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For Google shuttle drivers, it’s a grueling ride

Current News - Sun, 09/28/2014 - 12:30

For Google shuttle drivers, it’s a grueling ride
By Kristen V. Brown

September 27, 2014 | Updated: September 28, 2014 6:54am

Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The Chronicle
Brandon Barlow, seen here on Monday, September 8, 2014, is a former driver for WeDriveU which contracted bus services for Google between San Francisco and Mountain View. The Oakland, Calif., resident is no longer with the company and says that the conditions were harsh for the low pay and extreme hours required to work.
For Brandon Barlow, life as a Google bus driver was one endless cycle of traffic and exhaust.

He left home before dawn and arrived home late, after long hours spent shuttling Google employees back and forth on Highway 101. And Barlow wasn’t paid for the hours he had to wait around near Google headquarters in Mountain View before making the return run to San Francisco. That was the worst part of the job.

“They make everything convenient for Googlers, but they don’t make anything convenient for drivers,” Barlow said recently, exasperated. “There are so many fatigued tech shuttle drivers out there.”

If Silicon Valley shuttle buses are the physical symbols of San Francisco’s tech boom-fueled friction, then drivers like Barlow find themselves in an odd place: Bus drivers have benefited from the boom, but many feel exploited by those who have profited the most from it.

Such workers are tenuously employed with few job protections. Drivers like Barlow don’t even work for Google — they are employees of third-party contractors who typically receive low wages and often paltry benefits. Some drivers have also questioned the legality of practices employed by those contractors, such as requiring drivers to work split shifts in which they spend unpaid hours waiting for the afternoon leg of the commute.

Short turnaround

Barlow, 38, was employed by WeDriveU, one of the many transportation management companies employed by Bay Area tech firms. He said he was fired in August, after a bomb threat on BART prevented him from getting home until midnight. Because California lawrequires commercial drivers to receive an adequate amount of sleep, he called his employer to say he couldn’t make the morning leg of his shift.

WeDriveU did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

On weekdays, Barlow would leave his West Oakland home by 5:15 a..m., taking BART to a shuttle that would drop him at Oyster Point, where he picked up the bus he drove for a living — one of Google’s fleet of nondescript, double-deck behemoths that have become so synonymous with class tensions in San Francisco.

By 7:40 a.m., he made his first stop, picking up Mountain View-bound Googlers at Pierce and Lombard streets in the Marina district. He would fight traffic on Highway 101, then hang out (unpaid) until 3:15 p.m., when it was time to make the trip back to San Francisco. He’d do one more trip to Mountain View and start making his way home, where he would arrive around 9 p.m., pass out by 10 and start the whole thing over again the next day.

He made $18.75 an hour. Between the early mornings, late nights and split shifts, Barlow felt burned out after just one year on the job.

In 2004, Google was the first company to provide shuttles to employees who preferred to live in San Francisco. The first buses made two stops in the city and carried 155 passengers.

Now the company provides 112 shuttles which carry 6,000 riders from seven counties. More than one-third of its Mountain View employees catch a shuttle to work.

Other tech companies now also offer shuttles, including Facebook, Yahoo, Apple and Genentech. The city of San Francisco said that tech companies have obtained 500 permits for buses participating in the pilot program that allows the shuttles to use Muni bus stops (though companies are required to get permits for backup buses as well).

Since May, protesters have bemoaned the presence of those buses on city streets, blocking them with demonstrations and blaming them for what they view as the city’s downward spiral. Barlow is not the only tech shuttle driver to take issue with his employer, but their aggravation has been much quieter.

In December 2012, a WeDriveU driver filed a class-action lawsuit against the company on behalf of himself and other drivers. According to the lawsuit, the company failed to pay its drivers for time spent waiting between split shifts, did not provide legally required rest breaks or pay for time drivers spent performing required inspections on vehicles before and after shifts.

WeDriveU and the lead plaintiff recently agreed to a settlement of the suit, though the San Francisco Superior Court has not yet approved it.


“These drivers are low-wage workers who provide transit services for some of the highest valued companies in the world,” said Steven Tidrick, the drivers’ attorney, who would not comment on the terms of the settlement. “For any employer not to pay them for all hours worked is not only illegal, it is unconscionable.”

For some drivers, the settlement only compounded their concerns.

An August draft of the settlement awarded the 89 drivers a combined total of $125,000. After attorneys’ fees, the settlement totaled just $65,000, an average of about $730 per driver. And the amount did not include any award for the split shift, which drivers view as the biggest exploitation. One court filing notes that both sides deemed it “too speculative to factor in.”

The suit makes the same case that Barlow does — in between morning and evening runs, drivers are not really free to use their “free” time as they like, therefore the company should compensate them. To pass the five hours before the next shift, Barlow said, he would use Google’s gym or try to catch some shut-eye on the bus.

“You do what you can to kill time,” he said.

Barlow will receive an estimated $359 in the settlement. He was angry that the settlement doesn’t address any of his primary concerns — he even thought about filing a new suit against the company himself.

“It’s sickening. A lot of other drivers feel like that,” he said. “At least I got something.”

William Gould, a Stanford labor scholar, said that if the drivers aren’t able to truly do whatever they like in their time off-the-clock between shifts, their normal wages should apply.

“It would seem to be that they are on the clock, even though they are not,” he said.

Google declined to comment on the lawsuit, but noted that drivers receive “Google perks,” such as access to campus gyms, cafes and kitchens, to “enjoy” during “down hours on campus.”

But for many tech shuttle drivers, there is no real down time. There is just killing time between bleary-eyed, traffic-clogged trips up and down the freeway.

Another WeDriveU driver, who requested she not be named because she still works for the company, said her two shifts run from 7 to 11 a.m. and 3:30 to 11 p.m.

She said that sometimes the job feels like “jail” — most of her waking hours are spent traveling back and forth between Mountain View and San Francisco with little rest. On some days, she can make it back to the East Bay in between shifts to do things around the house and spend some time with her kids, but that means more hours on the road, more hours commuting to and from work. She is constantly exhausted.

“I’m killing myself for them for $19.25 an hour,” she said.

Few options

She earns well above minimum wage. It would be a decent living, she said, if not for the grueling schedule. But she has four kids and is the sole breadwinner in her household. She sees few options but to keep doing her job.

Barlow said his former employer could provide better rest facilities for drivers between shifts and schedule more “straight runs” instead of split shifts.

He wishes that Google and other companies would demand better treatment of drivers from their contractors.

“Whatever Google says, they jump,” he said.

Barlow has been a professional commercial coach driver for 13 years. He says he loves driving a bus — time goes by quickly. and he enjoyed chatting with Googlers. One employee even brought him coffee every morning.

He recently started a new job, driving a private bus for the CEO of a non-tech company. In some ways, Barlow said, he is relieved WeDriveU fired him.

“I have never come across a job that burns you out so fast,” he said. “All of the money you make isn’t good enough.”

Kristen V. Brown is a

San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: kbrown@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @kristenvbrown

Tags: Googlebus drivers
Categories: Labor News

Saying No to Warren Buffett Blood on the Tracks

Current News - Sun, 09/28/2014 - 08:40

Saying No to Warren Buffett
Blood on the Tracks

The City of New Orleans by Steve Goodman is a loving tribute to an era gone-by. Steve mourned what he perceived to be ”the disappearing railroad blues.” He takes a nostalgic look back at an America that looks better through the sepia tones of memory than it actually was. Steve Goodman was unquestionably a great song writer, but for all that, he was a lousy economist. America’s railroads are anything but disappearing. Rather than a relic from another time, they are at the forefront of American capital’s plan for the 21st century. If you don’t live along the major corridors of rail traffic, it is easy to miss this vital aspect of the US economy.
For people that live in, or near, one of the cities that stretch from Boston to Washington, when they think about railroads at all, they generally think first about Amtrak. Everyone who uses Amtrak has a horror story to tell. Even the premium Acela train is seen as not measuring up to the trains of Europe or China. The primary reason high speed passenger trains aren’t a priority in the US is simple: freight traffic makes too damn much money. Wherever in the world there are fast and efficient passenger trains, freight traffic is secondary, or non existent. There was a time in the United States when freight traffic was shunted to the side to make room for passenger trains. To the major railroads that was a waste of time and money.
If high speed passenger service were to be successful two essential things would be needed: 1. Government subsidies (or better yet total nationalization) and 2. A huge upgrade in infrastructure. File the first requirement under the category of “come the revolution,” and the second under unlikely. The infrastructure is just fine for what the major carriers want to accomplish. They do not want, or need tracks, or roadbeds, that can safely move 15,000 tons of freight at 100 miles per hour, sixty MPH will do nicely, thank you. Building and maintaining the right-of-way is an expensive and labor intensive proposition. Even with cost-cutting machinery it is viewed by railroads as something to be kept to a minimum.
In the decade before the crash of 2008 railroad freight traffic exploded. From 1996 to 2006 railroad and truck traffic both grew, but railroad traffic grew faster. Using the metric of ton miles, the industry’s standard measurement, that decade saw rail traffic grow 25.1% and truck traffic grow 21.8%. This boom is still being fueled by the growth of “unit trains.” Unit trains, as opposed to manifest trains, are a one trick pony. For example a train consisting solely of crude oil, or grain or coal are of unit trains. Such trains go from point A to point B with no stops in between. No setting out a cut of cars in Podunk, Iowa or picking up cars of lumber in Rochester, Minnesota. Much of America has become not only flyover country, but also roll-by country as well. This contrasts with the once more common manifest train. Such trains required switching at various points along the route. This change brought with it the loss of thousands of switching jobs, those jobs did indeed go the way of Steve Goodman’s disappearing railroad.
After years of consolidation American railroad evolved into five large carriers. With the aid of this monopoly the railroads were on track for bigger and bigger payoffs. My old boss, the Union Pacific has over 32,000 miles of tracks resulting from mergers and takeovers. In the second quarter of 2014 the Union Pacific saw its profits jump 17%. This in the midst of an economy that is, at best, sputtering along.
No unit train has been more important in reviving the fortunes of America’s railroads than double stack container trains. The humble container is as central to globalization as is the internet. Containers stack like bricks. Containers make a seamless transition from ship to train to truck. A ship docks in Long Beach, cranes move the containers directly onto double stack rail cars and two hundred containers are on there way to Chicago. No muss. No fuss. No longshoremen. These trains are the king of the road as far as the five major railroads are concerned. They are as time-sensitive as any passenger train, and huge money makers to boot.
Warren Buffett has a nose for money and a nose for exploitation. In 2009 Berkshire Hathaway forked over a cool $26 billion to buy the Burlington Northern Santa Fe. You can be sure that sentimentality had nothing to do with this move. During the same period. while the amount of ton-miles rose, the size of the crews that move the tons across those miles has steadily declined. Traditionally, road crews consisted of five people: An engineer, a fireman, a conductor, and two helpers, or brakemen. The fireman was the first to go in the early 1960s. The title still exists for apprentice engineers, but the craft itself was a victim of the change from steam to diesel. Next, one of the two helpers was gradually phased out in the 1970s. With the departure of the caboose, and the rear of the train protection that went with it, it wasn’t much longer until the second helper was gone. That is where we stand today: one engineer; one conductor per train.
It seemed at the time that this last reduction to the two person crew would be the end of job cuts. After all, trains were getting longer, the freight was becoming more dangerous and profits were going through the roof. The idea of “engineer only” was unthinkable to any experienced railroader, and anathema to anyone that knows the potential dangers involved. Ask yourself how safe would you feel boarding a 737 with only a pilot in the cockpit? Ask the people Lac Magnetic how having only an engineer in the cab of the locomotive worked out for them. For forty-seven of the town’s citizens it is too late to ask. The train involved in this disaster was the “engineer only” nightmare advocated by the BNSF. At the end of his run the engineer got off the engine and performed what is normally conductor’s work. With no one to help, and with no one to discuss the safest course of action, he tied on seven handbrakes on the seventy-two car train. Often the rule book calls for “sufficient hand brakes,” a weasel formulation that places the onus squarely on the crew.
Due to faulty equipment repairs, the seven handbrakes were not sufficient. The train’s air brakes failed as a result of a fire, and the cars ran full speed into Lac Magnetic, demolishing a large section of the town and killing forty-seven people. Almost before the smoke cleared the engineer became the villain. What followed was yet another classic replay of the Mai Lai syndrome. The Mai Lai syndrome is when blame is passed down the chain of command, and doesn’t stop until it reaches the lowest possible level. The last link in the chain was the engineer, who now faces forty-seven counts of criminal neglect and life in prison. Meanwhile management and government walk away with a stern warning. Wendy Taros, of the Canadian Transportation Safety Board delivered what amounts to a tsk, tsk: “Who then was in a position to check on this company, to make sure safety standards were being met? Who was the guardian of Public Safety?” Note the absence of the word “greed” in her questions.
Life for railroad operating personnel is controlled by the extra-board. Here is one relic of the 19th century that the carriers are happy to keep. The extra-board consists of being on call 24 hours, 365 days a year. Ten hours off and get ready. You get the call. You’re out the door. Usually with two hours to get to your assignment. Baby up all night? Too bad. Construction down the block? Too bad. Car alarm went off after two hours of sleep? Too bad. Day after day, month after month you are a prisoner of the telephone. After awhile you find yourself in a perpetual state of half-asleep and half-awake.
Now climb aboard four huge engines with enough horse poser to move a mile long train, a train often with enough hazardous materials to wipe out a mid-size town. Be prepared to be alone in the cab of the engine for the next ten to twelve hours. You’re given a stack of track bulletins, each one with specific, complicated instructions. Each one of these bulletins can be a question of life and death. In the course of your run you are constantly interacting with dispatchers, train masters, yard masters, track foremen, control operators, other trains and emergency personnel. Many of these radio conversations require exact wording, and a long ritualized formula: “Engineer on UP7215 East calling foreman Brown in charge of track bulletin 624 issued on September 24, between mile post 281.6 to mile post 285.7, over.” And so one back and forth the exchanges go over and over, with every word repeated exactly. No one to help interpret the sometimes ambiguous instructions; add to this a bad radio and a hard to understand track foreman and you get the picture. All this is done at sixty miles an hour, while monitoring speed, air pressure, track conditions, amperage and signals. In short a prescription for catastrophe.
Knowing all this the union negotiators of the engineers and the brakemen wanted to sign a sweetheart deal with the BNSF allowing the travesty of a one person crew in the next contract. More concerned with which craft would get the remaining position than the safety and well being of their membership, much less the general public, these union misleaders were ready to go along to get along. But the membership had other ideas, and they had the final say. (I am proud to say I was part of a movement in the early 1970s that fought and won the right to vote on contracts by the membership in the United Transportation Union). The rank and file defied the union leadership and voted down the engineer only proposal. They said no to the BNSF. No to Berkshire Hathaway. And no to the union bureaucrats. I have never been prouder of my brothers and sisters.
Guy Miller worked thirty-eight years on first the Chicago Northwestern, and later the Union Pacific as a trainman. He is a retired member of Local 577 of the United Transportation Union and lives in Chicago. He can be reached at: guycarlos@msn.com

Tags: Warren BuffetoshaBNSFUTUOne Man Crews
Categories: Labor News

Israeli Zim Shanghai At Standstill In Oakland By ILWU Action & Picket LIne

Current News - Sun, 09/28/2014 - 00:24

Israeli Zim Shanghai At Standstill In Oakland By ILWU Action & Picket LIne
ILWU Local 10 longshore workers refused to work the Zim
ship Shanghai at the Port Of Oakland on Saturday
September 27, 2014. One hundred and fifty picketers
from the Stop Zim Action Committee picketed the ship
at the SSA terminal pier 57 at the Port of Oakland and
called on the ILWU Local 10 and Local 34 not to work
the Isreali owned ship. As a result only one ILWU
longshore worker picked up a ticket to work the ship
during the morning shift thereby stranding it at the port.
The evening shift was also cancelled due to the community
labor picket line. The ship left the SSA terminal and Oakland
on early Sunday without being unloaded or loaded with
a destination of Los Angeles.
Community activists and trade unionists have called for a
complete worldwide labor boycott of Zim ships at all ports.
This action follows a similar five day picket of the Zim ship
Piraeus in August when the ship was picketed of five days
successfully stopping the complete unloading and loading
of the shop. It left for Russia without loading any containers.
For more video
Production of Labor Video Project www.laborvideo.org

Tags: ilwuZim ShanghaiapartheidIsrealracism
Categories: Labor News

Victory At Port Of Oakland SSA Picket Of Zim Shanghai-Rally & March Continuing At 4:30 PM West Oakland BART

Current News - Sat, 09/27/2014 - 11:35

Victory At Port Of Oakland SSA Picket Of Zim Shanghai-Rally & March Continuing At 4:30 PM West Oakland BART

The blockade of the Zim Shanghai continues tonight, after all but one ILWU longshore worker refused to take the job at morning dispatch.

Gather at W. Oakland BART by 4:30pm tonight to march and/or carpool to the port, or come directly to the SSA Terminal, Berth 57, at the Port of Oakland by 5pm.

Please continue to check text messages, Twitter and Facebook for alerts and updates.

Text: “Join” to 88202 for alerts on ship location and picket status
Twitter: @StopZIMOak
Facebook: facebook.com/events/545270232240123/
Inquiries: stopzimoak@gmail.com / (415) 282-1908

To track the Zim Shanghai: http://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/details/ships/477634600
Port of Oakland map: http://www.portofoakland.com/pdf/maritime/mari_map.pdf

End the Siege of Gaza!
Picket the Zim Shanghai Starting
September 27 at the Port of Oakland!

Israel and Hamas agreed to a set of conditions for a ceasefire on August 26th, after Israel had killed more than 2,100 Palestinians in Gaza – mostly civilians, more than a quarter children – and destroyed much of Gaza’s infrastructure, housing, hospitals, schools and water supply.

Israel claims it does not “occupy” Gaza, yet it has complete control of Gaza’s land crossings, seacoast and air space. Israel severely restricts Palestinians’ movement and their access to food, medical supplies, and construction materials.

In 1984, protesting against South African Apartheid, the Bay Area longshore workers union, ILWU Local 10, went on strike for 11 days against the Nedlloyd Kimberley, a ship carrying South African cargo.

In 2010, responding to the deadly Israeli attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, Local 10 honored a picket of an Israeli-owned ZIM ship by 1,200 community and labor activists, refusing to unload the ship for 24 hours. In August 2014, Palestinian, community and labor activists, in an historic victory, blocked the Zim Piraeus for five days and forced it to leave the Bay with most of its cargo still on board.

We ask the ILWU to carry on its long historical tradition of opposing injustice and honoring community picket lines. Let’s keep the pressure on and continue this tradition of labor blockades against oppression.

Please come to a sustained community and labor activist picket beginning on September 27th to stop the Zim Shanghai from unloading or loading any cargo – from when it arrives in Oakland until it leaves. This will also send a message to stevedoring companies such as Stevedore Services of America (SSA) who are pushing for concessions right now against longshore workers who are working without a contract.

Picket Lines Mean Don’t Cross!
An Injury to One is an Injury to All!
Solidarity with the Palestinian people!

Stop ZIM Action Committee


Endorsed by:

Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition USA
BDS National Committee (Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee)
BDS Marin
Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists – Social Justice Committee
Block the Boat, Tampa
Block the Boat, Vancouver
Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights (BCPR)
Coalition of Lebanese Civil Societies
CodePink, Golden Gate Chapter
CodePink, SF Chapter
East Bay Veterans for Peace
14 Friends of Palestine – Marin
Free Gaza Movement
Free Palestine Movement
Global Campaign for the Return to Palestine
Global March to Jerusalem
International Bolshevik Tendency
ISM – NorCal
Justice for Palestinians (San Jose)
Keep Hope Alive
Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace (LMNOP)
MECA (Middle Eastern Children’s Alliance)
NorCal Friends of Sabeel
North Coast Coalition for Palestine
Muslim American Society
Palestinian Association (Hamilton, Ontario)
Palestine Solidarity Committee/ISM, Seattle
Palestinian Solidarity Committee Stuttgart, Germany
Pax Christi Metro DC-Baltimore
Peace and Freedom Party
Socialist Organizer
St. Francis of Assisi Pax Christi, Derwood, MD
Transport Workers Solidarity Committee
United Public Workers for Action
Voices for Palestine
Voices for Peace in the Middle East, Bellingham
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Tags: ilwuZim ShanghaisolidarityPalestinians
Categories: Labor News

Protesters picket another Zim vessel in Oakland

Current News - Sat, 09/27/2014 - 11:29

Protesters picket another Zim vessel in Oakland

Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor | Sep 27, 2014 1:23PM EDT

About 40 anti-Israel protesters picketed the vessel Zim Shanghai Saturday morning at the Port of Oakland. The vessel was not worked during the day shift.

Port of Oakland spokesman Roberto Bernardo said no other vessels at the port were affected by the picketing.

In fact, the demonstrators did not block access to Zim vessel at the Oakland International Container Terminal, either. “Labor was able to enter the terminal to report to work, however, labor was insufficient to successfully work the vessel,” he said.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union has been working without a contract since the previous contract expired on July 1. While that means that the no-strike clause in the waterfront contract is not in effect, and the union is free to honor any waterfront picket lines, there have been no major work stoppages on the West Coast the past three months.

Negotiations between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association on a coast-wide contract are on-going in San Francisco. The PMA and ILWU reported last month that they had reached tentative agreement on the medical benefits portion of the contract, which is considered an important accomplishment.

Demonstrators who are sympathetic toward the Palestinian causes in Gaza had picketed another Zim vessel in August, and that ship eventually left Oakland without being worked.

The night shift at the port begins at 5 p.m. Protesters said they intend to return for that shift tonight.

Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at bmongelluzzo@joc.com and follow him on Twitter: @billmongelluzzo

Tags: ilwuZim picket
Categories: Labor News

Global Supply Chain News: Automation Emerging as Key Issue in West Coast Port Negotiations "The good news is that the peak season for 2014, when manufacturers and retailers bring in merchandise for Christmas shoppers, is just about over."

Current News - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 21:35

Global Supply Chain News: Automation Emerging as Key Issue in West Coast Port Negotiations "The good news is that the peak season for 2014, when manufacturers and retailers bring in merchandise for Christmas shoppers, is just about over."

- Sept. 25, 2014 -

Global Supply Chain News: Automation Emerging as Key Issue in West Coast Port Negotiations
With Tough Health Care Issue Apparently Resolve, Talks Now Hinge on Resolving Automation and Jobs Conundrum

With the International Longshore and Warehouse Union now is working without a contract at West Coast ports for coming up on three months, new insight into the key issue holding up a deal.

New technology at the TraPac terminal at the Port of Los Angeles is likely to reduce the number of workers needed per crane by about 53 percent, for example.

Earlier, the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents West Coast ports and terminals in the negotiations, announced they had reached a tentative deal on what most thought would be the most contentious issue, relative to the union's generous health care plan.

As constituted now, that coverage would be designated as a "Cadillac" plan under the Obamacare law, subjecting the PMA to more than $100 million in annual penalties starting in 2018.

The ports would obviously like to shift more of the costs onto the workers, so that the plan no longer hits Cadillac status. The union would probably want additional compensation to cover the healthcare hit to its members.
Details of the tentative deal on the health care plan have not been released, and both sides said even that deal was subject to reaching an accord in all the other areas.

But last week, reports came that the lynchpin issue now relates to port automation.
The two sides are discussing how to retrain and preserve jobs for dockworkers as automation reduces the number of positions at one Los Angeles terminal by 40-50%, after projects are completed in 2016, according to a recent Bloomberg article.

But under the union arrangement, "Employers aren't simply free to decide to reduce jobs. In addition, it depends on the nature of the automation," saysNeil Davidson, a senior analyst at Drewry Maritime Research.

In recent years, the ILWU has been fairly complacent with regard to automation at West Coast ports, in part in recognition that US ports do need to add more automation to remain competitive.

In fact, of the top ports in terms of productivity across the globe, only one US port - Long Beach - ranks in the top 20, and it barely made it, coming in at the last spot on the list, as shown below.

Source: Journal of Commerce

But to date, that growing automation at West Coast ports hasn't had much of an impact in terms of jobs. That is changing - and the union may now feel the need to push back hard.
New technology at the TraPac terminal at the Port of Los Angeles is likely to reduce the number of workers needed per crane by about 53 percent, for example, and by 85% in the area where containers are loaded on to trucks and rail cars.

This one may be very tough to resolve. Keep your port options open for now, in case this does turn into a strike or work stoppage.

The good news is that the peak season for 2014, when manufacturers and retailers bring in merchandise for Christmas shoppers, is just about over.

Tags: ilwuAutomationWest Coast Contract
Categories: Labor News

SF Uber driver accused of hammer attack on San Francisco rider

Current News - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 19:11

SF Uber driver accused of hammer attack on San Francisco rider
By Vivian Ho
Updated 6:09 pm, Friday, September 26, 2014

An Uber driver is accused of seriously injuring a passenger by bashing him on the head with a hammer in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood, authorities said Friday.

Patrick Karajah, 26, of Pacifica pleaded not guilty Thursday in San Francisco Superior Court to charges of assault with a deadly weapon and battery with serious bodily injury. He is free on $125,000 bail.

Karajah allegedly picked up the victim and his two friends from a bar at about 2 a.m. Tuesday. While driving the two men and one woman to their destination, he got into a dispute with the victim over the route he was taking, according to court documents.

Karajah, who was driving for the basic UberX service, stopped near the intersection of Ellsworth Street and Alemany Boulevard and forced the victim and his friends to get out, according to documents.

Once the alleged victim was out of the vehicle, Karajah struck him on the side of his head with a hammer, and then drove away, authorities said.

When police arrived, they reportedly found the victim slipping in and out of consciousness on the sidewalk, suffering from severe fractures and trauma to the head. Karajah was later arrested at his home in Pacifica.

“We take reports like this seriously and are treating the matter with the utmost urgency and care,” said Eva Behrend, an Uber spokeswoman. “It is also our policy to immediately suspend a driver's account following any serious allegations, which we have done. We stand ready to assist authorities in any investigation.”

Behrend said, “Safety is Uber’s No. 1 priority.”

In June, another driver for the company, 28-year-old Daveea Whitmire, was charged for allegedly striking a passenger.

Karajah’s attorney did not immediately return requests for comment. A person who answered the phone at Karajah’s home Friday declined to answer questions.

Vivian Ho is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: vho@sfchronicle.comTwitter: @VivianHo

Tags: UberSan Francisco
Categories: Labor News

Second Canadian National Railway Derailment in One Day in Alberta

Railroaded's Blog - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 19:00

It’s almost impossible to keep up with the number of reported Canadian National Railway derailments in Alberta. The latest occurred this afternoon near Wildwood west of Edmonton, when 15 cars loaded with coal fell off the tracks (Global Edmonton). The extent of environmental damage was not disclosed.

Railroaded reported earlier today about another CN derailment near Vermilion that occurred last night, less than 24 hours before the one near Wildwood. That derailment involved 17 CN cars loaded with peas.

These are the 20th and 21st reported CN derailments in Alberta in less than a year. It is well known that CN intentionally does not report many of its derailments, so there are undoubtedly many more that have occurred in Alberta during the past year. See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for details.

Filed under: Canadian National Railway, Derailment
Categories: Labor News

Global: Bargain to STOP Precarious Work

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: IndustriALL Global Union
Categories: Labor News

France: Hyatt Paris: outsourced hotel housekeepers strike and win wage increase

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: IUF
Categories: Labor News

S.F., L.A. threaten Uber, Lyft, Sidecar with legal action

Current News - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 15:40

S.F., L.A. threaten Uber, Lyft, Sidecar with legal action
By Heather Knight and Benny Evangelista

September 25, 2014 | Updated: September 26, 2014 8:17am

Yalonda M. James/Associated Press
July 14, 2014 - Lyft driver Geoffrey Frisch, 36, enters his vehicle before heading to the Memphis International Airport Monday afternoon, July 14, 2014. Memphis has issued a cease-and-desist order against the ride-share service, which has been in service in the city since April, until they meet the same regulatory requirements as taxis and other vehicles for hire. (AP Photo/The Commercial Appeal, Yolanda M. James)
The San Francisco and Los Angeles district attorneys have sent letters to ride-share companies Uber, Lyft and Sidecar claiming they are operating illegally and warning them that legal action could follow if they don’t make major changes.

The two district attorney offices conducted a joint investigation into the ride-share companies and found a number of practices that violate California law. The prosecutors say the practices represent “a continuing threat to consumers and the public.”

Sidecar shared its letter with the media and issued a statement saying it strongly disagrees with the thrust of the letter and has no plans to change its operations. Uber and Lyft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We value innovation and new modes of providing service to the public,” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement. “However, we need to make sure the safety and well-being of consumers are adequately protected in the process.”

The district attorneys told all three companies that they misled customers by claiming their background checks of drivers screen out anyone who has committed driving violations, including DUIs, as well as sexual assault and other criminal offenses. The district attorneys say that’s patently untrue.

Gascón in June charged Uber driver Daveea Whitmire, 28, of striking a passenger. He had passed the company’s background check, but court records showed he had previously been convicted of felony drug dealing and misdemeanor battery.

Gascón wants the companies to remove all statements from their mobile apps, websites and other publications that imply their background checks reveal drivers’ complete criminal history.

The district attorneys also told all three companies that their new shared ride service fares — in which individuals going the same way can hop in a car and pay their fares separately — are calculated in a way that violates state law. Gascón wants the shared-ride payment features removed from the companies’ offerings.

Sidecar CEO Sunil Paul called the letter “shocking and baffling” and said he has already asked to meet both office to discuss the issues.

“We’re going to continue to operate Shared Ride,” Paul said Thursday. “We think their claims are incorrect and their assertions that we are operating illegally are simply incorrect.”

Earlier this month, the California Public Utilities Commission sent warning letters to all three that the carpool options are illegal under current state law.

However, a PUC official said the letters were also a signal to the state Legislature to update laws that were written to prevent limousine drivers from poaching passengers from existing shared-ride services like Super Shuttle.

The district attorneys accused Uber and Lyft of engaging in two additional unlawful practices. One is failure to be regulated by the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture’s weights and measures division, which regulates everything from groceries to gas stations to taxis to ensure that customers are getting the amount of food or gas or number of taxi miles they’re paying for. Uber and Lyft are also accused of failing to get the proper licenses to pick up and drop off passengers at airports.

The companies have been asked to respond to the letters by Monday and meet with representatives of the district attorney’s office by Oct. 8. If not, the prosecutors are prepared to file legal actions seeking injunctive relief and civil penalties. It’s unclear what those could entail.

The district attorneys’ move is the latest volley in the ongoing battle between local government, which regulates many things to ensure safety, and the new sharing economy sector of the tech industry, which has largely resisted being regulated and argues it doesn't fit into government's outdated rules.

The ride-sharing companies, which allow people to use their smartphones to order privately driven cars instead of taxis, have argued since their inception they shouldn’t be regulated the same way as taxis. The state PUC doesn’t see it that way.

San Francisco City Hall is grappling with how to regulate Airbnb and other companies that allow people to rent their private homes and apartments to travelers. Currently, San Francisco bans all short-term residential rentals unless people hold bed-and-breakfast licenses, but it doesn’t enforce the rules. And City Attorney Dennis Herrera in June issued a cease-and-desist letter to Monkey Parking, an app that allows people in public parking spots to auction off those spaces to the highest bidder.

Proponents of the sharing economy argue the new services help reduce waste and allow regular people to make extra money, while critics argue the term “sharing” is ludicrous because it allows people to make extra money off their cars or homes and that they’re not actually sharing anything.

Heather Knight and Benny Evangelista are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. E-mail:hknight@sfchronicle.com, bevangelista@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @hknightsf, @ChronicleBenny

Tags: Uberregulationfraud
Categories: Labor News

Killings at UPS Alabama facility the latest workplace shooting in US

Current News - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 13:21

Killings at UPS Alabama facility the latest workplace shooting in US
By Jerry White
26 September 2014
The deadly shooting at a United Parcel Service facility in Birmingham, Alabama Tuesday was the latest in a long string of workplace and school killings in the US, which have been occurring at an increased rate over the last seven years, according to a new FBI report.
In this case, the shooter was identified as Kerry Joe Tesney, a 45-year-old UPS driver who was informed that he had been fired after 21 years of service. According to the Birmingham News, the married father of two had appealed a decision by the company to fire him last month and was informed by mail on Monday that he had lost the appeal.
One day later Tesney, wearing his UPS uniform, walked into the warehouse near the Birmingham airport and just before 9:30 a.m. opened fire on two supervisors in their office. He then turned the gun on himself.
Doug Hutcheson, 33, a driver supervisor and father of two small children, and Brian Callans, 46, a business manager who worked for UPS for 26 years, were both killed. Hutcheson had reportedly been involved in investigating an alleged infraction by Tesney and had recommended his dismissal.
According to the pastor at the North Park Baptist Church where Tesney lived in suburban Trussville, Alabama, the UPS driver had been “troubled” over his work and financial situation.
The Alabama incident was one of many in the last few months alone. So prevalent have these mass killings become in recent years that the FBI issued a report this week on “Active Shooter Incidents,” which examined 160 such events between 2000 and 2013 that did not involve gang- or drug-related violence or individuals.
The shootings examined included many that attracted national and international attention, such as the killings at Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook Elementary School, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Fort Hood, the Aurora (Colorado) Cinemark Century 16 movie theater, the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin and the Washington Navy Yard.
These tragedies resulted in a staggering toll of 1,043 casualties, with 486 killed and 557 wounded, excluding the shooters. The study showed that such incidents have become more frequent—with an average of 6.4 annually in the first seven years of the study and 16.4 annually over the last seven years.
The bloodiest year was 2012, with 90 people killed and 118 wounded in 21 incidents, including 12 fatalities at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and another 27 people, mostly children, killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Other findings of the study include:
* All but six of the 160 shootings involved male shooters (and only two involved more than one shooter).
* More than half—90 shootings—ended on the shooter’s initiative (i.e., suicide, fleeing), while 21 incidents ended after unarmed citizens successfully restrained the shooter.
* In 21 of the 45 confrontations, where law enforcement had to engage the shooter to end the threat, nine officers were killed and 28 were wounded.
* The largest percentage of incidents—45.6 percent—took place in a commercial environment (73), followed by 24.3 percent that took place in an educational environment (39). The remaining shootings occurred at the other locations, as specified in the study—open spaces, military and other government properties, residential properties, houses of worship, and health care facilities.
The primary purpose of the study, the FBI said, was to “provide our law enforcement partners—normally the first responders on the scene of these dangerous and fast-moving events—with data that will help them to better prepare for and respond to these incidents, saving more lives and keeping themselves safer in the process.”
Special Agent Katherine Schweit—who heads the FBI’s Active Shooter Initiative—said she hopes the study “demonstrates the need not only for enhanced preparation on the part of law enforcement and other first responders, but also for civilians to be engaged in discussions and training on decisions they’d have to make in an active shooter situation.”
As in the response to virtually every other social problem in America, the focus of the authorities is to beef up police, increase the surveillance of the population and encourage the arming of teachers. Few if any resources are dedicated to examine, let alone offer a solution to, the underlying social causes of such violent eruptions.
This is combined with general perplexity over the levels of alienation and social anger in the population.
“Many active shooters have a real or perceived deeply held personal grievance, and the only remedy that they can perceive for that grievance is an act of catastrophic violence against a person or an institution,” said FBI behavioral analysis expert Andre Simons, who added that the shootings can bring a “moment of omnipotent control and domination.”
According to the FBI website, “Using the results of this study, the Bureau’s behavioral analysis experts will now delve deeper into why these shooters did what they did in an effort to help strengthen prevention efforts around the country.”
The increasing prevalence of a sense of social powerlessness is not only a psychological condition, but is rooted in the social and political structure of America itself.
Nowhere do masses of ordinary people have so little control over their lives. Decisions over whether they work or not, and whether their families will have enough to eat, are made by powerful and faceless economic and political forces oblivious to the needs of the majority. Millions have been tossed into the abyss and official society hardly takes notice, while the financial kingpins are reveling in record amounts of wealth.
The organizations that once mediated class relations in the United States—the trade unions and the civil rights groups—are run by corrupt and well-heeled functionaries who are part of the establishment and oppose any collective resistance to the daily humiliations on the job, layoffs or devastating wage and pension cuts. The result is that millions of workers are left to fend for themselves.
Notwithstanding the periodic laments issued by political figures after a particularly horrific shooting, these eruptions cannot be separated from the militarism and glorification of mass murder that is given official approval by the Obama administration and both big business parties, as well as the media and entertainment conglomerates.
Under these conditions, the most psychologically fragile snap and erupt in violence. In the end, the underlying cause of this is the brutal character of class relations in America.

Tags: UPS Workplace Murder
Categories: Labor News

Burlington Neighbourhood Frustrated with CN Rail Yard Activities

Railroaded's Blog - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 12:51

Some residents in the Aldershot community of Burlington, Ontario have been fighting Canadian National Railway for 15 years, without success. Residents can’t sleep at night, their houses shake and rattle, and their property values have dropped with the increasing rail yard activity in their community.

The sometimes deafening noise at the CN Aldershot Rail Yard comes from shunting and coupling of rail cars, idling and slow-moving locomotives, load cell testing of locomotives, wheel and brake retarder squeal, compressed air releases, and many other disturbing noises associated with rail yard activities. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Railway Association of Canada list noises at rail yards as one of the top five railway proximity issues of concern to nearby residents. Noise in rail yards is far more frequent and of much longer duration than normal railway noise.

Residents are also concerned about their health, considering the well-documented carcinogenic effects of diesel exhaust from idling and slow-moving locomotives.

In 2006, the Aldershot community presented a petition to Canadian National Railway, their Mayor and Councillors, and their Member of Parliament, pleading for resolution to their nightmare. Petitioners suggested building a sound barrier and restricting noisy rail yard activities at night and during early mornings. CN essentially ignored the petition. Unfortunately, and as is the case across the country, local governments have no jurisdictional authority when it comes to railway activity including noise and vibration, so the local Mayor and Council have not been able to help. The federal government has the sole legislative responsibility for railway operations, safety and railway impacts on neighbouring communities.

Aldershot residents have seen their property values decrease as the rail yard activities have increased. Some residents near the rail yard have estimated their homes are worth about $200,000 less than comparable homes less than a 5-minute walk further away from the rail yard.

Recent derailments reported in the Aldershot community have also increased the stress of residents. Three CN cars loaded with ballast rock derailed in the Aldershot Rail Yard on April 22, 2014, when a train passed over a “frog”, a railway term that refers to the crossing point of two rails (Toronto Star). On February 26, 2012, three Via Rail engineers were killed and 46 other people were injured when a Via locomotive and five cars derailed near the Aldershot Station on track owned, operated and maintained by CN. The train was switching from one track to another when it flew off the tracks and collided with a building, destroying the locomotive that the three deceased crew members were in. A former CN project engineer said the deadly derailment might have been prevented if CN had heeded warnings and removed or upgraded an obsolete crossover between tracks designed mainly for freight trains travelling at a maximum speed of 24km/h (CBC News).

Aldershot community members are at their wit’s end. The unreasonable rail yard noise, health effects, property devaluation and derailments have placed tremendous stress on families and their overall quality of life. If there ever was a case where the federal government should exercise its legal responsibilities for appropriate railway operations, it is in the Aldershot community. Railroaded sincerely hopes the local Member of Parliament and the federal Transport Minister will help this community. We also encourage the Aldershot community to make a strong submission to the recently-created Canada Transportation Act Review Secretariat by December 30, 2014. For details on the review of this federal legislation, see Rail and Reason’s recent article.

Filed under: Canadian National Railway, Derailment, Rail yard
Categories: Labor News

St. Louis Bus Company Fails at Racial Divide and Conquer Against ATU Local 788

Current News - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 12:29

St. Louis Bus Company Fails at Racial Divide and Conquer Against ATU Local 788
September 25, 2014 / Jenny Brown

St. Louis bus union ATU Local 788 fought back against race-baiting by the transit authorities by leafleting riders, picketing, and placing ads like this one. Today they're voting on a tentative agreement; tomorrow they're rallying in front of the employer's headquarters. Source: ATU Local 788.

Update: Members approved the contract in a Thursday vote.

Bus workers in Amalgamated Transit Union Local 788 are celebrating a tentative agreement after they called management on outrageous racism.

The workers, who serve St. Louis, including Ferguson, have been trying for over three years to get a new contract with Metro, the bi-state agency that runs the buses. The union said the new contract preserves workers’ defined benefit pension plan, increases wages, and improves health care coverage.

Members are voting today.

Part of the reason the contract took so long, said ATU President Larry Hanley before the agreement, was that “the company is populated by racial arsonists.

“They have economic goals for the agency, and the linchpin of economic goals these days is to strip the workers of pensions and wages,” Hanley explained in early September. “The method that the agency has chosen to use is to separate workers by race and category.”


Most of the drivers are Black, and most of the mechanics are white. So “officials of the agency have been privately negotiating with the mechanics to get them to leave the ATU, telling them they can get them more,” said Hanley. “In other words, ‘If you aren’t part of that Black bus drivers union, we’re going to take care of you.’”

The real motive, of course, was to separate workers into smaller groups so they wouldn’t have the power to stand up to management’s cuts. But management’s strategy was failing, so they stepped it up.

In July management came into bargaining, “and they say, ‘We have a gift for the bargaining committee,’ and they hand each one of them the recipe for Oreo cookies,” recalled Hanley.

The union responded with demonstrations, radio spots, and newspaper ads. When workers leafleted riders at transit centers, Metro tried to ban their leafleting on employer property. Members turned up the heat by demonstrating at the residence of Metro’s CEO, John Nations.


“Securing the agreement is a victory, but it doesn’t resolve the pain and outrage that the Oreo incident caused. This issue must be addressed,” said Local President Mike Breihan. The union has asked Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to remove Nations as head of the bi-state agency.

“After all our community has been through in the last month, we will not accept behavior like this,” Breihan said. “We will be calling on the Metro Board and elected officials to address this immediately.” The local is holding a "Rally for Respect" outside Metro headquarters on Friday.

The agency is covered under federal transit law, not the NLRA, so there’s nowhere to file an unfair labor practice. “If there were, we would have had a pile of charges, based on their behavior,” said Hanley.

Jenny Brown is co-editor of Labor Notes.

Tags: ATU 788racism
Categories: Labor News

Golden Gate Bridge MEBA Ferry Boat Pilots Strike Against Concession Demands

Current News - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 10:51

Golden Gate Bridge MEBA Ferry Boat Pilots Strike Against Concession Demands
Golden Gate Bridge MEBA Ferry Boat Pilots went out on
strike in an unfair labor practice shutdown on
September 26, 2014. The management and board of the
Golden Gate Transportation District is seeking major
givebacks on their healthcare and benefits in a cost
shifting scheme.
Production of Labor Video Project www.laborvideo.org

Tags: MEBA StrikeIBU-ILWU Bay AreaGolden Gate Bridge District
Categories: Labor News

Canadian National Railway Train Derails Near Vermilion, Alberta

Railroaded's Blog - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 10:09

Seventeen Canadian National Railway freight cars loaded with peas derailed east of Vermilion, Alberta on September 25 (CTV News). The derailment forced the closure of the rail line for at least 24 hours while the cars and peas were cleared off the tracks.

This is the 20th reported CN derailment in Alberta in less than a year. See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for many more examples of CN accidents in Canada and the U.S.

Filed under: Canadian National Railway, Derailment
Categories: Labor News

Golden Gate MEBA Ferry captains to strike Friday

Current News - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 22:22

Golden Gate MEBA Ferry captains to strike Friday
By Michael Cabanatuan
Updated 6:10 pm, Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Golden Gate Ferry boat arrives in Larkspur, Calif. on Friday, July 1, 2011. Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle

Thousands of commuters who enjoy a relaxing ferry commute will have to find another way to travel to work or the ballpark Friday when the Golden Gate ferry captains stage a one-day strike.

The 16 ferry captains represented by theMarine Engineers’ Beneficial Association will strike from 4:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., shutting down all ferry service between Marin and San Francisco, including service to the Giants game at AT&T Park. About 9,000 commuter trips are taken on the ferry daily, and another 1,400 trips are taken by baseball fans headed to or from AT&T Park.

“The boats cannot run without those captains, “ said Priya Clemens, spokeswoman for the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District. “The best thing for people to do is to check alternate routes.”

The Alameda/Oakland, Harbor Bay, Vallejo and South San Francisco ferries operated by San Francisco Bay Ferry will operate as usual.

The ferry captains union is part of a coalition of unions at the district that have been negotiating for a new labor agreement for months. They have been working without contracts since July. According to union officials, increased health insurance costs are the main issue.

The captains union filed an unfair labor practice charge with the state Public Employment Relations Board on Wednesday, accusing the district of failing to negotiate fairly.

“The MEBA and other employees do not trust the district’s current proposals at the bargaining table,” said Dave Nolan, a union representative. “Round after round of negotiations have not resulted in a fair contract for these workers.”

Denis Mulligan, Golden Gate’s general manager, said the district had been negotiating with the captains since April and had resolved most issues. He said the district is trying to balance its budget without putting all the burden on people who pay bridge tolls and transit fares.

“We’re trying to strike a balance between our ratepayers who pay bridge tolls and ferry fares and our employees,” he said.

The strike will shut down the Golden Gate Ferry terminals at Sausalito, Larkspur terminals and the Ferry Building and AT&T Park in San Francisco.

Golden Gate Transit bus service and traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge are not expected to be directly affected by the strike but will undoubtedly be crowded with extra commuters.

“Thankfully, it’s a Friday, which is a little lighter,” Clemens said. “Nonetheless, prepare for a tough day.”

Robert Barley, a ferry captain, said the union is frustrated with the pace of negotiations and thought a strike was necessary to get the district’s attention.

“Going on strike tomorrow is the last thing we want to do, but the district has given us little choice,“ Barley said Thursday.

Last Friday, machinists represented by another union in the coalition staged a one-day strike and picketed at the bridge toll plaza administration building, but that did not affect commutes. The Golden Gate Labor Coalition contends that the district’s offer of 3 percent raises for each of the three years in the contract combined with increases in health insurance premiums will leave workers taking a pay cut.

District officials have said that their workers are well paid compared with others with similar jobs in the Bay Area, and that they’re asking them to pay only a slightly larger share of their health insurance costs.

“They’re the highest-paid ferry captains on San Francisco Bay,” Mulligan said. “And they have generous health plans. We are asking for a modest increase, but it’s more than offset by the generous wage.”

Ferry riders waiting for boats at the Larkspur terminal Thursday afternoon said the strike will be inconvenient if it lasts more than a day. Susie Kelly of Terra Linda said her husband commutes by ferry daily but has Friday off. If he were working, she said, “He’d just drive — it's only a day.”

Asked if ferry captains should be allowed to strike, she said: “Absolutely. If you ask and you ask and you ask, and the district doesn’t listen, what other option do you have?”

Debbie Gettys of Healdsburg who was headed for the Giants game, was sympathetic but not sure she supported the captains.

“They’re not alone,“ she said. “Everyone is in the same boat right now with health care, not just them.”

Michael Cabanatuan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail:mcabanatuan@sfchronicle.com

Twitter @ctuan

Tags: MEBAGolden Gate Ferry Boats
Categories: Labor News

Women on the Waterfront

Current News - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 11:13

Women on the Waterfront
BC Maritime Employers Association

Tags: ilwu
Categories: Labor News

Canadian National Railway Grain Hauling Fine a Joke

Railroaded's Blog - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 09:43

The federal government announced last week that Canadian National Railway would be fined under the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act for failing to move a minimum amount of grain each week.

Under the legislation which came into effect on April 1, railways would face maximum penalties of $100,000 a day for failing to handle 500,000 tonnes of grain each week for the next 90 days (Globe and Mail). But when the legislation was extended in August, the fine was reduced to up to $100,000 per violation which Transport Canada says means per week. The significant change was buried in a lengthy government backgrounder and went unnoticed by the grain industry, media and Official Opposition.

Wade Sobkowich, Executive Director of the Western Grain Elevator Association said, “Lovely. The old switcheroo.” He described the change as “disingenuous” and a “very small amount” for railways like CN that generate billions of dollars in revenue a year. “We did not receive notice of the change, and if true, we are surprised and question the reason for the reduction”.

Opposition Agriculture Critic Malcolm Allen said the federal government softened the law under fierce pressure from railway executives, who “screamed almighty murder” over a per-day fine. “Every time push comes to shove, it’s the railroaders that win with the Department of Transport”, he said.

This is just one of many, many examples of the sad state of railway legislation and enforcement in Canada. Federal legislation, even that passed very recently, consistently favours the railroad industry, and then to add insult to injury, enforcement of the weak legislation is either limited or non-existent. Transport Canada has often been referred to as a “toothless tiger” when it comes to regulating the rail industry in Canada, dominated by the two rail giants, Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway – it is a term that has been well earned.

The federal government refuses to bring the rail industry into the 21st century when it comes to fairness to shippers, rail safety, railway noise and vibration impacts, or environmental impacts of the rail industry. Canadians, including farmers, other shippers, municipalities, rail safety advocates, environmental organizations and individual Canadians have an opportunity to make their concerns known about these and other rail matters, by contacting the Canada Transportation Act Review Secretariat by December 30, 2014. See this Rail and Reason article for details on how to make a submission to the Secretariat.


Filed under: Canadian National Railway, Canadian Pacific Railway, Rail and Reason, Transport Canada
Categories: Labor News

National Labor Relations Board asks judge to find Portland ILWU longshore union in contempt for slowdowns

Current News - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 09:39

National Labor Relations Board asks judge to find Portland ILWU longshore union in contempt for slowdowns

A crane at Terminal 6 with Hanjin containers stacked nearby. (Benjamin Brink / The Oregonian)
PrintBy Mike Francis | mfrancis@oregonian.com
Follow on Twitter
on September 24, 2014 at 4:52 PM, updated September 24, 2014 at 7:10 PM

The National Labor Relations Board has asked a federal judge to penalize the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and two local chapters for continuing a work slowdown at the Port of Portland's Terminal 6.

In a motion filed last week, NLRB regional director Ronald Hooks said the union has continued to "disobey and fail and refuse to comply" with a July 2012 court order to end the slowdowns at Terminal 6. He asked the judge to declare each union organization in contempt and to fine them up to $25,000 each, plus an additional fine for each day the slowdown continues. He also named individual union officials and asked for lesser fines for each of them.

(Read: NLRB memorandum in support of contempt motion.pdf )

The longshore union has been locked in a bitter dispute with ICTSI Oregon, the company the Port of Portland hired in 2010 to operate Terminal 6 in the Port's Rivergate District, where the Willamette River flows into the Columbia. ICTSI Oregon, which operates the terminal under a 25-year lease, is a unit of International Container Terminal Services Inc., a conglomerate based in Manila, Philippines.

The longshore union said the filing was related to a dispute over work involving the plugging and unplugging of refrigerated containers, or reefers, that union workers had been doing at Terminal 6 since January. But, said spokesperson Jennifer Sargent, "What's really at issue on the ground at Terminal 6 is ICTSI's abysmal labor relations and an operation that is plagued by understaffing and equipment shortages. ICTSI would better serve the region and local community by improving its labor/management approach and providing a sufficient number of workers with enough equipment for them to perform their work."

While a 2010 Port newsletter quoted a longshore official as saying the union "will welcome (ICTSI) to Portland with open arms," the relationship soon turned sour. The union, which has said ICTSI Oregon is "incompetent" and manages Terminal 6 by intimidation, has sued and been sued by ICTSI and the Port, and has been the subject of two rulings by administrative law judges who said longshore workers had conducted work slowdowns. The union has filed exceptions to the rulings, so they are not considered final.

A central issue in the dispute at Terminal 6 has been which workers will be assigned the job of plugging and unplugging the power cords on reefers. Following intervention by Gov. John Kitzhaber last December, the Port agreed to assign the jobs – traditionally done by members of the electrical union – to workers represented by the longshore union. The Port has said it gave the jobs to longshore workers in hopes worker productivity at Terminal 6 would improve.

But last month, Port executive director Bill Wyatt told the longshore union he was revoking the assignment of the reefer jobs because union workers had become less, rather than more productive. Calling the workers' productivity at Terminal 6 "unacceptable," he said the longshore slowdown "negatively impacts all of the people whose livelihood is connected with working at or providing services to T6."

In an affidavit filed by the NLRB, Brian Yockey, ICTSI's manager at Terminal 6, said productivity has declined since January as longshore workers have engaged in slowdown tactics such as operating cranes more slowly than a trainee, showing up late for shifts and walking off their jobs.

The NLRB also filed an affidavit by Dan Pippenger, the Port's general manager for marine operations. Pippenger said the shift of the two reefer jobs to longshore workers has roughly tripled the Port's costs of performing the work. He estimated paying longshore workers dedicated to the two reefer jobs would cost the Port about $900,000 for a full year, up from about $300,000 when the work was performed by workers represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Pippenger also said the Port's subsidies to carriers Hanjin, Hapag-Lloyd and Westwood would reach about $4 million by the end of the year. Hanjin said in March it would continue calling at Terminal 6 despite its concerns about higher operating costs, but would review its decision quarterly.

Port spokesman Josh Thomas said the Port has "nothing new to report" about Hanjin's review. He said the Port remains focused on retaining the carriers' business and "keeping the cargo moving" at Terminal 6.

A hearing on the contempt motion will be scheduled soon, an NLRB lawyer said.

A spokesperson for ICTSI Oregon said the company hopes the NLRB's action "helps improve productivity at Terminal 6."

-- Mike Francis

Tags: ilwu
Categories: Labor News


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