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Rail Workers Revolt against Driving Solo

Current News - Tue, 08/12/2014 - 22:40

Rail Workers Revolt against Driving Solo
http://labornotes.org/2014/08/rail-workers-revolt-against-driving-solo
August 12, 2014 / Alexandra Bradburyenlarge or shrink textlogin or register to comment
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Railroaders are racing to put the brakes on a secret deal between their union officers and Warren Buffett's railroad. It would allow huge freight trains to rumble through towns across the western U.S. with just an engineer onboard, no conductor. Photo: Spouses & Families Against One Man Crews.

“There’s a real rank-and-file rebellion going on right now,” says Jen Wallis, a Seattle switchman-conductor for Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway. “People who’ve never been involved in the union, never went to a union meeting, they are showing up and they’re joining Railroad Workers United in droves.

“People are saying, ‘We have to take action now to stop it. We can’t let our union officers do this to us.’”

What’s all the fuss? On July 16, thousands of railroaders abruptly learned their union officers had held secret negotiations with BNSF, one of the country’s biggest freight carriers, and reached a deal to allow single-person train crews: a safety disaster.

Ballots on the tentative agreement went out in early August, and are due back in early September. If the vote goes up, huge freight trains could rumble through towns across the western U.S. with just an engineer onboard, no conductor.

This would be a first on a major railway, and a foot in the door for the whole industry. BNSF is owned by Warren Buffett, one of the world’s richest people.

“Members had no clue this was even coming,” said John Paul Wright, a locomotive engineer working out of Louisville, Kentucky. “The membership is basically saying, “What in the hell is going on? We never thought our own union would sell us out.’”

Wright is co-chair of the cross-union, rank-and-file group Railroad Workers United, which has been campaigning against the looming threat of single-person crews for a decade. With just weeks to go, its members are suddenly busy sending out “vote no” stickers and appealing to local labor councils to pass resolutions backing two-person crews.

“We weren’t expecting it this soon,” says Robert Hill, a BNSF engineer in Spokane, Washington. “We were expecting it.”

Railroaders are seeking out RWU and a new Facebook group, “Spouses & Families Against One-Man Crews,” to get information and coordinate the push for a “No” vote. Much of the opposition is being led by railroaders’ family members.

Engineers and conductors are represented by separate unions. The conductors, members of SMART, are the ones voting on this contract.

“This vote will affect far more people than just the ones that vote on it,” said James Wallace, a BNSF conductor in Lincoln, Nebraska, and RWU co-chair, “because it is going to set a precedent for all freight railroads in the U.S., and potentially endanger the job of every conductor in this country.”

A Strike against One-Person Crews

Till now it seemed the front line of the single-person train crews fight was a smaller freight carrier, Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway.

A hundred members of BLET Local 292 struck against W&LE last September, shutting down its operations in Ohio and Pennsylvania, when the company tried imposing single-person trains unilaterally. A federal temporary restraining order sent them back to work.

“With just 16 hours notice, we had 100 percent compliance [with the strike call],” Local Chairman Lonnie Swigert said. “And when we are ‘released’ we will do it again if we have to.” Their bargaining remains deadlocked over the issue.

And a short-line carrier, Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, made headlines last summer when a runaway train carrying crude oil exploded in the town of Lac Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people—just months after it had begun operating with a single-person crew.

The single engineer wasn’t on board the train at the time of the disaster. He had parked on a steep grade for the night.

“The rail industry of course says there’s no evidence to show if they’d had a conductor the train wouldn’t have rolled away,” Kaminkow says. “But one can surely speculate that if he’d had the ability to sit in the cab while a trainman went back and did the brake air test…”

Federal Law or Rule?

In the outcry that followed, two Maine Congressmembers proposed a bill to require two-person crews on all freight trains, H.R. 3040. The bill hasn’t gotten much traction yet—but attention and online petition signatures for it have spiked since the BNSF deal came out.

And the Federal Railroad Administration is looking at making some kind of a rule requiring two-person crews on hazardous cargos like crude oil. (BNSF claims the new deal excludes these kinds of trains anyway, but there’s nothing to hold the carrier to that promise.)

Railroaders point out, though, that the dangers of one-person crews aren’t limited to explosive oil trains. The FRA rule might not cover the coal and grain trains that make up a lot of Buffett’s bread and butter.

DOWN TO TWO

At its 20th-century peak, railroad employment totaled 2 million. Today it’s 10 percent of that.

That’s not because the country is shipping less freight. On the contrary, says Ron Kaminkow, RWU’s general secretary and a working engineer in Nevada, “We’re moving more tonnage than ever before.”

But as feuding unions allowed new technologies to replace workers, rail freight crews dwindled from five to two. These days a train carries an engineer, who drives the train, and a conductor, who does everything else.

Here’s an incomplete list of those activities: hopping off to throw the switch that moves the train to another track; adding and removing cars; updating the list of which cars have hazardous materials in them (crucial for first responders in case of a wreck); problem-solving if a busted air hose or some other mechanical problem stops the train; and conferring with the engineer about hazards, approaching speed restrictions, and pedestrian or road crossings coming up.

Crucially, the conductor also helps make sure the engineer is still awake and alert. If that sounds like it shouldn’t be necessary, consider how freight railroaders are generally scheduled: on 12-hour shifts and on-call 24/7, with no predictable schedule.

“Sometimes you’re up 48 hours at a time, with maybe five hours of sleep,” says Wallis. “There have been times we’re both hallucinating at 3 o’clock in the morning, trying to keep each other awake.”

The conductor may also be teaching the engineer details of the complex job. “It takes about two years to really learn what you’re doing,” Wallis said. “It’s this classroom in the cab. It’s scary, you could have two people in the cab with six months’ experience between them. But at least there’s two of them.”

And the conductor is on hand in case the engineer has, say, a heart attack while at the helm of a 15,000-ton train. As SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich pointed out in a memo opposing the BNSF deal, “No one would permit an airliner to fly with just one pilot, even though they can fly themselves.”

A SAFETY DISASTER

The proposed pact would pull conductors off the trains, replacing several with a single “master conductor” who’d drive around in a van, on-call for radio dispatch to any train that might need assistance.

How many trains would one conductor cover? Four, eight? There’s no limit—like much else in the deal, it’s left to the carrier’s discretion.

It’s not hard to spot the risks in this plan. Freight tracks cross remote territory. The train might get stopped where there’s no road for miles and miles. It could take the conductor a long time to arrive. And the engineer loses a second pair of eyes to help prevent accidents.

Part of the excuse for single-person crews is the coming of yet another new technology, positive train control, which Congress is mandating the rail carriers all adopt by 2015. This automated system will track trains’ speed and position, and apply the brakes in certain situations.

Railroaders call this tech advance a good thing—but as an additional boost to safety, not something you’d want to rely on to replace a human. “The railroad unions have been asking for PTC to be implemented as a safety overlay, not in place of a crew member,” Wright says.

Even as companies have been lobbying to delay PTC because of its cost, they’ve also been eyeing it as an opportunity to cut labor costs.

They will save billions of dollars if they can implement one-person crews, says Kaminkow. “So for the occasional pedestrian who gets run over or car that gets hit, the railroad is willing to roll the dice.”

WORKING ALONE

“I haven’t come across a single engineer who is for this at all,” says Wallace. “They would rather have someone there to keep them alert, to job-brief as situations change—and somebody just to keep them company.

“We will often spend 12 or more hours on a train every day. At times when we’re busy, we spend up to 70 hours a week on the train.

“It’s going to be a large portion of engineers’ lives they’re going to be spending alone.” (For more on how working alone hurts solidarity, see this article).

However, engineers aren’t voting on this deal. Conductors are, and the deal has sweeteners in it for them—a signing bonus, higher pay for the lucky few who become “master conductors,” and the promise of buyouts or layoffs with full pay.

But most, especially newer conductors, won’t see those perks. Instead, they’re likely slated to become engineers, whether that’s their plan or not.

Though the unions are separate, most engineers are drawn from conductors’ ranks. You can volunteer to go to engineer school, but you can also be forced into it, from the bottom of the seniority list, if more engineers are needed.

“Probably a lot of these conductors won’t ever work under this contract,” Wallace said. “They’ll end up as engineers, working alone in a cab by themselves.”

‘THE CRAFT WAR’

The secret pact is controversial even among leaders of SMART. But division leaders responsible for the contract are pushing it hard.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, a Teamsters division, represents most engineers. Both SMART and the BLET formally oppose one-person crews, though they haven’t exactly presented a strong united front.

The rivalry between the unions—and a fatalistic sense that the change is inevitable—have fueled a series of backstabbing deals. As crews dwindled, the rail unions mainly battled over who would represent the remaining workers.

“While the unions had been on and off paying lip service to the idea of a two-person crew and intolerance for single-person crews, they’ve also been hedging their bets, saying ‘Meanwhile we’re going to cut whatever deal we need to make sure if there’s going to be a last man standing, by God, it’s going to be us,’” sighs Kaminkow.

“We call it the craft war. I’d much rather fight the class war.”

Environmental Alliance

As it happens, the same week the union held its meeting in Seattle, climate change activists locked themselves down to the railroad tracks in nearby Anacortes, blocking a BNSF oil train for hours. They were protesting the proposal to build a big crude-oil-by-rail terminal at the Port of Vancouver.

Wallis, with deep roots in both worlds, is working hard to build a bridge between railroaders and environmentalists. They clearly have a common enemy in Buffett, who “controls an entire supply chain of oil and gas being shipped out of the U.S. for pennies on the dollar and burned in China and India,” she points out.

There’s suspicion on both sides—viewed one way, “it looks like they’re trying to take our jobs,” Wallis says. “But that’s not true. I think we can have both, jobs and the environment.”

A pair of activist projects just getting underway, Solutionary Rail and the Buffett Legacy Campaign, will push for green jobs, including high-speed passenger rail.

RAUCOUS MEETINGS

SMART leaders immediately launched a PR tour, taking a PowerPoint presentation on the road to promote the deal.

“A lot of the presentation and the campaign to get this is focused on fear,” Wallace said. “There’s a lot of fear that if we don’t accept this contract it’ll just be a lot worse down the road, that we won’t have any bargaining power to negotiate anything better.”

Among their first stops was Seattle, where they met with raucous opposition. “Once I found out about it I immediately created a Facebook event for the meeting, and invited everyone I know,” Wallis said.

That meant not just railroaders but also teachers, Teamsters, guitar players, environmentalists. After all, “one-person crews are not just dangerous for workers, but for the environment and the communities we live in,” she said.

Other railroaders, too, see the writing on the wall for them if this deal goes through. “I had four Union Pacific guys show up at my picket line,” Wallis said. And since that night, “We’re getting emails every day from all over the country saying ‘We saw what you did. How do we do that?’”

The next night’s meeting in Spokane brought out 60 angry railroaders and their families. “A lot of people were in disbelief,” reports Hill. The touring officers started the PowerPoint, but “the president of Local 426 told them to shut it off, we weren’t interested in looking at their propaganda. We wanted to start asking questions.”

When the officers’ answers to their questions about contract specifics were “a lot of could or should or possibly,” Hill said, “it turned a little hostile… Everybody started getting pretty fired up.

“A lot of [members] were accusing [the officers] of taking buyouts, payouts. A lot of our leaders are close to retirement.”

A second Spokane meeting, planned for the next morning, was canceled.

And in Creston, Iowa, opponents of the deal aren’t waiting till the August 25 meeting—they’re holding rallies twice a day, all month.

Click here to hear engineer John Paul Wright sing "The One-Man Train Blues."

- See more at: http://labornotes.org/2014/08/rail-workers-revolt-against-driving-solo#s...

Categories: Labor News

Grain Inspections resume at United Grain; ILWU longshore union prepares for ratification vote

Current News - Tue, 08/12/2014 - 21:01

Grain Inspections resume at United Grain; ILWU longshore union prepares for ratification vote
http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2014/08/inspections_resume_...

Picketers at the Columbia Grain terminal in February.

By Mike Francis

Neither the longshore union nor the three grain-handling companies who operate in the Portland area will talk publicly about the tentative contract they agreed to late Monday night. Nobody wants to affect the outcome of the union's ratification vote, which will be announced Aug. 25.
But at the grain terminal hardest hit by the contract impasse and subsequent lockout, grain was again being loaded onto ships Tuesday afternoon for delivery to offshore buyers.

"We have a ship loading at the dock" at the United Grain terminal in Vancouver, said Pat McCormick, the spokesman for United Grain,Columbia Grain and Louis Dreyfus Commodities grain terminals. He said United "is behind" schedule for August shipments, but expects to catch up.

Key to resuming work was the return of grain inspectors from the Washington Department of Agriculture. The inspectors, who must certify most shipments for export, said late last month they would no longer cross the longshore union's picket line at United Grain, citing safety concerns.

"Inspectors are prepared to report today to the port, resuming the inspections that allow the flow of grain to resume," said Bud Hover, director of the Washington Agriculture Department, in a statement Tuesday morning.

Grain shipments were not disrupted at terminals operated by Columbia Grain or Louis Dreyfus Commodities.

A spokesperson for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union said the union wouldn't comment on the contract until the members of five local unions vote on it. Jennifer Sargent said "reduced picket lines" will continue at United Grain and Columbia Grain this month while members vote. She said the contract, if ratified, would cover roughly 174-200 workers at four Northwest grain terminals.

If the locals ratify the agreement, longshore workers will return to the grain handling jobs that have been performed for about 18 months by grain company employees and non-union, temporary workers [i.e. scabs-mm]. Following ratification, the temporary workers would be released and the company employees would return to their non-grain-handling duties.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee greeted news of a tentative agreement as "outstanding." And the federal mediator overseeing talks between the companies and the longshore union called the tentative agreement "an amazing achievement."

Tags: ilwuNorth West GrainReduced Picket LInes
Categories: Labor News

IWW Starbucks Workers Union Releases Critical Report on Starbucks

IWW - Tue, 08/12/2014 - 15:55

By the IWW Starbucks Workers Union

Company Enriches Shareholders While Maintaining Inadequate Working Conditions

NEW YORK, NY - The Industrial Workers of the World, Starbucks Workers Union released a report today, “Low Wages and Grande Profits at Starbucks” with an analysis of company performance over the last decade. The report describes how Starbucks has dramatically improved profitability at the company since the Great Recession of 2008-2009, and that the company has enriched shareholders at the expense of its nearly 200,000 workers.

read more

Categories: Unions

Tentative Agreement for Northwest Grain

ILWU - Tue, 08/12/2014 - 13:59

A tentative agreement for a new contract covering grain terminals in the Pacific Northwest was reached on August 11, by a negotiating committee representing five ILWU local unions: Local 4 in Vancouver, Local 8 in Portland, Local 19 in Seattle, and Local 21 in Longview and Local 92 in Portland. The membership of each local will review the tentative agreement and vote according to their internal rules, with results to be announced August 25. Terms of the agreement will not be made public until members have a chance to review and vote on the tentative agreement which covers Mitsui-United Grain (UGC) in Vancouver, Marubeni-Columbia Grain in Portland, and Louis Dreyfus in Portland and Seattle.  Reduced picket lines will remain at Mitsui-UGC and at Marubeni-Columbia Grain while members vote on the agreement.

 

Categories: Unions

FMCS Statement on Tentative Agreement Between the ILWU and Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers

ILWU - Tue, 08/12/2014 - 10:59

From the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Scot L. Beckenbaugh, Acting Director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS), issued the following statement today on a tentative agreement reached just prior to midnight (PST) last evening between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and Pacific Northwest Grain Companies.

“After engaging in difficult and contentious bargaining for over two years, including multiple marathon mediation sessions held under the auspices of the FMCS, the announcement of the tentative agreement, subject to the ratification of ILWU membership, represents an amazing achievement of a potentially positive outcome in a labor dispute that has gained national attention.

“The ILWU, with its recommendation, will submit the tentative agreement to its members for ratification.

“The FMCS commends both labor and management representatives for their successful negotiation and for their commitment and dedication to the process of collective bargaining. Clearly the parties maintained strongly held competing views on the many issues that divided them during this process. In the end they found a way, in the time-honored tradition of the collective bargaining process, to reach mutually agreeable solutions that will allow the employees and the employers to move forward in their relationship. Equally important to our nation, is the knowledge that this tentative agreement, subject to the approval of affected ILWU membership, represents the opportunity to ensure that grain exports important to the U.S. economy and the world will proceed without disruption for years to come.

“These were difficult and contentious negotiations to be certain. I am grateful for the professionalism and cooperation the parties exhibited in mediation process during which they were able to reach what they believe will be acceptable and mutually beneficial solutions to the issues which have separated them for so long. I especially commend the leadership demonstrated by the representatives of ILWU and the representatives of the Grain Handlers. Though fierce in their representation of their respective positions, they never lost sight of their responsibility to reach a mutually acceptable solution.

“On a personal note, I want to commend the extraordinary efforts of FMCS Director of Mediation Services, Beth Schindler and FMCS Commissioner Gary Hattal who provided mediation assistance to the parties during some of the most difficult times in the negotiations process.”

Out of respect for the ratification process and consistent with the Agency’s longstanding policy on confidentiality, FMCS will neither comment on nor disclose the terms of the agreement.

# # #

The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, created in 1947, is an independent U.S. government agency whose mission is to preserve and promote labor-management peace and cooperation. Headquartered in Washington, DC, with 10 district offices and 67 field offices, the agency provides mediation and conflict resolution services to industry, government agencies and communities.

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Contact: John Arnold, Director, Office of Public Affairs
Web site: www.fmcs.gov
Phone: (202) 606-8100

Categories: Unions

Tentative deal in Northwest grain terminal dispute with ILWU

Current News - Tue, 08/12/2014 - 10:19

Tentative deal in Northwest grain terminal dispute with ILWU
http://news.yahoo.com/tentative-deal-northwest-grain-terminal-154152368....
Tentative deal in Northwest grain terminal dispute
Federal mediator announces tentative deal in long running Northwest grain terminal dispute
By Steven Dubois, Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service announced a tentative agreement in the contentious two-year labor dispute at Northwest grain terminals.

The agency in Washington, D.C., says the agreement was reached just before midnight Monday in talks between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Northwest grain companies.

The agency says the union will recommend the agreement to its members for ratification.

If approved, the agreement should ensure that U.S. grain exports will proceed without disruption as harvest approaches.

An ILWU spokeswoman did not immediately return a message seeking comment. Pat McCormick, a spokesman for the grain companies, said he needed to be briefed on the deal before making a statement.

More than a quarter of all U.S. grain exports move through nine grain terminals on the Columbia River and Puget Sound. The contract dispute initially involved six of those terminals that operate under a single collective bargaining agreement with the ILWU: United Grain, based in Vancouver, Washington; Columbia Grain, based in Portland; Louis Dreyfus Commodities, which has grain elevators in Portland and Seattle; and Temco, which has elevators in Portland and Tacoma, Washington.

Temco broke away from the alliance in early December 2012 and negotiated separately with the union.

United Grain, which has the largest storage capacity of any West Coast grain export facility, imposed a lockout in February 2013 after saying a worker represented by the ILWU sabotaged company equipment. Columbia Grain Inc. followed suit with a lockout that began in May 2013.

The agreement comes shortly after U.S. Department of Agriculture grain inspectors refused to walk past picket lines into the United Grain terminal.

The action was taken shortly after state grain inspectors stopped entering the terminal, because of picketing longshoremen.

Federal law requires inspections for grain exports, so the refusal to cross the picket line crippled shipments from that terminal and put pressure on the owner to reach a deal.

The two-year labor dispute was primarily about workplace rules, not money. The grain companies said throughout that they are at a competitive disadvantage because the longshoremen at their terminals had more favorable rules than those in the Washington cities of Kalama and Longview.

What was agreed to late Monday has not been divulged. Early contract offers from the grain handlers would have taken away some perks and grievance procedures. Other concessions include letting employers go to court to end work stoppages immediately and allowing supervisors to perform work during health-and-safety disputes.

Tags: ilwuGrain tradeLockout
Categories: Labor News

David Cockroft makes his goodbyes

ITF - Tue, 08/12/2014 - 03:08
David Cockroft, who joined the ITF in 1985 and first served as its general secretary in 1993, received a standing ovation as he made his goodbye speech to the organisation at its 43rd congress in Sofia yesterday.
Categories: Union Federations

Louisville Take Back Our Union Meeting Slideshow

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Mon, 08/11/2014 - 14:20
 (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));Post by Paul Trujillo.
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Take Back Our Union!

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Mon, 08/11/2014 - 13:49

August 11, 2014: Over 200 Teamsters turned out on August 9 in Louisville, Kentucky and Dayton, Ohio to hear Fred Zuckerman, Sandy Pope, Tim Sylvester and Tony Jones talk about the growing coalition to take back our union in 2016. 

The meetings were sponsored by Take Back Our Union.

The Dayton meeting drew Teamsters from Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Akron, Columbus and Lima, Ohio, as well as Dayton, and a few who made the trip from Indianapolis.

A packed hall in Louisville showed their agreement with the speakers that our union is going in the wrong direction and it’s time for a change. Members from Local 89 were the largest contingent but there were also Teamsters attending from Atlanta Local 728, Chattanooga Local 519, Paducah, Kentucky Local 236, Owensboro, Kentucky Local 215 and a carload from Columbus, Ohio Local 413.

Each speaker spoke to aspects of what it will take to win: a grassroots mobilization, getting delegates elected at the local level, member-to-member contact and info distribution, fundraising, organizing ongoing campaign committees, local meetings, and so much more.

Sandy Pope, the president of New York Local 805, ran for General President in 2011 and has a long record of experience and service to our union. Fred Zuckerman, president Louisville Local 89, was an outspoken critic of concessions in the recent UPS contract.  Tony Jones is the president of Columbus Local 413; he and Zuckerman ran for International vice president in 2011. Tim Sylvester is the president of New York Local 804, where he and an active membership won the best UPS contract supplement in the country.

Click here to view a slideshow of photos from the Louisville meeting.

Categories: Labor News, Unions

Australia Adelaide bus drivers vote for industrial action, refuse to collect fares from next Tuesday on South Link and Transfield

Current News - Mon, 08/11/2014 - 11:46

Australia Adelaide bus drivers vote for industrial action, refuse to collect fares from next Tuesday on South Link and Transfield
http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/adelaide-bus-drivers-...
• DAVID NANKERVIS
• THE ADVERTISER
• JANUARY 21, 2014 6:00PM

Passengers board a bus bound for the city. Passengers on two of Adelaide's three bus services will ride for free from next Tuesday after drivers voted to strike.
ADELAIDE bus passengers will ride for free from next week after drivers voted for industrial action in support of claims for higher wages and better working conditions.

Transport Workers Union members voted "resoundingly'' in favour of specific action, which can include refusing to collect fares, overtime bans and rolling 24-hour strikes.

The union's first action involves its members refusing to collect fares indefinitely from Tuesday next week as it seeks public support and to put financial pressure on two of Adelaide's three bus companies , which carry the majority of passengers.

SA Branch secretary Ray Wyatt has not ruled out future strikes.

But he said "in recognition'' of outstanding public support drivers will not strike over the Australia Day Long weekend.

"We would like to thank the travelling public of SA and as of Tuesday there will be non-collection of fares or validating of tickets indefinitely,'' he said.

This action will be taken on the services provided by bus companies South Link and Transfield Services, which account for about two thirds of the network.

Mr Wyatt expects up to 15,000 passengers a day will travel free as a result of the planned action at a daily cost of around $100,000 in unpaid fares.

Union members, representing about two thirds of drivers, are concerned about a recent spate of violence against them , fatigue caused by work rosters and a lower wage rise offer than sought. Drivers wanted a 5 per cent pay increase but had been offered just 2.8 per cent by South Link and Transfield Services.

Transport Services Minister Chloe Fox said the State Government is not directly involved in negotiations "due to the privatisation of the bus contracts by the previous Liberal Government''.

"However, the Government has been talking regularly with the TWU and the two companies to ensure negotiations continue in good faith,'' she said.

The TWU sent about 600 members a ballot paper just before Christmas, seeking endorsement for industrial action.

The paper asked members to recommend specific industrial action, including refusing to collect fares, overtime bans and rolling 24-hour strikes.

More: Police to target buses, interchanges after bashings

Voting closed this afternoon and the union must give three days' notice to Adelaide's three bus companies before taking action.

At least 50 per cent of drivers must vote in favour for industrial action to go ahead.

A TWU survey last year showed 27 per cent of bus drivers had witnessed a passenger being assaulted and more than one in 10 drivers said they'd been bashed on the job.

The union said work rosters causing driver fatigue were a safety issue for its members and other road users.

TWU senior SA organiser Ian Gonsalves said no public transport bus company was in breach of fatigue laws over rosters but they were in need of change.

"Some companies do a maximum four hours and 50 minutes driving in the first portion of their shift, have up to 70 minutes break and then do another four hours and fifty minutes driving,'' he said.

Tags: Transport Workers Union
Categories: Labor News

Take Back Our Union in Louisvile

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Mon, 08/11/2014 - 10:25
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Categories: Labor News, Unions

The Trucking Industry Needs More Drivers. Maybe It Needs to Pay More.

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Mon, 08/11/2014 - 06:57
Neil IrwinNew York TimesAugust 11, 2014View the original piece

Swift Transportation’s 20,000 workers haul goods in almost 14,000 big-rig trucks that travel the interstates and back roads of the United States every day. The company’s performance is closely tied to the nation’s economy, which has been looking increasingly sunny lately.

So it was surprising last month when Swift’s stock plummeted nearly 18 percent in a single day. The tumble came for an odd reason. It wasn’t because there was too little business — but rather, too much.

“We were constrained by the challenging driver market,” the company said in its quarterly earnings announcement. “Our driver turnover and unseated truck count were higher than anticipated.”

In other words, Swift had plenty of customers wanting to ship goods. But in a time of elevated unemployment, it somehow couldn’t find enough drivers to take those goods from Point A to Point B. How is that possible? The reasons for that conundrum tell us a great deal about what has been ailing American workers and why a full-throated economic recovery has been so slow in coming.

Consider this: The American Trucking Associations has estimated that there was a shortage of 30,000 qualified drivers earlier this year, a number on track to rise to 200,000 over the next decade. Trucking companies are turning down business for want of workers.

Yet the idea that there is a huge shortage of truck drivers flies in the face of a jobless rate of more than 6 percent, not to mention Economics 101. The most basic of economic theories would suggest that when supply isn’t enough to meet demand, it’s because the price — in this case, truckers’ wages — is too low. Raise wages, and an ample supply of workers should follow.

But corporate America has become so parsimonious about paying workers outside the executive suite that meaningful wage increases may seem an unacceptable affront. In this environment, it may be easier to say “There is a shortage of skilled workers” than “We aren’t paying our workers enough,” even if, in economic terms, those come down to the same thing.

The numbers are revealing: Even as trucking companies and their trade association bemoan the driver shortage, truckers — or as the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls them, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers — were paid 6 percent less, on average, in 2013 than a decade earlier, adjusted for inflation. It takes a peculiar form of logic to cut pay steadily and then be shocked that fewer people want to do the job.

Millions of able-bodied Americans need work, yet there aren’t enough middle-income jobs for them. That is especially the case for men without advanced educations, who have seen their wages depressed over the last few decades. Trucking would seem to be an excellent option.

It’s not an ideal job for everyone. There is no question that trucking is hard work, necessitating long hours and longer stretches away from family. But that’s why it is well compensated, at least in comparison to other jobs not requiring college degrees. The average pay for a long-haul trucker is just shy of $50,000, according to the A.T.A., and an experienced trucker with a good safety record can make significantly more than that. The work typically offers lavish benefits that are increasingly rare for nonunion blue-collar employees.

The job can be learned fairly quickly. In some industries, companies complain of shortages of workers for jobs that require years of advanced training, like certain engineering specialties. Trucking is not one of those industries, however.

A person can get a commercial driver’s license after a course that can be as brief as six weeks of intensive study. Moreover, there were actually fewer truckers working last year (1.585 million) than five years earlier (1.673 million). Some of the missing workers could presumably be coaxed back into the industry if the money were right.

To be sure, the trucker-shortage picture is more complex than this, notes Bob Costello, the A.T.A.’s chief economist. He says these complications make a straightforward story of truckers simply being underpaid not quite fair.

For example, new safety requirements mean that individual truckers drive fewer miles than a decade ago: An average long-haul truck can now cover 8,000 miles a month, down from almost 11,000 in 2007, according to the trade association. This helps account for downward wage pressure. And the trucking companies themselves are typically working on thin profit margins and serving customers on long-term contracts, which means that if they simply raised pay sharply to recruit more truckers, they could end up losing money.

But every industry has its special challenges, and the trucker shortage — and falling inflation-adjusted wages over the last decade — are part of a bigger story.

The reasons are the subject of endless debate, and you can pick the one you prefer to emphasize: technological change, globalization or a decline of union power. But wages of workers without advanced skills have been under downward pressure in the United States and across the developed world over the last generation. The deep recession and slow recovery have only made the trend more pronounced.

That has led to a mind-set in which executives sometimes think of line workers as merely resources to be tapped at the lowest price. Companies have been able to keep wages low: It’s hard to demand a raise when your colleagues are being laid off or there is a long line of job seekers. Some corporations may have come to view this as a natural state of affairs.

By now, wage income is as low a percentage of gross domestic product as it has been since 1947, while corporate profits are at postwar highs. These are two sides of the same coin. Money that once accrued to workers now goes to shareholders.

Yet there are some indications that this state of affairs may not last: The shortage of truckers is one piece of evidence that the balance of power is shifting. In recent earnings calls, executives from companies as varied as JetBlue and the Dr Pepper Snapple Group have expressed worry about rising wage pressures.

The trucker shortage is already resulting in higher wages in parts of that industry. There have been $2,000 signing bonuses from companies looking to poach truckers and, as Kevin P. Knight of Knight Transportation mentioned in that trucking company’s latest earnings call, per-mile pay increases have been working out to 5 to 10 percent jumps in driver pay.

Executives may bemoan higher pay for workers because it could cut profit margins. But after a generation in which the median American household has seen flat to declining inflation-adjusted income, wage increases are a welcome corrective. When workers begin to have more leverage in salary negotiations, it is a sign of an improving economy, not a liability that businesses should be complaining about.

Categories: Labor News, Unions

Rash of Canadian National Railway Derailments

Railroaded's Blog - Sun, 08/10/2014 - 22:56

Seven cars of a 105-car Canadian National Railway train derailed and overturned on a main line August 1, 2014 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (Times-Picayune and other sources). One derailed car was full of difluoromethane residue which is a refrigerant and a dangerous product. (Railway companies erroneously consider a tank car with residue as “empty”, whereas such a tank car can actually contain up to 2,000 gallons of dangerous product.) Two of the derailed cars carried lube oil, one car carried fiber board and three cars were full of plastic pellets that spilled onto the tracks. The derailment shut down local traffic. Local Haz-Mat crews, state Department of Environmental Quality and Louisiana State Police investigated the derailment.

A Via Rail passenger train struck a derailed Canadian National Railway train August 1, 2014 just east of Gananoque, Ontario (Wall Street Journal and other sources). Six cars of a 120-car CN train had derailed on the main line, one car carrying lube oil and five empty lumber cars. The Via train hit one of the derailed lumber cars, puncturing the Via locomotive’s fuel tank and spilling an undisclosed amount of fuel. One of the 300 Via Rail passengers was injured. Via cancelled all trains August 1 between Toronto and Ottawa and between Toronto and Montreal.

Also on August 1, 16 Canadian National Railway cars carrying grain derailed near Lacombe, Alberta (Global News). One road had to be closed due to the derailment and the main track was closed for at least a day.

Two CN cars carrying lumber fell off the tracks in the Edson CN rail yards July 26, 2014 (Edson Leader). There were two other CN derailments in the same yard during the previous few weeks, with no details available. Jim Feeny, CN Public Affairs spokesperson, said derailments are not uncommon and are often not reported by Canadian National Railway. The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada has expressed concern in the past about CN not reporting derailments.

On July 25, 2014, a CN train rammed into a logging truck at an uncontrolled crossing west of Burns Lake, British Columbia, knocking 22 train cars and two locomotives off the track (CTV News). An undisclosed amount of diesel fuel was spilled.

Meanwhile, a family is living in tents near Plaster Rock, New Brunswick, claiming that Canadian National Railway ruined their home during the major derailment January 7, 2014 of 19 CN cars and a locomotive (CBC News). Resulting fires burned for four days. About 150 people were forced to evacuate within a 2-kilometre radius of the fires. Five rail cars were loaded with crude oil and four were full of propane. The Levesque family claim the repair work to their home, paid for by CN, has left their house worse than before the repair work due to poor craftsmanship. The Levesques had obtained a quote of about $160,000 to repair the damage due to the derailment, whereas CN offered only $2,500.

See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for additional examples of CN derailments.


Filed under: Canadian National Railway, Derailment, Jim Feeny, Via Rail
Categories: Labor News

Global: From Global Crisis to Global Justice

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 08/10/2014 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITF Global Union
Categories: Labor News

Baltimore Jimmy John's Workers Announce IWW Membership, Present Demands to Management

IWW - Sun, 08/10/2014 - 12:06

BALTIMORE, MD - Workers at Jimmy Johns have announced their membership in the IWW Jimmy John's Workers Union and have asked management to recognize their union and negotiate. This decision was prompted by the actions of Mike Gillett and Danny Dolch, owners of the Jimmy Johns franchise, who have targeted workers for their desire to have a more fair workplace.

Workers and supporters leafleted the Pratt Street location and presented demands this morning, declaring their membership in the IWW Jimmy Johns Workers Union.

The demands of the IWW Jimmy Johns Workers Union include union recognition and wage parity with their landlord hotel, the Hilton. Wage parity would bring Driver's wages to $10.75 an hour, In-shop wages to $11.34 an hour, and Persons In Charge wages to $12.34 an hour. They are also demanding that wage parity with the Hilton be maintained.

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Categories: Unions

United Grain argues with feds about whether inspectors can safely pass pickets

Current News - Sat, 08/09/2014 - 17:01

United Grain argues with feds about whether inspectors can safely pass pickets
http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2014/08/united_grain_argues...

A picketer confronts a person passing through United Grain's gate at the Port of Vancouver in February, on the one-year anniversary of the union lockout. (Beth Nakamura / The Oregonian)
PrintBy Mike Francis | mfrancis@oregonian.com

on August 07, 2014 at 3:51 PM, updated August 08, 2014 at 12:08 PM

United Grain insists it can provide safe passage for government inspectors to enter its terminal at the Port of Vancouver. But the government doesn't seem to be buying it.

At stake, United Grain says, is nothing less than the stability of the food supply chain, which a spokesman said is already being disrupted by the slowdown in shipments.

United Grain is one of the local grain handlers negotiating intermittently with members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union over a contract for workers at the terminal. The company has locked out members of the union, who have set up pickets outside United Grain's gate.

In the meantime, as United seeks to pass grain through its terminal, inspectors are refusing to cross the picket line, citing safety concerns. And if grain shipments aren't inspected, they cannot be officially certified, which effectively halts sales to buyers or countries that require certification.

Pat McCormick, a spokesman for United Grain and the other grain handling companies said United Grain had received waivers of inspection for about 18 percent of the grain shipments scheduled for August, but other shipments are imperiled.

Now letters are flying back and forth between United Grain and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has declined to step into the void left when the Washington Department of Agriculture stopped sending inspectors to United's facility.

An Aug. 7 letter from U.S. Agriculture Department administrator Larry Mitchell to United Grain vice president John Todd lists reasons why federal grain inspectors will not enter the facility via helicopter, water taxi, bus or under escort from private security, concluding that inspections won't resume because of "the current safety situation at the Port of Vancouver."

Mitchell cites reports of multiple small clashes between union members and United Grain employees and state inspectors, ranging from a throat-slashing gesture with a knife to the throwing of gravel at an inspector's car. He calls the picketers' actions "unpredictable."

Mitchell said the federal agency is conducting a thorough review of safety conditions at the site and expects to finish it within days.

Also on Thursday, two key members of the House of Representatives wrote to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, urging him to immediately return grain inspectors to the United Grain terminal. Ag Committee Chairman Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and Rep. K. Michael Conaway, R-Tex., told Vilsack their staff members had spoken to USDA officials who told them "there are no security concerns that would prevent USDA grain inspectors from entering or exiting the facility."

ILWU spokesperson Jennifer Sargent acknowledged the slowdown has diminished grain exports at the United Grain terminal, but said other facilities in the Northwest have sufficient capacity to handle the volume United can't ship.

McCormick said negotiators for the grain handlers and the union extended last week's talks from two days to four, and will meet again Sunday for two days.

Update: Read the Mitchell letter: 0807-John Todd.pdf

-Mike Francis

Tags: ilwuUnited Grain
Categories: Labor News

The Trucking Industry Needs More Drivers. Maybe It Needs to Pay More.

Current News - Sat, 08/09/2014 - 13:43

The Trucking Industry Needs More Drivers. Maybe It Needs to Pay More.
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/10/upshot/the-trucking-industry-needs-mor...
AUG. 9, 2014
Neil Irwin

Swift Transportation’s 20,000 workers haul goods in almost 14,000 big-rig trucks that travel the interstates and back roads of the United States every day. The company’s performance is closely tied to the nation’s economy, which has been looking increasingly sunny lately.

So it was surprising last month when Swift’s stock plummeted nearly 18 percent in a single day. The tumble came for an odd reason. It wasn’t because there was too little business — but rather, too much.

“We were constrained by the challenging driver market,” the company said in its quarterly earnings announcement. “Our driver turnover and unseated truck count were higher than anticipated.”

In other words, Swift had plenty of customers wanting to ship goods. But in a time of elevated unemployment, it somehow couldn’t find enough drivers to take those goods from Point A to Point B. How is that possible? The reasons for that conundrum tell us a great deal about what has been ailing American workers and why a full-throated economic recovery has been so slow in coming.

Continue reading the main story
Trucker Pay Has Fallen When Adjusted for Inflation
The industry complains of shortages of truck drivers, but in real terms tractor-trailer drivers made less in 2013 than they did a decade earlier.

Average annual pay, heavy and tractor–tailer truck drivers, in 2013 dollars
$43k
42k
41k
40k
$40.94k
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Inflation adjustment uses consumer price index. Average annual pay data from May of each year.
Consider this: The American Trucking Associations has estimated that there was a shortage of 30,000 qualified drivers earlier this year, a number on track to rise to 200,000 over the next decade. Trucking companies are turning down business for want of workers.

Yet the idea that there is a huge shortage of truck drivers flies in the face of a jobless rate of more than 6 percent, not to mention Economics 101. The most basic of economic theories would suggest that when supply isn’t enough to meet demand, it’s because the price — in this case, truckers’ wages — is too low. Raise wages, and an ample supply of workers should follow.

But corporate America has become so parsimonious about paying workers outside the executive suite that meaningful wage increases may seem an unacceptable affront. In this environment, it may be easier to say “There is a shortage of skilled workers” than “We aren’t paying our workers enough,” even if, in economic terms, those come down to the same thing.

The numbers are revealing: Even as trucking companies and their trade association bemoan the driver shortage, truckers — or as the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls them, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers — were paid 6 percent less, on average, in 2013 than a decade earlier, adjusted for inflation. It takes a peculiar form of logic to cut pay steadily and then be shocked that fewer people want to do the job.

Millions of able-bodied Americans need work, yet there aren’t enough middle-income jobs for them. That is especially the case for men without advanced educations, who have seen their wages depressed over the last few decades. Trucking would seem to be an excellent option.

It’s not an ideal job for everyone. There is no question that trucking is hard work, necessitating long hours and longer stretches away from family. But that’s why it is well compensated, at least in comparison to other jobs not requiring college degrees. The average pay for a long-haul trucker is just shy of $50,000, according to the A.T.A., and an experienced trucker with a good safety record can make significantly more than that. The work typically offers lavish benefits that are increasingly rare for nonunion blue-collar employees.

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
The job can be learned fairly quickly. In some industries, companies complain of shortages of workers for jobs that require years of advanced training, like certain engineering specialties. Trucking is not one of those industries, however.

A person can get a commercial driver’s license after a course that can be as brief as six weeks of intensive study. Moreover, there were actually fewer truckers working last year (1.585 million) than five years earlier (1.673 million). Some of the missing workers could presumably be coaxed back into the industry if the money were right.

Photo

Long-haul tractor-trailers parked outside Baltimore. While the trucking industry complains of too few qualified drivers, wages for those behind the wheel have fallen 6 percent, when accounting for inflation, over the past decade. CreditJ.M. Eddins Jr. for The New York Times
To be sure, the trucker-shortage picture is more complex than this, notes Bob Costello, the A.T.A.’s chief economist. He says these complications make a straightforward story of truckers simply being underpaid not quite fair.

For example, new safety requirements mean that individual truckers drive fewer miles than a decade ago: An average long-haul truck can now cover 8,000 miles a month, down from almost 11,000 in 2007, according to the trade association. This helps account for downward wage pressure. And the trucking companies themselves are typically working on thin profit margins and serving customers on long-term contracts, which means that if they simply raised pay sharply to recruit more truckers, they could end up losing money.
But every industry has its special challenges, and the trucker shortage — and falling inflation-adjusted wages over the last decade — are part of a bigger story.

The reasons are the subject of endless debate, and you can pick the one you prefer to emphasize: technological change, globalization or a decline of union power. But wages of workers without advanced skills have been under downward pressure in the United States and across the developed world over the last generation. The deep recession and slow recovery have only made the trend more pronounced.

That has led to a mind-set in which executives sometimes think of line workers as merely resources to be tapped at the lowest price. Companies have been able to keep wages low: It’s hard to demand a raise when your colleagues are being laid off or there is a long line of job seekers. Some corporations may have come to view this as a natural state of affairs.

By now, wage income is as low a percentage of gross domestic product as it has been since 1947, while corporate profits are at postwar highs. These are two sides of the same coin. Money that once accrued to workers now goes to shareholders.

Yet there are some indications that this state of affairs may not last: The shortage of truckers is one piece of evidence that the balance of power is shifting. In recent earnings calls, executives from companies as varied as JetBlue and the Dr Pepper Snapple Group have expressed worry about rising wage pressures.

The trucker shortage is already resulting in higher wages in parts of that industry. There have been $2,000 signing bonuses from companies looking to poach truckers and, as Kevin P. Knight of Knight Transportationmentioned in that trucking company’s latest earnings call, per-mile pay increases have been working out to 5 to 10 percent jumps in driver pay.

Executives may bemoan higher pay for workers because it could cut profit margins. But after a generation in which the median American household has seen flat to declining inflation-adjusted income, wage increases are a welcome corrective. When workers begin to have more leverage in salary negotiations, it is a sign of an improving economy, not a liability that businesses should be complaining about.

The Upshot provides news, analysis and graphics about politics, policy and everyday life: nytimes.com/upshot.

Tags: Truckers
Categories: Labor News

Lend a hand to Jimmy Johns workers!

IWW - Sat, 08/09/2014 - 08:42

Today, workers at a Jimmy Johns franchise in Baltimore, Maryland are going public with their union - the IWW Jimmy Johns Workers Union! They will be conducting a job action today in order to win tip jars for in-shop workers. Lets give their action a little more oomph and show the bosses that we union members stick together! The store is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (EST), so lets keep the phones ringing all day if you can call in multiple times. If you only have time to make one or two calls, focus your calls during the lunch rush (11-2) and right before the Orioles games (3-4 p.m.). A couple of ground rules: no threatening, try to avoid profanity, and most importantly call often!

Here are the numbers to call:

Pratt Street store: 410-685-3377

Mike Gillett (owner): 410-404-5684

Erik (Pratt st GM): 443-925-9153

And here is what you should say (feel free to add more though!)

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Categories: Unions

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