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Judge puts Seattle law allowing ride-hailing union on hold

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 21:32

Judge puts Seattle law allowing ride-hailing union on hold
https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/seattle-law-allowing-ride-hailin...
In this Thursday, March 31, 2016, file photo, a driver for Uber Technologies Inc., arrives at an authorized customer pick up area at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, in Seattle. A federal judge in Seattle on Tuesday, April 4, 2017, temporarily blocked the city’s first-in-the-nation law allowing drivers of ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft to unionize over pay and working conditions. (Ted S. Warren, File/Associated Press)
By Gene Johnson | AP April 4
SEATTLE — A federal judge in Seattle on Tuesday temporarily blocked the city’s first-in-the-nation law allowing drivers of ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft to unionize over pay and working conditions.

U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik’s ruling came after he heard arguments last week in a case brought by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He said his decision is not an indication of how he will ultimately rule.

“The issues raised in this litigation are novel, they are complex, and they reside at the intersection of national policies that have been decades in the making,” Lasnik wrote. “The public will be well-served by maintaining the status quo while the issues are given careful judicial consideration as to whether the city’s well-meaning ordinance can survive the scrutiny our laws require.”

It requires companies that hire or contract with drivers of taxis, for-hire transportation companies and app-based ride-hailing services to bargain with the drivers, if a majority shows they want to be represented.

The legislation approved by the Seattle City Council in late 2015 was seen as a test case for the changing 21st century workforce. The city has been a national leader on workers’ rights, gradually raising the minimum wage to $15 and requiring most employers to provide paid sick leave.

The chamber sued to block the law before this week’s deadline for the companies to provide information about their most active drivers to the Teamsters union, launching the first step to unionization. Disclosing that sensitive information could hurt the companies by potentially making it available to competitors, the chamber said.

A group of 11 Seattle Uber and Lyft drivers opposed to the law also sued to block it. Lasnik said his ruling applies to both cases.

Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation, which is representing the drivers, called the judge’s decision “a critical first step toward protecting the rights of drivers who don’t want Teamsters organizers to have their private contact information, and especially oppose having union so-called representation forced on them against their will.”

Brooke Steger, general manager for Uber in the Pacific Northwest, said the company looks forward “to the court’s full consideration of the many serious legal questions about this ordinance.”

The chamber argues that federal antitrust and labor law trumps the city’s statute. The judge said the chamber was unlikely to succeed on those claims or its chances were not clear but he put the law on hold because the lawsuits raised serious questions.

Federal antitrust laws allow states or cities to adopt reasonable regulations to protect the public interest, even if they have anti-competitive effects, such as price-fixing for taxi fares. Seattle must adopt such regulations to further state laws, and it’s not clear that Washington’s laws governing the for-hire transportation industry apply to ride-hailing companies, Lasnik said.

“There can be no doubt that rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft have, at a truly startling rate, created havoc in this industry using a business model that simply did not exist before its recent technological development,” he wrote. “Whether existing state law covers, or was intended to cover, the sort of regulation the city attempts through the ordinance is far from clear.”

Seattle’s lawyers said allowing drivers to bargain over their working conditions will make the industry safer and more reliable. City Attorney Pete Holmes said the city will continue its efforts to defeat the lawsuits.

City Councilman Mike O’Brien, who proposed the law, said he felt encouraged by the judge’s comments that the ordinance stemmed from “reasonable public policy concerns.”

“What we’ve seen in this industry highlights this continual erosion of what so many folks believe are the rights of workers in this country,” O’Brien said. “These drivers aren’t guaranteed any minimum wage. There’s no health-care requirements. ... We were going to see how we could restore that.”

Tags: Uberunionization
Categories: Labor News

Judge puts Seattle law allowing ride-hailing union on hold

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 21:32

Judge puts Seattle law allowing ride-hailing union on hold
https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/seattle-law-allowing-ride-hailin...
In this Thursday, March 31, 2016, file photo, a driver for Uber Technologies Inc., arrives at an authorized customer pick up area at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, in Seattle. A federal judge in Seattle on Tuesday, April 4, 2017, temporarily blocked the city’s first-in-the-nation law allowing drivers of ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft to unionize over pay and working conditions. (Ted S. Warren, File/Associated Press)
By Gene Johnson | AP April 4
SEATTLE — A federal judge in Seattle on Tuesday temporarily blocked the city’s first-in-the-nation law allowing drivers of ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft to unionize over pay and working conditions.

U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik’s ruling came after he heard arguments last week in a case brought by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He said his decision is not an indication of how he will ultimately rule.

“The issues raised in this litigation are novel, they are complex, and they reside at the intersection of national policies that have been decades in the making,” Lasnik wrote. “The public will be well-served by maintaining the status quo while the issues are given careful judicial consideration as to whether the city’s well-meaning ordinance can survive the scrutiny our laws require.”

It requires companies that hire or contract with drivers of taxis, for-hire transportation companies and app-based ride-hailing services to bargain with the drivers, if a majority shows they want to be represented.

The legislation approved by the Seattle City Council in late 2015 was seen as a test case for the changing 21st century workforce. The city has been a national leader on workers’ rights, gradually raising the minimum wage to $15 and requiring most employers to provide paid sick leave.

The chamber sued to block the law before this week’s deadline for the companies to provide information about their most active drivers to the Teamsters union, launching the first step to unionization. Disclosing that sensitive information could hurt the companies by potentially making it available to competitors, the chamber said.

A group of 11 Seattle Uber and Lyft drivers opposed to the law also sued to block it. Lasnik said his ruling applies to both cases.

Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation, which is representing the drivers, called the judge’s decision “a critical first step toward protecting the rights of drivers who don’t want Teamsters organizers to have their private contact information, and especially oppose having union so-called representation forced on them against their will.”

Brooke Steger, general manager for Uber in the Pacific Northwest, said the company looks forward “to the court’s full consideration of the many serious legal questions about this ordinance.”

The chamber argues that federal antitrust and labor law trumps the city’s statute. The judge said the chamber was unlikely to succeed on those claims or its chances were not clear but he put the law on hold because the lawsuits raised serious questions.

Federal antitrust laws allow states or cities to adopt reasonable regulations to protect the public interest, even if they have anti-competitive effects, such as price-fixing for taxi fares. Seattle must adopt such regulations to further state laws, and it’s not clear that Washington’s laws governing the for-hire transportation industry apply to ride-hailing companies, Lasnik said.

“There can be no doubt that rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft have, at a truly startling rate, created havoc in this industry using a business model that simply did not exist before its recent technological development,” he wrote. “Whether existing state law covers, or was intended to cover, the sort of regulation the city attempts through the ordinance is far from clear.”

Seattle’s lawyers said allowing drivers to bargain over their working conditions will make the industry safer and more reliable. City Attorney Pete Holmes said the city will continue its efforts to defeat the lawsuits.

City Councilman Mike O’Brien, who proposed the law, said he felt encouraged by the judge’s comments that the ordinance stemmed from “reasonable public policy concerns.”

“What we’ve seen in this industry highlights this continual erosion of what so many folks believe are the rights of workers in this country,” O’Brien said. “These drivers aren’t guaranteed any minimum wage. There’s no health-care requirements. ... We were going to see how we could restore that.”

Tags: Uberunionization
Categories: Labor News

Why Britain’s Trains Don’t Run on Time: Capitalism

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 20:23

Why Britain’s Trains Don’t Run on Time: Capitalism
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/04/opinion/why-britains-trains-dont-run-...
By OWEN JONES
APRIL 4, 2017

CreditDan Woodger
LONDON — If how the railways run is a guide to the state of a nation, then it tells you something that Britain is in the middle of its biggest railway strike since 1994. Not coincidentally, that was the year the national rail network was privatized by the Conservative government of Prime Minister John Major.

A labor dispute has been simmering for nearly a year on the routes managed by Southern, a train operator that, as the name suggests, runs crucial commuter services between London and the South Coast. In December, the crisis escalated when around 1,000 train drivers joined in a strike action against Southern’s parent company, Govia Thameslink Railway, whose network also includes the Gatwick Express airport line.

In one day, about 300,000 passengers had their journeys delayed and disrupted. The strike action has been repeated every month since, including a networkwide stoppage expected this week. Together, the long-running battle between rail unions and the company is estimated to have cost Britain’s economy £300 million (about $375 million), and has even hit house prices in the region.

The details, of course, are local, and may even seem parochial. The dispute centers on Govia’s plan to remove guards from trains. The unions believe this would threaten not just jobs but also the safety of passengers. The industrial upheaval on a rail artery critical to one of the world’s largest economies tells a story that transcends borders, however: of the perils of introducing market ideology into key public services, a project driven not by the needs of passengers but by uncompromising dogma.

On the eve of the great sell-off of the 1990s, Mr. Major pledged that rail privatization would bring a “better, cheaper and more effective service for the commuter.” To repeat that promise to Govia’s beleaguered passengers today would at best provoke mirthless laughter. On Southern, passenger satisfaction slumped to 21 percent this year; nearly half of those surveyed reported delays in their last journey.

Demonstrators staged a protest at Victoria Station in London against Southern Rail and its parent company in December. CreditJack Taylor/Getty Images
How did we get here? Not on a Southern train, obviously: The company has become a byword for overcrowding, delays and understaffing.

By introducing competition, privatization was supposed to make rail travel more affordable. According to research by Action for Rail, a group that is critical of privatization, Britain’s rail commuters spend up to six times more on rail travel than their European counterparts have to. Same-day return tickets on airplanes from British cities to European ones can be significantly cheaper than same-day train travel between British cities. While British workers are suffering the most protracted wage squeeze since the Napoleonic wars, rail fares in recent years have gone up at twice the rate of wage increases.

But more Britons than ever are using the rail network, crow the champions of privatization. That isn’t because of the success of the sell-off, though, but is because of changes in the economy: More and more people are finding that they have to commute greater distances for work, for example. Where the networks themselves have improved, it’s the state — not any private company — that has underwritten or financed modernization. Where the train operators have been left to their own devices, choosing whether or not to invest in new rolling stock, the result is clear: On some rush-hour train services into London, a third of passengers are forced to stand.

The privatizers claimed that competition would lift standards of service, put the needs of the consumer first, reduce the burden on the taxpayer, rid the system of inefficiencies and drive down prices. On all scores, the privatization of Britain’s railways is an embarrassment. Look no further than the current dispute on Southern to see how dysfunctional the privatized system is.

Govia is contracted to run the Southern franchise — and is paid about £1 billion (or $1.24 billion), a year by the government to do so. In return, revenue from ticket sales goes directly back to the government. Yet if train services are delayed or canceled, it is the government — or rather, the taxpayer — that refunds the bitter commuters. The company itself therefore has no incentive to settle with the unions; arguably, it is being paid by the Tory government to keep up the fight. Yet the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, pretends to have no hand in the matter, saying he cannot “wave a wand” to resolve the dispute.

Little wonder that a recent poll found that 58 percent of Britons believe rail privatization is a complete or partial failure, with only 13 percent describing it as a partial or complete success. A 2013 reportcommissioned by unions, “The Great Train Robbery,” found that British taxpayers spend far more on the privatized system than they did on the old nationalized model. Part of the reason for that is that the government subsidies built into the system in large part end up as dividends for shareholders, rather than being invested in upgrades.

Would public ownership achieve better results? As the right-leaning Daily Telegraph recently pointed out, when a troubled private rail franchise run by a company named Connex was taken into public ownership from 2003 to 2006, performance, punctuality and passenger satisfaction all improved. Similarly, after the East Coast network was renationalized in 2009, it became the most efficient rail franchise in Britain, needing less public subsidy than any other and returning hundreds of millions of pounds in revenues to the public purse. To complete the experiment, when it was again privatized in 2015, ticket prices on some journeys doubled and public satisfaction declined.

Not that public ownership has been banished from Britain’s railways — but only other European governments are free to buy up Britain’s rail networks. Foreign governments running British railway networks include France, Germany and the Netherlands. The important difference, of course, is that foreign state-owned companies are not accountable to British passengers (as a nationalized company is to British voters).

Considering all the humiliating failures, why have successive governments — both Conservative and New Labour — continued to pursue privatization with such unbending zeal? In short, to undermine organized labor. Britain has the “the most restrictive union laws in the Western world,” Tony Blair complained, shortly before winning election in 1997. And Mr. Grayling has made his antipathy to unions very clear — blaming them for the dispute, accusing the opposition leader of fomenting strike action, and even hinting at legislation to outlaw strikes.

Britain’s long-suffering traveling public is not impressed. A 2015 poll found that a clear majority of Britons supported renationalizing railways (as well as water and other utilities); strikingly, even a plurality of Conservative voters backed such a move. This isn’t a mass delusion; it’s based on the experience of millions of passengers who feel ripped off and exasperated by poor service.

Beyond the “travel chaos” headlines and lost millions of economic activity, the failure of Britain’s rail privatization opens broader questions that resonate beyond this country. Does it really make sense for the essential services we all depend upon to be for profit? The evidence from this two-decade experiment is a direct challenge to those who believe in the innate superiority of the private sector.

What a way to run a railroad.

Owen Jones is a columnist for The Guardian and the author of “The Establishment: And How They Get Away With It.”

Tags: Trainscapitalism
Categories: Labor News

Why Britain’s Trains Don’t Run on Time: Capitalism

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 20:23

Why Britain’s Trains Don’t Run on Time: Capitalism
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/04/opinion/why-britains-trains-dont-run-...
By OWEN JONES
APRIL 4, 2017

CreditDan Woodger
LONDON — If how the railways run is a guide to the state of a nation, then it tells you something that Britain is in the middle of its biggest railway strike since 1994. Not coincidentally, that was the year the national rail network was privatized by the Conservative government of Prime Minister John Major.

A labor dispute has been simmering for nearly a year on the routes managed by Southern, a train operator that, as the name suggests, runs crucial commuter services between London and the South Coast. In December, the crisis escalated when around 1,000 train drivers joined in a strike action against Southern’s parent company, Govia Thameslink Railway, whose network also includes the Gatwick Express airport line.

In one day, about 300,000 passengers had their journeys delayed and disrupted. The strike action has been repeated every month since, including a networkwide stoppage expected this week. Together, the long-running battle between rail unions and the company is estimated to have cost Britain’s economy £300 million (about $375 million), and has even hit house prices in the region.

The details, of course, are local, and may even seem parochial. The dispute centers on Govia’s plan to remove guards from trains. The unions believe this would threaten not just jobs but also the safety of passengers. The industrial upheaval on a rail artery critical to one of the world’s largest economies tells a story that transcends borders, however: of the perils of introducing market ideology into key public services, a project driven not by the needs of passengers but by uncompromising dogma.

On the eve of the great sell-off of the 1990s, Mr. Major pledged that rail privatization would bring a “better, cheaper and more effective service for the commuter.” To repeat that promise to Govia’s beleaguered passengers today would at best provoke mirthless laughter. On Southern, passenger satisfaction slumped to 21 percent this year; nearly half of those surveyed reported delays in their last journey.

Demonstrators staged a protest at Victoria Station in London against Southern Rail and its parent company in December. CreditJack Taylor/Getty Images
How did we get here? Not on a Southern train, obviously: The company has become a byword for overcrowding, delays and understaffing.

By introducing competition, privatization was supposed to make rail travel more affordable. According to research by Action for Rail, a group that is critical of privatization, Britain’s rail commuters spend up to six times more on rail travel than their European counterparts have to. Same-day return tickets on airplanes from British cities to European ones can be significantly cheaper than same-day train travel between British cities. While British workers are suffering the most protracted wage squeeze since the Napoleonic wars, rail fares in recent years have gone up at twice the rate of wage increases.

But more Britons than ever are using the rail network, crow the champions of privatization. That isn’t because of the success of the sell-off, though, but is because of changes in the economy: More and more people are finding that they have to commute greater distances for work, for example. Where the networks themselves have improved, it’s the state — not any private company — that has underwritten or financed modernization. Where the train operators have been left to their own devices, choosing whether or not to invest in new rolling stock, the result is clear: On some rush-hour train services into London, a third of passengers are forced to stand.

The privatizers claimed that competition would lift standards of service, put the needs of the consumer first, reduce the burden on the taxpayer, rid the system of inefficiencies and drive down prices. On all scores, the privatization of Britain’s railways is an embarrassment. Look no further than the current dispute on Southern to see how dysfunctional the privatized system is.

Govia is contracted to run the Southern franchise — and is paid about £1 billion (or $1.24 billion), a year by the government to do so. In return, revenue from ticket sales goes directly back to the government. Yet if train services are delayed or canceled, it is the government — or rather, the taxpayer — that refunds the bitter commuters. The company itself therefore has no incentive to settle with the unions; arguably, it is being paid by the Tory government to keep up the fight. Yet the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, pretends to have no hand in the matter, saying he cannot “wave a wand” to resolve the dispute.

Little wonder that a recent poll found that 58 percent of Britons believe rail privatization is a complete or partial failure, with only 13 percent describing it as a partial or complete success. A 2013 reportcommissioned by unions, “The Great Train Robbery,” found that British taxpayers spend far more on the privatized system than they did on the old nationalized model. Part of the reason for that is that the government subsidies built into the system in large part end up as dividends for shareholders, rather than being invested in upgrades.

Would public ownership achieve better results? As the right-leaning Daily Telegraph recently pointed out, when a troubled private rail franchise run by a company named Connex was taken into public ownership from 2003 to 2006, performance, punctuality and passenger satisfaction all improved. Similarly, after the East Coast network was renationalized in 2009, it became the most efficient rail franchise in Britain, needing less public subsidy than any other and returning hundreds of millions of pounds in revenues to the public purse. To complete the experiment, when it was again privatized in 2015, ticket prices on some journeys doubled and public satisfaction declined.

Not that public ownership has been banished from Britain’s railways — but only other European governments are free to buy up Britain’s rail networks. Foreign governments running British railway networks include France, Germany and the Netherlands. The important difference, of course, is that foreign state-owned companies are not accountable to British passengers (as a nationalized company is to British voters).

Considering all the humiliating failures, why have successive governments — both Conservative and New Labour — continued to pursue privatization with such unbending zeal? In short, to undermine organized labor. Britain has the “the most restrictive union laws in the Western world,” Tony Blair complained, shortly before winning election in 1997. And Mr. Grayling has made his antipathy to unions very clear — blaming them for the dispute, accusing the opposition leader of fomenting strike action, and even hinting at legislation to outlaw strikes.

Britain’s long-suffering traveling public is not impressed. A 2015 poll found that a clear majority of Britons supported renationalizing railways (as well as water and other utilities); strikingly, even a plurality of Conservative voters backed such a move. This isn’t a mass delusion; it’s based on the experience of millions of passengers who feel ripped off and exasperated by poor service.

Beyond the “travel chaos” headlines and lost millions of economic activity, the failure of Britain’s rail privatization opens broader questions that resonate beyond this country. Does it really make sense for the essential services we all depend upon to be for profit? The evidence from this two-decade experiment is a direct challenge to those who believe in the innate superiority of the private sector.

What a way to run a railroad.

Owen Jones is a columnist for The Guardian and the author of “The Establishment: And How They Get Away With It.”

Tags: Trainscapitalism
Categories: Labor News

How BART strike ban could be key to big transportation package-Union Buster Glazer Demands Outlawing of BART Workers Right To Strike

Tue, 04/04/2017 - 21:02

How BART strike ban could be key to big transportation package-Union Buster Glazer Demands Outlawing of BART Workers Right To Strike
http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/matier-ross/article/How-BART-strike-b...
By Matier & Ross
April 2, 2017
Photo: Justin Sullivan, Getty ImagesStriking BART workers in October 2013 at the Walnut Creek station.

The big and bold blitz by Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers to raise the gas tax and vehicle license fee to pay for a $52 billion fix-up of the state’s crumbling roads, rails and bridges has hit a speed bump right here in the Bay Area — thanks to a trio of suburban lawmakers saying, “Not so fast.”

The lead doubter is state Sen. Steve Glazer, a moderate Democrat whose district stretches from Livermore up to Orinda and over to Brentwood. Not only is he tax-averse, but his single biggest concern is outlawing BART strikes like the two that made life miserable for his constituents in 2013 — and word is, he won’t vote for the transportation package unless it contains such a ban.

Glazer declined to comment on his discussions with Brown and legislative leaders on what it will take to get his vote — other than to say he wanted a guarantee that any package would include a commitment to “reliable transit.”

“He definitely wants that,” said fellow Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, who has talked with Glazer a number of times about the BART strike ban.

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Here’s the problem for Glazer: Legislative Democrats, heavily dependent on union money and ground troops to get elected, are not likely to vote to ban BART strikes.

“I’d be surprised” if the Legislature went for it, Wiener said. “But Steve is passionate about it.”

He added, “I wouldn’t vote for it.”

The two other Bay Area question marks on the mega-transportation and tax plan are Democratic Assemblyman Timothy Grayson of Concord and GOP Assemblywoman Catharine Baker of San Ramon — both from the same neck of the woods as Glazer.

Even though she’s a Republican — the only GOP legislator from the Bay Area — Baker sometimes votes with Democrats. Not often, though: The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association gave her a 75 percent rating in 2016.

“Like any bill that comes before me, I will give it thoughtful consideration, but I will tell you this plan has some very tough sledding ahead of it,” Baker said. “It certainly does with me.

“These are significant tax and fee increases,” Baker added, and the legislation lacks “the reforms to Caltrans that would be needed to make sure that we are spending the money in the right way.”

Grayson said in a statement that he was waiting until language of the deal is released before taking a position.

The three lawmakers are outliers in a Bay Area legislative delegation whose districts tend to be more tax-friendly.

“It doesn’t have everything I wanted,” Wiener said of the package, “but we did get a threefold increase in mass transit money, so I’m for it.”

Even the governor, however, admits that a 12-cent hike in gas taxes and increased fees on vehicle registrations ranging from $25 to $175 are a heavy lift. And he’ll need every vote he can get, because the package requires two-thirds support in both the Assembly and Senate to pass.

A 2015 poll by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies found Californians strongly opposed (74 percent) to increasing vehicle registration fees. They also opposed (63 percent) raising the gas tax. Those voters disapproved of the increases even when told they would fund road repairs.

Last week, a KPIX-5/Survey USA statewide poll found that only 23 percent of Californians surveyed think taxes and fees need to be raised for roads, compared with 61 percent who think Caltrans should spend its money more efficiently.

The governor and legislative leaders have set a deadline of Thursday to pass the package, with the Senate being the first stop.

“The idea is to get momentum going for what could be an even harder sell in the state Assembly,” said one source involved in the discussions.

All of which bring the focus back to Glazer — and it’s one reason Brown, state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon descended on Concord the other day, in the heart of Glazer’s district, to push for the plan.

“If we don’t do it, the roads will crumble,” the governor warned.

Not that the show of force is likely to affect Glazer. He’s never gotten much help from leading Democrats.

When he ran for the Senate, the state Democratic Party endorsed his opponent. He was Brown’s chief strategist in the 2010 gubernatorial election, but when Glazer made a run four years later for the seat Baker eventually won, the governor declined to endorse him.

That’s left the governor and legislative leaders with precious few favors that Glazer needs to repay.

Tags: BART workersGlazer union busting
Categories: Labor News

How Uber Uses Psychological Tricks to Push Its Drivers’ Buttons

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 10:19

How Uber Uses Psychological Tricks to Push Its Drivers’ Buttons
The start-up has undertaken an extraordinary experiment in behavioral science to subtly entice an independent work force to maximize company revenue.
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/04/02/technology/uber-drivers-p...
By NOAM SCHEIBER

The secretive ride-hailing giant Uber rarely discusses internal matters in public. But in March, facing crises on multiple fronts, top officials convened a call for reporters to insist that Uber was changing its culture and would no longer tolerate “brilliant jerks.”

Notably, the company also announced that it would fix its troubled relationship with drivers, who have complained for years about falling pay and arbitrary treatment.

“We’ve underinvested in the driver experience,” a senior official said. “We are now re-examining everything we do in order to rebuild that love.”

And yet even as Uber talks up its determination to treat drivers more humanely, it is engaged in an extraordinary behind-the-scenes experiment in behavioral science to manipulate them in the service of its corporate growth — an effort whose dimensions became evident in interviews with several dozen current and former Uber officials, drivers and social scientists, as well as a review of behavioral research.

Uber’s innovations reflect the changing ways companies are managing workers amid the rise of the freelance-based “gig economy.” Its drivers are officially independent business owners rather than traditional employees with set schedules. This allows Uber to minimize labor costs, but means it cannot compel drivers to show up at a specific place and time. And this lack of control can wreak havoc on a service whose goal is to seamlessly transport passengers whenever and wherever they want.

Uber helps solve this fundamental problem by using psychological inducements and other techniques unearthed by social science to influence when, where and how long drivers work. It’s a quest for a perfectly efficient system: a balance between rider demand and driver supply at the lowest cost to passengers and the company.

Employing hundreds of social scientists and data scientists, Uber has experimented with video game techniques, graphics and noncash rewards of little value that can prod drivers into working longer and harder — and sometimes at hours and locations that are less lucrative for them.

Faster pickup times mean more idle drivers.
Change the number of drivers in this ride-share simulation. Faster pickup times for riders require a greater percentage of drivers to be idling unpaid.
To keep drivers on the road, the company has exploited some people’s tendency to set earnings goals — alerting them that they are ever so close to hitting a precious target when they try to log off. It has even concocted an algorithm similar to a Netflix feature that automatically loads the next program, which many experts believe encourages binge-watching. In Uber’s case, this means sending drivers their next fare opportunity before their current ride is even over.

And most of this happens without giving off a whiff of coercion.

“We show drivers areas of high demand or incentivize them to drive more,” said Michael Amodeo, an Uber spokesman. “But any driver can stop work literally at the tap of a button — the decision whether or not to drive is 100 percent theirs.”

Uber’s recent emphasis on drivers is no accident. As problems have mounted at the company, from an allegation of sexual harassment in its offices to revelations that it created a tool to deliberately evade regulatory scrutiny, Uber has made softening its posture toward drivers a litmus test of its ability to become a better corporate citizen. The tension was particularly evident after its chief executive, Travis Kalanick, engaged in a heated argument with a driver that was captured in a viral video obtained by Bloomberg and that prompted an abject apology.

But an examination by The New York Times found that Uber is continuing apace in its struggle to wield the upper hand with drivers. And as so-called platform-mediated work like driving for Uber increasingly becomes the way people make a living, the company’s example illustrates that pulling psychological levers may eventually become the reigning approach to managing the American worker.

While Uber is arguably the biggest and most sophisticated player in inducing workers to serve its corporate goals, other “gig economy” platforms are also involved. Uber’s main competitor, Lyft, and popular delivery services like Postmates rely on similar approaches. So do companies and individuals posting assignments on crowdsourcing sites like Amazon Mechanical Turk, where hundreds of thousands of workers earn piece-rate wages by completing discrete tasks.

Of course, many companies try to nudge consumers into buying their products and services using psychological tricks. But extending these efforts to the work force is potentially transformative.

Though employers have long borrowed insights from social science to get more out of their workers — tech companies like Google have calculated that employees interact more with unfamiliar colleagues when they can graze together at snack bars — they are constrained in doing so. A large body of law and custom in the United States holds that because employers have far more power over their employees than businesses do over their customers, they must provide them with far greater protections — not least, a minimum wage and overtime pay.

Uber exists in a kind of legal and ethical purgatory, however. Because its drivers are independent contractors, they lack most of the protections associated with employment. By mastering their workers’ mental circuitry, Uber and the like may be taking the economy back toward a pre-New Deal era when businesses had enormous power over workers and few checks on their ability to exploit it.

“We’re talking about this kind of manipulation that literally affects people’s income,” said Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington who studies the way companies use data and algorithms to exploit psychological weaknesses. Uber officials, he said, are “using what they know about drivers, their control over the interface and the terms of transaction to channel the behavior of the driver in the direction they want it to go.”

An Empathy Question
In early 2016, a group of roughly 100 Uber employees responsible for signing up drivers and getting them to drive more voted to change its name — from “supply growth” to “driver growth.”

The vote was not unprompted. For much of the previous year, Uber executives had agonized over how to lower the rate at which drivers were deserting the platform.

Alongside Uber’s already daunting targets for expanding its pool of drivers to meet mounting demand, the high turnover threatened to cap the company’s growth and throw it into crisis.

Uber conducted interviews and focus groups while executives peppered employees with questions like, “What are we doing to have more empathy for the driver side of the equation?”

Underlying the tension was the fact that Uber’s interests and those of drivers are at odds on some level. Drivers, who typically keep what’s left of their gross fare after Uber takes a roughly 25 percent commission, prefer some scarcity in their ranks to keep them busier and push up earnings. For its part, Uber is desperate to avoid shortages, seeking instead to serve every customer quickly, ideally in five minutes or less.

This is particularly true of shortages so pronounced as to create a “surge” — that is, a higher fare than normal. While surges do mitigate shortages, they do so in part by repelling passengers, something directly at odds with Uber’s long-term goal of dominating the industry. “For us, it’s better not to surge,” said Daniel Graf, Uber’s vice president of product. “If we don’t surge, we can produce more rides.”

As a result, much of Uber’s communication with drivers over the years has aimed at combating shortages by advising drivers to move to areas where they exist, or where they might arise. Uber encouraged its local managers to experiment with ways of achieving this.

A screengrab of a prompt that Eli Solomon, an Uber driver in the Chicago area, received on his app.
“It was all day long, every day — texts, emails, pop-ups: ‘Hey, the morning rush has started. Get to this area, that’s where demand is biggest,’” said Ed Frantzen, a veteran Uber driver in the Chicago area. “It was always, constantly, trying to get you into a certain direction.”

Some local managers who were men went so far as to adopt a female persona for texting drivers, having found that the uptake was higher when they did.

“‘Laura’ would tell drivers: ‘Hey, the concert’s about to let out. You should head over there,’” said John P. Parker, a manager in Uber’s Dallas office in 2014 and 2015, referring to one of the personas. “We have an overwhelmingly male driver population.”

Uber acknowledged that it had experimented with female personas to increase engagement with drivers.

The friction over meeting demand was compounded by complaints about arrangements like aggressive car leases that required many drivers to work upward of 50 or 60 hours each week to eke out a profit. Uber officials began to worry that a driver backlash was putting them at a strategic disadvantage in their competition with Lyft, which had cultivated a reputation for being more driver-friendly.

Uber had long been a reflection of Mr. Kalanick, its charismatic and hard-charging chief, who has often involved himself in corporate minutiae. According to an article in The Information, Mr. Kalanick had complained to subordinates that he was not informed sooner about a glitch with the company’s push notifications and had personally weighed in on the time at which employees could receive free dinner.

Travis Kalanick, the chief executive of Uber, recently apologized for getting in a heated argument with a driver over fare reductions. Julie Glassberg for The New York Times
Now Uber began a process of, in effect, becoming a little less like Mr. Kalanick, and a little more like Lyft.

It rethought a lease program, softened the hectoring tone of its messages and limited their volume. At times it became positively cheery.

During roughly the same period, Uber was increasingly concerned that many new drivers were leaving the platform before completing the 25 rides that would earn them a signing bonus. To stem that tide, Uber officials in some cities began experimenting with simple encouragement: You’re almost halfway there, congratulations!

While the experiment seemed warm and innocuous, it had in fact been exquisitely calibrated. The company’s data scientists had previously discovered that once drivers reached the 25-ride threshold, their rate of attrition fell sharply.

And psychologists and video game designers have long known that encouragement toward a concrete goal can motivate people to complete a task.

“It’s getting you to internalize the company’s goals,” said Chelsea Howe, a prominent video game designer who has spoken out against coercive psychological techniques deployed in games. “Internalized motivation is the most powerful kind.”

Mr. Amodeo, the Uber spokesman, defended the practice. “We try to make the early experience as good as possible, but also as realistic as possible,” he said. “We want people to decide for themselves if driving is right for them.”

That making drivers feel good could be compatible with treating them as lab subjects was no surprise. None other than Lyft itself had shown as much several years earlier.

In 2013, the company hired a consulting firm to figure out how to encourage more driving during the platform’s busiest hours.

At the time, Lyft drivers could voluntarily sign up in advance for shifts. The consultants devised an experiment in which the company showed one group of inexperienced drivers how much more they would make by moving from a slow period like Tuesday morning to a busy time like Friday night — about $15 more per hour.

For another group, Lyft reversed the calculation, displaying how much drivers were losing by sticking with Tuesdays.

The latter had a more significant effect on increasing the hours drivers scheduled during busy periods.

Kristen Berman, one of the consultants, explained at a presentation in 2014 that the experiment had roots in the field of behavioral economics, which studies the cognitive hang-ups that frequently skew decision-making. Its central finding derived from a concept known as loss aversion, which holds that people “dislike losing more than they like gaining,” Ms. Berman said.

What motivates you more: seeing gains or fearing losses?
Still, Ms. Berman disclosed in an interview, Lyft eventually decided against using the loss-aversion approach, suggesting that the company has drawn brighter lines when it comes to potential manipulation.

Almost There
As he tried to log off at 7:13 a.m. on New Year’s Day last year, Josh Streeter, then an Uber driver in the Tampa, Fla., area, received a message on the company’s driver app with the headline “Make it to $330.” The text then explained: “You’re $10 away from making $330 in net earnings. Are you sure you want to go offline?” Below were two prompts: “Go offline” and “Keep driving.” The latter was already highlighted.

“I’ve got screen shots with dozens of these messages,” said Mr. Streeter, who began driving full time for Lyft and then Uber in 2014 but quit last year to invest in real estate.

Josh Streeter, a former Uber driver in the Tampa, Fla., area, said he often received messages from the company encouraging him to stay on the road to earn more money. Edward Linsmier for The New York Times
Mr. Streeter was not alone. For months, when drivers tried to log out, the app would frequently tell them they were only a certain amount away from making a seemingly arbitrary sum for the day, or from matching their earnings from that point one week earlier.

The messages were intended to exploit another relatively widespread behavioral tic — people’s preoccupation with goals — to nudge them into driving longer.

Over the past 20 years, behavioral economists have found evidence for a phenomenon known as income targeting, in which workers who can decide how long to work each day, like cabdrivers, do so with a goal in mind — say, $100 — much the way marathon runners try to get their time below four hours or three hours.

While there is debate among economists as to how widespread the practice is and how strictly cabdrivers follow such targets, top officials at Uber and Lyft have certainly concluded that many of their drivers set income goals. “Others are motivated by an income target for sure,” said Brian Hsu, the Lyft vice president in charge of supply. “You hear stories about people who want to buy that next thing.” He added, “We’ve started to allow drivers to set up those goals as well in the app.”

Uber even published a study last year, using its vast pile of data on drivers’ rides and hours, finding that a “substantial, although not most, fraction of partners” practice an extreme form of income targeting when they start on the platform, though they abandon it as they gain more experience. Strict income targeting is highly inefficient because it leads drivers to work long hours on days when business is slow and their hourly take is low, and to knock off early on days when business is brisk.

Ride-share companies can benefit if they get drivers to focus on dollar targets, instead of working only during the busiest times.
Tip: Watch the hourly wage rates.
The beauty of the messages that Uber sent Mr. Streeter and his fellow drivers is that the drivers need not have even had a specific income goal in mind in order for the messages to work. Some of the most addictive games ever made, like the 1980s and ’90s hit Tetris, rely on a feeling of progress toward a goal that is always just beyond the player’s grasp. As the psychologist Adam Alter writes in his book “Irresistible,” video game designers even have a name for this mental state: the “ludic loop.”

Uber, for its part, appears to be aware of the ludic loop. In its messages to drivers, it included a graphic of an engine gauge with a needle that came tantalizingly close to, but was still short of, a dollar sign.

And the ludic loop is far from the only video game feature that Uber has adapted as a way of keeping drivers on the road.

At any moment, the app shows drivers how many trips they have taken in the current week, how much money they have made, how much time they have spent logged on and what their overall rating from passengers is. All of these metrics can stimulate the competitive juices that drive compulsive game-playing.

One of the messages Uber has sent its drivers to encourage them to stay on the road.
“The whole thing is like a video game,” said Eli Solomon, a veteran Uber and Lyft driver in the Chicago area, who said he sometimes had to fight the urge to work more after glancing at his data.

Sometimes the so-called gamification is quite literal. Like players on video game platforms such as Xbox, PlayStation and Pogo, Uber drivers can earn badges for achievements like Above and Beyond (denoted on the app by a cartoon of a rocket blasting off), Excellent Service (marked by a picture of a sparkling diamond) and Entertaining Drive (a pair of Groucho Marx glasses with nose and eyebrows).

Of course, managers have been borrowing from the logic of games for generations, as when they set up contests and competition among workers. More overt forms of gamification have proliferated during the past decade. For example, Microsoft has used the approach to entice workers to perform the otherwise sleep-inducing task of software debugging.

But Uber can go much further. Because it mediates its drivers’ entire work experience through an app, there are few limits to the elements it can gamify. Uber collects staggering amounts of data that allow it to discard game features that do not work and refine those that do. And because its workers are contractors, the gamification strategies are not hemmed in by employment law.

Kevin Werbach, a business professor who has written extensively on the subject, said that while gamification could be a force for good in the gig economy — for example, by creating bonds among workers who do not share a physical space — there was a danger of abuse. “If what you’re doing is basically saying, ‘We’ve found a cheap way to get you to do work without paying you for it, we’ll pay you in badges that don’t cost anything,’ that’s a manipulative way to go about it,” he said.

For some drivers, that is precisely the effect. Scott Weber said he drove full time most weeks last year, picking up passengers in the Tampa area for both Uber and Lyft, yet made less than $20,000 before expenses like gas and maintenance. “I was a business that had a loss,” said Mr. Weber, who is looking for another job. “I’m using payday loans.”

Still, when asked about the badges he earns while driving for Uber, Mr. Weber practically gushed. “I’ve got currently 12 excellent-service and nine great-conversation badges,” he said in an interview in early March. “It tells me where I’m at.”

Scott Weber, a driver for both Uber and Lyft in the Tampa area, said he drove full time most weeks last year but struggled to turn a profit. Edward Linsmier for The New York Times
‘Constantly Busy’
When asked whether Uber’s product managers and data scientists were akin to developers at a social gaming company like Zynga, Jonathan Hall, Uber’s head of economic and policy research, accepted the analogy but rejected the implication.

“I think there’s something to that, but ultimately Zynga should worry mostly about how fun its games are rather than trying to get you to play a little bit more by some trick,” he said. He argued that exploiting people’s psychological tics was unlikely to have more than a marginal effect on how long they played Zynga’s games or drove for Uber. It is “icing on the cake,” he said.

Mr. Hall is clearly right about the effects of certain techniques, like those pitched at drivers’ tendency to set income targets or to focus more on losses than gains. On the other hand, even features that produce relatively small changes in driving patterns can become quite important to a company like Uber.

According to Mr. Parker, the former Uber manager in Dallas, increasing the number of drivers on the road by 20 percent at certain hours of the day, or in a busy part of town, can rein in a large fare surge.

More important, some of the psychological levers that Uber pulls to increase the supply of drivers have quite powerful effects.

Ed Frantzen, a veteran Uber driver in the Chicago area, said of the company and its messages to drivers, “It was always, constantly, trying to get you into a certain direction.” Brittany Sowacke for The New York Times
Consider an algorithm called forward dispatch — Lyft has a similar one — that dispatches a new ride to a driver before the current one ends. Forward dispatch shortens waiting times for passengers, who may no longer have to wait for a driver 10 minutes away when a second driver is dropping off a passenger two minutes away.

Perhaps no less important, forward dispatch causes drivers to stay on the road substantially longer during busy periods — a key goal for both companies.

Uber and Lyft explain this in essentially the same way. “Drivers keep telling us the worst thing is when they’re idle for a long time,” said Kevin Fan, the director of product at Lyft. “If it’s slow, they’re going to go sign off. We want to make sure they’re constantly busy.”

While this is unquestionably true, there is another way to think of the logic of forward dispatch: It overrides self-control.

Perhaps the most prominent example is that such automatic queuing appears to have fostered the rise of binge-watching on Netflix. “When one program is nearing the end of its running time, Netflix will automatically cue up the next episode in that series for you,” wrote the scholars Matthew Pittman and Kim Sheehan in a 2015 study of the phenomenon. “It requires very little effort to binge on Netflix; in fact, it takes more effort to stop than to keep going.”

As with viewers and binge-watching, many drivers appear to enjoy the forward-dispatch feature, which can increase earnings by keeping them busier. But it can also work against their interests by increasing the number of drivers on the road and defusing fare surges. And whether they enjoy it is separate from the question of agency — whether they have it, or whether the company does.

Uber officials say the feature initially produced so many rides at times that drivers began to experience a chronic Netflix ailment — the inability to stop for a bathroom break. Amid the uproar, Uber introduced a pause button.

“Drivers were saying: ‘I can never go offline. I’m on just continuous trips. This is a problem.’ So we redesigned it,” said Maya Choksi, a senior Uber official in charge of building products that help drivers. “In the middle of the trip, you can say, ‘Stop giving me requests.’ So you can have more control over when you want to stop driving.”

It is true that drivers can pause the services’ automatic queuing feature if they need to refill their tanks, or empty them, as the case may be. Yet once they log back in and accept their next ride, the feature kicks in again. To disable it, they would have to pause it every time they picked up a new passenger. By contrast, even Netflix allows users to permanently turn off its automatic queuing feature, known as Post-Play.

This pre-emptive hard-wiring can have a huge influence on behavior, said David Laibson, the chairman of the economics department at Harvard and a leading behavioral economist. Perhaps most notably, as the researchers Alex Rosenblat and Luke Stark observed in an influential paper on these practices, Uber’s app does not let drivers see where a passenger is going before accepting the ride, making it hard to judge how profitable a trip will be.

Sometimes all that is necessary is the mere setting of a so-called default. Because humans tend to be governed by inertia, automatically enrolling them in retirement savings plans and then allowing them to opt out results in far higher participation than letting them opt in. Making Post-Play the default can have the same effect.

“If done right, these things can be socially beneficial,” Mr. Laibson said. “But you can think of all sorts of choice architecture that are quite contrary to human well-being.”

Even Mr. Hall, the Uber research director who downplayed the importance of behavioral economics to the company, did make at least one concession. “The optimal default we set is that we want you to do as much work as there is to do,” he said of the company’s app. “You’re not required to by any means. But that’s the default.”

Having more drivers on the road benefits ride-share companies, but drivers profit from surge pricing and scarcity in their ranks.
Ride-share companies, which do not bear the direct costs of drivers being idle, want to have as many drivers available as possible.
SIMULATION DETAILS: There are 20 drivers. During surge, prices increase by 2x and passenger requests are reduced by 30%. Passengers cancel after 10 minutes of waiting without a driver accepting their request. Regular fares cost $1 a minute, driver expenses are $0.10 a minute, and the app company takes a $1.50 booking fee plus 20% of the per-minute fees.
Imagining the Future
There are aspects of the platforms that genuinely do increase drivers’ control over their work lives, as Uber frequently points out. Unlike most workers, an Uber driver can put in a few hours each day between dropping children off at school and picking them up in the afternoon.

Uber is even in the process of developing a feature that allows drivers to tell the app in advance that they need to arrive at a given location at a given time. “If you need to pick up your kids at soccer practice at 6 p.m.,” said Nundu Janakiram, the Uber official in charge of products that improve drivers’ experiences, “it will start to give you trips to take you in the general direction to get to a specific place in time.”

There is also the possibility that as the online gig economy matures, companies like Uber may adopt a set of norms that limit their ability to manipulate workers through cleverly designed apps.

Kelly Peters, chief executive of BEworks, a management consulting firm specializing in behavioral science, argued that the same data that makes it easier for Uber to nudge drivers into working an additional 30 or 60 minutes also makes it hard to escape the obligation to look after them.

For example, the company has access to a variety of metrics, like braking and acceleration speed, that indicate whether someone is driving erratically and may need to rest. “The next step may be individualized targeting and nudging in the moment,” Ms. Peters said. “‘Hey, you just got three passengers in a row who said they felt unsafe. Go home.’” Uber has already rolled out efforts in this vein in numerous cities.

That moment of maturity does not appear to have arrived yet, however. Consider a prompt that Uber rolled out this year, inviting drivers to press a large box if they want the app to navigate them to an area where they have a “higher chance” of finding passengers. The accompanying graphic resembles the one that indicates that an area’s fares are “surging,” except in this case fares are not necessarily higher.

Some drivers believe that the intent is to trick them into driving where Uber wants them to go, rather than where driving would be most profitable, by implying that they will find a surge there. “They’re trying to move people where they want them,” said Mr. Weber, the Tampa-area driver. “But you get there and it’s nothing. It happens all the time.” Mr. Weber noted that the design of the graphic makes the prompt much easier to accept than decline, which requires pressing a small rectangle in the top left corner.

Uber said that the feature was an experiment intended primarily to help new drivers who frequently say they do not know where to find passengers, and that it could be changed if drivers were dissatisfied.

Individual features aside, the broader question of how much Uber seeks to influence drivers through behavioral science may come down to how much its business model requires it.

While the company has made no secret of its investment in self-driving cars, it could be a decade or more before they completely replace human drivers. In the meantime, as long as Uber continues to set growth and passenger volume as critical goals, it will have an incentive to make wringing more hours out of drivers a higher priority than the drivers’ bottom line whenever it faces a close call between the two.

It will also have an incentive to obtain these hours as cheaply as possible. And there is simply no cheaper way than hiring contractors and nudging them to drive when and where they are needed. Industry insiders estimate that relying on independent contractors rather than employees can lower direct costs by roughly 25 percent.

Moreover, the contractor model itself provides a strong impetus for companies like Uber to grow. Many companies in the gig economy simply do not have enough workers, or rich enough data about their workers’ behavior, to navigate busy periods using nudges and the like. To avoid chronic understaffing, they have switched to an employee model that allows them to compel workers to log in when the companies most need them.

Once companies achieve a certain scale, on the other hand, they enter a virtuous cycle: The risk of understaffing drops with a big enough pool of workers, and the cost savings of using contractors begins to outweigh the inefficiencies. This in turn frees up money to enter new markets and acquire new customers, which makes the contractor model still more efficient, and throws off still more savings.

It is, as a result, not too hard to imagine a future in which massive digital platforms like Uber have an appetite for tens of millions of workers — not only for ferrying people, but also for delivering food and retail goods. Nor is it hard to imagine workers’ obliging them, perhaps because their skills do not match the needs of more traditional employers, or because they need to supplement their wages.

In such an economy, experts say, using big data and algorithms to manage workers will not simply be a niche phenomenon. It may become one of the most common ways of managing the American labor force.

“You have all these players entering into this space, and the assumption is they’ll do it through vast armies of underemployed people looking for extra hours, and we can control every nuance about what they do but not have to pay them,” said David Weil, the top wage-and-hour official under President Barack Obama.

When you stop to consider the enormous cost advantages, Mr. Weil said, “it says to me this is an area that will grow fast.”

Additional production by LARRY BUCHANAN and ASHWIN SESHAGIRI/THE NEW YORK TIMES. Tile art assets by Kenney.

Tags: UberDriverstechInternalized motivation
Categories: Labor News

How Uber Uses Psychological Tricks to Push Its Drivers’ Buttons

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 10:19

How Uber Uses Psychological Tricks to Push Its Drivers’ Buttons
The start-up has undertaken an extraordinary experiment in behavioral science to subtly entice an independent work force to maximize company revenue.
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/04/02/technology/uber-drivers-p...
By NOAM SCHEIBER

The secretive ride-hailing giant Uber rarely discusses internal matters in public. But in March, facing crises on multiple fronts, top officials convened a call for reporters to insist that Uber was changing its culture and would no longer tolerate “brilliant jerks.”

Notably, the company also announced that it would fix its troubled relationship with drivers, who have complained for years about falling pay and arbitrary treatment.

“We’ve underinvested in the driver experience,” a senior official said. “We are now re-examining everything we do in order to rebuild that love.”

And yet even as Uber talks up its determination to treat drivers more humanely, it is engaged in an extraordinary behind-the-scenes experiment in behavioral science to manipulate them in the service of its corporate growth — an effort whose dimensions became evident in interviews with several dozen current and former Uber officials, drivers and social scientists, as well as a review of behavioral research.

Uber’s innovations reflect the changing ways companies are managing workers amid the rise of the freelance-based “gig economy.” Its drivers are officially independent business owners rather than traditional employees with set schedules. This allows Uber to minimize labor costs, but means it cannot compel drivers to show up at a specific place and time. And this lack of control can wreak havoc on a service whose goal is to seamlessly transport passengers whenever and wherever they want.

Uber helps solve this fundamental problem by using psychological inducements and other techniques unearthed by social science to influence when, where and how long drivers work. It’s a quest for a perfectly efficient system: a balance between rider demand and driver supply at the lowest cost to passengers and the company.

Employing hundreds of social scientists and data scientists, Uber has experimented with video game techniques, graphics and noncash rewards of little value that can prod drivers into working longer and harder — and sometimes at hours and locations that are less lucrative for them.

Faster pickup times mean more idle drivers.
Change the number of drivers in this ride-share simulation. Faster pickup times for riders require a greater percentage of drivers to be idling unpaid.
To keep drivers on the road, the company has exploited some people’s tendency to set earnings goals — alerting them that they are ever so close to hitting a precious target when they try to log off. It has even concocted an algorithm similar to a Netflix feature that automatically loads the next program, which many experts believe encourages binge-watching. In Uber’s case, this means sending drivers their next fare opportunity before their current ride is even over.

And most of this happens without giving off a whiff of coercion.

“We show drivers areas of high demand or incentivize them to drive more,” said Michael Amodeo, an Uber spokesman. “But any driver can stop work literally at the tap of a button — the decision whether or not to drive is 100 percent theirs.”

Uber’s recent emphasis on drivers is no accident. As problems have mounted at the company, from an allegation of sexual harassment in its offices to revelations that it created a tool to deliberately evade regulatory scrutiny, Uber has made softening its posture toward drivers a litmus test of its ability to become a better corporate citizen. The tension was particularly evident after its chief executive, Travis Kalanick, engaged in a heated argument with a driver that was captured in a viral video obtained by Bloomberg and that prompted an abject apology.

But an examination by The New York Times found that Uber is continuing apace in its struggle to wield the upper hand with drivers. And as so-called platform-mediated work like driving for Uber increasingly becomes the way people make a living, the company’s example illustrates that pulling psychological levers may eventually become the reigning approach to managing the American worker.

While Uber is arguably the biggest and most sophisticated player in inducing workers to serve its corporate goals, other “gig economy” platforms are also involved. Uber’s main competitor, Lyft, and popular delivery services like Postmates rely on similar approaches. So do companies and individuals posting assignments on crowdsourcing sites like Amazon Mechanical Turk, where hundreds of thousands of workers earn piece-rate wages by completing discrete tasks.

Of course, many companies try to nudge consumers into buying their products and services using psychological tricks. But extending these efforts to the work force is potentially transformative.

Though employers have long borrowed insights from social science to get more out of their workers — tech companies like Google have calculated that employees interact more with unfamiliar colleagues when they can graze together at snack bars — they are constrained in doing so. A large body of law and custom in the United States holds that because employers have far more power over their employees than businesses do over their customers, they must provide them with far greater protections — not least, a minimum wage and overtime pay.

Uber exists in a kind of legal and ethical purgatory, however. Because its drivers are independent contractors, they lack most of the protections associated with employment. By mastering their workers’ mental circuitry, Uber and the like may be taking the economy back toward a pre-New Deal era when businesses had enormous power over workers and few checks on their ability to exploit it.

“We’re talking about this kind of manipulation that literally affects people’s income,” said Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington who studies the way companies use data and algorithms to exploit psychological weaknesses. Uber officials, he said, are “using what they know about drivers, their control over the interface and the terms of transaction to channel the behavior of the driver in the direction they want it to go.”

An Empathy Question
In early 2016, a group of roughly 100 Uber employees responsible for signing up drivers and getting them to drive more voted to change its name — from “supply growth” to “driver growth.”

The vote was not unprompted. For much of the previous year, Uber executives had agonized over how to lower the rate at which drivers were deserting the platform.

Alongside Uber’s already daunting targets for expanding its pool of drivers to meet mounting demand, the high turnover threatened to cap the company’s growth and throw it into crisis.

Uber conducted interviews and focus groups while executives peppered employees with questions like, “What are we doing to have more empathy for the driver side of the equation?”

Underlying the tension was the fact that Uber’s interests and those of drivers are at odds on some level. Drivers, who typically keep what’s left of their gross fare after Uber takes a roughly 25 percent commission, prefer some scarcity in their ranks to keep them busier and push up earnings. For its part, Uber is desperate to avoid shortages, seeking instead to serve every customer quickly, ideally in five minutes or less.

This is particularly true of shortages so pronounced as to create a “surge” — that is, a higher fare than normal. While surges do mitigate shortages, they do so in part by repelling passengers, something directly at odds with Uber’s long-term goal of dominating the industry. “For us, it’s better not to surge,” said Daniel Graf, Uber’s vice president of product. “If we don’t surge, we can produce more rides.”

As a result, much of Uber’s communication with drivers over the years has aimed at combating shortages by advising drivers to move to areas where they exist, or where they might arise. Uber encouraged its local managers to experiment with ways of achieving this.

A screengrab of a prompt that Eli Solomon, an Uber driver in the Chicago area, received on his app.
“It was all day long, every day — texts, emails, pop-ups: ‘Hey, the morning rush has started. Get to this area, that’s where demand is biggest,’” said Ed Frantzen, a veteran Uber driver in the Chicago area. “It was always, constantly, trying to get you into a certain direction.”

Some local managers who were men went so far as to adopt a female persona for texting drivers, having found that the uptake was higher when they did.

“‘Laura’ would tell drivers: ‘Hey, the concert’s about to let out. You should head over there,’” said John P. Parker, a manager in Uber’s Dallas office in 2014 and 2015, referring to one of the personas. “We have an overwhelmingly male driver population.”

Uber acknowledged that it had experimented with female personas to increase engagement with drivers.

The friction over meeting demand was compounded by complaints about arrangements like aggressive car leases that required many drivers to work upward of 50 or 60 hours each week to eke out a profit. Uber officials began to worry that a driver backlash was putting them at a strategic disadvantage in their competition with Lyft, which had cultivated a reputation for being more driver-friendly.

Uber had long been a reflection of Mr. Kalanick, its charismatic and hard-charging chief, who has often involved himself in corporate minutiae. According to an article in The Information, Mr. Kalanick had complained to subordinates that he was not informed sooner about a glitch with the company’s push notifications and had personally weighed in on the time at which employees could receive free dinner.

Travis Kalanick, the chief executive of Uber, recently apologized for getting in a heated argument with a driver over fare reductions. Julie Glassberg for The New York Times
Now Uber began a process of, in effect, becoming a little less like Mr. Kalanick, and a little more like Lyft.

It rethought a lease program, softened the hectoring tone of its messages and limited their volume. At times it became positively cheery.

During roughly the same period, Uber was increasingly concerned that many new drivers were leaving the platform before completing the 25 rides that would earn them a signing bonus. To stem that tide, Uber officials in some cities began experimenting with simple encouragement: You’re almost halfway there, congratulations!

While the experiment seemed warm and innocuous, it had in fact been exquisitely calibrated. The company’s data scientists had previously discovered that once drivers reached the 25-ride threshold, their rate of attrition fell sharply.

And psychologists and video game designers have long known that encouragement toward a concrete goal can motivate people to complete a task.

“It’s getting you to internalize the company’s goals,” said Chelsea Howe, a prominent video game designer who has spoken out against coercive psychological techniques deployed in games. “Internalized motivation is the most powerful kind.”

Mr. Amodeo, the Uber spokesman, defended the practice. “We try to make the early experience as good as possible, but also as realistic as possible,” he said. “We want people to decide for themselves if driving is right for them.”

That making drivers feel good could be compatible with treating them as lab subjects was no surprise. None other than Lyft itself had shown as much several years earlier.

In 2013, the company hired a consulting firm to figure out how to encourage more driving during the platform’s busiest hours.

At the time, Lyft drivers could voluntarily sign up in advance for shifts. The consultants devised an experiment in which the company showed one group of inexperienced drivers how much more they would make by moving from a slow period like Tuesday morning to a busy time like Friday night — about $15 more per hour.

For another group, Lyft reversed the calculation, displaying how much drivers were losing by sticking with Tuesdays.

The latter had a more significant effect on increasing the hours drivers scheduled during busy periods.

Kristen Berman, one of the consultants, explained at a presentation in 2014 that the experiment had roots in the field of behavioral economics, which studies the cognitive hang-ups that frequently skew decision-making. Its central finding derived from a concept known as loss aversion, which holds that people “dislike losing more than they like gaining,” Ms. Berman said.

What motivates you more: seeing gains or fearing losses?
Still, Ms. Berman disclosed in an interview, Lyft eventually decided against using the loss-aversion approach, suggesting that the company has drawn brighter lines when it comes to potential manipulation.

Almost There
As he tried to log off at 7:13 a.m. on New Year’s Day last year, Josh Streeter, then an Uber driver in the Tampa, Fla., area, received a message on the company’s driver app with the headline “Make it to $330.” The text then explained: “You’re $10 away from making $330 in net earnings. Are you sure you want to go offline?” Below were two prompts: “Go offline” and “Keep driving.” The latter was already highlighted.

“I’ve got screen shots with dozens of these messages,” said Mr. Streeter, who began driving full time for Lyft and then Uber in 2014 but quit last year to invest in real estate.

Josh Streeter, a former Uber driver in the Tampa, Fla., area, said he often received messages from the company encouraging him to stay on the road to earn more money. Edward Linsmier for The New York Times
Mr. Streeter was not alone. For months, when drivers tried to log out, the app would frequently tell them they were only a certain amount away from making a seemingly arbitrary sum for the day, or from matching their earnings from that point one week earlier.

The messages were intended to exploit another relatively widespread behavioral tic — people’s preoccupation with goals — to nudge them into driving longer.

Over the past 20 years, behavioral economists have found evidence for a phenomenon known as income targeting, in which workers who can decide how long to work each day, like cabdrivers, do so with a goal in mind — say, $100 — much the way marathon runners try to get their time below four hours or three hours.

While there is debate among economists as to how widespread the practice is and how strictly cabdrivers follow such targets, top officials at Uber and Lyft have certainly concluded that many of their drivers set income goals. “Others are motivated by an income target for sure,” said Brian Hsu, the Lyft vice president in charge of supply. “You hear stories about people who want to buy that next thing.” He added, “We’ve started to allow drivers to set up those goals as well in the app.”

Uber even published a study last year, using its vast pile of data on drivers’ rides and hours, finding that a “substantial, although not most, fraction of partners” practice an extreme form of income targeting when they start on the platform, though they abandon it as they gain more experience. Strict income targeting is highly inefficient because it leads drivers to work long hours on days when business is slow and their hourly take is low, and to knock off early on days when business is brisk.

Ride-share companies can benefit if they get drivers to focus on dollar targets, instead of working only during the busiest times.
Tip: Watch the hourly wage rates.
The beauty of the messages that Uber sent Mr. Streeter and his fellow drivers is that the drivers need not have even had a specific income goal in mind in order for the messages to work. Some of the most addictive games ever made, like the 1980s and ’90s hit Tetris, rely on a feeling of progress toward a goal that is always just beyond the player’s grasp. As the psychologist Adam Alter writes in his book “Irresistible,” video game designers even have a name for this mental state: the “ludic loop.”

Uber, for its part, appears to be aware of the ludic loop. In its messages to drivers, it included a graphic of an engine gauge with a needle that came tantalizingly close to, but was still short of, a dollar sign.

And the ludic loop is far from the only video game feature that Uber has adapted as a way of keeping drivers on the road.

At any moment, the app shows drivers how many trips they have taken in the current week, how much money they have made, how much time they have spent logged on and what their overall rating from passengers is. All of these metrics can stimulate the competitive juices that drive compulsive game-playing.

One of the messages Uber has sent its drivers to encourage them to stay on the road.
“The whole thing is like a video game,” said Eli Solomon, a veteran Uber and Lyft driver in the Chicago area, who said he sometimes had to fight the urge to work more after glancing at his data.

Sometimes the so-called gamification is quite literal. Like players on video game platforms such as Xbox, PlayStation and Pogo, Uber drivers can earn badges for achievements like Above and Beyond (denoted on the app by a cartoon of a rocket blasting off), Excellent Service (marked by a picture of a sparkling diamond) and Entertaining Drive (a pair of Groucho Marx glasses with nose and eyebrows).

Of course, managers have been borrowing from the logic of games for generations, as when they set up contests and competition among workers. More overt forms of gamification have proliferated during the past decade. For example, Microsoft has used the approach to entice workers to perform the otherwise sleep-inducing task of software debugging.

But Uber can go much further. Because it mediates its drivers’ entire work experience through an app, there are few limits to the elements it can gamify. Uber collects staggering amounts of data that allow it to discard game features that do not work and refine those that do. And because its workers are contractors, the gamification strategies are not hemmed in by employment law.

Kevin Werbach, a business professor who has written extensively on the subject, said that while gamification could be a force for good in the gig economy — for example, by creating bonds among workers who do not share a physical space — there was a danger of abuse. “If what you’re doing is basically saying, ‘We’ve found a cheap way to get you to do work without paying you for it, we’ll pay you in badges that don’t cost anything,’ that’s a manipulative way to go about it,” he said.

For some drivers, that is precisely the effect. Scott Weber said he drove full time most weeks last year, picking up passengers in the Tampa area for both Uber and Lyft, yet made less than $20,000 before expenses like gas and maintenance. “I was a business that had a loss,” said Mr. Weber, who is looking for another job. “I’m using payday loans.”

Still, when asked about the badges he earns while driving for Uber, Mr. Weber practically gushed. “I’ve got currently 12 excellent-service and nine great-conversation badges,” he said in an interview in early March. “It tells me where I’m at.”

Scott Weber, a driver for both Uber and Lyft in the Tampa area, said he drove full time most weeks last year but struggled to turn a profit. Edward Linsmier for The New York Times
‘Constantly Busy’
When asked whether Uber’s product managers and data scientists were akin to developers at a social gaming company like Zynga, Jonathan Hall, Uber’s head of economic and policy research, accepted the analogy but rejected the implication.

“I think there’s something to that, but ultimately Zynga should worry mostly about how fun its games are rather than trying to get you to play a little bit more by some trick,” he said. He argued that exploiting people’s psychological tics was unlikely to have more than a marginal effect on how long they played Zynga’s games or drove for Uber. It is “icing on the cake,” he said.

Mr. Hall is clearly right about the effects of certain techniques, like those pitched at drivers’ tendency to set income targets or to focus more on losses than gains. On the other hand, even features that produce relatively small changes in driving patterns can become quite important to a company like Uber.

According to Mr. Parker, the former Uber manager in Dallas, increasing the number of drivers on the road by 20 percent at certain hours of the day, or in a busy part of town, can rein in a large fare surge.

More important, some of the psychological levers that Uber pulls to increase the supply of drivers have quite powerful effects.

Ed Frantzen, a veteran Uber driver in the Chicago area, said of the company and its messages to drivers, “It was always, constantly, trying to get you into a certain direction.” Brittany Sowacke for The New York Times
Consider an algorithm called forward dispatch — Lyft has a similar one — that dispatches a new ride to a driver before the current one ends. Forward dispatch shortens waiting times for passengers, who may no longer have to wait for a driver 10 minutes away when a second driver is dropping off a passenger two minutes away.

Perhaps no less important, forward dispatch causes drivers to stay on the road substantially longer during busy periods — a key goal for both companies.

Uber and Lyft explain this in essentially the same way. “Drivers keep telling us the worst thing is when they’re idle for a long time,” said Kevin Fan, the director of product at Lyft. “If it’s slow, they’re going to go sign off. We want to make sure they’re constantly busy.”

While this is unquestionably true, there is another way to think of the logic of forward dispatch: It overrides self-control.

Perhaps the most prominent example is that such automatic queuing appears to have fostered the rise of binge-watching on Netflix. “When one program is nearing the end of its running time, Netflix will automatically cue up the next episode in that series for you,” wrote the scholars Matthew Pittman and Kim Sheehan in a 2015 study of the phenomenon. “It requires very little effort to binge on Netflix; in fact, it takes more effort to stop than to keep going.”

As with viewers and binge-watching, many drivers appear to enjoy the forward-dispatch feature, which can increase earnings by keeping them busier. But it can also work against their interests by increasing the number of drivers on the road and defusing fare surges. And whether they enjoy it is separate from the question of agency — whether they have it, or whether the company does.

Uber officials say the feature initially produced so many rides at times that drivers began to experience a chronic Netflix ailment — the inability to stop for a bathroom break. Amid the uproar, Uber introduced a pause button.

“Drivers were saying: ‘I can never go offline. I’m on just continuous trips. This is a problem.’ So we redesigned it,” said Maya Choksi, a senior Uber official in charge of building products that help drivers. “In the middle of the trip, you can say, ‘Stop giving me requests.’ So you can have more control over when you want to stop driving.”

It is true that drivers can pause the services’ automatic queuing feature if they need to refill their tanks, or empty them, as the case may be. Yet once they log back in and accept their next ride, the feature kicks in again. To disable it, they would have to pause it every time they picked up a new passenger. By contrast, even Netflix allows users to permanently turn off its automatic queuing feature, known as Post-Play.

This pre-emptive hard-wiring can have a huge influence on behavior, said David Laibson, the chairman of the economics department at Harvard and a leading behavioral economist. Perhaps most notably, as the researchers Alex Rosenblat and Luke Stark observed in an influential paper on these practices, Uber’s app does not let drivers see where a passenger is going before accepting the ride, making it hard to judge how profitable a trip will be.

Sometimes all that is necessary is the mere setting of a so-called default. Because humans tend to be governed by inertia, automatically enrolling them in retirement savings plans and then allowing them to opt out results in far higher participation than letting them opt in. Making Post-Play the default can have the same effect.

“If done right, these things can be socially beneficial,” Mr. Laibson said. “But you can think of all sorts of choice architecture that are quite contrary to human well-being.”

Even Mr. Hall, the Uber research director who downplayed the importance of behavioral economics to the company, did make at least one concession. “The optimal default we set is that we want you to do as much work as there is to do,” he said of the company’s app. “You’re not required to by any means. But that’s the default.”

Having more drivers on the road benefits ride-share companies, but drivers profit from surge pricing and scarcity in their ranks.
Ride-share companies, which do not bear the direct costs of drivers being idle, want to have as many drivers available as possible.
SIMULATION DETAILS: There are 20 drivers. During surge, prices increase by 2x and passenger requests are reduced by 30%. Passengers cancel after 10 minutes of waiting without a driver accepting their request. Regular fares cost $1 a minute, driver expenses are $0.10 a minute, and the app company takes a $1.50 booking fee plus 20% of the per-minute fees.
Imagining the Future
There are aspects of the platforms that genuinely do increase drivers’ control over their work lives, as Uber frequently points out. Unlike most workers, an Uber driver can put in a few hours each day between dropping children off at school and picking them up in the afternoon.

Uber is even in the process of developing a feature that allows drivers to tell the app in advance that they need to arrive at a given location at a given time. “If you need to pick up your kids at soccer practice at 6 p.m.,” said Nundu Janakiram, the Uber official in charge of products that improve drivers’ experiences, “it will start to give you trips to take you in the general direction to get to a specific place in time.”

There is also the possibility that as the online gig economy matures, companies like Uber may adopt a set of norms that limit their ability to manipulate workers through cleverly designed apps.

Kelly Peters, chief executive of BEworks, a management consulting firm specializing in behavioral science, argued that the same data that makes it easier for Uber to nudge drivers into working an additional 30 or 60 minutes also makes it hard to escape the obligation to look after them.

For example, the company has access to a variety of metrics, like braking and acceleration speed, that indicate whether someone is driving erratically and may need to rest. “The next step may be individualized targeting and nudging in the moment,” Ms. Peters said. “‘Hey, you just got three passengers in a row who said they felt unsafe. Go home.’” Uber has already rolled out efforts in this vein in numerous cities.

That moment of maturity does not appear to have arrived yet, however. Consider a prompt that Uber rolled out this year, inviting drivers to press a large box if they want the app to navigate them to an area where they have a “higher chance” of finding passengers. The accompanying graphic resembles the one that indicates that an area’s fares are “surging,” except in this case fares are not necessarily higher.

Some drivers believe that the intent is to trick them into driving where Uber wants them to go, rather than where driving would be most profitable, by implying that they will find a surge there. “They’re trying to move people where they want them,” said Mr. Weber, the Tampa-area driver. “But you get there and it’s nothing. It happens all the time.” Mr. Weber noted that the design of the graphic makes the prompt much easier to accept than decline, which requires pressing a small rectangle in the top left corner.

Uber said that the feature was an experiment intended primarily to help new drivers who frequently say they do not know where to find passengers, and that it could be changed if drivers were dissatisfied.

Individual features aside, the broader question of how much Uber seeks to influence drivers through behavioral science may come down to how much its business model requires it.

While the company has made no secret of its investment in self-driving cars, it could be a decade or more before they completely replace human drivers. In the meantime, as long as Uber continues to set growth and passenger volume as critical goals, it will have an incentive to make wringing more hours out of drivers a higher priority than the drivers’ bottom line whenever it faces a close call between the two.

It will also have an incentive to obtain these hours as cheaply as possible. And there is simply no cheaper way than hiring contractors and nudging them to drive when and where they are needed. Industry insiders estimate that relying on independent contractors rather than employees can lower direct costs by roughly 25 percent.

Moreover, the contractor model itself provides a strong impetus for companies like Uber to grow. Many companies in the gig economy simply do not have enough workers, or rich enough data about their workers’ behavior, to navigate busy periods using nudges and the like. To avoid chronic understaffing, they have switched to an employee model that allows them to compel workers to log in when the companies most need them.

Once companies achieve a certain scale, on the other hand, they enter a virtuous cycle: The risk of understaffing drops with a big enough pool of workers, and the cost savings of using contractors begins to outweigh the inefficiencies. This in turn frees up money to enter new markets and acquire new customers, which makes the contractor model still more efficient, and throws off still more savings.

It is, as a result, not too hard to imagine a future in which massive digital platforms like Uber have an appetite for tens of millions of workers — not only for ferrying people, but also for delivering food and retail goods. Nor is it hard to imagine workers’ obliging them, perhaps because their skills do not match the needs of more traditional employers, or because they need to supplement their wages.

In such an economy, experts say, using big data and algorithms to manage workers will not simply be a niche phenomenon. It may become one of the most common ways of managing the American labor force.

“You have all these players entering into this space, and the assumption is they’ll do it through vast armies of underemployed people looking for extra hours, and we can control every nuance about what they do but not have to pay them,” said David Weil, the top wage-and-hour official under President Barack Obama.

When you stop to consider the enormous cost advantages, Mr. Weil said, “it says to me this is an area that will grow fast.”

Additional production by LARRY BUCHANAN and ASHWIN SESHAGIRI/THE NEW YORK TIMES. Tile art assets by Kenney.

Tags: UberDriverstechInternalized motivation
Categories: Labor News

MTA ATU 1181 bus depot staffers move to ditch current union and affiliate with TWU Local 100A

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 08:57

MTA ATU 1181 bus depot staffers move to ditch current union and affiliate with TWU Local 100A
MTA bus depot staffers move to ditch current union ATU 1181 , create new one
http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/mta-bus-depot-staffers-move-ditch-un...

Workers at the MTA’s Spring Creek bus depot are breaking ties with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181. (TODD MAISEL/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)
=
GINGER ADAMS OTIS
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Saturday, April 1, 2017, 6:00 PM
MTA bus depot workers who haven’t had a new contract since 2012 are looking to break away from their old union and form one of their own, the Daily News has learned.

The 260 workers who run the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Spring Creek depot filed paperwork with state officials last week to sever their relationship with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181.

In paperwork obtained by The News, the workers said they had decertification cards signed by more than half of the employees.

The bus workers seek to form their own independent union and represent themselves, the paperwork said.

“They’ve chosen to join Transit Workers United Local 100A,” said their lawyer Stuart Salles.

“It’s the members themselves that decided to do it and I wish them luck,” he said.

Salles said the depot workers — who range from operators to cleaners to mechanics — are still working under 2012 wages and pension agreements.

“There’s been no contract talks, no attempts to negotiate with the MTA on their behalf from the ATU union, and they’re suffering,” Salles said.

By contrast, MTA workers repped by other unions have gotten two new contracts, Salles said.

Attempts to reach ATU Local 1181 for comment were unsuccessful.

Tags: ATU 1181TWU 100AdecertificationContract
Categories: Labor News

MTA ATU 1181 bus depot staffers move to ditch current union and affiliate with TWU Local 100A

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 08:57

MTA ATU 1181 bus depot staffers move to ditch current union and affiliate with TWU Local 100A
MTA bus depot staffers move to ditch current union ATU 1181 , create new one
http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/mta-bus-depot-staffers-move-ditch-un...

Workers at the MTA’s Spring Creek bus depot are breaking ties with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181. (TODD MAISEL/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)
=
GINGER ADAMS OTIS
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Saturday, April 1, 2017, 6:00 PM
MTA bus depot workers who haven’t had a new contract since 2012 are looking to break away from their old union and form one of their own, the Daily News has learned.

The 260 workers who run the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Spring Creek depot filed paperwork with state officials last week to sever their relationship with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181.

In paperwork obtained by The News, the workers said they had decertification cards signed by more than half of the employees.

The bus workers seek to form their own independent union and represent themselves, the paperwork said.

“They’ve chosen to join Transit Workers United Local 100A,” said their lawyer Stuart Salles.

“It’s the members themselves that decided to do it and I wish them luck,” he said.

Salles said the depot workers — who range from operators to cleaners to mechanics — are still working under 2012 wages and pension agreements.

“There’s been no contract talks, no attempts to negotiate with the MTA on their behalf from the ATU union, and they’re suffering,” Salles said.

By contrast, MTA workers repped by other unions have gotten two new contracts, Salles said.

Attempts to reach ATU Local 1181 for comment were unsuccessful.

Tags: ATU 1181TWU 100AdecertificationContract
Categories: Labor News

IBT 812 Bronx Teamsters cry foul as Coca-Cola axes eight Bronx veterans and replaces them with lower paid workers

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 08:56

IBT 812 Bronx Teamsters cry foul as Coca-Cola axes eight Bronx veterans and replaces them with lower paid workers
http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/teamsters-cry-foul-coca-cola-axes-br...

Eight Coca-Cola workers out of a job (from left): Juan Algarin, Roberto Collazo Jr., Jerry Gadsen, Edwin Miro, James Polk, Jose Ramirez and Edwardo Gonzalez. Not pictured: Abdul Qadir Young. (TEAMSTERS LOCAL 812)

GINGER ADAMS OTIS
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Tuesday, March 28, 2017, 3:29 PM
Have a coke and a pink slip.

Eight veteran workers of a Coca-Cola facility in the Bronx were laid off March 22.

The termination’s came without notice said Teamsters Local 812, which also alleged the layoffs were a breach of contract.

The dismissals occurred at Coke’s Cold Drink Equipment Service Department. Most worked for the company for more than a decade delivering and servicing Coke fountain and vending machines, Local 812 said.

Part-time UPS worker hopes to raise wages as union trustee

“So much for Coke's mission of being 'a great place to work where people are inspired,’” said Local 812 President Ed Weber.

All eight workers live in the city. They will be replaced primarily with companies whose workers reside outide the five boroughs, the union said.

The companies Coca-Cola has contracted with pay their employees much lower wages — too low to support a family, Local 812 said — and have a history of using day-laborers, the union said.

Roberto Collazo, a father of three from the Bronx, said he was devastated when told by Coca-Cola he was no longer needed.

Police investigate human waste found in Coca-Cola cans in Ireland

Coca-Cola’s regional president says the terminations were perfectly legal. (GEORGE FREY/GETTY IMAGES)
“Coke always had a good reputation. I gave them my best for the past 10 years and never got in trouble. We had all been working overtime, so the layoffs came as a total surprise,” he said. “ They are playing with people's lives.”

Nationally, Teamsters Local 812 represents approximately 1,600 workers employed by Coca Cola.

Jerry Gadsden of Queens, a laid off worker, said he’d always earned a living wage with Coca-Cola.

“I've got a wife, four children and a mortgage. The pay and benefits of this job have allowed me to take care of my family. I've been at Coke for 17 years and had been looking forward to eventually retiring with a decent pension. Jobs like this are hard to find,” he said.

Mark-Viverito won't push de Blasio's horse carriage bill

Gadsden said he hoped Coca-Cola would rethink its decision to lay off the local workers.

Fran McGorry, president of Coca-Cola’s tri-state operations, said the company was in full compliance with all city, state and federal labor laws.

“This issue is currently pending arbitration, and we disagree with the union’s claim that our actions were illegal,” said McGorry. “We continue to evaluate and find ways to optimize our business in order to provide the best service to our customers.”

Tags: IBT 812Teamsters fired by Coke
Categories: Labor News

IBT 812 Bronx Teamsters cry foul as Coca-Cola axes eight Bronx veterans and replaces them with lower paid workers

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 08:56

IBT 812 Bronx Teamsters cry foul as Coca-Cola axes eight Bronx veterans and replaces them with lower paid workers
http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/teamsters-cry-foul-coca-cola-axes-br...

Eight Coca-Cola workers out of a job (from left): Juan Algarin, Roberto Collazo Jr., Jerry Gadsen, Edwin Miro, James Polk, Jose Ramirez and Edwardo Gonzalez. Not pictured: Abdul Qadir Young. (TEAMSTERS LOCAL 812)

GINGER ADAMS OTIS
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Tuesday, March 28, 2017, 3:29 PM
Have a coke and a pink slip.

Eight veteran workers of a Coca-Cola facility in the Bronx were laid off March 22.

The termination’s came without notice said Teamsters Local 812, which also alleged the layoffs were a breach of contract.

The dismissals occurred at Coke’s Cold Drink Equipment Service Department. Most worked for the company for more than a decade delivering and servicing Coke fountain and vending machines, Local 812 said.

Part-time UPS worker hopes to raise wages as union trustee

“So much for Coke's mission of being 'a great place to work where people are inspired,’” said Local 812 President Ed Weber.

All eight workers live in the city. They will be replaced primarily with companies whose workers reside outide the five boroughs, the union said.

The companies Coca-Cola has contracted with pay their employees much lower wages — too low to support a family, Local 812 said — and have a history of using day-laborers, the union said.

Roberto Collazo, a father of three from the Bronx, said he was devastated when told by Coca-Cola he was no longer needed.

Police investigate human waste found in Coca-Cola cans in Ireland

Coca-Cola’s regional president says the terminations were perfectly legal. (GEORGE FREY/GETTY IMAGES)
“Coke always had a good reputation. I gave them my best for the past 10 years and never got in trouble. We had all been working overtime, so the layoffs came as a total surprise,” he said. “ They are playing with people's lives.”

Nationally, Teamsters Local 812 represents approximately 1,600 workers employed by Coca Cola.

Jerry Gadsden of Queens, a laid off worker, said he’d always earned a living wage with Coca-Cola.

“I've got a wife, four children and a mortgage. The pay and benefits of this job have allowed me to take care of my family. I've been at Coke for 17 years and had been looking forward to eventually retiring with a decent pension. Jobs like this are hard to find,” he said.

Mark-Viverito won't push de Blasio's horse carriage bill

Gadsden said he hoped Coca-Cola would rethink its decision to lay off the local workers.

Fran McGorry, president of Coca-Cola’s tri-state operations, said the company was in full compliance with all city, state and federal labor laws.

“This issue is currently pending arbitration, and we disagree with the union’s claim that our actions were illegal,” said McGorry. “We continue to evaluate and find ways to optimize our business in order to provide the best service to our customers.”

Tags: IBT 812Teamsters fired by Coke
Categories: Labor News

Unions: Spanish Gov’t Boycotts Dockers & Employers’ Deal

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 14:44

Unions: Spanish Gov’t Boycotts Dockers & Employers’ Deal
http://worldmaritimenews.com/archives/216456/unions-spanish-govt-boycott...
Image Courtesy: Offshore and Home Trade Seamen's Welfare Trust
Spanish government has again boycotted a deal reached between the country’s stevedores and their employers, according to a joint statement from unions Coordinadora and Federación de Trabajadores Portuarios (FTP).

After intense meetings, port companies’ association Anesco and trade unions have reached an agreement in principle according to which they would seek the government’s subrogation.

The subrogation by the government is said to be the only way for jobs and equal conditions between port operators in Spain – the current and the new ones to be guaranteed.

However, the unions claim that Julio Gómez Pomar, Secretary of Ministry of Public Works, sent contradictory messages, stating that the government’s subrogation is now not feasible.

The agreement in principle also includes provisions for compulsory and voluntary retirement of workers during the transitional period.

Earlier this month, the Spanish Congress rejected the royal decree on the port system reform which was presented by the government.

Proposed earlier this year, the new law was supposed to enable ports to hire non-unionized dockworkers instead of the unionized ones. This was expected to result in massive layoffs in the future.

World Maritime News Staff

Tags: IDCSpanish Dockersretirement
Categories: Labor News

They Fired Me And 'Made' Me Into An Organizer ATU 241 Fired Union Steward And Executive Board Member Eric Slater discusses his struggle and lessons against bullying & his illegal termination by Chicago Transit Authority CTA.

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 07:56

They Fired Me And 'Made' Me Into An Organizer
ATU 241 Fired Union Steward And Executive Board Member Eric Slater discusses his struggle and lessons against bullying and his illegal termination by Chicago Transit Authority CTA.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mAStqL1b7I

In writing:

Official results of the first round of elections for the leadership of my union, the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 241, were posted yesterday. In the first ballot, I was re-elected by my coworkers for the position of Executive Board representative for the North Park bus garage of the Chicago Transit Authority. For the next three years, I intend to continue to defend and organize our 600 working families. We are some of the most impressive and powerful workers. I look forward to continuing to help turn our union of 10,000 transit worker and retiree families towards the larger struggle of working people. That is where we will begin to win.

Run-off elections for the top two candidates for many other positions will occur later this month. Our current president has been voted out of office and we will have a new president and 1st vice president on April 1. Whoever is elected, they will need the solidarity of the working class to confront our employer and the city administration for the disrespectful and dangerous working conditions we face.

I would like to acknowledge the many coworkers who publicly encouraged workers at our bus garage to vote for me. I would also like to acknowledge my family and allies for supporting me and doing so much work during the campaign.

The program of action that I, and already three other candidates have co-signed included these action items:

-Continue and intensify the public contract campaign. More rank-and-file workers protected and encouraged to speak publicly. Fighting alliances with other unions and working class organizations. We can win good contracts, but we have to organize and fight for it alongside the working-class.
-Form organizing/mobilization and education/training departments of the local.
-Form public committees open to all members to lead: mass-action committee, contract/strike committee, retiree/laid off/fired worker committees, etc. Publicize regular meetings well in advance.
-Transportation stewards should be made into executive board members and additional elections should be held for more stewards and assistant stewards. A stewards council should be formed which meets monthly. All of us are already disciplined leaders – leaders of our family, in our communities and at our workplace – anyone of us can and should lead.

Public Letter of Appreciation to Those who Helped Win my Return to Work Order

(this public letter and hyperlinks can be found on Facebook here: http://tinyurl.com/zcnwmzu)

On October 6, at the International Convention of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) in Toronto, Canada, I was informed that our union had won a return-to-work order with back-pay ruling regarding my termination as a 10-year Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) public bus driver.

On February 11, 2016, I was fired for insubordination for doing the work of defending my coworkers and defending our contract. Because I am a shop steward and elected Executive Board member of our union of over 10,000 working families, this was an attack on our entire union and it's long history.

However, the appointed managers of the CTA may unjustly appeal the ruling, like they did our $20M grievance for breaking our contract and overworking part-time workers as they laid off over 1,000 of us and massively cut public transit service during the “doomsday” cuts of 2011. This is still in the courts even though the CTA knows they cannot win. They would rather pay their lawyers (from the city budget they claim is bankrupt) to stall in order to use this as leverage in contract negotiations that are ongoing (our contract ended December 31, 2015). These managers may also drag out negotiations for the "make whole" ruling among other dirty tricks. All these delay tactics harm our working class communities.

Let's keep the pressure on to return to work (with all back pay and benefits) our hundreds of unjustly fired transit workers. Let’s continue to fight for a massive expansion of public transportation (and other social needs) where thousands of unemployed workers are hired for front-line jobs at union-scale pay and benefits.

The broader struggle is far from over, but I want to take this time to publicly thank some of the many organizations and hundreds of people who directly contributed to this partial victory. I hope workers in struggle will communicate with the organizations, read the websites, look at the pictures and watch some of the videos below. We have a lot to learn from each other.

I would like to thank… (in no particular order)

My partner, family members and friends who supported us in so many ways.

The unionists and coworkers who bravely spoke to the press on CTA property in uniform on the day I was illegally fired. (video: http://tinyurl.com/hk7rjkv). I would also like to thank the 2nd Vice President of ATU 241 and the VP of ATU 308 (CTA rail workers) for speaking out at that press conference.

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) (http://www.ctunet.com), The Fight for 15 (and a union) (http://fightfor15.org) along with over 100 mostly immigrant workers who demonstrated in front of our bus garage as part of the April 1 Day of Action (pictures, video and links: http://tinyurl.com/zl7ysnp).

Our 1st, 2nd and 3rd Vice Presidents as well as my fellow steward at North Park CTA bus garage for defending me at the discipline hearings. I would like to thank our 1st VP and my fellow steward at North Park garage as well as many other coworker volunteers for trying to hold back the attacks against our working conditions while management repeatedly called the police to have me removed from our bus garage (picture: http://tinyurl.com/jkbl2uk). There are only two “part-time” stewards at our garage of over 600 working families – it’s an impossible situation that harms workers, our families and the riding public.

My coworkers at North Park bus garage and the other nine CTA and PACE suburban bus garages. Thank you for all the phone calls and petitions. Thank you for coming to and leading all the organizing/action meetings. Thank you for your tactical and strategic thinking and advice. Thank you for being the eyes and ears of the union while management kept us off property.

Our ATU International President and his staff for posting a link to one of our press statements on our international website (http://tinyurl.com/hxwkqrj).

The dozens of official statements and resolutions of support from all over the world and hundreds of written statements of support from individual unionists and worker leaders. The Confederation of Trade Unions, Seoul Regional Council, and The Korean Federation of Public Services and Transportation Workers Unions for their statement and pictures of support (http://tinyurl.com/hlvyp3p). The International Transit Workers Conference Against Privatization in Brazil which voted for a resolution supporting the case (http://tinyurl.com/zyl5734, video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dU9NXdy5WmE). The International Network for Solidarity and Struggle (http://laboursolidarityandstruggle.org/site_english/) and the International Workers League (http://litci.org/en/) for their organization of international support. The Partisan Defense Committee who published and distributed a call for solidarity (http://tinyurl.com/hqybxnd) and asked their contacts to make a principled, non-sectarian stand on this case. Facts for Working People who also published a letter of support (http://tinyurl.com/z6g6fak).

Black Youth Project 100 (http://byp100.org/) and Black Lives Matter for speaking publicly in support (video: http://tinyurl.com/zdk45qd) and joining our organizing meetings. Public transit passenger advocacy groups and IMPROVE (http://tinyurl.com/j6pmmwt) and other para-transit justice fighters who joined our public actions and spoke out.

The many public transit passengers who called, emailed and exhorted the CTA to reverse their attacks. [see previous posts]

The Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) (http://www.coreteachers.org) for drafting and passing a resolution in support (http://tinyurl.com/jrlfg9g), creating an online petition (http://tinyurl.com/jjd35qo) and speaking out at each of our press conferences. I would also like to thank the many individual coworkers and activists that donated their time and money to writing press releases as well as designing, printing and distributing fliers.

The executive board members of ATU 241 for supporting several of our motions to attempt to mobilize our unions. I would also like to thank our 3rd Vice President and all the maintenance workers of CTA and PACE suburban and their leaders for supporting us during several critical membership votes.

The dozens of transit workers from around North America at the Labor Notes conference, who passed the hat and donated over $700 to help our family make it through this difficult period (http://tinyurl.com/hhk4rmg, twitter: http://tinyurl.com/jqbjbkh).

The volunteer social-justice lawyers who donated a considerable amount of their time and expertise. I would also like to thank the union lawyers who represented the union during arbitration and filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge.

The Transport Workers Solidarity Committee, (https://transportworkers.org/) for their public reports. Work Week Radio who published a radio interview (http://tinyurl.com/hjwzyly). United Public Workers for Action (http://www.upwa.info/) and the Labor Video Project
(http://www.laborvideo.org) for videos (http://tinyurl.com/h77satr) and reports on this struggle. I would also like to thank Labor Beat video [http://www.laborbeat.org/] for editing, producing and distributing factual pro-worker, pro-union videos about this and related struggles that have gone around the world.

Tags: CTAATU 241Illegal Retaliationunion bustinglabor management collaboration
Categories: Labor News

They Fired Me And 'Made' Me Into An Organizer ATU 241 Fired Union Steward And Executive Board Member Eric Slater discusses his struggle and lessons against bullying & his illegal termination by Chicago Transit Authority CTA.

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 07:55

They Fired Me And 'Made' Me Into An Organizer
ATU 241 Fired Union Steward And Executive Board Member Eric Slater discusses his struggle and lessons against bullying and his illegal termination by Chicago Transit Authority CTA.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mAStqL1b7I

In writing:

Official results of the first round of elections for the leadership of my union, the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 241, were posted yesterday. In the first ballot, I was re-elected by my coworkers for the position of Executive Board representative for the North Park bus garage of the Chicago Transit Authority. For the next three years, I intend to continue to defend and organize our 600 working families. We are some of the most impressive and powerful workers. I look forward to continuing to help turn our union of 10,000 transit worker and retiree families towards the larger struggle of working people. That is where we will begin to win.

Run-off elections for the top two candidates for many other positions will occur later this month. Our current president has been voted out of office and we will have a new president and 1st vice president on April 1. Whoever is elected, they will need the solidarity of the working class to confront our employer and the city administration for the disrespectful and dangerous working conditions we face.

I would like to acknowledge the many coworkers who publicly encouraged workers at our bus garage to vote for me. I would also like to acknowledge my family and allies for supporting me and doing so much work during the campaign.

The program of action that I, and already three other candidates have co-signed included these action items:

-Continue and intensify the public contract campaign. More rank-and-file workers protected and encouraged to speak publicly. Fighting alliances with other unions and working class organizations. We can win good contracts, but we have to organize and fight for it alongside the working-class.
-Form organizing/mobilization and education/training departments of the local.
-Form public committees open to all members to lead: mass-action committee, contract/strike committee, retiree/laid off/fired worker committees, etc. Publicize regular meetings well in advance.
-Transportation stewards should be made into executive board members and additional elections should be held for more stewards and assistant stewards. A stewards council should be formed which meets monthly. All of us are already disciplined leaders – leaders of our family, in our communities and at our workplace – anyone of us can and should lead.

Public Letter of Appreciation to Those who Helped Win my Return to Work Order

(this public letter and hyperlinks can be found on Facebook here: http://tinyurl.com/zcnwmzu)

On October 6, at the International Convention of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) in Toronto, Canada, I was informed that our union had won a return-to-work order with back-pay ruling regarding my termination as a 10-year Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) public bus driver.

On February 11, 2016, I was fired for insubordination for doing the work of defending my coworkers and defending our contract. Because I am a shop steward and elected Executive Board member of our union of over 10,000 working families, this was an attack on our entire union and it's long history.

However, the appointed managers of the CTA may unjustly appeal the ruling, like they did our $20M grievance for breaking our contract and overworking part-time workers as they laid off over 1,000 of us and massively cut public transit service during the “doomsday” cuts of 2011. This is still in the courts even though the CTA knows they cannot win. They would rather pay their lawyers (from the city budget they claim is bankrupt) to stall in order to use this as leverage in contract negotiations that are ongoing (our contract ended December 31, 2015). These managers may also drag out negotiations for the "make whole" ruling among other dirty tricks. All these delay tactics harm our working class communities.

Let's keep the pressure on to return to work (with all back pay and benefits) our hundreds of unjustly fired transit workers. Let’s continue to fight for a massive expansion of public transportation (and other social needs) where thousands of unemployed workers are hired for front-line jobs at union-scale pay and benefits.

The broader struggle is far from over, but I want to take this time to publicly thank some of the many organizations and hundreds of people who directly contributed to this partial victory. I hope workers in struggle will communicate with the organizations, read the websites, look at the pictures and watch some of the videos below. We have a lot to learn from each other.

I would like to thank… (in no particular order)

My partner, family members and friends who supported us in so many ways.

The unionists and coworkers who bravely spoke to the press on CTA property in uniform on the day I was illegally fired. (video: http://tinyurl.com/hk7rjkv). I would also like to thank the 2nd Vice President of ATU 241 and the VP of ATU 308 (CTA rail workers) for speaking out at that press conference.

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) (http://www.ctunet.com), The Fight for 15 (and a union) (http://fightfor15.org) along with over 100 mostly immigrant workers who demonstrated in front of our bus garage as part of the April 1 Day of Action (pictures, video and links: http://tinyurl.com/zl7ysnp).

Our 1st, 2nd and 3rd Vice Presidents as well as my fellow steward at North Park CTA bus garage for defending me at the discipline hearings. I would like to thank our 1st VP and my fellow steward at North Park garage as well as many other coworker volunteers for trying to hold back the attacks against our working conditions while management repeatedly called the police to have me removed from our bus garage (picture: http://tinyurl.com/jkbl2uk). There are only two “part-time” stewards at our garage of over 600 working families – it’s an impossible situation that harms workers, our families and the riding public.

My coworkers at North Park bus garage and the other nine CTA and PACE suburban bus garages. Thank you for all the phone calls and petitions. Thank you for coming to and leading all the organizing/action meetings. Thank you for your tactical and strategic thinking and advice. Thank you for being the eyes and ears of the union while management kept us off property.

Our ATU International President and his staff for posting a link to one of our press statements on our international website (http://tinyurl.com/hxwkqrj).

The dozens of official statements and resolutions of support from all over the world and hundreds of written statements of support from individual unionists and worker leaders. The Confederation of Trade Unions, Seoul Regional Council, and The Korean Federation of Public Services and Transportation Workers Unions for their statement and pictures of support (http://tinyurl.com/hlvyp3p). The International Transit Workers Conference Against Privatization in Brazil which voted for a resolution supporting the case (http://tinyurl.com/zyl5734, video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dU9NXdy5WmE). The International Network for Solidarity and Struggle (http://laboursolidarityandstruggle.org/site_english/) and the International Workers League (http://litci.org/en/) for their organization of international support. The Partisan Defense Committee who published and distributed a call for solidarity (http://tinyurl.com/hqybxnd) and asked their contacts to make a principled, non-sectarian stand on this case. Facts for Working People who also published a letter of support (http://tinyurl.com/z6g6fak).

Black Youth Project 100 (http://byp100.org/) and Black Lives Matter for speaking publicly in support (video: http://tinyurl.com/zdk45qd) and joining our organizing meetings. Public transit passenger advocacy groups and IMPROVE (http://tinyurl.com/j6pmmwt) and other para-transit justice fighters who joined our public actions and spoke out.

The many public transit passengers who called, emailed and exhorted the CTA to reverse their attacks. [see previous posts]

The Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) (http://www.coreteachers.org) for drafting and passing a resolution in support (http://tinyurl.com/jrlfg9g), creating an online petition (http://tinyurl.com/jjd35qo) and speaking out at each of our press conferences. I would also like to thank the many individual coworkers and activists that donated their time and money to writing press releases as well as designing, printing and distributing fliers.

The executive board members of ATU 241 for supporting several of our motions to attempt to mobilize our unions. I would also like to thank our 3rd Vice President and all the maintenance workers of CTA and PACE suburban and their leaders for supporting us during several critical membership votes.

The dozens of transit workers from around North America at the Labor Notes conference, who passed the hat and donated over $700 to help our family make it through this difficult period (http://tinyurl.com/hhk4rmg, twitter: http://tinyurl.com/jqbjbkh).

The volunteer social-justice lawyers who donated a considerable amount of their time and expertise. I would also like to thank the union lawyers who represented the union during arbitration and filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge.

The Transport Workers Solidarity Committee, (https://transportworkers.org/) for their public reports. Work Week Radio who published a radio interview (http://tinyurl.com/hjwzyly). United Public Workers for Action (http://www.upwa.info/) and the Labor Video Project
(http://www.laborvideo.org) for videos (http://tinyurl.com/h77satr) and reports on this struggle. I would also like to thank Labor Beat video [http://www.laborbeat.org/] for editing, producing and distributing factual pro-worker, pro-union videos about this and related struggles that have gone around the world.

Tags: CTAATU 241Illegal Retaliationunion bustinglabor management collaboration
Categories: Labor News

They Fired Me And 'Made' Me Into An Organizer ATU 241 Fired Union Steward And Executive Board Member Eric Slater discusses his struggle and lessons against bullying & his illegal termination by Chicago Transit Authority CTA.

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 07:55

They Fired Me And 'Made' Me Into An Organizer
ATU 241 Fired Union Steward And Executive Board Member Eric Slater discusses his struggle and lessons against bullying and his illegal termination by Chicago Transit Authority CTA.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mAStqL1b7I

In writing:

Official results of the first round of elections for the leadership of my union, the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 241, were posted yesterday. In the first ballot, I was re-elected by my coworkers for the position of Executive Board representative for the North Park bus garage of the Chicago Transit Authority. For the next three years, I intend to continue to defend and organize our 600 working families. We are some of the most impressive and powerful workers. I look forward to continuing to help turn our union of 10,000 transit worker and retiree families towards the larger struggle of working people. That is where we will begin to win.

Run-off elections for the top two candidates for many other positions will occur later this month. Our current president has been voted out of office and we will have a new president and 1st vice president on April 1. Whoever is elected, they will need the solidarity of the working class to confront our employer and the city administration for the disrespectful and dangerous working conditions we face.

I would like to acknowledge the many coworkers who publicly encouraged workers at our bus garage to vote for me. I would also like to acknowledge my family and allies for supporting me and doing so much work during the campaign.

The program of action that I, and already three other candidates have co-signed included these action items:

-Continue and intensify the public contract campaign. More rank-and-file workers protected and encouraged to speak publicly. Fighting alliances with other unions and working class organizations. We can win good contracts, but we have to organize and fight for it alongside the working-class.
-Form organizing/mobilization and education/training departments of the local.
-Form public committees open to all members to lead: mass-action committee, contract/strike committee, retiree/laid off/fired worker committees, etc. Publicize regular meetings well in advance.
-Transportation stewards should be made into executive board members and additional elections should be held for more stewards and assistant stewards. A stewards council should be formed which meets monthly. All of us are already disciplined leaders – leaders of our family, in our communities and at our workplace – anyone of us can and should lead.

Public Letter of Appreciation to Those who Helped Win my Return to Work Order

(this public letter and hyperlinks can be found on Facebook here: http://tinyurl.com/zcnwmzu)

On October 6, at the International Convention of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) in Toronto, Canada, I was informed that our union had won a return-to-work order with back-pay ruling regarding my termination as a 10-year Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) public bus driver.

On February 11, 2016, I was fired for insubordination for doing the work of defending my coworkers and defending our contract. Because I am a shop steward and elected Executive Board member of our union of over 10,000 working families, this was an attack on our entire union and it's long history.

However, the appointed managers of the CTA may unjustly appeal the ruling, like they did our $20M grievance for breaking our contract and overworking part-time workers as they laid off over 1,000 of us and massively cut public transit service during the “doomsday” cuts of 2011. This is still in the courts even though the CTA knows they cannot win. They would rather pay their lawyers (from the city budget they claim is bankrupt) to stall in order to use this as leverage in contract negotiations that are ongoing (our contract ended December 31, 2015). These managers may also drag out negotiations for the "make whole" ruling among other dirty tricks. All these delay tactics harm our working class communities.

Let's keep the pressure on to return to work (with all back pay and benefits) our hundreds of unjustly fired transit workers. Let’s continue to fight for a massive expansion of public transportation (and other social needs) where thousands of unemployed workers are hired for front-line jobs at union-scale pay and benefits.

The broader struggle is far from over, but I want to take this time to publicly thank some of the many organizations and hundreds of people who directly contributed to this partial victory. I hope workers in struggle will communicate with the organizations, read the websites, look at the pictures and watch some of the videos below. We have a lot to learn from each other.

I would like to thank… (in no particular order)

My partner, family members and friends who supported us in so many ways.

The unionists and coworkers who bravely spoke to the press on CTA property in uniform on the day I was illegally fired. (video: http://tinyurl.com/hk7rjkv). I would also like to thank the 2nd Vice President of ATU 241 and the VP of ATU 308 (CTA rail workers) for speaking out at that press conference.

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) (http://www.ctunet.com), The Fight for 15 (and a union) (http://fightfor15.org) along with over 100 mostly immigrant workers who demonstrated in front of our bus garage as part of the April 1 Day of Action (pictures, video and links: http://tinyurl.com/zl7ysnp).

Our 1st, 2nd and 3rd Vice Presidents as well as my fellow steward at North Park CTA bus garage for defending me at the discipline hearings. I would like to thank our 1st VP and my fellow steward at North Park garage as well as many other coworker volunteers for trying to hold back the attacks against our working conditions while management repeatedly called the police to have me removed from our bus garage (picture: http://tinyurl.com/jkbl2uk). There are only two “part-time” stewards at our garage of over 600 working families – it’s an impossible situation that harms workers, our families and the riding public.

My coworkers at North Park bus garage and the other nine CTA and PACE suburban bus garages. Thank you for all the phone calls and petitions. Thank you for coming to and leading all the organizing/action meetings. Thank you for your tactical and strategic thinking and advice. Thank you for being the eyes and ears of the union while management kept us off property.

Our ATU International President and his staff for posting a link to one of our press statements on our international website (http://tinyurl.com/hxwkqrj).

The dozens of official statements and resolutions of support from all over the world and hundreds of written statements of support from individual unionists and worker leaders. The Confederation of Trade Unions, Seoul Regional Council, and The Korean Federation of Public Services and Transportation Workers Unions for their statement and pictures of support (http://tinyurl.com/hlvyp3p). The International Transit Workers Conference Against Privatization in Brazil which voted for a resolution supporting the case (http://tinyurl.com/zyl5734, video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dU9NXdy5WmE). The International Network for Solidarity and Struggle (http://laboursolidarityandstruggle.org/site_english/) and the International Workers League (http://litci.org/en/) for their organization of international support. The Partisan Defense Committee who published and distributed a call for solidarity (http://tinyurl.com/hqybxnd) and asked their contacts to make a principled, non-sectarian stand on this case. Facts for Working People who also published a letter of support (http://tinyurl.com/z6g6fak).

Black Youth Project 100 (http://byp100.org/) and Black Lives Matter for speaking publicly in support (video: http://tinyurl.com/zdk45qd) and joining our organizing meetings. Public transit passenger advocacy groups and IMPROVE (http://tinyurl.com/j6pmmwt) and other para-transit justice fighters who joined our public actions and spoke out.

The many public transit passengers who called, emailed and exhorted the CTA to reverse their attacks. [see previous posts]

The Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) (http://www.coreteachers.org) for drafting and passing a resolution in support (http://tinyurl.com/jrlfg9g), creating an online petition (http://tinyurl.com/jjd35qo) and speaking out at each of our press conferences. I would also like to thank the many individual coworkers and activists that donated their time and money to writing press releases as well as designing, printing and distributing fliers.

The executive board members of ATU 241 for supporting several of our motions to attempt to mobilize our unions. I would also like to thank our 3rd Vice President and all the maintenance workers of CTA and PACE suburban and their leaders for supporting us during several critical membership votes.

The dozens of transit workers from around North America at the Labor Notes conference, who passed the hat and donated over $700 to help our family make it through this difficult period (http://tinyurl.com/hhk4rmg, twitter: http://tinyurl.com/jqbjbkh).

The volunteer social-justice lawyers who donated a considerable amount of their time and expertise. I would also like to thank the union lawyers who represented the union during arbitration and filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge.

The Transport Workers Solidarity Committee, (https://transportworkers.org/) for their public reports. Work Week Radio who published a radio interview (http://tinyurl.com/hjwzyly). United Public Workers for Action (http://www.upwa.info/) and the Labor Video Project
(http://www.laborvideo.org) for videos (http://tinyurl.com/h77satr) and reports on this struggle. I would also like to thank Labor Beat video [http://www.laborbeat.org/] for editing, producing and distributing factual pro-worker, pro-union videos about this and related struggles that have gone around the world.

Tags: CTAATU 241Illegal Retaliationunion bustinglabor management collaboration
Categories: Labor News

They Fired Me And 'Made' Me Into An Organizer ATU 241 Fired Union Steward And Executive Board Member Eric Slater discusses his struggle and lessons against bullying & his illegal termination by Chicago Transit Authority CTA.

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 07:53

They Fired Me And 'Made' Me Into An Organizer
ATU 241 Fired Union Steward And Executive Board Member Eric Slater discusses his struggle and lessons against bullying and his illegal termination by Chicago Transit Authority CTA.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mAStqL1b7I

In writing:

Official results of the first round of elections for the leadership of my union, the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 241, were posted yesterday. In the first ballot, I was re-elected by my coworkers for the position of Executive Board representative for the North Park bus garage of the Chicago Transit Authority. For the next three years, I intend to continue to defend and organize our 600 working families. We are some of the most impressive and powerful workers. I look forward to continuing to help turn our union of 10,000 transit worker and retiree families towards the larger struggle of working people. That is where we will begin to win.

Run-off elections for the top two candidates for many other positions will occur later this month. Our current president has been voted out of office and we will have a new president and 1st vice president on April 1. Whoever is elected, they will need the solidarity of the working class to confront our employer and the city administration for the disrespectful and dangerous working conditions we face.

I would like to acknowledge the many coworkers who publicly encouraged workers at our bus garage to vote for me. I would also like to acknowledge my family and allies for supporting me and doing so much work during the campaign.

The program of action that I, and already three other candidates have co-signed included these action items:

-Continue and intensify the public contract campaign. More rank-and-file workers protected and encouraged to speak publicly. Fighting alliances with other unions and working class organizations. We can win good contracts, but we have to organize and fight for it alongside the working-class.
-Form organizing/mobilization and education/training departments of the local.
-Form public committees open to all members to lead: mass-action committee, contract/strike committee, retiree/laid off/fired worker committees, etc. Publicize regular meetings well in advance.
-Transportation stewards should be made into executive board members and additional elections should be held for more stewards and assistant stewards. A stewards council should be formed which meets monthly. All of us are already disciplined leaders – leaders of our family, in our communities and at our workplace – anyone of us can and should lead.

Public Letter of Appreciation to Those who Helped Win my Return to Work Order

(this public letter and hyperlinks can be found on Facebook here: http://tinyurl.com/zcnwmzu)

On October 6, at the International Convention of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) in Toronto, Canada, I was informed that our union had won a return-to-work order with back-pay ruling regarding my termination as a 10-year Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) public bus driver.

On February 11, 2016, I was fired for insubordination for doing the work of defending my coworkers and defending our contract. Because I am a shop steward and elected Executive Board member of our union of over 10,000 working families, this was an attack on our entire union and it's long history.

However, the appointed managers of the CTA may unjustly appeal the ruling, like they did our $20M grievance for breaking our contract and overworking part-time workers as they laid off over 1,000 of us and massively cut public transit service during the “doomsday” cuts of 2011. This is still in the courts even though the CTA knows they cannot win. They would rather pay their lawyers (from the city budget they claim is bankrupt) to stall in order to use this as leverage in contract negotiations that are ongoing (our contract ended December 31, 2015). These managers may also drag out negotiations for the "make whole" ruling among other dirty tricks. All these delay tactics harm our working class communities.

Let's keep the pressure on to return to work (with all back pay and benefits) our hundreds of unjustly fired transit workers. Let’s continue to fight for a massive expansion of public transportation (and other social needs) where thousands of unemployed workers are hired for front-line jobs at union-scale pay and benefits.

The broader struggle is far from over, but I want to take this time to publicly thank some of the many organizations and hundreds of people who directly contributed to this partial victory. I hope workers in struggle will communicate with the organizations, read the websites, look at the pictures and watch some of the videos below. We have a lot to learn from each other.

I would like to thank… (in no particular order)

My partner, family members and friends who supported us in so many ways.

The unionists and coworkers who bravely spoke to the press on CTA property in uniform on the day I was illegally fired. (video: http://tinyurl.com/hk7rjkv). I would also like to thank the 2nd Vice President of ATU 241 and the VP of ATU 308 (CTA rail workers) for speaking out at that press conference.

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) (http://www.ctunet.com), The Fight for 15 (and a union) (http://fightfor15.org) along with over 100 mostly immigrant workers who demonstrated in front of our bus garage as part of the April 1 Day of Action (pictures, video and links: http://tinyurl.com/zl7ysnp).

Our 1st, 2nd and 3rd Vice Presidents as well as my fellow steward at North Park CTA bus garage for defending me at the discipline hearings. I would like to thank our 1st VP and my fellow steward at North Park garage as well as many other coworker volunteers for trying to hold back the attacks against our working conditions while management repeatedly called the police to have me removed from our bus garage (picture: http://tinyurl.com/jkbl2uk). There are only two “part-time” stewards at our garage of over 600 working families – it’s an impossible situation that harms workers, our families and the riding public.

My coworkers at North Park bus garage and the other nine CTA and PACE suburban bus garages. Thank you for all the phone calls and petitions. Thank you for coming to and leading all the organizing/action meetings. Thank you for your tactical and strategic thinking and advice. Thank you for being the eyes and ears of the union while management kept us off property.

Our ATU International President and his staff for posting a link to one of our press statements on our international website (http://tinyurl.com/hxwkqrj).

The dozens of official statements and resolutions of support from all over the world and hundreds of written statements of support from individual unionists and worker leaders. The Confederation of Trade Unions, Seoul Regional Council, and The Korean Federation of Public Services and Transportation Workers Unions for their statement and pictures of support (http://tinyurl.com/hlvyp3p). The International Transit Workers Conference Against Privatization in Brazil which voted for a resolution supporting the case (http://tinyurl.com/zyl5734, video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dU9NXdy5WmE). The International Network for Solidarity and Struggle (http://laboursolidarityandstruggle.org/site_english/) and the International Workers League (http://litci.org/en/) for their organization of international support. The Partisan Defense Committee who published and distributed a call for solidarity (http://tinyurl.com/hqybxnd) and asked their contacts to make a principled, non-sectarian stand on this case. Facts for Working People who also published a letter of support (http://tinyurl.com/z6g6fak).

Black Youth Project 100 (http://byp100.org/) and Black Lives Matter for speaking publicly in support (video: http://tinyurl.com/zdk45qd) and joining our organizing meetings. Public transit passenger advocacy groups and IMPROVE (http://tinyurl.com/j6pmmwt) and other para-transit justice fighters who joined our public actions and spoke out.

The many public transit passengers who called, emailed and exhorted the CTA to reverse their attacks. [see previous posts]

The Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) (http://www.coreteachers.org) for drafting and passing a resolution in support (http://tinyurl.com/jrlfg9g), creating an online petition (http://tinyurl.com/jjd35qo) and speaking out at each of our press conferences. I would also like to thank the many individual coworkers and activists that donated their time and money to writing press releases as well as designing, printing and distributing fliers.

The executive board members of ATU 241 for supporting several of our motions to attempt to mobilize our unions. I would also like to thank our 3rd Vice President and all the maintenance workers of CTA and PACE suburban and their leaders for supporting us during several critical membership votes.

The dozens of transit workers from around North America at the Labor Notes conference, who passed the hat and donated over $700 to help our family make it through this difficult period (http://tinyurl.com/hhk4rmg, twitter: http://tinyurl.com/jqbjbkh).

The volunteer social-justice lawyers who donated a considerable amount of their time and expertise. I would also like to thank the union lawyers who represented the union during arbitration and filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge.

The Transport Workers Solidarity Committee, (https://transportworkers.org/) for their public reports. Work Week Radio who published a radio interview (http://tinyurl.com/hjwzyly). United Public Workers for Action (http://www.upwa.info/) and the Labor Video Project
(http://www.laborvideo.org) for videos (http://tinyurl.com/h77satr) and reports on this struggle. I would also like to thank Labor Beat video [http://www.laborbeat.org/] for editing, producing and distributing factual pro-worker, pro-union videos about this and related struggles that have gone around the world.

Tags: CTAATU 241Illegal Retaliationunion bustinglabor management collaboration
Categories: Labor News

ITF and unions cheer as Uber pulls out of Denmark “The illegal Uber-business model has had a high price for Danish taxi drivers. Now they can work without illegal and unfair competition again."

Wed, 03/29/2017 - 07:23

ITF and unions cheer as Uber pulls out of Denmark “The illegal Uber-business model has had a high price for Danish taxi drivers. Now they can work without illegal and unfair competition again."
http://www.itfglobal.org/en/news-events/news/2017/march/itf-and-unions-c...
The ITF and its unions have hailed as a victory for jobs and safety Uber’s announcement on 28 March that it is to pull out of Denmark.
29/03/2017
The company claims that the Danish government’s new taxi law – introduced after a vigorous public and lobbying campaign by ITF unions and others – has proved the final straw for the ride-sharing app operator. It has announced that its last day of operations in the country will be 18 April.

Unions say that Uber knew from the start of its Danish operations in 2014 that its business model was illegal under the country’s existing laws – a fact backed up by a court ruling in July 2016. It remains illegal under the new law, which stipulates among other changes that it will become obligatory for taxis to have seat sensors, video surveillance and taxi meters.

Jan Villadsen, president of ITF union 3F Transport, said: “The illegal Uber-business model has had a high price for Danish taxi drivers. Now they can work without illegal and unfair competition again. It took two years and six months to kick Uber out of Denmark, and international solidarity and co-operation has been very important in helping achieve that.

“But other companies and business models like Uber are expected to enter Denmark and multinational companies are creative, so we will have to be very focused on this during the coming years. The people behind these operations have got a single goal – they want to create value for themselves, not for society.”

Mac Urata, ITF inland transport secretary, praised the Danish unions for their creative public relations campaign that sent the message home to the Danish citizens that the Uber business model is destroying their welfare state. He added that he hoped unions in other countries would take heart from this victory as they fought their own battles against Uber and similar ride-sharing services.

The ITF is supporting workers and unions around the globe who are also fighting against Uber and its like – including in Argentina, India and Qatar and Japan.

This news article takes a look at the battles Uber is facing in Europe (in Danish only).

Read about the ITF’s international meeting on the threat to workers of ‘Ubernomics’.

Read about the latest UK legal ruling on Uber.

Find out how your union can help taxi workers.

Tags: UberDenmarkregulation3F Transport
Categories: Labor News

ITF and unions cheer as Uber pulls out of Denmark " “The illegal Uber-business model has had a high price for Danish taxi drivers. Now they can work without illegal and unfair competition again."

Wed, 03/29/2017 - 07:23

ITF and unions cheer as Uber pulls out of Denmark
http://www.itfglobal.org/en/news-events/news/2017/march/itf-and-unions-c...
The ITF and its unions have hailed as a victory for jobs and safety Uber’s announcement on 28 March that it is to pull out of Denmark.
29/03/2017
The company claims that the Danish government’s new taxi law – introduced after a vigorous public and lobbying campaign by ITF unions and others – has proved the final straw for the ride-sharing app operator. It has announced that its last day of operations in the country will be 18 April.

Unions say that Uber knew from the start of its Danish operations in 2014 that its business model was illegal under the country’s existing laws – a fact backed up by a court ruling in July 2016. It remains illegal under the new law, which stipulates among other changes that it will become obligatory for taxis to have seat sensors, video surveillance and taxi meters.

Jan Villadsen, president of ITF union 3F Transport, said: “The illegal Uber-business model has had a high price for Danish taxi drivers. Now they can work without illegal and unfair competition again. It took two years and six months to kick Uber out of Denmark, and international solidarity and co-operation has been very important in helping achieve that.

“But other companies and business models like Uber are expected to enter Denmark and multinational companies are creative, so we will have to be very focused on this during the coming years. The people behind these operations have got a single goal – they want to create value for themselves, not for society.”

Mac Urata, ITF inland transport secretary, praised the Danish unions for their creative public relations campaign that sent the message home to the Danish citizens that the Uber business model is destroying their welfare state. He added that he hoped unions in other countries would take heart from this victory as they fought their own battles against Uber and similar ride-sharing services.

The ITF is supporting workers and unions around the globe who are also fighting against Uber and its like – including in Argentina, India and Qatar and Japan.

This news article takes a look at the battles Uber is facing in Europe (in Danish only).

Read about the ITF’s international meeting on the threat to workers of ‘Ubernomics’.

Read about the latest UK legal ruling on Uber.

Find out how your union can help taxi workers.

Tags: UberDenmarkregulation3F Transport
Categories: Labor News

WA State IBU ILWU Ferry galley workers frustrated by lack of benefits

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 22:10

WA State IBU ILWU Ferry galley workers frustrated by lack of benefits
http://www.king5.com/news/local/ferry-galley-workers-frustrated-by-lack-...
Ed Friedrich , The Kitsap Sun , KING 9:26 AM. PDT March 28, 2017

Galley workers remain without health care insurance six months after their new company began providing food services on state ferries.

In late March, Washington State Ferries awarded Connecticut-based Centerplate the galley and vending contracts for four years with a six-year option. The corporation employs 30,000 people at arenas, cinemas, convention centers and other venues in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, including Safeco Field and the Tacoma Dome. Its revenues were $850 million in 2014.

Former food vendor Olympic Cascade Services challenged the contract in court, delaying it until October. The Bremerton company employed about 75 workers, for whom it provided insurance through Group Health. Centerplate says no major carrier will cover the galley workers because the risk is too high — mostly women, older than 45 and on the water.

"It's pretty unbelievable that it's a national company and they can't find comparative health care," said Chris Simmons, business agent with the Inlandboatmen's Union.

The contract neither requires Centerplate to provide health insurance nor to participate with the union.

"It's really between labor and the employees," WSF spokesman Ian Sterling said. "We're not involved in it. At the time (of the change), what we tried to do was protect jobs (of Olympic Cascade workers). We were neutral on whether they were in a union."

The company recognized the union from the beginning and quickly negotiated most issues. None can be administered until the entire package, which is awaiting health insurance and pay, is approved. Galley employees now start at $12 an hour. The union is requesting an increase to Seattle's minimum wage of $15 an hour plus 60 cents. Centerplate appeared to find that reasonable, Simmons said.

"This (insurance) is what's holding up negotiations, so the galley employees are upset," Simmons said. "We would have a contract if they had offered us a decent health care package, so right now we have no health care at all."

The Inlandboatmen's Union offered to add the ferry workers to the union insurance, but Centerplate said the cost was too high. Centerplate countered with a self-insure plan, but the union found it no better than catastrophic care and wouldn't accept it.

"We're trying to work with this company because we want them to succeed, but I tell them I can't sign a contract that (the workers) can't afford," Simmons said.

A Centerplate spokeswoman said the company is in contract negotiations with the union.

"As part of those negotiations, we have made an economic offer, which includes health insurance," Diana Evans said. "Beyond that, we are not at liberty to discuss specifics other than reiterate our commitment to continue to negotiate in good faith."

The combination of low pay and no insurance has hindered the hiring and retaining of employees, said Simmons and Wayne Stapelton, a galley worker on the Bainbridge-Seattle route who serves on labor relations and contract negotiation teams. The workforce has dropped to the 80s from 110. Galleys are operating with skeleton crews. It is unclear how the Affordable Care Act mandate would apply to this situation.

"I'm still on their side (compared to Olympic), but when it comes down to them making money hand over fist, why are we the ones being asked to bite the bullet?" Stapleton said. "These (Centerplate) people treat us like human beings. The only problem here is age-old corporate greed."

Tags: WA State Ferry Galley WorkersIBU ILWUhealthcare
Categories: Labor News

WA State IBU ILWU Ferry galley workers frustrated by lack of benefits

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 22:10

WA State IBU ILWU Ferry galley workers frustrated by lack of benefits
http://www.king5.com/news/local/ferry-galley-workers-frustrated-by-lack-...
Ed Friedrich , The Kitsap Sun , KING 9:26 AM. PDT March 28, 2017

Galley workers remain without health care insurance six months after their new company began providing food services on state ferries.

In late March, Washington State Ferries awarded Connecticut-based Centerplate the galley and vending contracts for four years with a six-year option. The corporation employs 30,000 people at arenas, cinemas, convention centers and other venues in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, including Safeco Field and the Tacoma Dome. Its revenues were $850 million in 2014.

Former food vendor Olympic Cascade Services challenged the contract in court, delaying it until October. The Bremerton company employed about 75 workers, for whom it provided insurance through Group Health. Centerplate says no major carrier will cover the galley workers because the risk is too high — mostly women, older than 45 and on the water.

"It's pretty unbelievable that it's a national company and they can't find comparative health care," said Chris Simmons, business agent with the Inlandboatmen's Union.

The contract neither requires Centerplate to provide health insurance nor to participate with the union.

"It's really between labor and the employees," WSF spokesman Ian Sterling said. "We're not involved in it. At the time (of the change), what we tried to do was protect jobs (of Olympic Cascade workers). We were neutral on whether they were in a union."

The company recognized the union from the beginning and quickly negotiated most issues. None can be administered until the entire package, which is awaiting health insurance and pay, is approved. Galley employees now start at $12 an hour. The union is requesting an increase to Seattle's minimum wage of $15 an hour plus 60 cents. Centerplate appeared to find that reasonable, Simmons said.

"This (insurance) is what's holding up negotiations, so the galley employees are upset," Simmons said. "We would have a contract if they had offered us a decent health care package, so right now we have no health care at all."

The Inlandboatmen's Union offered to add the ferry workers to the union insurance, but Centerplate said the cost was too high. Centerplate countered with a self-insure plan, but the union found it no better than catastrophic care and wouldn't accept it.

"We're trying to work with this company because we want them to succeed, but I tell them I can't sign a contract that (the workers) can't afford," Simmons said.

A Centerplate spokeswoman said the company is in contract negotiations with the union.

"As part of those negotiations, we have made an economic offer, which includes health insurance," Diana Evans said. "Beyond that, we are not at liberty to discuss specifics other than reiterate our commitment to continue to negotiate in good faith."

The combination of low pay and no insurance has hindered the hiring and retaining of employees, said Simmons and Wayne Stapelton, a galley worker on the Bainbridge-Seattle route who serves on labor relations and contract negotiation teams. The workforce has dropped to the 80s from 110. Galleys are operating with skeleton crews. It is unclear how the Affordable Care Act mandate would apply to this situation.

"I'm still on their side (compared to Olympic), but when it comes down to them making money hand over fist, why are we the ones being asked to bite the bullet?" Stapleton said. "These (Centerplate) people treat us like human beings. The only problem here is age-old corporate greed."

Tags: WA State Ferry Galley WorkersIBU ILWUhealthcare
Categories: Labor News

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