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What we talk about when we talk about Uber and Lyft

Wed, 06/28/2017 - 09:11

What we talk about when we talk about Uber and Lyft

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
By Kelly Dessaint on June 24, 2016 1:00 am

It’s 2:35 a.m. and I’m looking for a cabstand showing signs of life now that everyone’s in motion, either trying to go home or get to an after-hours joint.

In front of 1015 Folsom, a large crowd is milling about in the street among several dozen unmarked sedans blocking the flow of traffic while a few taxis wait patiently outside the club.

As I slow down to suss out the situation, a young guy approaches my window. He wants to know the fare to Berkeley.

“Around $35-$40,” I tell him. “Plus the bridge toll.”

“But Lyft is only $20.” He holds up his phone as proof.

“Then take Lyft,” I say.

I start to roll up my window but he has another question.

“Why are cabs so expensive?” he asks. “Don’t you guys want to be competitive with Uber and Lyft?”

“The City determines taxi rates,” I tell him. “I don’t have any control over them. Neither does my cab company.”

“Really?” he asks, genuinely surprised.

“You think we just charge more because we’re bad at business?”

He’s about to respond when another guy approaches my cab and asks if I’ll take him to the Richmond District for $10.

“You gotta be kidding me?” I laugh. “Sorry, that’s a $20 ride.”

“But an UberPool is only $7.”

“Then take Uber!” I say abruptly.

“I would,” the guy tells me. “But my phone’s dead.”

“You know what, then,” I say with a smirk. “The fare’s now $30. My cab just went into surge pricing.”

The guy scoffs while the first one laughs.

“Come on,” Mr. Richmond pleads. “None of these taxis are going anywhere anytime soon.”

“That may be true, but I still have my dignity. Why don’t you ask another cab driver?”

“I asked them all. You’re the last in line.”

“Then the price to the Richmond is now $40. My surge multiplier just went up!”

“Come on!”

“Tell me something,” I address the two of them. “Do you guys really think it’s acceptable for these companies to charge half the price of a taxi and justify it by calling it a disruptive business model? You know that’s bullshit, right? That’s not disruption. It’s predatory pricing, plain and simple. And who pays for all these cheap rides? Not you. Not Uber. Not Lyft. It’s their drivers who get screwed so you guys can get a good deal.”

“Nobody is forced to do anything,” Mr. Berkeley points out.

“Because jobs grow on job trees?” I ask. “I think most people who decide to use their own cars as taxicabs are doing so out of desperation.”

“Everyone has options,” adds Mr. Richmond.

I decide to change my approach. “Tell me, do you guys support Bernie Sanders?”

“Of course!” Mr. Berkeley declares. “Love him!”

“Bernie’s my man!” says Mr. Richmond.

“Then why are you participating in the exploitation of workers? Isn’t that something Bernie is fighting against?”

They both shrug, not seeing the connection.

“The people who drive for Uber and Lyft don’t make shit and assume all the risk involved with driving a car on the congested streets of San Francisco just to make four or five bucks off a $7 ride. You think that’s cool?”

“I’ve never heard a driver complain.”

“You hold a rating over their heads,” I say. “They’re afraid of losing their jobs.”

“But …”

“Well …”

“Look, you guys are obviously confused about what being progressive means. This new gig economy is regressive. It pushes the most vulnerable members of our society into wage slavery, where they’re paid for piecework rather than given an opportunity to secure a stable income. And what’s worse, instead of seeing their profits increase by working more, due to the constant Uber-Lyft price wars, they actually make less in the process. How can you support a system like that?”

“But if people stopped using these services,” says Mr. Berkeley, “it’ll hurt the drivers more because they won’t have a job left.”

“Yeah, less of something is better than nothing!” Mr. Richmond pipes in.

I’m about to launch into another tirade when I notice the time. It’s 3:15. I’ve already wasted over half an hour arguing with these guys. I might as well be making some money along the way.

“Guess what? My cab just turned into a TaxiPool. I’ll do $10 to the Richmond and $25 to Berkeley. But, goddamn it, you better give me decent tips. Get in and let’s go.”

I don’t even bother hitting the meter as I speed away.

Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. Write to him at or visit his blog at

Tags: UberLyftderegulationworker exploitation
Categories: Labor News

High Cabin Temperatures have Sacramento ATU Division 256 RT Operators Fearing the Worst

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 13:44

High Cabin Temperatures have Sacramento ATU Division 256 RT Operators Fearing the Worst
SACRAMENTO -- Multiple Sacramento Regional Transit District train operators have complained during the extremely hot days that the temperatures in their cabins are so hot it is a safety hazard.

If one of them passes out, the train could potentially be driving itself. Obviously that could, worst case scenario, end in tragedy.

The problem has gotten so bad some operators have called dispatch and said they can't work; they've had to stop and take a break mid-shift or leave the train and ask for a substitution.

"Operators have had to call off...saying, 'Look, I need a break,'" said operator David Allston. "'It's too hot in here. I'm sweating, I'm feeling flush, I need a relief.'"

Each train has a number, either a 100 or 200 designation. The 200 trains are fine, but the 100 trains are problematic. They're older and often the air conditioning stops working, according to Sacramento RT operators who spoke with FOX40.

On 100 trains with functioning air conditioning, FOX40 utilized a temperature gun to monitor the heat. Some areas in the trains reached around 105 degrees, which did not include readings in the cabin, where drivers tell FOX40 it gets even hotter.

Operators say Sacramento RT is aware of the issue, yet year after year the air conditioning still has problems.

"It's as if we don't know who's taking care of the air conditioner...they're adequate when they're maintained correctly," said operator David Allston. "This is a progressive thing that's been happening for the last maybe 3, 4 years."

According to multiple operators if, worst case scenario, an operator passes out mid-ride and their foot slumps off the "deadman," or the pedal, there is a safety mechanism that should automatically stop the train within 5 to 10 seconds. But if one passes out, and their foot does not not slide off the pedal, it's feasible the train could be going full speed without a conscious driver.

Tags: Transit Temperaturestrain operatorshealth and safetyheatSacramento Regional Transit District
Categories: Labor News

MFU & SUP Union for some Hawaii Matson workers threatens to strike over labor dispute

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 09:32

MFU & SUP Union for some Hawaii Matson workers threatens to strike over labor dispute

Monday, June 26th 2017, 9:21 pm PDT
Monday, June 26th 2017, 9:41 pm PDT
By Rick Daysog, ReporterCONNECT

Content starts in 7 sec

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
Matson is facing a strike threat from The Marine Firemen's Union and the Sailors’ Union of The Pacific.

The contract for 135 Matson crew members and engine room workers expires at midnight Friday, and the sides are not anywhere close to resolving their differences; the unions are calling for raises and better job security.

"If they're really going to stick it to us, we're ready to strike,” said Charles Khim, one of the union’s attorney.

Matson says there's still plenty of time to work out a deal.

“Negotiations are in progress, and … Matson's aim is to bargain in good faith toward a fair and equitable agreement,” the company said in an email.

The unions say Matson has told them they can't afford to raise pay rates, but union members say said that's hard to believe when the company is building new container ships, seeking new routes and reported more than $80 million in profits last year.

More than 75 percent of the goods sold in Hawaii come here on container ships, workers say, and any disruption of services could create inconveniences for consumers.

While a strike by these two unions would not shutdown the docks, it would make it difficult for Matson to operate their container ships. Back in 2013, a threatened strike by the same two unions was averted after both sides were able to work out a new contract.

The last strike against Matson, which happened back in 2009, lasted just 12 hours.

Tags: MFUSUPMatson LineHawaiistrike
Categories: Labor News

TWU Campaign For A March On Washington

Sat, 06/24/2017 - 19:49


Why Unions Must Take the Lead and Call a March on Washington to Defend Healthcare – An Open Letter to John Samuelsen, TWU International and Local 100 President
june 15, 2017 by campaignforamarchonwashington
The following letter from TWU Local 100 members was sent to TWU International and Local 100 President John Samuelsen on May 30, 2017. For more information, and to add your name to the list of signatories, write to:
John Samuelsen
Transport Workers Union
International and Local 100 President
May 30, 2017
President Samuelsen:
We are writing to urge you to use your position as TWU Local 100 president and as the TWU’s recently elected International president, to support the call for this country’s unions to take the lead in mobilizing a March on Washington to defend healthcare.
President Trump and the Republicans in Congress are using divide-and-conquer tactics, launching one attack after another on the rights and living standards of working-class and poor people.
First they targeted Muslims, immigrants, and Blacks and Latinos with their “Muslim travel ban,” mass deportations, and end to federal oversight of local police departments found responsible for egregious and systematic racism.
Now they are targeting healthcare, pushing for reforms that will have devastating consequences for tens of millions.
And tomorrow they promise to deal a catastrophic blow to the labor movement, including TWU Local 100, by making anti-union “right-to-work” statutes the law of the land. These statutes, of course, are more accurately referred to as “right-to-scab” laws because they deny unions the right to win the requirement that all workers in an enterprise be represented by a union and have union fees collected from them.
Trump has repeatedly declared his commitment to this union-busting attack and Vice President Pence has brought prominent Republicans to the White House to discuss how to win this battle. Trump has already secured an anti-union majority on the Supreme Court and now right-wing billionaires like the oil industry’s Koch brothers and Walmart-owning Walton family are competing to bring right-to-work cases targeting public sector unions before it. Meanwhile Republicans in Congress have already introduced House Resolution 785 that would apply “right-to-work” nationwide in the private sector.[1] The consequences of these “right-to-work” attacks could be so devastating that prominent figures in the labor movement are referring to it as a potentially “extinction-level-event” for unions in this country.[2]
All these attacks are deeply connected.
Trump and the Republicans’ plan to overturn “Obamacare,” combined with their proposed budget, will:
leave an estimated 23 million people without health insurance over the next ten years;[3]
cut $1.4 trillion in funding from Medicaid;[4]
remove many of the forms of care, such as maternity care, that insurers are currently required to include in their plans as “essential coverage;”
allow states to opt out of covering pre-existing conditions and charge more to people they claim have adverse health histories
defund Planned Parenthood, which is many women’s only health care provider;
allow insurers to increase the prices of their plans; and
it will do all this so that the rich can be gifted massive tax cuts.[5]
Waiting until the next elections with the hope of voting for candidates who promise to undo this damage means accepting the suffering and death of untold numbers of working-class and poor people. Mobilizing now to defeat these outrageous attacks is a matter of life and death.
At “town hall” meetings across the country, thousands have vented their outrage at Trump and the Republicans’ plans. No matter how inspiring they have been, however, it’s clear that such scattered protests will not be enough to stop this attack. The White House’s first attempt to pass its healthcare legislation only failed because some Republicans insisted on even more draconian attacks! So the time is now, while the Senate is considering their latest legislation, to take the protests to another level. And our unions are the only mass organizations to which working-class people can turn to make that happen.
If this country’s unions announced a March on Washington to defend healthcare and then seriously organized for it, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, could be expected to rally in support. That could that deal a massive blow to Trump and the Republicans’ plans. It could create momentum to win the long-standing demand of the TWU and most other unions – quality government-provided healthcare for all, as well as embolden the struggle against Trump’s racist attacks. And it could win widespread public support for our unions – support that we will need if we are to have any hope of defeating the coming “right-to-work” attacks.
In TWU Local 100, morning- and evening-shift meetings of the Track Workers’ Division have already voted unanimously in favor of motions for you and Local 100’s Executive Board to urge all this country’s unions and union federations to call such a March on Washington, so the Division’s officers can be expected to bring it before the Executive Board for a vote at its next meeting. Meetings of the Train Operators’ Department similarly declared unanimous support for taking the idea up, with more Department meetings to come. But why wait?
President Samuelsen, you have just become president of the TWU International and so you are perfectly placed to take this initiative forward by publicly calling on all unions, union federations and councils – as well as organizations dedicated to the rights of women, Blacks and Latinos, immigrants and other oppressed people – to join and build a March on Washington to defend healthcare.
We hope you will do the right thing by advancing this call and look forward to receiving your response.
Jonathan Beatrice, NYCT​ ​Conductor,​ ​Shop​ ​Steward​ ​TWU​ ​Local​ ​100,​ ​Democratic​ ​Socialist​s ​of​ ​America*
John Ferretti, NYCT Conductor, Shop Steward TWU Local 100, Revolutionary Transit Worker newsletter
Jason Hicks, NYCT Track Worker, TWU Local 100 member, Democratic Socialists of America*
Eric Josephson, Retired NYCT Track Worker, TWU Local 100 member, League for the Revolutionary Party
Eric Loegel, NYCT Train Operator, Shop Steward TWU Local 100
Seth Rosenberg, NYCT Train Operator, TWU Local 100 member, Revolutionary Transit Worker newsletter
* Organization listed for identification purposes only

1. Michael Paarlberg, With all eyes on Trump, Republicans are planning to break unions for good,” The Guardian, February 2, 2017; Walker’s Wisconsin could be a model for Trump on unions, Chicago Tribune, February 6, 2017.
2. Harold Meyerson, Donald Trump can kill the American union, Washington Post, November 23, 2016.
3. Rob Pear, G.O.P. Health Bill Would Leave 23 Million More Uninsured in a Decade, C.B.O. Says, New York Times, May 24, 2017.
4. Niv Elis, Trump releases budget that slashes government programs, The Hill, May 23, 2017, .
5. Sullivan, What the GOP’s plan to kill essential health benefits means, The Hill, March 23, 2017;
Sarah Kliff, The American Health Care Act: the Obamacare repeal bill the House just passed, explained, The Hill, May 4, 2017; Josh Barro, This chart shows why the GOP health plan will make health insurance more expensive, Business Insider, March 16, 2017; and Michael Hiltzik, All the horrific details of the GOP’s new Obamacare repeal bill: A handy guide, Los Angeles Times, May 4, 2017.

Tags: TWU 100Healthcare March
Categories: Labor News

ATU Local 1235 Transit Workers Take the Driver's Seat in 'Right-to-Work’ Tennessee

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 11:38

ATU Local 1235 Transit Workers Take the Driver's Seat in 'Right-to-Work’ Tennessee
June 23, 2017 / Chris Brooks

By reaching out to workers—and their families—at every opportunity, ATU Local 1235 in Nashville has seen its membership rate jump from 60 to 80 percent. Photo: Patrick Green
At Labor Notes trainings I hear lots of reasons why union members think their co-workers aren’t involved: They don’t understand labor history. They don’t appreciate all the union has done for them. They watch Fox News. They’re scared or apathetic.

I always say, “Remember what inspires people to organize a union in the first place. They join and stay involved when they experience what it means to wield collective power.”

This story takes place in my home state of Tennessee, where Patrick Green started driving a bus in Nashville in 2008. Back then, he says, here’s how negotiations typically went in Transit (ATU) Local 1235: A month before bargaining, officers “would send out a note to the members asking for the top three things they wanted the union to achieve. Then the executive board would never say another word about it.”

When it was time to ratify, members never saw the deal. “We would come in and vote on the agreement without knowing anything about what was in it,” Green said. The union seemed useless, and for a long time he didn’t get involved.

But that changed in the lead-up to 2015 bargaining, when friends who knew he had a management background and experience with negotiations encouraged him to get involved in the contract somehow.

Union leaders weren’t so enthusiastic. “The leadership rejected all of our attempts to help,” said Green. “Out of this frustration with getting involved, my friends said I should run [for president]. I agreed.” Two other members agreed to run with him.


One member had the idea of hosting town hall-style debates among the candidates—something the local had never done before. Held over multiple Saturdays at a Shoney’s restaurant, the debates drew an enthusiastic response. Members showed up with their families to eat breakfast and lob questions.

The incumbent president had run the local for 18 years. Green had no formal union experience—and says he’s an introvert.

But at the town halls, Green and his slate laid out a different vision for the union. In particular, they pledged transparency and member participation in negotiations.

In a field of four candidates, Green swept 65 percent. The others on his slate won as well. And the new leaders jumped right into negotiations, winning some strong gains—starting wages went up by $3 an hour—in a contract that all members got the chance to read before casting their votes.


It’s no wonder that in “right-to-work” Tennessee, Local 1235 is recruiting new members. A year ago, its membership rate was 60 percent. Now it’s 80 percent.

Organizing conversations are a key recruitment tool. Union officers and stewards meet with workers to hear about workplace problems and plan how to fix them. They reach out at every opportunity, including at new-hire orientation, during training, and when they meet to bid for jobs.

The union doesn’t limit these conversations to new hires—or even to members. “Many times it is the spouse that takes the children to the doctor, so we reached out to talk to them about our medical insurance,” Green said. “We even opened it up to non-members.” The local has also worked alongside a worker center to found a Bus Riders Union.

Since Nashville drivers are employed by a private nonprofit, not the city, they have the right to strike. Green is organizing a meeting in September to talk with members and families about financial planning—both for retirement and for a potential strike.

The meeting is part of involving everyone in a plan to win a better contract. “I will be asking our members to put away $20 per pay period into an account to build up for a strike next year,” Green said. “The bank will be on hand to help them open the account for free.”

Most of us, most of our lives, live with decisions made by others. When we take action together, we change that. Suddenly we have a feeling that another world is possible. Those are the moments that create converts—and sustain those already on board. Those are the moments that unions need to multiply.

Chris Brooks

Tags: ATU 1235solidarityRight To Worktransit workers
Categories: Labor News

Spain: Workers Suspend Dockers Strikes as Companies Quit Anesco

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 10:42

Spain: Workers Suspend Dockers Strikes as Companies Quit Anesco

The Spanish stevedoring unions have decided to shelve their strike plans for the rest of this month as a sign of good will.

The move was prompted by a letter from Javier Vidal, president of the Association of Port Stevedoring Companies of Barcelona, who asked for the suspension of strikes after major port companies left the employers’ association Anesco.

Previously, the unions said that a number of major companies did not support Anesco’s approach to resolving the conflict, and that many vowed to guarantee all jobs to keep the social peace, and remain open for negotiations.

According to Vidal, a new document was signed by workers and port companies that left Anesco aimed at restructuring the association.

In addition, the workers are waiting to set a new meeting to formalize the agreements made with majority of companies.

In light of the latest developments, the unions cancelled the strikes planned for June 23, 26 and 27.

The unions had announced a new wave of 48-hour strikes scheduled for 26 and 29 of June and 3 and 6 of July starting at 0800 a.m.

According to the country’s Ministry of Public Works, minimal level of services had been agreed with the unions so the regular lines and passenger traffic were not affected.

The dockworker strikes have had a major impact on the Spanish economy having in mind that the country relies on its ports for 80 percent of its total imports and 57 percent of its total exports.

The new strikes came on the back of a framework agreement proposal submitted by Anesco to the workers.

However, a joint statement from Coordinadora Estatal de Trabajadores del Mar, Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT), Confederacion Intersindical Galega and General Confederation of Labour of Spain, indicated that the proposal did not guarantee job security to all employees and brought nothing new to the table.

Spanish dockworker unions launched a nation-wide strike on June 5, impacting operations across the country’s 39 cargo ports. Strikes were also held from June 14, 0800 hrs till June 16 0800 hrs, and at odd hours on June 19 and 21, resulting in only 50% of workable time.

World Maritime News Staff

Tags: Spanish Dockworkersstrikederegulation
Categories: Labor News

Striking truck drivers slow traffic at LA, Long Beach ports

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 22:53

Striking truck drivers slow traffic at LA, Long Beach ports

Teamster Local 848 picket at Everport Terminal Services, in San Pedro Calif., in the Port of Los Angeles, protesting XPO Logistics and California Cartage that use contract workers rather than employ them as full-time, hourly workers. Monday, June 19, 2017. ( Photo by Stephen Carr / Press - Telegram / SCNG )

By Rachel Uranga, LA Daily News

Teamster Local 848 picket at Everport Terminal Services, in San Pedro Calif., in the Port of Los Angeles, protesting XPO Logistics and California Cartage that use contract workers rather than employ them as full-time, hourly workers. Monday, June 19, 2017. ( Photo by Stephen Carr / Press - Telegram / SCNG )

L.A.’s mammoth hub, the nation’s busiest container port, reported about 60 picketers outside six different container terminals around 10 a.m., causing occasional traffic delays. But officials said operations inside the gates were not delayed.

“Cargo operations are ongoing at all terminals with occasional traffic delays,” said Phil Sanfield, a spokesman for the Port of Los Angeles.

In Long Beach, a handful of protesters were striking outside three terminals. Officials there also said operations continued as usual.

Backed by the International Brotherhood Teamsters and Local 848, representing about 500 port drivers, those on the picket lines are calling for several port trucking companies to end the practice of hiring drivers as independent contractors. The union is pushing for full-time status for the drivers, including overtime and options for medical and other benefits.

Protests targeted Connecticut-based XPO Logisitics Inc. on Monday, but the strike will expand over the coming days to include more drivers at other trucking companies and will last until the end of the week. This marks the 15th strike in the past four years. Those walking the picket line receive some compensation through a union hardship fund.

“XPO and many other trucking companies are violating workers’ rights by refusing to recognizing they are employees,” said Barb Maynard, who has been organizing port truck drivers for four years as part of Teamster campaign. “This means lower wages, they don’t get benefits like social security, worker’s compensation and their boss can evade the laws that protect workers like minimum wage, overtime and health and safety rules.”

Plus she said, “these companies aren’t paying payroll taxes.”

Union officials said since 2011, port truck drivers have filed at least 875 claims with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. In 376 cases, drivers were found to be employees and owed about $40 million in stolen wages and penalties. More than 100 other cases are still pending, while hundreds more appear to be settled out of court or dealt with by a private arbitrator.

Trucking companies defend such practices, saying they allow drivers to choose their schedules and other freedoms.

There about 16,000 port drivers — most are independent contractors.

Last week, a representative from XPO said the arrangement works well for many drivers.

Tags: LA Port Strikeport truckers
Categories: Labor News

Transit Riders Unions vs. Climate Change, White Supremacy, privatization and Disaster Capitalism

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 12:36

Transit Riders Unions vs. Climate Change, White Supremacy, privatization and Disaster Capitalism


JUNE 19, 2017

Over the past few weeks, Portland, Oregon has been catapulted into the national spotlight as the site of clashes between antiracist and antifascist activists, on the one hand, and white supremacist and militia groups like the Prayer Patriots, Oathkeepers and American Freedom Keepers on the other. The right wing militia groups, along with other assorted Trump supporters, descended on the city in the immediate wake of the May 28th deaths of two out of three men who intervened to stop 35-year old Jeremy Joseph Christian, a self-professed white supremacist, from harassing two young Black women, one of them wearing a hijab. The attacks occurred on the city’s light rail or “Max” line on the eve of Ramadan.

Unremarked, however, in national media coverage of the attacks and their aftermath is the fact that the attack came in the midst of a growing debate in Portland about the militarization of public transportation. The attacks, in fact, came within days of a May 24 vote by the board of Trimet—the tri-county agency that manages Portland’s public transit system—to spend $9.9 million dollars to construct a new transit police facility and jail, and an additional $1.6 million to ramp up policing of public transportation.

The standing room only crowd at the May 24 Trimet Board meeting represented a cross section of Portland progressive community. At the center of the organizing work was the people-of-color-led statewide Portland-based NGO OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, and its member organization Bus Riders Unite! (BRU). OPAL and BRU worked to turn out a strong showing for the hearing, which included activists with union, disability rights, fossil fuel/climate justice, immigrant, houseless and renters’ rights activists, and police accountability activists from Black Lives Matter, Don’t Shoot Portland, and Portland Copwatch. Police violence became a particular flashpoint for the hearing, coming as it did on the heels of the police shooting of a 24-year-old Black man named Terrell Johnson. The shooting occurred within two months of a grand jury decision not to pursue charges against the officer who, in February, shot and killed another Black man, 17-year-old Quanice Hayes.

The shooting occurred within two months of a grand jury decision not to pursue charges against the officer who, in February, shot and killed another Black man, 17-year-old Quanice Hayes.

Barely a month earlier, OPAL activists and their allies in Oregon’s Just Transition Alliance also mobilized thousands to turn out for an April 29 march, part of the global People of Color’s Climate March, calling attention to the disproportionate impacts of climate change on frontline communities of color worldwide. On the same day, white supremacists and Trump supporters held a march down 82nd street, in a neighborhood that has increasingly become home to immigrants and people of color, many of whom have been forced out of the city’s urban core by decades of gentrification. As the Reverend Joseph Santos-Lyons, a long time OPAL board member and Executive Director of APANO (the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon) wrote in an op-ed in the Oregonian, “The sight left me with a feeling of deja vu. I was born and raised in Oregon and I had heard these chants before: ‘Go home,’ ‘Get out of our country,’ ‘You do not belong here.’ Only there was a key difference. The white supremacists were more confident, less ashamed. And perhaps for good reason. Their views are amplified nationally.” . Present on the scene at the April 29th march was Jeremy Joseph Christian, who would go on to slash the throats of three men on the city’s light rail, killing 53-year-old Ricky John Best, and 23-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, of Southeast Portland, and severely injuring 21-year-old Micah Fletcher.

With OPAL activists and their allies regrouping from the April 29 marches and mobilizing to turn out activists for the May Trimet board meeting and budget vote, Portland’s Willamette Week newspaper published a front page story headlined “Governor Kate Brown Might Sell Four Agencies to Private Bidders to Keep Oregon Afloat.” Among the state “assets” slated for sale, as a subheading indicated, is “Portland’s light rail system.” A primary impediment to the sale, the article indicated, however, would be “TriMet’s union employees [who], reporter Nigel Jaquis noted, “exert enormous power and would oppose a sale of any TriMet functions.”

Nationwide, state and local governments are facing increasing pressures in the wake of the manufactured debt crisis, to include public transportation among “assets” to be liquidated in corporate fire sales. The Willamette Week story, and the prospect of the Democratic governor selling off state agencies met with a predictably celebratory response in the conservative Weekly Standard, which responded gleefully to the prospect of the governor “burning the [state’s] household furniture to say warm” , and “rechristen[ing] the University of Oregon ‘Nike U.’” The prospect of the privatization of Portland’s light rail system is a barometer of Brown’s willingness to pursue neoliberal austerity measures, and the power that corporations like Nike and Intel exert in a state with one of the lowest corporate income taxes in the country.

The possibility of privatizing light rail ought to send shock waves throughout Portland. The city, after all, is at the forefront of the national battle to divest from fossil fuels and convert to more sustainable forms of energy. Few cities nationwide are better situated, then, to form a united front to push back against this regressive proposal, given the intersectional organizing already at work in a city that has been profoundly shaken by the resurgence of white supremacy and creeping fascism.

Nationwide, transit riders unions represent an important new front in organizing efforts to not only preserve but strengthen and exponentially broaden investment in and access to public transportation. Privatization of light rail would, of course, represent an incremental step toward privatization of public transportation as a whole, not to mention other public services and infrastructure. It would also deal a major blow to the fossil fuel resistance movement, and living wage jobs throughout the region, which is one of the reasons why privatization of public transportation is being modeled and vaunted by the Koch Brother-funded American Legislative Council (ALEC). But as the broad coalition represented in the May 24 hearing reflected, transit riders unions are on the front lines of a transit justice movement that intersects with multiple organizing fronts—including labor, fossil fuel resistance, climate, food and racial justice, police accountability, immigrants rights, disability rights, and health care access.

A 2016 article in Forbes Magazine entitled “Privatizing Public Transit Lowers Costs and Saves Cities Money” represents the erosion of unions and the power of labor as a primary benefit of privatizing public transportation. Privatizing public transportation has the potential to transform local politics and expand corporate power across the board.

The arguments are based in bait and switch tactics; they promise cost savings from eliminating union wage jobs and benefits, which would ostensibly be used to shore up other public institutions, including “local roads, schools and public pension funding.” Quite clearly, however, the elimination of transit unions would substantially erode the power of labor and would mark an important step toward eliminating and draining public pensions.

In Oregon, then, and across the country, proposals to privatize public transportation should be read as part of a broader attack on public pension funds, living wage jobs, climate justice and progressive policies across the board. “The positive effects of privatization would be largest in areas where union power is strongest,” observes Adam Millsap, a fellow with the State and Local Policy Project at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Unions, Millsap notes, “are able to negotiate for wages above the market rate,” while “[p]rivate, competitive firms have an incentive to minimize costs and consequently will be tough negotiators.” By contrast, “public officials tend to acquiesce at the bargaining table since transit unions are a powerful constituency in local politics.” Predictably absent from Millsap’s analysis is any acknowledgment of the role that unions play in negotiating for higher wages across the board. Privatizing public transportation is, then, an important weapon in shifting the balance toward unrestrained corporate power.

Budget strapped cities with strong labor traditions are in the cross hairs of this initiative, which attempts to pit low income transit-dependent riders against bus and light rail drivers. Millsap, for example, identifies transit riders unions such as the New York City’s Riders Alliance as impediments to this broader assault on labor. Campaigns like the Riders Alliance’s “Fair Fares” campaign, Millsap argues, “might be unnecessary if New York City officials lowered costs by privatizing more of the city’s public transit network.” A 2014 article in Labor Notes heralds the importance of bus riders unions, which “make ready allies for willing unions”. New York, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, Orlando, and Pittsburgh are among a growing number of cities nationwide in which transit riders and bus drivers are forming common cause to beat back transit cut backs and attempts to privatize public transportation.

New Orleans, Long Island and San Diego number among major U.S. cities that have privatized at least parts of their public transit systems, and they provide object lessons in the dangers of doing so. In New Orleans, the privatization of public transit was among the many “shocks” administered following Hurricane Katrina that intensified inequality and racialized disparities in income and wealth. In a phone interview, Robert “Tiger” Hammond, President of the Greater New Orleans AFL-CIO, spoke to the impacts of privatization on labor and living wage jobs. “When you privatize a company, they want to cut jobs,” he stated. “They want to cut benefits, such as health insurance, pensions…. We’re still in a fight for our life everyday in this hostile environment.”

For taxpayers, promised cost savings of privatization routinely fail to materialize, while wages and services are both cut. As Hammond notes, the companies that take over are focused on their own profits rather than community interests. They “always have to make money for the shareholders.” An article in California Watch, a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting, , examines the aftermath of the privatization of bus lines in San Diego. The article notes that the cost-savings have been “quite a bit less than advertised,” while bus drivers’ wages have taken a significant hit, with starting wages dipping from “$14 to $10.50 an hour.” In New York, the Long Island Bus Riders’ Union, a project of Long Island Jobs with Justice, emerged in the wake of outsourcing of bus lines to the massive French-based multinational company Veolia Transportation, the same company that now operates the bus lines and rail lines throughout the country.

In 2011, Veolia absorbed Connex Railroad, the contractor that “provide[d] engineers to the commuter line, MetroLink,” in Los Angeles, which was implicated in a 2008 head-on train collision that killed twenty five people and injured 130. The train engineer was reportedly texting at the time of the accident. The accident resulted in a $200 million settlement, “one of costliest rail settlements” in U.S. history.

With buses under operation by Veolia, The Long Island Bus RidersUnion fought back against threatened cuts to “60% of all routes, and weekend and off-peak service cuts equaling nearly 25% cuts on certain routes.” Not surprisingly, the transit union reported that many of the proposed cuts “appear[ed] to be in low income communities where more people rely on buses to get to work and to access the few health care centers that serve their needs.” The Riders Union publication included an interview with Dr. Niev Duffy of the Center for Social Policy and Community Engagement at SUNY Old Westbury. Duffy indicated that it was “’very difficult or impossible to evaluate the full economic consequences of the cuts,’” given “people los[ing] access to employment” and “cuts forc[ing] more people to use emergency rooms for their health care.” Among several health care facilities slated to lose access in the wake of cuts proposed in 2012 were the Nassau County Department of Health, and the Nassau County Department of Social Services.

The Portland-based Trimet’s proposed $12.9 million dollar expenditure, funded largely by a bond measure, was particularly galling to OPAL, BRU and their allies, given OPAL’s campaign to secure passes for the city’s low income riders at the nearly equivalent cost of $12 million. OPAL organizers note, moreover, that the city is in the process of implementing a flashy new electronic fare card system, the “Hop Fastpass,” the total costs of which are estimated at $35.9 million. OPAL/BRU organizers see the expenditure as evidence of the Trimet Board’s insularity from community needs and interests, including those of low income transit-dependent people, who for decades have been pushed to the outskirts of a city that ranks among one of the most rapidly gentrifying cities–with one of the tightest rental markets in the U.S. OPAL organizers emphasize that “fare evasion” may at times be a necessary survival tactic for low income riders whose quest for lower rents increases the cost of their daily commutes, and who may at times be forced to choose between fare evasion and job loss from missed shifts.

The $11.5 million expenditure, OPAL and BRU contend, represents a ramping up of militarized policing. In a phone interview, BRU organizer Orlando Lopez described Trimet’s practice of conducting mass fare checks or “sweeps.” Riders exiting stations at what Trimet describes as “checkpoints” are met with a gauntlet of three to five armed officers, often with police dogs. Transit police officers, Lopez observed, “use sweeps as a dragnet” to look for people with outstanding warrants. According to OPAL, while sweeps are often used at events like concerts and baseball games, they seem to occur most routinely in lower income areas frequented by people of color, including recent immigrants. At the May 24th hearing, OPAL organizers noted reports of individual Trimet police inquiring not only after fare cards, but into riders’ citizenship status as well, though it’s illegal under Oregon law for local law enforcement to do so—in the absence of suspicion of criminal activity–and Trimet officials have expressly stated that such practices deviate from agency policies.

OPAL organizers cite a pattern of racial profiling that informs fare checks and sweeps. Though individuals are ostensibly selected at random for fare checks, Lopez noted, “if you’re white and wearing a suit, they don’t bother to check.” The same pattern, he noted, applies to fare checking on the city’s light rail. A single individual whose fare is being checked, and who “poses no harm to officers,” may, nonetheless, be surrounded by three or four armed transit police. “Typically what we’ve heard from riders and members,” Lopez observed, “is that they target youth, people of color and people who look homeless or low income first to see if they’ve paid their fares.” Racial and economic disparities in fare enforcement, then, may account in part for the fact that, according to a study conducted by Brian C. Renauer with Portland State University’s Criminal Justice Policy Research Institute, African Americans comprise only 7% of Trimet ridership, but they represent 17.7% of individuals cited for fare evasion, and 22.4% of those who are issued 90 day exclusions that are accompanied by charges of “interfering with public transit” or IPT. “Black folks in Portland,” observed Lopez, an organizer with BRU, observed have higher rates of unemployment, and poverty and lower incomes than whites. According to a 2014 Multnomah County equity report, at 15.9%, unemployment rates for African Americans are nearly double those of whites (8%). “So when [Black riders] are punished, they’re punished for living in poverty,” observed Lopez.

Until this past week, IPTs, as they’re called, qualified as Class A misdemeanors equivalent to DUIs. On June 12, the Oregon legislature voted to reduce them to a Class C misdemeanor.

While IPTs are issued for a variety of offenses from harassing riders and drivers to fare evasion, the latter accounts for 90% of IPTs issued by Trimet police. IPTs for fare evasion result in criminalization and, notes Lopez “set them back financially.” According to Portland’s Street Roots newspaper, the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission determined that, between 2010 and 2014,“in Multnomah County the average jail sentence for an IPT conviction was 15 days at a cost of $2,520 per inmate.”

And while no evidence exists to date of undocumented people being detained or deported by ICE for fare evasion, both locally and nationally, undocumented people with even decades old DUIs are now facing detention and deportation. In January, district attorneys in the counties served by Trimet announced that “their offices will no longer prosecute TriMet fare evasions or exclusions.” . “We’ve been trying to push for the complete removal of IPTs,” noted Lopez, but to date, Trimet continues to issue them. The privatization of light rail might, moreover, erode the progress that OPAL and BRU have helped forge around the issue.

In the days following the nationally publicized murders on the city’s light rail, many in Portland seemed eager to endorse Trimet’s plan for ramped up policing. Lost on some, it seems, was the fact that it was “civilians,” rather than police, who intervened to defend the passengers against Christian’s verbal assault, and who initially chased Christian, still holding his bloody knife, from the scene of the attack. On social media, however, many honed in on the disparities in police treatment of African American Terrell Johnson and the white supremacist. Johnson had reportedly been threatening passengers at a light rail station, but when police approached him, he ran. When Johnson reportedly brandished box cutter or “utility knife” at officers, he was shot– multiple times in the back– and died at the scene. Christian, who reportedly threw his nearly four inch long bloody knife at a moving squad car, was allowed to finish his beer before he was taken safely into custody.

Police conduct during the subsequent showdown on June 4 between progressive, anti-racist and anti-fascist activists on the one hand, and Trump supporters and white supremacists on the other, raised troubling questions for many about the intersections of militarized policing and white supremacy. Police in full riot gear trained their weapons throughout the day exclusively on progressive and anti-fascist activists, and before the day was over, the PPB, with a complement of interagency support, including “Homeland Security,” hit activists with stun—or “flashbang”–grenades, chemical agents and rubber bullets. Homeland Security agents, meanwhile, were caught on tape enlisting the aid of a member of the American Freedom Keepers, a right wing militia group, in pinning and cuffing an antiracist protester. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is reportedly investigating the incident.

The possibility of white supremacist sympathizers within the ranks of the PPB itself, however, would hardly came as news to many in the city. A captain in the PPB was disciplined in 2010 for reportedly erecting a shrine in a local park in homage to five dead Nazi soldiers., and in 2014, then Mayor Charlie Hales signed off an agreementexpunging records of the disciplinary action.

On June 6, Mat Dos Santos, Legal Director of the Oregon ACLU, issued a statement calling the June 4 showdown a “trial for the first amendment and policing” in Portland. Dos Santos took pains to notethat “no other police force in America uses crowd control weapons with the regularity of the Portland Police Bureau…. these ‘less lethal’ weapons are dangerous and indiscriminate.” . Collectively, incidents of the last few weeks have gone a long way toward undermining Portland’s “progressive” reputation. For many longtime Portlander’s the recent events are a grim reminder not only of Oregon’s roots as a “white only state,” but also of the visibility that white supremacists assumed in Portland as recently as the 1980s, that culminated in the 1988 murder of Ethiopian student Mulugeta Seraw, who was beaten to death by baseball bat wielding members of the White Aryan Resistance or WAR. A $12.5 million legal settlement by the Southern Poverty Law Center against WAR leader Tom Metzger played a significant role in breaking the regional power of WAR and curtailing white supremacist organizing in the Pacific Northwest for nearly two decades.

As the city continues to be hit on an almost daily basis with white supremacist threats—from racist leaflets to bomb scares—and Portland activists regroup and strategize ways of contending with the shifting political landscape, Trimet might be a particularly strategic focus for activist energy. At an April breakfast meeting hosted by Portland Business Alliance with sponsorship from Portland General Electric, reported on by Willamette Week, Mayor Ted Wheeler “announced his interest in welcoming driverless cars to Portland by the end of the year.” “’My goal is to have an autonomous vehicle pilot program in Portland, working for Portlanders, by the end of the year….To the inventors, investors and innovators, I’m here to say that Portland is open for business.’” While the development of a fleet of autonomous vehicles may serve as a boon to Portland General Electric, it also sends an ominous signal about the future of public transportation and evokes comparisons to San Francisco. In the latter city, Google’s high tech workers are shepherded to work and back in privately owned buses that not only insulate them from the realities of economically embattled service workers and but give them little reason to want to invest in public transportation.

If Wheeler hoped to lend credence to PGE’s claim to serve as the forefront of Portland’s clean energy movement, in May, regional fossil fuel resistance activists turned out in droves to speak out against PGE’s plan to build a new natural gas plant to replace an existing coal-fired plant. At the meeting, activists “raised the specter of methane leaks from [fracked] gas, unhealthy pollution from gas-plant operations, [and] uncontrolled global warming.” On June 1, the same day the Trump administration announced plans to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, Portland’s city council passed the latest in a series of resolutions affirming its commitment to a fossil fuel future. It voted to power “100 percent of community-wide energy needs with renewable energy by 2050.”

In the coming years, however, Portland’s struggle for a livable, white supremacist-free future may increasingly center on the fate of the city’s public transportation system. Around the country and around the world, the preservation and expansion of public transportation may prove a critical variable in the struggle for a “livable future.” Both nationally and globally, the stakes for frontline communities of color in the crosshairs of both climate change and disaster capitalism couldn’t be higher.

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More articles by:DESIREE HELLEGERS
Desiree Hellegers is a co-founder and affiliated faculty of the Collective for Social and Environmental Justice at Washington State University Vancouver, and author of No Room of Her Own of Her Own: Women’s Stories of Homelessness, Life, Death and Resistance (Palgrave, 2011).

Tags: privatizationrepressionracism
Categories: Labor News

UBER Destroying Public Transit As Capitalist Politicians Refuse to Regulate And Control “Disrupters” Deregulation Gone Wild

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 08:01

UBER Destroying Public Transit As Capitalist Politicians Refuse to Regulate And Control “Disrupters” Deregulation Gone Wild
Is the Uber phenomenon killing transit in Sacramento?
The opening of the Golden 1 Center downtown last fall was billed as a rare opportunity for Sacramento Regional Transit to attract new riders. The agency stepped up its game, scrubbing trains, bolstering security and improving customer service.

By many accounts, it made a good impression. Yet new numbers show SacRT ridership on buses and trains has dropped 12 percent since last summer.

What happened?

The answer is simple. The transit agency’s ongoing challenges are bigger than an arena, and will require more work to address than an image upgrade.

While light rail trains did carry 1,700 fans on some arena nights, that amounts to only a small slice – about 2 percent – of daily transit travel, and those riders materialize only when the arena is hosting major events.

SacRT has been losing ridership almost annually for seven years – a 30 percent decline since 2010. American Public Transit Association data show that transit ridership is dwindling in most other cities as well.

Dan Sperling, founder and head of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis, who is writing a book about revolutions in transportation, says public transit in America is at a pivotal juncture.

“The story is of transit under great duress,” he said. “Transit is under great risk of shrinking. That is not in anyone’s interest.”

Nationally, transit experts point to many factors, including low gas prices that cause more people to get back in their cars. Others point out that poorly funded transit agencies, SacRT included, don’t provide sufficient service to be useful to many.

The most provocative possibility is what transit officials call the “Uber phenomenon.” App-based ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft have arrived on the scene in cities across the country, siphoning riders from traditional, or “legacy,” transit.

Ride-hailing companies do not release ridership details, but an Uber spokesman told The Sacramento Bee earlier this year his company has 2,000 drivers signed up in Sacramento. The streets around Golden 1 Center during event nights tell a story. Cars with U stickers or pink mustache stickers on windows frequently roll through the area, picking up and dropping off fans.

Ride-hailing allows people to hit a button on their cellphone and be picked up within minutes right where they stand, and then be dropped off directly at their destination. The price is typically higher than a bus fare, but the convenience improvement is obvious.

Jim Corless, head of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments regional planning group, says transportation is dealing with a generational disruption.
Sacramento streetcar project effort scores key local funding
“This disruption technology and the drop in ridership numbers means that every transit provider across the country has to rethink their business model,” he said. “They have to understand their competitive advantage.

“It may be what RT can do best is serve high-frequency, high-volume corridors. Nothing will ever beat a frequent, safe and reliable bus or train ... that can move volumes of people.”

While the ride-hailing phenomenon represents a challenge, transit experts say it also provides an inspiration and potential collaboration opportunities.

SacRT has been putting its toe in those waters. The agency teamed up on a test basis with Uber, Lyft and Yellow Cab this winter, offering discount vouchers for light rail riders to take ride-hail services to and from transit stations. Regional Transit officials say they do not have data yet for how that turned out.

Lyft spokeswoman Darcy Nenni also did not offer an analysis of how that went, but, in an email to The Bee, called it “a great learning experience for us and SacRT.”

“We hope to continue working with them on future endeavors,” Nenni said.

Devra Selenis, SacRT communications head, said she envisions a day when a single phone app will tell a person their best bet is to grab an Uber to a light rail station and allow the person to pay for both with a single tap on the phone.

Transit agencies say they realize they must become more tech-friendly in order to attract millennials and future generations of new riders.

SacRT recently added smartphone payment apps, and last week joined eight smaller local transit agencies in introducing “Connect Card,” an ATM-like universal card that riders can use at any of those agencies. Peter Tateishi, president of the Sacramento Metro Chamber, suggests transit agencies might be even bolder by considering merging more of their operations.

But transit officials acknowledge their challenges go far beyond Uber. SacRT’s existing bus route system is out of date. The agency has launched a bus route analysis that likely will result next year in the most dramatic route changes in the agency’s history.

“Travel patterns have shifted, but our bus routes haven’t shifted,” chief operating officer Mark Lonergan said. “That is why we talk about a clean slate.”

SacRT has begun meeting with business leaders on how to attract and retain young people who are less inclined to own cars, and are interested in using transit if it works for them, according to SacRT consultant Wendy Hoyt, who has been pushing SacRT to be more entrepreneurial.

The Metro Edge business group, made up of young professionals, conducted a survey that shows transportation issues are members’ No. 1 concern, up from No. 3 the previous year. That suggests there is an opportunity for SacRT to gain some footing.

Rachel Zillner, Metro Edge chair, uses light rail at times. She said she loves Uber, but considers the ride-hailing service “partially a Band-Aid for the transit connection that is not there yet.”

SacRT officials say the ridership slide is a catalyst for reinvention. The biggest drop in its ridership came in 2010, when the financially strapped agency cut service more than 20 percent. The agency took another ridership hit last year when it raised fares.

That points to another long-standing problem: the lack of sufficient, ongoing funding for public transit, SacRT officials said.

The agency had hoped to get an infusion of money last year from a countywide sales tax measure, but that proposal lost at the ballot box. SacRT and others in transportation circles locally are talking about trying again, especially if they can pass legislation to lower the required voter approval threshold from the current two-thirds.

Nailah Pope-Harden of the Capital Region Organizing Project, which works in disadvantaged neighborhoods, said that a lot of the riders SacRT lost over the last few years are poorer people who feel abandoned by the agency as it focuses on attracting millennials.

Agency officials say they realize their mission includes serving people who don’t have cars, but say they need new, higher-income riders to help fund service that can be used by everyone.

Even with new funds, progress will be incremental, they say.

“It may take some time for people to come back,” said SacRT executive Laura Ham. “It may happen gradually.”

Tags: UberderegulationDisrupterstechnology
Categories: Labor News

BHP Billiton Joins the Push for Autonomous Vessels

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 21:04

BHP Billiton Joins the Push for Autonomous Vessels

Conceptual autonomous ship (illustration courtesy Rolls-Royce)
By MarEx 2017-06-07 19:58:31

Mining company BHP Billiton has thrown its considerable weight behind the concept of autonomous vessels. The firm ships 250 million tonnes of ore on 1,500 voyages per year, making it among the largest dry bulk charters in the world, and it believes that it could significantly improve the bottom line by switching to self-navigating ships. It is easily the largest charterer to date to endorse the concept of vessel autonomy.

"Safe and efficient autonomous vessels carrying BHP cargo, powered by BHP gas, is our vision for the future of dry bulk shipping. We believe that future could manifest within a decade," says vice president of freight Rashpal Bhatti.

The move would mirror BHP's increasingly automated operations on land. The firm already works with driverless trucks at its mines in Australia, reducing overhead and removing human drivers from a potentially hazardous environment. (Competitor Rio Tinto was an early and enthusiastic adopter of these self-driving trucks, and it is also adopting self-driving trains and drilling rigs.) These innovations save labor costs, but they also reduce uncertainty: with increasingly automated operations, miners have fewer concerns about future labor availability and wage levels for their shoreside operations.

Charterers can vote with their contracts

In a keynote address at the Nor-Shipping 2017 conference last week, Bhatti also emphasized shipping's role in reducing CO2 emissions; the promise of new data analytics tools to benchmark vessel performance and facilitate cost-effective chartering decisions; and most of all, the importance of ship operator vetting to improve safety standards. "Due to our size, the decisions BHP makes around the vessels we choose to charter are important symbols for motivating change," he says.

Recalling the Stellar Daisy disaster, Bhatti placed special emphasis on safety: he says that his firm’s goal is to bring dry bulk's standards up to and beyond the benchmark set by the tanker industry. To push operators to improve, the firm only allows shipowners with top environmental and safety records to participate in its eAuction online chartering platform: low day rates are no longer enough.

Tags: Automationautonomous vessels
Categories: Labor News

Spanish Dockworkers Strike in Defense of Jobs & Dockworkers: the “can do” of the working class

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 20:59

Spanish Dockworkers Strike in Defense of Jobs & Dockworkers: the “can do” of the working class
Spanish Dockworkers Strike in Defense of Jobs
On June 5, Spanish dockworkers began the first of a series of strikes that will see eight days of strike action over three weeks. These strikes have been called in response to the conservative government’s new Royal Decree Law that targets the country’s port labor system, and the stevedoring companies’ refusal to protect the jobs of 6,150 currently employed dockers.
Sean Robertson
June 10, 2017

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The jobs of over six thousand Spanish dockers are now in jeopardy. The conservative Partido Popular (People’s Party) government has succeeded in getting its new Royal Decree Law, which targets the country’s port labor system, approved by the Spanish parliament. This legal victory has given stevedoring companies the upper hand in their efforts to liberalize the port labor system. All this has left Spanish dockers with little option but to take strike action in order to defend their jobs.

Spanish dockworkers’ unions struck on June 5, 7 and 9. These strikes follow a traditional pattern on the Spanish docks, where strikes take place on Monday, Wednesday and Friday on alternating hours across a 24-hour period, that is, one hour working, then one hour where work stops and so on. Next week will see a 48-hour strike from June 14 to 16. The strikes on June 19, 21 and 23 will follow the same hour on / hour off pattern as those in the first week.

Over the last few months, Spanish dockers’ unions have repeatedly announced numerous planned strikes, only to call them off in a show of “good faith” to parliamentary legislators and company negotiators. However, both the conservative government’s definitive legal victory and the port employers’ pigheadedness would suggest that this tactic has run its course.

Conservative legal victory

After much difficulty, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his conservative Partido Popular government have succeeded in getting their anti-docker Royal Decree Law approved in the Spanish parliament.

The government’s first attempt to have these laws approved was blocked by the Spanish Congress of Deputies on March 16. Threats by dockers’ unions to exercise their industrial muscle saw parliament reject the original decree law by 175 votes against, 142 in favor and 33 abstentions.

For more on this, see: “Dockworkers: the “can do” of the working class”.

Nevertheless, the tables were turned just two months later. On May 18, a modified version of the government’s legislation was approved by 174 votes in favor to 165 against with eight abstentions. The center-right parties of Ciudadanos (Citizens), the Basque Nationalist Party and the Catalan European Democratic Party who had previously either abstained or voted against now sided with the government.

For the conservative Partido Popular administration, this parliamentary victory means two things. Not only does it bring to an end the continually accruing fines that the EU has imposed on the Spanish government but more importantly, it guarantees the phasing out of the current hiring hall-style labor system which Spanish dockers have worked under for decades.

Under the current system, all dockworkers belong to the Port Stevedores Management Company, known by its Spanish acronym SAGEP, similar to the hiring halls of longshore workers in the United States. The European Court of Justice has ruled that this system does not abide by EU regulations, and in July 2016 fined the Spanish government 15.6 million euro plus additional daily fines of 134,000 euro for every day that the system remained in place. The government’s May 18 decree law meets EU requirements and brings the accumulating EU-imposed fines, now almost 25 million Euro to an end.

For more on the SAGEP system and the ECJ rulings see: “Over Six Thousand Spanish Dockworkers’ Jobs Face the Axe”.

Iñigo de la Serna, the Minister of Public Works and Transport behind the decree law claims that it “guarantees employment for dockworkers”. Yet in the next breath he stresses that the “European Commission does not allow” for “subrogación,” agreements that guarantee all existing dockworkers’ jobs and working conditions, which is the central demand of the dockworkers’ unions. Dockworkers’ unions argue that these new laws go much further than was needed to comply with the EU requirements and now pose a dire threat to the jobs of 6,150 currently employed dockers.

Royal Decree Law

The Partido Popular’s new Royal Decree Law all but guarantees the extinction of the SAGEP port labor system. After a three year transitional period ending in May 2020, SAGEPs will lose their previous monopoly on the supply of port labor; stevedoring companies will no longer be legally obliged to take part in them; and individual SAGEPs will have to seek legal authorization to continue operating. Port employers will also be able to undertake direct company employment and hire labor from other sources if they so wish.

These laws do however allow for the creation of Port Employment Centers or CPE in Spanish, which could potentially play the same role as SAGEPs. But there will be no legal obligation for stevedoring companies to belong to them, and like SAGEPs in three year’s time, CPEs will also have to seek legal authorization before being established. Every existing SAGEP and CPE in three year’s time will also fall under the provisions that regulate temporary employment agencies. While these allow for fixed contract and indefinite employment, they also open the door to sweeping casualization across the industry.

These new laws also commit 120 million euros to the funding of an early retirement scheme. Dockers within five years of the legal retirement age (currently at 65) will be eligible to receive monthly payments of 70 percent of the average earned over the previous six months, which will increase in line with rises in state pensions and end once dockers hit the legal retirement age and are eligible for regular state pensions.

One of the few positives in the new laws is that they allow for either a state-sponsored accord or collective bargaining agreement to provide for subrogación, the rollover of all existing jobs and conditions.

Negotiations break down

Just days after the new decree laws were adopted, representatives of the stevedoring companies and dockers’ unions met on May 22 and drew up an in principle agreement. The port employers’ organization ANESCO (National Association of Stevedoring Companies and Ship Consignees) agreed to a guarantee of all existing jobs. In return, dockers’ unions agreed to a ten percent reduction in gross monthly salaries to 2,230 euros and further negotiations on shift changes and work organization in order to increase productivity. Unions have previously offered to accept a six percent pay cut just a week after the Royal Decree Law was first rejected back in March.

However, negotiations broke down at the next meeting on June 1. According to the dockers’ unions, the employers were now “giving contradictory signals with regards to the future of jobs in the sector” and proposing separate port-by-port negotiations instead of a national agreement.

It was after this breakdown in negotiations that dockers’ unions confirmed that the previously called strikes for June 5, 7 and 9 would go ahead, and further strike action on June 14-16, 19, 21 and 23 would also take place.

Solidarity with the Spanish dockworkers

Leaders of the different dockworkers’ unions (CETM, UGT, CC.OO, CIG and CGT)* have made it clear that their primary objectives are maintaining all current dockworker jobs, getting all port employers into the Port Employment Centers and converting these into a SAGEP-style system.

Spanish dockers’ unions certainly have plenty of industrial leverage with which to win these demands. As outlined previously in Left Voice, Spanish ports are a strategic sector of the Spanish economy, with over half of all Spain’s exports and nearly 80 percent its imports moving through them.

Along with their own industrial leverage, Spanish dockworkers will also need practical international solidarity from other dockworkers, especially their European and North African counterparts. Already dockers’ unions in Portugal, France and Italy have refused to handle any cargo diverted from Spain.

But the best chance of victory will arise with a fighting movement that unites Spanish dockers with all those currently struggling against Mariano Rajoy and his conservative government. For instance, Spanish taxi drivers have just held their own strikes along with a 20,000-strong demonstration on May 30, while campaigners for public education held a sector-wide strike on March 9 and demonstrations as recently as June 6. A movement that unites these forces not only has a better chance of victory, but it also has the potential to topple the minority conservative government.

More immediately, Spanish dockers need to take into account the disturbing signs coming from their own union leaders. For one, there is the tactic of repeatedly announcing and then calling off strikes over the last three months. After not having called one day of strike action since 2006, such a repeated on again, off again approach can only have a corrosive effect of dockers’ morale. Even more worrying is the willingness of Spanish dock union leaders to offer up pay cuts – first six percent and now ten percent - in exchange for a guarantee on jobs. “Watch your leaders”, the catch cry first popularized by British Communists in the early 1920s, appears to be just as applicable today as it was almost one hundred years ago.

For months now Spanish dockers have been chanting ¡Ni un paso atrás! (Not one step back!). In order to make this slogan a reality, Spanish dockers will need to use their potential to paralyze the Spanish economy and enlist the support of other Spanish workers and dockworkers from neighboring countries. They will also need to keep an eye on union leaders who have shown themselves too willing to concede unwarranted concessions to the port employers.

* CETM / La Coordinadora – Coordinadora Estatal de Trabajadores del Mar (State-wide Coordinating Committee of Maritime Workers), the main dockworkers’ union covering 80 percent of Spanish dockers.
UGT - Unión General de Trabajadores (General Workers’ Union), aligned with the Spanish Socialist Party, the PSOE).
CC. OO. - Comisiones Obreras (Workers’ Commissions), historically linked to the Communist Party of Spain, the PCE.
CIG - Confederación Intersindical Galega (Galician Inter-union Federation), a radical nationalist union federation
CGT - Confederación General del Trabajo (General Confederation of Labour), anarcho-syndicalist.

Dockworkers: the “can do” of the working class
What can the victory of the Spanish dockworkers teach us? That class struggle is the way to twist the arm of the government, the European Union (EU) and the way to make the capitalists pay for the crisis.
Santiago Lupe
April 11, 2017

Left Voice’s second issue, "Women on the Front Lines", is now available to purchase. For every magazine sold, we will donate a dollar to a worker controlled factory in Argentina.

Editor’s note - March 16 saw the Spanish parliament vote against the Royal Decree Law that sought to scrap the country’s port labor system. The decree put forward by the conservative Partido Popular (PP - People’s Party) government was voted down - 175 votes against, 142 in favor and 33 abstentions. Crucially, 32 of these abstentions came from the center-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) party that helps to prop up the minority Partido Popular government. This vote is the first time in nearly four decades that a royal decree has been rejected by the Spanish parliament.

The simple threat of a strike was enough to ensure the overturning of the anti-worker Royal Decree Law drawn up by conservative leader Mariano Rajoy. The “no” vote was not just a blow for the current Partido Popular government but also for the EU Court of Justice and its threat of sanctions.

One of the most concentrated, unionized and coordinated sectors of the labor movement has flexed its “muscle”, which this time round was enough to stop the parties of the post-Franco regime from voting for the “national interest” as they have done in the past. The threat of a strike was not only to have economical consequences - an estimated potential loss of 50 million Euros a day - but also political consequences. The flexing of this political “muscle” raised the specter of a big labor dispute taking center stage in Spain, one that could potentially recreate the solidarity and militancy of the Spanish coal miners’ dispute of 2012 and direct this at all those who voted “yes”. This is a scenario that the social-democratic Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE - Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) fears as it enters its worst crisis in recent history.

If anything, what this demonstrates is that - despite all the skepticism about social mobilization and all the illusions in “storming heaven” through institutional means – determined class struggle is the way to defeat a government and the European institutions which shield its anti-labor policies. But not only that, it is also the way to open up the opportunity to bring the “democracy of the IBEX35” (the Spanish stock exchange) to an end and impose a program that makes the capitalists pay for the crisis.

As the media have pointed out, parliament’s rejection of the Royal Decree Law is historic. It has only happened twice since 1979, and one of these was by accident. Not only that, but among the “no” voters were key social-democratic PSOE deputies. These deputies belong to the same “socialist” party that, under pressure from the European Union (EU) and the financial markets, amended Article 135 of the Spanish Constitution in 2011 to ensure budget stability; that introduced a series of austerity measures in 2010 at the behest of the ‘Troika’ of the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund; that implemented the industrial reconversion process in the 1980s that closed down and sold off much of the country’s state-owned enterprises at the EU’s request ... if anyone knows anything about offloading economic crisis onto the strategic sectors of the labor movement, it is the “socialists” of the PSOE. Nevertheless, the dockworkers have taken advantage of the current crisis affecting this political pillar of the regime and shown that they could twist its arm and force it to vote “no”.

There is no doubt that the attacks on the dockworkers are far from over. Now the “cavalry” will come from the EU capital of Brussels; the media campaign against these so-called “privileged workers” will start again ... and the last word has not been spoken. Nevertheless, there are some interesting lessons that can be drawn from this first victory that go well beyond just the dockworkers.

Since 2014 we have seen the imposition of a new “common sense”, one that has been fueled by the rise of the neo-reformism of political parties such as Podemos (We Can), one that suggests that social mobilization is incapable of finishing off a rotten regime and the policies it uses to unload the crisis onto the majority of the population. This new “common sense” suggests that the key is to take the movement off the streets and into the electoral arena. Through these electoral projects, these forces would fight for social, political and economic reform with the idea of taking hold of government institutions and using them to make social change.

After nearly three years, the growth of various parliamentary groups for “change”, beginning with the 71 Congress deputies of Unidos Podemos (United We Can) and its allies*, has seen these forces take hold of a number of important municipalities and legislative bodies. However, their political practice is very different from what has been promised. In the municipalities of “change”, government debt is paid religiously, demands such as remunicipalización (taking previously privatized entities back into public hands) are abandoned and either their minority status or the existing legal framework is used to justify their refusal to take effective measures to end unemployment, evictions or energy poverty. In the Congress and the regional parliaments, they allow themselves to make very left-wing speeches and come out in support of existing mobilizations such as those of the dockworkers, but they do not propose one single measure of struggle or organization that would help to implement concrete measures against major social problems.

The dockworkers have shown us that just flexing their “muscle”, without even having to put their fighting ability into action has, to date, managed to overcome both the problem of the parliamentary majority - 268 of the 350 deputies are from neoliberal formations that have turned obedience to the EU into a dogma - and the threats from Brussels. It has not been the threat of strike action alone that has achieved this, for the division among the employers and especially the conditions of open crisis in the regime and its political agents have undoubtedly played a role. But this critical situation is not an exceptional one, for it has in fact been the norm since 2011. What dockworkers have demonstrated is that there is another way to occupy the electoral space.

You have to wonder about what we could achieve if the reformist left, which speaks of “change” and even of “returning to the streets”, started demanding that trade union leaders end their criminal policies of compromise and social peace? What could we impose on the parties of the regime if the reformist left took advantage of their positions and called for the organization and mobilization of workers, young people and women?

Examples arise by the dozen. The municipalities of “change” say that they cannot take privatized firms back into public hands because they are in a minority, or that if they generate quality public employment, then Partido Popular Finance Minister Cristóbal Montoro will audit them. Both things are as true as the fact that the EU Court of Justice will sanction the Spanish government if Rajoy cannot get his ‘reforms’ to the port labor system approved. Then what should be done? Resign yourself as local mayors for change such as Manuela Carmena (Madrid), Ada Colau (Barcelona), Pedro Santiesteve (Zaragoza) and José María “Kichi” González (Cádiz) have done? Or, on the contrary, prepare a great movement that fights to impose its demands on the politicians that serve big business and their courts, just like the dockworkers have done?

The same can be said of the parliamentary work of Podemos. As Pablo Iglesias himself says, in the Courts you can draw up little more than proposals that do not become law. But why is it that in over one year as a deputy, he has not called for a mobilization, or an assembly, or demanded that the union bureaucracy moves a finger ... for an increase in the official minimum wage, for the repeal of various labor ‘reforms’ or the nationalization of the criminal energy sector?

The dockworkers have shown us what they think of the new “common sense”, fueled as it is by the reformism of “change” that tells us that we cannot aspire – “because it is one thing to form government and another to have power”, “because I am only going to promise what I can get, in agreement with the PSOE and existing legality”. This “common sense” can be quickly surpassed once the road of social mobilization is returned to, with workers on the front foot and consistently defending the only realistic program to solve the great social problems: one that directly affects the profits and interests of the capitalists.

The most important conclusion that those moved by the victory of the dockworkers can draw is that the whole working class “has to do it like them. Our class has to learn how to flex its “muscle” and set it in motion a massive movement of workers together with young people, women and immigrants... in order to end unemployment by imposing the distribution of working hours with no reduction in wages, at the expense of the record profits being made by large corporations; by demanding the nationalization of banking and large strategic companies such as electricity providers under workers’ control; by refusing to pay all government debt; and by taxing large fortunes in order to guarantee good education, universal health and public services, among other urgent and fundamental measures.

The dockers’ victory is a victory for the whole working class against the precariousness of work. It is necessary to use this victory as a launching pad. They are going to keep attacking the dockworkers in order to try to break them, so for that reason we need to close ranks and surround them with our solidarity. At the same time, we must demand that if the trade union bureaucracy and the ‘neo-reformists’ want their declarations in favor of the unemployed, the precariously employed and other workers to have some credibility, they must call assemblies in every workplace for the organizing of a real plan of struggle that imposes a working-class solution to the crisis.

Translation: Sean Robertson

This is a translation of an article which first appeared at the Spanish Izquierda Diario website

* Unidos Podemos (United We Can) is the left-wing coalition that contested the 2016 Spanish general election. It consists of Podemos (We Can); Izquierda Unida (United Left) which has the Communist Party of Spain at its core; the Green Party “Equo” and other smaller, mainly regional parties. In various regions, it ran under different names, such as En Comú Podem (In Common We Can) in Catalonia and En Marea (En Masse) in Galicia.

Tags: Spanish Dockworkers Strikeunion bustingderegulation
Categories: Labor News

Chicago CTA ATU 241 Bus Drivers Health and Safety Threatened-CTA Bosses Put Drivers In Danger

Sat, 06/17/2017 - 10:45

Chicago CTA ATU 241 Bus Drivers Health and Safety Threatened-CTA Bosses Put Drivers In Danger

Easy Targets: CTA bus drivers fend off spit, guns and frozen chickens

They have to keep their eyes peeled on the road ahead but an I-Team investigation of CTA incidents has found some bus drivers have an ongoing fear from the rear. (WLS)
By Chuck Goudie and Barb Markoff
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
CHICAGO (WLS) -- They have to keep their eyes peeled on the road ahead but an I-Team investigation of CTA incidents has found some bus drivers have an ongoing fear from the rear: unruly, violent passengers.

CTA passengers sometimes post video of violent bus events on social media.

Records we obtained show the stats: Chicago Transit Authority bus drivers who have needed medical attention in recent years after being attacked by bawdy passengers.

RAW DATA: CTA numbers behind the story from I-Team's Freedom of Information filing

Watch our main video report above, revealing the weapons of choice for raucous riders that seem to be whatever is handy: wads of spit, eggs, hot drinks or even frozen chicken that can become missiles when pitched at drivers.

Darryl Payne (left) and Kendall Henderson, both 19, were among those who were charged with attacking a CTA bus driver, in 2014.

CTA bus drivers describe some of the harrowing experiences they have had behind the wheel.

While passenger spit is the most cited attack method, there are also reported attacks on drivers with bona fide weapons including stun guns and firearms.

CTA officials say violence against drivers has been reduced by employee training, on-board panic buttons, security cameras and prosecutions of violent offenders.

The CTA control center where officials monitor calls for help from bus drivers in distress.

The transit agency maintains that attacks on drivers are rare.

Crimes against employees are down the past five years according to CTA spokesperson Tammy Chase who credits the transit agency's new communication system.

CTA bus drivers say they need more protection. A transit union official says drivers "have been trained to just stay in the seat and accept the abuse."

For more information about the Chicago Transit authority, visit

For more information about the Amalgamated Transit Union, visit

Tags: CTAATU 241bus drivershealth and safetyworkers safety
Categories: Labor News

BA UNITE cabin crew call two-week strike in July over pay dispute

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 13:43

BA UNITE cabin crew call two-week strike in July over pay dispute

Up to 2,000 staff will take industrial action after pay deal collapses over reprisals for staff who went on strike earlier in the year
Striking British Airways cabin crew demonstrate outside Glasgow airport in January
Striking British Airways cabin crew at Glasgow airport in January. Staff who took action earlier in the year were set to lose bonuses and travel perks in the new pay deal. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Gwyn TophamTransport correspondent
Friday 16 June 2017 09.51 EDT
Cabin crew at British Airways are to strike for two weeks in July, in the longest walkout to date in an increasingly bitter dispute over pay.

Up to 2,000 members of BA’s mixed fleet, which employs mainly younger, recent recruits on inferior terms and conditions to most crew, will take renewed action after a pay deal foundered over reprisals for staff who went on strike.Members of the Unite union rejected a deal that included bonuses and travel perks being withheld from crew who had taken action earlier in the year.

Unite said they had called the action, which runs from 1 to 16 July, after the airline refused to accept the union’s final compromise position on the sanctioning of striking cabin crew.

The union said it would also “vigorously pursue” legal action against BA on behalf of 1,400 cabin crew who face sanctions. Unite accused BA of having formed a blacklist of striking crew.

A planned four-day strike that was due to start on Friday was suspended last week in an attempt to resolve the dispute through talks.

However, talks at the conciliation service Acas earlier this week failed to progress.

Unite’s assistant general secretary, Howard Beckett, said: “The refusal by British Airways bosses to meaningfully consider our compromise offer is deeply disappointing.

“A resolution to this long-running dispute was within the grasp of BA, but instead of grabbing that opportunity, bosses rebuffed it.

“Unite believes the divisive way British Airways has targeted striking members of cabin crew is unlawful and amounts to blacklisting.”


“The airline should be under no illusion of Unite’s intent to pursue justice on behalf of its members all the way to the highest court in the land.”

Willie Walsh, the chief executive of BA’s parent company, IAG, told the Guardian before the strike announcement that the latest offer had been “a fair negotiation in the circumstances”.

He said: “The pay negotiations were complete, you reach an agreement, it gets rejected – I don’t think you can criticise us for that. It was a deal acceptable to the Unite union officials, they said they would recommend it. I’m happy that we reward our people in an appropriate way.”

A BA spokeswoman said: “As for previous periods when Unite called strikes of Mixed Fleet cabin crew, we will fly all our customers to their destinations.

“This proposed strike action is extreme and completely unnecessary. We had reached a deal on pay, which Unite agreed was acceptable. Unite has already confirmed it is pursuing the non-pay issues in this dispute through the courts.

“We urge Unite to let its members vote on the pay proposals.”

Crew have walked out for a total of 26 days to date, since the row erupted in January over what the union had branded “poverty pay”. So far, the airline has ridden out the action, and said that all booked passengers had travelled to their destinations regardless. However, a number of flights have been cancelled, and the airline has also chartered or “wet leased” planes and crew from other airlines such as Titan and Thomson Airways to continue operating services.

Pay at the fleet starts at a basic rate of just over £12,000, although the airline says that with flying pay and allowances most crew earn more than £21,000.

Tags: UniteBA cabin crewstrike
Categories: Labor News

Rigged, Forced into debt, worked past exhaustion. Left With Nothing & Working For Free LA Port Truckers

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 12:08

Rigged, Forced into debt, worked past exhaustion. Left With Nothing & Working For Free
LA Port Truckers

By Brett Murphy
Photos by Omar Ornelas
June 16, 2017
Los Angeles — Samuel Talavera Jr. did everything his bosses asked.

Most days, the trucker would drive more than 16 hours straight hauling LG dishwashers and Kumho tires to warehouses around Los Angeles, on their way to retail stores nationwide.

He rarely went home to his family. At night, he crawled into the back of his cab and slept in the company parking lot.

For all of that, he took home as little as 67 cents a week.

Then, in October 2013, the truck he leased from his employer, QTS, broke down.

When Talavera could not afford repairs, the company fired him and seized the truck -- along with $78,000 he had paid towards owning it.

Talavera was a modern-day indentured servant. And there are hundreds, likely thousands more, still on the road, hauling containers for trucking companies that move goods for America’s most beloved retailers, from Costco to Target to Home Depot.

These port truckers -- many of them poor immigrants who speak little English -- are responsible for moving almost half of the nation’s container imports out of Los Angeles’ ports. They don't deliver goods to stores. Instead they drive them short distances to warehouses and rail yards, one small step on their journey to a store near you.

A yearlong investigation by the USA TODAY Network found that port trucking companies in southern California have spent the past decade forcing drivers to finance their own trucks by taking on debt they could not afford. Companies then used that debt as leverage to extract forced labor and trap drivers in jobs that left them destitute.

If a driver quit, the company seized his truck and kept everything he had paid towards owning it.

If drivers missed payments, or if they got sick or became too exhausted to go on, their companies fired them and kept everything. Then they turned around and leased the trucks to someone else.

Drivers who manage to hang on to their jobs sometimes end up owing money to their employers – essentially working for free. Reporters identified seven different companies that have told their employees they owe money at week’s end.

The USA TODAY Network pieced together accounts from more than 300 drivers, listened to hundreds of hours of sworn labor dispute testimony and reviewed contracts that have never been seen by the public.

Using the contracts, submitted as evidence in labor complaints, and shipping manifests, reporters matched the trucking companies with the most labor violations to dozens of retail brands, including Target, Hewlett-Packard, Home Depot, Hasbro, J.Crew, UPS, Goodyear, Costco, Ralph Lauren and more.

Among the findings:

Trucking companies force drivers to work against their will – up to 20 hours a day – by threatening to take their trucks and keep the money they paid toward buying them. Bosses create a culture of fear by firing drivers, suspending them without pay or reassigning them the lowest-paying routes.
To keep drivers working, managers at a few companies have physically barred them from going home. More than once, Marvin Figueroa returned from a full day’s work to find the gate to the parking lot locked and a manager ordering drivers back to work. “That was how they forced me to continue working,” he testified in a 2015 labor case. Truckers at two other companies have made similar claims.
Employers charge not just for truck leases but for a host of other expenses, including hundreds of dollars a month for insurance and diesel fuel. Some charge truckers a parking fee to use the company lot. One company, Fargo Trucking, charged $2 per week for the office toilet paper and other supplies.
Drivers at many companies say they had no choice but to break federal safety laws that limit truckers to 11 hours on the road each day. Drivers at Pacific 9 Transportation testified that their managers dispatched truckers up to 20 hours a day, then wouldn’t pay them until drivers falsified inspection reports that track hours. Hundreds of California port truckers have gotten into accidents, leading to more than 20 fatalities from 2013 to 2015, according to the USA TODAY Network's analysis of federal crash and port trade data.
Many drivers thought they were paying into their truck like a mortgage. Instead, when they lost their job, they discovered they also lost their truck, along with everything they’d paid toward it. Eddy Gonzalez took seven days off to care for his dying mother and then bury her. When he came back, his company fired him and kept the truck. For two years, Ho Lee was charged more than $1,600 a month for a truck lease. When he got ill and missed a week of work, he lost the truck and everything he’d paid.
Retailers could refuse to allow companies with labor violations to truck their goods. Instead they’ve let shipping and logistics contractors hire the lowest bidder, while lobbying on behalf of trucking companies in Sacramento and Washington D.C. Walmart, Target and dozens of other Fortune 500 companies have paid lobbyists up to $12.6 million to fight bills that would have held companies liable or given drivers a minimum wage and other protections that most U.S. workers already enjoy.

Left: Containers stack like windowless buildings on the dockyard at the Port of Long Beach. Right: Trucks line up outside the terminals at the Port of Los Angeles. The two adjacent ports account for almost half of the country's container imports.
This isn’t a case of a few bad trucking companies accused of mistreating a handful of workers.

Since 2010, at least 1,150 port truck drivers have filed claims in civil court or with the California Department of Industrial Relations’ enforcement arm, known as the labor commission.

Judges have sided with drivers in more than 97% of the cases heard, ruling time after time that port truckers in California can’t legally be classified as independent contractors. Instead, they are employees who, by law, must be paid minimum wage and can’t be charged for the equipment they use at work.

The rulings stop there. They do not address specific allegations of abuse by drivers, including whether trucking companies physically barred them from leaving work or ordered them to work past federal fatigue limits.

But allegations like those have been made in sworn testimony in hundreds of the cases, virtually all of which ended with trucking companies ordered to repay drivers for truck expenses and lost wages. The USA TODAY Network found that at least 140 trucking companies have been accused by at least one driver of shorting them of fair pay or using threats to squeeze them to work longer hours.

Prominent civil rights leader Julian Bond once called California port truckers the new black tenant farmers of the post-Civil War South. Sharecroppers from that era rented farmland to make their living and regularly fell into debt to their landlords. Widespread predatory practices made it nearly impossible for the farmers to climb out.

Through lease contracts, California’s port truckers face the same kinds of challenges in ways that experts say rarely happen in the U.S. today.

“I don’t know of anything even remotely like this,” said Stanford Law School Professor William Gould, former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board and one of the nation’s top labor experts.

“You’re working to get yourself out of the debt. You just don’t see anything like that.”

‘‘You’re working to get yourself out of the debt. You just don’t see anything like that.’’
Reporters tried to contact owners and managers at more than 30 trucking companies. Many did not respond or declined to comment.

Those willing to answer questions said they have never used truck leases as a way to mistreat drivers. Several insisted that truckers’ allegations have been manufactured as part of a union organizing campaign by the Teamsters. The union has for years helped drivers file labor complaints and lawsuits.

“I’m not going to say that there were no violations out there,” said Weston LaBar, executive director of the Harbor Trucking Association. But, he added, they were “unintentional,” the result of market pressures that threatened to bankrupt trucking companies.

LaBar said he wasn't aware of companies still drawing up leases as more trucks get paid off. But drivers all over the industry are still locked in contracts they signed years ago.

Some company owners said their lease-to-own programs were a favor to truckers who might otherwise have been out of work. And there are drivers who make it through the contract to own their trucks, something that’s grown more common with time and a rebounding economy. Drivers who can't make a living aren't working hard enough, many company executives say.

“Our owner very generously went out and purchased a fleet of clean trucks,” said Marc Koenig, a vice president at Performance Team, which has lost cases to 21 drivers at the California labor commission. “That’s what really frustrated our owner. He really reached out and helped these guys.”

Koenig answered questions while traveling to Massachusetts to meet with TJX, the $49-billion parent company of retailers T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods.

"We take these concerns very seriously at TJX," the company said in a statement, citing its vendor "code of conduct" that requires contractors on its supply chain to follow the law.

California’s port truckers make it possible for the Walmarts and Amazons of the world to function. Even so, most of the two dozen retail companies contacted by the USA TODAY Network declined to comment, some saying they had never heard of the rash of labor violations at their primary ports of entry.

Only Goodyear said it took immediate action. Spokesperson Keith Price said in a statement that the tire giant dropped Pacific 9 in 2015, “within two weeks” of California labor commission decisions in favor of dozens of drivers.

The few others that issued statements said it was not their responsibility to police the shipping industry. Retailers don't directly hire the truckers who move their goods at the pier. They generally hire large shipping or logistics firms that line up trucking companies through a maze of subcontractors.

‘‘Target doesn’t have anything to share here.’’
“We’re not trying to wash our hands of this issue,” said John Taylor, a spokesman for LG Electronics, “but it’s frankly far afield” and “really very disconnected from LG Electronics.”

When asked about labor violations by trucking companies in Target’s supply chain, spokeswoman Erika Winkels wrote: “Target doesn’t have anything to share here.”

Jose Juan Rodriguez lives with his family inside a small house by the freeway in Los Angeles' South Central neighborhood. His wife has stage three cancer and his son severe brain damage. He said he's six years into his five-year lease contract with Morgan Southern and he still doesn't own the truck. "I knew I was being enslaved with these contracts," Rodriguez said. "But I have to work."

Read Story
A Critical Change

For decades, short-haul truckers at the nation’s ports relied on cheap clunkers to move goods to nearby warehouses and rail yards.

With little up-front investment, drivers – most of them independent contractors who owned their own trucks – could make a decent living squeezing the last miles from dilapidated big rigs that weren’t suited for the open road.

In October 2008, that changed dramatically in southern California, home of the nation’s busiest ports, Los Angeles and Long Beach. State officials, fed up with deadly diesel fumes from 16,000 outdated trucks, ordered the entire fleet replaced with new, cleaner rigs.

Suddenly, this obscure but critical collection of trucking companies faced a $2.5 billion crossroads unlike anything experienced at other U.S. ports.

Instead of digging into their own pockets to undo the environmental mess they helped create, the companies found a way to push the cost onto individual drivers, who are paid by the number and kinds of containers they move, not by the hour.

There are 800 companies regularly operating at the LA ports. Almost all of them turned to some form of a lease-to-own model, some without thinking through the consequences, said industry consultant and lobbyist Alex Cherin.

Reyes Castellanos, 58, has gallstones and no health insurance, because he’s labeled an independent contractor instead of an employee. Near-constant pain causes him to wince repeatedly as he talks from the cab of his truck.

He keeps a giant thermos of coffee on the passenger seat. By his feet, a bottle he uses to avoid bathroom stops.

Money is tight and it’s not getting any better.

Castellanos‘ 2015 tax return shows that he grossed $94,000. But he took home just $21,000 after truck expenses, including the lease-to-own payment he makes to his employer every week

His wife told him to quit K&R Transportation and leave the truck behind. But Castellanos isn‘t sure what other work he could find.

“The truck is the only thing putting food on the table,” he told her.

“So we lost the house,” Castellanos said. “I lost the house.”

K&R Transportation‘s parent company, California Cartage, declined to comment.

Read Story
“Flying by the seat of their pants and making it up as they went along,” he said of the scramble to find trucks for drivers. “Ultimately what they were trying to do was survive in a business with very thin margins.”

Truckers at dozens of companies describe the same basic scene. They were handed a lease-to-own contract by their employer and given a choice: Sign immediately or be fired. Many drivers who spoke little English said managers gave them no time to seek legal advice or even an interpreter to read the contract.

It was "take it or leave it," according to Fidel Vasquez, a driver for Total Transportation who said he couldn’t read the contract because it was in English.

Jose Juan Rodriguez owned his own truck and drove primarily for Morgan Southern, where two dozen drivers have filed claims for back pay at the California labor commission and civil court. Like many drivers, Rodriguez said he didn’t understand what he was signing, but felt he had no choice.

His wife has stage three breast cancer and his adult son has severe brain damage requiring frequent doctor visits.

“Where do I sign?” Rodriguez recalled asking right away. “The only thing I had to worry about is work, because I have a family.”

One-sided contracts

The contracts work like sub-leases. Knowing drivers could not qualify for their own loans or leases, trucking companies arranged to finance their fleets. Then they had drivers sign up for individual trucks.

Drivers gave their old trucks – many of which they owned outright – to their company as a down payment. And just like that they were up to $100,000 in debt to their own employer. The same guys would have had a tough time qualifying for a Hyundai days earlier.

As far back as August 2008, a trucking finance firm warned Port of Long Beach board members that 40% of drivers were likely to default on truck leases. But no one stopped the deals, which place almost all of the financial risk onto the workers.

Drivers' names were not on the truck titles. And many contracts effectively barred drivers from using their truck to work for other companies.

The companies also retained the power to decide how much work to give their drivers. They decide who gets the easiest and most lucrative routes -- and who gets to work at all.

That leaves drivers in constant fear of upsetting managers, who can fire them for any reason, or simply stop sending them business, a process some call “starving” them out of the truck.

On a five-year lease, drivers could pay in for four years and 11 months. If they got sick, fell behind on the lease or were fired in the last month, they could lose everything – as if they had never paid a dime.

The USA TODAY Network reviewed more than a dozen lease-to-own contracts from companies, like this one from Pacific 9. They often give companies almost complete control over their drivers, who they labeled as independent contractors. More importantly, the contracts let the companies fire truckers at will, keeping both the truck and the payments that went into it. Contract
“The truck was never his,” one California labor commission hearing officer noted in a March, 2014 ruling. “And he has nothing to show for all the time and money he spent.”

It’s a lesson Leocadio Lopez learned the hard way.

A former house painter and father of two, Lopez lost all his money after pouring his savings into a truck at Total Transportation Services, where more than 80 drivers have said they were cheated out of fair pay or charged for equipment their employer should have covered.

Lopez had to borrow cash just to keep up with his bills. Christmas and birthdays came and went without gifts for his children. His family had to get groceries from food pantries.

After making payments for six years, about $700 a week for the lease and maintenance, he lost the truck and the tens of thousands of dollars he had scraped together to keep it.

“I cried,” Lopez told reporters, still incensed. “They do what they want and you can’t do anything.”

‘‘They do what they want and you can’t do anything.’’
Lopez was one of dozens of drivers who filed claims against Total Transportation between 2013 and 2014. Most of the men were pulled into a conference room one week by company president Vic La Rosa and fired, according to 24 sworn complaints filed with the NLRB.

“There are no rules,” one driver recalled La Rosa saying when he took the trucks. “No law or politicians will help you.”

La Rosa denied committing labor violations and said the sworn statements made by his former drivers are false.

“That’s not the way it went down,” he told reporters, declining to elaborate.

Without admitting guilt, La Rosa settled the drivers’ cases with the NLRB, paying $200,000 in fines and agreeing to rehire some of them as employees.

Rene Flores, an immigrant from El Salvador, drives from the Port of Long Beach to Arizona, resting only a few hours each night. Flores rarely gets to see his two sons, Napoleon and Jose, because he’s always on the road.

For years, Rene Flores regularly has driven 20 hours a day, six days a week, hauling pistachios and medical equipment into the desert from the Port of Long Beach.

“If I don’t work,” Flores says, “my kids will starve.”

He keeps a log book of fake hours in the glovebox and the real one hidden beneath his seat in case of a surprise inspection.

Flores rarely sees his two sons, because he spends his one day off trying to catch up on lost sleep.

“Of course they know,” he told reporters when asked if his managers realize how much he works. “But the company doesn’t care.”

Morgan Southern did not answer questions about drivers' claims. But spokesperson Robert Milane said in a statement, "We follow all DOT regulations and guidelines with respect to HOS (hours of service) and logs."

Like a driver's weekly check, their yearly take home pay plummets because of the truck costs. In 2015, Reyes Castellanos, who provides for his wife and mother-in-law, made about $20,000 after expenses. Reyes Castellanos' tax return
Drivers who signed up for leases watched their take-home pay plummet and often had no choice but to work longer hours.

After emigrating from Nicaragua in 1992, Samuel Talavera Jr. drove a truck at the Los Angeles harbor and made an honest living. Since 9/11, all truckers working at ports of entry must be legal residents.

Talavera bought his wife, Reyna, a house and took his daughters to Disneyland.

But everything changed in late 2010, when he went into the QTS warehouse and his boss told him he needed to trade in his truck and sign a lease-purchase contract.

For the next four years, he worked mind-numbing hours to pay the bills.

To save commuting time, he slept in his truck at work. To avoid bathroom breaks, he kept an empty two-liter bottle by his side. He became a ghost to his family.

Still, he had to drain his savings to survive.

A stack of weekly paychecks he keeps in a drawer at home shows his worst weeks. He grossed $1,970 on June 3, 2011, but it all went back to QTS. After the lease and other truck expenses, he took home $33.

On February 10, 2012, he took home $112 after expenses.

The next week, he made 67 cents.

Samuel Talavera’s disappearing paycheck
Deductions from his pay from QTS, INC., on Feb. 17, 2012

Initial amount $854.13
Insurance -$90
Lease -$250
Tires -$35
Registration -$65
Gas -$405.46
Remaining amount $0.67

Depending on how many containers they're able to move, drivers' pay can vary wildly. Some weeks they gross hundreds or even thousands, but take home a tiny fraction of that after the truck costs.Samuel Talavera's paycheck
Reyna got two office cleaning jobs and a third taking care of the elderly to try to make ends meet. Even so, when her father died, she couldn’t afford to fly home for the funeral.

Talavera was working so much, she said. “We didn’t understand why there was hardly any money left over.”

Through interviews and court records, reporters catalogued more than 120 drivers who say they regularly worked past exhaustion, 12 to 20 hours straight behind the wheel.

Federal law prohibits commercial truckers from driving more than 11 hours at a time, and they can’t work at all after 14 hours, until they have had 10 hours of rest. Government studies show that for every hour past 11 that someone drives, the chances of crashing increase exponentially.

Many drivers feel they have no choice but to take that risk.


On bad weeks – when Flores hits traffic or gets assigned a low-paying delivery – he says he takes home $300 or less for 100 hours of work. That translates into $3 an hour, less than a third of what he could make washing dishes at California’s minimum wage.

Alfredo Arambula, a Mexican immigrant and former driver at K&R Transportation, told reporters he lost everything after breaking his foot on the job in 2013.

Foot surgery put him out of work for weeks and he fell behind on the lease payments for his truck. When the 76-year-old tried coming back, his job was gone.

“I was not allowed to enter the company,” said Arambula, still on crutches and still confused about what had happened.

He lives in a small house besides a parking lot in South Central Los Angeles. There are piles of junk strewn around the backyard.

Arambula doesn’t know what he’ll do for money now. He had paid almost $75,000 in truck lease payments, which ate into his savings over the years. As far as he knows, the truck is still at K&R, being driven by another trucker.

“They took everything,” he said.

Read Story
Drivers could quit and find new work. But many, like Flores, say they’ve stayed on hoping things would improve. Then they realized if they quit, they would lose thousands paid toward their truck. “They’re captive,” Teamsters’ international vice president Fred Potter said.

Truck payments can cut so deep into wages that drivers actually owe their employer come Friday.

“Working for free,” one driver called it in a court statement.

Paychecks read instead like weekly invoices: Faustino Denova, negative $9.64. Germen Merino, negative $92.50. Jose Covarrubias, negative $280.

For some truckers, the debt stacked up week after week, until they borrowed against their house or from friends, used their savings to pay it off or until their company fired them.

“The company didn't care whether I took a gallon of milk to my home or not,” one driver testified in a civil court case. “The company would take everything.”

‘‘The company would take everything.’’
Enough weeks like that put truckers into a hole they can’t escape.

Like many drivers, Talavera and his wife fell behind on their mortgage, and then stopped paying it altogether. They filed for bankruptcy to save their home.

James Kang, former president of the now-defunct QTS, declined to comment and then hung up on a reporter.

Eduardo Garcia, 57, was a truck driver for Tradelink Transport. He said he'd often come home after double shifts, only to find his boss in the parking lot, waving drivers back onto the road to keep working.

‘We are not human’

In ways that happen in virtually no other workplace in America, port trucking companies in Southern California wield enormous power over their workers.

Through interviews and a review of sworn statements, the USA TODAY Network identified more than 100 drivers who reported threats and retaliation. Managers punish drivers most often for turning down the lowest-paying routes, missing work or refusing to work past federal hour limits.

At least 24 companies have fired drivers outright under those circumstances, according to interviews and a review of court, NLRB and California labor commission records. In each case, the driver lost his truck and what he’d paid into it.

Arcadio Amaya said he refused to work 15 hours straight one night at Pacgran Inc. and was fired the next day. He lost $26,400 he had paid toward a truck.

Armando Logamo, a former driver at RPM Harbor Services, said he saw other drivers bribing dispatchers for better-paying assignments, so he told his supervisor. The next week, Logamo was fired. He lost the truck, along with all the payments he had put into it.

“They fired me because I was one of the ones that was speaking up,” he said. “It was pretty devastating because I was with them for two plus years.”

Eddy Gonzalez once missed a day when he was called to court to testify as a witness. As punishment, he said his boss at Seacon Logix didn't let him work the next day.

Then, a few months later, he missed a week to bury his dead mother. When Gonzalez came back, he said, his boss cleaned out his truck and fired him on the spot while he pleaded to keep his job.

“He just took the keys and left,” Gonzalez testified in court.

Eddy Gonzalez said he lost his job because he took time off for his mother's funeral. His former boss at Seacon Logix testified it was because he doubted Gonzalez could keep up with his truck payments.Trial transcript, Romero Garcia v. Seacon Logix
Representatives from all three companies denied their drivers’ accounts.

“It’s all f---ing bulls---,” said Edwin Merino, a former operations manager at Pacgran, which has since gone out of business. Merino said Amaya wasn’t fired. He said he quit because he had fallen so far behind on truck payments that he wasn’t making money when he worked.

Drivers say they are always one wrong step away from the street. Companies dangle that threat – “on pain of ‘discipline’ or termination,” as one judge put it in a labor case ruling – to force drivers to work around the clock.

Some companies have physically barred their workers from going home at night.

Eduardo Garcia, 57, remembers pulling into the Tradelink Transport truck yard exhausted after almost 15 hours behind the wheel one night in October 2010.

He was ready to go home to his family, but as he approached the Tradelink parking lot, he realized his day wasn’t over.

His said his boss was standing at the gate again, waving drivers back to the docks and refusing to let them into the spaces where they were required to park for the night.

“If you say no,” Garcia said, “then the next day, don't come in. No work for you.” So he went back to the docks.

Drivers at two other companies tell similar stories. They said it would happen regularly, especially if their employer was on the verge of missing a shipping deadline.

Jovanni Castillo said he worked every waking hour, six days a week, at Imperial CFS. If he was not driving 20 hours a day -- from 7 a.m. to 3 the next morning -- his company fined him $200, he said.

“We are not human,” Garcia told reporters inside his small, cluttered house tucked behind an alley in Los Angeles. “We are machines for making money for these people.”

Rigoberto Cea, president of Tradelink, said he’d go into the parking lot, but only to encourage drivers to keep working. “We would go out there and ask and beg,” he said in an interview. “Their interpretation was that they were slaves to us.”

An attorney for Imperial CFS denied the violations, saying the company has never punished its drivers. Imperial CFS, like many of the trucking companies, appealed labor commission rulings to civil court and later settled with drivers without admitting guilt.

Manuel Rios, 50, worked around the clock for years for K&R Transportation. But his truck lease payments left him unable to support his family.

“There’s not much money, do you understand me?” he told reporters inside his one-bedroom apartment in south Los Angeles. “I wasn’t bringing anything to my family. Everything was left on the truck. All your work, all your sacrifice, would just stay on the truck.”

Rios collapsed in December 2015 on the way to the park with his son. He said he had worked himself into a stroke. Unable to drive while he recovered, he fell behind on the truck costs, so his manager fired him.

A Nicaraguan immigrant with diabetes and a 9th grade education, Rios lost the truck, the money he had spent trying to buy it and his family’s only source of income.

Read Story
At Pacific 9, 20 drivers testified at the California labor commission that they had to work up to 19 hours a day, violating federal fatigue laws for truckers.

They said dispatchers ordered them to doctor their driving logs every Friday to hide the overtime from regulators.

“We were told to write 12 hours on the log sheet,” former driver David Figueroa testified in a 2015 labor commission case. “They said they would withhold our checks.”

The California labor commission has ruled that 40 Pacific 9 drivers were inaccurately classified as independent contractors. They were awarded a combined $6.8 million for lost wages. Judges did not rule on whether specific allegations of mistreatment actually occurred, but factored that testimony into the decision to rule them employees.

Alan Ta, the company’s chief operating officer, denied the drivers’ accounts.

“We could never have functioned if our drivers were put through that environment,” Ta said. “I mean who can physically even do that?

But the USA TODAY Network found evidence suggesting California port truckers, including many at Pacific 9, regularly worked too many hours.

Using California’s open records law, reporters obtained a port authority database that records the exact time a truck enters or exits the gate at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

Vahe Olmassakian, 44, bought a used truck 12 years ago after saving some money from a small business he ran with his sister. He lived in a nice house with his wife, two kids and his mother.

Then in 2010, Olmassakian’s managers at Pacer Cartage told him a new environmental policy at the ports had banned old trucks like his. The company was starting a lease program that would let him make payments on a new truck that he could one day own.

He said they told him the money would be better. So he handed over his keys.

Soon Olmassakian found himself working up to 14 hours a day but still falling behind on his truck payments. He had to refinance his house twice to borrow money in order to keep up with his bills.

He said he worked constantly, but always managed to make it home for his kids’ soccer games.

Olmassakian wanted to quit but felt he had paid too much towards the truck to walk away. "I was already three years deep,” he told reporters.

Facing foreclosure in 2015, he finally sold his house and moved his family into an apartment.

"Thank God we could always afford food," he said.

Pacer's parent company, XPO Logistics, did not respond to a list of questions.

Read Story
From 2013 through 2016, trucks passed through the gates 23 million times, leaving a trail of which truck was on the road, when and where. The USA TODAY Network identified hundreds of thousands of instances where a truck was in operation for at least 14 hours without the required 10-hour break.

Not all of these instances are violations because two drivers might divide time behind the wheel of a single truck. But many companies ban that practice.

Pacific 9 is one of them. At least 7,500 times over three years, Pacific 9 trucks were on the clock for more than the 14 hour maximum, the port data shows. Almost all of the company’s 160 trucks exceeded the time limit at least once.

One Pacific 9 truck regularly operated through the night, more than 100 hours a week. Another went 35 hours without the proper break almost once a week for three years, according to the data.

When reporters shared the data with Ta, the executive said he couldn’t explain those circumstances and stopped responding to interview requests.

The role of retail

The scale of what comes through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach each year is hard to imagine.

If you laid the containers end to end, they would wrap around the Earth more than twice.

Most car parts manufactured across the Pacific come through Southern California. Same with electronics from China, Thailand or Indonesia. If you’ve bought anything from Walmart, Amazon, JCPenney, or any other store at the mall, there’s a good chance it started its trip across the U.S. with the port truckers around Los Angeles.

Using records from court hearings and labor cases and shipping log data provided by the trade research firm Panjiva, the USA TODAY Network identified the brands whose goods were moved by trucking companies with multiple violations. It’s not clear if the companies hired them directly. But retailers often don’t, relying instead on shipping and logistics companies to arrange trucking services from U.S. ports.

High profile customers
Through a maze of subcontractors, port trucking companies accused of labor violations have moved goods for some of America’s most beloved brands.

There are 81 drivers alleging violations by Total Transportation Services.
$2.7 Million has been awarded to 27 drivers.
Total Transportation Services has moved goods for Home Depot, J Crew, LG, Ralph Lauren and Target.

Hewlett-Packard, Costco and Hasbro have moved containers through Pacific 9. Fargo Trucking, with 45 violations, has moved Bissell vacuum cleaners, UPS packages and Nautica apparel.

Steve Madden shoes and Neiman Marcus have used Imperial CFS, which has lost seven labor cases to date.

None of those retailers would comment for this story.

JCPenney spokesperson Daphne Avila said in an email that the company “relies on its third-party transportation vendors to comply with all applicable laws and regulations.”

JCPenney, which once hailed the lease purchase program as “innovative and cost-effective" in a press release, has moved shipments through Pacer Cartage, part of a family of XPO Logistics companies accused by at least 140 drivers of labor violations in both civil court and the California labor commission.

John Taylor, a spokesman for LG Electronics, said the company hires steamship lines that provide “door-to-door” shipping services, so it is not involved in hiring or managing trucking companies. LG believes “our responsibility starts when the goods arrive in our own warehouses,” Taylor said in an email.

Driver contracts and shipping records show that Total Transportation Services and QTS, two of the most heavily cited companies in the harbor, have moved containers with LG goods.

Public pressure and new laws in recent years have forced retailers to monitor their international supply chains.


Target, for instance, takes a strong stance against forced labor in the cotton factories of Uzbekistan. It says it sends auditors to screen the companies that turn cotton into t-shirts sold in its stores.

The retailer promises to drop any vendor found exploiting workers with debt, according to its corporate responsibility policy. It won’t use companies that punish workers “physically or mentally.” It orders a 60-hour maximum on work weeks, with fair wages and benefits.

But Target has ignored the labor commission rulings in California and continued to allow companies found to have violated workers’ rights to move its goods. Company spokesperson Erika Winkles declined to comment.

Jeffrey Klink, a former fraud prosecutor and corporate ethics professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Business, said it’s easy for retailers to dodge accountability because they can argue they don’t directly hire port trucking companies.

“This is a classic case where the little guy gets screwed,” he said.

Put another way: “Nobody cares about us,” said trucker Gustavo Villa, “because we are living in the dark.”

Samuel Talavera Jr. ends his 19-hour day at 1 a.m. by parking on the side of the road for a few hours of sleep. Talavera rarely sees his family because he works up to 20 hours a day, six days a week. He has taken home as little as 67 cents for the week.

Brett Murphy began reporting this story while in the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT BY: Angelo Cocci, Pim Linders, Mitchell Thorson, Shawn Sullivan, Ramon Padilla and Jim Sergent, USA TODAY.

Tags: LA TruckersForced into debtexhaustionworking for free
Categories: Labor News

100 L.A. and Long Beach Teamsters union Local 848, port truck drivers and warehouse workers plan to strike Monday

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 11:29

100 L.A. and Long Beach Teamsters union Local 848, port truck drivers and warehouse workers plan to strike Monday
Truck drivers and warehouse workers serving the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports plan to launch their 15th strike in the last four years on Monday.
Jack Flemming
Around 100 truck drivers and warehouse workers serving the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports plan to launch a strike starting Monday — their 15th strike in the last four years.

The workers and Teamsters union Local 848 announced the labor action Thursday. The truck drivers have been pushing for years to become employees rather than independent contractors to improve pay and workplace protections

The workers are calling out the port cities for allowing “greedy corporations to continue to exploit hard-working men and women through abusive and often illegal contracting-out, misclassification, temporary staffing and wage theft schemes,” Eric Tate, secretary-treasurer for Teamsters union Local 848, said at a news conference Thursday at the Port of Los Angeles.

Drivers and warehouse workers will picket XPO Logistics terminals Monday, and they’ll spread their picket lines to Intermodal Bridge Transport and California Cartage Co. on Tuesday, Tate said. The strike will last at least through the week, Tate said.

Past strikes have led terminals to turn away trucks of companies from striking firms, said Phillip Sanfield, spokesman for the Port of Los Angeles.

Because of the large size of the ports and the amount of companies operating there, however, the strikes have had “minimal” effect on port operations, he said.

A representative of XPO Logistics declined to comment on the strike threat. Representatives of Intermodal Bridge Transport and California Cartage could not be reached for comment.

“Trucking companies have lured drivers into abusive truck lease schemes and failed to pay them for time worked, resulting in driver strikes disrupting port operations and causing congestion,” a news release from Justice for Port Truck Drivers said.
“I was living in a church because I couldn’t afford rent,” Alberto Arenas, a warehouse worker for California Cartage, said through a translator. “I’ve been working here for 12 years and only make $12 an hour, which is not enough to support a family.”

The strike announcement follows a pact signed Monday by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia to “move toward the goal of zero emissions” at the ports and establish goals for zero-emission trucks by 2035. The union has complained that the goals don’t mention the effect on truck drivers.

“We think that’s a great idea, but there was no mention on how this would impact the drivers,” Tate said.

He added that when the ports enacted the Clean Trucks Program in 2008 to cut down on diesel pollution, the drivers bore the bulk of the cost.



3:20 p.m.: This article was updated with XPO Logistics declining to comment on the strike threat.

12:05 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from Port of Los Angeles spokesman Phillip Sanfield.

9:30 a.m.: This article was updated after the announcement with comments from Eric Tate and Alberto Arenas.

Tags: IBT 848LA Port Truckers Strikegreedy corporations
Categories: Labor News

Victims of UPS shooting mourned, company disputes claims of ‘hostile’ work environment for IBT Local 2785

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 10:53

Victims of UPS shooting mourned, company disputes claims of ‘hostile’ work environment for IBT Local 2785

IBT Local 2785 "Cilia, whose union has about 300 members in San Francisco, said working for UPS is a high-stress job but would not go as far as calling it a hostile workplace.”

Community members created a memorial outside the Potrero Hill UPS facility after Wednesday’s shooting left four dead. (Jonah Owen Lamb/S.F. Examiner)
By Jonah Owen Lamb on June 16, 2017 1:00 am

Police on Thursday continued to investigate what led San Francisco resident Jimmy Lam to fatally shoot three of his colleagues at a UPS facility Wednesday and injure two more before he turned the gun on himself.

But at least two employees of the warehouse said the atmosphere at the packaging and sorting facility was tense before the shooting because management and staff do not get along due to unending pressures and an at-times hostile work environment.

“If someone did have some mental problems, it’s a tough place to work even if your head is screwed on straight,” said Joseph Cilia, secretary treasurer of Teamsters Local 2785, who had no idea what motivated Lam. “Something’s underneath, something buried that no one knows about. Something bad.” Police said that at around 9 a.m. Lam killed Mike Lefiti, Benson Louie and Wayne Chan outside of the UPS warehouse at 320 San Bruno Ave. and wounded two other UPS employees. He then shot himself, according to police.

The shooting was one of the most violent events in recent city history and prompted at least one elected official, state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, to call for stricter gun controls.

Louie, 50, a San Francisco resident, had worked for UPS for 17 years. The full-time driver had two children, according to his union.
Tom Nash, who runs a UPS drop-off site in the Sunset, saw Louie, who was a volleyball coach, every day.

“He was a very outgoing, happy-go-lucky guy,” said Nash. “Just one of those guys you couldn’t help but like.”

Chan, 56, also a city resident, had worked for the company for 28 years and also had two children.

Lefiti, 46, of Hercules, had been with the company for 17 years. A memorial was set up Wednesday night near his old route at a Diamond Heights shopping center by the many people he saw daily.

Lam, 38, had worked for UPS for 18 years.

On Thursday, the warehouse was back to full operations, said Kim Krebs, a company spokesperson, who added that Lam’s motive remains unknown.

“The whole thing is incredibly tragic,” said Krebs. “UPS is kind of an extended family for a lot of the employees and our hearts really go out to the victims families.”

Lam was described by one employee, who asked to remain anonymous, as a “quiet guy — did his job as far as I know.”

Lam lived in the Richmond District — his home was searched late Wednesday by police — and he had recently asked to reduce his overtime hours at the facility.

In 2010, he was convicted of a DUI and completed a diversion program, according to court records. Then, in 2013, he was charged again with a DUI, but the case was dropped. He had no other criminal record.

Vincent Smith, 46, who works at the UPS warehouse cleaning trucks, described the workplace environment as “hostile” and has been off work for seven weeks do to physiological stress.

“Part of it is because you have management that are improperly trained or one or two people who are taking improper action to show favoritism,” said Smith. “I can’t speak for what actually happened yesterday. I can tell you it is a hostile work environment to some degree.”

Cilia, whose union has about 300 members in San Francisco, said working for UPS is a high-stress job but would not go as far as calling it a hostile workplace.

Cilia didn’t want to speculate if or why anyone might have been targeted, but he did say that something may have snapped inside of Lam, who had two sons.

Another warehouse employee, who did not want to give their name for fear of reprisal, said the workplace is distressing.

“Before this there was problems with management, how they talked to people and treated people,” they said. “He’s not the only one. I think he’s not the only one on edge.”

Another company spokesperson disagreed with that characterization Thursday.

“I would dispute that,” said Susan Rosenberg. “[I would] say we have a very successful and engaged workforce.”

Rosenberg added that there are a number of avenues given to employees to report harassment and unfair working conditions.

Tags: IBT Local 2785workplace violenceupsstressworkplace murder
Categories: Labor News

What You Need to Know About the General Strike That Just Swept Colombia’s Largest Port

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 10:34

What You Need to Know About the General Strike That Just Swept Colombia’s Largest Port

What You Need to Know About the General Strike That Just Swept Colombia’s Largest Port
Working In These Times
Wednesday, Jun 14, 2017, 1:03 pm

BY Isaías Cifuentes and Neil Martin

Afro-Colombian communities led a two-day civic strike in the city of Buenaventura. (Olivia Plato)

Little-noticed by the English-language media, the Colombian city of Buenaventura was brought to a standstill by a weeks-long civic strike, in which Afro-Colombian communities won major commitments from the Colombian government. Waged from May 16 through June 6, the mass protest was organized by people demanding that the government declare a state of social and economic emergency and provide basic quality-of-life improvements for a population that has been targeted by systematic human rights violations for decades. Buenaventura’s ports generate $1.8 billion in yearly revenue, but most of it its 400,000 residents—90 percent of whom are Afro-Colombian—live in poverty.

The mass protest was organized by religious figures, social justice groups, unions, students, community councils and Indigenous people. The first several days of the strike resembled a city-wide block party, with dancing and music concentrated around dozens of peaceful roadblocks. Representatives of the departmental and national governments began to negotiate with the Strike Committee.

But, in the midst of talks, riot police swept through the city in an attempt to restore the flow of vehicular traffic, shooting tear gas into high-density residential neighborhoods. This crackdown provoked a night of havoc, during which several of Buenaventura’s commercial establishments had their windows smashed and goods taken. When protests resumed, they were marked by ongoing confrontations between the police and protesters until June 6, when an agreement was reached between the government and the Strike Committee.

The government’s violent response to the demonstrations has been decried by many, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and a group of U.S. congressional representatives. Buenaventura’s communities ended the strike with celebrations, applauding commitments made by the government that, if met, will end decades of what locals refer to as “state abandonment” and “robbery.” Roughly $517 million is to be spent on development and public services in housing, education, healthcare, infrastructure and water and sewage systems.

Although the strike has been lauded as a success, it also fits into a pattern in Colombia in which communities that represent specific regions or economic sectors see protest as their only option to achieve social change or attract the attention of the government. And once they take this action, their mobilizations tend to be met with violent repression.

Meanwhile, these communities suffer hyper-exploitation and displacement under trade regimes that are global in scale. Buenaventura is Colombia’s largest port and an integral part of Colombia’s trade with the United States, European Union and partner countries in the Pacific Alliance trade block. As a result, port expansion has surged in recent years, promoted by multinational companies including Group TCB, International Container Terminal Services and PSA International. These megaprojects, as well as industrial storage facilities and a touristic wharf renovation project, have contributed to the displacement of urban neighborhoods in the city’s center. Some 20 million tons of freight pass through the city each year, generating more than 2 billion dollars, while roughly 60 percent of the population lives in poverty and 65 percent is unemployed.

Buenaventura is a case study in the challenges associated with the transition to neoliberal policies in the Global South. Colombia’s ports were privatized in 1993, causing drastic reductions in public revenue for Buenaventura and opening a new era of slavery-like working conditions for port employees. In the early 2000s, water services were privatized, and they have deteriorated steadily since. Currently 60 percent of properties have access to sewage system and 76 percent to running water, even though Buenaventura is surrounded by 16 rivers. The city’s hospital closed recently, and educational infrastructure is crumbling. A once robust fishing industry is now little more than a graveyard of rusting ships.

Simultaneously, the dispute for territorial control between factions in Colombia’s civil war has fueled the displacement of the city residents, half of whom are recognized by the state as victims of armed conflict. This, combined with the drug trade and extortion-oriented gangs, has led to more than a thousand homicides in the last ten years and one of the highest rates of internally displaced personas in the hemisphere.

Meanwhile, an almost complete lack of oversight by the national government has led to widespread corruption. The political class sees public resources as booty that is up for the taking, and the city’s catastrophic conditions are largely the responsibility of political parties and regional figures who have ruled the city in alliance the national elite. Figures for attendance in Buenaventura’s public schools exceed the actual number of students by 50,000 children. Former liberal party mayors—including Édgar Roberto Carabalí Mallarino, Freddy Fernando Salas Guaitotó, Jaime Mosquera Borja and Bartolo Valencia Ramos—have been investigated and convicted in corruption cases. One was murdered. The drug trade and paramilitary structures have expanded their activities to include ‘influence trafficking,’ coercion and the purchase of votes—all of which help to conserve the power of the ruling class.

All of these factors added to the humanitarian and social crisis in Buenaventura, which boiled over into a 22-day civic strike. While the strike has been suspended, communities demanding dignity and justice face a long struggle ahead.

Tags: Colombian port strike
Categories: Labor News

Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach truck drivers threaten to strike the reality remains that organized labor has the ability to cripple port productivity and force negotiations.

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 10:26

Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach truck drivers threaten to strike
the reality remains that organized labor has the ability to cripple port productivity and force negotiations.

Edwin Lopez
Kate Patrick

June 14, 2017
Dive Brief:

Truck drivers, warehouse workers, a Los Angeles City Councilmember and local Teamsters are banding together Thursday to announce a strike affecting operations at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, according to a Justice for Port Truck Drivers media advisory.
The proposed strike follows an announcement by the two cities' mayors setting a zero-emissions goal for the sister ports. The goal would require the ports to turn to zero-emission trucks and yard equipment, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The proposed strike would protest this goal, claiming the burden of these zero-emission policies falls on the industry. In addition, Justice for Port Truck Drivers is also protesting "abusive" driver employment schemes relying on contract work or leased equipment.
Story continues below

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Dive Insight:

The date and scale of the potential strike are yet unknown, but representatives for the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach told Supply Chain Dive that they aren't worried about how the strike will affect their operations.

Phillip Sanfield, Director of Media Relations for the Port of Los Angeles, said he isn't aware of the strike's details, but said the port always works with the protesters to make sure streets are safe. "They've done this probably 20 times over the past few years and have had minimal to no impact on our operations," Sanfield told Supply Chain Dive.

Lee Peterson, Media Relations Specialist for the Port of Long Beach, said Long Beach is aware the strike will be happening soon but plans to be fully operational throughout. "We will make sure the picketers exercise their right to protest," Peterson told Supply Chain Dive.

The two West Coast ports are the busiest in the nation, handling over a million containers a month, and depend greatly on internal logistics operators to ensure efficient transit from ship to terminal, and then to a logistics provider. Some of these port logistics operators are not directly employed by ports, however, but by trucking companies or contracting agencies — a model which has recently come under fire over its legality.

Over $40 million in back pay has been awarded to truck drivers since the implementation of the 2008 Clean Truck Program, Justice for Port Truck Driver alleges, as associated companies "lured" drivers into schemes and failed to pay them for extra time worked. The main issue, the organization claims, is that the zero-emission goal did not specify "who would pay for the new technology." Drivers who cannot afford new equipment would likely be displaced, or forced to lease equipment from associated companies.

In general, the announcement falls in line with a nationwide trend of port workers — from drivers, to tugboat operators, to dock workers — organizing disruptions to force employers into negotiations for better terms and employment security.

Earlier this year, workers associated with the International Longshoremen's Associations threatened to shut down East Coast and Gulf Coast ports, in protest of worker displacement over port automation. The strike was averted when the global union's president pledged to bring the issue to Congress, but the issue was not resolved. Even abroad, in Spain, Nordic countries, and in Panama, port workers are protesting unfavorable labor agreements.

However, shippers are demanding more efficient ports and the rise of Smart Ports in places like Canada and Germany show the benefits of automation. Organized labor, through high cost of employment and reluctance to innovate, supposedly slows this process.

Yet, the reality remains that organized labor has the ability to cripple port productivity and force negotiations. The most recent announcement may not cause a major disruption, but it shows the muscle and influence workers still have on the economy. For that same reason, and in fear of another major supply chain disruption, shippers reportedly distrust West Coast ports.

Tags: LA Port Truckersunionizationstrike
Categories: Labor News

UPS IBT Local 2785 Sec. Treasurer Joseph Cilia says San Francisco shooter filed grievance over excessive overtime with company before killing 3

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 09:10

UPS IBT Local 2785 Sec. Treasurer Joseph Cilia says San Francisco shooter filed grievance over excessive overtime with company before killing 3
Updated 2 hrs 24 mins ago
SAN FRANCISCO -- A UPS employee who had recently filed a grievance opened fire Wednesday inside one of the company's San Francisco packing facilities, killing three co-workers before fatally shooting himself as employees fled frantically into the streets shouting "shooter!," authorities and witnesses said.

The gunman, Jimmy Lam, filed the grievance in March complaining that he was working excessive overtime, Joseph Cilia, an official with a Teamsters Union local that represents UPS workers in San Francisco, told The Associated Press.

Still, Cilia said Lam wasn't angry, and he could not understand why he would open fire on fellow drivers at a morning meeting. Lam appeared to target the three drivers who died, chasing at least one of them out of the building, Cilia said. Cilia said he spoke to witnesses who had been in the meeting of UPS drivers.

"I never knew Jimmy to not get along with people," Cilia said. "Jimmy wasn't a big complainer."

Two other UPS employees were wounded, but Cilia said both were released from the hospital.

Amid a barrage of gunfire, some workers sought refuge on the roof of the four-story facility, while others ran outside and pounded on the windows of a public bus, witnesses said.

"They were screaming, 'Go! Go! Go!'" said Jessica Franklin, 30, who was riding to work when the bus made a regular stop in front of the UPS facility. "As they got on the bus, they were all ducking."

The shooting that prompted a massive police response in one of the city's industrial neighborhoods, about two miles from downtown San Francisco, Assistant Police Chief Toney Chaplin told reporters.

UPS spokesman Steve Gaut said the shooter was a company employee. A San Francisco Police Department official identified him as Jimmy Lam of San Francisco but had no immediate details on his background, noting the name is common in the San Francisco Bay Area and finding information required significant record searches.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Officials, UPS employees, and witnesses described chaos as shots rang out during a morning meeting before drivers were sent on their delivery routes.

Police have not yet released victims' names but families and friends identified one of the people killed as 46-year-old Mike Lefiti, a UPS driver.

Lefiti's cousin, Mack Toia, told KGO-TV he was at the UPS facility waiting to pick up Lefiti when he heard shots. He left his van and saw his cousin sprawled on concrete behind a gate, Toia said.

"The police officers were right on the scene just like that. I got to touch him, but I couldn't hug him," Toia said. "They just pushed me away because they were trying to resuscitate him."

Toia said he was able to tell Lefiti he loved him.

Co-worker Isaiah Miggins said he saw Lefiti, known as "Big Mike," as he arrived for work just before 9 a.m., a few minutes before the shooting started. "He was a joyful man. Always happy," Miggins said.

On social media, heartbroken family members of Lefiti recalled him as a warm-spirited man devoted to his children and family. A photo on his Facebook page shows Lefiti in his brown UPS uniform holding a trophy. He also posted photos of his UPS truck and an award for 15 years of service to the company in 2015.

Neighbor Raymond Deng said he heard up to eight gunshots.

"They were all in rapid succession," said Deng, a 30-year-old tech worker who lives across the street from the warehouse. "It was like tat, tat, tat, tat, tat, tat, tat."

Police arrived in minutes.

"This was a frightful scene," Chaplin said. He said officers found two victims outside and others inside and pulled the wounded to safety as they confronted the gunman, who was armed with an "assault pistol."

"The suspect put the gun to his head and discharged the weapon," Chaplin said, adding that police did not fire any shots.

Chaplin said police have not determined a motive and were interviewing families of victims and witnesses to piece together what led the gunman to act.

Mayor Ed Lee condemned the violence and praised authorities for a "very proactive response."

"It could have been worse," he said. "Lives were saved today."

It was not immediately clear how many employees were at the facility, but UPS said the warehouse employs 350 people. The shooter and all the victims were employees, UPS said in a statement.

UPS driver Marvin Calderon told KNTV that he recognized the gunman as a fellow employee but did not know him personally.

"I just started running out like crazy, like I've never run before," Calderon told the TV station.

After the gunfire, auto shop owner Robert Kim said he saw "a mob of UPS drivers" running down the street screaming "shooter, shooter."

Deng watched from his window in the Potrero Hill section of San Francisco as workers fled the building. He said another group of about 10 people gathered on the roof and held up their hands waving for help.

"I saw police officers go up from the ramp and then storm the buildings," he said. "It's crazy."

The shooting occurred the same day a gunman opened fire on Republican lawmakers at a congressional baseball practice in Virginia, wounding U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and several others.

SF IBT Union official says Lam filed excessive OT grievance killed in shooting at SF UPS facility

Active shooter at UPS in San Francisco
POSTED: JUN 14 2017 09:13AM PDT
UPDATED: JUN 14 2017 09:52PM PDT
SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) -- UPS workers were shocked, grief stricken and left wondering how something so awful could happen on what seemed to be just another work day.

Four people, including the alleged gunman, were killed during a shooting Wednesday morning at a UPS facility in San Francisco's Potrero Hill neighborhood, authorities Cup of Jo for Bombas Socks

KTVU sources have now identified the gunman as Jimmy Lam. A union official says the gunman who shot and killed three people at a UPS warehouse in San Francisco had filed a grievance complaining that he was working excessive overtime.

Joseph Cilia, an official with a local Teamsters Union, says Jimmy Lam's grievance filed in March requested that UPS relieve him of working overtime going forward.

Still, Cilia said Lam wasn't angry, and he could not understand why he would open fire on fellow drivers at a morning meeting. Cilia says witnesses told him Lam appeared to specifically go for the drivers who died, chasing at least one of them out of the building.

San Francisco police said that two other victims suffered gunshot wounds when Lam, a UPS employee began firing inside the facility. It was not immediately clear what prompted the shooting. Assistant Chief Toney Chaplin said during a press conference at the scene that the worker was armed with a pistol when police arrived. Lam turned the gun on himself as police approached, Chaplin said.

San Francisco police are investigating if Lam randomly targeted people. Sources tell KTVU that all of the victims are men.

Police recovered two firearms at the scene.

A UPS official told KTVU that four employees were involved in the incident within the facility but the company could not provide identification information about the employees who worked at the package delivery center.

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San Francisco police asked people to avoid the area of 17th and Vermont streets while officers investigated the shooting. A shelter-in-place for the area was lifted around 11:30 a.m., San Francisco police said.

A spokesman for Zuckerberg General Hospital says that multiple victims have been taken to the hospital, but cannot confirm their conditions.

UPS spokesman Steve Gaut said about 350 employees work at the facility at 320 San Bruno Ave. and they were evacuated by police at 12:30 p.m. while authorities investigate the shooting.

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose confirmed to KTVU that a group of uniformed UPS employees ran onto a Muni bus following the shooting to try and escape the area. He said the bus driver took the employees to 3rd and 20th where she pulled over and alerted authorities. The bus driver is said to have taken the rest of the day off, according to Rose.

311 employees have been reunited with their families as of 1:45 p.m.

Police wrote shortly after 10:30 a.m. that the incident has been contained and the building was secure, but investigators continued to look through the building for possible victims or witnesses.

A man who lives across the street from the UPS facility said he heard seven or eight shots fired quickly and saw workers running.

Raymond Deng, 30, a data scientist for a start-up company, said he looked out his apartment window Wednesday to see a group of UPS workers fleeing the building and shouting. He said another group of about 10 workers assembled on the roof and held their hands up as police began to arrive.

Deng says he "saw police officers go up from the ramp and then storm the buildings."

Witnesses told KTVU that they heard shots being fired and people screaming. Employees at the facility were being escorted out of the building around 9:45 a.m.

KTVU spoke over the phone with a woman who says she is an employee at the UPS facility. She says the shooting happened on the main sorting floor. She said the gunman was an employee.

A UPS driver said the gunman opened fire as drivers and managers were assembling for a morning meeting at the facility.

UPS driver Marvin Calderon said he had parked in the driveway and was about to go inside when he heard the sound of gunfire.

"Six, seven shots, boom. I started screaming ‘Get out! Go! Go! Go!’ Everybody started running," said Calderon.

Calderon said he didn't know the gunman, but said one of the victims was his friend.

"Shocking. Life goes so quick. Thinking about your co-workers," he said.

Some relatives of UPS workers gathered outside the police perimeter on Potrero Avenue.

"I was at work, heard the news and left immediately," said Maria Olmeda, an employee's relative.

For a time she didn't know whether her 21-year-old son had been hurt or worse. But she later learned he was okay. She was both thankful and sad.

"It is scary for everyone," she said.

Another mother also waited to see her daughter.

"I feel for the parents of loved ones who aren't there. I know my daughter is okay. I just want to give her a hug," said Maria Hernandez.

Some employees reunited with family at a nearby meeting place arranged by the Red Cross.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein issued a statement about the incident.

Tags: IBT Local 2785workplace violeceexcessive overtime
Categories: Labor News

AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department Wants To Reform NAFTA And Make It Better Under Trump

Wed, 06/14/2017 - 12:22

AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department Wants To Reform NAFTA And Make It Better Under Trump

Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO says NAFTA renegotiation must put U.S. jobs, safety first
By: AJOT | Jun 14 2017 at 08:12 AM | International Trade

Aviation, maritime exclusions must remain

Washington, DC - In comments filed yesterday, transportation labor laid out a vision for renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that puts America’s working families first by growing the U.S. economy, protecting American jobs and prioritizing the safety of our cross-border transportation system.

In addition to the comprehensive recommendations of the AFL-CIO, the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), called for new policies that enforce strict protections for transportation workers and ensure the industries they work in remain hubs for good, middle-class jobs.

“Our trade agreements, including NAFTA, should not be used to undermine the jobs and rights of transportation employees and the broader U.S. workforce. Not only have promises of greater wealth and more opportunity not come to fruition under NAFTA, but the very rules and regulations designed to keep working people safe have been jeopardized under this agreement,” said Edward Wytkind, President of TTD. “President Trump campaigned on a promise to reform our trade policies. The renegotiation of NAFTA presents a clear opportunity to craft a new agreement that expands and strengthens the American middle class and ensures our transportation system remains the safest in the world.”

Specifically, TTD is calling for any renegotiated version of NAFTA to:

Prohibit bus and truck traffic from Mexico that violates U.S. safety rules including attempts to evade hours of service limits, drug and alcohol testing, and the appropriate credentialing for Mexico-based drivers
Uphold U.S.-backed standards for safety inspections of freight rail locomotives and to prohibit Mexico-based freight train crews from operating trains beyond the border
Preserve Buy America standards and other procurement rules that maximize job creation when U.S. taxpayer dollars are invested in our economy
Require each country to make minimum investments in infrastructure to facilitate economic expansion
Ensure that foreign companies cannot use NAFTA to force the privatization of local transit, rail and other public services
Protect U.S. aviation and maritime sectors from unfair competition by continuing to exclude these industries from the scope of the agreement

“Our trade agreements should be designed to put money in the pockets of America’s working families, not large, multi-national corporations or foreign governments,” Wytkind said. “We call on this Administration to renegotiate NAFTA in a way that will create good jobs for Americans who need them most, grow the economy and uphold strict standards that keep our transportation system and working people safe.”

Tags: NAFTATrumpreforming NAFTAderegulationprivatization
Categories: Labor News