Feed aggregator

South Africa: It’s a ‘bloodbath’ as companies sack 60,000 people

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Promo
Categories: Labor News

IBT Reformers Producing Fierce Challenge to Longtime Hoffa Leadership of Teamsters Union

Current News - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 06:13

IBT Reformers Producing Fierce Challenge to Longtime Hoffa Leadership of Teamsters Union
Some are predicting that James Hoffa Jr.'s reign may finally be over.
By Gerard Di Trolio / AlterNetApril 25, 2016

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Eyes will be on the presidential race this fall, but another election with wide-reaching implications will be here soon enough as well. Elections for the General President and the General Executive Board of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters will have an impact on 1.2 million workers in the United States and the wider labor movement. Ballots will be mailed out to all members of the Teamsters this October.

The elections come at a pivotal moment for both the Teamsters and the U.S. labor movement. This will be the first direct election in Teamsters history that will not occur while the union is under the direct supervision of the federal government. The Teamsters had been under such supervision from 1989 to 2015 as part of a settlement of RICO charges brought by then U.S. Attorney for Manhattan Rudolph Giuliani. The federal government is satisfied with the union's internal democratic reforms and no longer believes the Teamsters are under the influence of organized crime, but that does not mean the Teamsters are free of corruption or a thriving union.

The future of the Teamsters and concerns about corruption make the upcoming elections in October a referendum on the continued presidency of James P. Hoffa. Hoffa, son of the legendary Jimmy, has been the Teamsters' president since 1998. He won a special election in 1998 that was a rerun of the 1996 executive elections. Federal investigators found that the campaign of Hoffa's predecessor Ron Carey had illegally raised $700,000 for the reelection campaign. Carey was personally exonerated of any wrongdoing, but was expelled from the union.

The Teamsters that Hoffa took over looked to be on the upswing. Membership was growing from a postwar low of 1 million in the late 1980s that was created by the deregulation of the trucking industry. The Teamsters had also just won the 1997 UPS strike.

"The high of that era was the 1997 strike, the biggest labor victory in two decades, that raised the hopes and expectations of the entire labor movement," says Joe Allen, activist and author of the new e-book The Package King: A Rank and File History of the United Parcel Service. "I remember in the days following the UPS strike, 'FedEx is next, right?' The federal government sponsored witchhunt, led by congressional Republicans like Rep. Pete Hoekstra and Clinton's Justice Department, drove Carey out of office and set the stage for Hoffa to take over. This resulting 17 years of concession and stagnation is the product of the attack on the Teamsters."

Hopes of a "new labor movement" never came to be. While Hoffa managed to boost the Teamsters membership to as high as 1.7 million in the early 2000s, by 2014 it had dropped to 1.2 million. Corruption scandals mounted, culminating with the recent Independent Review Board charges against international vice-president and Hoffa ally, Rome Aloise. It's widely expected that Aloise will be expelled from the Teamsters to protect Hoffa and his slate.

One of the charges against Aloise include accepting tickets worth $9600 to the Playboy Superbowl party from Southern Wine and Spirits, which was in negotiations with a Minneapolis Teamster Local that would eventually settle for a subpar contract.

While Hoffa has faced challengers before to his presidency, he has managed to survive multiple challengers at once that prevented a unified anti-Hoffa front from being formed. 2016 looks to be different. There is now a unified opposition slate to challenge Hoffa—Teamsters United. This slate has also won the backing of Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), the famous rank-and-file organization of the Teamsters that emerged during the rank-and-file movements upsurge during the 1970s.

The united opposition to Hoffa came together as large swaths of the Teamster members and officials found themselves on the same side against Hoffa and his executive's decisions.

"We found that some officials who had never been part of TDU or worked with TDU, such as Fred Zuckerman started to move against these concessions," says Ken Paff, National Organizer for TDU. "Fred became outspoken against the concessions so we started working with him and teaming up on common issues in industries like automobile hauling, freight, UPS, grocery and on pensions. As we worked together, the slate came out of that. This is a broader slate, one that can win. We need to admit that in the past that Hoffa beat us."

Fred Zuckerman, president of Teamsters Local 89 in Louisville, KY, is Teamsters United candidate for general president. He doesn't mince words when talking about why he opposes Hoffa.

"I've been a Teamster for 37 years, and I don't like what I see," says Zuckerman. "Our union is weak, it's still filled with corruption, the current leadership is more in bed with management than it is standing up for the membership, we need to change our organizing. We're doing everything wrong and we to turn it around or we just won't survive."

Alongside corruption, Teamsters United has been also campaigning strongly on the issue of concessions made in recent contracts. "Just a couple years ago, they negotiated a deal with UPS. Now UPS had just posted profits of $4.5 billion. Now the leadership negotiated concessions but the membership turned it down, then they [Teamsters leadership] imposed the contract on them," says Zuckerman. "That's not what we do. We need to stand up for the members and get something that will make their lives better."

Teamsters United promises to do away with the ability of leadership to force a contract on a membership that has rejected it by a vote.

Zuckerman is also promising a renewed organizing push. "Hoffa's doing it all wrong. All he's doing is stealing workers from other public sector unions [known as union raiding]. That's not increasing our density, it's not helping our core industries," says Zuckerman. "When you organize in the core industries it helps us and our pension funds. These public sector workers already have their own pension funds. Our pension funds are hurting because we are not organizing more people into them. We're going to start organizing in trucking, in grocery, in warehousing, and in construction. We're not going to give up on the public sector, but we're certainly not going to steal employees from other unions."

The Teamsters' relation to the broader labor movement and to politics will also see an overhaul under Zuckerman. In 2005, the Teamsters along with other major unions like the SEIU, UFCW and UNITE HERE came together to form Change to Win which offered itself as an alternative to the AFL-CIO in an attempt to revive the labor movement. As of today, only the Teamsters, SEIU and the United Farm Workers remain in it. "Change to Win has been a disaster. Leaving the AFL-CIO has been a disaster," says Zuckerman.

Zuckerman has also yielded political results. His own Teamsters Local 89 is affiliated to the Kentucky AFL-CIO and works closely with it. Zuckerman highlights the March 8 special election in the state that saw the majority in the State House switch to Democrat from Republican. "Now the governor cannot get right-to-work or repeal the prevailing wage," Zuckerman says. "If you look around our region, we [Kentucky] are the holdouts. West Virginia just passedright-to-work. We're not going to write any politicians a blank check, we're going to make sure they work for our union members and work for the middle class."

The outcome of the elections in October for the Teamsters have do have an impact on the future of the whole labor movement in the U.S. because of the industries that it organizes. "We're a service union in growth industries," says Paff. "Turns out you can't export truck driving and warehousing to China, or operating rail trains. There will be more truck drivers than there are now, next year. There will be more deliveries next year than this year. This is where a union can have power because you're in the supply chain."

Navigating the U.S. economy in a post-industrial era where services and logistics play an essential role will be vital if the labor movement is to win better conditions in these jobs that often lack living wages and benefits. The Teamsters could play a major role in making this happen.

"To begin to match these and coming changes will require not only a radical restructuring of the Teamsters and train thousands of rank-and-file member to be organizers on the job and for the huge non-union logistics industry," says Allen. "The Teamsters can be the union of the future, but it will require political will to transform everything from top to bottom."

We will begin to get an idea if the Teamsters can be that union of the future when the ballots are counted in November.

Gerard Di Trolio is an editor at rankandfile.ca and a freelance writer on politics and labor based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter at @gerardditrolio.

Tags: IBTHoffacorruption
Categories: Labor News

USA: New 21st Century models of how workers can win and wield power.

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 04/25/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: The American Prospect
Categories: Labor News

Bangladesh: Governments anti-union actions prompt complaint to ILO

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 04/25/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITUC
Categories: Labor News

Global: Paris Climate Agreement signed at UN

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 04/25/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITUC
Categories: Labor News

Northern California Teamsters Joint Council 7 recruiting Uber drivers after settlement of employee lawsuit

Current News - Mon, 04/25/2016 - 02:37

Northern California Teamsters Joint Council 7 recruiting Uber drivers after settlement of employee lawsuit
(Ted S. Warren/AP)
By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez on April 25, 2016 1:00 am
A new effort to shore up worker power for Uber drivers has come to light on the heels of a major lawsuit last week. The suit’s $100 million settlement tentatively led to drivers remaining as independent contractors rather than employees.

The Teamsters Joint Council 7, which represents more than 100,000 teamsters, announced plans Friday to form an association for California workers in the ride-hail industry.

Joint Council 7 represents Teamsters across California, from truckers to delivery drivers, and even the recently organized commuter shuttle drivers who ferry technology workers from San Francisco to Silicon Valley.

The effort to organize Uber drivers was already well underway in San Francisco before Thursday’s settlement was reached between the ride-hail giant and former Uber drivers, Rome Aloise, president of Teamsters Joint Council 7, told the San Francisco Examiner.

“We’ve been talking to drivers for some time now, both Uber and Lyft,” he said.

Drivers reached out to the Teamsters to seek more benefits, help with taxes, help with advocacy, and help crafting a dispute resolution procedure with Uber. Aloise said the Teamsters reached out to Uber, but have heard nothing back from the ride-hail giant.

Uber declined to comment on the Teamsters directly, and referred the Examiner to a statement on a blog by CEO Travis Kalanick, who wrote that his company would craft driver associations to handle complaints.

“Uber is a new way of working: it’s about people having the freedom to start and stop work when they want, at the push of a button,” Kalanick wrote in the statement. “As we’ve grown we’ve gotten a lot right, but certainly not everything.”

In the meantime, Teamsters hosted “small” organizing meetings for Uber drivers in pizza places and coffee shops in the Bay Area, Aloise said — anywhere people are driving for ride-hail companies.

These meetings took place well before the settlement, Aloise said, but will ramp up now that the lawsuit was settled.

If Uber or Lyft drivers want to reach the Teamsters, “They can call us directly, and we’ll have a website up by the end of this week,” Aloise said, “We’ll start having some mass meetings.”

Aloise said there should be “independent” associations apart from Uber management. But organizing so far has met some challenges, he said, because of the flexible nature of Uber. Many drivers only drive for a short period of time, while there is also a core center of drivers who are full time.

“You’d have a meeting with 20 people one week, and you’d have one the next week and only two of the same people would be there because so many stopped doing it,” Aloise said.

The Teamsters’ announcement comes just as the class-action lawsuit Douglas O’Connor, et al., v. Uber Technologies Inc., brought by San Francisco resident and former Uber driver Douglas O’Connor, among other plaintiffs, was settled for not only a large cash sum, but also a change in rules.

Late Thursday night, both parties announced a $100 million settlement agreement for the suit that spanned California to Massachusetts. The question of employee status has yet to be answered.

The suit was brought before U.S. District Court Judge Edward Chen, who has not yet approved the settlement agreement.

Shannon Liss-Riordan, attorney for the plaintiffs, wrote in a statement that the settlement won many worker protections for Uber drivers.

Uber will no longer be able to deactivate drivers at will, according to Liss-Riordan. This was a problem that has vexed drivers who publicly said they often had no idea what they had done to draw the ire of the company.

Instead, drivers may only be terminated for “sufficient cause,” with a promise of more warnings for drivers and the opportunity to correct their offenses.

Drivers will also not be subject to deactivation for low acceptance rates, and will finally be able to ask for tips in vehicles, and the company will not tell passengers that tips are included in their fares.

She said moving forward with the suit would have been fraught with risk.

“We faced the risk that a jury in San Francisco, (where Uber is everywhere and quite popular) may not side with the drivers over Uber,” Liss-Riordan wrote.

Many of the benefits Liss-Riordan touted would end under a “sunset clause” in the agreement after two years, according to court documents.

Aloise said that’s where the Teamsters could help Uber drivers. “I think if you had a viable association set up, you could overcome that,” he said.

When contacted by phone by the Examiner, Douglas O’Connor, the lead plaintiff in the case, said of the settlement, “It is what it is.”

Tags: UberIBT Joint Council 7
Categories: Labor News

Egypt: Reuters stands by its Regeni report, denies claims its bureau chief fled Egypt

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 04/24/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: DNE
Categories: Labor News

Palestine: IFJ calls on Palestinian journalists' leader to be set free

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 04/24/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: IFJ
Categories: Labor News

Bangladesh: Probe anti-union activities: EU

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 04/24/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: The Daily Star
Categories: Labor News

N. CA towns lack resources to handle oil train fires, spills Lassen County town has no reliable water supply for firefighting Crude oil transport by rail grew 1,700 percent in 2015

Current News - Sun, 04/24/2016 - 15:00

N. CA towns lack resources to handle oil train fires, spills Lassen County town has no reliable water supply for firefighting Crude oil transport by rail grew 1,700 percent in 2015
APRIL 23, 2016 7:49 AM
Northern California towns lack resources to handle oil train fires, spills

Lassen County town has no reliable water supply for firefighting
Crude oil transport by rail grew 1,700 percent in 2015
Federal government providing hands-on response training
A BNSF train carrying dozens of tank cars crosses an 80-year-old trestle heading south to Union Pacific Railroad tracks through the Feather River Canyon.
A BNSF train carrying dozens of tank cars crosses an 80-year-old trestle heading south to Union Pacific Railroad tracks through the Feather River Canyon. Jane Braxton Little
Bee Correspondent
BNSF Railway trains carrying crude oil and other hazardous materials rumble through this Lassen County community every day – past homes, churches and a scant block from the downtown commercial center.

If a tank car were to derail and explode, Westwood Fire Chief Forest Duerksen would take the only action he’s equipped for: Evacuation. Of all 1,000 residents.

Westwood Fire Chief Forest Duerksen CQ stands next to the BNSF Railway tracks, a stone’s throw from the fire station in this Lassen County community. Jane Braxton Little
Westwood has no consistent source of water, and the closest trailers with enough foam to extinguish a large blaze are a full four hours away, he said: “We’d just have to get everybody out and go from there.”

Rural officials like Duerksen have been worried for decades about the chlorine, ammonia, propane and crude oil transported through their northern California communities by BNSF and Union Pacific Railroad. But a dramatic surge in production in oil fields in the Midwest and Canada increased the volume from about 10,000 railroad tank cars in 2008 to nearly half a million in 2014. In 2015, the U.S. Energy Information Agency reported a 1,700 percent increase in crude oil transportation by rail.

That’s slowed significantly in the last year, a change generally attributed to a drop in the price of oil. But emergency responders worry that the volume will swell again when crude oil prices rise. In recent weeks, many have observed an increase in the number of tank cars on trains running south toward Sacramento and San Francisco.

That could be a precursor to the half-mile long oil trains planned for travel through Northern California to Benicia. Valero Refining Co. has proposed building a rail loading station that would allow importing oil on two 50-car trains a day to the city 40 miles northeast of San Francisco.

The trains would run through Roseville, downtown Sacramento, West Sacramento, downtown Davis, Dixon and other cities. East of Roseville, the route is uncertain. Trains could arrive via Donner Summit, Feather River Canyon, or through the Shasta and Redding areas.

Westwood Fire Chief Forest Duerksen

On Tuesday, the Benicia City Council postponed until September a decision on Valero’s appeal of a February planning commission recommendation that unanimously rejected the proposal.

Accidents have mounted with the increase in the number of trains transporting oil around the country. A 2013 oil train explosion in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, haunts firefighters across the continent. The fire and detonation of multiple tank cars carrying Bakken crude oil killed 47 people and destroyed dozens of buildings.

No one was hurt in 2014, when 11 cars derailed on Union Pacific tracks in the Feather River Canyon, spilling corn down a hillside above the river that supplies drinking water to millions of people as far south as Los Angeles. The cars could easily have been carrying crude oil, with substantial environmental consequences far beyond the Feather River, said Jerry Sipe, director of Plumas County’s Office of Emergency Services.

“We were lucky,” he said.

In 2015 there were 574 railway “incidents” involving hazardous materials while in transport, according to the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Of these, 114 were in California, and three in Roseville, site of a large rail yard. Most were minor, and none involved fatalities.

Officials in California’s up-rail cities, including Sacramento, have raised objections to plans to expand oil train traffic, saying not enough attention is being given to safety concerns. But these large urban jurisdictions are far better equipped to respond to incidents than their counterparts in rural Northern California, where train tracks pass through some of the state’s roughest terrain.

In these rural areas, the people responding first to oil spills and accidents are generally local fire departments like Duerksen’s, one of the nation’s 20,000 all-volunteer fire organizations. Among the small rural communities along BNSF’s tracks through Northern California, the Westwood Fire Department is one of the better equipped for a hazardous materials accident.

Duerksen took advantage of a BNSF program at the railroad industry’s training and research center in Pueblo, Colo. That gave him hands-on experience in using water and foam on a burning railcar, and taught him advanced techniques for containing spills.

1,700 percent Increase in crude oil transportation by rail in 2015
Since then, several volunteer firefighters from Westwood and communities along the BNSF line have attended the training. Quincy and other fire departments along the Union Pacific line have also sent volunteers to Pueblo.

Plumas County was recently awarded a grant to acquire an oil spill trailer with firefighting foam and 1,200 feet of “hard booms,” which can contain large quantities of hazardous materials. Sipe said it will be positioned along Highway 70 at Rogers Flat for quick deployment in the Feather River Canyon, where aging trestles and sharp curves make it among the most accident-prone rail lines in the state.

“We’re better protected now than a year ago,” Sipe said.

Despite the improvements, many fire departments remain untrained and poorly equipped. In Greenville, where the BNSF line passes directly through residential and commercial areas, none of the 25 volunteers has been to the oil-spill training in Pueblo, said Chris Gallagher, general manager of the Indian Valley Community Services District, which oversees the fire department. Four of the department’s 10 pieces of equipment have been deemed inoperable by the California Highway Patrol, he said.

“We definitely need some help,” said Gallagher.

That could come through an innovative program taking the Pueblo emergency response training on the road. Rail safety experts will travel to communities around the country providing hands-on accident preparedness to firefighters. Funded by a $2.4 million award from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the mobile training program is expected to train about 18,000 first responders from remote rural communities in 2016.

The award is part of a $5.9 million grant to provide hazardous materials training for volunteer or remote emergency responders. Plumas County has already requested the mobile training, Sipe said.

BNSF strongly supports these programs, said Lena Kent, a company spokeswoman. Last year alone it trained 10,000 first responders, 1,500 of them in California.

Duerksen, the Westwood fire chief, said he feels much safer than he did two years ago, when the increase in oil-train traffic had emergency responders on edge. “We’re better trained and better prepared now,” he said.

But not everyone is content with the increased training and beefed-up emergency response equipment. Larry Bradshaw, a retired therapist and community activist in Westwood, is advocating for additional safety requirements for BNSF. He wants to see a high-risk rail designation extended from Greenville to Westwood, imposing a 45 mph maximum speed and increasing the number of inspections.

“We’re not prepared at all. There’s no way we can respond to a spill. The only thing we can do is evacuate,” Bradshaw said.

Tags: Rail safetyOil Trainsemergency responders
Categories: Labor News

USA: Prince Was A Long-Standing Union Member and Champion for Working People

Labourstart.org News - Sat, 04/23/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: AFL-CIO
Categories: Labor News

4/28 SF 2016 Workers Memorial Day Remember The Dead And Fight For The Living Defend Our Health & Safety Rights And Our Lives And Families

Current News - Sat, 04/23/2016 - 10:17

4/28 SF 2016 Workers Memorial Day Remember The Dead And Fight For The Living Defend Our Health & Safety Rights And Our Lives And Families

2016 San Francisco Workers Memorial Day
Remember The Dead And Fight For The Living
Defend Our Health & Safety Rights And Our Lives And Families
Thursday April 28, 2016 7:00PM
ILWU Local 34 (next to AT&T Ballpark
801 2nd St. San Francisco, California
Parking available in union parking lot

April 28 is Workers Memorial Day and is commemorated throughout the world for workers who have died or been injured on the job and to fight for health and safety on the job for workers and the public.
In California workers die nearly every day because of the lack of health and safety protection and many are sickened by toxins and workplace bullying on the job which is reaching epidemic rates.
There also have been incidents of “hanging nooses” put up on worksites at SF Recology and the Bay Bridge to terrorize and intimidate African American and other workers.
At the same time there are only 200 Cal OSHA health and safety inspectors for 18.5 million workers in the State and only 2,000 for the federal government. We need to demand that there be proper enforcement for health and safety violations including jail for deaths caused by violating health and safety laws.
Additionally as a result of deregulation of workers compensation in California under SB 899 and SB 863 seriously injured workers have to go through hoops and a system called independent medical review to get medical treatment and the insurance controlled Workers Comp system stalls treatment and instead doctors in many cases are forced to prescribe opiate drugs that end up addicting injured workers and destroying their lives.
Under Federal and California law, workers union and unorganized are supposed to be protected when they complain to OSHA about health and safety violations. The reality is that companies and bosses regularly bully, harass and fire workers who fight for their health and safety for themselves and the public.
Federal OSHA lawyer Darrell Whitman who was investigating retaliation complaints at PG&E, Fed Ex, Test America, Lockheed Martin and other companies found that there was illegal retaliation and then OSHA management with the backing of DOL Secretary Of Labor Tom Perez. OSHA managers bullied and harassed AFGE investigators and lawyers in the Whistleblower Protection Program and illegally fired Whitman for trying to defend OSHA whistleblowers. We will discuss what workers can do to protect their rights and get justice and accountability.
It is time to remember the dead and fight for the living. We have a right to work in a healthy and safe workplace for ourselves and our families.
Initial Speakers:
Brenda Barros, SEIU 1021 SF General Hospital Chapter Chair
Dr. Larry Rose, Past Medical Director of Cal-OSHA
Daryle Washington, IBT 350 Worker At SF Recology who was bullied and fired for reporting "hanging noose incident"
Daniel Berman, Health and Safety Advocate and author of “Death on the Job”
Dorian Maxwell, Fired MTA TWU 250A bus driver and OSHA whistleblower
Roland Sheppard, Retired Painters Local 4 BA
Darrell Whitman, Fired Federal OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program Investigator by Skype
Carol Vertongen, SJSU Education Worker who was bullied and is a whistleblower

Endorsed by
San Francisco Labor Council SFLC, SMART UTU 1741, IWNN, UPWA
For more information Injured Workers National Network

San Francisco Labor Council Resolution on Workers Memorial Day 2016 – April 28, 2016

Whereas, April 28 is commemorated worldwide as Workers Memorial Day; and Whereas, health and safety on the job is a basic labor and human right; and

Whereas, injured workers deserve good medical care and compensation for their injuries on the job; and

Whereas, California has less than 200 Cal OSHA inspectors for 18.5 million workers; and

Whereas, the deregulation of Workers Compensation in California through SB 899 and SB 863 has led to the injured workers being denied healthcare benefits due to anonymous doctors and an obstacle course call independent review decisions by an outsourced company called Maximus; and

Whereas, the insurance industry has controls the Workers Compensation system; and

Whereas, there is more and more use of opiates and growing addiction due to injured workers not getting medical treatment; and

Whereas, there has been a major increase in workplace bullying on the job leading to health and safety problems and forcing workers on disability and workers compensation; and

Whereas, Federal OSHA only has 2,000 OSHA inspectors for 130 million workers and only 500 investigators of those workers who have been retaliated for making OSHA complaints; and

Whereas, Federal OSHA management have not enforced the protection of OSHA whistleblowers and have bullied AFGE OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program WPP AFGE Local 2371members in Region 9; and

Whereas, Federal OSHA management and the Department of Labor management have only allowed a small percentage of whistleblowers to be protected with a merit determination; and

Whereas, Federal OSHA inspectors including SFLC delegate and fired Federal OSHA investigator Darrell Whitman who is also a member and steward of AFGE Local 2371 have been bullied, harassed and fired from the agency for doing their jobs; and

Whereas, if workers both union and unorganized are not protected from making health and safety complaints and there is not proper enforcement of Federal OSHA protection laws this is a threat to all workers and the public; and

Whereas, the protection of worker health and safety in transportation, energy, healthcare, construction, education, agriculture, biotech and many other industries is critical for these workers and the public; and

Whereas, the Workers Memorial Day on April 28, 2016 commemorates the workers who have died on the job and those workers who have been injured; and

Therefore be it Resolved the San Francisco Labor Council calls for proper staffing of OSHA in the Cal- OSHA program and Federal Osha program, the rehiring of fired Federal OSHA lawyer Darrell Whitman and an end to the harassment and bullying of AFGE OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program worker, support for a independent investigator to investigate the retaliation against Federal OSHA staff who have been bullied, retaliated and fired for doing their job; and

Be it Further Resolved the San Francisco Labor Council calls for the elimination of the Independent Medical Review system with anonymous doctors not even licensed in California that is being used to prevent injured workers from getting treatment and for the elimination of the insurance industry control of our workers compensation system and for full rehabilitation training for injured workers and laws preventing workplace bullying; and

Be it Further Resolved the San Francisco Labor Council will support and publicize the April 28, 2016 Workers Memorial Day at ILWU Local 34 at 7:00 PM in San Francisco sponsored by the Injured Workers National Network; and

Be it Finally Resolved the San Francisco Labor Council calls for concurrence by all affiliated bodies including the California Federation of Labor.

Submitted by Brenda Barros, SEIU 1021, and James Charos, SMART 1741, and unanimously adopted by the San Francisco Labor Council on April 11, 2016.


Tim Paulson Executive Director


1188 Franklin Street, Suite 203

San Francisco, CA 94109

Fax: 415.440.9297

Phone: 415.440.4809


Federal Agency OSHA That Protects Whistleblowers Accused of Retaliating Against One of its Own
By Stuart Silverstein on April 11, 2016

Darrell Whitman, former whistleblower investigator for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration
For nearly five years, Darrell Whitman was a federal investigator who probed whistleblowers’ complaints about being fired or otherwise punished for exposing alleged corporate misconduct.

He wanted to help whistleblowers, viewing them as a crucial line of defense against employers who violated health and safety standards or wasted taxpayer dollars.

But now Whitman, 70, is blowing the whistle himself. And he is accusing the agency where he used to work, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the branch of the Labor Department whose duties include protecting whistleblowers.

Whitman, in a whistleblower claim filed last week with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, charges that the San Francisco regional office of OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program routinely dumped legitimate complaints. What’s more, Whitman’s complaint says his disclosures to senior OSHA and Labor Department officials -– all the way up to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez — “did not spark good faith corrective action. Rather, they led to investigations of Mr. Whitman that eventually formed the basis for his termination” last May. He claims that three other investigators who protested the office’s practices also were fired or pushed out.

The result, Whitman claims, is that safety hazards and wasteful spending persist while whistleblowers often are silenced by employers that get away with illegal retaliation.

Whitman’s complaint largely tracks the concerns he raised in letters to federal officials (examples here and here) and in interviews with FairWarning and previously with KNTV (NBC in the Bay Area). He zeroes in on his former boss, Joshua Paul, and other officials in OSHA’s San Francisco regional office, which oversees California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii.

Sometimes, Whitman said, Paul ordered investigators to water down their findings or reversed the findings without explanation. In other instances, Whitman said, cases would be closed out after quickie investigations that barely examined the retaliation claims. Other times, he said, Paul dragged his feet in completing investigations for three years or more, apparently to put pressure on whistleblowers to settle.

‘The companies would scream bloody murder’

Whitman told FairWarning that those problems in San Francisco reflect a broader breakdown across the 10 regional OSHA offices that administer the whistleblower program. He maintains that the program often is too cozy with business to take on rogue employers. “There’s open hostility within OSHA to this program,” Whitman said.

If the program did its job, “the companies would scream bloody murder,” added Whitman, an attorney with a PhD in politics who has taught college, served as a campaign consultant and worked as a lawyer in government and private practice.

Whitman’s complaint calls for his reinstatement, back pay and damages, while also seeking an investigation of Paul “and any other relevant DOL [Department of Labor] officials.”

OSHA disputed Whitman’s allegations. In a written response, Jordan Barab, a Labor Department deputy assistant secretary, said: “To suggest that OSHA is not committed to protecting workers or that it is arbitrarily dismissing cases is not only absurd, it’s a huge disservice to the investigators who work hard to protect the rights of whistleblowers across the country. The Whistleblower Protection Program is a small staff with an enormous task, and that staff is committed, at every level of the organization, to protecting the rights of workers and to upholding the law.”

As for Paul, in November he moved from his job as senior investigator overseeing whistleblower investigations in San Francisco to a new role as coordinator of the region’s alternative dispute resolution program, which works on whistleblower cases. OSHA said the job change was unrelated to Whitman’s allegations. OSHA turned down a request for an interview with Paul, saying it “would not be appropriate” for him to respond to Whitman’s allegations.

OSHA is responsible for enforcing whistleblower provisions under 22 federal laws that cover everything from nuclear power plants and public transit to the trucking, railroad and airline industries.
But as Congress has assigned OSHA one category of workers after another, some critics say its staff has been swamped by the added workload, creating incentives to dismiss cases to keep up.

Jordan Barab, deputy assistant secretary of Labor.
Whitman’s complaint cites six cases that he says were mishandled. One involved a nuclear plant official who said he lost his job after discussing security problems with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Another case involved Michael Madry. He was a Phoenix-based quality assurance specialist for EMLab P&K, which describes itself as North America’s “leading commercial indoor air quality testing laboratory.”

According to court records, Madry, 51, was promoted to quality assurance manager at EMLab in May 2008. Over the next year, Madry received reports from outside auditors questioning the accuracy of the firm’s asbestos testing as well as complaints from lab analysts about being pressured to rush through asbestos tests.

Madry investigated, focusing on the company’s San Bruno, Calif., lab, which tested for asbestos at schools and for the U.S. Navy and other customers. He became increasingly concerned about the accuracy of tests, and repeatedly raised the issue with company officials.

Soon he began getting poor performance reviews and, according to court records, the company president complained in an internal memo of his “emotional outbursts and obvious instability.”

On Sept. 30, 2010, soon after being put on medical leave by a psychiatrist, Madry filed his whistleblower complaint.

Whitman investigated and in July 2011 found that the complaint had merit. But then the case languished.

As Whitman recounts in his own complaint, Paul delayed action for almost a year by requiring four rewrites of his merit findings, and also pushed for Madry to accept “a nuisance settlement.” According to Whitman, after he complained to OSHA chief David Michaels, Paul removed Whitman from the case. Whitman told FairWarning that he eventually saved the case by going over his boss’ head and getting the whistleblower program’s national director to step in.

‘The system, it doesn’t work’

Three years of legal skirmishes followed for Madry. As a Nov. 16 trial before an administrative law judge was about to begin, Madry reached a settlement totaling $122,500 with EMLab. The company declined to comment after the settlement but, in an earlier interview, an EMLab spokesperson gave a blanket denial of Madry’s claims, without discussing specifics.

The struggle, in Madry’s view, wasn’t worth it. “I wouldn’t recommend anybody do what I did, just because the system, it doesn’t work,” he said.

“Here I am, more than five years later,” he added, “and I’m no better off than when I filed my complaint.”

Michael Madry, a whistleblower who raised questions about the accuracy of his company’s asbestos testing.
Nilgun Tolek, who headed OSHA’s whistleblower program until 2011, said she wasn’t familiar with the evidence behind Whitman’s allegations. However, she cautioned against assuming that when an administrator overturns an investigator’s finding there is “ill intent.”

“It’s always the case that what the investigator recommends in a report is subject to further review and may not end up holding water in the end. It’s not an individual person’s report. It’s the agency’s report, and it has to go through all kinds of review,” Tolek said.

Although Whitman’s case is novel for OSHA, it’s not the only time whistleblower defenders have been accused of mistreating their own employees. Two lawyers formerly with the National Whistleblowers Center, a nonprofit legal group in Washington, in late 2014 received an undisclosed sum to settle their complaints (here and here) that the organization fired them and also retaliated against other employees who tried to unionize. The settlement came shortly before a National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge was set to hear the case. The National Whistleblowers Center did not admit any wrongdoing.

Flawed investigations by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program and growing case backlogs were cited last fall in a report by the Labor Department’s inspector general.

In an audit tracking October 2012 through March 2014, the inspector general found problems in 24 of 132 randomly selected complaints. Among other deficiencies, investigators failed to contact complainants’ witnesses and to give complainants the time needed to provide evidence.

OSHA also failed to meet deadlines on 3,206 of the 4,475 complaints it received that warranted investigations. The investigations took an average of 238 days to complete, up from 150 days in 2010, when previous federal audits lambasted the agency for poor performance.

OSHA management, in response, acknowledged that improvements were needed. But the agency also noted that the number of new complaints climbed to 3,060 in the 2014 fiscal year, up 58 percent from 2005.

“Consequently, OSHA still lacks the resources that it needs to process and investigate whistleblower complaints with the expedience that we would like, while also maintaining the quality and thoroughness that is appropriate,” the agency said.

- See more at: http://www.fairwarning.org/2016/04/ex-whistleblower-investigator-blows-t...

OSHA, A Captured Agency: The Airlines, Trucking And OSHA With Fired OSHA Investigator Darrell Whitman
Has OSHA become a captured agency by the companies it is supposed to regulate? Former Federal OSHA investigator and lawyer Darrell Whitman looks at how the agency has stood up to the biggest companies in the airline and trucking industry. He also talks about how the industry controls the agency so it will not hold them accountable to OSHA and health and safety regulations and the affects of privatization and outsourcing of Federal jobs by privateers.
He looks at FedEx, Lockheed and other companies that are flagrantly violating the health and safety rights of workers and also threatening the health and safety of the public.
This interview was done in February 2015. On May 5, 2015 Whitman was fired by the Agency management and he and the whistleblowers he was trying to defend after receiving merit recommendations are still fighting for justice.
For more information:
Production of Labor Video Project

Whistleblower Protection Program & Fired WPP OSHA Investigator Lawyer Darrell Whitman With GAP Louis Clark
Louis Clark, lawyer and co-founder of the Government Accountability Project GAP in Washington DC discusses the Whistleblower Protection Project and how it is working including the affect of deregulation and privatization of government agencies that protect health and safety and the environment..
The Whistleblower Protection Program WPP is supposed to protect Federal whistleblowers throughout the United States government. He also talks about the systemic corruption in the Department of Labor DOL and OSHA and the retaliation and firing of OSHA WPP investigator, lawyer and AFGE Local 2371 steward Darrell Whitman. Clark talks about the problem of bullying of AFGE members in San Francisco OSHA Region 9 office who were seeking to protect workers who were retaliated for doing their jobs and faced retaliation themselves by the management. He also discusses reports that OSHA officials met privately with Lockheed Martin, Test America H.I.G. Capital, PG&E and other companies to criminally collude to dismiss merit complaints and coerce bad settlements for workers retaliated against for whistleblowing. He discusses the potential criminal obstruction of justice by top government officials including ALJ judges who are aware of the corruption charges and conspired to cover them up.
He also discusses the efforts of GAP to develop rules that will be enforced to protect all government whistleblowers including in the financial industry to prevent another financial crisis like 2008.
This interview was done on March 10, 2016 in San Franciso by KPFA WorkWeek journalist Steve Zeltzer
For more information:
Government Accountability Project
HIG TestAmerica
Madry Court Cases
Production of Labor Video Project

WW 3-29-16 OSHA Chief Michaels and DOL Secretary Perez In Corruption Scandal With OSHA Whistleblower Darrell Whitman And Fired OSHA Manager Adam Finkel
WorkWeek looks at the growing corruption scandal at the Department of Labor DOL and OHSA. We interview fired OSHA investigator and lawyer Darrell Whitman who is a steward in AFGE Local 2371 and Adam Finkel who is a OSHA management whistleblower and was fired from OSHA. He now is a Senior Fellow and Executive Director of Penn Program on Regulation, University of Pennsylvania.
They discuss the nearly complete failure of OSHA and the Whistleblower Protection Program to defend health and safety whistleblowers and also the criminal collusion between OSHA, DOL and the AJL with corporations they are supposed to regulate. Whitman discusses the role of ALJ Judge Steven B. Berlin who criminally colluding with Test America/H.I.G. Capital to limit their liability in the retaliation against OSHA whistleblower Michael Madry who was a Quality Assurance Manager at Test America which is owned by H.I.G. Capital. He was bullied, terrorized and fired by Test America/H.I.G. Capital after exposing massive fraudulent testing of toxic dump sites like San Francisco Hunters Point Naval Shipyard and Treasure Island. According to Whitman tens of thousands of test results on asbestos and other toxins were fraudulent and this was kept a secret by OSHA and the DOL putting the public in danger. He also reports that OSHA chief David Michaels and DOL secretary Tom Perez were personally involved in a criminal conspiracy to cover up his firings and those of other AFGE workers in the Region 9 office of OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program.
Adam Finkel talks about the role of the management in seeking to shutdown the protection of OSHA whistleblowers and the lack of accountability.
Further media and info:
Production of WorkWeek Radio

Tags: Workers Memorial DayWMDhealth and safetyoshaTruckingRail safety
Categories: Labor News

Global: Why Boycotting Brands Won't Help Garment Workers

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 04/22/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Huffington Post
Categories: Labor News

Canada: Workers and unions celebrate major victory after Bill 24 shelved

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 04/22/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: rabble
Categories: Labor News

Qatar: World Cup: FIFA Announcement on Monitoring of 'Decent Working Conditions'

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 04/22/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITUC
Categories: Labor News

Global: Are employers doing enough to fight the causes of cancer at work

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 04/22/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Equal Times
Categories: Labor News

Uber settles groundbreaking labor dispute for up to $100 million. Drivers to remain independent contractors.

Current News - Fri, 04/22/2016 - 06:40

Uber settles groundbreaking labor dispute for up to $100 million. Drivers to remain independent contractors.
By Travis M. Andrews April 22 at 1:32 AM

In this July 15, 2015 file photo, Uber driver Karim Amrani sits in his car parked near the San Francisco International Airport parking area in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
Uber has settled two major class action suits in which its drivers challenged their classification as independent contractors as an unfair denial of benefits associated with being employees. Under the agreement, which covers about 385,000 of its drivers in California and Massachusetts, the drivers will remain independent contractors.

In return, Uber will pay them $84 million, with an additional $16 million if the company goes public and its “valuation increases one and a half times from our December 2015 financing valuation within the first year of an IPO.” The company also made concessions that will allow drivers to get tips, to form an association (albeit not a union) to discuss grievances with the company and to appeal deactivations by Uber to a special panel and if necessary an arbitrator.

It also agreed to “provide drivers with more information about their individual rating and how it compares with their peers,” according to an announcement from the company. “Uber will also introduce a policy explaining the circumstances under which we deactivate drivers in these states from using the app.” Uber also will create a “driver’s association” which would meet quarterly to discuss driver concerns.

The settlement does not set any legal precedent and the company still faces other suits that remain unresolved.

The cases against Uber have been cast as major tests of the future of the “sharing economy.” A ruling against Uber in court, which is still possible in the other cases, would cost it millions annually and could set precedents for other businesses. Workers classified as employees would be covered by federal labor laws and other regulations which would have entitled the drivers to coverage under minimum wage laws, unemployment benefits, workers’ compensation, the right to form unions under the federal labor law and reimbursement of expenses.

Despite the obvious monetary implications, the settlement is ultimately in Uber’s favor, though the company still faces risks from other unsettled lawsuits.

If the agreement is approved by U.S. District Judge Edward Chen of the Northern District of California, the company will not have to appear at the jury trial that was scheduled for June in San Francisco, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In its statement, Uber co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick said that “while the number of drivers using our app has grown dramatically, their reasons for doing so haven’t changed. In the U.S. almost 90 percent say they choose Uber because they want to be their own boss. Drivers value their independence—the freedom to push a button rather than punch a clock, to use Uber and Lyft simultaneously, to drive most of the week or for just a few hours. That’s why we are so pleased that this settlement recognizes that drivers should remain as independent contractors, not employees.”

“We realize that some will be disappointed not to see this case go to trial,” Shannon Liss-Riordan, the attorney representing the drivers, said in a statement according to the Wall Street Journal. “We believe the settlement we have been able to negotiate … provides significant benefits—both monetary and non-monetary—that will improve the work lives of the drivers and justifies this compromise result.” She noted that the legal issues are not resolved because of other outstanding cases.

“If Uber is going to be genuine about this, I think it’s a very, very good move forward,” Joesph Sandoval DeWolf, president of the California App-based Drivers Association, told the New York Times.

The “sharing economy” refers to the sharing of goods and services on a peer-to-peer level in exchange for mutual benefit. One prominent example is Airbnb, the company that empowers homeowners to rent their homes directly to other people. Unlike a hotel, the user is renting directly from the owner with Airbnb as an intermediary. This isn’t a new model; the Internet has just helped it spread. But the terms of the business relationships between the intermediary companies and the providers are murky.

Uber is part of the sharing economy. Drivers sign up with the company to provide taxi-like services, using their own vehicles, to customers looking for rides.

The company sets a fare for each ride, which is based on both the type of car in use and what city it is in. It also decides if that price should increase during “surge” or heavily trafficked times.

While Uber portrayed the arrangement as idyllic, letting drivers fulfill a dream of being their own boss, drivers involved in the lawsuits believed otherwise, that Uber was very much in charge and to their disadvantage.

The company decides who can and cannot offer services. It distributes gratuity, and it can, in essence, “fire” drivers by deactivating their accounts. There is little recourse left to drivers, of which there are more than 450,000 each month in the U.S. alone, who don’t like the terms.

Apart from the settlement money that will go to the drivers in the two cases if the judge approves the deal, Uber will allow drivers in effect to solicit tips, allowing them to place signs in their cars stating that tips are not included in the fare.

According to a statement emailed to news organizations from Liss-Riordan, the drivers’ attorney, drivers will no longer be subject to deactivation for low acceptance rates. And drivers who have been terminated will be able to appeal to a panel “made up of highly rated drivers.”

If still dissatisfied, she said, they will be able to bring their claim to a “neutral arbitrator, at Uber’s expense, who will determine if there was sufficient cause for the deactivation.”

“Uber will facilitate and recognize the formation of a Driver Association,” she added, “which will have leaders elected by fellow Uber drivers, who will be able to bring drivers’ concerns to Uber management, who will engage in good faith discussions (on a quarterly basis) regarding how to address these concerns.”

Uber, in its statement, acknowledged that “we haven’t always done a good job working with drivers. For example, we don’t have a policy explaining when and how we bar drivers from using the app, or a process to appeal these decisions.”

“So today,” said Kalanick, “we’ve published a driver deactivation policy for the first time. It will apply across the United States, and our goal is to roll out similar policies globally over time.”

Resolution of the cases is considered crucial to Uber’s valuation which soared “on the premise that it operates a technology platform connecting drivers and passengers, rather than a taxi service that owns cars and employs drivers,” as the Wall Street Journal reported. It is now valued at $62.5 billion, reported the Los Angeles Times.

In the statement, Kalanick said Uber still retains the right to terminate drivers who “are violent, drink and drive, or refuse someone a ride because of the color of their skin or sexual orientation.”

Tags: Uberindependent contractors
Categories: Labor News

Turkey: Global unions condemn Turkey detention of rights defenders

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 04/21/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITF
Categories: Labor News


Subscribe to Transport Workers Solidarity Committee aggregator