congregants. Without hesitation, Shropshire stayed to assist, boarding up windows and transporting members from their homes to seek refuge elsewhere. He returned home that evening with the intention of leaving the next morning. Little did he know the levees would break:
The next morning I got a call from my daughter telling me the levees broke. I couldn’t believe how much water there was when I looked out the window. My SUV was sitting in the drive way and all I could see was the windshield up. It was that much water. By the time I went downstairs and opened the door, the water had made it to the top step. It was moving that fast.
Stranded in his upstairs bedroom, Shropshire spent days waiting to be saved. After four days with no sign of rescue, he and his neighbors began communicating from their top floor windows to discuss escape plans. Shropshire got to work on a makeshift raft using a door from his closet:
We could see the interstate through our windows and knew if we could make it to the overpass that we’d get picked up by someone. Finally I said, ‘If nobody has come by Wednesday I’m going to swim out. Wednesday came and me and my neighbors made our way through the water using my closet door as a raft. On the way to the overpass, I saw at least three bodies float by…We were picked up and relocated to the airport. When I saw all the body bags on the tarmac, I knew the death toll was going to be high. All we could do was pray that the others still stuck inside the city would be as lucky as us.
Richard Pierre, a Teamster hero at UPS
Like Shropshire, Local 270 member and UPS feeder driver Richard Pierre was helping members of his church the day before the storm, too. A part-time pastor of a church in East New Orleans, he also stayed behind to help those in need: 
I remember there was one woman with six children who needed her windows boarded and a blind elderly lady who needed to be transported to the church. The names of people needing assistance were piling up. I did everything I could to help anyone who needed help.
As a child of Hurricane Betsy, Pierre had an idea of what was to come when he heard the levees had failed. He also knew East New Orleans would be hit the hardest. A wall of water rushed toward Pierre while he was searching the streets for people in need of refuge:
I didn’t see it at first, but I could hear it intensifying. It sounded like a machine gun. Then I saw a huge wave of water coming my way. We started running back to the church. I’ll never forget seeing the lady in her car, flipping over and being washed away by the wave of water coming down the street. I watched out the window for hours as a man clung to a pole. Everything from shrimp to bricks to cars and tree branches were flying past him and hitting him. To this day, I still don’t know how he withstood the force of it all. He was flapping on that pole for seven hours straight. There was just no way for us to get to him.
Tired of watching helplessly, Pierre and another man decided to take action, risking their lives to swim out and rescue the man. Despite sustaining multiple injuries bringing the man to safety, he continued to brave the dangerous waters in the pursuit of helping others in the days before the helicopters arrived to transport him and the others to the Superdome, where he received immediate medical attention.

The resilience, courage and compassion of brave members like Richard and Matthew serve as two examples of how the Teamster spirit triumphs in the face of tragedy. A grateful union thanks them for their service and leadership.

Today's Teamster News 08.26.15

Teamsters
Teamsters, Elected Officials Demand San Bernardino County Keep Its Promises  Teamster.org  ...More than 1,200 San Bernardino County public employees were joined by State Treasurer John Chiang and District Attorney Mike Ramos at a town hall meeting at the Ontario Convention Center this weekend to protest the County Board of Supervisors’ broken promises. County workers perform crucial jobs such as 911 dispatchers, techs at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, child abuse hotline workers, building and bridge inspectors, flood specialists and many more....
CDT Member Receives Back Pay, Reduced Discipline  Local 727  ...A CDT dispatcher member has received back pay and a reduced suspension after Teamsters Local 727 representatives fought against management’s unfair discipline. Devin Allen was wrongfully suspended for absenteeism caused by an ongoing illness, of which management was aware, and management planned to terminate Allen upon his return from the suspension. The union immediately filed a grievance...
Faith inspires Oklahoma man to donate kidney to co-worker  News OK  ...Henley, a UPS driver, made regular route stops at a UPS store on Memorial in Oklahoma City where Hall worked. “I got to know him well know enough to say ‘hi’ and visit some,” Henley said. In April 2014, Hall was diagnosed with kidney failure. Henley, 35, started to ask what was involved with donating a kidney...

Global Labor & Trade
Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement: Potential damage to global public health  People's World  ... The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade agreement currently being negotiated among 12 Pacific Rim countries, threatens the future availability of affordable generic medicines and could undermine the global HIV response in developing countries, according to a new report released by amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research...
Dutch MPs criticise US trade treaty secrecy, want TTIP openness  DutchNews  ...Dutch MPs from across the political spectrum are demanding answers on the European Commission’s decision to stop sending them details of the negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The aim of the proposed free trade deal between the EU and US is to cut tariffs, standardise regulations and simplify investment...
How regional trade agreements can spark a fight over Feta cheese  Fortune  ...This arrangement poses a problem for the U.S. dairy industry. While the provision was made to protect those already in this business, new producers trying to sell their feta would be barred from entering the Canadian market unless they called their product “feta-like” or a similar term. This locking-in of existing names would extend to nearly a few hundred agricultural products that could only originate in 28 member states of the European Union...
Unions rally against China free trade deal  Yahoo News  ...Traffic outside the West Australian parliament was brought to a standstill as unions held a rally against the free trade deal with China, saying it will be bad for local jobs and exploit foreign workers. The CFMEU says Chinese companies will be able to bring in an entire overseas workforce for projects worth more $150 million in which they have a minimum 15 per cent stake...
Palestine Workers Find Strength in their Union  Solidarity Center  ...Trade unions in Palestine are among the most significant institutions of civil society not directly tied to any political party. As the primary voice for working families and the unemployed in Palestine, the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) plays a prominent role in backing the rule of law and developing coalitions among organizations seeking a more stable, just and prosperous Palestine. The fight for introducing and enforcing a minimum wage in Palestine is an example of this struggle...
Tube strike suspended by unions   BBC  ...Two 24-hour Tube strikes planned for this week have been called off after talks between unions and London Underground (LU) managers. Tube workers have been in dispute with LU over rotas and working conditions on the new Night Tube service. The Unite union said it had suspended its action as a "gesture of goodwill" to allow further talks...

State & Living Wage Battles
Prevailing wage repeal petition drive nears finish line, possible action by Michigan Legislature   MLive  ...While construction workers restored the Michigan Capitol this summer, a fight over guaranteed wages on government building projects was taking place on street corners all over the state. A business-backed group working to repeal Michigan's 1965 prevailing wage law was busy circulating petitions, and organizers say they are close to completing the signature gathering phase — well ahead of schedule...
The Florida Republicans Who Couldn't Draw a Map  The Atlantic  ...GOP leaders have tried—and failed—to come up with new congressional districts after the state’s highest court ruled their last effort was too favorable to their party. When the Florida legislature convened for a special summer session earlier this month, lawmakers had, literally, one job: to redraw the state’s congressional districts after a court had thrown out the last map they came up with...
As Minimum Wages Rise, Restaurants Say No to Tips, Yes to Higher Prices  New York Times  ...Restaurant owners, customers and staff have long railed against the tyranny of tipping, but like a love affair gone bad, it has proved difficult to quit. Now, prompted by a spurt of new minimum wage proposals in major cities, an expanding number of restaurateurs are experimenting with no-tipping policies as a way to manage rising labor costs...
In Detroit, labor secretary hears pleas to boost minimum wage  USA Today  ...One-by-one, sometimes in tears, Detroit workers on Tuesday opened up to U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, telling him how little they earn and why they joined a labor movement — Fight for 15 — that is seeking $15 an hour wages, as well as better benefits and opportunities for employees in the restaurant, retail and health care industries. They talked about how hard it is to work in low-wage jobs and how they struggle to use that income to care, not just for themselves, but also for their kids...
The Labor Prospect: Getting Sick of No Paid Sick Leave  American Prospect  ...Despite an expanding patchwork of paid sick leave policies cropping up around the U.S., an In These Times investigation reminds us that this country is woefully behind the rest of the world in terms of such worker rights. Lacking any sort of basic safety net, nearly one-quarter of working mothers are back on the grind within just two weeks of giving birth, the report finds...

U.S. Labor
Target Walks Away From Equal Opportunity Complaint With $2.8 Million Bill  Think Progress  ...Target agreed to pay $2.8 million on Monday to settle a claim that the retailer disproportionately screened out applicants based on their race or gender. The complaint, filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), targeted certain hiring assessments used over the past decade. The sum represents one of the highest amounts paid in recent years to settle a claim of hiring discrimination...
Kroger/Columbus Ratifies Labor Pact with UFCW Local 1059  Progressive Grocer  ...The Kroger Co.'s  Columbus division has ratified a new labor agreement with UFCW Local 1059. "We are pleased to reach an agreement that is good for our associates," said Joe Grieshaber, president of Kroger's Columbus division. "This new contract provides wage increases, affordable health care and ongoing investment in our associates' pension fund to support their retirement"...
Deere opens talks with UAW  Chicago Tribune  ...Moline-based Deere said Tuesday that it has opened negotiations with the United Auto Workers union over a labor deal covering 10,000 manufacturing jobs. But the timing, on the back of China's "Black Monday" stock market crash, couldn't be worse for the UAW. Low commodity prices were already slowing demand for farm equipment...
Overworked and Out of Time: a Democracy Issue  Counterpunch  ...The long-shot United States Democratic Party presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has been telling the large crowds attending his rallies that American workers put in the longest hours in the industrialized world. He’s on solid ground. According to the International Labor Organization, “Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers”...
90% Of WeWork Cleaners Jobless After Contract Termination  Gothamist  ...Roughly 90% of the subcontracted workforce who cleaned the New York offices of WeWork, the co-working startup recently valued at $10 billion, have been laid off amid allegations that the company is anti-union and discriminates against immigrants. The 150 custodians who picked up left-over coffee cups, swept hallways, and cleaned conference rooms for $10/hour learned in July that their employer had terminated its contract with WeWork...

Social Justice & Other News
High-End Visa Program Blasted as 'Immigration Reform for the 1%'  Common Dreams  ...Actions are taking place in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle on Tuesday decrying a controversial U.S. immigration program that unions and immigration advocates have dubbed "immigration reform for the 1%." The little-known EB-5 visa program allows wealthy foreigners to qualify for an entry visa when they invest a certain amount in an American business...
The Right-Wing Hasn’t Read This Black Lives Matter Textbook, But They Are Freaking Out Anyway  Think Progress  ...A line of textbooks aimed at teaching students current events has been targeted by right-wing media because it happens to address the complex issues raised by Black Lives Matter. Right-wing radio personality Larry Elder criticized the book on Fox News as means of “indoctrinating” black kids and “teaching them they are victims”...

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Teamsters standing united: Mississippi rebuilds after storm

Bricks recovered from Teamster member Terry Bang's home,
destroyed in the hurricane, at IBT headquaters
With this week marking the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Teamster Nation continues its look back at the disaster and the aftermath, focusing on the unprecedented role played by Teamsters in the recovery. In today's story, we recount the experiences of two Teamsters who lost their homes to the storm. 

Often overshadowed by the flood in New Orleans, few remember that Hurricane Katrina veered east at the last minute and roared onshore at the Louisiana-Mississippi state line, making the Mississippi coastline ground zero.

When the waves and storm surge hit on August 29, the power of the water wiped out entire structures in the areas of Biloxi and Gulfport, demolishing buildings and homes for miles on end. Further inland, catastrophic flooding, spawn tornadoes and wind damage ravaged even more Mississippi residents.

For Local 891 member and former shop steward Terry Bang, the tenth anniversary of Katrina marks a decade since losing his home to one of those spawn tornados. As the majority of Bang’s home was blown away by a fierce funnel of wind accompanying Katrina, he, his wife, Michele, and their two college-age children huddled in the downstairs bathroom praying for their lives.

After the storm, Bang and his wife spent more than 18 months living in a 29 x 8-foot trailer parked in the driveway that FEMA provided.

Bang and his family
Bang is deeply grateful to all the help from Local 891 in the wake of the hurricane. He said members of the union found a way to contact him after the storm and bring supplies soon afterwards, which he claims made all the difference between moving forward and just surviving:
They were right there for us, making sure we had everything we needed. We have become an even tighter knit group since the storm. As a steward, it was also great to see new drivers being hired and trained to help with the workload. We all came together, as a union -- brother helping brother against the ills of life.
Mauffray with two crosses
For Bang’s coworker and fellow union member Bobby Mauffray -- along with his wife, Marla -- the storm took almost everything when their home was washed away by the 25-foot wall of storm surge. The only possessions the Mauffray’s have are the items they threw in the back of the truck on the way to Georgia -- that and 11 of the 12 pieces of their wedding china, plus two crystal crosses marking the birth of their children found in their lawn, sitting perfectly intact near where the door had been as if they were “waiting to be put away”:
All the way home I had a knot in my stomach. But once you see it the fear recedes. You start thinking about what you need to do first. You never know what to take when you rush out, what you might miss later. I’m not one to be attached to material things, but I was glad we thought to take some pictures with us. When I was going through the wreckage I found the tape of my four year-old daughter’s ultra sound. It was filled with muddy water. That really upset me.
Following the storm, Mauffray and Bang returned to work at UPS, driving routes that were unrecognizable due to the massive devastation. Both men say they were lucky to still have a job and grateful for the quick response from their fellow Teamster members.

As a show of his appreciation, Bang recovered bricks from his old home and signed “thank you” notes to those who helped, including Local 891 President W.C. Smith and Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa, which Hoffa still keeps in his office at IBT headquarters in Washington D.C.

Today's Teamster News 08.25.15

Teamsters
Airgas Workers Join Teamsters  Teamster.org   ...Drivers, plant operators and fillers at the Airgas facility in Islandia, N.Y., have voted to join Teamsters Local 282. The successful effort was the culmination of hard work by the organizing committee and business agent Mike Bourgal. “Nationwide, this company has recently changed their attitude toward their hardworking, loyal workforce and this vote is an example of what happens when employers disrespect their employees,” said Keith Gleason, Director of the Teamsters Tankhaul Division...
1,200 Teamsters show SBCo. BOS they mean business  Examiner   ...San Bernardino County leaders scoffed at the idea that the county’s general employees have had enough of pay and benefit cuts so much so that they would take a few hours out of a weekend morning to attend a union rally. They were expecting a low turnout. They were wrong. More than 1,200 Teamsters showed for the event...
Google delivery workers vote to join Teamsters union  Silicon Valley Business Journal  ...The push to unionize Silicon Valley workers went one step further on Friday when 151 Google Express warehouse and shipping workers voted in favor of joining a union. The employees work for Adecco, a temp agency subcontracted by Google. The employees aim to join Teamsters Local 853, the same organization which unionized shuttle drivers for Apple, Yahoo and eBay last month...
10 years after Katrina: Teamsters recall unprecedented disaster, undaunted response  Teamster Nation  ...Responding to emergencies of all kinds over the last century has created a strong, unique sense of pride and solidarity among all Teamster members. On the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, the Teamsters Union is looking back on how the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast recovered and rebuilt their homes, businesses and lives...

Global Labor & Trade
Handful of issues remaining in TPP: Froman  New Straits Times  ...There are only a handful of issues to be resolved in the ongoing Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations, said US Trade Representative Michael Froman. "The Hawaii ministerial meeting was productive and we closed a dozen difficult issues, and at the end of the day there are now a handful of issues which needed further work"...
Asian countries shift focus to regional trade after TPP delay  AFR.com  ...Asian countries have agreed to speed-up the conclusion of a more localised trade agreement after the delays finishing a competing US-led pact, in a bid to maintain regional economic integration just as a growth slowdown is hitting financial markets. Economic ministers, including trade minister Andrew Robb, agreed that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) should be substantively finished...
No Trans-Pacific trade deal if auto parts sector threatened: trade minister  The Record  ...Canada will not sign a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that would allow Japanese vehicles into North America with fewer parts manufactured here, says Ed Fast, the federal minister of international trade. "We have made it very clear as a Canadian government that we will only sign a TPP agreement if it is in Canada's national interest"...
How TiSA strolls off with our services  TNI.org   ...While TTIP is currently the center of attention, more trade agreements are looming over our heads. In July, our world leaders hauled up in their backrooms to discuss TiSA, an extensive service agreement meant to put (public) services, like the water supply, in the hands of the international market...
Floored: The True Cost of Unenforced Trade Deals  Huffington Post  ...Using rules in the U.S.-Peru free trade pact, EIA and the Center for International Environmental Law petitioned the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to take action under the trade pact and verify the legal origin of shipments from two companies, including Maderera Bozovich SAC, because of their history of exporting significant volumes of timber to the U.S. from logging concessions with illegal activity. But USTR never did so...
Peru Construction Workers Win New Pact, Rights  Solidarity Center  ...Construction workers in Peru are celebrating a new contract that significantly improves wages and benefits, and are hailing a new legislative order, which in part addresses ongoing violence against union members in the building and construction trades. The new one-year contract gives workers up to a 5 percent wage increase and includes education benefits for workers’ children up to age 22...
Greek lawmakers approve third bailout after all-night debate  Dispatch Times  ...Tsipras told lawmakers that the bailout package is a “necessary choice” for the nation, despite unwelcome tax hikes and spending cuts. However, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is facing rebellion within his left-wing Syriza party, with more than 40 Syriza MPs voting against the bailout in parliament on Friday...
McDonald’s Workers Take Fight for $15 to Brazil, Accuse Company of “Cannibal Capitalism”  In These Times  ...In addition to the U.S. and Brazilian delegations, politicians and labor union officials from Europe, including France and Germany, and Korea presented wide-ranging critiques of McDonald’s practices.  “The verdict of today’s hearing is clear: no company is more responsible than McDonald’s for driving a global race to the bottom,” said Scott Courtney, assistant to the president of the Service Employees International Union...

State & Living Wage Battles
Dems push right-to-work repeal  Lansing State Journal  ...Michigan House Democrats are pushing what is likely a doomed effort to repeal the state’s controversial right-to-work laws. Legislative language introduced last week by state Rep. John Chirkun, D-Roseville, would “reaffirm the continuing public policy of this state” that union payments are necessary for “the stability and effectiveness of labor relations in the public sector”...
Thousands protest Koch Brothers convention in Ohio  People's World  ...In a powerful rebuff to extremist efforts to push "Right-To-Work" and other anti-working class programs, some 4000 union members and supporters poured into Columbus Friday, Aug. 21 to protest the "Summit on the American Dream" held by Americans for Prosperity" (AFP), a political action group funded by the right-wing billionaire brothers, Charles and David Koch...
Future of voter ID lawsuit heard in N.C. state court  Journal Now  ...A lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s voter identification requirement should be allowed to continue even after the legislature added exceptions this summer easing the mandate that goes into effect next year, lawyers fighting the law told a state judge Monday. But a state attorney said the changes made to the 2013 law have addressed the accusations made in the litigation, giving registered voters who lack a qualifying photo ID a way to cast ballots in person anyway...
Labor Secretary Tom Perez is 'proud to stand with the Fight for 15'  Daily Kos  ...Labor Secretary Tom Perez is heading to Detroit this week to meet with fast food workers. Ahead of that trip, he's making clear his support for the workers' organizing efforts. The movement has been instrumental in raising the minimum wage in cities like Seattle and Los Angeles; a wage board in New York has recommended a $15 wage for the fast food industry, which is expected to be approved soon...
Home Healthcare Workers Haven’t Qualified for Minimum Wage for 80 Years. Now They Do.  The Nation  ...t took about 40 years after the passage of federal wage standards for the government to decide that domestic workers deserved a minimum wage. And it’s taking nearly another 40 years for home healthcare workers—the subset of the industry specializing in elder and disability care—to gain the same protections. The Obama administration has amended federal wage and hour regulations to close a longstanding exemption...
St. Louis aldermen will debate minimum wage hike today  STL Today  ...The St. Louis Board of Aldermen will again take up the contentious issue of a citywide minimum wage hike Tuesday. Various proposals to institute a citywide minimum wage have been kicked around. Last month, the aldermen left for vacation without taking action on a bill that would institute an increased minimum wage by 2020...

U.S. Labor
The Stock Market Drop Exposes The Dangers Of Privatizing Social Security  Think Progress  ...The stock market continued a period of volatility on Monday. Media reports sounded the alarm as the DOW opened 1,000 points down and other indexes took huge hits, only to climb back up a bit later in the day. While that performance, which had some people calling it black Monday, may have knocked a good deal of money out of people’s 401(k) retirement accounts, Social Security benefits remain by and large untouched by such fluctuations...
UAW wants local and national contracts at Fiat Chrysler  Detroit Free Press   ...The UAW isn't just trying to reach a new national agreement with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to replace the one set to retire Sept. 14 -- the union is simultaneously working to hammer out local contracts covering each plant across the nation. The approach is a change in strategy from 2011 and aims to prevent a scenario where the ratification of local contracts can languish for years...
Union lawsuit claims bus system violated constitutional rights amid contract talks  MLive  ...The union that represents The Rapid workers is suing the Grand Rapids transit authority in federal court in the middle of ongoing contract negotiations. The lawsuit filed Monday, Aug. 24, in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids alleges The Interurban Transit Partnership, or The Rapid, violated the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of members of the Amalgamated Transit Union...
Deere, UAW to kick off contract talks amid roiling economy  Crain's  ...Deere and its unionized workforce are kicking off contract talks as the slowing global economy weakens the equipment manufacturer. Moline-based Deere and the United Auto Workers are set to start bargaining today, according to a spokeswoman for the Detroit-based union. The contract covering approximately 11,000 UAW members expires Oct. 1...

Social Justice & Other News
Thirty Miles From Selma, a Different Kind of Civil Rights Struggle  Truthout  ...In the last decade, little has roused this town in the heart of Alabama's "black belt," 30 miles west of Selma, like the Arrowhead Landfill, a sprawling dump. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, while touting the importance of tackling environmental racism, has done little to address the residents' concerns - until now. Spurred by a citizens' complaint alleging the Arrowhead Landfill violates the civil rights of surrounding black property owners...
Ferguson Judge Orders Major Reforms in Victory for Protesters  Slate  ...In the year-plus since Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri, protesters, reporters, and the Department of Justice have all been critical of the city’s hyperaggressive municipal court system. On Monday, the city’s new municipal judge announced a major overhaul of the system; per judge Donald McClellin’s statement, all warrants issued before 2015 will be recalled...
400+ Miles Into Journey for Justice, Marchers Call for Police Reform  Common Dreams  ...Social justice and human rights activists are rallying Monday on the steps of the South Carolina State Capitol Building, calling for full-scale criminal justice reform including national, uniform standards for use of force among all local, state, and federal law enforcement agents. The demonstration is part of the NAACP's Journey for Justice March...

Monday, August 24, 2015

10 years after Katrina: Teamsters recall unprecedented disaster, undaunted response

As we approach the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Teamster Nation looks back at the disaster and its aftermath, focusing on the unprecedented role played by Teamsters in relief efforts. We will be featuring stories throughout the week on the storm's impact on Teamster members and how the union has helped rebuild Gulf Coast communities.

Responding to emergencies of all kinds over the last century has created a strong, unique sense of pride and solidarity among all Teamster members. On the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, the Teamsters Union is looking back on how the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast recovered and rebuilt their homes, businesses and lives.

Teamsters raised nearly $1.4 million in disaster relief funds during 2005, distributing aid to more than 2,200 affected members through caseloads of food, water and other supplies. The Teamsters also worked with retailers, employers and others to send truckloads of food and goods to the affected areas as Teamster tractor trailers came from Los Angeles, Oregon, Chicago, Montreal, Boston, New York and everywhere in between.

Going where no other organizations would, Teamster drivers delivered food, water and ice into devastated areas of the city. In New Orleans, where an estimated 80 percent of the city was under water (up to 20 feet deep in some places), Teamsters were moving heavy equipment into 9th Ward to repair breached levees while others were evacuating.

The Teamsters took a leading role in providing national logistical support, assisting the American Red Cross as it moved tons of supplies and equipment into the area. The union joined more than 200 members of labor organizations assisting in the Baton Rouge area alone.

As the labor liaison to the Red Cross, Teamster human rights commissioner and Joint Council 13 member Roy Gillespie assisted more than 600 shelters to reclaim generators, cots and beds, refrigerators, televisions and more. He believes Teamster oversight helped save the Red Cross more than $2 million in costs, not including the more than $4 million worth of aid equipment. Furthermore, Gillespie aided the Red Cross and FEMA in establishing a regional disaster preparedness strategy - which remains in place today - to avoid repeating errors and speed rescue and recovery:
By reviewing transportation invoices, Teamsters were able to stop price gouging of unscrupulous trucking companies. The Teamsters demonstrated how the Red Cross could trim volunteer time and expenses through smarter pick-up and delivery patterns.
Thousands of labor members participated in relief efforts throughout the region. Nationally, nearly $3.6 billion in cash and in-kind services have been donated to aid Gulf Coast hurricane victims, including more than $1 billion from labor unions to build affordable housing, spur economic development and create union jobs.

“Labor’s role cannot be overstated,” Gillespie adds, noting that the Teamsters Union led the way.

Time and time again, the resilience of the Teamster spirit appears in the face of tragedy. As we look back this week on the events of Hurricane Katrina, let us remember the courage and compassion of affected members and the strength of our union.