Local 26 member David Gonzales is leading an impressive but quiet effort with other volunteers in Wilmington who serve hundreds of meals each week to homeless and hungry people in the harbor area.
“I know what it’s like to be on the streets because I was there once myself,” says Gonzales, tracing his ordeal that began when he was physically and mentally abused almost daily by a stepfather “from the time I was 3 until I was 13.” When he was able to fight back, his mother said he’d have to leave the house, so he ended up in Banning Park. Gonzales tried to continue at school while he was living on the streets, but eventually dropped out and became involved with drugs and gangs.
“I can see now that the gang was important to me because I didn’t have a father, and it filled a need for a while,” he says. “Gang life gave me some security, but also filled my mind with distrust of anyone who wasn’t exactly like us. After years of “gangbanging” and coloring much of his skin with tattoos, he began to look for a way out of his dependency on drugs and the street life, but getting out was difficult. That’s where the union came in.
“I’m from a 4th generation Wilmington family here, so I knew how important the union was to the community, but I never realized that it would be the thing that helped me turn my life around.”
Gonzales found work as a guard with ILWU Local 26, providing security on the docks at the ports of LA and Long Beach. What he found was a surprising degree of support from co-workers who made a difference in his life.
“When my baby girl was just 9 months old, she had a life-threatening heart defect that required a dangerous surgery.” Gonzales said Local 26 union steward Mark Reyes offered to become her godfather, something “nobody had ever done for me and my family before.”
A similar act of kindness and compassion happened several years ago when he ended a difficult personal relationship and took full responsibility for his 7 children.
“It was holiday time and one of the union sisters at work, Christina Le Blanc who’s the Lead Sargent at Hanjin, asked me how I was planning to celebrate Christmas. I told her that it was going to be a little rough that year but that we’d be fine. She went out on her own and asked the other guards to pitch-in, and they made it possible for my kids to have something special during that difficult time.”
As the life of gang-banging and drug addiction was left behind, Gonzales says he now lives his life in recovery following a simple philosophy of what he calls “paying it forward.”
It started with an inspiration to buy boxes of frozen hamburger patties that he could grill for hungry people still stuck on the street. He quickly found others willing to help and says many of those volunteers were once living on the streets themselves during a difficult stretch. “We know what it’s like to be out there.”
Using Facebook, Gonzales has mustered a volunteer crew that prepares hundreds of sack lunches every Thursday, then distributes the meals to people living in the margins from Wilmington to LA’s Skid Row.
“We made 490 sack lunches last week and could have done a lot more but we just ran out of time,” he says, noting that groups and individuals are donating everything from bread and lunch meat, to their own labor. “We don’t have a formal non-profit group, but we do get the job done because everyone pitches-in to help the group that we call: ‘Heart of the Harbor/Helping Those in Need.’”
The group also helps with special needs or particular requests, such as one for diapers and wipes that was recently fulfilled with an online request to volunteers.
The biggest feeding effort so far took place on Saturday, October 3rd at Wilmington’s “Greenbelt Park,” between Watson and “L” Street. Volunteers began arriving at 7am to cook and prepare a hot lunch for hundreds from 12 noon onward. Among the many helpers were several of Gonzales’ seven children who are regular volunteers.
The first volunteer to join Gonzales was Nikki Fabela, Wilmington resident and daughter of Local 13’s Paul Fabel. “She was the first person who said she’d help me,” said Gonzales, “and her gesture of kindness is something I’ll never forget.”
“We know there are at least 8 people who have gotten off the streets and turned their lives around because of our help,” says Gonzales, who points to the turnaround in his own life as proof that dramatic changes are possible.
Gonzales says that their project is open to everyone and is not part of a church, but he says they do try to pause at some point during the busy volunteer times to give thanks and reflect on the pain and suffering faced by so many in the world – and how volunteers can make a difference with love and action.
Gonzales emphasizes that their group is eager to partner with individuals and like-minded organizations who can provide resources such as transitional housing, mental health services and recovery/rehabilitation support.
“My 17 years in the union have provided me with so much support that made my turnaround and recovery possible,” he says, adding that it has also expanded his perspectives, noting that he’s been able to meet people from all over the world and get beyond the small-minded thinking and bigotry that came with life in a gang. “I now see that all of us have so much in common, instead of focusing on difference like I used to, about how people looked or talked. I am truly grateful to all of my union brothers and sisters who have shown me so much solidarity and positivity during my years on the waterfront.”
LA Port truck drivers and warehouse workers strike together for better wages and 'employee' status
Brian Watt October 27, 02:49 PM
Anthony Vallecillo says he has worked in the warehouse at California Cartage for nearly three years, and is still a temp.
Truck drivers who haul cargo at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are on strike again this week - this time with some new comrades on their picket lines: warehouse workers.
Workers from California Cartage, a warehouse at the Port of L.A., have joined striking truckers who drive for Pacific 9 Transportation and XPO Logistics, creating the potential for disruption at two key links in the cargo supply chain.
The port truckers have gone on strike repeatedly in recent years, mainly protesting that the companies they drive for are misclassifying them as independent contractors, rather than designating them as permanent employees. The workers want to be paid an hourly salary and benefits. Their campaign is backed by the Teamsters Union, which is seeking to organize truck drivers in U.S. ports.
Adding warehouse workers to the port truckers' campaign represents a new step for the Teamsters. The union's International President James Hoffa was in Southern California Tuesday to join picketers and talk to reporters at the Port of Long Beach.
Hoffa said half of the Teamsters 1.4 million members are drivers, and he estimated that the union already represents about 200,000 warehouse workers.
"Warehouse is a tremendous area, more opportunity," he said. "We'll be doing Cal Cartage - that's a beginning. We'll find other targets."
Harley Shaiken, a professor at UC Berkeley who studies labor says the Teamsters strategy is “innovative” and could prove advantageous.
“What this does is it looks at all of the logistics chain, or at least a critical part of it as one entity, and that gives a union considerably more leverage,” Shaiken told KPCC. “I think we well could see the Teamsters organize more warehouse workers as well as the continuing focus on the port truckers. The issues are a bit different but they’re both clearly in the same industry.”
The warehouse workers at California Cartage walked off the job for a few days last month, demanding higher wages. They've also filed a lawsuit against the company, arguing it owes the workers millions of dollars in wages and overtime. The workers argue that because Cal Cartage leases property owned by the City of Los Angeles, they should be paid L.A.'s mandated "living wage" - a few dollars per hour above the state's minimum wage - and they haven't been.
"We came together about a year ago to improve our conditions at the warehouse," said Anthony Vallecillo, who loads and unloads cargo at Cal Cartage's Wilmington warehouse. He explained that he and most of his co-workers are hired through a staffing agency. After three years of regular work at the warehouse, he is still a temp. "I got involved because I was tired of struggling to provide for my son and wife."
Vallecillo joined Hoffa and other Teamsters officials at the picketing site in the Port of Long Beach. He announced that he and some co-workers at Cal Cartage would walk off the job again on Wednesday. Teamsters officials estimated about 500 people work in the Cal Cartage warehouse during busy times, but they didn't know yet how many of those workers have decided to join the walk-out.
California Cartage did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
"We want the warehouse workers to know that we have their back," said Barb Maynard, spokeswoman for the port truckers' campaign. "The supply chain is just that: each link is connected together, and the Teamsters have absolutely realized that."
Weston LaBar, executive director of the Harbor Trucking Association, which represents trucking companies at the Ports of L.A. and Long Beach says his group hasn't taken a position on the California Cartage matter. But he is not surprised the Teamsters are turning their sights to warehouse workers.
"[The Teamsters] have an unfunded pension liability that they have to deal with, and they are trying to get as much membership as possible in order to fund that pension," LaBar said. He added that the union would continue to struggle to organize the majority of port truck drivers because the "independent contractor" model remains popular with drivers at a time when the ports face a shortage of drivers.
"We’ve got opportunities for folks no matter if they want to be an independent contractor, an employee or an employee that’s part of a labor union," LaBar told KPCC. "Most of them continue to prefer to be independent contractors, or at least to be on a path to where they can become one eventually."
But Peter Dreier, a political science professor at Occidental College who tracks labor movements says the Teamsters have successfully organized a few trucking companies that operate at the port. He said the Cal Cartage warehouse workers have organized mainly on their own, but with the Teamsters and truckers behind them, the dynamic at the ports could change.
"They're not threatening to shut down the port. What it's going to do is to potentially shut down the abusive employer, particularly Cal Cartage," Dreier says. "The port does not want to have to deal with companies that are on strike."Tags: LA Port IBT Truckers Strike
IBT Pres Hoffa Joins Port Truck Drivers Strike At Long Beach/Los Angeles Ports
OCTOBER 27, 2015
Drivers at Intermodal Bridge Transport Chose Teamster Representation
Barb Maynard/Teamsters Port Division
Phone: (323) 351-9321
(Long Beach, Calif.) - Today, Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa joined port truck drivers, warehouse workers, community and faith allies, and Teamster officials at a press conference at ITS marine terminal at the Port of Long Beach.
The workers and Teamster officials announced that misclassified “independent contractor” drivers at Chinese-owned port trucking company Intermodal Bridge Transport (IBT) filed a petition to be recognized first as employees, and to be represented by the Teamsters. IBT driver Jose Portillo reported that the company official who received the petition threw it on the ground and the workers walked off the job on strike. This is their second strike.
The Teamsters also entered into a new partnership with the Warehouse Workers Resource Center, including support for Cal Cartage warehouse workers who announced the intent to go on strike starting Wednesday morning Oct. 28.
Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa released the following statement: The misclassification of workers, and the devastating wage theft, ends here. Yesterday I visited with supply chain workers who haul imports and exports to and from the docks at our nation’s largest port, and with the warehouse workers who unpack and reload items onto trucks destined for major retailers like Amazon and Walmart. Every one of these egregiously exploited workers shared stories of their inhumane working conditions and their determination to fight back, not just for themselves but for all of their supply chain co-workers. I told them “You have the support of the 1.4 million Teamster members. We will bring justice to port truck drivers and warehouse workers nationwide!”
Teamsters Vice President Fred Potter made the following announcements: “This morning, a majority of misclassified independent contractors at Intermodal Bridge Transport (IBT) presented a demand to be recognized first as employees, and to be represented by the Teamsters. Upon receiving no word back, they took up their picket signs and went on strike against the company’s unfair treatment. They demanded a dignified and safe working environment; demanded that the company immediately repair all unsafe trucks and ensure every truck has a functioning Air Conditioning unit; and demanded access to a dignified break room with clean drinking water, proper restrooms, and a place where we can prepare their meals and rest during their long days at work. This is the first time in American history that workers misclassified as independent contractors have simultaneously demanded their rights as employees and their right to form a union.”
“Wage theft isn’t just about misclassification. It’s about workers who are supposed be paid a living wage – and they’re not, Potter said. "And that is happening right here on port property, at the Cal Cartage warehouse, where the company is violating the City’s living wage ordinance. We support these workers and pledge to stand with them throughout their fight to help them secure dignity, respect, and fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work."
On Monday, Oct. 26, port truck drivers misclassified as “independent contractors” began their eighth “Unfair Labor Practice” strike at America’s largest port complex, the twin ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach. The striking drivers included those misclassified as “independent contractors” by Pacific 9 Transportation (Pac 9), who have been on an indefinite strike since July this year for 15 straight weeks, and those employed by global giant XPO Logistics (NYSE: XPO), which has spent $7.34 Billion in the last year expanding their reach in the global supply chain.
On Tuesday, Oct. 27, misclassified drivers from Intermodal Bridge Transport (IBT) began their second Unfair Labor Practice strike after delivering a petition for improved working conditions, recognition as employees, and to be represented by the Teamsters. These drivers are on strike to protest unfair labor practices, including misclassification and retaliation, harassment, and intimidation for having filed claims for wage theft with the California Labor Commissioner’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.
Today, California Cartage warehouse workers announced that they will be on strike starting Wednesday. In the past year, workers at this warehouse have come together to demand an end to wage theft, unsafe conditions, and irregular schedules at a massive warehouse at the Port of Los Angeles. These workers, who have been coming together with the support of the Warehouse Worker Resource Center, now have the support of the Teamsters Port Division, which has been fighting for justice at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach for many years.
“I have worked at Cal Cartage through a staffing agency for years. I’m going on strike because the company is trying to intimidate workers who ask for basic health and safety, good wages and permanent jobs,” said Anthony Vallecillo, a Cal Cartage worker from Wilmington.
Picketing will occur starting Wednesday, October 28, from 7:30-8:30 and 4-5 pm at 2401 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Wilmington, CA, and from 9-5 at Sepulveda and Middle Road, Wilmington, CA 90810.
BACKGROUND ON MISCLASSIFICATION: As America’s lowest wage workers are beginning to see justice with a $15 hourly wage on the horizon, the cries of the millions of American workers who are misclassified as “independent contractors” are reaching a fevered pitch. Spanning employees in the janitorial, e-commerce, entertainment, home care, construction, port truck driving industries these workers are not only robbed of basic workplace protections like the right to minimum wage, overtime pay, and a safe and healthful workplace, but they are also being cheated out of such rudimentary workplace benefits as unemployment compensation when they are laid off; workers’ compensation when they are injured on the job; and the right to form a union have a voice on the job – a voice that allows workers to gain respect, dignity, and the ability to bargain collectively for better wages and working conditions. Misclassification robs workers of these rights.
As “independent contractors,” workers do not have the ability to engage in group activity to protest and resolve workplace issues. Further, misclassification deprives workers of protections afforded “employees” under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Port drivers are on the front line challenging this unfair labor practice by filing charges with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that misclassification itself violates the NLRA (as does retaliation for filing wage and hour claims”).
WAGE THEFT: Employees illegally misclassified as independent contractors are also victims of pervasive wage theft that robs workers of billions of dollars a year. Misclassifying drivers enables trucking companies to shift their business expenses on to the backs of low wage workers who are controlled by the trucking company that employs them. Predatory truck lease schemes bind drivers to their employer. Companies deduct the cost of diesel fuel, insurance, maintenance, parking, even the cost of printing paychecks, leaving drivers with very little or even negative paychecks. Studies have shown that the average port truck driver is subject to $4,000 per month, or $48,000 per year, in wage theft. Without the ability to fight back at their workplace.
TAX FRAUD: Misclassification doesn’t just hurt the workers and their families – it hurts us all through pervasive and wide scale tax fraud that robs our schools, our roads, our public safety services of billions in vital resources.
THE FRONT LINE: On the front line of the fight to end the misclassification/wage theft scheme are the professional truck drivers at our nation’s largest port complex – the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, who haul everyone’s cargo, including Amazon, Costco, and Proctor & Gable. Nearly one-half a trillion dollars in goods per year flow through these ports – more than 40 percent of U.S. imports and exports – yet the men and women who haul these containers on and off the docks to nearby rail yards, distribution centers, and warehouses are denied employee rights. By striking and filing unfair labor practice charges port drivers are fighting back!
### Social Media Links - For more information on the port truck drivers’ campaign, visit www.JusticeForPortDrivers.org. -
Follow us on Twitter @PortDriverUnion - Like us at www.facebook.com/Justice4PortDrivers - View videos at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCF8ufmlmqnn6dMwtECW20TQ
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Rail Bosses Kill Safety And Deadlines On Safety Implementation To Protect Profits
Deadline for train safety technology undercut by industry lobbying
Emergency crews respond to a train derailment May 13, 2015, in Philadelphia. Eight passengers were killed. It is widely agreed that Positive Train Control (PTC) — an automatic braking system — would have prevented the tragedy. (Patrick Semansky/AP)
By Ashley Halsey III and Michael Laris October 25 at 4:49 PM
Until a train barreled off the tracks at 9:26 p.m. on May 12, it had been business as usual on Capitol Hill. Among the bills quietly making their way toward a final vote was one that would postpone by several years a multibillion-dollar deadline facing the railroad industry.
A victory for the railroads, which maintain one of the most powerful lobbying efforts in Washington, seemed all but certain and likely to be little noticed outside of the industry.
But at that moment, an Amtrak train hurtling toward New York City derailed in Philadelphia, turning into a tangle of crushed metal that killed eight passengers and injured 200 more.
Everyone — including the railroad and federal investigators — agreed that the catastrophe could have been prevented by a single innovation called Positive Train Control (PTC). It’s an automatic braking system that federal regulators call “the single-most important rail safety development in more than a century.”
Now, after a period of reflection and several inquiries, Congress once more is on the brink of postponing the deadline for use of PTC. The proposed delay — until at least 2018 — comes in a new regulatory era for the railroads. Trains filled with volatile natural gas or oil have derailed seven times so far this year, and there is fear that one could cause catastrophic explosions as it passes through a city.
How positive train control could have prevented the Amtrak crash
Positive train control or PTC is a safety feature that can override human error by slowing down or stopping a train automatically. It was not in place at the Frankford junction where Amtrak Train 188 derailed. Edward Hamberger, president and chief executive of the Association of American Railroads, explains how PTC works and why the technology has not been installed broadly across the country. (Jason Aldag/The Washington Post)
A mighty lobby
What has taken place since May provides insight into the influence that effective lobbyists wield in Washington and how ready access to members of Congress has helped one industry fend off a costly safety mandate.
Seven years ago, Congress ordered railroads to have PTC installed by the end of 2015. It was an uncomfortable deadline for the industry, one they argued should be postponed. PTC technology was too complex, they said, and the $14.7 billion cost to equip freight and commuter lines was prohibitive. Federal economists put the cost-benefit ratio at about 20 to 1.
With their lobbyists in overdrive in 2008, the railroads might have persuaded Congress to delay the mandate. But in the middle of that debate, a head-on train collision in California killed 25 people and injured 102 others. The National Transportation Safety Board said PTC could have prevented the accident, and that moved lawmakers to settle on the Dec. 31, 2015, deadline.
The NTSB says it has investigated 145 rail accidents since 1969 that PTC could have prevented, with a death toll of 288 and 6,574 people injured.
In the years since Congress moved to finalize the deadline in 2008, the railroad industry has spent $316 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), to maintain one of the most savvy lobbying teams in Washington. It also contributed more than $24 million during the same time period to the reelection efforts of members of Congress, targeting in particular the chairmen and members of key committees that govern its business.
In 2011, the chairman of the House subcommittee on railroads spoke out at a hearing, denouncing the PTC mandate as “an example of regulatory overreach.” He said PTC would have “a very, very small cost-benefit ratio.”
Since then, that chairman, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), has risen to lead the full House Transportation Committee. Late last month, he introduced a bipartisan bill to extend the PTC deadline to at least 2018, and beyond if the “railroads demonstrate they are facing continued difficulties.”
“Railroads must implement this important but complicated safety technology in a responsible manner, and we need to give them the necessary time to do so,” Shuster said in a statement announcing the bill.
Since taking office in 2001, Shuster has received campaign contributions of $446,079 from the railroad industry, according to the CRP, with $141,484 of it coming in the 2013-2014 election cycle.
Money flows readily to the chairs of powerful committees, but other members of the House Transportation Committee also have benefited from railroad contributions. In the 2013-2014 election cycle, committee members received more than $1.25 million in direct contributions to their campaigns. As of the end of September, the railroads had pitched another $721,742 at the House committee members..
The Senate also has benefited from the railroad industry’s largesse, according to the CRP, with 77 senators receiving nearly $1.5 million in campaign contributions in 2013-2014.
Outside the Beltway, massive contributions may sound like the cost to buy a vote in Congress. But in this era of mega-money politics, campaign contributions win something almost as valuable for railroad lobbyists: face time with a member of the House or Senate.
“They call and they get a member meeting right away,” said a senior senate staff member familiar with the process. “They have a lot of access.”
And that access brings into play what are described as some of the best lobbyists on Capitol Hill, including several dozen who once were staff or elected members in Congress.
Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (Ore.), the ranking Democrat of the Transportation Committee and recipient of more than $70,000 in railroad campaign money since 2013, says it’s the footwork of the lobbyists, not the campaign contributions, that wins the day.
“In these days, when you have one Wall Street billionaire spend a million bucks [on a campaign], getting a few thousand dollars from a railroad?” he said with a shrug. “The railroads invest a lot of time on the Hill and they present a pretty good story for the most part.”
Oil boom raises the stakes
Rail safety has never been a more pressing issue than it is today. So far, the people who have died in U.S. accidents that PTC could have prevented have generally been crew members or passengers. That could change in dramatic, catastrophic fashion.
The number of rail tank cars carrying flammable material in the United States has grown from 9,500 seven years ago to 493,126 last year, thanks to the boom in domestic oil produced in the Bakken oil fields.
Those trains rumble from the oil fields in Montana, North Dakota and Saskatchewan, Canada, to refineries on the East, West and Gulf coasts.
So far this year, seven trains have derailed, either leaking their contents or exploding. All of the U.S. explosions have come in remote rural areas where the erupting fireballs did little damage.
Canada was not so lucky.
In July 2013, a runaway freight train carrying 74 tank cars full of Bakken derailed in the town of Lac-Mégantic, setting off an inferno that destroyed 30 downtown buildings and killed 47 people.
Coastal states in the United States and the city of Chicago, the most important railroad hub in the nation, have come up with scenarios that depict the potential damage and death tolls should a train explode in different sections of their urban areas. Chicago, fearing the plan’s release could cause panic, has declined to make it public.
Sarah Feinberg, acting head of the Federal Railroad Administration, says that worries that a train might explode in the middle of a city have caused her sleepless nights.
“If PTC is not fully implemented by Jan. 1, 2016, we can and should expect there to be accidents in the months and years to follow that PTC could have prevented,” she told the House subcommittee on railroads in June.
Bob Gildersleeve Sr., whose son Bob, a Maryland father of two, was killed in the May crash, said rail companies seem to be evading the mandate with an attitude of: “What are you going to do about it?”
“Is a deadline a deadline?” Gildersleeve asked. “We’re talking about fixing things that will eventually save lives, and you guys haven’t done it. Why?”
Many railroads are far behind
The railroads’ pitch for an extension — both loudly in the media and quietly to Congress — has been straightforward. Unless the deadline is postponed:
“Transportation of all goods over freight rail grinds to a halt; the U.S. economy loses $30 billion; household incomes drop by $17 billion; 700,000 Americans lose their jobs; millions of commuters are stranded.”
That was the message Monday last week when officials from three commuter rail lines and Association of American Railroads President Ed Hamberger held a conference call with reporters to add their voices to a chorus call for extension of the PTC deadline.
“If the congressionally mandated deadline of Dec. 31 is not extended, there will be a transportation crisis in the country with severe economic consequences,” said Michael Melaniphy, president of the American Public Transportation Association.
The call had an unintended subtext; all three of the commuter rail lines represented — Virginia Railway Express, Chicago’s Metra system and California’s San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission — said their installation of PTC would be substantially complete by the end of 2015. Amtrak also promises to have PTC operating in the northeast corridor rails that it owns by the current deadline.
But most passenger trains operate on track that’s owned by the freight railroads, and the freight rail lines are far from ready to meet the deadline. The freight companies say that without an extension, all traffic on their lines must halt to comply with the law.
The railroads say they’ve already spent $5.7 billion on PTC installation and are committed to finishing the job. None will meet the Dec. 31 deadline.
“It doesn’t matter how fast the bear is that’s chasing you, if you’re running as fast as you can, you can’t run any faster,” said Frank Lonegro, vice president of the freight rail carrier CSX, which operates more than 21,000 miles of rail in 23 eastern states, Washington and two Canadian provinces.
Some of the big railroads have made progress, while others lag far behind.
One of the largest, the BNSF Railway, has made substantial progress. At the other end of the spectrum, Union Pacific hasn’t fully equipped any of its 6,532 locomotives, according to an Federal Railroad Administration report released in August.
“Union Pacific is pretending [the deadline] is not happening,” said one federal official who reviewed the report.
Union Pacific spokesman Aaron Hunt says “integrating these technologies into an interoperable system is very difficult,” much like merging medical records into a computerized system, and that the company already has made a $1.7 billion investment, including work on the bulk of its locomotives.
Lonegro’s colleague, CSX spokesman Rob Doolittle, said railroad lobbyists have been telling Congress for years that a 2015 deadline wasn’t realistic.
“In the early conversations, before the law was passed, the industry was identifying 2018 as a reasonable deadline that we thought we could achieve,” he said.
A federal official familiar with those 2008 negotiations offered a different perspective.
“The railroads were in the room, and [Association of American Railroads] and those guys were the ones who said 2015 was doable. They did not embrace the deadline, but they said it was a fair bill,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of involvement in the current negotiations.
“It certainly wasn’t, ‘Oh, we sprung it on the railroads at the last minute,’ as they would like some to believe,”said a staff member who was in the room while the deal was being struck.
When the final regulations were put in place nearly six years ago, federal officials tallied up the expected benefits of having the automatic braking system in place.
The cost-benefit analysis put a price tag on crumpled locomotives, train delays, track damage, evacuation costs, the cleanup of hazardous spills and other consequences of the crashes that could be prevented.
Government economists also sought to calculate the human costs in injuries and deaths, using a figure of $6 million for each life that was expected to be saved. Over 20 years, there would be $269 million in savings, they figured, or the equivalent of 45 lives spared. There would be another $200 million in prevented injury costs.
In all, they projected $674 million in safety benefits from the PTC system.
It would cost $13.2 billion over 20 years, including maintenance costs, to net those benefits, the economists calculated.
That came out to a cost-benefit ratio of about 20 to 1, a disconnect seized on by railroad executives, lobbyists and lawmakers sympathetic to their needs, such as Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.).
“Now, everybody has tremendous sympathy for those families that lost loved ones in the Amtrak accident but, my goodness, now we’re going to be spending billions to make something that already is one of the safest things in the entire world [safer]?” Duncan, who has received $303,250 in railroad campaign support during a 27-year career in the House, said at a June hearing. “And I’m thinking that we would be better off to spend those billions in many, many other ways — cancer research, and everything else.”
But federal rail officials and some outside experts argue that the technology needed to prevent crashes ultimately can transform the future of railroading. More frequent trains, more efficiently deployed across the country, could move more goods while cutting down on expensive fuel costs, dramatically increasing potential benefits.
Some industry executives have embraced this future, while others have pushed back. In a conference call with Wall Street analysts just 19 days before the Amtrak derailment, Union Pacific President and chief executive Lance M. Fritz predicted Congress would extend the deadline, adding that his company’s lobbyists were “giving feedback and input into our thoughts to help navigate that process.”
Dan Keating contributed to this report.Tags: Rail safetytech
By the Admin Staff - Recomposition, October 8, 2015
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.
This is the second part of a series of concrete examples and very brief summaries of organizations that have some component of direct action and a form of collective bargaining that operate outside the labour relations framework. The following are IWW projects that had aspects of Labour Relations Board campaigns to them but were essentially not oriented towards the LRB. You will also notice that these examples are American. One key difference in the American context is the presence of a longer and richer history of what is called “minority unionism” that is unions that seek to build majorities from minorities but are capable of acting as a part of the workforce that doesn’t always represent a majority pro-union group as verified by card check or a board election.2. Corridor Campaigns:
a). Montpelier Downtown Workers Union
Corridor campaigns were a popular model for IWW branches to experiment with in the early to mid 2000’s. This campaign started as a corridor campaign under the United Electrical Workers Union. An independent union with a history of Communist leadership. They were based on having small committees in small shops spread out over a geographic area with a similar constellation of businesses, usually retail corridors.
This campaign started under the sponsorship of a workers centre run by the UE and ran for a few years. One of the more innovative elements of this campaign was the grievance committee combined with stewards that were assigned to a geographic area. Non members were told of the presence of a stewards in their area and if they had problems to go the member of the MDWU who would help them resolve problems. They also had a grievance committee that would pool resources to tackle bigger tougher problems.
Eventually the UE tried to push it to sign more contracts, as the campaign was failing they signed on with the IWW but it continued it’s decline and folded.
Advantages: Multiple committees in multiple shops. Geographic stewards, grievance committee. Had a clear way to address smaller concerns that didn’t warrant mass industrial action but weren’t simply individual gripes either.
Disadvantages: Pressure from business union sponsor to go for contracts. Small shops prone to high turnover, going public in small shops allows the boss to charm neutrals and organise anti union elements easily.
b). South Street Workers Union
South Street was a campaign in a retail corridor in Philadelphia started by the IWW branch there. It had multiple committees in multiple small shops. They agitated around workplace issues as well as workers issues off the job including a campaign around transit fares. The campaign lasted a number of years and built up the branch but eventually folded.
Advantages: Maintained a function organisation between small multiple shops over a few years. Agitated around issues in the community and mobilised the community around non workplace demands as well as making some small gains in shops.
Disadvantages: High turnover wore the campaign down.3. The IWW and Bike Couriers:
There is very little documentation that is easy to track down and I have a few articles I intend to put online but the Bike Courier campaigns of the early 2000s had a tremendous influence on the development of Direct Unionism or Solidarity Unionism. The key organisers in these campaigns had a huge impact on the IWW and played a central role in the transition from being mostly a radical labour history club to a small fighting union with a different program from the rest of the labour movement. The longest running and most high profile campaign was in Chicago where the IWW maintained a presence in the courier industry for ten years. They had committees spanning multiple shops and won grievances against employers as well as mounting campaigns against building management companies to make their buildings more accessible to the couriers that served their tenants.
There were also bike courier committees in Portland, New York, Boston and San Francisco to name a few others.
Advantages: Extremely flexible organisations, took on issues on and off the job. Well developed conception of non contractual unionism. Multiple campaigns in multiple shops in Chicago. Also very structured and formal in Portland and Chicago, clear meeting agendas, rules of order and elected officers.
Disadvantages: Never broke out of the bike courier sub culture in a meaningful way. Very oriented towards a largely young and urban counter culture workforce.
The Complicated Story Behind Those Images of Terrified Air France Executives Fleeing Workers
FRIDAY, OCT 23, 2015, 11:34 AM
The Complicated Story Behind Those Images of Terrified Air France Executives Fleeing Workers
BY ROBERT ZARETSKY
An Air France executive, his shirt in tatters, escapes a group of angry workers earlier this month. (Euro News / YouTube)
“A picture has held us captive. And we cannot get outside it, for it lay in our language about France and it has been repeated inexorably.”
Well, this is not what Ludwig Wittgenstein precisely said. Nor did the 20th century’s most enigmatic philosopher have in mind the photos of shirtless Air France executives scrambling up a fence to escape an irate crowd of employees earlier this month. Nevertheless, his observation about the power of images is du jour. While they will not be turned into key chains or postcards, these images have become emblematic of a certain idea of France and French working class militancy in the minds of many around the world.
And yet, the undeniable violence of this event obscures a different form of violence. It is a kind of violence less striking and more resistant to being struck as an image, but equally grim and despairing: the slow, incremental, and deadening violence done to workers whose livelihoods are under constant threat, whose options are increasingly limited and whose traditional parties seem either incapable or unable to help.
One could foresee the collision between Air France management and workers on October 5. First, there were the recent strategic errors made by Air France, failing to foresee the challenge posed by low-price carriers like Ryan Air for short-haul runs across Europe and rise of money-rich Gulf airlines over the growing and profitable longer routes. While Air France showed something of a rebound by 2013, a prolonged strike by the pilots union in 2014 sent its finances into yet another nosedive. The company hemorrhaged more than 600 million euros in the first half of 2015, with little prospect of lessening the hemorrhage in the second half.
A second cause was the intransigence of the Air France pilots. In the negotiations that flamed out in early October, the pilots’ union refused to compromise on a series of labor practices that would align them, both in terms of hours flown and the length of layovers, with other European carriers. Though pilots constitute 8% of Air France’s workforce, their pay makes up more than 25% of the company’s salary costs. On average, Air France pilots fly 630 hours, while Lufthansa and British Airway pilots average 750 hours, and Ryan Air upwards of 850, while their salaries are roughly equivalent.
In effect, the pilots were asked to increase their cockpit time by 10% without an equivalent wage increase. The KLM pilots union—the more profitable Dutch carrier merged ten years ago with Air France—urged their French colleagues to “take this step so that we can all move forward.”
The Dutch appeal for moderation went unheeded. When talks with the pilots union stalled, management abruptly ended the negotiations and unveiled its “Plan B.” The company would drastically reduce its freight business—retiring fourteen of its cargo planes—and eliminating five of its routes. No less drastic are the human consequences. To carry out the necessary restructuration, nearly 3,000 jobs would be slashed by 2017, the sickle slicing almost entirely through the ranks of the support and ground crews.
When the negotiations between the pilots and management broke off, the ground-workers unions were as furious at the one as the other. The union’s claim that this provides a higher guarantee of safety struck them as both false and self-serving. Laurent Berger, the leader of France’s largest trade union, the Confedération française démocratique du travail, denounced the pilots’ refusal to compromise. By refusing “to consider the predicament of their fellow Air France workers,” he exclaimed, the pilots had “torpedoed the trade unions.”
Torn between bewilderment and bitterness, he declared that the pilots could have avoided this showdown, but instead decided to leave the ground-workers holding the bag: “It’s detestable!” Jean-Claude Mailly, the leader of a second union, Force Ouvrière, echoed Berger’s frustration. Urging the pilots to maintain labor solidarity, Mailly pleaded with them “to communicate with the other unions.”
On October 5, Air France’s division of human resources convened a meeting at its corporate headquarters to discuss the implementation of Plan B. Already battered by earlier restructuring efforts, hundreds of Air France ground-workers gathered outside the building to protest the purpose of the meeting. Unnoticed by security personnel, a few dozen workers made their way into the building by a side entrance and burst into the meeting room.
The confrontation turned into a scrum, during which workers tore off the jackets and shirts of two executives, Xavier Broseta and Pierre Plissonier. With the help of security personnel, as well as other workers, the two frightened men managed to leave the building and scale the parking lot fence to safety.
While the international media feasted on images of this event, the French government reacted immediately. On an official visit in Japan, Prime Minister Manuel Valls assured France—not to mention Air France, nearly one fifth of which is owned by the French state—that the voyous, or thugs, responsible for the scuffle would be “harshly punished.” In a tweet, the economy minister Emmanuel Macron, also in Japan, relayed his shock over the event, denouncing the “unacceptable violence” shown by the Air France workers. The government made good on its vow of swift justice: at dawn on October 12, five workers suspected of leading the scuffle were arrested at their homes and charged with assault and battery.
While most of the political class applauded the arrests, there were also discordant voices. In a televised interview, Jean-Luc Mélechon, the fiery former Socialist who now leads the Parti de gauche, urged Air France workers not to be intimidated by the arrests.
“Start again,” he encouraged them: “Don’t surrender, and don’t be afraid.” As for the arrested workers, Mélenchon grandly declared: “I’d be glad to take their place in prison.” Even Mélenchon’s allies rolled their eyes over their colleague’s offer. As Julien Dray, a leader of the leftwing dissidents within the Socialist Party, drily noted: “It’s easy to say that you would willingly go to prison, all the while sitting in a television studio and knowing full well you will not go there.”
But Dray, along with several other leftwing politicians and observers, has also underscored the odd and discomfiting sight of a Socialist government mobilizing its rhetoric and resources to support Air France’s executive board and slam its employees. Laurent Bouvier, a columnist with Slate France, remarked that the violence of political reactions to the events at Air France was equally shocking.
“To side entirely with Air France executives without a word for the workers whose jobs are now threatened by the company’s flawed decision-making reflects a tragic divorce from social realities.” More laconically, a columnist with Le Parisien, Jean-Marie Montali, noted that the scuffle “makes us lose sight of another act of violence: the loss of 2,900 jobs.”
Tellingly, in a survey published last week by the French polling institute IFOP, while 38% of the respondents condemned the workers’ violence out of hand, 54% replied that though they did not approve of the violence, they nevertheless “understood” why it happened. How could it be otherwise, given the seemingly irresistible rise of unemployment in France—the toll of those who cannot find jobs now hovers at 10.3 percent—and the impotence of the Socialist government to reverse the trend?
A video revealing this tragic side to the events of October 5 has since gone viral in France. It depicts a young Air France employee, Erika Nguyen Van Vai, who had wandered into another meeting room at corporate headquarters during the confusion of that day. Finding herself face to face with several Air France executives, Van Vai, a single mother, tries to engage them in a dialogue. Repeatedly asking them for the criteria they were using for Plan B, repeatedly emphasizing the sacrifices she and her fellow workers had already made, and repeatedly stating her pride to wear an Air France uniform, she is met with silence and frequent sardonic smiles. As Van Vai later observed, “I felt humiliated by their response.”
It may well the image of this worker’s tears as she failed to elicit a response from Air France executives, which elicited a new response from the president of Air France, Alexandre de Juniac. On Sunday, he announced that just 1,000 positions would now be cut through voluntary retirements in 2016. Whether this reflects a change in the adversarial relations between management and workers at Air France, or simply a tactical retreat, remains to be seen.Tags: Air Franceunions
United Continental, Teamster Mechanics Union Reach Tentative Labor Pact
Proposed agreement would be big step in airline’s effort to smooth tense labor relations amid CEO shuffle
In this 2011 photo, a United aircraft mechanic replaces a floor panel on a plane that is being retrofitted with new seats. The airline announced today that it reached a tentative joint labor contract with its nearly 9,000 technicians. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS
By SUSAN CAREY
Updated Oct. 23, 2015 12:42 p.m. ET
Five years after the merger that created United Continental Holdings Inc., the company and its mechanics union on Friday said they reached tentative agreement on a first joint labor contract since the combination, one that United termed “industry-leading.”
The six-year pact, which the 9,000 mechanics will get to vote to accept or reject, comes after more than three years of negotiations, partly assisted by federal mediators. While mechanics from the two subsidiaries have long been able to work interchangeably on aircraft in the combined fleet, they didn’t have a single contract even though both branches are represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
If they ratify this accord, it would be a big step forward for United’s efforts to smooth troubled labor relations following the departure last month of former Chief Executive Jeff Smisek. The mechanics are one of two major employee groups still working without joint contracts, an unusually long delay that analysts say has added complexity to the airline’s wobbly operations.
The 21,000 United flight attendants also have been trying to reach agreement on a single contract since 2012, and likewise are represented by the same union, the Association of Flight Attendants.
Oscar Munoz, a longtime United board member who was selected last month to succeed Mr. Smisek, had pledged to improve labor ties frayed under Mr. Smisek’s tenure. After Mr. Munoz suffered a heart attack last week, causing him to go on indefinite medical leave, Brett Hart, the acting CEO vowed to continue those efforts.
Mr. Hart, former United general counsel, on Friday in a statement said he was encouraged by reaching a tentative deal “with such an important part of our workforce. Our customers care most about taking off and landing on time, and doing so safely, and the unsurpassed efforts of our professional technicians…make this possible every day.”
Don Wright, United’s vice president of maintenance operations, said in an employee memo Friday that the tentative agreement includes a 25% increase in the highest hourly rates, to $46.15, immediately, and a 33% increase over the life of the pact. It also includes a buyout offer, a bonus on signing, furlough protection and wage resets if airline rivals move above United’s pay and benefits offerings.
The Teamsters union negotiators for United couldn’t immediately be reached.
Delta Air Lines Inc. recently gave its nonunion employees—the bulk of its workforce—a 14.5% pay increase effective Dec. 1. Talks between the Teamsters and United hit a snag in early October when the union said the airline’s latest proposal fell $4 an hour short of the new top rate for Delta’s mechanics. United at the time noted that the Delta raise and a tentative agreement American Airlines Group Inc. reached with its customer-service agents reset market rates. So United and the Teamsters took a break to evaluate industry changes before restarting the talks.
Many of the largest U.S. airlines are having particularly contentious labor talks because the companies are minting record profits and workers want a piece of that. Delta’s pilots and Southwest AirlinesCo. flight attendants recently rejected tentative contracts their union leaders had touted.
United said it continues to bargain with its flight attendants and has recently entered talks with its pilots union about considering an extension of their current contract, which opens for renewal in January 2017. The Chicago-based company already has joint contracts with its pilots, gate and reservations agents and ramp workers.
Write to Susan Carey at email@example.comTags: IBTUAL
United Air Reaches Tentative Deal With Wage Hike for IBT Maintenance Workers
By REUTERSOCT. 23, 2015, 11:39 A.M. E.D.T.
(Reuters) - United Airlines said on Friday it reached a tentative deal with the union representing its maintenance workers, paving the way for a wage hike and the first contract to cover technicians from both United and Continental since the airlines merged in 2010.
The deal provides for a 25 percent raise for United's highest-earning technicians, to $46.15 per hour, according to an email the company sent employees and seen by Reuters. It also includes an offer for a $100,000 buyout for at least some workers and furlough protection.
Before the raise takes effect, workers must approve the deal, negotiated by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. It was not immediately clear when the vote would take place.
Shares of United were up more than 3 percent in late morning trade.
Ratification would mark an achievement for the new management team at United Continental Holdings Inc, which has faced low employee morale after years of contract talks and difficulty integrating employees from the pre-merger carriers.
Two executive shake-ups have recently rocked United, the second-largest U.S. airline by capacity, putting in management that has focused on reaching labor deals.
Its CEO of five years, Jeff Smisek, resigned in September after a probe of the airline's relationship with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which manages United's hub airport in Newark, New Jersey.
Oscar Munoz succeeded him, spending his first month on the job traversing the United States to meet with workers and air travelers for input on how to improve the airline.
Munoz suffered a heart attack last week, and United named its general counsel, Brett Hart, as acting CEO. He has vowed to continue Munoz's tone of reconciliation between management and workers.Tags: UAL IBT