Feed aggregator

Global: LabourStart Tribute to Andrew Casey

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 02/01/2018 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: LabourStart
Categories: Labor News

Australia: Tributes flow following sudden death of LabourStart's Andrew Casey

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 02/01/2018 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: The Australian
Categories: Labor News

'Bomb Train': Oil Execs Try to Blame Workers for Tragic Accident

Current News - Mon, 01/29/2018 - 14:07

'Bomb Train': Oil Execs Try to Blame Workers for Tragic Accident
http://therealnews.com/t2/story:20976:%27Bomb-Train%27%3A-Oil-Execs-Try-...
January 26, 2018

All three MMA rail workers were acquitted of criminal charges in the Lac-Megantic disaster case -- but Fritz Edler, veteran locomotive engineer and longtime union officer, says "the wrong people were on trial," and that the industry ignores known risks

Fritz Edler is a veteran locomotive engineer and wreck investigator, with 40 years of railroad experience. Became chair of the Harding and Labrie Defense Committee after hearing Harding's attorney speak @ a Community Rail safety conference in Chicago. I've made 8 investigative trips to Canada in conjunction with the defense as well as supporting the rail safety efforts of the Lac-M�gantic citizens.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: This is Dimitri Lascaris for The Real News reporting from Montreal, Quebec. The small town of Lac-Mégantic in Quebec's historic Eastern Townships will forever be associated with one of the deadliest accidents in Canadian history. On the morning of July 6, 2013, a crude oil train explosion killed 47 people. The train was carrying volatile crude oil from the Bakken Shale oilfields of North Dakota. It derailed and exploded, killing residents and destroying the town's downtown area. The mass funeral in the town of just over 5,000 persons was broadcast live across Canada. It became a national day of mourning.

Over four years later, on Friday of last week, a Canadian jury found three former rail workers not guilty of criminal negligence causing the deaths of Lac-Megantic residents. The question must now be asked, why were the workers charged for this tragedy? Moreover, why was no executive of the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway Company prosecuted? With us to discuss this, I am pleased to be joined by veteran train engineer and wreck investigator Fritz Edler, chairperson of the defense committee for Tom Harding and Richard Labrie, two of the workers who were charged and found not guilty. Fritz joins us today from Washington, D.C. Fritz, thank you very much for joining us on The Real News.

FRITZ EDLER: Pleasure. Glad to be with you.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Fritz, let's start by talking about the basic allegations against the acquitted railway workers. What was the essential basis of the Crown's allegations of criminal negligence and in your view, why did the prosecution fail?

FRITZ EDLER: Well, it seemed plain to us from the beginning that this was putting the things in the wrong order. In other words, for the people in the town and for people in Canada and across North America who wanted to know why this wreck took place and what we could do to prevent it, it was completely wrong to start out from just moments after, days after the wreck with an exclusive focus on Tom Harding and then later his coworker, Richard Labrie, and decide that the way to find out about this wreck would be to do a criminal prosecution instead of what the people in the community wanted, which was a commission of inquiry. That real public inquiry has never taken place.

This is the absolute worst way to find out why a wreck took place and who is really responsible. Instead, what the government did was they took their lead from the industry. They took their lead from Ed Burkhardt, the chair of the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railroad, who in Megantic began to accuse Tom Harding of responsibility exclusively. The government took that up and made that their focus, and never really seriously pursued the broader issues for prosecution.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Essentially, in your view, what was it that happened at the trial? I appreciate you may not be a legal expert but as somebody who is a veteran wreck investigator, why do you think this case fell apart in the end?

FRITZ EDLER: I have been called into Lac-Mégantic and to Quebec eight almost, I guess eight times now, in the case of this campaign, this trial. And I've had a chance to see on the ground firsthand, not only as a railroader but also as somebody who is a supporter of Tom Harding and Richard Labrie, exactly how things were on the ground. One of the things you found out is that if you walk the streets of Lac-Mégantic and you ask people, they would tell you most often that, "They got the wrong people. The wrong people are on trial."

There was a good understanding from early on, and this was very frustrating to the people who live there because it really made it that much more unlikely that they were really going to get accountability and justice for their losses, and really get to the core of the problems. One of the problems was that the railroad still operates through the town of Lac-Mégantic and still presents the same kinds of problems because those problems stem from risky and dangerous management decisions.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Let's talk about those problems. What in your view are the principal problems that led to this particular disaster and may create dangers in the future?

FRITZ EDLER: Well, frankly, what it was was the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic, and they're not alone in this in the industry, where in such a big hurry to make the big money that they could make from the transport of this highly volatile oil that they just threw all other cautions aside.

As a railroader, one of the very first things that hit me when I drove from Nantes into Lac-Mégantic was to see the derail-protected siding that exists in Nantes and is built there for the purpose of securing equipment to prevent it from rolling down a grade, for example. That's what it was built for and the MMA wouldn't use it. They made sure they couldn't use it by making the train too long. They just had to get that couple of extra cars and couple of extra gallons or tons.

Those factors, there's plenty of others, everything from operating that most dangerous kind of a train with only one crew member, which meant that the train could only go forward. It couldn't go back. It couldn't split. It couldn't do any of those things that might be critically important in any number of situations. By policy, and in the weeks and months before July 6, 2013, the community was put at risk, the workers were put at risk and it was done for money.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Just for the benefit of members of our audience who aren't aware of the specifics of this tragedy. The train rolled down a grade and that resulted ultimately in the explosion that killed 47 people, right?

FRITZ EDLER: That's correct. What happened was that they made the train risky by policy and by practice, and then they purposefully didn't use all of the resources that were available to protect. That came out in the trial. One of the things that came out in the trial after 34 government witnesses, was that the inadequate and known inadequate cars for transporting these oils were even yet more overloaded, overloaded beyond because they could get a little more in there and get more money. So, they put it even more at risk. All of these factors, including the prohibition from the crews being able to use the automatic braking system to secure the equipment, as a supplemental way of securing the equipment, that rolled through the rail industry in North America. When railroaders like myself, locomotive engineers, found out that that was their policy, that's the very first thing. That's railroading 101. That's what we do. We put an automatic brake on the train. That's one of the ways that we secure it. That system was available to them and they threatened Tom Harding and other crew members with discipline if they did it.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Are these railway workers out of the woods yet or do they remain exposed to criminal prosecution from another authority?

FRITZ EDLER: Yeah. This actually is the big thing because all across the world, people who know the name Lac-Mégantic heard that the rail workers were acquitted on the 19th of January of all the charges against them. There was a big cheer in many different sectors, including in the community of Lac-Mégantic. They thought that this was progress.

Then, in short order, within days of that, we received word that on February 5th, Tom Harding and Richard Labrie are called back to the courthouse to face federal charges, federal charges under the Railway Safety Act, federal charges under the Fisheries Act. These charges still carry with them the possibility of jail time and ruinous fines for these individuals who have already suffered so much.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: This really raises a question about the nature of regulation of the railway industry in Canada. Who's responsible for regulating the transportation of oil by rail in Canada and do you think that this organization is under the undue influence of the industry, and that that's played a role in the apparent decision not to prosecute any of the executives for these dangerous policies that you've outlined?

FRITZ EDLER: Fortunately, we know more about this because of some of the testimony that came out in the course of the prosecution witnesses in the trial. A lot of that material, which normally might never reach the public, actually was part of the trial testimony. There's also material related to this in the two investigative reports, one that was done by the Sûreté of Quebec. Early on for the Sûreté and then also by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada in particular identified 18, originally 19 factors that were the factors that were responsible for the wreck and the devastation.

What's pretty obvious is that Mr. Harding and Mr. Labrie have nothing to do with most all of them, and it identifies Transport Canada, for example. Transport Canada is identified as the regulating agency that's supposed to oversee a lot of these things, and their failures, their enabling of these dangerous practices. A lot of this stuff is out there, but unfortunately, because there's never really been a proper commission of inquiry and there is no plan evident for a real prosecution of those things, I don't know that we are going to ever see the real culprits of these decisions brought to justice.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: For instance, we've seen other bomb train explosions, as they've been dubbed. There was one in Illinois near the Wisconsin border, one in Ontario where seven tanker cars caught fire, another in Mount Carbon, Virginia. A 19-car oil explosion darkened the sky above the town. In the light of these various dangerous and destructive incidents of oil by rail, have there been safety measures put in place, whether south of the border or in Canada, that are meaningfully addressing the dangers that cause these incidents?

FRITZ EDLER: First I'd like to step back and say that some of the disasters that are happening on the railroads that aren't explosions are still as a part of the same problems that we're describing here about the risky decisions that are made solely for the purpose of saving money or some other priority other than the safety of the communities. But, I could mention the example of the wreck of Amtrak 501 outside of Seattle or the Amtrak train 188 outside of Philadelphia.

In each of those cases, we could talk about a lot of these things but in terms of the measures about the so-called bomb trains, what we can say is that the industry and the regulators have both been slow to respond. The type of container that these were shipped in, the type of tank cars which were known to be inadequate for most of the dangers that are posed by that kind of transportation, those got some upgrades. But it turns out that the upgrades were insufficient, and there isn't enough for the fleet. And as the market fluctuates and the pressure is on to put more of this stuff on the railroads, there's no guarantee that from a structural point of view you won't have the kind of situation that was testified to in the Harding and Labrie trial, where the railroad put even more volatile oil beyond the capacity of the safety limits of these cars just because they could. Every ton of extra was more money.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: This has been Dimitri Lascaris speaking to veteran wreck investigator Fritz Edler, chairperson of the defense committee for Tom Harding and Richard Labrie about the acquittal of three railway workers in connection with the oil by rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. Thank you very much for joining us today, Fritz.

FRITZ EDLER: Thank you, sir.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: This is Dimitri Lascaris reporting for The Real News.

Tags: Blaming Rail WorkersBosses CrimesMurder On The RailsProfiteering Kill Communities
Categories: Labor News

The Evidence is in: The Train Crew did not Cause the Lac-Mégantic Tragedy Sign The Petition

Current News - Mon, 01/29/2018 - 13:03

The Evidence is in: The Train Crew did not Cause the Lac-Mégantic Tragedy

http://hardingdefense.org
DROP THE CHARGES against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie

Drop ALL the Charges against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie NOW
Target: The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
It's A Rail Safety Emergency! Rail Workers Face New Federal Charges After Acquittal in Lac-Mégantic Criminal Trial. Another Scapegoat Trial won't get us Rail Safety.

Call on the Canadian Ministry of Justice Today

Drop ALL the Charges! Time for a real public inquiry into the causes of the wreck

The Canadian government had a choice after the July 2013 runaway oil train wreck that killed 47 people and destroyed the downtown of Lac-Mégantic Québec. They could focus on rail safety to make sure tragedies like this would not happen again, or they could focus only on a couple rail workers and avoid the inquiry. They made the wrong choice, pushing criminal charges against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie.

Four and half years later, the jury found Harding and Labrie not guilty of all charges. Finally the Canadian government should have to take a careful look at rail safety.

Once again, the Canadian government made the wrong choice. Instead of starting a full-scale public inquiry into the causes of the crash, they are bringing Harding and Labrie back into court on February 5, 2018 to face a set of federal charges.

Enough is enough. Criminal trials are the absolute worst way to uncover all the different factors that led up to the Lac-Mégantic crash, factors that are still out there on the rails across Canada and the US. We all need real rail safety. Call the Canadian Minister of Justice at 613-957-4222. Tell her Drop ALL The Charges Now.

Add your name to call on the Justice Ministry to pay attention now and drop the charges.

Sponsored by

Harding and Labrie Defense Committee
To: The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
From: [Your Name]

It’s Time To Drop ALL Charges Against the Rail Workers

It is more than 4 years since the tragic train wreck in Lac-Mégantic QC. Now is the time for your office to stop a continuing injustice, the prosecution of railroad workers Tom Harding and Richard Labrie under the Canadian Railway Safety Act and other laws.

The record has established that the actions of Tom Harding and Richard Labrie did not cause this tragedy. Continuing to prosecute the railworkers in this case does not advance rail safety. We, the undersigned, call on those charged with administering justice to do their part now and drop ALL the charges.

2,736 Signatures Collected
Only 464 more until our goal of 3,200
Sign This Petition

Tags: Harding defense committeeRail safetyLac-Mégantic Tragedy
Categories: Labor News

The Evidence is in: The Train Crew did not Cause the Lac-Mégantic Tragedy Sign The Petition

Current News - Mon, 01/29/2018 - 13:03

The Evidence is in: The Train Crew did not Cause the Lac-Mégantic Tragedy

http://hardingdefense.org
DROP THE CHARGES against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie

Drop ALL the Charges against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie NOW
Target: The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
It's A Rail Safety Emergency! Rail Workers Face New Federal Charges After Acquittal in Lac-Mégantic Criminal Trial. Another Scapegoat Trial won't get us Rail Safety.

Call on the Canadian Ministry of Justice Today

Drop ALL the Charges! Time for a real public inquiry into the causes of the wreck

The Canadian government had a choice after the July 2013 runaway oil train wreck that killed 47 people and destroyed the downtown of Lac-Mégantic Québec. They could focus on rail safety to make sure tragedies like this would not happen again, or they could focus only on a couple rail workers and avoid the inquiry. They made the wrong choice, pushing criminal charges against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie.

Four and half years later, the jury found Harding and Labrie not guilty of all charges. Finally the Canadian government should have to take a careful look at rail safety.

Once again, the Canadian government made the wrong choice. Instead of starting a full-scale public inquiry into the causes of the crash, they are bringing Harding and Labrie back into court on February 5, 2018 to face a set of federal charges.

Enough is enough. Criminal trials are the absolute worst way to uncover all the different factors that led up to the Lac-Mégantic crash, factors that are still out there on the rails across Canada and the US. We all need real rail safety. Call the Canadian Minister of Justice at 613-957-4222. Tell her Drop ALL The Charges Now.

Add your name to call on the Justice Ministry to pay attention now and drop the charges.

Sponsored by

Harding and Labrie Defense Committee
To: The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
From: [Your Name]

It’s Time To Drop ALL Charges Against the Rail Workers

It is more than 4 years since the tragic train wreck in Lac-Mégantic QC. Now is the time for your office to stop a continuing injustice, the prosecution of railroad workers Tom Harding and Richard Labrie under the Canadian Railway Safety Act and other laws.

The record has established that the actions of Tom Harding and Richard Labrie did not cause this tragedy. Continuing to prosecute the railworkers in this case does not advance rail safety. We, the undersigned, call on those charged with administering justice to do their part now and drop ALL the charges.

2,736 Signatures Collected
Only 464 more until our goal of 3,200
Sign This Petition

Tags: Harding defense committeeRail safetyLac-Mégantic Tragedy
Categories: Labor News

Rail Workers say they warned Amtrak bosses before deadly WA Amtrak 501 crash

Current News - Mon, 01/29/2018 - 11:58

Rail Workers say they warned Amtrak bosses before deadly WA Amtrak 501 crash
https://edition.cnn.com/2018/01/28/us/amtrak-501-derail-training-safety-...

By Scott Bronstein, Drew Griffin and Collette Richards, CNN Investigates
Updated 1141 GMT (1941 HKT) January 29, 2018

Portland, Oregon (CNN)In the days before Amtrak 501 careened off the tracks last month in a deadly crash, engineers and conductors warned their supervisors that they did not feel adequately trained on the new route, according to more than a dozen sources.

Several train cars flew off an overpass, landing on Interstate 5 in the December 18 accident near DuPont, Washington, which left three dead and more than 100 injured. At the time, Amtrak 501 was making its inaugural journey of a new Seattle-to-Portland run called the Point Defiance Bypass route.
Engineers and conductors had safety concerns, citing rushed and "totally inadequate" training which left them feeling dangerously unprepared for the new route, according to multiple sources, including several directly involved in the training. Crew members traditionally train on new routes to familiarize themselves with the signs, terrain and other physical characteristics which vary from route to route.
Some training runs were performed at night, with as many as six or more crew members stuffed into cars with just three seats, which meant some trainees rode backwards, in the dark, the sources said. Engineers felt they did not get enough practice runs at the controls and could not properly see to familiarize themselves with the route.

Here's what Amtrak engineer told NTSB about deadly derailment
Adding to the training concerns, the new locomotives for the maiden run were unfamiliar to many of the crew members up until the brief training runs, the sources said.
The engineer for Amtrak 501 told investigators he took seven to 10 observational training trips on the new route, but was only at the controls for three one-way trips, and only one of those was in the direction the train was traveling when it crashed, according to an interim report released this week by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The engineer did not respond to CNN's requests for comment, but according to the report he told the NTSB "he would not have gotten behind the throttle if he had any reservations about his readiness to operate the train."

Amtrak 501 was travelling at near 80 miles an hour while heading into a turn with a maximum speed of just 30 mph. The engineer told the NTSB he missed at least two signs which would have warned him to slow down, then "as soon as he saw the 30 mph sign at the start of the curve, he applied brakes. Seconds later, the train derailed as it entered the curve," according to the NTSB report.

Amtrak train derailment leaves 'a thousand unanswered questions'
When asked about allegations of inadequate training, Amtrak referred CNN to the NTSB, which said in a statement, "NTSB investigators are aware of the issues that have been raised regarding training of the Amtrak 501 crewmembers."
Amtrak also said in a statement to CNN, "Our highest priority is ensuring the safety of our passengers, our crew and the communities we serve. We are actively taking measures to strengthen the safety of our operations, from adopting a safety management system approach used by commercial aviation to advancing Positive Train Control across the network. We will continue to work with the NTSB to learn from this accident and improve."
Amtrak employees who spoke to CNN insisted on remaining anonymous out of fear of losing their jobs.
More than a half dozen lawsuits have been filed so far in the crash, all alleging that inadequate crew training contributed to the accident. One of the lawsuits was filed by a conductor who was training in the lead locomotive when Amtrak 501 crashed.

Couple climbed onto train to rescue victims 02:03
His attorney, Anthony Petru, told CNN that warnings to managers about the lack of training went unheeded.
"In an environment where there is a quick trigger by management to charge employees with insubordination, or to go after them if they report safety concerns, there was some hesitancy by employees to do anything other than go along with the program," Petru said.
Train accident investigator John Hiatt says it is clear to him the engineer had lost track of his location on the route, and blames the problems with training and preparation, at least in part, for the crash. Hiatt is an investigator with the Bremseth Law Firm of Minnetonka, Minnesota, which has filed a lawsuit on behalf of another Amtrak employee.
​"Training is money, and in this case it looks to me like they were worried about money and time and safety was number three, at best, on their list," Hiatt said.
The Point Defiance Bypass was the final piece of an $800 million project under a federal economic stimulus for high-speed rail.
But the federal money was due to run out, and the pressure to get the maiden voyage done and open the line resulted in sped-up training, sources told CNN.
The crash of Train 501 is again raising larger concerns about what many call a failing safety culture at Amtrak.

Hear the train conductor's radio call 00:56
In 2016, Amtrak train 89 crashed near Chester, Pennsylvania, killing two and injuring 35.
After a year-and-a-half-long investigation the NTSB released its findings on the Pennsylvania crash, stating that the wreck there showed "deficient safety management across many levels of Amtrak."
NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt concluded: "Amtrak's safety culture is failing, and is primed to fail again, until and unless Amtrak changes the way it practices safety management." He added, "investigators found a labor-management relationship so adversarial that safety programs became contentious at the bargaining table, with the unions ultimately refusing to participate."
That NTSB warning and report were released on November 14, 2017. Little more than a month later, December 18, Amtrak 501 crashed.
In addition to questions about the training, questions have been raised about why the new line did not have Positive Train Control, or PTC. This could have remotely slowed the speed of Amtrak 501 and was due to be operational on the Point Defiance Bypass line later this year. The decision was made to open the line before PTC was installed.
The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 called for PTC to be implemented nationally for passenger railroads and some freight railroads by December 2015, which has since been extended to the end of 2018. The deadline could be pushed further back to December 31, 2020, according to Department of Transportation.
Only 24% of passenger railway routes had PTC actively operating as of the end of 2016.
According to Washington state DOT, the Amtrak Cascades route will now not run on Point Defiance Bypass until PTC is activated.

Tags: safetyAMTRAK501 wreck
Categories: Labor News

PSR Fleet Memo for January 26 2018

IBU - Mon, 01/29/2018 - 09:02
.
Categories: Unions

fleet memo for January 19 2018

IBU - Mon, 01/29/2018 - 09:01
.
Categories: Unions

Iran: Haft Tapeh sugar workers in Iran now over 6 months without wages

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 01/28/2018 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: IUF
Categories: Labor News

Lac-Mégantic Disaster Being Blamed On Railroad Workers By Canadian Government

Current News - Sun, 01/28/2018 - 12:12

Lac-Mégantic Disaster Being Blamed On Railroad Workers By Canadian Government

https://www.facebook.com/SafeTrainsNow/?ref=bookmarks

Brothers and Sisters:

The campaign for the story of the Lac-Mégantic story has begun. What we do in the next two weeks will have lasting impact. After the Feb 5 proceeding, news coverage, the history of the Lac-Mégantic safety response will have been written. It only remains to be seen whether we rise to the challenge to contest for that history or not.

It is not really hyperbole to say that this is a rail safety emergency. Here's what will happen if we do NOT respond effectively now:

1) The Canadian Gov't will convict and sentence Tom Harding for violation of company safety rules. This will happen almost certainly on Feb 5. They will crow about it and claim it shows that they are on the job protecting public safety and accountability.

2) It will strengthen the legal principle in the US and Canada that workplace rules can and should be criminalized.

3) The Canadian Gov't will claim it has held the railroad accountable. The defunct non-existant MMA will be presented as punished with penalties that will never have any effect. They may fine the MMA a million dollars. There are no assets. It's theatre.

4) There will never be an inquiry or any accountability for the policy and decision makers that set every danger in place long before Tom Harding climbed on the engine on July 5 2013. The gov't either can't or won't pursue liability against the railroad owners and managers. These individuals, who made every key decision, are running trains this minute....including the Wheeling and Lake Erie (Ed Burkhardt is on the Board). They are unrepentant.

Between now and Feb 5, there is no better use of your activist and organizer time and resources than making sure that we counter that government fairytale. We've proven already that collectively we can influence how the public understands what happened regarding Lac-Mégantic and it's ongoing policy and regulatory issues. If we make the truth about the ongoing scapegoating viral, we will again make a lasting difference.

We've already begun a combined social media campaign that involves Facebook, Twitter and mass email work to gather supporters to target the Canadian Govt with calls and signatures. We need some additional money to make sure this reaches as many people as possible.

There will be repeated email blasts to past supporters to galvanize and mobilize them to actions.

We already know that stuff like this requires that the message be repeated over and over in all it's forms.

I know every one of you has done work on this defense campaign. I know each of you has other and higher priorities in general. We have to ask you to bump this up, one last time, for the record. What you do in the next week, combined with our other efforts, will be multiplied and make a difference.

Please go now to Stand for Remembrance and Rail Safety and share it with your networks. Forward the emails you receive and use your twitter hashtags to link and explain the urgency.

The call in campaign targeting the Canadian Justice Ministry will go active Tuesday. Please support that effort when you receive the ask.

Fritz Edler
Harding-Labrie Defense Committee
Washington DC

Tags: railroad workers frame-upLac-Mégantic rail wreckhealth and safetygovernment deregulation
Categories: Labor News

Toronto ATU 113 members to meet as unions slam Unifor, CLC

Current News - Sat, 01/27/2018 - 15:09

Toronto ATU 113 members to meet as unions slam Unifor, CLC

http://rankandfile.ca/2017/03/17/atu-members-to-meet-as-unions-slam-unif...
Posted on March 17, 2017 in ATU
110129-HamiltonDayofAction-40

UPDATE: At noon March 17, RankandFile.ca learned from multiple sources that ATU Local 113 President Bob Kinnear resigned. Kinnear was first elected Local 113 president in 2003. Kinnear has also withdrawn his letter to the CLC invoking article the justification process to disaffiliate from the ATU under CLC’s article 4.9. This article was originally published at 4am on March 17.

By Gerard Di Trolio and David Bush

On March 19, ATU Local 113 will hold its monthly general meeting. It will be the first such membership meeting to truly deal with the fallout of President Bob Kinnear’s attempt to take Local 113 out of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

RankandFile.ca has learned of a letter signed by numerous unions sent on March 3 to the CLC protesting its acceptance of Kinnear’s request to invoke section 4.9 of the CLC Constitution. Section 4.9 initiates a process in which members of a local can begin the process to change unions. Before we get to the details of the letter, it is worth taking stock of what we know about the situation.

We know that on February 1, Kinnear sent a letter to Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuffrequesting that he invoke section 4.9 of the CLC Constitution.

On February 2, Yussuff passed the letter on to ATU Canada’s President Paul Thorp. Then, as reported by RankandFile.ca:

Later that day Bob Kinnear’s public relations officer, paid for by 113, received a forwarded email from union consultant Bill Reno and was told to give it to Kinnear. The email, from a lawyer at Dewart Gleason, was cc’d to Anthony Dale, Unifor staff lawyer and director of their legal department, Scott Doherty, assistant to the President of Unifor, and lawyers from two law firms. The email outlined what to do if police arrive in the event of a trusteeship, it also had a draft notice of motion, for unknown purposes attached to it. It was clearly part of an on-going discussion between Kinnear and Unifor.

The ATU’s international leadership responded by initiating a trusteeship of Local 113 on February 3, removing Kinnear from the local’s presidency and appointing Manny Sforza as trustee. Sforza is currently an ATU International Vice-President and a former 113 executive board member.

On February 3, Yussuff told Thorp that the trusteeship was a violation of article 4.9, and was in effect blocking the democratic right to determination of Local 113 members. Yussuff then suspended the anti-raiding provisions of article 4.9. Also on this day, ATU President Larry Hanley informed Local 113 members of the trusteeship with a letter. Hanley’s letter pointed out that Kinnear did not follow the ATU’s constitution to try settle any dispute, which the CLC encourages all groups of members to do in section 4.9a of its Constitution.

Within a few days, 13 of 17 members of Local 113’s executive board had be reinstated under the trusteeship.

On Tuesday February 7, Kinnear and Unifor President Jerry Dias held a press conference. Dias’ explanation for supporting Kinnear was that he was defending Canadian workers from the actions of a US-based international union. In the meantime evidence surfaced about collusion between Unifor and Kinnear before the trusteeship came into effect. On February 10 Yussuff sent a letter to Thorp saying the CLC was reinstating article 4 protections

On February 21, Kinnear won a court injunction to be reinstated as Local 113 President. Kinnear’s argument centred on the notion that the constitution of the ATU stifles free speech and that asking article 4.9 to be invoked by the CLC should not result in trusteeship. The justice said Kinnear’s claims were unproven, but granted the injunction saying that the claims of the ATU and Kinnear must be tried.

Days after the court decision Kinnear published an open letter in three major dailies from him to the membership declaring victory. It is unclear who paid for these costly ads, but RankandFile.ca did confirm days after the court ruling that Kinnear’s legal fees through all of this are being paid for by Unifor.

In early March audio surfaced on the internet – republished by RankandFile.ca – of a conversation in late January between Local 113 executive board members Tony Barbosa and John DiNino.

In the conversation, Barbosa predicts with remarkable accuracy, the pending trusteeship, Kinnear’s strategy, the joint press conference of Kinnear and Dias, as well as the suspension of article 4 by the CLC. Barbosa states that the “big white shark”, which he calls Unifor is gearing up for a raid. Unifor denies it was planning on raiding Local 113 and says it was simply standing up for Canadian workers.

Numerous unions criticize CLC’s initiation of justification process

On March 3 a letter signed by the presidents of NUPGE, CUPE, USW, IAM, UFCW, and endorsed by UNITE HERE, SEIU Local 1, and UA was sent to Yussuff.

The letter notes that a “CLC affiliate (Unifor)” appears to have interfered in the “established collective bargaining relationship of another affiliate (ATU Local 113).”

The letter goes on to say that the the justification process of article 4.9 has undermined in the Local 113 situation, as the CLC constitution states that 4.9 is to be invoked at the request of “a group of workers,” and that the CLC granting justification to a single member, who is the president of the local, such as Kinnear was a slippery slope. An elected official may be part of a group that applies for the justification process, but they can not be the only person. Allowing tiny minorities within a local to ask for article 4.9 to be invoked in disputes without trying to constitutionally settle disputes creates a bad precedent.

The conclusion of the letter requests that the CLC declare the “original justification has been determined null and void, and that any investigation that is ongoing will focus instead on the actions of another affiliate (Unifor) that are in violation of 2 key sections of Article IV.”

Membership will weigh-in

At the March 19 meeting, Local 113 members will finally have an official forum to debate and weigh in on the future of their own local. Kinnear has declared his intention to move a motion to approve a membership vote on disaffiliation from the ATU. If this proposal is approved it will open up a new round of questions and a fresh debate about the future of the local. If it is rejected Kinnear’s moves will have been roundly rejected by both the membership and the elected executive board. In this scenario his future in the local would likely be at an end. If Kinnear thinks he is likely to lose, and he would have sense from doing workplace visits, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he decided to retire.

The intrigue and infighting over the future of the ATU 113 that has taken place over the past two months raises a number of questions for members of the local. For instance, when exactly did Kinnear contact Unifor about his intention of trying to take his local out of 113? Why is Unifor paying his legal bills? Who paid for the full page colour ads by Bob Kinnear in the three Toronto dailies? How is it in January that Barborsa accurately predicts the sequence of events a week before they happen? Why did Kinnear not take this debate to the members or the executive board first? Why did Kinnear and not membership file the 4.9 justification process? Was the trusteeship justified? Why exactly does Kinnear want to leave the ATU now, at this given moment?

These are questions that members should demand answers for. All the evidence to date points to backroom wheeling and dealing that has essentially cut out membership involvement.

There are broader political and strategic questions members must debate as well. For those wanting to leave the ATU International, what are exactly are the substantive issues at play? Are they legitimate issues or misdirection? If they are legitimate can they be rectified by fighting it out inside the ATU? What happens to the rest of the sector, especially other Canadian ATU locals, if 113 becomes independent? What is the best path forward for the members of the local and all those who work in the sector?

While Local 113 members will finally have an open debate over these and many other questions, there are still a number of issues left for the broader labour movement to sort through.

There is the issue of what a CLC investigation will reveal about Unifor’s role in the ATU’s internal crisis. Unifor is paying Kinnear’s legal fees and has openly admitted to colluding with Kinnear before the trusteeship. There is also hard evidence that events unfolding in the first week of the crisis were orchestrated well-beforehand. Will these revelations cause dissension in the ranks of Unifor itself? Well members and elected officials question the priorities of their own organization in light of this affair?

There is even a question about what role some in the CLC had in all of this. The unprecedented suspension of article 4 by the CLC, its ham-fisted public statements by its staff in the days after the trusteeship, and the leaked audio which alludes to active CLC collaboration raise serious questions about the actions of some inside the CLC.

The very real fissures that exist within the CLC have been deepened by these events precisely when there are growing attacks on the labour movement on both sides of the border.

Deep divisions and pitting Canadian workers against international unions are distractions from building continental wide solidarity to resist attacks on workers, and the racism and xenophobia conjured up by the Trump administration.

It’s time that members take charge and push their unions to fight the bosses and the politicians and not amongst themselves.

Tags: ATU 113Trusteeship
Categories: Labor News

Canada rail workers win fight against frame-up

Current News - Sat, 01/27/2018 - 15:02

Canada rail workers win fight against frame-up
http://www.themilitant.com/2018/8205/820504.html

Vol. 82/No. 5 February 5, 2018

Canada rail workers win fight against frame-up

BY JOHN STEELE
SHERBROOKE, Quebec — The rail bosses and federal government were handed a stinging defeat when the three-and-a-half-month frame-up trial of locomotive engineer Tom Harding and train traffic controller Richard Labrie, both members of United Steelworkers Local 1976, and low-level former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway manager Jean Demaitre, ended here Jan. 19. The 12-member jury declared the three former employees “not guilty” on all counts from the July 2013 derailment and explosion of a 72-car runaway oil train in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.
Harding, the main target of the frame-up, was also acquitted on two lesser charges. The jury announced the verdict to a packed courtroom on the ninth day of deliberations.

“I am very happy with the verdict,” retired worker and Lac-Mégantic resident Jean Clusiault, told the media at the courthouse. Clusiault’s 24-year-old daughter, Kathy, was one of those killed at the Musi-Café near the tracks when the train derailed and exploded. “They treated these people horribly, like killers,” he said, referring to the three framed up men. “They broke their lives.”

Many people from Lac-Mégantic attended the trial. Clusiault was there every court day. When reporters asked him who he thought was guilty, he pulled a rumpled piece of paper from his pocket and started reading a list of high company officials, beginning with former CEO Edward Burkhardt.

“This is a victory for workers,” Gilbert Carette, a former Quebec highway maintenance department worker, told the Militant. “This tragedy, caused by company negligence and government deregulation of the rail industry, was placed on the shoulders of innocent workers.”

Carette is active in the Citizens and Groups Coalition for Rail Safety in Lac-Mégantic, which has been fighting for the federal and Quebec governments to build a railway bypass around the town.

“The Citizens Coalition,” said spokesperson Robert Bellefleur in a post-verdict press release, “has always insisted that the three employees were ordinary actors in a business scheme planned at high management levels to ensure maximum benefits for top company officials and shareholders of the oil and railway companies involved.”

Government frame-up unraveled
The rail bosses and the prosecution frame-up centered on the claim that Harding was criminally negligent and displayed “reckless disregard” for human life by not setting and properly testing a “sufficient” number of hand brakes when he parked the train that night. He was the only “crew” on the train. The bosses had gotten special dispensation from the government to operate with a one-person crew, to cut costs.
Labrie and Demaitre were charged with criminal negligence for supposedly not doing enough to prevent Harding from causing the disaster

In accord with company procedures, Harding had kept the lead engine running when he left the train for the night and also set hand brakes to keep the air brakes engaged to prevent the train from moving. During the night, firefighters unknowingly turned off the locomotive’s air brakes when they shut down the engine to extinguish a fire that was caused by substandard maintenance practices. Without air brakes the train later rolled down a 7-mile grade into the center of Lac-Mégantic and derailed.

In his final arguments, Charles Shearson, one of Harding’s lawyers, blew out of the water the prosecution’s claim that Harding had failed to secure the train. He walked through how Harding had followed the company’s general operating instructions and secured the train.

Shearson also emphasized the dangerous conditions Harding was forced to work under as a single-person “crew.”

The jury ruled for the defendants even though Judge Gaétan Dumas refused to give them a key document that contradicted the frame-up charges — the official Transportation Safety Board report on the cause of the disaster. This report states that 18 different factors were involved, many centering on the safety negligence of the railroad’s bosses, and no one single person can be blamed. “Our strategy was to bring the report’s conclusions in through the back door,” Thomas Walsh, Harding’s other lawyer, told the Militant.

Workers hail the verdict
Both the Teamsters union, which organizes the majority of freight rail workers in Canada, and the United Steelworkers, which organized workers on Montreal, Maine and Atlantic, issued statements backing the victory.
“This was the right verdict,” said Chris Yeandel, a Canadian Pacific engineer and chairman of Teamsters Locomotive Engineers Local 689. “I know about this. I run a train. I don’t make the policies of the company. I can’t be responsible for everything that happens because of the decisions others make.”

A court hearing will take place in Lac-Mégantic Feb. 5 to deal with regulatory charges still standing against Harding, Labrie and Demaitre, as well as some company officials. These charges were brought by Transport Canada under two federal laws, the Railway Safety Act and the Fisheries Act.

Most workers think the jury made the right decision. “In Lac-Mégantic, few expected a guilty verdict, or wanted one,” the Montreal Gazette headlined its story on the decision.

“Lac-Mégantic residents said it was the railway’s chairman, Ed Burkhardt, they wanted to see in handcuffs,” the National Post said. “He was never charged, but the railway faces similar criminal negligence charges. A trial date has not been set, but even if convicted, the only penalty for a company is a fine — one that would likely never be paid because MMA went bankrupt.”

Marie-Claire David contributed to this article.

Tags: Lac-MéganticQuebec rail wreckhealth and safetyunion rightsderegulationOne Man Crews
Categories: Labor News

PATCO Union Buster & Trump's Appointee To NLRB Now Pushing to Punish NLRB Staff For Supporting Unions.

Current News - Fri, 01/26/2018 - 19:49

PATCO Union Buster & Trump's Appointee To NLRB Now Pushing to Punish NLRB Staff For Supporting Unions.
Trump Appointee Is Trying to Squelch Us, Labor Board Staff Says
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/25/business/economy/labor-board.html?hp&...

By NOAM SCHEIBERJAN. 25, 2018
Air traffic controllers during the 1981 strike that ended in their dismissal, a pivotal moment in the labor movement’s decline. A litigator in that dispute, Peter B. Robb, is now the top enforcement official for the National Labor Relations Board. CreditDavid Handschuh/Associated Press
The Trump administration’s efforts to reverse the direction of federal labor policy appear to have accelerated with a proposal to demote the senior civil servants who resolve most labor cases.

Under the proposal, those civil servants — considered by many conservatives and employers to be biased toward labor — would answer to a small cadre of officials installed above them in the National Labor Relations Board’s hierarchy.

The proposal could pave the way for a pronounced shift in the day-to-day workings of the agency, making it friendlier to employers named in complaints of unfair labor practices or facing unionization drives.

Peter B. Robb, the agency’s general counsel and a Trump appointee, outlined the proposal this month in a conference call with the civil servants, known as regional directors, according to a letter sent by the directors to Mr. Robb.

The regional directors and their staffs typically resolve more than 85 percent of the roughly 20,000 cases filed with the agency each year over disputed labor practices without involving the general counsel, the top enforcement official.The proposal follows a series of aggressive changes in posture at the agency since last fall, when Republicans gained a majority on the five-member board.

In early December, a mere two weeks into his tenure, Mr. Robb released a memo announcing the end of many of his predecessors’ initiatives, including a campaign against employers who improperly classify workers as contractors, and featuring a long a list of hot-button issues on which regional directors were required to seek input from his office.

“New general counsels will at some point signal cases they want to look at,” said Wilma B. Liebman, a former chairwoman of the labor board. “But this was so sweeping and so fast that it was just kind of startling.”

That same month, the agency overturned a key Obama-era ruling that had made it easier to hold companies responsible for labor-law violations at companies they do business with, such as franchisees and contractors.

Mr. Robb came to his position after a career largely spent representing management, including handling part of the Reagan administration’s litigation against the air traffic controllers’ union that waged an illegal strike in 1981. Most labor historians say the government’s hard line in firing the controllers contributed to organized labor’s decline in subsequent decades, said Joseph A. McCartin, a history professor at Georgetown University.

The labor board’s general counsel is confirmed by the Senate. The counsel has independent authority as a prosecutor, derived from the National Labor Relations Act, and performs other duties on behalf of the agency’s board, which acts as its highest court of appeals.

Demoting the regional directors — there are 26, including two vacancies — and inserting a new group above them would most likely require board approval. The regional directors’ account suggested that the new officials would probably be civil servants as well, rather than political appointees.

Michael J. Lotito, a lawyer with the management-side firm Littler Mendelson, who has discussed the proposal with officials at the agency, said they had assured him that it was largely a response to budget cuts reflecting a significant decline over several decades in the number of labor charges filed.

He said some of the savings could come from staff reductions among managers and supervisors at the regional offices, achieved in part through attrition.

The agency itself said that “given budgetary issues, the general counsel is assessing the current organizational structure for possible changes,” but added, “No specific plan involving the restructuring of our organization has been developed.”

Labor advocates and even management-side lawyers often praise the professionalism of the regional directors, but critics consider them too sympathetic to workers and unions.

“Some are way more ideologically pro-union than others, but they all tend to be fairly ideological,” Mr. Lotito said. “The agency tends to promote — I think that it should — individuals who want to protect the rights of employees. But if you’ve been doing that all your life, you can miss the rights of the employer.”

The proposed changes appear consistent with a broader Trump administration suspicion of longtime civil servants. President Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, called for the “deconstruction of the administrative state.”

During the administration’s first year, dozens of senior career officials resigned or retired from the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency as many complained of being sidelined or ignored by political overseers.

The Interior Department reassigned a few dozen senior civil servants to posts that often made little use of their expertise. In one case, a top climate policy official was reassigned to the office that collects royalty payments from oil and gas companies. He quit not long after.

According to the N.L.R.B. regional directors’ letter, Mr. Robb said on the conference call on Jan. 11 that the changes were necessary and independent of budget considerations — implying a lack of confidence in the directors’ ability to investigate and adjudicate allegations of labor-rights violations.

Mr. Robb, according to the letter, said the agency might hire a handful of district directors, each with authority over a portion of its 26 regions, and proposed lowering the regional directors’ rank within the Civil Service.

The letter expressed concerns that Mr. Robb was intent on “removing many of the core responsibilities of the sitting regional directors,” though it acknowledged that it was unclear how much authority he intended to shift to district directors, how many there would be, and whether any regional offices would be closed or consolidated.

Mr. Lotito, the management lawyer who has discussed the concept with agency officials, said the idea was to keep most or all of the regional offices in place and allow management and labor to appeal decisions to the district directors.

“The regional directors are their own fiefdoms,” he said. “If there was an ability to go to a district director, who oversees eight regions, chances are that would drive consistency.”

Like the civil servants who were reassigned at the Interior Department, the regional directors at the labor board are members of the Senior Executive Service, which was established by Congress in the late 1970s as an elite corps of executives who could be deployed to tackle the government’s thorniest challenges.

Conservatives and some nonpartisan experts have complained that members of the Senior Executive Service are far less mobile than Congress envisioned, burrowing into particular agencies.

By proposing to downgrade the regional director positions into the ranks of standard government workers, where they would make less money and have narrower authority, Mr. Robb in some respects proposed going further than Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who reassigned Senior Executive Service members but preserved their status.

The changes proposed by Mr. Robb “would have a severe and negative impact on our agency and our stakeholders,” the directors wrote.

William Valdez, president of the association representing the senior executives, said the labor board could eliminate such positions, making the regional directors eligible for comparable jobs elsewhere in government, but could not demote them en masse. As a practical matter, he said, many of the regional directors may choose to reapply for their jobs at lower rank.

Even many management-side lawyers consider the regional directors effective. “Some people are better than other others, but I think the standards are pretty high,” said Steven M. Swirsky, a former field lawyer for the labor board who has spent decades representing employers.

At a Jan. 19 meeting with an American Bar Association committee whose members represent both management and labor, Mr. Robb argued that the reaction to his proposal was overblown.

According to someone familiar with the discussion, Mr. Robb acknowledged that he would need the approval of the agency’s board for any changes, and he said he would seek public comment as well as input from the regional directors.

In the meantime, the letter from the regional directors indicates that many may take Mr. Robb’s proposal as a cue to resign or retire, as some of their counterparts at the State Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department did.

“We believe the changes you suggest, including the removal of directors from the Senior Executive Service, will cause senior directors and managers, whose institutional knowledge is a valuable asset to the agency, to retire sooner than they otherwise intended,” the directors wrote to Mr. Robb. “As you can imagine, the information you provided to the regional directors has created much uncertainty and has disheartened us.”

--

Tags: nlrbunion bustingPATCOTrump
Categories: Labor News

The history of “right-to-work”

ILWU - Fri, 01/26/2018 - 16:24

King knew it was wrong: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. pulled no punches about “right-to-work” being racist and immoral.  The honorary member of ILWU Local 10, spoke out in 1961:  “In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone. Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.” King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis while supporting a strike by public sanitation workers.

In 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) that legalized the right of workers to form unions, negotiate contracts and conduct job actions. It also recognized the importance of “union shops” where all workers shared the cost of maintaining their union. The President made a point of signing the NLRA (also known as the Wagner Act) in the port city of Tacoma, on July 5. That date, recognized then and now as “Bloody Thursday,” honored waterfront workers killed during the West Coast waterfront strike that gave rise to today’s ILWU.

Some workers were excluded

The new law helped millions join unions and improve working conditions during the next three decades – and created a more secure working class that was eventually called “middle class” by those who were uncomfortable talking about working class power. But the NLRA also excluded large numbers of workers in order to win enough votes to pass Congress where racist Southern legislators demanded the exclusion of farm workers, domestic workers and public employees. To this day, those three classes of workers lack the same federal protections that once protected most private-sector workers. Today those protections have been greatly weakened by big business, but until recently, they allowed millions of workers to join unions

Business lost the first 4 rounds

Business owners who hated labor unions and President Roosevelt were furious when the NLRA passed in 1935. They sued to overturn the law in federal court and tried to block unions from collecting dues from everyone in union shops. In 1937, the Supreme Court sided with workers by allowing the NLRA to remain in place and confirmed the right of unions to collect fees from everyone in a union shop. In just two years following major strikes in 1934 and organizing by longshore, auto, steel and other workers, at least four dramatic victories had been secured: passage of the NLRA plus two victories in the Supreme Court, and passage of the Social Security Act that passed in 1935.

Excluded, but they organized

While private-sector workers were organizing during the 1930’s and three decades that followed, workers on farms, government jobs and private households continued to struggle on their own, forming unions occasionally when they could, but receiving little or no protection from the federal government.

Farm workers

In Hawaii, the ILWU made history with successful campaigns beginning in the early 1940’s that eventually organized the island’s sugar and pineapple workers on a mass scale, enabling them to become the highest-paid agricultural workers in America.

Labor activists helped farm workers organize powerful strikes and some unions during the 1930’s in California’s Central Valley, Salinas Valley, Imperial Valley and in eastern Washington State. Workers there continued organizing job actions throughout the 1960’s and beyond when the United Farmworkers Union passed the first farm labor law in the country in 1975 that allowed farm workers to organize unions in California.

In Southern states, activists helped tenant farmers and sharecroppers build unions during the 1930’s, helping both African-American and white farm workers to loosen the grip of debt and abuse that forced many families to live in virtual slavery since the Civil War.

Domestic workers

Domestic workers, including many African American women, also organized in the 1930’s with assistance from activists including Ella Baker, who described street corners in Manhattan and the Bronx as modern day “slave markets,” where women gathered each morning for a daily “shape-up.” Like longshore workers, they organized, and eventually forced New York’s Mayor La Guardia to create hiring halls with regulations that improved conditions for many.

In recent times, new organizing efforts by domestic workers have passed new domestic labor laws in eight states, including California, Oregon and Hawaii.

Public workers form unions

Public employees were inspired during the 1930’s by gains made by private sector workers inside factories and warehouses. Some of the first public workers to form unions were postal workers and teachers concerned about pay, benefits and working conditions – but also about abusive politicians who encouraged bribery to determine pay and job assignments instead of civil service.

Public unions grow in 1960’s

Public sector unions saw relatively little growth until the 1960’s when large numbers began joining unions and demanding the right to become legal and bargain contracts. During the next 30 years, organizing continued on a large scale as teachers, firemen, ferry workers, police, security and prison guards, road repair, water and sewer workers, planners, librarians and others joined public unions. By the year 2000 the number of public sector union members equaled private sector union members – while private-sector union members declined to today’s level – just 6% of the workforce.

Good news and bad news

As pubic unions successfully organized for better wages and benefits in the 1960’s and beyond, they first tried to catch-up with better paying jobs in the private sector that had risen because of union pressure. Workers also correctly noted that most public employees received no Social Security (another exclusion granted to conservatives in 1935 when the Social Security Act was passed by Congress), so demands for a secure retirement were addressed with defined-benefit pensions approved by politicians in charge of school districts, cities, counties and state governments. Within a decade or so, public wage increases and benefits began to surpass what private sector workers were able to bargain because their unions were growing weaker.

Anti-union reaction

At the same time, capitalists were shifting investment to the nonunion south and overseas, part of the “de-industrialization” and offshoring that still haunts much of middle America. Inflation also increased during the 1970’s because of massive spending for the war in Vietnam, along with funding for healthcare, education Medicare and other important programs.

Fear increased among workers and pensioners that they were falling behind and might lose their homes – especially in California where property taxes kept rising to pay for the growing public sector, which accounted for one in six jobs in the Golden State.

These factors – including the different fortunes of public and private sector union members – created dangerous divisions within the working class that were ripe for exploitation by right-wing politicians who used the opportunity to harvest votes by turning public and private sector union members – and the large non-union working class – against each other.

Division & conquest

One of the first high-profile battles for the heart and soul of America’s divided working class was fought and lost in California over Proposition 13. The property tax cap was the brainchild of two rightwing extremists; Howard Jarvis and Paul Gann, who called their plan to freeze property taxes, “the People’s Initiative.” The measure passed by almost 2-1 despite strong opposition from public sector unions and most politicians. The following year, Paul Gann passed another initiative to severely limit government spending and punish public union members. Politicians were terrified by the popular support for both initiatives, and some, including Jerry Brown, reversed course to support Paul Gann and become a self-proclaimed “fiscal conservative.”

Union-friendly politicians, meanwhile, tried to maintain loyalty to both private and public sector union members. But private sector members were increasingly anxious about their falling wages, rising taxes and dim prospects – while public sector members continued to push for as much as they could win at the bargaining table – not always appreciating that their “employers” included many increasingly anxious members of the working class who were being lured with appeals to “cut taxes” and vote against “greedy unions.”

As this conflict brewed, the fiscal crisis grew worse because the public sector kept growing in response to demands for education, health care and services to help more families living in poverty.

Wisconsin and beyond

The culmination of these forces were on full view in Wisconsin during 2010, when voters transformed the state from a union and Democratic Party stronghold, to a state that elected anti-union Governor Scott Walker. After winning, Walker stripped collective bargaining rights from public employees, triggering massive protests and support from ILWU members who travelled there to show their solidarity. But Walker defeated a recall election in 2012 and was reelected in 2014. Similarly, House Speaker Paul Ryan has consistently won his swing district that once included many industrial union members before the jobs left when capitalists closed plants in search of cheaper labor. Similar changes have taken place recently in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and other states where current and former union members were once a powerful progressive block, but now increasingly vote for anti-union politicians who support tax cuts, de-regulation, low wages, “right-to-work” and other antiunion laws. The final insult to union solidarity came with the election of Donald Trump who had a long record of anti-union behavior that many current and former union members overlooked while accepting his promises to restore jobs and power for the working class – then flipping to embrace Wall Street and the one-percent after winning the election.

Business dream of “right to work”

The Supreme Court is now poised to outlaw the right of public unions to collect representation fees in “union shops,” and impose “right-to-work” laws on all public union members.

This reversal marks the fulfillment of a dream going back to the 1930’s when Southern segregationists first peddled the idea of “right-to-work” as part of a strategy to thwart unions, stop “race-mixing” in workplaces, and block racial minorities from gaining their fair share of power and respect in society.

Trump backs anti-union case

On December 6, Trump administration lawyers in the Justice Department filed a “friend of the court” brief backing the Janus case against union members.

Categories: Unions

Fiji: Calls for ILO to step in after Fiji unionist questioned by police

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 01/26/2018 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: RNZI
Categories: Labor News

Supreme Court’s “Janus” case will impact members

ILWU - Fri, 01/26/2018 - 15:24

Providing public service: Washington State ferry workers who belong to the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU) are among millions of public employees who are likely to be impacted by a pending Supreme Court decision that aims to weaken unions, known as the “Janus” case. Shown on deck are (L-R): Matt Williams, Antonia Sullivan, Scott Johnson,
Kimberly Berry, and Drew Botti. Photo by Julianne Duncan.

The better pay, benefits and rights on the job that ILWU members and other union workers have enjoyed for decades are being challenged this year by a clever plan to weaken unions, called “right to work.”

Supreme Court’s “Janus” case

The U.S. Supreme Court recently announced they will hear a case in 2018 called “Janus versus AFSCME” that seeks to strip public unions of their right to collect dues from everyone covered by a union contract, and impose “right-to-work” rules on all public-sector union members in the United States. A decision harming public employee union members is virtually certain because President Trump recently filled a vacancy on the Supreme Court with Neil Gorsuch, who holds anti-union views and favors big business.

Details about Janus

Mark Janus is a public employee in Illinois who sued his AFSCME union because he objected to paying his small share of fees needed to cover the union’s representation costs that protect his contract, pay, benefits and rights on the job. Janus says he opposes unions so strongly that paying any fees would violate his First Amendment rights. The Janus case has massive support from anti-union business groups.

Key court cases

In 1977, public unions won a Supreme Court decision called “Abood” that affirmed their right to collect dues or “fair share fees” from all workers covered by a union contract. Since that decision, antiunion Presidents – especially Reagan and both Bush’s – appointed more anti-union justices to the court.

Two years ago, the Supreme Court heard a similar case – also backed by big business – on behalf of a California school teacher named Rebecca Friedrichs, who also held strong anti-union views. The court deadlocked on whether she was obligated to pay fees to the teacher’s union by a vote of 4 to 4, because Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly.

Anti-union politicians then blocked President Obama from filling the Scalia vacancy with someone who would respect workers and unions. When President Trump filled the vacancy with Justice Gorsuch, he sent a green light to corporate America that “right-to-work” would soon become the law of the land for public workers, and eventually all union members.

What is “right-to-work”?

“Right-to-work” is a clever scheme designed in the 1930’s by big business to keep unions weak and wages low. It essentially outlaws “union shops” – workplaces covered by a union contract where everyone pays either dues or their “fair share” of fees to cover the cost of representing workers and protecting good pay, benefits and work rules.

Encouraging “freeloaders”

Under “right-to-work” rules, union members can no longer vote to require everyone in their workplace to support the union by paying either dues or fair-share fees. Only voluntary contributions are allowed by “right-to-work laws” – and only if each worker provides specific, written authorization. Some “right-to- work” laws already in place in many states require unions to collect separate, signed authorization forms each year from individual workers in order to collect any dues money.

From South to North

For decades, right-to-work laws existed only in Southern States where business owners used them to keep unions weak, wages low and workplaces segregated. Now there are 28 states, including Wisconsin and Michigan, with these laws. If the Supreme Court rules as expected by June, “right-to-work-for-less” will become the law of the land for every public-sector union member.

Designed to frustrate & fail

When the Supreme Court rules on Janus, it won’t just restrict the ability of unions to collect dues or representation fees – it’s likely to also maintain the legal obligation for unions to represent all workers covered by union contracts– even those who don’t pay any dues or “fair share” fees to cover enormous costs of representation and arbitration. This “double-bind” is exactly how corporations behind the Janus case and “right to work” laws hope to frustrate, weaken and bankrupt unions.

Public workers first

The Janus decision will immediately affect public sector union members, but most observers believe corporations behind right-to-work will eventually ask the court to apply the same restrictive principle to all union members, including those with private-sector employers, including longshore, warehouse, industrial and service workers.

Impact on the IBU and beyond

The ILWU represents thousands of public-sector employees, the largest number being public ferry workers in Washington and Alaska who are represented by the ILWU’s Marine Division, the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU). Hundreds more work for the Golden Gate Ferry District and other public employers including Port Police at Locals 65 and 22; Security personnel at Locals 9 and 28; Port pilots at Local 68, and more.

“Public employees are almost half of the IBU membership, so dealing with “right-to-work” is a top priority for our union now,” said newly-elected IBU President Marina Secchitano.

IBU Secretary-Treasurer Terri Mast prepared a memo suggesting a strategy for right-to-work that was distributed to the ILWU International Executive Board meeting that met in San Francisco on December 14-15.

“It’s important that we start to build an internal campaign now to educate all our members,” said Mast, who outlined a member-to-member outreach effort that envisions trainings to conduct “one-on-one” conversations which explain the need to stay strong and sign dues authorization cards.

ILWU strategy

“The success or failure of this anti-union attack will be determined by what we do this year,” said ILWU International President Bob McEllrath, “They picked this fight with public workers for 2018, so we have to start educating and training members now in order to come out on top when the court ruling comes down later this year.” McEllrath says it’s too late to stop the Supreme Court from ruling against workers in favor of the right-to-work laws long sought by big business. “That train left the station when Trump was elected President and he appointed Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.”

The best move now for the ILWU and other unions, McEllrath says, is the approach advocated by the IBU’s Terri Mast: a bottom-up, rank-and-file campaign to educate members by conducting thousands of ‘one-on-one’ conversations

“Our goal should be to convince 100% of union members that the only way to protect good contracts and power on the job is by voluntarily paying our union dues each month,” he says.

First steps

In December, McEllrath told the International Executive Board that he was directing the ILWU’s Organizing, Education and Communications Departments to help the IBU and other public workers in the ILWU by gearing-up for an educational campaign.

This article in The Dispatcher marks the beginning of a union-wide effort to inform members about the ILWU’s strategy for staying strong despite the “right-to-work” attack. Recent issues of The Dispatcher have also carried information about the looming threat posed by “right-to-work” (see articles in the sidebar) and future issues of The Dispatcher will devote coverage to the ongoing educational campaign.

Education through conversations

The centerpiece of the outreach effort envisioned by the IBU is a rank-and-file educational campaign, based around “one-on-one” conversations between members.

Training volunteer trainers

The IBU is planning to begin with a series of training workshops for rank-and- file leaders who commit to serve as volunteer trainers in their workplaces.

The International Union intends to prioritize the IBU’s large public employee membership in the Washing ton and Alaska ferry systems, plus other ILWU locals with large numbers of public employees.

The IBU training sessions for rank-and-file volunteer trainers would include time for them to work with organization’s elected leaders on a customized outreach plan. The goal is to identify and train enough volunteers to conduct one-on-one conversations with every public worker.

What works – and doesn’t

A review of what other unions have been doing – or not doing – to maintain a high percentage of voluntary dues paying members despite right-to-work laws, shows that programs are succeeding because of three factors:

Keys to success

First, unions have to commit time and resources to support an intensive, member-driven educational campaign. Just passing out flyers or mailing newsletters without personal conversations won’t work. It takes time and effort to talk with each member, but it has proven to be the most effective approach and there are no shortcuts.

Second, unions need to train volunteers how to engage in two-way conversations. The key is to have a real conversation that begins by asking questions, then listening carefully and making workers feel comfortable about sharing their true feelings. Members who want to share criticism or feedback about the union must feel heard and acknowledged – not dismissed or ignored.

Finally, a successful outreach campaign requires local unions to keep careful records that track who has been contacted in what areas, and who has signed a dues pledge card – along with notes of particular concerns that might make a worker hesitate to voluntarily pay dues.

Unions can get stronger

Unions that followed these steps are reporting that most of their co-workers are voluntarily paying dues and keeping their unions strong. Many also say the member-to-member approach has made their locals much stronger because workers are more involved.

High price of failure

On the other hand, there are examples where right-to-work has destroyed unions that failed to involve members, including some in Wisconsin that started too late and didn’t engage honestly and personally with co-workers. Those unions have now collapsed with only a small minority who are voluntarily paying dues to unions that have little or no power.

“Unions that don’t have strong membership support can quickly lose their dues base because of right-to-work laws, which triggers a financial crisis with staff layoffs and fewer financial resources to help members protect the contract – all of which makes joining the union less attractive,” says Mast, who describes that scenario as a “death spiral” that unions must avoid at all cost.

Unions across the country that are successfully using the member-to- member approach to overcome “right-to-work” laws will meet April 6-8 in Chicago at the Labor Notes conference where 2,000 participants will share lessons and experiences. The ILWU will participate in the event and prepare an article on “lessons learned” – along with a report on the ILWU’s own education campaign – that will be published in May issue of The Dispatcher.

Now’s the time to begin

Given what’s at stake, McEllrath says he wants to start the membership education campaign immediately.

“If we want to stay strong and united enough to deal with powerful employers, then we can’t afford any delays in engaging the rank-and-file.”

Categories: Unions

Stevedores to Stage 24-Hour Strike at All Finnish Ports

Current News - Fri, 01/26/2018 - 15:16

Stevedores to Stage 24-Hour Strike at All Finnish Ports

https://worldmaritimenews.com/archives/241968/stevedores-to-stage-24-hou...

Stevedores will stage a 24-hour strike at all ports in Finland on February 2 as part of a political protest against the government’s employment policies, a statement issued by Finish stevedoring company STEVECO says.

Stevedores, part of the Transport Workers’ Union (AKT), will take part in the protest from 6:00 a.m. February 2 to 6 a.m. February 3.

What is more, Finnish Seafarers’ Union (FSU) has urged all its members to participate in a protest at 11:00 a.m. on February 2 at the Senate Square in Helsinki.

AKT and FSU are affiliated to SAK, the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions which organizes the protest.

Trade unions in the country are opposing to the new unemployment security legislation which entered into force at the beginning of this year. SAK stresses the new law is “another cut in unemployment security.”

From the beginning of the year, unemployed people must report their progress in job-seeking to the unemployment fund or the Social Insurance Institution (Kela) quarterly. The unemployment fund or Kela can then consider whether they have been active enough in finding employment or not.

Should they decide someone has not done enough to seek out employment, the benefit will be cut by 4.65 percent for the next three months.

World Maritime News Staff

Tags: Finn Dockers StrikeTransport Workers’ Union (AKT)
Categories: Labor News

Pages

Subscribe to Transport Workers Solidarity Committee aggregator