Who are the contractors O'Hare workers are fighting?
March 31, 2016
Who are the contractors O'Hare workers are fighting?
By MICAH MAIDENBERG
American Airlines Midway Airport O'Hare International Airport Service Employees International Union More +
Three subcontractors at O'Hare International Airport are being targeted by unions for for their labor practices, and all three appear to be deeply embedded at the airport.
Starting last night and culminating this morning, employees of three companies: Universal Security, Prospect Airport Services and a cleaning service company called Scrub—conducted a strike, demanding higher wages of at least $15 per hour and additional labor rights, according to Local 1 of the Service Employees International Union.
The action was part of a nationwide effort that included protests at Newark International Airport and Reagan National in Washington.
Take Chicago-based Scrub. The Department of Aviation awarded a contract for cleaning services at O'Hare to Scrub worth up to $27 million. The city extended the agreement beyond its expiration date, boosting the value of the contract.
Another Scrub contract, for maintaining and cleaning toilet seats at O'Hare, dates back to 2005and was originally worth $4.7 million. That deal also was extended several times.
Media representatives for the dominant carriers at the airport, United Airlines and American Airlines, confirmed they used the company, too. The company lists several other airlines as clients, too.
Universal Security, also based in Chicago, in 2007 received a five-year contract then worth $31.3 million to provide unarmed security guards at O'Hare, according to procurement records. Like Scrub's contracts, that deal was extended several times, and currently runs through May, raising to the all-in value of the agreement to 2005 $66.1 million, records show.
Prospect Airport Services, based in Des Plaines, employs baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, wheelchair attendants and others at O'Hare, has deals worth about $8.7 million with the city, through a subcontract. American also uses Prospect.
Messages left for Scrub, Universal and Prospect weren't returned.
Local 1 says employees at the three companies are underpaid, and organized the job action to press their case. Union spokeswoman Izabela Miltko said many janitors at Scrub earn $10.25 per hour, while their cabin cleaner employees make the same. She said guards at Universal make a bit more than $12 per hour.
Prospect-employed cabin cleaners make $10 to $10.50 per hour, she added, while attendants who ferry flyers around on wheelchairs earn $6.25 to $8.25 per hour, with tips, but many flyers don't offer the tips, Miltko added. Most Prospect baggage handlers make $10 per hour, according to Miltko.
“These workers are trying to get out of poverty, to have a better future for themselves and their families,” she said.
The union has been working with contractor employees at O'Hare and Midway for several years, pressing their case in the city council, to the airlines, including United, and through job actions.
A spokesman for the Department of Aviation did not return a phone call.
Media representatives from United and American said the most recent action, which started last night, had no effect on their operations at O'Hare today.
United declined further comment, while American, in a statement, said it didn't have any plans to get involved in the dispute.
“We also respect the right of employees and workers to organize, but we do not get involved in union representation discussions with our vendors and their employees,” the statement from the Fort Worth, Tex.-based airline said.Tags: SEIUAirport WorkrsO'Hare
DC Metro could shut down entire rail lines to do extended maintenance, board chair says
Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld, left, speaks during a news conference earlier this month to announce that Metrorail service would be shut down for a full day. At center is D.C Council member Jack Evans, who also is Metro board chairman. (Evan Vucci/AP)
By Robert McCartney March 30 at 10:03 PM
Metro’s top officials warned Wednesday that the transit system is in such need of repair that they might shut down entire rail lines for as long as six months for maintenance, potentially snarling thousands of daily commutes and worsening congestion in the already traffic-clogged region.
Board Chairman Jack Evans and General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld put rail riders on notice about possible extended closures at a high-level conference of local leaders.
The discussion also revealed strong resistance to what Evans said was a “dire” need for more than $1 billion a year in additional funding for Metro.
The officials’ comments underlined the depth of Metro’s problems, which are steadily becoming more apparent as Wiedefeld continues to probe the rail system’s defects since taking over as the transit agency’s chief executive in November.
Until now, Metro has typically done repair work at night or during short shutdowns over weekends.
Metro passengers react to the prospect of a six-month shutdown
Metro passengers at the McPherson Square station discuss how inconvenient it would be if their Metro line closes for six months for repairs. (Whitney Shefte/The Washington Post)
An exception was the unprecedented shutdown of the entire system on a regular workday March 16 for emergency track safety inspections. Wiedefeld ordered that closure in what now seems to have been an initial taste of more bitter medicine to follow.
[Will drastic action become Metro’s new normal?]
“The system right now, in order to do the maintenance that needs to be done, cannot be done on three hours a night and on weekends. It just can’t,” said Evans, who also is a D.C. Council member (D-Ward 2).
“So in order to do repairs that are necessary, it may come to the point where we have to close the entire Blue Line for six months. People will go crazy. But there are going to be hard decisions that have to be made in order to get this fixed,” Evans said.
Although he twice singled out the Blue Line as a candidate for closure, Evans said any of Metro’s six lines could be shuttered in full or in part.
He said the Red Line was the least likely to be shut, because much repair work has already been done on it.
“That’s up to Paul [Wiedefeld]. He’s the operations guy. I’m just the board member,” Evans said.
Photos: What Washington looked like during the Metro shutdown
View Photos Service was canceled across the entire rail system, March 16, for safety checks of electric cables after a fire in a tunnel.
Wiedefeld confirmed that he was considering such lengthy closures, but said he has not made a decision yet. He said he expected to do so within a month to six weeks.
“I’m keeping all my options open,” Wiedefeld said. “There are some bigger issues here in terms of power and track. . . . In the last few years, we’ve been trying to do this [maintenance] in a sort of piecemeal way, and basically we’ve alienated everyone.”
The officials spoke to 100 government officials, business executives and transit experts at an invitation-only “summit” called to mark the 40th anniversary of Metro’s opening by discussing how to restore it to its original “world-class” quality.
The prospect of lengthy shutdowns received a mixed response from the audience. Montgomery County Council member Marc Elrich (D-At Large) said closing an entire line for six months would be “a disaster.” He suggested stopping service earlier in the evening to allow more time for maintenance.
But Fairfax County Supervisor Penny Gross (D-Mason) said she would support such measures if Metro considered them necessary to fix the troubled system.
In limited shutdowns such as have been used in the past, Gross said, “you can do the Band-Aids, but you can’t do the surgery.”
[At heart of Metro shutdown, worries about uncontained electricity]
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), who was reportedly very unhappy that she wasn’t fully consulted about the March 16 shutdown, issued a cautiously worded statement warning that any extended shutdown would have serious impact.
“Shutting down Metro for one workday was an inconvenience; shutting it down for months at a time will have far-reaching consequences for riders and the entire region,” spokesman Michael Czin said.
Should Metro shut down an entire rail line for an extended period of time to make repairs?
This is a non-scientific user poll. Results are not statistically valid and cannot be assumed to reflect the views of Washington Post users as a group or the general population.
“The plan must be clearly laid out, allow for rider and jurisdictional input, and provide them adequate alternative modes of transportation.”
Harriet Tregoning, who represents the federal government on the Metro board, praised Evans and Wiedefeld for being candid about the system’s condition.
“I’ve been telling Metro for a long time, ‘Quit telling us what you think we want to hear, and tell us what needs to happen’ . . . and then let’s see what the options are,” said Tregoning, a principal deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Tregoning said the impact on the federal workforce, which relies heavily on Metro to go to and from work, could be reduced by various means such as increasing the use of telecommuting and adding express buses.
Riders outside the McPherson Square station Wednesday evening described an extended shutdown as “insane,” “extremely inconvenient,” and “kind of terrible.”
“I don’t know how I would get to work,” said Meredith Westerlund, 25, who lives in Northwest Washington and uses the Orange and Silver lines to commute to a nonprofit organization in Arlington. “I would hope they would put buses in place that follow similar lines.”
Chris Williams, 48, said he might stop using Metro for commuting if it shut down for a long period.
“If I started driving in, I don’t know if I’d ever go back to riding Metro,” said Williams, who lives in Herndon and commutes to work in a government agency downtown.
Instead of an extended closure, he said, “I would recommend the obvious thing, that they shut down on weekends.”
But several people said that they would support a closure if it were necessary for the sake of safety.
“It would be majorly disruptive, but it’s better than constant delays and me wondering if there’s going to be a spark or fire,” Sophie Perry, 23, who works in consulting, said.
An extended shutdown for maintenance would be a first for Metro, but other transit systems have taken such steps as the nation’s transit infrastructure has deteriorated, partly because of lack of investment.
[Metro union chief: Wiedefeld is first general manager to truly care about safety]
Chicago shut down a 10-mile stretch of rail line for five months in 2013 to rebuild it and end chronic delays. The Maryland Transit Administration plans to shut down part of the Baltimore subway system, from July 23 to Aug. 12, to replace major rail components.
Wiedefeld’s predecessor as general manager, Richard Sarles, ruled out extended closures for maintenance purposes, on the grounds that they would be too disruptive.
Wednesday’s forum — “Metrorail at 40: Restoring a World Class System” — took place in an elegant room at the Mayflower Hotel. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) and the Greater Washington Board of Trade organized it to launch what they hope will be a year-long effort to increase support for Metro among local governments, business leaders and other parties.
Evans, who was elected Metro’s board chairman in January, used the all-morning forum as an occasion to sound what he presented as an urgent alarm about the need for dramatically increased funding.
Late Wednesday afternoon, he said he regretted that public attention was instead focused on the possibility of closures.
“Getting the funding and support for the system is the critical point I was trying to make,” Evans said.
Earlier, he told the forum that the District, Maryland and Virginia should create a dedicated funding source, such as a regionwide sales tax, to provide an additional $1 billion a year to Metro for capital investments such as maintenance.
He also said the federal government needed to provide $300 million a year in additional money for operations.
“If we don’t have that, we’re never going to get to be a world-class system,” Evans said.
He also said that the three local jurisdictions would have to increase their contributions next year to cover increased labor costs that he said were sure to result from negotiations beginning Friday over new union contracts.
But several influential local officials expressed skepticism about Evans’s pleas. In particular, Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn said Metro needed to improve its performance on safety, financial management and other matters before local jurisdictions would contribute more.
“Until the house is in order, it’s going to be difficult to get additional funding for anything,” Rahn said.
Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D) also expressed apprehension.
“I don’t agree that increased cost for operations [next year] is a given, and I don’t think that’s a good way to start a discussion regarding financing,” said Bulova, whose county is a major contributor to Metro’s budget.
“I’m not sure he [Evans] fully appreciates how much comes out of local jurisdictions,” Bulova said.
Evans conceded that he faced opposition.
“Listening to the comments, I’m not sure that a lot of people are on board yet. I think today’s meeting was an informational session to really alert people of the dire circumstances,” Evans said.
COG Chairman Roger Berliner, who in January was the first to propose the forum, said it was necessary to work harder to overcome elected officials’ resistance to more funding for Metro.
“We’re going to have to change that equation,” said Berliner, who also is a Montgomery County Council member (D-Potomac-Bethesda). “We can’t afford to wait.”
Aaron Davis contributed to this report.Tags: DC Metrohealth and safety
O'Hare Airport baggage handlers, custodians to strike
Jets are at their gates at the United terminal at O'Hare International Airport on Oct. 8, 2015. The view is from the old Air Traffic Control Tower. (Nancy Stone / Chicago Tribune)
Alexia Elejalde-RuizContact Reporter
O'Hare International Airport workers plan to go on strike starting late Wednesday as part of a national action to protest what they say are low wages, inadequate safety training and retaliation for organizing.
Nearly 100 baggage handlers, custodians, cabin cleaners, security officers and wheelchair attendants are expected to walk off the job at O'Hare, joining their peers at eight other airports across the country participating in 24-hour strikes, said Izabela Miltko, spokesperson for the Service Employees International Union Local 1.
The strikes were originally planned for March 22, the day of the terrorist attacks on an airport and train station in Brussels. They were postponed out of respect for the victims, Miltko said.
Julio Godoy, who has worked as a cabin cleaner at O'Hare for two years, said he plans to skip his scheduled shift Thursday to protest retaliation he feels he has suffered for agitating for better working conditions, including being assigned to teams in which no one else speaks Spanish so that he can't communicate with them.
Promoted stories from PoliticsChatter.com
An immigrant from Guatemala, Godoy, 53, said he worked as a banker in his native country before coming to the U.S. with his son less than three years ago to escape the violence and crime that threatened him and his family.
"Like many, I came to this country to try and look for a better life," Godoy, who earns $10 an hour with subcontractor Prospect Airport Services, said through a translator. "I ended up in this company, and the thing is with companies like this they are constantly keeping workers down. I don't think that's OK, so I am working to change that."
The rolling strike at O'Hare is expected to start at 10 p.m. Wednesday with a group of security guards on the night shift, and will continue through Thursday as other workers show up for their shifts. A rally is set for 8 a.m. Thursday between terminals 2 and 3, where the workers will be joined by Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, 35th, and Ald. Anthony Napolitano, 41st.
Airport officials were not immediately available to comment.
The striking workers, who are not union members, are employees of subcontractors hired by the airlines to clean planes and airports, haul bags and transport people with disabilities.
United Airlines spokesman Charles Hobart said he spoke with Scrub, a subcontractor that provides janitorial services, and was told it doesn't anticipate an effect on operations. But United continues to work with the company to "ensure that they have contingency plans in order to continue to serve our customers."
This is the first time a large group of O'Hare workers have gone on strike together since the SEIU's airport campaign launched in September, though security officers went on strike in November, and the workers have protested and rallied together during other actions. The SEIU is the driving force behind the Fight for $15 campaign to boost the wages of fast-food workers, which has expanded to include other low-wage workers.
The airport workers are holding the unfair labor practices strike for what they say is retaliation for calling for a $15 minimum wage, emergency preparedness training and other workplace improvements.
Godoy said he is concerned that his employer does not provide workers with the proper equipment or training to handle the potentially harmful substances they encounter as they clean.
"As cabin cleaners we have to deal with human blood, vomit and cleaning toilets," he said. "We do this with latex gloves only and I think we need better training to deal with this so that we're better protected."
Sadaf Subijano, 42, a security officer at O'Hare for 20 years, said she won't show up for her scheduled shift Thursday.
Subijano, who works for airport subcontractor Universal Security and earns $12.13 an hour, feels she has been getting shoddier assignments since she started organizing for better working conditions, including an undesirable placement outside in the airfield, where she has never been placed before.
Among her concerns are that security officers get no sick days, and when they do call off sick they are required to bring in a doctor's statement confirming that they are ill or risk getting sanctioned — a hassle, especially given that they don't get health benefits, that results in many people going to work sick.
She also feels unprepared in an emergency, particularly pertinent in light of the Brussels attack, and wants more training on how to respond.
"We don't have nothing much but a radio to communicate with command center," Subijano said. "I don't think that's enough."
The workers being organized have wages ranging from $12.75 for cabin drivers who transport cleaners between planes and hangars to $6.75 for wheelchair attendants, who get less than minimum wage because they are tipped, according to Miltko at SEIU.
But passengers often don't tip, Miltko said. Employers are supposed to make up the difference if the day's tips don't bring attendants' pay up to minimum wage, but workers often don't reveal when that's the case because they are afraid they will be accused of pocketing the cash or not providing good service, she said.
"These workers have been left behind," she said.
Universal Security declined to comment. Prospect Airport Services and Scrub did not respond to requests for comment.
Twitter @alexiaerTags: SEIUairport workersO'Hare
Compiled by x344543 - March 29, 2016
The following news items are culled from various other IWW (and other) internet news portals:Lead:
- Texas Prisoners Threaten to Strike April 4th with IWW Prisoner Union - By Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, It's Going Down, March 29, 2016
- Ruling backs fired Jimmy John's workers in Twin Cities labor dispute - By Christopher Snowbeck, Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 26, 2016
- La Régie du très très lentement… Pour qui? - By Nathaniel Oliveri-Pilotte, Syndicat Industriel des Travailleuses et des Travailleurs, March 27, 2016
- Edinburgh IWW presentation - By Edinburgh Branch Communications Officer, IWW Scotland, March 22, 2016
- IWW’s in Texas Prisons Planning Work Stoppages for Early April - By Staff, IWW Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, March 22, 2016
Les assassins du fellow worker Frank Teruggi condamnés au Chili | Killers of IWW member Frank Teruggi sentenced in Chile - By Staff, Syndicat Industriel des Travailleuses et des Travailleurs, March 21, 2016
- “Just Don’t Do It”: An Interview with Eric Dirnbach on Campus Anti-Sweatshop Organizing - By Eric Dirnbach, Classroom, March 20, 2016
- Brève syndicale 7 au 18 mars - By Staff, Syndicat Industriel des Travailleuses et des Travailleurs, March 19, 2016
- Les Wobblies à travers le monde - By Staff, Syndicat Industriel des Travailleuses et des Travailleurs, March 17, 2016
- Brève syndicale du 29 février au 6 mars - By Staff, Syndicat Industriel des Travailleuses et des Travailleurs, March 8, 2016
- Prospection de conjonctures - By x374163, Syndicat Industriel des Travailleuses et des Travailleurs, March 4, 2016
- Militancy and the Beautiful Game: An interview with Gabriel Kuhn - By Gabriel Kuhn, Recomposition, March 3, 2016
- [History Remembered] Third Degree In San Francisco-Report About Sailor And IWW Member Ray Guthrie In 2016 SF Preparedness Day Bombing - By Staff, Transport Workers Soldarity Committee, February 27, 2016
- Are We Militant Unionists? - By Staff, New Syndicalist, February 22, 2016
- No Pain No Gain - By Kingsley Clarke, Recomposition, February 22, 2016
- Pensez-y (Dernière partie) - By Tim Acott, Syndicat Industriel des Travailleuses et des Travailleurs, February 22, 2016
- The forgotten legacy of Keith Jackson - By Marc Norton, 48 Hills, February 21, 2016
- Free Virginia Movement Declaration - By Free Virginia Movement, IWW Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, February 16, 2016
- Overcoming Burnout, Part 3 – Transforming not withdrawing - By Nicole Vosper, Empty Cages Design, February 15, 2016 (Visit the site for the other parts)
Oakland Port Action After SSA Attacks ILWU Local 10 Members In Violation of Their Contract
Port of Oakland cargo operations snarled by labor-management dispute
Oakland Port Action After SSA Attacks ILWU Local 10 Members In Violation of Their Contract
By George Avalos, email@example.com
POSTED: 03/28/2016 10:15:58 AM PDT
UPDATED: 03/28/2016 06:50:57 PM PDT
OAKLAND -- A labor dispute linked to a group of dismissed dock workers disrupted cargo handling at the Port of Oakland on Monday, and completely halted operations at one of the terminals at the East Bay cargo hub, port officials said.
The turmoil involved Stevedore Services of America, commonly known as SSA Marine Terminals.
"Daytime operations were suspended" at SSA Marine's Oakland International Container Terminal, said Michael Zampa, a spokesman for the Port of Oakland.
The terminal involved is the largest at the Port of Oakland, which has five terminals.
"It's a labor-management dispute," Zampa said.
The cause or nature of the work disagreement wasn't immediately disclosed.
"We have heard work has temporarily stopped," Zampa said. "Operations are expected to resume on the evening shift." That evening shift was due to begin at 8 p.m.
The disruption caused trucks drivers picking up or dropping off containers to become stuck in long lines of vehicles.
Officials with International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10, the principal representative of rank-and-file workers at the Oakland port, said the work stoppage was connected with the firing of 22 dock employees at the port.
"The ILWU called in an arbitrator, who ruled that the company acted improperly by dismissing 22 workers," said Craig Merrilees, an ILWU spokesman. "The workers were made whole" under the ruling.
The 22 workers were dismissed for the day, but the arbitrator determined that they could return to the job Tuesday and be paid for Monday's hours.
"The company wanted to change the workday and the start times, in violation of the contract," Merrilees said. SSA sought to start the workers' shifts 15 minutes earlier.
SSA Marine Terminals and Oakland International Container Terminal didn't return phone inquiries about the situation on Monday.
The arbitrator also determined that 44 dock workers who stopped working to show support for the dismissed workers acted improperly.
"The company can't just tear up the contract on its own," Merrilees said.
Contact George Avalos at 408-859-5167. Follow him at Twitter.com/georgeavalos.Tags: ILWU Local 10SSAviolation of contract
Americans are beginning to dump our throw-away economy. Curbside recycling is now available in most west coast communities and more than 9,000 cities across America. It’s helping to divert one-third of our waste that used to be burned or buried.
Recycling is also good because it conserves raw materials and saves money for local governments. And it reduces greenhouse gases that cause global climate change.
But recycling won’t succeed if recycling workers don’t have decent pay, good benefits and safe working conditions. Most full-time recycling workers are forced to live in poverty – and their “green jobs” are far too dangerous. Recycling workers are being killed and seriously injured every year.
On March 1, a 42-year old worker was killed at a Waste Management’s recycling plant in Philadelphia. He was crushed to death by a one-ton bale of paper.
Ironically – on same day – a Bay Area recycling firm was being honored by workers and community leaders for “dramatically improving working conditions” at a company which recently signed an ILWU Local 6 contract. During an interfaith luncheon, the Sierra Club’s Ruth Abbe presented a plaque to Chris Valbusa, general manager of Alameda County Industries (ACI), recognizing the company’s effort to cooperate with workers and create safer jobs with good pay, benefits and the right to fair treatment.
ACI and Waste Management are both private companies. And like most large recycling firms, their workers are paid with public funds – from residents and ratepayers – through contracts awarded by local governments.
When we drop a newspaper, bottle, or food waste in our recycling bin, it’s good to know that it will be recycled – but most of us don’t know anything about the workers performing these dirty and dangerous jobs – often employed by companies who exploit labor and cut corners on safety.
Years before the worker was killed at Waste Management’s Philadelphia facility on March 1, reports of hazardous conditions were being received by the Philadelphia Project on Occupational Safety and Health (PhilaPOSH). The complaints included workers getting sick on the job, suffering from poor ventilation, dust, dizziness, fainting – and even coughing up blood.
These conditions happen when employers cut corners on safety to deal with materials arriving in recycling bins that include syringes, toxic chemicals, animal carcasses, human waste and other filth. A 2015 study by public health experts, “Sustainable and Safe Recycling,” found that recycling workers are injured more than twice as much as other industrial workers. The findings also noted that fifteen recycling workers were killed on the job between 2011 and 2013.
The only way for workers to protect themselves is through education and active health and safety programs that they can control.
At the Waste Management facility in Philadelphia, we learned that many workers were considered “temporary” and assigned by an agency called Centrix Staffing. To check the company’s approach to safety, we asked a Spanish-speaking colleague to apply for work there. He was shown a short training video – in English – then deemed ready for work, with no hands-on instruction and no evidence that he understood any of the material presented to him.
The incident was captured on film in the an excellent documentary, “A Day’s Work,” which details the hazards – including death – facing workers in America’s growing “temp” industry.
Something similar happened to ACI workers who were also being hired as temps by an outside agency until 16 months ago. Things changed at ACI because workers asked the Longshore Union to help them organize a campaign to improve conditions. The effort included legal action to enforce living wage laws. Workers attended classes on their own time to learn about safety and rights on the job through trainings provided by the University of California’s Labor Occupational and Health Program. Help from the Coalition for Sustainable Recycling mobilized dozens of groups to support the effort, including Worksafe! Local churches, immigrant rights organizations and environmental groups contacted elected officials in the communities where ACI had recycling contracts.
ACI responded in a positive way to this growing pressure. The company dropped the temp agency and made the workers real employees. In October of 2014, ACI’s recycling workers formally voted to join ILWU. Instead of fighting the outcome, ACI management negotiated a fair agreement with a committee elected by workers.
The results have transformed pay and working conditions at ACI and lifted families out of poverty. Previous wages of $8 an hour will reach over $20 an hour by July 2019. Workers now earn sick pay, vacations, holidays and health insurance for their families. And safety has improved dramatically, thanks to an active health and safety committee that meets every three months – and includes a strong voice from workers.
The remarkable story of progress at ACI proves there is a clear path to reduce injuries on the job and prevent future tragedies: listen to workers; respect their right to organize; and support smart, effective labor-management cooperation.
The people who handle our recyclables ultimately work for us. So let’s treat them with the dignity and respect that they deserve.
–Gail Bateson & Barbara Rahke
Gail Bateson is executive director at WorkSafe, an Oakland-based group that supported ILWU recycling workers through the Sustainable Recycling Coalition. Barbara Rahke is executive director of PhilaPOSH and board chair of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health.
Regan Keo is a respected member of Local 19 who has worked on Seattle’s waterfront for decades. But his profile increased dramatically earlier this year when word spread that his son, Shiloh, was playing for the Denver Broncos and heading for Super Bowl 50.
“There was a lot of buzz and excitement from so many of us who were proud of Regan, his family and his son,” said Local 19 President Rich Austin, Jr.
27 years of coaching
While he’s invested decades on the docks, Regan’s true passion revolves around his devotion to coaching and mentoring young athletes.
“We’ve been coaching for 27 years now,” said Regan, who uses the word “we” intentionally to acknowledge the important role played by his wife and partner, Diana, who is an integral part of their successful and unique coaching effort. “We’re a team that does it all together,” he says, “I’m the offensive coach, and she’s the defensive coach.” The couple coaches football and softball – both fast and slow-pitch.
Philosophy of fun
The young people they mentor range in age from 7 to 14 and all of them receive the same message from Regan and Diana who believe that strong teams are built on a coaching philosophy that boils down to three words: “firm but fun!” The couple says that approach is one reason they always have an after-game BBQs for the players and their families – whether the team wins or loses. “We always try to have fun out there, and think of ourselves more as teachers than coaches,” adds Diana. “These kids are young and so open to ideas – they just sponge-up new concepts.”
One of the concepts they try to get across is respect for girls and women. The young men being taught by this veteran female defensive expert are getting more than just a novel coaching experience and valuable field strategy. The couple hopes to provide an example with lifetime impact. “We hope it teaches them to respect women and understand they can go beyond what they think is ‘normal,’,” says Regan.
Big family at home
In addition to teaching and mentoring dozens of children on the field each season, the Keo’s have kept busy over the years raising their family of seven children. Their kids all played sports at a young age, and one – Shiloh – showed some special talent at a very early age. “We both saw that he had something special when he was just seven years old,” said Regan. “We could see that he had a chance to go very far.” But the couple remained sober about what the future might hold, providing sound advice to Shiloh, their other children – and every child they’ve coached during the past 27 years.
“We’ve done this long enough to be able to tell kids that it will be hard, especially if you spend time away from your family – if you’re lucky enough to play at college,” says Regan. “We tell them to focus on their school work, and not just party – because very few of them will be able to make a living by being an athlete.”
Beating the odds
Because their son Shiloh showed remarkable speed and agility at a young age, his parents tried to prepare him for the trials and tribulations that face a promising pro athlete.
In Shilo’s case, his career began when his exceptional high school performance led to being recruited by the University of Idaho in 2006 where he made 72 tackles his freshman year and was voted MVP the next. After recovering from an injury in his junior year, he finished his senior year with another MVP award and set several college records.
Entering the NFL
Shiloh beat the odds facing most college players when he was drafted by the Houston Texans in 2011 where he made some key plays, became a team captain in 2012, and moved up to become starting safety in late 2013. Then an injury in 2014 caused him to be cut from the team. After recovering, he was signed by the Cincinnati Bengals in early 2015 – but then released later that same year.
Super Bowl bound
At the end of 2015, Denver signed Shiloh, who jumped into the last regular season game on January 3, making an interception that led to a winning touchdown. Then it was on to the AFC Championship against the Patriots on Jan 24 where he recovered an onside kick attempt by New England with 12 seconds remaining in the game, protecting Denver’s 20-18 win that sent the Broncos to Super Bowl 50.
Regan and Diana know that Shiloh still faces an uphill fight for job security in one of America’s most insecure and hazardous professions where the pay can be staggering, but most careers are shockingly brief – typically just over three years according to the Players Association union. And players also face the prospect of bankruptcy and financial ruin when they leave the game at a staggering rate of 78%, according to a recent Sports Illustrated study.
Dad remains his coach Shiloh ties to be reflective as he maneuvers his way through the obstacle course of professional sports. Many of the pros have to struggle on their own without support from two parents. Shiloh’s one of the lucky ones with a mother and father who continue to provide their son with rock solid support – something he recognizes and appreciates.
“He’s still my coach today,” says Shiloh about his father. “I come from a very big family. We have a lot of men in the family. We all grew up playing football. Everything I learned I started off learning from my family and learning from my dad.
“Once I was able to start playing, my dad was my coach until I got to high school, and it didn’t stop,” he said, explaining that the support continued when he moved away to college.
“I thought there would be no more dad coaching me. But it never stops. He’ll always be there for me, and he’ll always give me tips when he thinks I need some. He’s always there to support me. I can’t thank him enough.”
Life moves ahead
Regan Keo and his wife have no intention of ending the support for their son, the rest of their family – or the thousands of kids they’ve taught and mentored over nearly three decades.
“My longshore job was flexible enough to let us coach together all these years,” says Regan. “At some point, I’ll retire, but the coaching will continue, and we’ll keep helping these kids every second that they’re on the field, so we can help them go as far as possible in life.”
PUUNENE, Maui – At its peak, sugar was the number one industry in Hawaii with hundreds of thousands of acres under cultivation on Kauai, Oahu, Maui and Hawaii island.
By 2015, only Maui’s Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company (HC&S) remained of the industry once called “king,” and by the end of 2016 that last plantation will grind to a halt, ending commercialized sugar in the state.
Shut-down announced affecting 650 ILWU members
“The day began like any other day,” recalled Charles Andrion, a third-generation sugar worker at HC&S. “It was the first week of the year and the beginning of the off season, when repairs and refitting of equipment are done. It was business as usual, and hopes were high that the harvest season would start soon.” Just after noon, a company town hall meeting at 1:00 p.m. was announced. Under overcast skies,
HC&S workers were given a packet with a letter stating that the company would be phasing out of sugar after the current crop is harvested at the end of the year. The shutdown will affect more than 650 ILWU members.
Citing operating losses of $30 million in 2015 and a forecast of continued losses in the future, the company said that it will stop planting in early March, and as many as 90 field workers will lose their jobs. The rest of the workers will lose their jobs throughout the year as their specific responsibilities are completed.
Workers and their families face uncertainty
Andrion has worked as an Instrument Technician since he was accepted into HC&S’s apprenticeship program after graduating from college nine years ago. His grandfather was one of the sakadas who were recruited from the Philippines to work on the plantation in 1946. His grandparents and parents were able to provide for their families with the wages and benefits they received, which were negotiated by the ILWU. Andrion was stunned by the unforeseen announcement by Alexander & Baldwin (A&B), the parent company of HC&S.
During a family discussion at the dinner table the day before the announcement, Andrion’s four-year-old pre-schooler asked if they could sign her up for gymnastic class. “I told her yes, but after the announcement was made, we are not sure if we can afford the tuition,” said Andrion.
Disappointment in the decision to close
Esther Manibog’s father was also a sakada. He met the woman of his dreams who was working in the power plant and married her and put down roots in Maui. In 1986, Esther began working in the field like her father. After several years, she was accepted into the apprenticeship program and earned certifications to be an electrician. Manibog considered applying for jobs outside of HC&S but didn’t because the ILWU negotiated wages and benefits provided her enough to pay the mortgage and Manibog expressed her disappointment regarding A&B’s decision to shut down the operation. She described how the union—Local, Maui Division, and HC&S unit officers—mobilized her fellow HC&S workers and their families and worked hard to educate the community on the economic benefits and the jobs that HC&S provided.
“We provided testimony in opposition to the proposed reductions of water from East Maui because of the concerns over the economic impacts that the reduced water would have on the plantation and jobs, Esther said.
A lawsuit seeking to end all agricultural burning was filed by the “Stop Cane Burning group” against HC&S last July. “Through a coordinated effort, by the union, we gathered more than 6,000 signatures on a petition supporting the current Agricultural Burning Permit and delivered it to the Department of Health.” Manibog said, “Despite all these efforts, A&B made the decision to close.”
An Injury to One is an Injury to All
With the first layoff period fast approaching, the union again mobilized— this time to help the affected workers in transitioning into new jobs and to deal with the hardships that they will face. A survey was sent out to the workers immediately after the announcement was made. The survey allows the union to gather information on the affected worker’s needs so that the appropriate resources are provided by the company as well as federal, state and county governments. The workers also updated their contact information to ensure that the union can provide additional information or assistance when needed.
Two open house meetings were held at the ILWU Hall in Wailuku on January 15-16, 2016, to meet the workers face-to-face and to answer any questions that they may have. Assistance in completing the survey was available. English and Ilocano speaking members were on hand to make certain that everyone understood what services and programs are available to help them with the transition and layoff. Help will also be provided to laid-off workers applying for unemployment benefits.
Effects bargaining to begin
Because HC&S workers are covered by an ILWU contract, the company has a duty to bargain with the ILWU over the effects of the closure on workers. This is called effects bargaining.
Some of the issues that will be discussed are severance pay, payout of unused vacation and sick leave, seniority, retirement benefits, and medical and dental insurance. The union has asked to begin effects bargaining with HC&S as quickly as possible. “We will be working hard to assure that the workers receive the full benefit of their contract and what they are entitled to by federal and state law,” said ILWU President and negotiating committee spokesperson Donna Domingo.
Severance pay and medical coverage
Severance pay is usually based on the length of employment with a company and is not required by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). However, the ILWU negotiated contract with HC&S includes severance as a benefit and specifies that it will be paid out on the basis of nine days’ pay for each year of service for all eligible workers. No union dues are deducted from severance pay.
The union negotiating committee’s goal is to increase the severance benefit to help laid-off workers pay for housing and other expenses—a concern for many HC&S ILWU members. Mariano Oliveros, who emigrated from the Philippines seven years ago, got his first full-time job as a drip irrigation hookup and repair worker. “My family is living comfortably because the plantation provided me with a stable income. I’m in my fifties, too old to find another job easily. How am I going to pay for my medical coverage and mortgage without a job?” said Oliveros. Another area that the union negotiating committee will be working on is the severance payout timeframe.
Workers at other companies have waited up to 14 months after the closure to receive their severance pay. The union negotiating committee will do its best to insure that the severance is paid out in a timely manner.
The union negotiating committee will also be fighting to extend the period during which laid-off workers receive medical coverage. “I’m having a hard time sleeping because I’m worried about how I’m going to pay for my daughter’s and my medical,” said Manibog, with tears in her eyes.
An era ends, but the impact of sugar workers remain
Sugar plantations once stretched the length of the island chain—from Kekaha to Kau. Hundreds of thousands of workers and even family were brought to Hawaii from as far away as the Azores and Puerto Rico and China, Korea, Japan and the Philippines to work the fields. Plantation communities were the foundation of Hawaii’s multi-ethic culture and values.
In 1946, 30,000 sugar workers plus their families went on strike to begin a long battle for a better life. Their struggle—along with their fellow workers in other industries in the ILWU—reshaped Hawaii, building power for workers and their families and achieving a large measure of economic, social and political justice.
The era in which ILWU sugar workers shaped the history of Hawaii has passed, but the impact of sugar, its workers, and the workers’ union remains. “The workers should take pride in the fact that they did everything they could to keep HC&S going, and that they were able to rally their community in support of Hawaii’s last sugar plantation,” said ILWU Secretary-Treasurer Guy Fujimura.
“I see them as heroes of the ILWU.” Charles Andrion summed up his feelings on the bittersweet ending of HC&S. “It feels like my grandparents put the first cane stalk into the ground and I will be taking the last cane stalk out of the ground,” he said. “But we’ll find a way to move forward.”
The ILWU Canada Leadership Course held on February 14-19 at Harrison Hot Springs in British Columbia, was a tremendous success. Our class was bursting at the seams with 26 participants who attended from ILWU Canada Locals 502, 505, 508, 514, 517, Grain Workers Union Local 333 and the Retail Wholesale Union of British Columbia.
Participants were taught skills that included: working together as a team, public speaking, how to run a meeting, political action, how to challenge bullying and harassment, arbitrations, ethics and the function of a union.
Joining our local participants were special guest speakers that included: ILWU International President Bob McEllrath, International Secretary Treasurer Willie Adams, ILWU Canada President Emeritus Tom Dufresne, and Jim Sinclair, our past President of the British Columbia Federation of Labour.
I was personally happy to see three members from Grain Workers Union Local 333, a new local to ILWU Canada, being welcomed by everyone in a great showing of solidarity.
The expressions of solidarity that took place during the meetings and throughout the entire Leadership Course by the Brothers and Sisters made me proud to be a part of this great union.
Given the number and size of our last two training conferences,
ILWU Canada will consider holding two of these events in 2017, in order to accommodate the education needs of our members. Giving these Brothers and Sisters the skills they need to stand up and help lead our great union will ensure that our future will be a positive one.
2nd Vice President, ILWU Canada
Grand Rapids Police Intimidating, Threatening to Arrest Students, ATU 836 Transit Workers
The Rapid and city engaged in “Witch-Hunt” to silence students, workers
Grand Rapids Police Intimidating, Threatening to Arrest Students, Workers
The Rapid and city engaged in “Witch-Hunt” to silence students, workers
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Despite federal court rulings ordering The Rapid – the public transit system in Grand Rapids, MI – not to prohibit or interfere with the free speech rights of ATU Local 836 members working for the agency, Grand Rapids police are threatening to detain Grand Valley State students and workers for a peaceful sit-in at a January Rapid board meeting.
Last Friday, Grand Rapids police detectives went to the homes of students and workers, threatening them with charges of disturbing the peace for their participation in the January sit-in to protest the proposed fare increases, the termination of workers’ pensions, and stalled contract negotiations between ATU Local 836 and The Rapid. This all came on the heels of Mayor Rosalynn Bliss attending a march last week to honor the life and legacy of labor activist Cesar Chavez, famed for using civil disobedience tactics on behalf of farm workers abused by their employers.
“Mayor Bliss marches to honor famous labor protestor Cesar Chavez, and then days later tried to silence and intimidate student and worker activists, who used Chavez’s same tactics, by having the Grand Rapids police storm their homes,” says ATU International President Larry Hanley. “This is a witch-hunt by Rapid CEO Peter Varga and the City of Grand Rapids that knows no bounds. We will continue this fight for as long as it takes to protect the students, our riders, and the livelihoods of our Rapid workers.”
The Rapid’s aggressive effort to muzzle their workers now includes intimidating and silencing their community supporters. After the agency earned its first temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction from a federal court late last year, management threatened employees who engaged in peaceful protest on public streets with discipline and even possible criminal consequences. At the same time, management threatened to take legal action against workers for speaking during the public comment periods at The Rapid Board’s public meetings. These threats led the union to file a second motion for another preliminary injunction in October, which they also won.
Late in January, community activists led by United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) staged a fare strike, encouraging riders to refuse to pay their fares to protest threats against transit worker pensions, violations of the workers' First Amendment rights, a recent 16% fare hike, and a generous raise for the agency's CEO.
“I was surprised and scared that there was a Grand Rapids police detective at my door to question me,” says Grand Valley State junior Jen Knickerbocker “It’s very frightening to be told you are going to be charged with a crime for participating in a peaceful protest at a public meeting.
“It’s clear to me that the city and The Rapid will stop at nothing to silence anyone who stands in their way. The very fact that the mayor and The Rapid are using police officers as political operatives to intimidate members of the community should alarm everyone.” Knickerbocker says the detective also asked her about fellow students who also attended the sit-in.
Natalie Yoon, USAS Domestic Campaigns Coordinator added, "This attack on student and community voices is shocking and has sparked national outrage. Our national network of student labor activists will be supporting the students of Grand Valley State until all charges are dropped and the city of Grand Rapids respects the rights of the community to peacefully demonstrate their support for bus riders and drivers."
“Local 836 stands strong with these students and entire community of Grand Rapids,” says ATU Local 836 President RiChard Jackson, “We will continue to protest this attempt to rob riders and push our workers into the ranks of the working poor.”Tags: ATU 836repression Grand Rapids
Fired Chicago ATU 241 Bus Driver Erek Slater Speaks Out; CTA Approves Contract For Hundreds Of New Railcars
Fired Chicago ATU 241 Bus Driver Erek Slater Speaks Out; CTA Approves Contract For Hundreds Of New Railcars
Ellyn Fortino Wednesday March 9th, 2016, 2:53pm
Fired Chicago Bus Driver Speaks Out; CTA Approves Contract For Hundreds Of New Railcars
A former Chicago transit worker who claims he was "unjustly" terminated last month saw support Wednesday morning from some Chicago Teachers Union members and community groups, who want the fired bus driver rehired.
The group, including representatives from the Black Youth Project 100, spoke out before the Chicago Transit Board meeting.
Erek Slater, who previously worked as a Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) bus driver and claims to be a "union steward" and Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 241 executive board member, said he was "unjustly" fired last month.
According to the group, Slater was fired after initiating, as a union steward, "an inquiry into a possible violation of the contract" by the CTA "on the request of his coworker."
Slater's attorney, Nicholas Kreitman of Gainsberg Law P.C., spoke to the media. He alleges his client's firing was in retaliation for him being "an outspoken advocate for the Chicago Teachers Union and speaking up in favor of police accountability across the city of Chicago."
Specifically, Kreitman said Slater was "organizing bus drivers to support teachers for better schools" and "for better public transit." Slater was also "an outspoken advocate for accountability and for working families."
Kreitman said the group wants an "independent hearing" held into Slater's termination and is "demanding his immediate reinstatement."
"Erek's rights were violated when he was terminated for standing up for an employee as a union representative, and also his rights were violated under the labor law when he was told not to discuss the Chicago Teachers Union on CTA property," Kreitman claimed.
Kreitman said unfair labor practice charges have been filed with the state's labor board regarding Slater's case.
The CTA issued a statement to Progress Illinois.
"Because this group has not directly approached CTA with its concerns, we're not certain what the issues are," said CTA spokesman Stephen Mayberry. "However, the collective bargaining agreements we have with all our unions have clear, defined guidelines related to discipline. At every step of the disciplinary process, union employees have a chance to have input into the disciplinary process. Further, if discipline is given, the CBA allows employees to appeal their discipline."
Messages seeking comment were left with ATU Local 241.
Slater and his supporters expect to attend a community forum Wednesday evening, organized by the Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign and Chicago Jobs With Justice, about city and state budget-related issues. CTU President Karen Lewis is among those slated to attend the forum, scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Chicago Temple Building, 77 W. Washington St.
"Our state and city have manufactured budget crises. Politicians claim the state and city governments are broke but we know they're broke on purpose," reads an announcement for the event. "If they tax the rich, there is no crisis. We must demand they invest in our futures."
Check back with Progress Illinois for our coverage of the Wednesday night forum.
Railcar Contract Gets Approved
The Chicago Transit Board, meanwhile, approved a $1.3 billion contract on Wednesday for the biggest purchase of railcars in CTA's history. CSR Sifang America JV was picked to manufacture 846 new railcars. The new 7000-series railcars -- which will have a combination of forward-facing and aisle-facing seats -- will be assembled in Chicago. A South Side manufacturing facility for the railcars is expected to be built by the company at 135th Street and Torrence Avenue, generating a projected 169 jobs.
The new facility will become the first of its kind in 35 years, since the closure of the Pullman Car Works in 1981.
"With this agreement, CTA riders will get state-of-the-art rail cars and Chicago returns to our roots as the place where the next generation of rail cars are built, providing good jobs for our residents," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. "That is a classic win-win for Chicago."
At a press conference, Emanuel added that the project will provide commuters with "a quiet, safe and secure experience on a modern train built here in the city of Chicago."
CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. said the new railcars will result in the city having "one of the youngest fleets in the entire country."
The new 7000-series railcars, which will be financed by a combination of federal funds and a previous CTA bond issue, will allow the CTA to retire its oldest cars, including some that are over 30 years old.
As part of the 7000-series railcar project, CTA plans to buy an initial base order of 400 new railcars, "with options to purchase the remainder in coming years," the agency said in a news release.
Prototypes of the 7000-series are anticipated by 2019, according to CTA, and the agency expects to begin receiving cars to put into service by 2020.
Bottom Image: Chicago Transit AuthorityTags: Erek SlaterATU 241MTA