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Fiji: Union leader urges national strike

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FedEx denies whistleblower allegations stemming from LAX operations

Current News - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 21:09

FedEx denies whistleblower allegations stemming from LAX operations

http://www.dailybreeze.com/general-news/20150803/fedex-denies-whistleblo...

By CITY NEWS SERVICE |
PUBLISHED: August 3, 2015 at 11:22 pm | UPDATED: September 6, 2017 at 5:45 am
A lawsuit by an aircraft technician and his boss, who allege FedEx Corp. management ignored their complaints that the company put profits ahead ahead of safety, is groundless, a spokeswoman for the delivery service said Monday.

“These allegations have no merit and we will vigorously defend the lawsuit,” FedEx spokeswoman Connie Avery said.

Stanley Langevin and Mark Collins filed the whistleblower complaint Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, seeking unspecified damages. Collins, who is black and also is Langevin’s supervisor, additionally alleges racial discrimination.

Both men, who work at FedEx’s Los Angeles International Airport location, allege the company’s aircraft are not maintained according to Federal Aviation Administration safety requirements.

Langevin, who has more than 40 years of experience as an aircraft technician and also is an Air Force veteran, says he was retaliated against when he complained about the condition of many FedEx aircraft.

“Langevin uncovered a calculated, illegal scheme by FedEx whereby FedEx routinely and knowingly returned non-airworthy aircraft to service despite the need for further repair/maintenance in order to comply with federal aviation regulations,” the suit alleges.

He alleges his employer “was more concerned with returning the aircraft to flight quickly and cheaply in order to increase their profits than with ensuring compliance with the federal aviation regulations.”

The suit alleges that supervisors routinely wrote Langevin negative memos, suspended him for “fabricated” reasons and coerced co-workers to come up with “dirt” against him so he could be disciplined and demoted.

Collins, a Navy veteran who fought in the Persian Gulf War during Operation Desert Storm, alleges he faced a backlash because he defended Langevin.“Collins fully supported Langevin’s complaints and voiced his own complaints regarding the same illegal practices,” the suit alleges. “Collins further objected to and refused to be a party to FedEx’s pattern of retaliation against the whistleblowers.”

The plaintiffs further allege that Collins and other black employees were paid less than their non-black counterparts.

Tags: FedEx whistleblowerhealth and safetyosha
Categories: Labor News

The Dirty Truth Behind New York’s Transit Crisis How the riding public and transit workers are made to suffer so Wall Street bankers and real estate barons can bleed mass transit for profit

Current News - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 20:56

The Dirty Truth
Behind New York’s Transit Crisis
How the riding public and transit workers are made to suffer so Wall Street bankers and real estate barons
can bleed mass transit for profit

http://www.lrp-cofi.org/RTW/transit_crisis.html

The subway serves Wall Street in more ways than one.

Underfunded and deep in debt, New York City’s subway system is falling apart. Derailments, fires, electrical failures and equipment malfunctions have become everyday events, multiplying the perennial problems of overcrowding, delays and cancellations. On-time performance has dropped precipitously, from 84% in 2012 to 63% in April 2017; monthly delays are up to 70,000 from 28,000 in 2012.[1] The purpose of the subway system ought to be to get workers to work rapidly and enable people to get around the city cheaply. But its six million daily riders cannot be confident of getting to work on schedule or to get anywhere reliably.

While the entire riding public suffers from the long-lasting and deepening crisis, the worst effects fall disproportionately on the working class and especially poor people of color. Their subway stations are the least maintained, and many workers in the “outer boroughs” have to take slow-moving buses to even get to the subways. Frequent fare hikes hit hardest those who can least afford them, forcing more and more people to jump the turnstiles and risk arrest. And under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Broken Windows” policy, which directs police to crack down on minor violations in poor neighborhoods, the cops seize tens of thousands of mostly young people of color every year for fare evasion.[2]

The effects of the transit crisis on the riding public are obvious and intolerable, but the system’s workforce is also under severe stress. Management has been increasing pressure on workers to maximize effort, while allowing decades of understaffing as well as often dirty and unsafe working conditions. The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) has only recently started necessary large-scale hiring, with plans to bring on 2700 new Maintenance of Way and Car Equipment workers. But there is no plan to alleviate the burden on train operators and conductors, bus drivers, station agents and cleaners, whose numbers are far too low for the system to operate in anything close to a humane way. And all transit workers face forced overtime as well as demands to sacrifice working conditions, wages and benefits.

The spike in subway delays, derailments, and fires gave rise to the tabloid label “Summer of Hell” in 2017, the culmination of a long-term failure to modernize the system. Governor Andrew Cuomo responded by declaring the subways to be in a “state of emergency.” At the same time, Cuomo and de Blasio both denied responsibility, each claiming that the other was in charge. The truth is that the MTA is a nominally independent agency of New York State, set up to insulate politicians from being held accountable by voters for the system’s failures. In its present form, however, the governor and his upstate allies control a majority of the votes on the MTA board (the mayor controls a few). So the buck ultimately stops with Cuomo.[3]

And Cuomo is no friend of the subways. When public outrage at delays and overcrowding spiked last summer, Cuomo grandstanded that “New York is going to put its money where its mouth is” and trumpeted a $1 billion cash infusion for the MTA. But that pledge was a flat-out lie, since he was really cutting funding for subways by more than a billion dollars! He had already cut $65 million from the MTA’s budget by reducing the state’s annual reimbursement for the $320 million in annual funding it had lost in 2011 when Cuomo granted new tax exemptions to a range of business enterprises. And after his pledge, Cuomo had the MTA cut $1.2 billion from its subways budget, funds that had been earmarked for improving the signaling and communications systems.

That money was redirected toward favored projects that serve his capitalist backers – like the ill-conceived AirTrain to LaGuardia Airport that would head away from the central business district and be no faster than the current bus-to-subway connection, in order to benefit corporate developments around Willetts Point in Queens. Cuomo also took a profusion of self-promoting bows when the Second Avenue line opened in January 2017. This line runs only to Manhattan’s higher-income Upper East Side, with fancy stations built to make ample profits for developers. It does not go to the Lower East Side, East Harlem and the central Bronx, working-class neighborhoods served by the elevated lines that the new line was originally designed to replace. Indeed, since the 1950s there have been no new lines and few extensions in the outer boroughs where 80 percent of the city’s population, including most workers, live.

Further, in 2016 Cuomo had declared that the state would fulfill its budgetary commitments to the MTA’s capital plan only once all other possible sources of funding had been exhausted. Then he got the state to dramatically raise the MTA’s debt-ceiling by $55 billion, to an astronomical total of $123 billion, so that it could issue more bonds to Wall Street profiteers. Of course, demanding other possible sources of funding sets the stage for more service cuts, attacks on transit workers’ wages and working conditions as well as more fare hikes every couple of years.[4]

It’s not just Cuomo. The Flushing line extension, built under the city’s previous mayor, billionaire Republican Michael Bloomberg, was designed to service property development near the Hudson River waterfront. De Blasio likewise has joined the real estate party and is pushing projects which will encourage new luxury housing and shops, including a streetcar line, the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX), along the East River waterfront. This project will encourage new luxury housing and shops; it threatens the homes of hundreds of thousands of mostly Black, Latino and Asian working class people, who are protesting the gentrification project vociferously. There is a crying need for Brooklyn-Queens crosstown lines, but workers are right to oppose the BQX that is planned at their expense.

Cuomo, de Blasio and a succession of prior governors and mayors have presided over the underfunding and decay of the transit system in order to satisfy the profit demands of the capitalists they serve. Real estate tycoons have demanded that funding for the system’s maintenance and development be deprioritized in favor of projects and lines that will enhance the profitability of their investments. And Wall Street bankers insist that the system be increasingly financed by bond issues that guarantee them regular returns, rather than through progressive taxes that they would have to pay. Debt and interest payments to Wall Street now account for almost 20% of the MTA’s budget. Thus, despite capitalism’s financial crises and long-term stagnation (see below), New York’s public transit system has become a source of steady profits for capitalist parasites.

The “Summer of Hell”

One immediate reason for the transit crisis is the long-term failure to upgrade the system, combined with the increasing demands placed on it by a growing ridership. The city’s population has grown by about 15 percent since 1980, and ridership is up 7 percent over the past five years. But for decades upkeep was put off for lack of funds.

Some of the incidents this past summer were life-threatening to hundreds of people. In April, a train carrying about 1000 passengers derailed in Queens, injuring 19, sending 4 to the hospital, filling a car with smoke and requiring passengers to evacuate through the tunnel. On June 5, another train bound from Manhattan to Brooklyn stalled in the East River tunnel; the power failed and air conditioning shut down, bringing temperatures up to 120 degrees and filling some cars with smoke; passengers had to wrench doors open in order to breathe. On June 27 a train derailed in Harlem, filling train cars and the tunnel with sickening smoke; evacuating the 800 passengers from the tunnel took over an hour. On July 17, a track fire caused the evacuation of another Harlem station, halting service on several lines and sending passengers to a nearby line, creating dangerous overcrowding. On July 19, a power failure at Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn left a crowded subway platform in the dark during evening rush hour.

Crowd surge at the 168th Street station on the 1 line
after service was halted on the A line

On September 15, the New York Times described how major failures paralyzing sections of the transit system were becoming a daily occurrence:.

“In Manhattan, it was debris on the track. In Queens, it was a switch problem. In Brooklyn, it was a power malfunction. Taken together, the various woes snarled at least eight lines on New York City’s dilapidated subway on Thursday, upending the travels of furious riders who were forced to wait on packed platforms for trains that never came or were too full to squeeze inside.”[5]

There is more to come. Under the East River, the L train tube between Manhattan and Brooklyn was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and needs massive repairs. It will be shut down for 15 months, leaving hundreds of thousands of riders without viable alternatives.

The decay of the New York subway is a microcosm of the country’s infrastructure crisis. And mass transit is not the only urban system in serious trouble. Decent and affordable housing is also a desperate need that capitalism is proving unable to provide even in the richest country in the world. In New York City, the exponentially rising cost of housing has forced many workers out of the most convenient neighborhoods.

That this crisis is peaking in the capital of world finance, where the pampered and parasitic super-wealthy from all over the world come to play and profit, illuminates the decay of the capitalist system. In New York, the dominant financial capitalists are torn between their need for a functioning transit system that gets people to work and their use of the MTA as a generator of profits squeezed out of the public by way of billions of dollars of debt payments.

Capitalist Stagnation and Debt

The New York subways first came into service in the first decades of the 20th century, instantly becoming wonders of the world. U.S. capitalism oversaw the building of these and other monumental public works, largely by immigrant laborers with picks and shovels. Today, one modern earth-moving machine does the work of hundreds of laborers with hand tools. Yet the capitalist class can no longer adequately maintain the current infrastructure let alone build new facilities, even in the face of desperate need.

Mass transit was never really profitable, even though it is essential for urban businesses – how else are millions of workers to get to their jobs to generate profits for the bosses? During the Depression of the 1930s, the privately-owned subway lines went bankrupt and laid thousands off. But with substantial municipal support, service was expanded and the city built new publicly-owned lines.

American capitalism boomed during and after World War II. But since that boom ended, the capitalists and their politicians have allowed the subways and other public works to fall apart rather than pay for the necessary upkeep. When the economic crisis hit in the 1970s, they squeezed the working class: in New York, subway fares were increased by over 65 percent between 1970 and 1975, tuition was imposed at the City University for the first time, public hospitals were closed and tens of thousands of public employees were laid off.

Behind this crisis was the declining rate of profit of the world capitalist economy, along the lines of the theory presented by Karl Marx 150 years ago. In recent decades, the capitalists have propped profits up by various means: but despite their success in cutting wages while stepping up productivity, despite computers and the internet driving costs down, despite the opening up of China and other low-wage countries to unfettered super-exploitation, global profit rates remain well below their post-World War II levels. Slashing funds for public works, and gouging the working class to pay for what spending there is, are the consequences of what has been a one-sided class war.[6]

After the city’s acute fiscal crisis in 1975, federal, state and city funds almost stopped flowing to the subways or any public infrastructure. The state legislature appointed a Financial Control Board of unelected bankers with veto power over the entire city budget and control of certain tax revenues. And as part of the same austerity attack, the state legislature held back billions from transit.

In the 1970s and early 1980s the system was starved of funding. Transit hiring essentially stopped, and workforce numbers plummeted. Management stopped buying new rails, so when in-service rails became thoroughly side-worn, they weren’t replaced; they were just transposed with the rails across the track so trains would wear down the other side evenly. The most notorious manifestation of subway disintegration was in the rolling stock. Subway cars broke down on average every 6800 miles, as compared to 170,000 miles today. The hiring freeze left few cleaners, so cars were filthy and poorly maintained.

The capitalists didn’t want to pay, but the functioning of business in the whole region, including Wall Street, was threatened by the system’s dysfunction. Transit workers became sick of their wage freeze and struck the system in 1980. They were forced back to work without a contract, but a strike scared the capitalists and politicians, and an arbitrator awarded substantial wage and benefit gains. To pay for this and for urgent capital construction, in 1981 the MTA issued bonds for needed funding.

Borrowing heavily, the MTA started on a big hiring and purchasing program. But the money borrowed had to be paid back – with interest. Debt service payments now account for about 19% of the MTA’s budget; total debt figures amount to around $40 billion, up from $12 billion in the year 2000. Hence the steady fare hikes. Since the late 1940s, the single-ride fare has risen from 5 cents to $2.75, 55 times higher and five times the overall rate of inflation.[7]

The Plight of Transit Workers

The fact that the transit system’s financial crisis is based on its underfunding and indebtedness to Wall Street bond holders hasn’t stopped capitalist mouthpieces like the notoriously racist and anti-worker New York Post from blaming transit workers for the crisis. In recent coverage of the transit crisis, it declared: “The biggest culprit in skyrocketing costs is employee benefits.”[8] This is, of course, a lie. In reality, debt service payouts by the MTA amount to about twice as much as the health and welfare benefits[9] – and benefits go to the workers who make the system run, not to the parasites whose “earnings” keep the system struggling to survive.

The capitalist media, especially Fox News and the Post, naturally blame the system’s decay on transit workers and their allegedly princely wages and benefits. They try to convince the working-class majority of passengers that their fellow workers, the members of Transport Workers Union Local 100, are responsible for the system’s rising fares and worsening service. But it is not only the openly anti-labor media that blames the workers. The city’s liberal “paper of record,” the New York Times, ran an otherwise informative article on its front page in November 2017 which claimed that the MTA “has given concession after concession to its main labor union;” that the TWU, that transit wages are rising faster than those of other municipal workers; and that “subway workers now make an average of $170,000 annually in salary, overtime and benefits.”[10] In reality, the union officials have made multiple concessions to management; TWU workers’ wages, like others’, are rising slower than the rate of inflation; and the top pay for the skilled, stressful and injury-prone work of train operators is under $75,000 a year.[11] Even though other municipal workers make less, this is not extravagant pay in one of the most expensive cities in the country; the aim should be to raise others’ wages, not lower these.

The major infrastructure breakdowns like derailments are well publicized. Less well known is the system’s dependence on massive overtime labor, achieved by management coercing workers into completing long shifts as well as skipping lunches and breaks. And when tracks and signals need to be replaced, the bosses shut whole stretches of a line for a day or a weekend and drive trackworkers and signal maintainers to work 12- or even 16-hour days. Many train operators and conductors are losing sleep and family time to keep the system rolling – and that isn’t good for passengers, either.

Some specifics:

The new contract signed by the leaders of Local 100 sets new limits on the number of overtime hours that workers can bank and use for days off – on top of the difficulty workers have to get a day off approved by management.
Workers are discouraged from taking time off for medical reasons by contemptuous company doctors and a system of gotcha-style visits to catch workers who are not at home when sick.
Even pregnant women workers are harassed into skipping bathroom breaks.
Because of insufficient staffing, new hires especially are condemned to years of work on the night shift without relief. Night shifts are well known to have ruinous effects on health, not to mention their impact on family and social time.
These examples of inhuman conditions forced on transit workers have serious consequences on their physical and emotional well-being.

The trade union movement was built over decades by workers protesting horrendous working conditions as well as low wages. But that fighting spirit has been doused by union leaders who see their role as brokering deals with the bosses instead of leading the working class in struggle. TWU Local 100 in particular has a rich tradition of militancy, and with a membership that now consists largely of people of color, it has the potential to play a leading role in mobilizing working-class and oppressed people in struggles. But its members too have suffered the demoralizing effects of betrayals by their leaders.

In 2005, under union president Roger Toussaint, Local 100 fought a three-day strike against the MTA’s attempts to undermine the pension system and saddle workers with increasing healthcare expenses. The strike shut down much of the city, and despite the inconvenience, opinion polls showed that a majority of working-class New Yorkers supported the union and blamed management.[12] But the rest of the city’s union leaders failed to support the strike – which, like all public-sector strikes in New York State, was illegal – and Toussaint capitulated: he declared an end to the strike without having secured a contract deal. When later he did agree to a contract, the members first voted it down but then were pressured driven to accept it in a re-vote under Toussaint’s demoralizing leadership.[13] The membership was further weakened by fines and the loss of automatic dues check-off that crippled the union’s finances and divided its ranks.

“Solutions” that Solve Little

The response of Local 100 to the growing transit crisis under Toussaint’s successor, John Samuelson has been feeble. Samuelson proposed a plan for the MTA to solve the current crisis, including increased hiring to enable more frequent inspections and maintenance of tracks and rolling stock.[14] But in a system breaking down in so many ways these proposals were only band-aid. They avoided the biggest problems that require massive investments. A recent comprehensive list of vitally necessary repairs and improvements would cost well over $100 billion.[15]

In presenting his program as a list of helpful hints to the MTA, Samuelson avoided appealing to the working-class public to push for what needs to be done – by enlisting other unions and organizations of the communities endangered by the crisis, or even by mobilizing his own union membership to raise their demands publicly, loudly and massively. Scandalously, Samuelson said nothing about how the workers his union represents are being pushed to the breaking point. No wonder: he has been cooperating with management’s attacks, for example, by agreeing to contract provisions reducing workers’ rights to time off and compensation for forced overtime work. In mid-2017 Samuelson was elevated to be head of the TWU International. He was replaced as head of Local 100 by a career bureaucrat, Tony Utano, who is likely to be even more accommodating to management at the expense of his members.

Union bureaucrats who fail their members and the whole working class:
John Samuelsen swearing in Tony Utano to head TWU Local 100, September 2017

Joe Lhota, appointed MTA chairman by Cuomo in 2017, has also produced a plan, likewise offering small-scale solutions to a few problems while ignoring the huge crisis as well as management’s pressure on the workforce. Some of his points overlap with the union’s proposals; others are even tinier band-aid. They include more track cleaning, sealing water leaks, cutting response times for repairs, expanding the annual number of train car overhauls, pre-positioning response teams around the system, adding cars to trains on certain lines, increasing inspections of train car doors, getting clearer information to riders during “incidents,” and getting aid to sick passengers faster. He promises hiring 2400 more workers to accomplish this.[16]

Lhota even proposed removing seats from some subway cars in order to pack in more passengers in rush hours – thereby giving the finger to disabled people, pregnant women, parents with small children and the elderly and turning subway cars into cattle cars. (Indeed, the American Meat Institute has pointed out that cattle and sheep are never packed together as tightly as New York subway commuters in rush hour.[17]) The idea is as brilliant as the MTA’s decision a few years back to remove thousands of trash cans from subway stations, hoping that passengers would then carry all their garbage out of the stations. As anyone could have predicted, the plan backfired; the result was more trash on the tracks and a rash of track fires.[18]

Lhota’s plan, unlike Samuelson’s, has a long-term component addressing the need for modernization, but details have not yet been announced. Nevertheless, neither union or management is facing up to the enormity of the crisis. Above all, they do not explain where the money is to come from. Lhota says the city and state should pay equally; Samuelson made the demand only on the city, ignoring the state’s responsibility. That’s because Samuelson has been collaborating with Cuomo for years, accepting bad contract deals to get a seat at the governor’s table.[19] But whichever government entity pays, without a fight for a major overturn of business-as-usual, the working class will be squeezed with higher fares and/or taxes.

Mayor de Blasio, running for re-election in 2017, proposed a tax on the rich to fund subway improvements and a program of half-price rides for the poorest New Yorkers. His plan would raise city income taxes on those making over $500,000 a year. It sounds dramatic, but his one half of one percent hike would be a drop in the bucket compared to the billions needed, and would have to be approved by the state legislature where he has little influence. His proposal allowed the mayor to parade as a champion of the working class without scaring away his capitalist supporters who know that his tax proposal was just blowing smoke.

So What Is to Be Done?

Working-class and poor people are the most directly affected by the transit crisis. The miserable situation forced on transit workers as well as the public in general can be the basis for a united struggle. This requires that those responsible for the crisis be identified as the common enemy: the capitalists and the politicians they control who underfunded the system and turned it into a cash cow for Wall Street bond-holders – the same people whose crooked financial schemes triggered the crisis of 2008 and who got bailed out to the tune of trillions while millions of working people lost their jobs, pensions and homes.

It is time to think big. On top of the immediate maintenance and service improvements that Samuelson and Lhota address, the crisis demands thousands of new hires to expand the work force and major new construction projects and investments in new technology. The $100 billion-plus cost cited above calls for an equally massive funding plan – serious emergency measures that do not make the workers and poor pay. De Blasio’s proposal to tax the wealthy for social needs was totally inadequate, but it appealed to the growing recognition that dealing with the deepening crisis means making those profiting from the system pay the price. Polls continue to show a majority of the people in the country favor significantly higher taxes on the rich, especially in a city where millionaires abound.[20] We stand with the sentiment to tax the rich, the banks and the corporations.

The limited solutions so far proposed all accept the role of Wall Street and real estate capitalists in financing and profiting from the transit system. Increased taxes on the wealthy to pay for emergency improvements in services like transit will be wasted if a big part of the public service budget is dedicated to paying interests on debts to capitalist investors. Therefore we propose to link demands for increased taxes on the rich and the banks and corporations with a fight for a freeze of debt service payments to bondholders, which would quickly boost the transit budget by 20 percent.

Of course, working-class and poor people should favor repudiating all debts to the capitalists. But a complete repudiation of the transit debt to Wall Street would require a huge struggle and would threaten the financial stability and political power of the entire capitalist class. For that reason, at a time when the working class does not yet feel empowered by the experience of growing struggles, a call for repudiation of the debt would generally be regarded as impractical and gather little active support. But given the seriousness of the current transit crisis, the more modest demand for a moratorium on payments to bondholders could, along with other demands, inspire a movement and build toward even greater struggle which might well advance a demand to cancel the debt altogether.

A fighting mass movement would put enough fear into the powers that be to make them carry out any of the necessary measures; and even then they would be but temporary and partial solutions. Leaving control of the economy in the hands of the capitalists would allow them to wield that power to fight back in a variety of ways. For as long as the capitalist class owns the major means of production and controls the governments and all institutions of state power, these will serve the capitalist system that depends on exploitation and oppression.

As revolutionary socialists, we believe that all wealth and power must be seized from the capitalists through a revolution led by the working class, so that a socialist economy can be built in the interests of the masses. After a socialist revolution that overthrows capitalism, a revolutionary society would establish full employment, decent guaranteed health care, a program of public works and a healthy economy. With the establishment of a government of the working class and oppressed resting on a workers’ state, the fight against racism, sexism and other social ills would make serious strides forward. Over time, all these reactionary poisons could be wiped out. Further, socialism can achieve abundance for all only by pooling the industrial power and resources of many countries, which is why international socialist revolution is the key to reaching a truly classless society where all divisions between people would dissolve.

We understand that revolutionary conclusions will be reached by larger numbers of working people and youth only through their experience of mass struggles, including for reforms. So today, when there is clearly the potential for a mass movement to grow behind such demands, revolutionaries should promote the idea of mass working-class struggle to win massive increases in taxes on the rich and on the banks and corporations. In the course of today’s struggles, we explain that to end the worsening crises of the capitalist system, the working class will have to seize power from the capitalists and set about building a socialist society of freedom and abundance for all.

Even though the great majority of workers today do not see it that way, reality is that conditions of life are worsening to the point where explosions of mass anger and struggle will become more frequent and more powerful. In recent years there have been notable struggles like the Black Lives Matter movement against police killings, the immigrant rights movements, the battles for Native American rights, and campaigns to defend health care and abortion rights. But the strongest battalions of the working class – the trade unions, with their power to shut down profit-making through strikes – have for the most part not found their way into the struggle, or even into solidarity with other struggles. The unions could do a great deal to support the struggles against racism, sexism and anti-immigrant attacks. This could be a key step toward building the united working class fight back of union and non union-workers, employed and unemployed, that is essential for stopping the anti-working-class attacks that Trump in particular has been intensifying.

The TWU’s Shameful Inaction

In the light of the immense urban and public transit crisis in New York City, it is treacherous that TWU Local 100 stands aside, leaving community organizations to organize the relatively small rallies they can against the neglect of transit. It is harmful to all workers that TWU Local 100 appeals to Democratic and sometimes even Republican politicians who are starving the system as though they were the friends of workers and public transit. Instead of pushing for a Tax the Rich plan, taking advantage of de Blasio’s re-opening of the issue, Local 100’s leaders have demanded that the mayor increase transit funding out of current revenues. That bolsters their pal Cuomo’s claims that only the city and not the state is to be blamed, and leaves the crisis unsolved.

TWU Local 100 has the power to make demands on the politicians and bosses at all levels. It could, with reasonable preparation, bring a sizable fraction of its members into the streets to demand an emergency program of subway rebuilding and expansion that creates tens of thousands of good and needed jobs. The Local could organize the workers to make clear that with the current low employee numbers it is impossible for the system to operate as it should.

If Local 100 showed itself able to mobilize a mass fight for decent transport, it would be in a good position to urge other unions and immigrant and community organizations to bring their members out as well. Masses of non-union workers and young people could be motivated to join such a movement. It would show that the working class and poor people can force improvements, instead of accepting or merely complaining about capitalist attacks and neglect.

The League for the Revolutionary Party and its transit worker supporters organized around the Revolutionary Transit Worker newsletter, work to connect all the dots and show how society’s breakdowns and outrages are linked and point to the overall capitalist system as responsible. Towards that end, we have protested fare hikes and spoken at the MTA hearings last winter on the question. We have fought in the local to have the union and union members champion the cause of subway riders, particularly the poorest. Drawing the lessons of mass struggles like those outlined above, we hope to show that to win gains and keep them requires socialist revolution.

To bring that revolution about requires that the most revolutionary-minded workers organize into a revolutionary working-class party that can, over time, win the support of increasing numbers of our fellow workers. The growing attacks by the capitalist system will inevitably trigger further popular protest movements. We can begin now to build the political leadership that the working class needs to address the severe crises it faces.

Notes

1. See “The state of the New York subway: transit experts weigh in”, www.ny.curbed.com; “Why Your Commute Sucks”, www.indypendent.org, June 23, 2017. “Every New York City Subway Line Is Getting Worse. Here’s Why”, www.nytimes.com.

2. “The NYPD makes the most arrests for a $2.75 crime,” Business Insider, May 10, 2016

3. “Who Really Runs New York City’s Subway?”, www.nytimes.com, July 25, 2017.
“No cause for confusion about where the transit buck stops” (editorial), www.crainsnewyork.com

4. The funding scandal has been uncovered by a number of reporters, including Zak Fink of the TV station NY1, Max Rivlin-Nadler of the Village Voice and Benjamin Kabak of the blog Second Avenue Sagas. See:
“Governor Cuomo’s $65 Million Shortchanging of MTA Riders, Explained,” www.villagevoice.com, February 24, 2017;
“Guess Which NY Governor Just Took $1 Billion Meant for MTA Subway Signals and Spent It Elsewhere?, www.villagevoice.com, July 7, 2017;
“Cuomo’s MTA Debt Bomb: How the Pieces Fit Together,” nyc.streetsblog.org, April 8, 2016;
“Cuomo MIA on MTA Funding as Straphangers Brace for Another Fare Hike,” nyc, streetsblog.org, January 1, 2017;
“Cuomo’s broken promises: What an increase in the MTA’s debt ceiling really means,” secondavenuesagas.com, April 11, 2016;
“Gov. Cuomo’s MTA capital repair funds for new subway cars redirected to other projects,” www.dailynews.com.
Also: “For years, officials had only partly funded signal repairs and replacements. Much of the subway’s signaling equipment was decades beyond its life span. Just a few months before [the July 2017] ill-fated commute, the M.T.A. had cut signal funding by $500 million to support projects favored by Mr. Cuomo.”
“How Politics and Bad Decisions Starved New York’s Subways,” www.nytimes.com, November 18, 2017.

5. “Subway Commute Snared by Debris, Switch Problem and Power Malfunction,” www.nytimes.com, September 14, 2017

6. See our Marxist Analysis of the Capitalist Crisis: Bankrupt System Drives Toward Depression PDF.

7. Arun Gupta, “Why the MTA is Broken;” www.indypendent.org, June 2009

8. “What’s really behind the MTA’s money woes,” New York Post, July 27, 2017

9. MTA 2017 Adopted Budget – February Financial Plan 2017-2020, p. 334, www.web.mta.info PDF

10. “How Politics and Bad Decisions Starved New York’s Subways,” New York Times, November 19, 2017;

11. See the letter on this website to the New York Times (not published) by two Revolutionary Transit Worker (RTW) supporters.

12. Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, “NYC Transit Strike Enters Third Day: Negotiations Resume, Threats to Workers Heat Up, Public Support Remains High,” Democracy Now! Radio, December 22, 2005.

13. See New York Transit Workers Get Raw Deal, Proletarian Revolution (2006); and various issues of Revolutionary Transit Worker during the strike period and after.

14. “Transit Workers Union presents 10-point plan to help fix NYC subways,” www.nydailynews.com. See also the RTW leaflet “Team Cuomo’s” Customer Service Ambassador Debacle subtitled “A Bad Deal that Was Going to Be Much Worse until Militant Resistance Forced Utano & Management to Retreat”

15. Jonathan Miller,“The Case for the Subway. It built the city. Now, no matter the cost – at least $100 billion – the city must rebuild it to survive.” New York Times Magazine, January 7, 2018

16. “Subway rescue plan: 2,400 new hires, $836 million in new spending,” www.crainsnewyork.com, July 25, 2017.

17. “A crowded subway car is stocked much more densely than a cattle or pig truck. ... You would never load a truck with cattle or sheep until all you could do was close the door.”
“If a Standing Desk Is Good, What About a Standing Commute?”, www.nytimes.com, July 27, 2017.

18. “MTA Trashes Pilot Program Removing Garbage Cans From Subway Stations,” www.newyork.cbslocal.com, March 29, 2017.
“Removing subway trash cans has resulted in more track fires, litter: DiNapoli” www.nypost.com, February 14, 2017

19. See Revolutionary Transit Worker No. 63.

20. “Americans Still Say Upper-Income Pay Too Little in Taxes,” www.gallup.com

Tags: TWU 100Public TransitTransit health and safety
Categories: Labor News

Transit Equity Video Townhalls "Memories of our lives, or our works and our deeds will continue in others" - Rosa Parks

Current News - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 10:53

Transit Equity Video Townhalls "Memories of our lives, or our works and our deeds will continue in others" - Rosa Parks
http://www.labor4sustainability.org/transit-equity-day/

Transit Equity Video Townhalls

"Memories of our lives, or our works and our deeds will continue in others" - Rosa Parks

Transit Equity Video Townhalls

"Memories of our lives, or our works and our deeds will continue in others" - Rosa Parks

Join One of Two Townhalls:
Sunday, January 28th, 2018
5:30 PM Eastern Time
and 5:30 PM Pacific

Transit Equity Day is a collaborative effort of several organizations and unions to promote public transit as a civil right and a strategy to combat climate change.
We are choosing Rosa Parks’ birthday because she is an iconic figure of the civil rights era who chose the tactic of refusing to give up her seat on the bus.[1] We want to make the connection to this act of resistance to highlight the rights of all people to high-quality public transportation powered by clean/renewable energy. This day of action will also help to enforce a broader strategy that promotes a “full spectrum” just transition from the fossil fuel economy (energy, energy efficiency, transportation, waste, agriculture…) to clean, renewable energy as part of confronting the climate crisis. Increasing, non-fossil fuel, public transportation is a foundation to achieving this transition.
A just transition requires that we uphold worker and civil rights. This means that everyone should have the right and access to free (or at least affordable) public transportation regardless of age, race, or class. It also includes supporting the rights of workers to organize in the sectors that will build, operate and maintain public transportation infrastructure, as well as provide the services.
We also want to promote the principle of public vs. private investment in public transportation – the need for public resources and infrastructure (public transportation, public regulation of our energy systems, a stronger public sector overall, etc.), to lead and administer the transition to fossil fuel free public transportation.
[1] Rosa Parks’ Birthday is February 4 and falls on a Sunday. Because of this, we are choosing Monday, February 5 as the day of action.
Toolkit

Tags: ATU Transit Equity Video Townhallsatuenvirornment
Categories: Labor News

Russia: Union-busting, Russian style

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: openDemocracy
Categories: Labor News

Fiji: Amnesty concerned about Fiji airport worker lockout impasse

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Fiji Times
Categories: Labor News

Iran: Teachers Union and Independent Trade Unions Blame Regime for Nationwide Protests

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Iran News Update
Categories: Labor News

Greece: No public transport in Athens as workers strike, protest austerity

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 01/14/2018 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Kathimerini
Categories: Labor News

Greece: Unions strike over curbs on right-to-strike in austerity bill

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 01/14/2018 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Deutsche Welle
Categories: Labor News

Israel: Histadrut chief: Teva is spitting in Israel's face

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 01/14/2018 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Globes Israel
Categories: Labor News

Fired Florida CSX conductor seeking whistleblower protection, changes within company

Current News - Sat, 01/13/2018 - 18:02

Fired Florida CSX conductor seeking whistleblower protection, changes within company
http://www.actionnewsjax.com/news/local/fired-csx-conductor-seeking-whis...
By: Kevin Clark , Action News Jax

Updated: Dec 1, 2017 - 9:46 AM

1373
A former CSX employee says he was fired for speaking out about safety concerns to the company and in an interview with Action News Jax.

Louis Billingsley is now seeking whistleblower protection.

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He was fired by CSX this month after nearly 12 years as a conductor.

During a July interview with Action News Jax, Billingsley shared his concerns about the abolition of certain safety procedures for rail workers.

One policy change eliminated the three-step rule, an extra safeguard to keep cars from moving when employees are working between or under them.

Another change banned the use of the brake stick, meaning conductors now have to tie the brakes by hand.

“It’s just a matter of time before someone seriously gets hurt,” Billingsley told Action News Jax Thursday.

CSX has been under scrutiny for other operating changes since CEO Hunter Harrison took over earlier this year.

As CSX has cut jobs to try to increase efficiency, it has consolidated trains to make them longer.

Billingsley claims the trains have become too long, making it hard for rail employees to communicate from one end to the other.

The longer trains often block neighborhoods and streets for hours at a time on their way in and out of railyards.

“We need to show that we care about the public, we care about the people, and sometimes that’s worth more than record-breaking profits,” Billingsley said.

But Billingsley says when he raised these concerns, CSX became retaliatory.

A day after Billingsley interviewed with Action News Jax in July, he received a short voicemail telling him he’d been fired.

“I couldn’t believe it, I was like, ‘Wow, they really want to shut you up,’” said Billingsley.

Not 40 minutes later, another voicemail from CSX told him he’d been rehired.

“I think they realized what they did, and they put me back into service,” he said.

But for the next couple of months after that, Billingsley claims he was targeted, and that his superiors followed him around and watched his every move.

“Almost two months later, they got me. On a minor infraction,” he said.

The dismissal letter obtained by Action News Jax says Billingsley was fired for running in the gauge of the rail, operating a switch with one hand, and “not maintaining visual contact with the equipment while making a shove move.”

But Billingsley tells us everyone within CSX knew he was fired because he spoke out against the changes associated with Precision Railroading, and what he calls the “culture of fear” within the company.

“It was all from that interview I placed,” he said. “And I did the interview because I think the public needs to know what kind of environment CSX has become.”

When Action News Jax reached out to CSX for this story, a company spokesperson told us:

"CSX does not comment on individual personnel matters. Safety remains CSX’s highest priority in every aspect of our operations."

She then added:

"CSX denies any allegation that it would retaliate against an employee who raises safety concerns."

Billingsley has retained an attorney, who is filing a complaint with OSHA.

The attorney, John Magnuson, told Action News Jax that if Billingsley doesn’t get his job back, they’ll likely file a whistleblower protection lawsuit in federal court.

“I’m an example of what happens when you open your mouth and voice a concern,” Billingsley said.

Tags: CSX safetyhealth and safety whistleblower
Categories: Labor News

Florida CSX railroad worker fights firing after speaking out safety

Current News - Sat, 01/13/2018 - 17:56

Florida CSX railroad worker fights firing after speaking out safety

http://www.themilitant.com/2018/8202/820254.html

Vol. 82/No. 2 January 15, 2018

Fla. rail worker fights firing after speaking out
on safety

BY ANTHONY DUTROW
Louis Billingsley, a freight rail conductor with 12 years experience, is fighting his firing after speaking out against unsafe practices and conditions at the CSX railroad in a televised interview on CBS Action News Jax in Jacksonville, Florida. Jacksonville is CSX’s corporate headquarters.
CSX, one of the two large Class 1 railroads covering the eastern half of the country, along with Norfolk Southern, has been on a drive to combine trains, eliminate workers’ jobs and make more profit for the bosses and bondholders.

Action News Jax reported last June that freight trains often keep traffic backed up in the area for hours, preventing people from getting to work or to medical or other appointments.

One woman interviewed had to miss her treatment for Stage 3 cancer, as all roads out of her neighborhood were blocked by a train.

These longer trains are part of a drive for profits in the rail industry, especially in the seven Class 1 roads in North America — which each rake in at least $453 million annually. Together they control 69 percent of the industry’s trackage, 90 percent of its workers and 94 percent of all freight revenue.

When Billingsley was on a train crew that kept a series of crossings closed, he told Action News in July that seeing people disrupted this way “was heartbreaking.” Billingsley told the reporter that at one point he separated one of the trains in the Dinsmore neighborhood that had blocked traffic for two hours.

“These trains are getting longer and doubling up,” Billingsley told Action News, adding that CSX “stocks are going up, that’s all they care about.”

“I have to walk back here and fix the train, and my radio can’t even reach the engineer it’s so long,” he said.

The day after the interview was aired, CSX sent Billingsley a voicemail saying he was fired. Then 40 minutes later the company sent another voicemail saying he was rehired.

For the next two months, CSX managers followed Billingsley, looking to pressure him into any infraction of their rulebook. They found a pretext to fire him. Billingsley’s “crimes?” They said he stepped on a rail and threw a switch with one hand, neither of which was any conceivable threat to the communities residing near the tracks.

Billingsley has refused to be intimidated. He retained a lawyer, John Magnuson, and filed a claim with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. They are considering a “whistle-blower” suit through the federal courts.

In August 2017, just eight months after CSX inaugurated its “Precision Scheduled Railroading” — a term coined by its new CEO Hunter Harrison — a two-mile-long train, hauling dangerous chemicals, derailed in Hyndman, Pennsylvania.

Tank cars filled with liquid propane and molten sulfur ruptured and burst into flames, forcing the evacuation of over 1,000 people from the town and surrounding areas for days.

Harrison’s version of “precision” railroading is admired and imitated by profit-hungry rail bosses across North America.

Harrison died suddenly in December. The bosses at CSX and its shareholders had brought him over from Canadian Pacific Railway earlier in 2017 because of his record of “turning around” the profit rates at Illinois Central Railway and Canadian National Railway.

He led the bosses there in attacks on jobs, safety conditions, elimination of less profitable yards and train combinations that led to stockholders pocketing higher returns on their shares — 516 percent at Illinois Central, 1989-97; 353 percent at Canadian National, 1998-2009; and 319 percent at Canadian Pacific.

In addition to dangerously increasing train lengths and eliminating safer practices and rules, Harrison and CSX bosses closed major yards, including in Atlanta and Cumberland, Maryland, and they’ve laid off close to 10 percent of the railroad’s 28,000 workers. Nine cars derailed on another CSX train in Hyndman Dec. 29. Management at CSX — and their competitors across the continent — have made clear they will continue their productivity and profit drive, as they have done throughout the industry for decades.

Tags: Rail safetyhealth and safetyCSX retaliation
Categories: Labor News

Protests Coast To Coast, And Even Abroad Meet The Final Phase Of The Lac-Mégantic Trial

Current News - Sat, 01/13/2018 - 16:55

Protests Coast To Coast, And Even Abroad Meet The Final Phase Of The Lac-Mégantic Trial

http://hardingdefense.org/2018/01/08/protests-coast-to-coast-and-even-ab...

Richard LabrieTom Harding
The most important rail safety trial of our time will soon be in the hands of the jury. They are tasked with the difficult decision of whether or not to hold rail workers accountable for actions of their employers because it’s plain that there will be no other accountability, despite what is now a matter of public record.

The wrong people are on trial. Check out this interview with RCI, Radio Canada International.

The stakes are high. But fortunately, many people across North America are not fooled by the Crown’s phony veneer of holding people personally accountable for the tragedy. No such real personal accountability will ever be made, since the government made it’s decision to target only the last persons in a danger chain that continues across every railroad to this moment.

On January 4th and 5th, in cities across America, people took their call for real rail safety, No More Lac-Mégantics and opposition to scapegoating workers to Canadian consulates as far away as Sao Paulo, Brazil. In several cases, they had to experience severe weather but came out anyway, knowing how important this case is. Active rail workers, Union members, working class militants, rail and other retirees protested in San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Washington DC and Minneapolis. Solidarity activists, Climate Change fighters, volatile oil opponents and environmental activists turned out their support to add their voices to the protests and delivering notice to the Canadian government that justice and rail safety cannot be served by framing up rail workers for the conditions they are forced, with government complicity, to work under. In some cities, they delivered printed statements and letters to consular officials.

ChicagoMinneapolis
Members of rail unions, Railroad Workers United, the United Electrical workers, Communication Workers of America and others were joined by the Workers Solidarity Action Network, the Backbone Campaign, Chesapeake Climate Action Network and many others stood up to oppose scapegoating and stand with the community of Lac-Mégantic, whose activists have an ongoing fight for the safety of their town more than 4 years after the government appointed scapegoats have had no role.

These stand up people across the country have taken their time, money and energy into the street and to the Canadian consulates because they know that their own concerns, health and safety are at stake in the outcome of the Lac-Mégantic trial.

In the court room in Sherbrooke Quebec, one of the scapegoated rail workers, Tom Harding, was able to see photographs of the protests, letting them know they are not alone in the fight for actual accountability.

Seattle
On Monday, January 8, 2018, attorney Charles Shearson has begun presenting the defense of Tom Harding. That defense will be a summary of the evidence presented by the Crown prosecutors in their attempt to demonize Tom Harding as the criminally negligent cause of the wreck that nearly destroyed Lac-Mégantic and killed 47 outright. It should be noteworthy that the defense has made the determination that the facts supporting acquittal of Harding are already in evidence having been made by the Crown itself.

Sao Paulo, Brazil
The case will go to the jury this week. A conviction of one or both of the scapegoated rail workers is the signal the rail industry across the continent has been waiting for…a signal that they are free to conduct any and all of the dangerous practices and policies documented in the wreck of Lac-Mégantic, without any fear of liability. Some, like the actual policy makers and owners of the Montreal Maine and Atlantic (MMA), who are still free and running railroads around the world will breathe even easier as they take their profits; knowing that what they did will never have consequences for them.

Chicago
People are watching this trial all over the world. The stakes couldn’t be higher. The activists who braved the cold last week to deliver the message that we are all watching will be talking in the coming weeks, along with their Canadian counterparts, about the next necessary steps that we must take if we are truly going to see No More Lac-Mégantics!

Canadian USW Rail Workers Harding & Labrie Are Not Guilty! Drop The Charges NOW! Rally In SF
https://youtu.be/bFawXtH2C-k
A solidarity rally was held at the San Francisco Canadian Consulate on January 4, 2018 to demand that charges be dropped against MMA USW union railroad workers Tom Harding and Richard Labrie for the deaths of 47 people in the Lac-Mégantic train wreck. The highly flammable cargo on the train cars was only manned by one worker and the evidence at the trial has shown that there were not proper safety measures in place. The company MMA and the Canadian government according to speakers is now scapegoating the workers. The Canadian government like the US government has pushed deregulation and 1 person crews being pushed by the rail owners and the speakers charged this was the real reason for this and other rail disasters in Canada and the US. A letter calling for the dropping of the charges was delivered to the Canadian Consulate.
The speakers also discussed the growing rail wrecks and dangerous transportation system in the United States and this was connected to similar efforts to downsize the staffing of the trains and deregulation. Speakers included trade unionists from SMART Local 1741 SF Bus Drivers, SEIU 1021 Social And Economic Justice Committee, Labor Council For Latin American Advancement Sacramento Chapter and members of Railroad Workers United RWU and Workers Solidarity Action Network WSAN. Environmental activists also attended and spoke.
This was an international day of solidarity and there were also support actions in Chicago, Seattle, DC and in Sao Paulo, Brazil at Canadian consulates and embassies.
Additional media:
https://soundcloud.com/workweek-radio/ww12-26-17-campaign-for-railroad-w...
http://railroadworkersunited.org/lac-megantic/
https://static1.squarespace.com/static/505b96a8c4aa40a37a143c49/t/5814d3...
http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/montreal/mma-lac-megantic-trial-jonat...
http://www.themilitant.com/2015/7905/790553.html
http://www.cbc.ca/…/lac-megantic-criminal-trial-begins-sher…
http://www.newswire.ca/…/steelworkers-local-gives-70000-to-…
https://www.ble-t.org/pr/news/headline.asp?id=39797
http://hardingdefense.org
http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/steelworkers-local-gives-70000-to-r...
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/lac-megantic-criminal-trial-begin...
http://jordanbarab.com/confinedspace/2017/10/24/lac-megantic-trial/
For further information on the case:
Harding Defense Committee
http://hardingdefense.org
Railroad Workers United
www.railroadworkersunited.org
Workers Solidarity Action Network
www.workerssolidarityactionnetwork.org
Production of Labor Video Project
www.laborvideo.org

Tags: Lac-Mégantic TrialsolidarityWSANRail safetyframe-up trial
Categories: Labor News

Indonesia: Crack down on organized labour

Labourstart.org News - Sat, 01/13/2018 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: New Internationalist
Categories: Labor News

India: First IT trade union registered in Pune, aims to fight ‘illegal layoffs’

Labourstart.org News - Sat, 01/13/2018 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Indian Express
Categories: Labor News

SF TWU 250A President Elect Roger Marenco Suspended After Winning Election

Current News - Fri, 01/12/2018 - 16:21

SF TWU 250A President Elect Roger Marenco Suspended After Winning Election
SF TWU 250a Election Results Dec. 2017 And Challenge To Election of Roger Marenco-
The Transit Talk 15: SF TWU 250a Election
Results Dec. 2017 And Challenge To Election of Roger Marenco
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2aJE4nqFTs
Roger Marenco
Published on Jan 11, 2018
In this episode we do our best to clear up any confusion that our membership might have pertaining to our December 2017 election. This episode contains both good news as well as bad news and we do our best to try and answer many questions that have come forth from all of the confusion. If you still have any questions or concerns after watching the episode, please feel free to express your thoughts. Thank you.

Tags: TWU 250ASan Francisco Transit WorkersRoger Marenco
Categories: Labor News

Greece: Unions strike over new austerity bill, right to strike

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 01/12/2018 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Xinhua
Categories: Labor News

Fiji: Audio explainer on on-going Fii airport lockout

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 01/12/2018 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: RNZ
Categories: Labor News

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