Labor News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BACK TO BASICS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OPENING VOLLEY

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

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

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

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

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

RAMPING IT UP

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

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

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

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

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

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

VICTORY AND BEYOND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BACK TO BASICS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OPENING VOLLEY

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

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

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

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

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

RAMPING IT UP

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

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

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

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

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

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

VICTORY AND BEYOND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FRA inspects less than 1% of railroad system

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

FRA inspects less than 1% of railroad system
http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/659536.pdf
The Federal Railroad Association admits its inspectors are able to inspect less than one percent of the federally regulated railroad system.
GAO Government Accountability Office, Rail Safety: Improved Human Capital Planning Could Address Emerging Safety Oversight Challenges, report to Congress, December 2013

Tags: railroad safetyderegulationsafety
Categories: Labor News

Turkey: Glassworkers fight strike ban by remaining in factories

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: IndustriALL
Categories: Labor News

Europe: Trump Climate withdrawal – no jobs on a dead planet

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ETUC
Categories: Labor News

Global: ITUC Response to US Announcement on Paris Agreement

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITUC
Categories: Labor News

Philippines: Soldiers, police attack ShinSun workers’ picket in ComVal

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Bulatlat
Categories: Labor News

Australia: Commitment to Paris crucial for ensuring a Just Transition for workers

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ACTU
Categories: Labor News

USA: Paris Climate Agreement Withdrawal a Failure of American Leadership

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: AFL-CIO
Categories: Labor News

Putting the mask on TTC subway air pollution-Toronto ATU 113 Transit Workers At Risk

Current News - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 09:01

Putting the mask on TTC subway air pollution-Toronto ATU 113 Transit Workers At Risk

http://rankandfile.ca/2017/06/01/putting-the-mask-on-ttc-subway-air-poll...

Posted on June 1, 2017 in ATU, environment, health and safety, Toronto
ttc-workers.jpg.size.custom.crop.1086x719By Donna Burman, member of ATU Local 113

Recently, a study led by University of Toronto (U of T) chemical engineer Greg Evans published in Environmental Science and Technology demonstrated that that trains and platforms of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) have higher levels of air pollution than other transportation systems in Canada.

There is particulate matter (PM) in the air found circulating in the subway system. PM includes dust, but what is at issue is particulates that are much smaller than dust called PM2.5. The numeric value is based according to the size of the particulate measured in micrometers.

These particulates can only be seen using a microscope. The smaller the PM, the more damage they cause to your health as these particulates stick to the interior of the lung once it is inhaled. Once there, PM2.5 can irritate the lungs and cause health issues.

PM2.5 is caused by many things including the wheels and brakes on the subway trains. The braking system causes small combustions causing fine particulates to be released into the air as small as PM2.5. Once in the air, it can remain for days or weeks and can be transported over long ranges. Changing weather patterns contribute to differences in concentrations in the air due to weather conditions including heat, cold, and wind factors.

PM2.5 is unhealthy

There is not any safe level of PM2.5 exposure. Even healthy, active people are in danger when exposed to high amounts. The effects of exposure include:

· Shortness of breath

· Eye, nose and throat irritation

· Excessive coughing and wheezing

· Diminished lung function and lung disease

· Diminished heart function, sometimes resulting in heart attack

· Asthmatic attacks

· Death

PM2.5 has been associated with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke, mortality, inflammatory and epigenetic effects, respiratory including lung cancer. The higher the concentration of PM2.5, the higher the health concern for people exposed. The lowest amount possible is strived for but levels between 15-40 micrograms per cubic metre is considered within satisfactory limits.

The U of T study demonstrated levels of PM2.5 as high as 95 micrograms per cubic metre, or 10 times the levels found outdoors. Levels ranged anywhere from 80.8 to 140 micrograms. These levels included high concentrations of metal inside the trains. PM2.5 levels ranging between 40 to 65 ug/m3 are categorized “unhealthy for sensitive groups” whereas PM2.5 levels over 100 are “unhealthy.”

“They’re afraid of the optics”

There were four work refusals from the result of this study from Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113 members demanding to wear masks after the release of the study. The Ministry of Labour was called in and they deemed that TTC is doing their due diligence to its employees and that the employees are not endangered. As such, masks are not required.

The TTC does not want the use of masks since it gives the appearance that the air is not safe to breathe. This may erode public confidence in using the TTC, especially for people who use it as their main mode of transportation.

“They’re afraid of the optics,” says Kevin Morton, Secretary-Treasurer of ATU Local 113.

ATU Local 113 has made their position clear. They are pushing the TTC to allow workers the choice to protect themselves by wearing masks underground. The union has called for an independent investigation and they will consult their own expert to determine the health and safety implications for their members. On May 23, 2017 ATU Local 113 met with the TTC and all parties agreed to the need for a new study.

Yet, Morton demands to know “why hasn’t the TTC conducted its own testing?”

Last week, the TTC board met and voted to send the air quality issue back to staff. The question remains is why it took this long to conduct a new study. The TTC conducted air quality studies in 1977, 1980 and 1995 That’s 22 years since the last one. The TTC has insisted that they had plans to conduct one later this year.

Who will pay for masks?

At this time, the TTC is not required to provide a N95 mask which is specially designed to filter out PM 2.5. Since the employer is not required to supply such a mask, they do not pay for it. If the employer has to provide personal protective equipment (PPE), they must pay for it. In unionized workplaces, employers and the union will often decide who pays for PPE in collective agreements.

According to the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), the employer must assess its workplace for hazards, implement engineering controls, and must control or eliminate hazards before using PPE. The use of PPE is often a last resort after all other attempts to reduce or eliminate risks have been exhausted.

Currently, the TTC has been achieving this through the adoption of new equipment including subway tunnel vacuuming that has been criticized as not being enough to reduce PM2.5 levels. It further remains open to speculation whether the subway tunnel vacuuming currently used are sufficient to keep the air clean.

When PPE is used, the employer must inform employees why PPE is necessary and when it must be worn. They must train the employee on how to use and care for the PPE and how to recognize PPE deterioration and failure. The employer must enforce the requirement to wear the selected PPE in the workplace.

The implications are clear as these procedures would cost the employer time and funding to adopt. While it would be easy to grant ATU members the opportunity to use PPE, who will pay for it?

ATU Local 113 is clear in its demands to ensure the workers are protected. What is open to speculation is why the TTC does not want masks when the union demands that their members have the right to protect their long term health.

Tags: subway pollutionATU 113air pollutiontransit workers
Categories: Labor News

WW5-30-17 ILWU Local 10 Members Face Nooses At Port Of Oakland And Tesla Injuries

Current News - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 08:11

WW5-30-17 ILWU Local 10 Members Face Nooses At Port Of Oakland And Tesla Injuries
https://soundcloud.com/workweek-radio/ww5-30-17-ilwu-members-face-nooses...
WorkWeek looks at the hanging noose incidents and swastikas at the Port of Oakland against ILWU Local 10 longshore workers 85% of whom are African American. WorkWeek interviews ILWU Local 10 members Sean Graham and Stacie Rodgers. They protested by walking out on May 25, 2017. They discuss the history of these incidents and the need to have direct labor action to stop these attacks.
Next WorkWeek looks at the growing number of injuries at the Tesla plant at Fremont California. We interview Doug Parker, Executive Director of WorkSafe. Workers went to WorkSafe through the UAW which is seeking to organize the workers.
WorkSafe presented a study showing that there has been large increase in injuries and these were significantly higher than other auto plants.
For more information from WorkSafe
www.worksafe.org
http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/05/25/noose-discovery-prompts-longshore...
Production of
WorkWeek Radio
workweek@kpfa.org
https://soundcloud.com/workweek-radio

Tags: racist noosesILWU Local 10SSAport of Oaklandracism
Categories: Labor News

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

Current News - Wed, 05/31/2017 - 21:03

Vigorous Campaign Revives ATU 1764 Transit Union in Right-to-Work Virginia
May 31, 2017 / John Ertl

http://www.labornotes.org/2017/05/vigorous-campaign-revives-transit-unio...
Going into its latest contract, the transit union in Fairfax County, Virginia, was in tough shape. People weren’t active because they didn’t believe the union could do much—and the union couldn’t do much because people weren’t active.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OPENING VOLLEY

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

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

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

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

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

RAMPING IT UP

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

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

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

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

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

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

VICTORY AND BEYOND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags: ATU 1764Right To Work
Categories: Labor News

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

Current News - Wed, 05/31/2017 - 21:03

Vigorous Campaign Revives ATU 1764 Transit Union in Right-to-Work Virginia
May 31, 2017 / John Ertl

http://www.labornotes.org/2017/05/vigorous-campaign-revives-transit-unio...
Going into its latest contract, the transit union in Fairfax County, Virginia, was in tough shape. People weren’t active because they didn’t believe the union could do much—and the union couldn’t do much because people weren’t active.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OPENING VOLLEY

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

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

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

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

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

RAMPING IT UP

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

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

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

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

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

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

VICTORY AND BEYOND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags: ATU 1764Right To Work
Categories: Labor News

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Labourstart.org News - Wed, 05/31/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: IFJ
Categories: Labor News

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Labourstart.org News - Wed, 05/31/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: AFL-CIO
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