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It's Going To Get A Little Easier For Workers To Unionize

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 14:12
Dave JamiesonHuffington PostDecember 12, 2014View the original piece

WASHINGTON -- Federal officials unveiled new rules on Friday that will streamline and simplify the union election process, a reform long sought by labor unions and fiercely opposed by businesses.

Among other changes, the rules issued by the National Labor Relations Board will limit some of the litigation that can precede a union election, making it harder for parties to stall or drag out the process. The reforms will also allow unions to file election petitions and other documents via email, and they will require employers to provide unions with the email addresses and phone numbers of workers eligible to vote.

Many employers favor the older, slower election process, as it gives them more time to dissuade workers from unionizing. The reforms announced Friday have long been discussed and debated, and businesses have argued that they would infringe on the businesses' free speech rights and lead to "ambush" or "quickie" elections.

The labor board -- or at least its left-leaning majority appointed by President Barack Obama -- disagrees. In a statement Friday, the agency said the changes would "modernize" procedures and allow it to "more effectively administer" the laws on collective bargaining. In a sign of the partisan divide at play, the rules were approved by the board's three liberal members, while its two conservative members dissented.

Labor groups have long bemoaned the current process as outdated and tied up with red tape, giving employers ample time to bust unions. Companies often dispute which workers should belong in the bargaining unit -- that is, the people who would be covered by the union contract -- and the reforms announced Friday will shift that litigation to after the election. Employers will also have to prove that a review of the election is warranted, as opposed to merely requesting one.

Mark Gaston Pearce, the labor board's chairman, said in a statement that he was "heartened" that the board is enacting the amendments.

"Simplifying and streamlining the process will result in improvements for all parties," Pearce said. "With these changes, the Board strives to ensure that its representation process remains a model of fairness and efficiency for all."

The rules were announced in the Federal Register on Friday and will go into effect on April 14, 2015.

The board put forth a similar batch of rules more than three years ago, drawing heat from various business lobbying groups as well as congressional Republicans. After a federal court ruled that the board had lacked a quorum when it issued them, the board formally withdrew those rules early this year. It had been expected to reissue similar rules now that it has five confirmed board members.

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO labor federation, applauded the announcement of the rules Friday.

"The modest but important reforms to the representation election process announced today by the National Labor Relations Board will help reduce delay in the process and make it easier for workers to vote on forming a union in a timely manner," Trumka said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the National Retail Federation, an industry lobby, said it was considering "both a legal and legislative strategy" to block the rules from going into effect, calling them "the latest attempt by the Obama Administration to aid their allies in Big Labor at the expense of employers and employees."

Republicans in Congress have already held hearings on what they deem the "ambush" election rules and may well hold more once the GOP takes control of both chambers next year. They could potentially try to block the rules from going into effect -- though not in the immediate future, since members of Congress are already far along in hammering out a deal this week to fund the government. By waiting to release the rules Friday, the labor board may at least have avoided a GOP-sponsored rider in the spending bill that could gut the rules.

Categories: Labor News, Unions

FAQs: What the Pension Bill Means for You

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 12:03

December 13 2014: Get answers on the pension cut deal and what it means for you.

The ink is still drying on the pension cut deal that was attached in the dead of night to Congress's spending bill. Some FAQs can be answered now; TDU will provide updated information as it becomes available

Does this bill mandate pension cuts?

No. This bill permits “deeply troubled” pension plans, those which could become insolvent over the next 10-20 years, to cut already-earned pensions of retirees and active workers. These cuts will be up to the trustees of the pension fund; the trustees are 50% union officials, and 50% management reps. No cuts will go into effect immediately.

Could this affect other Teamsters, or just those in the Central States Pension Fund?

Most Teamster funds will be completely unaffected. The Western Conference Fund is in the “green zone.” Other large Teamster funds, such as New England, Local 705, Local 710, Local 804, Local 177, Joint Council 83, and most others will be unaffected, even if they are in the “red zone.” For example, Local 804 just won significant pension benefit increases in their recent contract.

Certain deeply troubled small Teamster funds may be affected. New York Local 707’s pension fund is nearly insolvent, as freight jobs dried up, and their biggest employer YRC got concessions to drastically cut their contributions to all pension funds. So we expect the Local 707 Fund to consider pension cuts.

How will it affect Teamsters in the Central States Fund?

The Director of the Fund, Thomas Nyhan, was a principal lobbying force for this bill, and has stated that CSPF will impose cuts on retirees and active Teamsters. The Trustees of the fund, who are 50% management and 50% Teamster officials politically aligned with Hoffa, support the bill and support cutting pensions. They will make the decisions on when, who, and how much to cut, within the bounds of the new legislation.

Have Central States officials indicated how much they will cut?

In the past, Al Nelson, the Benefit Services Director of Central States, stated that a cut of about 30% would be what is needed.

But now the legislation has changed that. It requires that workers (so-called “orphans”) who retired from companies that went bankrupt (such as CF, Allied Systems, Preston, or Hostess, for example)  be cut first and hardest.

This horrendous language is contained on page 81 of the pension legislation.

At this point, no one knows what the cuts will be, because we do not know how this legislation will be interpreted or applied. The next move will be by the Central States trustees.

The legislation also has protective language for some retirees: those over 80, those receiving only a disability pension, and to a partial degree, those who are 75-80.  

How will this affect UPS retirees in the Central States Fund?

UPS bought enough influence in Congress to save an estimated $2 billion through a special interest loophole that shifts the company's cost burdens on to Teamster retirees who will face additional pension cuts as a result.

On pages 81-82 of the pension legislation there is a loophole dedicated to exactly one corporation, UPS. This loophole means that CSPF will probably not be able to cut the pensions of UPS workers who retired after January 1, 2008, because they are “Priority 3” in order of cuts (the best priority).  

UPS retirees do not benefit one cent from this loophole because their pensions are already protected by the contract. Article 34, Section 1 of the current UPS master agreement, requires UPS to make up the full pension to UPSers if CSPF imposes cuts.  

UPS's special interest loophole means the company won't have to make up for any pension cuts. As a result, all non-UPS retirees will face $2 billion more in pension cuts. Retirees are footing the bill so that UPS doesn't have to pay the obligations it agreed to in the contract.

It is not known if the "UPS Exemption" also covers UPS Teamsters who retired from Central States before January 1, 2008. These Teamster retirees deserve to know their status and if they may face pension cuts.

Will Teamsters and retirees get a vote prior to any cuts?

A ‘fact sheet’ issued by the bills sponsors claims that workers and retirees will get a vote before cuts could be made. But this is not true because of additional loopholes in the deal.   

First, those in Central States can be deprived of a vote, because it is a large fund and its failure could seriously impact the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). 

To add insult to injury: a majority of all participants – not just voters – would be required for a No result. In other words, not voting would count as a vote in favor of a pension cut!

If Central States makes these cuts, will the fund be secure?

Maybe. Certainly slashing the benefits would improve the bottom line. But in the long run a pension plan needs contributing employers, and here is where the Hoffa administration has failed badly. They severely undermined the Fund by letting UPS pull out 45,000 participants, and they have not organized new companies into the fund. Central States set up a special “hybrid” kind of plan to allow new companies to join the fund with zero withdrawal liability. It was designed for organizing. But it has not been used for new companies. That has to change.

Will Teamster officials and Central States officials have to take cuts?

That remains to be seen. Because their work for the fund or local unions will not count as “orphan” time, they may or may not face cuts.  But Thomas Nyhan, the fund director, is paid $662,060, so he probably isn’t worried. Neither is Hoffa: he is in the lucrative Family Protection Plan, which pays far more than a working Teamster could dream of collecting.

Sign up for email updates at www.tdu.org and like us on facebook.

The Pension Rights Center’s backgrounder on the pension-cut bill

Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Congress, Hoffa Butcher Teamster Pensions

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 11:26

December 13, 2014: Congress has officially passed the spending bill that includes pension cut legislation that was attached as an amendment to the budget bill.

The legislation guts federal pension protections and will pave the way for pension cuts in the Central States Pension Fund.

Teamsters have questions and deserve answers. TDU lays out what the bill means for Teamsters in our Frequently Asked Questions. 

The biggest question of all may be: how did Hoffa let this happen in the first place?

While Hoffa was MIA or worse, TDU fought a grassroots campaign to protect Teamster pensions.

We partnered with the Pension Rights Center and AARP and launched a coalition for pension protections, not cuts.

We sounded the alarm when a Congressional sneak attack attached the pension cut deal to the end-of-year spending bill. Growing number of unions spoke out in opposition. We even forced the Hoffa administration to make a show of opposition.

The Hoffa administration was worse than MIA. His allies at the Central States Pension Fund were leading proponents of the pension cut deal. Central States Executive Director

Thomas Nyhan was a leading proponent of the pension cut deal. He was paid $662,060 by our pension fund last year. How big of a cut will he take?

Hoffa waited until the day before the legislation passed, Hoffa issued a last-minute letter opposing the pension rip-off. The IBT emailed members calling on them to make phone calls. This wasn't even a matter of too-little-too-late. It was a cover-up.

Hoffa stayed quiet to signal politicians that he backed the pension cut bill; then when the bill's passage was secured, he put on a show of opposition to the membership to cover himself politically.

Teamsters expect Congress to play politics. But they deserve more from their own union leadership. 

The Hoffa administration has spent the last year imposing contract concessions, healthcare cuts and pension cuts. It's time for change.

If you agree, get involved in the movement for change in our union.

Sign up for email updates at www.tdu.org and like us on facebook.

Send us a message and tell us what TDU should do next to fight for our union.

Join with Teamsters working to defend pensions, and change the leadership of the Teamster Union. Together, we can rebuild the Teamsters!

Issues: Pension and BenefitsHoffa Watch
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Will the Central States Big Shots Take a Cut?

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 11:10

December 12, 2014: Thomas Nyhan testified in Congress and lobbied hard – with our pension money and staff – to get the pension-cut bill passed. Now, he got his wish: a 163-page bill sneaked through Congress, tacked onto the budget. 

We propose some small measure of equality of sacrifice, which is a basic principle of the labor movement.  

The executives of the Central States Pension and Welfare Funds should take a 30% cut, to show their sincerity when they talk about the need for sacrifice.

Let’s start with Thomas Nyhan, who was paid $662,060 in 2013 and Al Nelson who was paid $305,811. There are plenty of other fund executives in their bracket: in our review of the 5500 forms for Central States Pension and H&W Funds, we found 13 pulling down over $200,000, and seven over $300,000.

What do you think?

Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Major Cities Don’t Want Dangerous Goods on Railways

Railroaded's Blog - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 08:00

Toronto and Mississauga want to end the transportation of dangerous goods by rail through the two cities, in the most densely populated part of Ontario (Toronto Star).

Toronto Mayor John Tory recently told reporters, “I said during the campaign and I’ll repeat it now, that I think we should be moving in the direction, in negotiation with the railways and the federal government, to stop movement of toxic and dangerous substances through the city at all”. Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said, the “right solution” is to stop the transportation of dangerous goods through her city.

Regarding the fact that railway companies refuse to provide real-time information on what dangerous goods they are moving through cities, towns and villages, Mayor Tory said, “I am far from satisfied with the transparency that we don’t see today. I think it’s time to let the sun shine in on this, and it’s not just a matter of some principle of transparency. It’s a matter of people being adequately informed, in a big city like this, of what is traveling through the city, and when and how much.”

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens recently added, “It just seems to be in a lot of ways patently unfair that we can be stonewalled for this information…The more municipalities that come forward and stand firm it’s going to attract more attention from the federal government and the decision-makers at the federal government for sure.” (Windsor Star)

Municipalities across Canada have been putting pressure on the two big rail companies, Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway, to release real-time dangerous goods data, so they are better able to protect their citizens during derailments, spills, fires and explosions. Transport Canada, which is legislatively responsible for overall rail safety, refuses to force rail companies to hand over the real-time data to municipalities.


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

Fighting Zionist Oppression—For Workers Action or BDS?

Current News - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 21:20

Fighting Zionist Oppression—For Workers Action or BDS?
A Response to Greg Dropkin on the Palestine Conundrum
12/11/14
By Jack Heyman

At the start of this exchange readers should know that for nearly 20 years beginning with the Liverpool, England dockers dispute, I’ve been writing articles and doing interviews on this website (www.labournet.net), exposing class collaborationist trade union bureaucracies (not only in the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and fighting within my union, the ILWU, for actions against capitalism, imperialism, Zionism, racism and for building workers solidarity internationally. My articles have underscored the primary role the working class plays in the struggle against capitalism.

Just to be clear from the outset, I think that what’s at issue now is how best to fight Zionist oppression and imperialism, the system which buttresses it. Is it through appeals based on a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) or through workers actions and appeals to international workers solidarity. And beyond that what precisely is meant by BDS?

We have had some recent signal successes as longshore workers of ILWU Local 10 refused in August and again in September, to work ships of the Israeli Zim Lines, as part of protests against the Zionist slaughter in Gaza. In my article in Counterpunch to which you responded (and which you’ve posted on Labournet) I tried to lay out how those actions were carried out. There have also been some sharp and sometimes heatd disputes about program and strategy. Longtime solidarity activists have been called “racists” for criticizing Block the Boat (BtB) leaders for not following up after the August 16 rally and advocating picketing the Zim ship for the four days it was docked until it was forced to sail. Even though these activists organized the picketing on August 17-20 , BtB claimed credit for blocking the ship’s cargo and forcing the sailing of the Zim Piraeus.

Also, in sectarian fashion BtB obstinately refuses to recognize the successful picket of the Zim Shanghai on September 27 by another group, the Stop Zim Action Committee. Picketers included 4 Palestinian solidarity activists who’d been on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, 3 longshore veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle and a dozen activists from the 2010 anti-Zim port protest. And again, other Palestinian activists were slandered for daring to question the link of the Arab Resources and Organizing Committee (AROC), BtB’s main backer, to Bill Gates and George Soros (a top backer of the Democratic Party) through the Tides Foundation.

AROC claims leadership of the Bay Area Palestinian solidarity protests now and in the 2010 anti-Zim ship protests. Yet, three ostensibly Marxist groups—Workers World, International Socialist Organization and Party of Socialism and Liberation-- which laud AROC’s role in this year’s action don’t even mention the organization or list it as an endorser in their 2010 coverage of the first-ever U.S. trade union action to protest bloody Israeli oppression. Unlike the 2010 anti-Zim ship protest, BtB/AROC insisted on support for BDS as a precondition for endorsing their August 16, 2014 action. That insistence is why the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee (TWSC), which over the years has organized numerous solidarity actions by transportation workers in the Bay Area, did not endorse the August 16 action, although we did participate in it, and in subsequent days of picketing the Zim Piraeus by independent activists. BDS should not be a precondition for taking united front action. It wasn’t in 2010 and it shouldn’t be now.

At a November 12 forum on BDS sponsored by the grad students’ UAW Local 2865 at the University of California, Berkeley, while 3 Zionist students spoke during the discussion period but none longshore workers in the audience were called on who actually organized actions against Zim Lines in 2010 and the September picket. Why? Because we’d voiced criticisms of BDS. Developing a clear understanding of how to defeat Zionism can only be done in free and open debate to aid the Palestinian people in their struggle and build international solidarity.

So what are the differences? You argue that the classless “community picket line has been the essential ingredient“. I don’t oppose community-based actions but experience has shown that community rallies, demonstrations, marches, and picket lines can supplement actions by workers but not replace them. That’s what happened in ILWU’s 1984 anti-apartheid action. Longshoremen took union action, refusing for 11 days to work South African cargo on the Nedlloyd Kimberley at Pier 80. (There will be a public forum 7PM Saturday December 13 at La Pena, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley on that historic action given by Howard Keylor, one of the key union organizers, and myself.)

Greg, in your November 17, 2014 reply , you cite three ILWU actions: the 1997 Liverpool dockers solidarity action, the 2003 anti-war port protest and the 2010 anti-Zionist action against the Zim Shipping Lines. You point to these exemplary actions as “community pickets”. I think you misread all three.

The Liverpool dockers had been locked out by their employer Mersey Docks and Harbour Company. Howard Keylor, Robert Irminger, Steve Zeltzer and myself had all attended international conferences called by the Liverpool dockworkers. We organized (with your encouragement) the Committee for Victory to the Liverpool Dockers (and 8 years later the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee) with support from ILWU members, black workers, the nascent Labor Party and students from Laney College. Robert Irminger was designated by the Liverpool Stewards to be picket captain of the picket line. This wasn’t just some kind of broad “community” group, it was led by union activists, in particular from the ILWU, with much appreciated community support.

The arbitrator ruled against the picket stating it wasn’t bona fide as per the longshore contract because the pickets weren’t Liverpool dockers.
Protesters defied an employer’s injunction and longshore workers honored the picket line despite cops being mobilized by port officials to escort them through the picket line. For 4 solid days, longshoremen refused to cross this labor community picket line.

As was reported on Labournet website the Neptune Jade sailed without its cargo from England being discharged. In the next port of call Vancouver, Canada the ship was met by another picket and promptly sailed to Yokohama, Japan where the union simply refused to work the ship. She then sailed to the non-union port of Kaohsiung, Taiwan, the cargo was finally unloaded. The company changed the ship’s name. (Zim could try the same ploy or ship Zim containers on its partners’ vessels.)

Clearly the Neptune Jade action, coordinated in three consecutive global ports caused shipowners consternation. It was a coordinated union action, inspired by the Liverpool dockers themselves successfully picketing in 1996 in Port Elizabeth, N.J. and replicated by the ILWU the following year supplemented by labor/community support. Mike Carden, one of the leading Liverpool dockers stewards, is writing the history of that significant class struggle that reignited the flame of international labor solidarity. Again, the Neptune Jade action, which you called for, was essentially a union-led action not a community action.

The 2003 anti-war protest in the port of Oakland was not an exemplary community picket, despite the brave effort of the protesters facing a police onslaught. After cops shot demonstrators and longshoremen with “less than lethal” weapons, scores of us, including myself, were beaten and arrested, cuffed and caged in police buses. There was plenty of contact beforehand between longshore workers and the antiwar groups, who recognized that it had to be the workers who would shut down the port. In fact, as had been widely reported, the demonstrators chant was specifically directed to the longshore workers: “This war is for profit. Workers can stop it!”. However, to my chagrin, the cranes were working after only two hours into the a.m. shift—as union officials caved in and ordered longshoremen back to work while police attacked the protesters.

In a capitalist society, the class whose interests are fundamentally counterposed to the capitalists is the working class which has the power to stop imperialist war. As the Marxist historian Isaac Deutscher famously said at Columbia University at the height of the anti-Vietnam War protests, “I’d trade all of these student protests for one workers anti-war strike.” On May Day 2008 the first anti-war strike in U.S. labor history occurred 5 years after the 2003 police attack on longshoremen and anti-war demonstrators when the ILWU shut down all West Coast ports in opposition to the imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We had repeatedly presented motions for this in Local 10 ever since the Iraq war started, but in 2008 we convinced the ILWU Longshore Caucus. We built the basis for support with a Labor Conference to Stop the War at the Local 10 hiring hall in 2007. And on May 1, 2008 every port on the U.S. West Coast shut down for th day to stop the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was the first strike by U.S. workers against a U. S. war.

Despite the foot-dragging and efforts by the union bureaucracy to subvert it into a patriotic parade, this was a union action—and it had plenty of community support. In addition, longshore workers had been conference calling with non-union port truckers from around the country—in Houston, New York, Charleston and LA—planning for a simultaneous truckers stoppage. In the end it didn’t take place because of an injunction against a caravan of trucks to Wall Street, although the port of Oakland truckers stopped work four days later. Like the Liverpool dispute, the longshore workers’ action on May Day 2008 lit the way forward in the struggle against capitalism and imperialism.

It seems from your reply that you see the size of the demonstration as determining the success or failure of an action. Yet thousands of demonstrators, by themselves, in a port can’t able to stop a ship nor can millions in the streets stop wars. We’ve seen that time and again. During the August 2014 protests against the Zim Piraeus a union official informed TWSC supporters that longshoremen would honor a picket line with only a handful picketing the gates. The longshore workers’ support was the decisive factor for continuing the picketing even though the Block the Boat leadership initially opposed picketing after the rally of 5,000 in the port. Stopping the ship’s cargo succeeded not because of numbers but because power resides at the point of production and longshore workers honored the picket line.

In 2010, some 1,200 protesters of the Labor Community Committee in Solidarity with the Palestinian People (organized in the Henry Schmidt room of Local 10) marched, but what stopped the Zim Shenzhen from unloading and loading its cargo? It was a collaborative effort with the longshore workers doing the heavy lifting or more precisely no lifting.

To prepare for the 2010 protest the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee which I chair helped coordinate meetings of the Labor Community Committee. TWSC galvanized support for the resolutions that were passed by the local labor councils. Most importantly, delegates from the San Francisco Labor Council and a Palestinian activist were organized to address the Local 10 Executive Board to support a resolution calling on unions to take action protesting Israeli attacks against Palestinians and specifically against the PGFTU. It was passed overwhelmingly and implemented by Executive Action.

As activists were picketing and longshore union members honored the picket lines, the employer SSA attempted to shift longshoremen from another ship at the terminal to work the Zim Shenzhen but Local 10 officials stopped it. So when the 1,200 protesters rallied to announce their victory, that the ship’s cargo wasn’t worked and she was sailing, it seemed like a walk in the park. In fact, it was primarily organized from beginning to end through the union with support from community pickets.

An instructive anecdote in the wake of the successful picket was the irate reaction from the Israeli consul who demanded to meet with the Executive Board. The PGFTU appealed to ILWU Local 10 "We humbly ask of you to hold steadfast in the face of backlash and revenge against your union.” As you point out in your report, we rebuffed the Israeli consul. This was clearly a union action, and the Zionists understood it as such. Similarly, after the recent September 27, 2014 boycott of the Zim Shanghai by longshore workers, the Israeli consul in San Francisco and other leading Zionists ranted effusively and publicly against the stunning action coordinated with the Stop Zim Action Committee.

You could have cited other longshore union-initiated actions which Labournet has played an importanat role in publicizing. The 1999 shutdown of all West Coast ports to demand freedom for black political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, as Local 10 led a march of 25,000 in San Francisco. Again, the number of demonstrators was impressive but the hammer was the closure here of global commerce. And the 2011 ILWU shutdown of Bay Area ports in solidarity with Wisconsin state workers and in defiance of the Taft-Hartley Act bolstered their morale as they occupied the capitol.

So now onto BDS. As I’ve pointed out South African apartheid was defeated not by BDS but by the militant strike waves of the black working masses. These class struggle upsurges occurred in the context of the 1988 defeat of the South African Defense Forces by troops of the deformed Cuban workers state in the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, Angola. Between workers strikes and the Cuban military victory, South African capitalists knew their apartheid system was in its death throes.

Negotiations were held in London with the African National Congress (ANC) to keep the commanding heights of the economy in their hands in exchange for relinquishing political reins. The capitalists’ succeeded in holding onto the mines and banks as class contradictions intensified. After 20 years in power running a capitalist economy the Tripartite Alliance inexorably showed its true colors when police massacred of 34 striking miners at Marikana.

Clearly this level of class struggle does not exist in Palestine or Israel today. Nor will making central the liberal, nonviolent, middle class appeal of the BDS campaign develop the struggle necessary to stop the bloody Zionist oppression. BDS is fraught with many problems, the main one being it’s based on the false premise that capitalists can be made to act morally to divest from Israel or impose government sanctions against Israel, the centurion for the U.S. and western imperialism in the Near and Middle East. Why would they abandon a key player who's defending their interests?

The corollary is that some BDS supporters don’t understand the power of workers or how to challenge an ossified trade union bureaucracy and build links to the rank and file workers. Many believe that BDS is the position of all Palestinians in fighting Zionist oppression, but the truth is that Palestinians have diverse opinions from armed struggle to collaboration, from Islamist to bourgeois liberal to Marxist. Of groups that advocate BDS which ones responded to the PGFTU-Gaza call for action to protest the Israeli bombing of Gaza? It’s one thing to sign on for BDS but it’s more difficult to actually organize an effective protest action against Zionist slaughter.

I support workers boycott actions at particular times of crisis as we did against South African apartheid or Israeli genocidal war but not an ongoing, indefinite boycott that would remove workers from their source of power at the point of production.

Certainly, an arms embargo should be supported but cultural and educational embargoes would prevent anti-Zionists from speaking at an Israeli university against Zionist atrocities or even attend an Israeli university or prevent a performer from singing anti-war songs at a concert. Does a social embargo mean that a Palestinian worker shouldn’t work in the same facility as an Israeli worker? That’s absurd.

And by the way Histadrudt, Israel’s “labor” body, is part of the Zionist corporatist state structure and has historically excluded Arabs; to be clear, Histadrt as such is neither independent nor even a workers organization and should absolutely be excluded from labor bodies. It’s incumbent on us to combat anti-Palestinian biases amongst the Israeli working class. One small but encouraging example you cite is the 2011 anti-inflationary demonstrations. No, they did not address the plight of Palestinians, and for that reason could not be uncritically supported, but during those protests Habima Square was dubbed “ the Israel Tahrir Square” by Israeli demonstrators in honor of the “Arab Spring”.

I cited the recent strike in the port of Haifa by dockworkers against port privatization plans and explained how Arab and Israeli workers used to strike together before the Zionist poison became too much. You say that Israeli workers are not contemplating such an alliance today. Isn’t that what class struggle militants should be fighting for? And shouldn’t Palestinian workers and worker militants elsewhere support dock worker struggles against privatization in Israel, as elsewhere, even as we slam their leaders’ policies? Isn’t this why the International Dockworkers Council (IDC) which grew out of the Liverpool dockers struggle was formed? This isn’t a racist strike for a white South Africa. Essentially, as I read your reply, you are dismissing any possibility of Hebrew-speaking Israeli workers breaking from Zionism, while putting all your eggs in the BDS basket.

There is a lot more in your reply that could be commented on. When I asked if, according to the logic of BDS, Palestinians who work for Israeli companies in Israel and in Palestinian territories should quit their jobs or demand the companies close, you responded by demagogically equating my position with that of Scarlett Johansson and the Zionists. On the contrary, I would urge Palestinian workers to use their power to strike against the Israeli bosses, and appeal to Israeli workers and others internationally for solidarity.

Let me close with this, in 1996, dock workers weren’t contemplating international labor solidarity until the Liverpool dockers reignited that flame. That is precisely what’s needed in the Palestinian struggle—to internationalize the struggle and to reach out to workers around the world, including Israeli workers. The IDC is meeting in Greece, to organize workers against neo-liberal capitalist plans to privatize ports. Palestinian and Israeli port workers striking together could deliver a devastating blow against the Zionist state and show the way forward for workers internationally.

Jack Heyman, Retired ILWU Local 10 Member, Chair Transport Workers Solidarity Committee TWSC

Tags: ilwuZionismIsrael
Categories: Labor News

Urgent: Congress to vote today on pension cuts

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 11:27

December 11, 2014: We need your help NOW! The House is poised to vote on the omnibus spending bill, which includes provisions that would allow pension plan trustees to cut the hard-earned pension benefits of current retirees – as a purported solution to shoring up certain financially-troubled multiemployer plans.

Click here to contact your members of congress and tell them to strip the pension cut ammendment from the omnibus bill.

Sign up for email updates at www.tdu.org and like us on https://www.facebook.com/teamstersforademocraticunion

Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

ILWU frustrated by shippers’ finger-pointing-ILWU Local 23 President Surprised Bosses Are Attacking Workers “We used to work together for mutual benefit. They don’t appear to be interested in doing that anymore. Now, it appears to be only about control.”

Current News - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 09:59

ILWU frustrated by shippers’ finger-pointing-ILWU Local 23 President Surprised Bosses Are Attacking Workers “We used to work together for mutual benefit. They don’t appear to be interested in doing that anymore. Now, it appears to be only about control.”

http://www.thestand.org/2014/12/ilwu-frustrated-at-shippers-finger-point...

ILWU frustrated by shippers’ finger-pointing

David Groves
By DAVID GROVES
The Stand

TACOMA (Dec. 11, 2014) — “Are West Coast longshoremen spoiling Christmas?”

That Politico headline from earlier this week tells you all you need to know about commercial shippers’ efforts to wring concessions at the bargaining table from thousands of longshore workers in Washington, Oregon and California.

Citing competitive pressures in the shipping industry, huge multinational corporations already reaping enormous profits are focused on replacing family-wage International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) jobs with low-wage subcontractors or machines. But in their effort to accomplish this, the shippers have made some big decisions that have had disastrous consequences in terms of congestion problems and delays.

Sound familiar? It does to Dean McGrath, President of ILWU Local 23, which represents more than 1,300 registered members and casual workers at the Port of Tacoma.

“A little over a year ago, Boeing said they’d go broke and couldn’t survive here (in Washington) unless they stripped away people’s pensions and benefits,” McGrath said. “They created fear in the community and now they have record profits. They used the media and the government to create public pressure on Boeing families to give those things up. And it’s not just at Boeing, it’s symptomatic of what’s going on in the global business world, in general. Profits above all else. And now we are their target.

“The ILWU has fought for many years to get some of the best standards, work practices and benefits in the nation. And we’re seeing these shipping companies try to erode that away by replacing us, not only with robots, but also by bypassing historic ILWU work jurisdiction to any outside workforce in a perpetual race to the bottom.”

Since May 12, 2014, the ILWU has been in negotiations with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents more than 70 multinational ocean carriers and maritime companies, on a new contract covering 29 U.S. West Coast ports, including all the major container ports in Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, Oakland, Long Beach, and Los Angeles. The existing six-year contract expired on July 1 without an agreement, but the union agreed to continue bargaining in good faith.

In November, however, the PMA launched what the ILWU calls a “smear campaign” to blame increasing port congestion on an organized work slowdown by the union. Since then, the media has reported about delayed shipments, spoiling agricultural products, and parked container ships waiting to be unloaded — blaming it all on a work slowdown. The union denies this and says port congestion is a product of the shippers’ own short-sighted cost-cutting changes. But the media is less interested in reporting about those complex issues.

“You have to be familiar with global shipping to understand a lot of this,” McGrath said. “When I explain it to reporters, their eyes just glaze over.”

For example, the chassis — the wheeled trailers used to move shipping containers in and out of ports — used to be owned by the shipping companies. In 2010, a number of large ocean carriers, including Maersk Line, Yang Ming, and Evergreen, announced that they would no longer provide chassis because they were not in their new business model.

“Maintenance was the cost they were trying to avoid, maintenance covered under our contract,” McGrath said. “They were only trying to shift out of their responsibility.”

“The shippers sold all those chassis to third-party companies not covered under the union contract, saying it was no longer part of their business model,” he said. “But in the process, they lost control of the chassis. Now there’s a huge shortage of them and (the shippers) don’t have control. They are being hoarded or contractors are using them to their benefit. It’s happening at the worst possible time in already overstressed port infrastructure.”

McGrath says another major factor in port congestion is the shippers’ efforts to reduce container costs by using bigger ships and forming alliances. This has led to ships having multiple customers — often competitors — that have formed alliances to use the larger ships together.

“So a typical port that’s used to single customers from single shipping lines has not just one, but five or six customers. And it all has to be sorted for them. Some on rail, some on truck, different schedules, different times,” he says. And that has created massive logistical and yard space issues.

“The frustrating part is the finger-pointing at us as if we’re the ones who have caused all these problems and created the delays that have resulted,” McGrath said. “We want to talk about solutions to these problems and find a way to ease port congestion while maintaining good family-wage jobs. But they aren’t interested in that. Instead of solving problems, they just want to cut our jobs and our benefits.

“We used to work together for mutual benefit. They don’t appear to be interested in doing that anymore. Now, it appears to be only about control.”

Despite all that frustration, McGrath remains hopeful.

Contract talks were held through last weekend and continue this week. The ILWU has a caucus on Dec. 15 that was scheduled in hopes that the union would have a tentative agreement to take to members for a vote.

“That’s a possibility still, but it’s still up in the air,” McGrath said this week. “I’m cautiously optimistic we’ll have one, but there are no guarantees.”

In the meantime, he hopes that the community doesn’t blame longshore workers for the problems at the ports. Instead, they should recognize the all-too-familiar pattern of profitable companies trying to cut labor costs by dividing and conquering working-class folks, and using the media to beat them into submission.

“We are your neighbors. We are part of this local community,” McGrath says. “We’ve got a (union) hall full of toys going to disadvantaged kids for Christmas. We sent $32,000 in gift cards to local schools for low-income children. We paint the house of a low-income family in Tacoma every year. We provided $2,100 worth of turkeys to the rescue mission for the holidays.

“So I ask all the media outlets that are painting us as the ‘Grinch That Stole Christmas,’ who are the real people with no hearts? We are working people standing up for what we have earned, and there is no shame in that!”

Tags: ilwuClass Strugglebusiness unionismCoast Contract
Categories: Labor News

ILWU frustrated by shippers’ finger-pointing-ILWU Local 23 President Surprised Bosses Are Attacking Workers “We used to work together for mutual benefit. They don’t appear to be interested in doing that anymore. Now, it appears to be only about control.”

Current News - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 09:59

ILWU frustrated by shippers’ finger-pointing-ILWU Local 23 President Surprised Bosses Are Attacking Workers “We used to work together for mutual benefit. They don’t appear to be interested in doing that anymore. Now, it appears to be only about control.”

http://www.thestand.org/2014/12/ilwu-frustrated-at-shippers-finger-point...

ILWU frustrated by shippers’ finger-pointing

David Groves
By DAVID GROVES
The Stand

TACOMA (Dec. 11, 2014) — “Are West Coast longshoremen spoiling Christmas?”

That Politico headline from earlier this week tells you all you need to know about commercial shippers’ efforts to wring concessions at the bargaining table from thousands of longshore workers in Washington, Oregon and California.

Citing competitive pressures in the shipping industry, huge multinational corporations already reaping enormous profits are focused on replacing family-wage International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) jobs with low-wage subcontractors or machines. But in their effort to accomplish this, the shippers have made some big decisions that have had disastrous consequences in terms of congestion problems and delays.

Sound familiar? It does to Dean McGrath, President of ILWU Local 23, which represents more than 1,300 registered members and casual workers at the Port of Tacoma.

“A little over a year ago, Boeing said they’d go broke and couldn’t survive here (in Washington) unless they stripped away people’s pensions and benefits,” McGrath said. “They created fear in the community and now they have record profits. They used the media and the government to create public pressure on Boeing families to give those things up. And it’s not just at Boeing, it’s symptomatic of what’s going on in the global business world, in general. Profits above all else. And now we are their target.

“The ILWU has fought for many years to get some of the best standards, work practices and benefits in the nation. And we’re seeing these shipping companies try to erode that away by replacing us, not only with robots, but also by bypassing historic ILWU work jurisdiction to any outside workforce in a perpetual race to the bottom.”

Since May 12, 2014, the ILWU has been in negotiations with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents more than 70 multinational ocean carriers and maritime companies, on a new contract covering 29 U.S. West Coast ports, including all the major container ports in Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, Oakland, Long Beach, and Los Angeles. The existing six-year contract expired on July 1 without an agreement, but the union agreed to continue bargaining in good faith.

In November, however, the PMA launched what the ILWU calls a “smear campaign” to blame increasing port congestion on an organized work slowdown by the union. Since then, the media has reported about delayed shipments, spoiling agricultural products, and parked container ships waiting to be unloaded — blaming it all on a work slowdown. The union denies this and says port congestion is a product of the shippers’ own short-sighted cost-cutting changes. But the media is less interested in reporting about those complex issues.

“You have to be familiar with global shipping to understand a lot of this,” McGrath said. “When I explain it to reporters, their eyes just glaze over.”

For example, the chassis — the wheeled trailers used to move shipping containers in and out of ports — used to be owned by the shipping companies. In 2010, a number of large ocean carriers, including Maersk Line, Yang Ming, and Evergreen, announced that they would no longer provide chassis because they were not in their new business model.

“Maintenance was the cost they were trying to avoid, maintenance covered under our contract,” McGrath said. “They were only trying to shift out of their responsibility.”

“The shippers sold all those chassis to third-party companies not covered under the union contract, saying it was no longer part of their business model,” he said. “But in the process, they lost control of the chassis. Now there’s a huge shortage of them and (the shippers) don’t have control. They are being hoarded or contractors are using them to their benefit. It’s happening at the worst possible time in already overstressed port infrastructure.”

McGrath says another major factor in port congestion is the shippers’ efforts to reduce container costs by using bigger ships and forming alliances. This has led to ships having multiple customers — often competitors — that have formed alliances to use the larger ships together.

“So a typical port that’s used to single customers from single shipping lines has not just one, but five or six customers. And it all has to be sorted for them. Some on rail, some on truck, different schedules, different times,” he says. And that has created massive logistical and yard space issues.

“The frustrating part is the finger-pointing at us as if we’re the ones who have caused all these problems and created the delays that have resulted,” McGrath said. “We want to talk about solutions to these problems and find a way to ease port congestion while maintaining good family-wage jobs. But they aren’t interested in that. Instead of solving problems, they just want to cut our jobs and our benefits.

“We used to work together for mutual benefit. They don’t appear to be interested in doing that anymore. Now, it appears to be only about control.”

Despite all that frustration, McGrath remains hopeful.

Contract talks were held through last weekend and continue this week. The ILWU has a caucus on Dec. 15 that was scheduled in hopes that the union would have a tentative agreement to take to members for a vote.

“That’s a possibility still, but it’s still up in the air,” McGrath said this week. “I’m cautiously optimistic we’ll have one, but there are no guarantees.”

In the meantime, he hopes that the community doesn’t blame longshore workers for the problems at the ports. Instead, they should recognize the all-too-familiar pattern of profitable companies trying to cut labor costs by dividing and conquering working-class folks, and using the media to beat them into submission.

“We are your neighbors. We are part of this local community,” McGrath says. “We’ve got a (union) hall full of toys going to disadvantaged kids for Christmas. We sent $32,000 in gift cards to local schools for low-income children. We paint the house of a low-income family in Tacoma every year. We provided $2,100 worth of turkeys to the rescue mission for the holidays.

“So I ask all the media outlets that are painting us as the ‘Grinch That Stole Christmas,’ who are the real people with no hearts? We are working people standing up for what we have earned, and there is no shame in that!”

Tags: ilwuClass Strugglebusiness unionismCoast Contract
Categories: Labor News

ILWU frustrated by shippers’ finger-pointing-ILWU Local 23 President Surprised Bosses Are Attacking Workers “We used to work together for mutual benefit. They don’t appear to be interested in doing that anymore. Now, it appears to be only about control.”

Current News - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 09:59

ILWU frustrated by shippers’ finger-pointing-ILWU Local 23 President Surprised Bosses Are Attacking Workers “We used to work together for mutual benefit. They don’t appear to be interested in doing that anymore. Now, it appears to be only about control.”

http://www.thestand.org/2014/12/ilwu-frustrated-at-shippers-finger-point...

ILWU frustrated by shippers’ finger-pointing

David Groves
By DAVID GROVES
The Stand

TACOMA (Dec. 11, 2014) — “Are West Coast longshoremen spoiling Christmas?”

That Politico headline from earlier this week tells you all you need to know about commercial shippers’ efforts to wring concessions at the bargaining table from thousands of longshore workers in Washington, Oregon and California.

Citing competitive pressures in the shipping industry, huge multinational corporations already reaping enormous profits are focused on replacing family-wage International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) jobs with low-wage subcontractors or machines. But in their effort to accomplish this, the shippers have made some big decisions that have had disastrous consequences in terms of congestion problems and delays.

Sound familiar? It does to Dean McGrath, President of ILWU Local 23, which represents more than 1,300 registered members and casual workers at the Port of Tacoma.

“A little over a year ago, Boeing said they’d go broke and couldn’t survive here (in Washington) unless they stripped away people’s pensions and benefits,” McGrath said. “They created fear in the community and now they have record profits. They used the media and the government to create public pressure on Boeing families to give those things up. And it’s not just at Boeing, it’s symptomatic of what’s going on in the global business world, in general. Profits above all else. And now we are their target.

“The ILWU has fought for many years to get some of the best standards, work practices and benefits in the nation. And we’re seeing these shipping companies try to erode that away by replacing us, not only with robots, but also by bypassing historic ILWU work jurisdiction to any outside workforce in a perpetual race to the bottom.”

Since May 12, 2014, the ILWU has been in negotiations with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents more than 70 multinational ocean carriers and maritime companies, on a new contract covering 29 U.S. West Coast ports, including all the major container ports in Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, Oakland, Long Beach, and Los Angeles. The existing six-year contract expired on July 1 without an agreement, but the union agreed to continue bargaining in good faith.

In November, however, the PMA launched what the ILWU calls a “smear campaign” to blame increasing port congestion on an organized work slowdown by the union. Since then, the media has reported about delayed shipments, spoiling agricultural products, and parked container ships waiting to be unloaded — blaming it all on a work slowdown. The union denies this and says port congestion is a product of the shippers’ own short-sighted cost-cutting changes. But the media is less interested in reporting about those complex issues.

“You have to be familiar with global shipping to understand a lot of this,” McGrath said. “When I explain it to reporters, their eyes just glaze over.”

For example, the chassis — the wheeled trailers used to move shipping containers in and out of ports — used to be owned by the shipping companies. In 2010, a number of large ocean carriers, including Maersk Line, Yang Ming, and Evergreen, announced that they would no longer provide chassis because they were not in their new business model.

“Maintenance was the cost they were trying to avoid, maintenance covered under our contract,” McGrath said. “They were only trying to shift out of their responsibility.”

“The shippers sold all those chassis to third-party companies not covered under the union contract, saying it was no longer part of their business model,” he said. “But in the process, they lost control of the chassis. Now there’s a huge shortage of them and (the shippers) don’t have control. They are being hoarded or contractors are using them to their benefit. It’s happening at the worst possible time in already overstressed port infrastructure.”

McGrath says another major factor in port congestion is the shippers’ efforts to reduce container costs by using bigger ships and forming alliances. This has led to ships having multiple customers — often competitors — that have formed alliances to use the larger ships together.

“So a typical port that’s used to single customers from single shipping lines has not just one, but five or six customers. And it all has to be sorted for them. Some on rail, some on truck, different schedules, different times,” he says. And that has created massive logistical and yard space issues.

“The frustrating part is the finger-pointing at us as if we’re the ones who have caused all these problems and created the delays that have resulted,” McGrath said. “We want to talk about solutions to these problems and find a way to ease port congestion while maintaining good family-wage jobs. But they aren’t interested in that. Instead of solving problems, they just want to cut our jobs and our benefits.

“We used to work together for mutual benefit. They don’t appear to be interested in doing that anymore. Now, it appears to be only about control.”

Despite all that frustration, McGrath remains hopeful.

Contract talks were held through last weekend and continue this week. The ILWU has a caucus on Dec. 15 that was scheduled in hopes that the union would have a tentative agreement to take to members for a vote.

“That’s a possibility still, but it’s still up in the air,” McGrath said this week. “I’m cautiously optimistic we’ll have one, but there are no guarantees.”

In the meantime, he hopes that the community doesn’t blame longshore workers for the problems at the ports. Instead, they should recognize the all-too-familiar pattern of profitable companies trying to cut labor costs by dividing and conquering working-class folks, and using the media to beat them into submission.

“We are your neighbors. We are part of this local community,” McGrath says. “We’ve got a (union) hall full of toys going to disadvantaged kids for Christmas. We sent $32,000 in gift cards to local schools for low-income children. We paint the house of a low-income family in Tacoma every year. We provided $2,100 worth of turkeys to the rescue mission for the holidays.

“So I ask all the media outlets that are painting us as the ‘Grinch That Stole Christmas,’ who are the real people with no hearts? We are working people standing up for what we have earned, and there is no shame in that!”

Tags: ilwuClass Strugglebusiness unionismCoast Contract
Categories: Labor News

Congress' backroom pension-cutting deal is even worse than expected

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 08:12
Michael HiltzikLos Angeles TimesDecember 11, 2014View the original piece

At last the actual language has been released of the backroom, last-minute congressional deal allowing benefits of millions of retired workers to be shredded.

It's even worse than its critics anticipated.

We've tracked this inexcusably hasty, secretive maneuvering during the last week, reporting that it allows extreme, potentially premature cuts in benefits for retirees who are members of multi-employer pension plans. Such plans typically are sponsored jointly by unions and employers in given industries, like trucking. See our posts here and here for more background.

Click here to read more at the Los Angeles Times.

Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Rep. Kline's proposed cuts catch pensioners by surprise

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 07:58
Jim SpencerStar TribuneDecember 11, 2014View the original piece

Dave Erickson of Isanti, Minn., believed his pension benefits were guaranteed when he contributed a fixed portion of his pay into the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund.

On Wednesday, Erickson learned that those benefits might be cut under a provision that Minnesota Rep. John Kline aims to tack onto the new federal budget bill.

Click here to read more at the Star Tribune.

Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Pension Fund Run By Wall Street Cited In Push To Cut Retiree Benefits

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 07:56
Matthew Cunningham-CookInternational Business TimesDecember 11, 2014View the original piece

Six years after the financial crisis, the economic aftershocks are still rattling the halls of Congress -- this time in a debate over an esoteric pension provision tucked into an end-of-year budget bill. Though that legislation, known as the “cromnibus,” is supposed to be about annual appropriations for government agencies, lawmakers have inserted language that would give private pension plans the power to cut benefits to thousands of current retirees whose pension savings were decimated by investment losses from the financial collapse of 2008.

If the initiative is enacted, experts say, it would be the most consequential change to retirement policy in the United States since the passage of landmark pension legislation 40 years ago. Altering the 1974 Employee Retirement Income Security Act to permit benefit cuts could prompt a slew of efforts to chip away at formerly untouchable guarantees of income to millions of retirees.

Click here to read more at The International Times.

Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

12/12 ILWU APRI Seattle Benefit To Fight Colombian Union Member Murders

Current News - Wed, 12/10/2014 - 22:50

12/12 ILWU APRI Seattle Benefit To Fight Colombian Union Member Murders

STOP THE MURDER OF UNION WORKERS!
ATTEND AN EVENING fundraiser for
INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY:
AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL!
“The basic aspiration and desires of the workers throughout the world are the same. Workers are workers the world over.
International solidarity, particularly to maritime workers, is essential to their protection and a guarantee of reserve economic power in times of strife.”
–VIIIth Guiding Principle
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 12th
6 pm reception, 7pm dinner
With music, guests and a live video address from the Longshoremen of Buenaventura, Colombia!
seattle mlk labor temple, 2800 1st ave

Rising up out of slavery!
More union members are murdered in Colombia each year than anywhere else on Earth. Less than ten percent of reported violent crimes against Colombian union members are ever prosecuted. Most of Buenaventura’s 370,000 inhabitants are Afro-Colombian (African descendants of slaves brought to Latin America over centuries by the Spanish). Over 80 percent of Buenaventura’s people live in poverty, and a third are unemployed, four times the Colombian national average. Two-thirds of Buenaventura’s homes have no sewage connection, and almost half have no drinking water. Life expectancy in Buenaventura is 51. Today, Longshoremen in Colombia’s largest port city of Buenaventura are fighting back! Against all odds, The Union Portuaria De Buenaventura conducted a month-long strike there in May 2013, and two strikes the year before that, in which all of the strikers risked their lives. The Union Portuaria then sent its president, Jhon Jairo Castro, on a voyage to the US to ask for solidarity from workers here. In Seattle, the A. Philip Randolph Institute and African American Longshore Coalition are answering that call. This event will raise funds to send our labor-community delegation from the Puget Sound to Buenaventura.

Oppose the privatization of earth’s waterfronts!
The Colombian Port Authority was privatized in 1994 and replaced by the privately-run Regional Port Society of Buenaventura. A second private company, TECSA S.A., runs port operations under contract. TECSA then brings in a third private “intermediary” which hires a fourth private “temporary employment agency” company. The agency uses a fifth private entity, a “labor contractor”, who has no office and simply stands on the street hiring longshoremen. The contractor has no financial resources for meeting a payroll, thus forcing workers to wait weeks to get paid, or to sell the promise of a paycheck to a sixth private company known as a loan shark. Corporations worldwide are looking to Buenaventura as their future vision for what every port in North, South and Central America will look like. In particular, Philippines based International Container Services Inc (ICTSI) is converting Buenaventura’s Aguadulce Peninsula into a new container terminal that will vastly expand the influence of both ICTSI and the present Buenaventura labor-management model. ICTSI is complicit in labor and human rights abuses in Colombia, the Philippines and Honduras, and is also attacking the jurisdiction of the ILWU ( www.ilwu.org/ilwu-refuses-to-stand-down-as-rogue-pma-member-ictsi-contin... ).

Support the continuation of Pacific coast solidarity!
In 1937, many West Coast maritime workers went to went to Spain to join the international fight against fascism, in defense of Spain’s labor unions and collectivized farms ( www.ilwu.org/nate-thornton-ilwu-retiree-brigadista-internationalist-1915... ). Although the fascists and their allies crushed the Spanish Republic, the legacy of these veterans stands out as the beginning of a long coastwide tradition of working class internationalism. In 1939, the West Coast Longshoremen honored the first major West-Coast-wide community based international picket line when young Chinese students protested the export of scrap iron that was being used by Japan for its invasion of China (www.ilwu19.com/history/1930.htm ). Supported by sailors, warehouse workers, truck drivers, and progressive residents of all West Coast towns, these workers continued the militant struggle against both fascism and apartheid throughout the next four decades, taking action in solidarity with workers from pre-statehood Hawaii to Chile to South Africa ( www.ilwu.org/death-of-nelson-mandela-recalls-decades-of-ilwu-support-for... ). The tradition continued into the nineties with the Longshoremen’s support for the sacked Liverpool Dockers, and for the wrongfully imprisoned labor journalist Mumia Abu Jamal ( www.labournet.net/docks2/9905/mumia1.htm ). In May 2008, the Longshoremen shut down most of the West Coast US ports in protest against the US government’s war on Iraq.

Awards will be given at dinner to recognize particular labor organizations for outstanding achievements in working class outreach and solidarity.

TABLE FOR 10: $400 or SINGLE SEATS: $50
Contact APRI President Gabriel Prawl to reserve a table: prawl4@gmail.com ; (253) 886-8129

Tags: ilwuColombiaAPRIsolidarity
Categories: Labor News

Global: Unions: Key to deliver living wage in global supply chain

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 12/10/2014 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Oxfam
Categories: Labor News

Germany: Cabinet passes bill to curb strike power of small unions

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 12/10/2014 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Yahoo News
Categories: Labor News

Contact County Council Members to Fund Public Transit

Pittsburghers for Public Transit - Wed, 12/10/2014 - 10:58
At the county council meeting on Dec. 2, Heather Heidelbaugh put forward an amendment to the operating budget that allocated 3 million dollars from the county’s transit support fund balance (from drink tax and car rental revenue) to Port Authority’s operating budget. These funds would allow Port Authority to add more transit service. This amendment was supported by Councilmembers Heidelbaugh, Hawkins, Daly Danko, and Robinson. The 11 other council members voted "no." 

Action steps you can take:
Please call or write Heidelbaugh, Hawkins, Robinson, and Danko to thank them for supporting the amendment. (Heidelbaugh is the Republican rep of the whole county. Hawkins is District 13, Robinson is District 10, and Danko is District 11).
If you are not in District 10, 11, or 13 (see map here: http://www.alleghenycounty.us/council/dist/coundis.aspx) please call to express your disappointment that your council member did not support this.
Below are the numbers and emails of the councilmembers. And here is the letter PPT sent to the council on Dec 10, which also highlights additional revenue that will be coming in this year
***
Dear Allegheny County Council Members,
Pittsburghers for Public Transit is writing to thank and acknowledge the council members who proposed and supported the amendment to the county operating budget that allocates 3 million dollars from the transit support fund’s balance to be used for Port Authority’s operating costs. These members are: Ms. Hawkins, Ms. Heidelbaugh, Ms. Danko, and Mr. Robinson. We deeply appreciate your recognition of the serious problem of transit deserts, and while we understand that the money cannot be designated to specific routes, any additional operating money that allows Port Authority to add service is a boon to our county and its residents. For example, in 2014, 2.7% of service was added for approximately 4 million dollars. This has made a huge difference for transit riders.
We are disappointed by the council members who chose to vote “no” to this amendment. This allocation would not have to be a “one time thing.” The transit support fund (drink tax and car rental tax revenue) has grown by close to 10 million dollars in just 4 years, and the county can afford to designate a few million every year to operating costs. We cannot wait 10 more years for the state to come up with matching funds. The county has decided to fund capital projects without matching state money, so why can’t it fund operatingcosts without matching state money?
A few council members were concerned about what the Port Authority would do with the money. We want to clarify that the Port Authority is working on developing their “service guidelines” which lay out the process for how and where they add transit service. They have indicated that increasing ridership is their primary concern (especially due to the performance-based state funding formula), but they are also working to address the needsof riders throughout the county. The county is in a position to help them improve our transit system, and they should use their resources to do so.
We recently learned that the county transit fund will be collecting 650,000 additional dollars due to an error from a car rental company. Based on demonstrated need and ridership potential, this revenue should be allocated to Port Authority’s operating costs so that they can grow our transit system in the most equitable ways. We expect our council members to support using the county’s resources to the benefit of their most vulnerable constituents.
***
Contact info for council members:
County-wide RepresentativesJohn DeFazio: jdefazio@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6516Heather Heidelbaugh: heather.heidelbaugh@alleghenycounty.us412-638-8165
District 1: Thomas Baker, thomas.baker@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6525District 2: Jan Rea, jrea@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6530District 3: Edward Kress, edward.kress@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6535District 4: Michael Finnerty, mfinnerty@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6540District 5: Sue Means, sue.means@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6545District 6: John Palmiere, jpalmiere@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6550District 7: Nicholas Futules, nfutules@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6555District 8: Charles Martoni, cmartoni@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6560District 9: Robert Macey, rmacey@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6565District 10: William Robinson, wrobinson@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6570District 11: Barbara Daly Danko, bdanko@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6575District 12: James Ellenbogen, jellenbogen@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6580District 13: Amanda Green Hawkins, agreen@alleghenycounty.us412-350-6585 
Here is a video of the heated discussion of this topic on Dec 2 (you can watch it here starting at 2:50, it goes about 50 mins): http://allegheny.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=4&clip_id=604



Categories: Labor News

Congressional leaders hammer out deal to allow pension plans to cut retiree benefits

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Wed, 12/10/2014 - 09:35
Michael A. FletcherThe Washington PostDecember 10, 2014View the original piece

A bipartisan group of congressional leaders reached a deal Tuesday evening that would for the first time allow the benefits of current retirees to be severely cut, part of an effort to save some of the nation’s most distressed pension plans.

The measure, attached to a massive $1.01 trillion spending bill, would alter 40 years of federal law and could affect millions of workers, many of them part of a shrinking corps of middle-income employees in businesses such as trucking, construction and supermarkets.

Click here to read more at The Washington Post.

Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

HOS Suspension Included In $1 Trillion Omnibus Bill

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Wed, 12/10/2014 - 09:30
Eugene MuleroTransport TopicsDecember 10, 2014View the original piece

A provision that would suspend parts of an hours of service rule has been included in a $1 trillion bill congressional lawmakers plan to advance to President Obama’s desk this month to keep federal agencies funded through fiscal 2015.

The provision, offered by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), would suspend for a year a requirement that drivers take off two consecutive periods of 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. during a 34-hour restart. It also would require the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to provide Congress with an extensive study detailing the rule’s safety benefits.

The bill language says that within 90 days of the enactment of the act, "the Secretary shall initiate a naturalistic study of the operational, safety, health and fatigue impacts of the restart provisions." It would suspend the current restart provisions through Sept. 30, 2015, "and the restart rule in effect on June 30, 2013, shall immediately be in effect."

American Trucking Associations’ leadership had urged its membership to press federal representatives to back the HOS suspension language in the omnibus.

"We're pleased that the Collins language is included in the fiscal 2015 omnibus spending bill.  We now urge the House and Senate to pass the overall bill and that the president sign it into law," said Sean McNally, ATA vice president of public affairs.

The bill also would provide $500 million for U.S. Department of Transportation infrastructure grants that have become popular with states and municipalities.

Congressional leaders are now in a race against the clock, as they look to advance the massive multi-bill legislation through the chambers. A short-term funding law expires Dec. 11. Without an omnibus package or another short-term funding measure reaching the president’s desk by that date, a government shutdown is likely.

“As we close in on our Dec. 11 deadline, we now ask that the House and Senate take up and pass this bill as soon as possible, and that the president sign it when it reaches his desk. The American people deserve the certainty of a continuously functioning and responsible government, and the knowledge that both parties in Congress have heard their demands and have worked cooperatively on their behalf,” said the chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations panels, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.).

Opposition to Collins’ proposal has come from the Obama administration, a small number of groups, and Democratic Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

The two Democrats had asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to remove the HOS suspension in the omnibus.

In addition to the $500 million in TIGER grants, the bill also provides:

  • $40.3 billion for the federal-aid highways program (MAP-21), which is equal to the level enacted for fiscal year 2014.
  • $1.39 billion for Amtrak
  • $830 million for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), to allow NHTSA to make important investments in its safety defects analysis and investigation programs and improve the agency’s ability to aggressively screen defect trends.
  • $104 million for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

View the full bill here. HOS section begins at page 1443.

Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Last Stand Against Pension Cut Deal

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Wed, 12/10/2014 - 08:45

December 10, 2014: There's still time to fight Congress's last-minute pension cut deal by calling Reps on the Rules Committee. But we have to act now.

Click here to read AARP's letter of opposition.

Click here to read a Statement from the Pension Rights Center.

Click here to read a Statement by Senator Tom Harkin.

The proposed pension cuts amendment has now moved on to the House Rules Committee. They need to sign off on it to send it to the full House to vote on the omnibus funding bill. We still have a chance to get the Rules Committee to shoot down the earmark. 

Our allies in Washington encourage the following:

Contact the representatives listed below on the House Rules Committee.

We need them to say NO to the earmark on pensions. The legislation was developed behind closed doors. The 163 pages have barely been seen and have not been debated. There has been no discussion of the earmarked legislation. This is not a consensus proposal and is opposed by AARP, the Pension Rights Center, The International Association of Machinists, The Teamsters, The Steelworkers, and other organizations. 

Adding this earmark to the Funding Bill is a last minute maneuver to allow pension cuts that have been protected by ERISA for forty years. There is no reason to rush this through in this manner. 

Ask them to remove the earmark from the omnibus bill.

House Rules CommitteePete Sessions (R) TX - Chair202-225-2231 Virginia Foxx (R) NC - Vice Chair202-225-2071 Louise Slaughter (D) NY - Ranking Democrat 202-225-3615 Rob Woodall (R) GA202-225-4272 Tom Cole (R) OK202-225-6165Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

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