Labor News

Canada: Unifor shows solidarity with Mexican workers News - Sat, 09/23/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Unifor
Categories: Labor News

UK Transport chaos looms as rail unions RMT and Aslef widen strikes over driver-only trains

Current News - Sat, 09/23/2017 - 16:39

UK Transport chaos looms as rail unions RMT and Aslef widen strikes over driver-only trains

Carefully planned walkouts will cause commuter misery next month, as the government and train operators try to save money
The RMT is set to stage strikes on four rail franchises next month.
The RMT is set to stage strikes on four rail franchises next month. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA
Rajeev Syal
Saturday 23 September 2017 11.00 EDT
Pity British commuters this autumn. In southern England, Merseyside, East Anglia and the east coast main line they will face a wave of disruption after strikes were announced for Tuesday 3 October and Thursday 5 October. London Underground will also face disruption on the later date.

Privately, the rail workers’ union, the RMT, and drivers’ union Aslef believe they can win improved pay and conditions for their members and ensure the safety of the travelling public as rail firms attempt to introduce trains without guards.

This could all be in place by now, they argue, if the government – and in particular, transport secretary Chris Grayling – had given rail firms a free hand to negotiate. But according to the RMT, the rail workers’ union, the “dead hand” of Grayling has halted progress.

RMT and Aslef are used to fighting disputes in the public eye and the walkouts have been meticulously planned for maximum political effect. They will coincide with the Conservative party’s annual conference in Manchester and follow proposed action by public sector unions including the PCS and the POA over the government’s refusal to lift the pay cap.

These disputes also underline how difficult it is to modernise industries when technological progress appears to pose a direct threat to jobs. Industrial action is planned at Southern Rail, Merseyrail, Arriva Rail North and Greater Anglia in a row over the introduction of driver-only operated trains. The abolition of conductors is deemed unacceptable by rail unions, who are well aware that driverless trains could be the next development.

An RMT spokesman said that after Southern Rail, Merseyrail, Arriva Rail North and Greater Anglia failed to engage properly in talks, he suspected the involvement of the transport secretary: “We believe that the dead hand of Chris Grayling has been at work. This is not normal in terms of industrial relations. Our belief is that it is politically driven by the DfT.”


Economically driven might be more apt. The government is tired of pumping billions into Network Rail, the owner of Britain’s tracks and stations, and wants costs to be held down across the industry. It doesn’t take long for that sort of agenda to clash directly with unions.

The RMT official added that Abellio, the Dutch government-owned company which has the Anglia franchise, last year reached an agreement with the RMT in Scotland in a similar dispute, but is not sitting down with the union now.

“How come Abellio was able to strike a deal over Scotrail, but can’t do it on Anglia? If it was great deal there, why not here? Is it because the government wants train operators to take a stand?”

Nonetheless, there are signs that the most divisive dispute – on Southern, Britain’s busiest commuter franchise – is not intractable. The negotiations with Southern, involving both rail unions, took a new turn last Thursday when Aslef claimed it was close to a deal. Details of the talks were withheld, but a joint statement said “significant progress” had been made in discussions between the union and Govia Thameslink.

But this will probably come at a cost to intra-union relations. Tensions between Aslef and the RMT have increased over the past year. RMT officials are furious that Aslef negotiators have sought a preferential deal for their members behind the backs of fellow trade unionists. Aslef members have already rejected two offers recommended by the union — both of which offered concessions in exchange for drivers taking responsibility for closing train doors.

This leaves RMT in the familiar position of being public enemy number one for the franchise owners. They claim that RMT is on a “national crusade” to gain more money and power for its members. Operators argue that driver-only operation (DOO) was introduced on the Bedford-St Pancras line in 1982 and has spread to about 30% of the UK mainline network, as well as London Underground, and results in a more efficient system.

The RMT insists that operating with a guard is superior to DOO on safety grounds. In a dossier prepared last June, the union asked: “With the [DOO] model being nothing new, it is right to ask why, if it is so safe, has it been adopted by less than a third of the network? The answer is that it is unsafe, and unpopular with the public.”

A spokesman for Southern said: “We are disappointed by this unnecessary action and the RMT’s continued refusal to engage with us in modernising the railway. Last strike, we ran a normal service on most routes but passengers will inevitably be affected in places and we deeply regret any inconvenience these strikes will cause.”

The heyday for UK rail industry investment, which came after the Labour government created Network Rail from the ashes of Railtrack, is a distant era. As franchise owners and the government look for ways to save money, British commuters should be braced for more strikes.

The headline of this story was amended on 23 September to “driver-only trains”.

Tags: RMTStrike London UndergroundWalkout
Categories: Labor News

KAL pilots strike feared to disrupt Chuseok travel

Current News - Fri, 09/22/2017 - 21:58

KAL pilots strike feared to disrupt Chuseok travel Posted
: 2017-09-22 16:39Updated : 2017-09-22 17:55

By Kang Seung-woo

Travelers fear that a planned strike by Korean Air pilots during the 10-day Chuseok holiday will cause a great deal of inconvenience for travelers flying with Korea's largest flagship carrier.

The carrier said Friday the planned strike will likely begin on Oct. 1 for a seven-day run and 390 pilots out of the 2,300 pilots of the nation's largest air carrier are expected to join the strike. This would inevitably disrupt some flights during the holiday from Sept. 30 to Oct. 9.

The airline must maintain 80 percent of its international flights and 50 percent of its domestic flights along with 70 percent of its flights to Jeju Island.

Korean Air is designated as a public essential service in accordance with the 2010 revision to the aviation law, so up to 20 percent of the union pilots could take part in the strike.

Since October 2015, the pilots' union and the company have engaged in negotiations over wage hikes, but to no avail.

The union demands a retroactive 4-percent pay increase for 2015 and 7-percent hike for 2016 plus performance-related pay, while management has offered a 1.9-percent increase over 2015 and 3.2 percent for 2016 along with new incentives.

Korean Air pilots earn an average of 150 million won ($132,000) in wages.

"The union has continued making incremental concessions to wrap up the stalled talks, but management shows no signs of change in its position," the union said.

It called for a 37 percent hike in 2015, but reduced its demand to 29 percent last year.

Korean Air says the planned strike is "unjustified."

"The union should have put the strike plan to a vote according to relevant laws, but it failed," the company said in a press statement.

Amid growing transport disruptions, Korean Air vowed to prevent any inconvenience from the envisaged strike, fully using available pilots, including foreigners. The company also said it will not close the window for negotiations with union members.

The strike, if held as planned, would be the second of its kind following the previous walkout staged last December in protest against the drawn-out negotiation with management over retroactive wages for 2015. However, some 150 pilots joined it.

In March, the pilots' union planned to go on a week-long strike after their negotiations for a wage hike fell through, but it was called off after the airline's president, Walter Cho, met with the union, creating a conciliatory mood.

If the strike goes ahead, it will be another major blow to the airline that is already struggling with China's travel ban on all group tours to Korea in response to Korea's decision to deploy a U.S. -led missile system.

Due to the ban, Korean Air plans to reduce the number of flights to China later this year.

Tags: KAL pilots strikeKorea Airline Pilots
Categories: Labor News

A Century of Working Class Activism: A Review of Wharfie

Current News - Fri, 09/22/2017 - 12:00

A Century of Working Class Activism: A Review of Wharfie

by Wal Stubbings and Lesley Synge, published by Zing Stories, 2017

Queen’s Land Branch News No. 104 – Friday 22 September 2017

Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) Queensland Branch Secretary 73 Southgate Avenue, Cannon Hill QLD 4170

IN THE LAST ten years of his life, retired Brisbane wharfie Wal Stubbings started recording the stories of his own life. When Wal died in 2014, aged 101, his memoirs remained unpublished, scattered throughout scores of documents typed and saved as computer files by family and friends. Wal’s son Col understood the importance of this legacy. He

phoned Brisbane writer Lesley Synge to ask her to piece together the stories into a coherent whole. Fortunately, she said yes. Drawing on Wal’s written stories, his letters, recordings of interviews with him and other sources, Synge has compiled Wharfie, a book destined to become a classic of Australian working class memoir.

Synge has done a remarkable job of sewing the patches together. Occasionally she has added small sections in her own words, designed to clarify or explain certain points in the narrative. But her interventions are modest and complementary. With a deft editing hand Synge has allowed Wal to tell his own story. This is not a biography of Wal but a memoir in the first person, presented in Wal’s own words with his own matter-of-fact conversational style, wry humour and honesty. The book follows a chronological arrangement, recounting Wal’s early years in the isolated timber-getting and mining communities of Tasmania’s west coast, then moving through his four decades on the Brisbane waterfront and as an activist in the Communist Party of Australia (CPA), and ending with his political, sporting and family activities during his long retirement. Each section is illustrated with photographs.

There are many reasons to read and enjoy Wharfie. Here are just three.

The book is rich in information about the way things were and how they changed, especially for working people. Capitalist societies like Australia’s have evolved so rapidly and profoundly in 150 years that many aspects of human existence prior to the 1970s seem utterly strange to us. Reading the life story of a man who lived for more than a century is like reading science fiction in reverse. For most of his life Wal functioned in a world without personal computers, mobile phones, the internet, credit and debit cards, ATMs or mass air travel. He was in his 40s when television arrived in Australian homes, in his 60s when it changed to colour. When Wal and his wife Ada became active in community politics in the Brisbane suburb of Moorooka, their home became the venue for meetings because they were among the few locals who could afford a telephone.

On the waterfront men loaded and unloaded cargo by hand. Wal’s first wharf job entailed shovelling and carrying coal in baskets from ship’s holds to train wagons. Thousands of tonnes were moved this way. In Brisbane, humping bags of cargo was normal until containerisation in the 1960s. Wal’s experiences remind us that technology, however sophisticated, is always an extension of human brains and muscles. However distant we become from the pick, the shovel and the grappling hook, labour and the natural world are and always will be the source of all social wealth.

Wal’s life story confirms that humanity advances through collective knowledge and effort. While capitalist ideology encourages us to revere the outstanding individual, the self-motivated high achiever, in reality social progress derives from cooperation. Most of what we learn we learn from others, and what we achieve, we achieve together. Shovelling coal, the young Wal learnt from an old wharfie the best way to go about it. Thanks to him, Wal survived the long shifts with body intact. In the timber industry similar communal wisdom, passed down from experienced timbermen, kept Wal from being crushed to death by falling trees. Confronted by the structures of economic and political power, Wal could easily have been crushed in a different way. Instead, he turned to the collective strength of community organising, trade unionism and the Communist Party, and discovered in them both the power of solidarity and a way of leading a meaningful life. He realised his own advancement was bound up with the advancement of others. Not for him the dog-eat-dog selfishness of neoliberalism.

Wal’s approach to life and politics provides a second reason to read Wharfie. He emerges from its pages as a worker-intellectual with the courage to question his own actions and beliefs. At least up to a point. A staunch socialist, he travelled to the Soviet Union in 1963, only to return with doubts about the nature of the Soviet regime. He aired those doubts publicly. But he didn’t leave the Communist fold. Despite Wal’s unease about Stalinism he remained a member of the CPA and loyal to the communist leadership of the Waterside Workers Federation (WWF). His loyalty skews his judgement at times. Was it really the case, for example, that in the 1960s the WWF ‘tried to create a culture where you could express yourself – right-wing, left-wing or whatever’? (p.138) Perhaps. But probably not. All the same, Wal was no Communist dupe. In 1968 he lost close friends over his criticism of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Later, he came to the view that ‘socialism under Stalin was not what Marx and Engels envisaged.’ (p.161) Always close to the rank and file, Wal adjudged the Soviet Union a failure because central authority had taken control, crushing workers’ democracy.

Wal never stopped questioning and learning. From the Aboriginal activist and wharfie Joe McGinness he learned that communication is more effective if you start with the little things, finding the common ground first. From a proud young man with paraplegia he learned not to assume your personal help is always needed or welcomed. From Ada’s dementia late in her life he discovered he was not the self-sufficient carer he assumed he was. From returning to his childhood home in Tasmania and contemplating the environmental devastation wreaked by copper mining, Wal concluded that the ‘slash and burn’ approach to development dominant in his lifetime had to be rejected. Wal’s ability to reflect honestly on his own habits of thought and behaviour and not to accept ‘common sense’ views on face value, is a lesson for us all.

The third reason to read this book is that it serves as a ledger of the debt we owe earlier generations of worker activists. As a Vigilance Officer for the WWF Wal was at the forefront of making the waterfront a safer place. In one incident the role almost cost him his life. This did not deter him. Through his persistence and the persistence of others like him, safety was established as a workplace priority. As a result, fewer workers were (and are) injured or killed on the job. As Wal well knew, however, this situation can never be taken for granted.

The debt we owe does not stop at the workplace. Many readers of Wharfie will already know about the WWF’s role in supporting the Indonesian struggle for independence. They will probably also know about the union’s support for Aboriginal rights and its prominence in the Queensland Right to March campaign in 1978-79. But how many will know that in 1956 a contingent of Brisbane wharfies travelled to Inglewood on the Darling Downs to help residents recover from a flood? How many know that Spinal Life Australia and the Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association originated in fundraising activities by the WWF and its Women’s Committee? How many are aware that the Communist Party organised what was probably Queensland’s first rent strike to prevent a hike in government rents in Moorooka?

Wal or Wal and Ada together were involved in all of these battles. Wal also supported the Timorese against the Indonesian takeover in 1975. Thirty years later, in his 90s, he led a successful campaign to halt Coalition plans to extend the GST to personal and medical services for residents of retirement villages. This while coping with the trauma of Ada’s decline. So many campaigns fought, so many conditions and freedoms won and defended. So many people who benefitted. All his adult life Wal Stubbings believed organized labour to be the hope of the world. The history recounted in this tremendous book shows why he was right. For this reason alone it is a must-read for workers everywhere.

Jeff Rickertt

Tags: MUAdockersAustrialian labour
Categories: Labor News

DC Metro worker shocked while working on new train, prompting safety concerns-ATU 689 demanded an emergecy “safety stand-down,"

Current News - Thu, 09/21/2017 - 22:28

DC Metro worker shocked while working on new train, prompting safety concerns-ATU 689 demanded an emergecy “safety stand-down,"

The stand-down meant fewer trains were available Thursday morning, causing significant crowding. . (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)
By Martine Powers September 21 at 7:30 PM
Metro riders endured another horrendous commute Thursday morning after the agency’s union demanded an emergency “safety stand-down,” refusing to conduct mandatory inspections on new 7000-series trains after a mechanic was shocked while working on one of the rail cars.

Because rail cars must be inspected regularly before they go into service, the stand-down meant there were fewer trains available Thursday, causing significant crowding and delays. Riders’ frustrations were compounded because Metro did not alert customers to the problem until the end of the morning rush.

Hours later, Metro officials declared the electric problem on the cars had been investigated and they were deemed safe; service returned to normal for the afternoon commute.

Metro said a review, conducted by the agency’s engineers and engineers from the rail car manufacturer, Kawasaki, determined inspection procedures in place for mechanics working on the trains are “appropriate and consistent with manufacturer guidelines.”

The agency said it would conduct additional safety briefings with mechanics to ensure they weren’t at risk.

“Part of creating a safety culture means taking immediate action to address concerns raised by employees. If a concern cannot be immediately resolved or requires further investigation, sometimes additional steps — such as a safety stand-down — must be taken in an abundance of caution,” Metro Chief Safety Officer Patrick Lavin said in a statement. “We encourage the reporting of safety concerns, and thank our customers for their understanding as we place safety first.”

But union leaders said the agency has not done enough to protect workers, many of whom fear they are at risk while performing routine maintenance on Metro’s newest fleet of cars.

Problems began late Wednesday when Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 demanded the stand-down after learning of an incident Saturday, in which a mechanic was shocked at a West Falls Church rail yard while he worked on a 7000-series car.

According to an incident report obtained by The Washington Post, the mechanic indicated the shock was “light” and left no visual burns, and he was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital for evaluation.

After Saturday’s incident, all maintenance work ceased on the 7000-series train while the situation was assessed.

According to the incident report, “it appears that car R7022 lost all grounding capabilities,” indicating the car had electrical current running through it.

The problem was traced to the “ground brushes,” which are circuits attached to the rail car axles and help return electric current from the train back to the rail. The components are located underneath the train cars and inaccessible to passengers.

The union alleged Metro knew of the shock risk from the cars and did nothing about it.

“Metro knew of these electrical shocks since at least January, but covered it up and only decided to take action today because there was a victim involved who could have been killed,” the union said in a statement Wednesday night. “These actions are an abject failure to implement an effective safety culture when it should be Metro’s number one priority.”

[Metro and union bicker over who was responsible for Monday’s Orange Line mess]

Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said agency officials have no knowledge of previous shock incidents related to the same components on the 7000-series cars.

They also have notified the Federal Transit Administration, which has safety oversight of the rail system. Neither the FTA, nor Kawasaki responded to requests for comment Thursday.

The electricity issue — flagged as a “hazardous condition” in an internal memo — did not pose a threat to passengers, Stessel said, because there are secondary safety systems in place on the trains that ensure stray electric current does not reach other parts of the train.

The stand-down was the latest dispute between union leadership and Metro management as the relationship between the two sides continues to erode. The two are entering arbitration after failing to reach a contract and are at odds on a variety of issues including pay and benefits, assaults on bus operators by customers and the use of contractors.In a statement Wednesday afternoon, the union said the shock incident “could have ended in death or serious injury” and was one of several significant safety mishaps that have occurred to rail maintenance workers this year while servicing 7000-series trains, though it did not provide details on the nature of any of the other incidents.

On Monday, Metro sent a bulletin to mechanics about the problem. Another went out to train operators, warning them the problem “could pose a potential safety hazard,” and if the screen in the cab of the train indicated there was a lack of third rail voltage, they should immediately contact the Rail Operations Control Center and take the train out of service once they reached the end of the line.

Union officials said the response wasn’t adequate and Wednesday evening delivered a demand for a “safety stand-down” — an immediate action in which all work stops until a problem is investigated and deemed safe.

Though Metro agreed to the stand-down shortly before midnight Wednesday, it was not until 8:50 a.m. Thursday that Metro sent an email alert to riders, informing them to expect fewer trains, longer average waits between trains, and more crowded trains — due in part because many more trains than usual were composed of six cars, rather than eight.

Stessel said officials didn’t expect the cutback in rail cars to have as significant an impact on riders as it did.

“From a rail operations perspective, early morning service was relatively normal,” Stessel said. “When it became clear that there could be a customer effect, we issued a release.”Stessel said Metro has a longer-term fix on the way: Kawasaki is building new components for the cars, which will be installed on all the cars that are yet to be manufactured and delivered to Metro.

For the more than 350 7000-series rail cars that have already arrived, they will be retrofitted with a new design for the ground brushes.

[Contract talks collapse between Metro and its biggest union, triggering arbitration]

Faiz Siddiqui contributed to this report.

Martine Powers writes about the Metro transit system and the wonky world of transportation. Follow @martinepowers

Tags: ATU 698DC Metrohealth and safety
Categories: Labor News

Indonesia: Hutchison ruthlessly attacks workers rights in Jakarta. Union ramps up campaign News - Thu, 09/21/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Justice for Dock Workers
Categories: Labor News

Colombia: Trade union leader faces arbitrary sanction News - Thu, 09/21/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: PSI
Categories: Labor News

Philippines: Unions join protest march against martial law, extra-judicial killings News - Thu, 09/21/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: IUF
Categories: Labor News

New York Teamsters stand for sanctuary

Current News - Wed, 09/20/2017 - 23:40

New York Teamsters stand for sanctuary
Defending immigrant workers is a prerequisite for a fighting labor movement that backs up calls for solidarity with action, writes Teamsters Local 810 member Tim Goulet.

September 20, 2017

The family of Eber Garcia Vasquez protests his deportation in New York City (Teamsters Joint Council 16)

TEAMSTERS JOINT Council 16, representing 120,000 Teamsters in 27 locals across the five boroughs of New York City, as well as Long Island, the Hudson Valley and Puerto Rico, has declared itself a "sanctuary union."

The vote to do so was given added urgency by the early September deportation of Eber García Vasquez, a Teamster who worked for 26 years at a medical waste hauler on Long Island before he was deported to his native Guatemala.

As a sanctuary union, the Teamsters have vowed to not cooperate with federal immigration agents in attempting to detain or deport members. The joint council has also pledged to provide legal training and solidarity for members who face such threats and to demand contract provisions from employers that provide added protection for immigrant workers.

Teamsters Local 810 in Queens was the first to pass a sanctuary resolution. As that resolution states, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents "have been raiding and arresting immigrants on the flimsiest of pretexts, with no regard for how long they've lived in the U.S., how dependent their families are upon them, or the ties they harbor with their communities."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THE DEPORTATION of García Vasquez tragically serves to prove this point.

A 26-year member of Teamsters Local 813, García Vasquez was expelled to his native Guatemala on September 6. For those 26 years, Eber worked at the medical waste hauler Stericycle in Farmingdale, Long Island.

His case is particularly cruel, as he was the sole breadwinner for his family. His wife is confined to a wheelchair following a car accident some months ago. Eber originally fled to the U.S. to escape violence in his home country that claimed the lives of several family members, including his mother.

García Vasquez was deported despite a public campaign to defend him, including union-led protests at Federal Plaza and New York City's ICE headquarters; a petition campaign; an organized member call-in to ICE; and expressions of local political support for his cause.

Eber was detained and his lawyer escorted from the building when he showed up for an annual check-in with immigration authorities. Afterward, he was spirited out of New York to Bergen County Jail in New Jersey, likely to avoid unwanted attention.

The process was remarkably quick. Less than two weeks after his detainment, he had been deported, making it all the more difficult to mount an effective defense. "In just 13 days, [Eber García Vasquez's family] was ripped apart," wrote George Miranda, president of Joint Council 16.

Eber's wife, Maria Chavez Marino, didn't find out he had been deported until Eber called her from Guatemala. "We don't know how he will survive, how he's going to live," she said.

Angela Fernandez, an attorney and the executive director of the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, was surprised by the details of García Vasquez's case, despite her many years of experience with the injustices of the U.S. immigration system. "The fact that this happened so quickly--to go from your check-in to find yourself in your country of origin in 13 days--is astounding," she said.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration appears determined to continue its acceleration of the targeting of undocumented people, as the administration's recent assault on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program indicates.

Undocumented workers aren't only at risk of being targeted by the government, but by employers as well. Some employers may feel squeezed by Trump's anti-immigrant agenda, but the more aggressive among them may simply use the new regime as an excuse to escalate anti-immigrant actions in the workplace to discourage organizing, or simply pit workers against one another.

As Sonia Singh writes at Labor Notes, the assault includes: workplace raids by government agents; I-9 audits, during which ICE reviews employer records to make sure all employees have proper documentation; no-match letters, which means the Social Security Administration notifies employers that information on a worker's W-2 doesn't match government records; and E-Verify, an online system to check an employee's eligibility to work, which is required in some states and voluntary in others.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THIS PLACES a responsibility on the labor movement to serve as a first line of defense for undocumented workers. Unions can take collective action to ensure that employers do not cooperate with government officials. Sanctuary resolutions are an important statement of solidarity and anti-racism that educate other workers and the labor movement as a whole, as well as inspire people to fight back.

But how and even whether a resolution's provisions are enforced depends on organization and action.

Since Trump's inauguration, many labor unions around the country have been stepping up to defend their members and fight for immigrant rights. But not all.

The building trades, for example, have generally bowed to Trump, hoping for favors in exchange for their support for his agenda. But as Dave Jamieson writes at HuffPost, other unions--such as those in the service sector--have been acting as "de facto immigrants rights groups advocating for their members."

Last spring, the AAUP-AFT played a pivotal role in keeping Carimer Andujar safe by leading a rally outside the Newark, New Jersey, offices of ICE while Andujar went inside for her annual check-in. "They were well aware of the support I had waiting for me outside," said Andujar, a Rutgers student and DACA recipient, upon her release.

Juan Vivares faced a situation similar to Eber García Vasquez when he reported to ICE offices in lower Manhattan after receiving a deportation order. But Vivares was released due to the mobilizing efforts of his wife's union, 32BJ SEIU, which rallied outside ICE offices, pressured politicians and led a mass call-in to the officer handling Vivares' case.

Several unions have made a concerted effort to provide legal assistance, organize support for immigrant members and their families, and push to negotiate contract language stipulating that employers refuse to cooperate with ICE.

Other unions have secured agreements with employers to notify a shop steward if ICE or the Department of Homeland Security inquires about a worker; to not allow ICE on site without a warrant; and to forego self-audits of their employees' immigration documents unless forced to by federal officials.

UNITE HERE, a union in the hotel and restaurant sector with a large immigrant base, is one of the unions making a push to incorporate immigration safeguards in new contracts, including a provision requiring employers to contribute to an assistance fund for undocumented workers who lose their jobs.

Other unions, such as SEIU Local 275 in Seattle, have conducted workshops in alliance with local immigrants rights groups to educate members about how to respond when confronted by immigration agents.

Teamsters Local 396 in Los Angeles, where immigrants are overrepresented in the sanitation sector, have been able to secure clauses in contracts that include a grace period for workers who need time to deal with immigration officials inquiring about their work papers--so that the workers don't lose their jobs or seniority.

AFSCME Local 3299, which represents 20,000 workers at the University of California, has established an immigration committee that actively fights for sanctuary and other protections for its immigrant membership.

The AFL-CIO recently issued a pamphlet to its member unions that addresses immigration issues in the context of collective bargaining.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

TAKEN TOGETHER, these examples indicate that labor has taken some significant steps forward in standing up for the rights of its immigrant members. But, of course, there is still much work to be done.

Defending every member regardless of documentation must become a principle that every rank-and-file worker feels in their bones. Fighting side by side and making every one of our unions a sanctuary for the most vulnerable and oppressed isn't an optional extra, but a prerequisite for rebuilding an effective labor movement.

Ultimately, the best weapon to protect our fellow workers is collective action by rank-and-file organization. We can't rely on lobbying politicians and cutting deals in back rooms with officials.

Whether or not any of these avenues are successful will ultimately be decided by the strength we can leverage through united action that draws together the efforts of as many people as possible who share our objectives. Workplace actions supplemented by citywide rapid response networks that can quickly move substantial resources into action are ideal.

Up until now, the pace and scope of the struggle have been largely determined by the shock waves set off by the Trump administration's actions. Now we must figure out how to move from being largely reactive to advancing our own agenda.

That means confronting arguments put forward by more moderate forces that attempt to win protections only for so-called "good" immigrants. As Rigo Gogol and Alan Maass wrote at, "we want 'protection for all.'" Sanctuary means a place of safety and refuge for those in time of trouble; it either applies to everyone or no one.

As the great revolutionary socialist Eugene Debs once wrote: If socialism "does not stand staunchly, unflinchingly and uncompromisingly for the working class and for the exploited and oppressed masses of all lands, then it stands for none and its claim is a false pretense and its profession a delusion and a snare."

Tags: teamstersimmigrationEugene Debs
Categories: Labor News

Global: How the gig economy creates job insecurity News - Wed, 09/20/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: BBC
Categories: Labor News

SFO Latest Protest Target For TWU American Airlines Mechanics Fighting For A Fair Contract

Current News - Wed, 09/20/2017 - 14:30

SFO Latest Protest Target For TWU American Airlines Mechanics Fighting For A Fair Contract



American Airlines aircraft maintenance and ground support workers rallied this week at San Francisco International Airport. The protest is the latest in a series of huge pickets at major American Airlines hubs since July calling for a fair contract that doesn’t outsource jobs overseas.

The protest was organized by Brian Parker of Transport Workers Union Local 513:

[Brian Parker]: “This campaign’s all about outsourcing American jobs. They’re outsourcing safety and security, simply put. They’re sending our jobs to China and Chile and Brazil, and we simply can’t allow that to happen. There’s nothing more un-American than outsourcing our work. They made a billion and a half dollars this last quarter and what’s really sad is the sacrifices these employees have made to keep these planes in the air and keep them safe. There’s no other reason for them to be outsourcing this work other than greed.”

Parker says overseas workers are not subject to the same level of oversight as US workers, threating safety and security for the American public. Members of several TWU locals were joined on the picket line by members of other unions, including the APFA, CWA-AFA, IAM and Teamsters.

The union’s 30,000 mechanics have been negotiating a contract with the airline for nearly two years and are still working under a bankruptcy contract from 2011 after taking numerous concessions from the company.

Jennifer Platt is President of TWU Local 505:

[Jennifer Platt]: “I’m proud that I work for American Airlines, but I’m not proud of the way they’re acting towards us now. They’re not bargaining fairly at the table. They’re just not playing ball. So, we’re out here to tell Doug Parker, tell the negotiators for American Airlines: we’re not gonna take it! We’re strong. We’re unified. We want a contract that we deserve.”

Thanks to the Labor Video Project,, for this audio.

The full video is available at:

Tags: SFOTWU American Airlinescontract fightoutsourcing
Categories: Labor News

Taxi and Limo Drivers Have High Risk of Violent Death at Work

Current News - Wed, 09/20/2017 - 11:55

Taxi and Limo Drivers Have High Risk of Violent Death at Work

Taxi and limo drivers face a greater risk of violent death at work compared to other workers, and the risk is even higher among certain groups of drivers, according to new NIOSH researchpublished in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

In 2000, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration released recommendations for safe workplaces free of violence. Previous studies showed that these recommendations helped decrease the risk of violence in the retail industry, which has many of the same work-related risks as the taxi and limo industry. These risks include working with cash, working with the public, working alone, and driving during night and early morning hours. The taxi and limo industry, however, remains disproportionately dangerous. In 2014, 31 taxi and limousine drivers, or 10 per 100,000 workers, were killed due to violence while at work compared with < 1 per 100,000 workers overall, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although motor-vehicle crashes are still the leading cause of work-related death for most transportation industries, 50% more workers died from workplace violence than from motor vehicle crashes in the taxi and limo industry in 2014.

To clarify the risk, NIOSH investigators analyzed information on violent deaths among taxi and limo drivers from 2003 through 2013, using the Bureau for Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. They found that 366 taxi drivers died a violent, work-related death, primarily homicide, for the 11-year period used for this study. This translates to a rate of 18 per 100,000 taxi and limo drivers. The risk was even greater among men, who were more than 6 times as likely to die a violent death at work than were women, and double among blacks and Hispanics compared to whites. Previous NIOSH research examining socio-demographic differences among work-related homicides across all industries found men and blacks had among the highest homicide rates after adjusting for other socio-demographic characteristics, including industry and occupation. It is important that city ordinances and company policies affecting worker safety are equally accessible and used by all drivers.

Beyond these disparities, the South had the highest rate of violent death, followed by the Midwest. These regional differences likely stem from the use of safety measures that generally come under the purview of city regulations in this industry. Two of the widely adopted safety measures are physical partitions between the driver and passenger and security cameras. In the Northeast and Midwest, partitions primarily were mandated by the city. In contrast, camera requirements primarily varied from city mandates in the West to company policy in the South. To decrease the risk of violence, it is critical that all taxi and limo drivers work in environments that not only promote but that use these and other proven safety measures, the investigators said. In addition to partitions and cameras, other important safety measures include silent alarms, vehicle-tracking devices, and improved lighting inside vehicles. Moreover, crucial safety training includes de-escalation of violence and practices such as limiting the amount of cash in the taxicabs and maintaining communication with dispatchers to prevent robberies. Finally, periodic safety inspections are important to ensure that safety measures are in place and working properly.

More information is available:

Work-Related Violent Deaths in the US Taxi and Limousine Industry 2003 to 2013
Effectiveness of Taxicab Security Equipment in Reducing Driver Homicide Rates
NIOSH Occupational Violence
NIOSH Division of Safety Research

Tags: Taxi death on the joblimo health and safety
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DC Metro and ATU 689 union bicker over who was responsible for Monday’s Orange Line mess

Current News - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 11:20

DC Metro and ATU 689 union bicker over who was responsible for Monday’s Orange Line mess
By Faiz Siddiqui September 19 at 6:30 AM
As Metro and its largest union prepare to enter binding arbitration after reaching an impasse over contract talks, tensions continue to escalate. The latest case-in-point: a back-and-forth between the agency and union after weekend construction problems caused Orange Line slowdowns for thousands of commuters Monday morning.

After a mobile concrete mixer broke down during weekend repairs Sunday, according to the transit agency, Metro had to call in extra workers to mix concrete by hand. Without the mobile concrete plant, the construction — renewal of the grout pads that secure the running rails on an eastern segment of the Orange Line — spilled into the morning commute. And workers had to use shovels and wheelbarrows to complete the job, according to Metro.

[Contract talks collapse between Metro and its biggest union, triggering arbitration]

The construction delays caused headaches for commuters. Metro kept the inbound track out of service for the entire morning commute, as trains single-tracked from New Carrollton to Cheverly. Trains arrived only every 16 minutes over a five-stop segment. And some wondered why the agency hadn’t completed the work during SafeTrack, when the same stretch in question was closed for nearly a month while workers performed repairs that included nearly two miles of new grout pad.

In response to questions about the issue, the transit agency blamed its own machinery:

“The equipment that failed is [Metro] equipment,” Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said, referring to the mobile concrete mixer that broke down. It “is not overly complex: It’s a concrete mixer affixed to a flatbed, pulled by a prime mover — basically a mixing bowl that takes on water and powdered grout.”

Monday afternoon, however, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 weighed in with its own version of events. The allegations: The weekend track work was beset by planning failures, and the delays were caused by private contractors’ “shoddy” work, the union alleged. Further, the contractors ultimately walked away before finishing the job, the union said.

“The ‘construction problems’ that Metro says caused the Orange Line delay this morning were due to the poor planning of [Metro] management, as well as privately contracted workers who walked away from their assignment before it was completed,” the union said Monday. “There are many instances where contractors do shoddy work and Metro workers have to come back to correct their mistakes; today was one of those instances.”[Orange Line construction delays cause headaches for morning commuters]

Calling the private contractors “unfit” for the job, the union used the construction delays to argue against Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld’s proposal to allow competitive bidding for some Metro projects, such as jobs on the second phase of the Silver Line.

Metro flatly denied the union’s account.

“The union’s claim is false,” Stessel said. “As a general matter, and specifically in this case, contractors are used to supplement — not replace — [Metro] employees to maximize productivity during weekend track outages. This approach is in the best interest of customers, because it means more work gets done in the limited amount of time available.”

Did contractors walk away from the job site?

“No,” Metro said.

Did contractors’ inexperience factor into the construction delays?

“No,” Metro said.

As for the union’s claim that it was brought in to fix the job, the agency said “employees and contractors” were called in overnight to hand-mix the concrete.

Pressed to provide specific evidence of the union’s claims, union spokesman David Stephen said in an email that when “the Local 689 members came to the site the contractors were not there.” He said there was likely no outside documentation to support the claim that union workers were sent in for cleanup because sending workers to job sites is “standard procedure.”

Metro argued, however, that the union’s account couldn’t be true because both union and contract workers were in the area all weekend. (The track work was scheduled for Friday night through Sunday, although the delays stretched it through Monday morning.)

Even if the machinery did break down, the union said, that would have been an insufficient explanation for a construction delay.

“Equipment breaks regularly,” Stephen said. “Mechanics are on standby for this reason. That was not the issue that [led] to the delay.”

Rather, said Stephen, because of poor planning, Metro did not load the concrete mixers sufficiently to rehabilitate the 1,000 feet of track in question. The job was split into two sections, according to Stephen: 600 feet for Metro workers and 400 feet for contractors. And Metro did not supply enough concrete for the full project, he said.

Stessel’s response: “If that were true, then you’d correct the issue and continue running the machines. In other words, why wheelbarrows and shovels? I think we’re done here.”

An email to an outside contractor believed to have supplied workers for the project was not immediately returned.

Tags: ATU 689MTA
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Why NYC MTA conductors point out of their trains after stopping at subway stations-Learned From Japan Railway Workers

Current News - Sun, 09/17/2017 - 14:41

Why NYC MTA conductors point out of their trains after stopping at subway stations-Learned From Japan Railway Workers
A subway conductor checks the train doors before pulling out of the Columbus Circle Station in NYC on Dec. 13, 2005.
A subway conductor checks the train doors before pulling out of the Columbus Circle Station in NYC on Dec. 13, 2005. (PETER FOLEY/REUTERS)
Sunday, September 17, 2017, 4:38 PM
Conductors have a curious habit of pointing out of their trains when it pulls into a station.

Stand at the middle of any subway platform and a rider can see, like clockwork, a conductor pull up, poke their head out of an open train cab window and point towards the ceiling.

The pointing can confuse subway newbies, who may wonder what they’re gesturing towards.

Follow their finger and you’ll see a black-and-white zebra-striped board hanging above them.

“You’re pointing to the safety of your passengers, to make sure that your train is completely and safely in the station,” said Shawna Robinson, a conductor who sits on the executive board of the Transport Workers Union Local 100. “You’re also pointing to let the (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) know that you’re doing what they trained us to do.”

Conductors are trained to point so that everyone watching knows they’re alert and that every train car is in the station, ready for the doors to open.

Before September 1996, when the MTA made pointing mandatory, conductors never had to acknowledge the boards, which were installed once technology allowed for a single conductor to ride the train, instead of one every two cars, according to the MTA’s history of the point.

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That year, top transit official Nathaniel Ford took a business trip to Japan, where he is credited with witnessing the pointing first-hand and bringing it back to New York’s subway, according to Atlas Obscura, a travel publication.

What Ford saw is known in Japanese as shisa kanko, which means “pointing and calling.”

It keeps Tokyo’s transit workers alert and its riders safe.

In New York, it became a curiosity to people observant enough to see the conductor routinely point to the platform.

It caught the eye of Calvin Huang, a native Brooklynite, when he would catch the train to school.

“Usually, when I stand in the middle of the platform, I was thinking, what is this guy doing?” Huang, a 21-year-old graphic design student, said. “I was noticing that they’re in position to open the train door.”

The procedure became the subject of a viral video in October 2013.

Called “The New York Subway Signs Experiment,” the video explains the pointing and has some fun with it. A group of young people hold signs with messages such as “Point here if you are dead sexy” and “Point here if you have seen a passenger naked.”

The video has been seen nearly 2.3 million times.

Marsha Fair, a conductor, 41, from Brooklyn, had no idea that conductors point to the board at every stop when she started training after she joined the agency in February 2016.

“At first I was like, this is so stupid. Pointing to the board?” she said.

But now, she sees why it’s necessary.

“For me, it’s all about safety,” she said. “It just keeps you alert. You know you have to find that board.”

It may seem silly, even among some conductors at the MTA, but it’s mandatory and enforced.

“If you don't point to that board you can get into a lot of trouble,” said Robinson.

Conductors are tested on this as part of the MTA Department of Subways’ Efficiency Testing Program.

The efficiency test makes sure conductors and operators are running trains safely.

For conductors, that means ensuring that doors open and close properly, observing the platform and, of course, pointing to the indication board.

Getting caught not pointing could get the conductor swapped out of the train on the spot and ordered to take a drug and alcohol test. The MTA could seek dismissal or a suspension up to 30 days, according to union officials.

Hundreds of train workers face field testing on subway operations and a handful have failed. Of the 378 conductors tested this year through June, 26 of them failed, according to figures obtained by the Daily News. Last year, 39 of 848 conductors tested failed.

The MTA did not respond to questions and a request for comment.

Crystal Young, a conductor and TWU rep, said the MTA should go easy on conductors, arguing that some workers are busted for not fully extending their arm out to point or that it was obscured by immense crowds on platforms.

“They may not see everything that’s going on and that’s unfortunate because it’s my word against your word,” Young said of the officials conducting the efficiency test. “They may say you didn’t do something that you actually did.”

Tags: MTATWU 100safety signshand sign for safety
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