October 7, 2014: A review of the IBT’s financial report – or the $150,000 Club Report posted on this website – shows that an International Organizer made a salary of $250,000 last year. Could this possibly be true?
Some members have asked that question, and the answer is No, it’s not true. But that’s what’s reported on the IBT financial report.
Former Teamster organizer Tim Lewis was fired by the Hoffa administration in 2010. He went to court against his unlawful termination and the IBT had to pay over $1 million to Lewis and his attorney’s fees and costs.
That was paid from members’ treasury, not by the officials who did the deed.
Apparently, the International union was still paying for this fiasco in 2013 and chose to list Lewis as an “employee” on the 2013 LM-2 financial report, three years after he was terminated.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) listed Lewis in our report, to conform with data on the LM-2 form filed by the IBT with the Department of Labor. But no, he was not an organizer in 2013 and certainly was not paid an annual salary of $250,000.Issues: Hoffa Watch
Former ILWU Research Director Barry Silverman died on August 18, 2014, at the age of 74 due to complications from a brain seizure. His wife, Carolyn his two children, Joshua Silverman and Kerry Fiero were by his side.
Silverman was hired by former Inter-national President Harry Bridges in 1965 to serve as the ILWU’s Research Director. He continued in that position under International President Jim Herman, also serving as chief of staff. He provided sup-port for longshore and warehouse negotiating committees on the West Coast and in Hawaii, with a particular expertise on health and welfare and pension issues. He assisted in many arbitrations and wrote the grant that established the longshore safety program. During the 1970’s and early 80’s, he taught collective bargaining courses at San Francisco City College, and enjoyed passing his skills to students.
Silverman’s career at the ILWU was cut short in 1988 following a cerebral hemorrhage, but he remained active after retirement – serving as an outspoken member of the Alameda County Grand Jury in 1995-1996, and traveling and camping with his wife. He was an avid walker, and was known as the “mayor of the track” at the Rev. Martin Luther King Intermediate School in Berkeley.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Silver-man attended Fairfax High School, then joined the Army Reserve, and headed to Berkeley where he graduated UC and earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration in 1965. He participated in the Free Speech Movement and stayed involved in political issues, participating in rallies and protests over three decades – spending a few days behind bars for his efforts. After graduating, he married Wende Shoemaker with whom he built a family and had two children, Joshua and Kerry. Later in life Silverman was re-married to Carolyn Corbelli, with whom he spent the last 26 years.
In addition to his love for politics and the union, Silverman was passion-ate about baseball, boxing, jazz, the out-doors, and horse racing. He sometimes joked that Harry Bridges – who was also passionate about horse racing – had hired Silverman more for his handicap-ping skills than expertise in labor relations. But above all he earned a solid reputation for his research and negotiating skills, and was admired for his straight-forward, direct and warm demeanor.
Silverman’s memorial was held on September 13, 2014 in Berkeley, attended by his family and friends, including many ILWU members and staff. He is survived by his wife, Carolyn Corbelli, former wife Wende Shoemaker, brother Richard Silverman, son Joshua Silverman, daughter Kerry Fiero, son-in-law Gian Fiero and grandson Gianardo Fiero.
After his 12-hour shifts at an Amazon warehouse in Las Vegas, Jesse Busk says, he and 200 other workers typically waited in line for 25 minutes to undergo a security check to see whether they had stolen any goods.
Upset that the temp agency that employed him refused to pay workers for that time, Mr. Busk sued. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about this hotly contested issue.
Click here to read more at The New York Times.Issues: Labor Movement
Working on the Railroad and a Song
Kentucky State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan needed more volunteers to help make phone calls, canvass neighborhoods and hand out leaflets on behalf of union-endorsed candidates.
So he dispatched out an “All hands on deck!” email to labor activists statewide. When Louisville labor troubadour and composer J.P. Wright got the cyber message, he grabbed a pencil and his guitar and wrote a song.
OK, he came up with new words to the old union classic, "Which Side Are You On?" He titled his version, “United We Stand and Divided We Fall, ‘All Hands on Deck!’ Is the Union's Battle Call!”
"It's sort of an old folk tradition—keep the melody and update the words," says David Nickell, a sociology professor at West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah and a member of AFT Local 1360.
Wright is a locomotive engineer with CSX Railroad and a member of Louisville Local 78 of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), which is part of the Teamsters’ Rail Conference. He’s also a national organizer with Railroad Workers United and belongs to the old Industrial Workers of the World and Kentucky Jobs with Justice.
A Falls City native who hails from a union family, Wright has written and performed several union songs. Most of them reflect his railroad and union backgrounds. "Railroad music is the thread in the quilt that is Americana,” Wright says.
More of his songs can be heard online at Railroadmusic.org.
German train drivers vote to strike
By Ulrich Rippert 6 October 2014
Last Thursday, the train drivers union GDL announced that 91 percent of its members had voted to take unlimited strike action.
Following several warning strikes at the beginning of September, the industrial dispute at Deutsche Bahn (DB) has reached a new stage. Last week, the GDL declared that negotiations had broken down. They are demanding a 5 percent wage increase and a reduction in the working week by two hours. In the future, the union wants to represent conductors, onboard catering staff, apprentices, and dispatchers, as well as drivers. These occupational groups were solely represented by the Rail and Transport Union (EVG) as part of a so-called “foundation contract” that expired at the end of June.
At the same time, the industrial dispute by Lufthansa pilots is also intensifying. Despite several warning strikes, Lufthansa is in conflict with the pilots’ union Cockpit (VC), which is defending the existing early retirement system.
The demands of the train drivers and pilots are completely justified. For several years, workers in these transport concerns have faced unrelenting attacks. Deutsche Bahn cut its workforce from 350,000 to 190,000 between 2002 and 2012, leading to constant overtime working. Rail employees worked almost 8 million hours of overtime last year.
However, the industrial disputes on the rail and in the air involve far more than just wage rises, pension security, and a reduction in working times.
In close collaboration with the employers’ associations and the German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB), the government is preparing a massive attack on the right to strike. At the core of this strategy is a new law on so-called “unified contract negotiations”, under which only the union with the majority of members in an enterprise would retain the right to negotiate. This would give the monopoly of power to those unions belonging to the DGB, pulling the rug from under smaller unions like the GDL, Cockpit, UFO (air traffic controllers), and the Marburger Bund (doctors).
Given that the DGB and its affiliated unions collaborate closely with the employers and government, this means the de facto abolition of the right to strike. Industrial action by workers who reject the co-management policies of the DGB unions would then be illegal.
This breaches the constitutionally enshrined right to strike. Nevertheless, Labour Minister Andreas Nahle (SPD, Social Democratic Party) intends to present a law on unified contract negotiations in just a few weeks. She is working closely with DGB leader Reiner Hoffmann. As demanded by the employers’ associations and the DGB, the new law proposes that in future, only the union with majority representation will be able to negotiate contracts.
In the present dispute, the state-owned Deutsche Bahn is attempting to set an example. The DB supervisory board includes senior civil servants and EVG chairman Alexander Kirchner and his deputy Klaus Dieter Hommel. The company is insisting that the GDL already recognise “contract unity” and conclude a cooperation agreement with the EVG, which would be tantamount to subordinating its independence to the DGB union.
The EVG is the successor to the unions Transnet and GdED, and has collaborated with DB in pushing through massive job cuts in previous years. It supports the rail employers in the industrial dispute with the GDL.
In an interview last week with the Süddeutsche Zeitung, GDL leader Claus Weselsky said the strike had been deliberately provoked by management. He added, “Moreover, this was at the same time as the pilots [dispute] at Lufthansa”. In five rounds of negotiations, DB has refused to recognise the demands of the GDL, let alone negotiate.
Everyone can see what is being done here, Weselsky said. “These two occupational groups are to provide the justification for the planned, but disputed, law on contract unity—with which occupational unions are to be forced to submit to the contract negotiated by the larger sectoral unions”.
One day before the announcement of the strike ballot, DB lead negotiator Werner Bayreuther attacked GDL leader Weselsky in an “open letter”, which was also provided to the media. In it, the former judge and business consultant raises serious accusations against Weselsky, accusing him of aggravating the situation and now finding himself “in a dead end”.
Bayreuther said that Weslesky had no interest in conducting genuine negotiations. Instead, he was conducting a struggle against Deutsche Bahn and the EVG in order to win more members among the workforce. “It is not acceptable that the train drivers put the cart before the horse in our business, to force the expansion [in members] they have sought for years inside the company”, writes Beyreuther.
He concludes with a “last offer”, which can only be described as a provocation. Under the terms of this, negotiations would be suspended until the new law on “contractual unity” is ready, and the supreme court had decided against the already announced legal complaints. “For the duration of this moratorium”—foreseeably several years—the train drivers would receive a monthly supplement of 2 percent.
Faced with this situation, it is clear that the DB management is acting in close concert with the government, and that a strike by drivers and conductors would mean a confrontation with the government.
The DB management, government, and DGB want to force the train drivers to prostrate themselves in order to limit the right to strike, and push through a new round of massive attacks on wages, social benefits, and working conditions for all workers. They have already brought the media on board, who agitated against the strikers during their recent protest actions. They will not hesitate to go to the courts in order to have the strike banned and to criminalise strikers.
To fight against this, a political programme is necessary that goes far beyond the limited conceptions of the GDL. From the start, train drivers must seek to mobilise support in all other sections of the working class that confront very similar problems. Growing privatisation and global competition are increasing exploitation, not only in air and rail transport, but are leading to harsher attacks in all other industries and services.
The train drivers must organise their strike as the beginning of a broad political movement against the government. This calls for a political programme that opposes the logic of capitalist profit and advocates a socialist perspective and an international strategy.
The strike must not be subordinated to the limited national perspective of the GDL as an occupational union. It was already clear in earlier industrial disputes that the GDL is not prepared to conduct a consistent struggle against Deutsche Bahn and the government that stands behind it. In March 2008, the union broke off a months-long strike because its extension would have led to a confrontation with the government.
The GDL is part of the German Civil Servant Association (DBB), and the union’s chairman, Claus Weselsky, is not only a DBB executive member, but also belongs to the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Weselsky and the GDL, like Cockpit, act as if a national union can defend the interests of workers in the age of global crisis if only it is more militant and less corrupt.
But this is an illusion. In reality, the struggle to defend workers’ rights and achievements immediately poses the question of political perspective. And here, the occupational unions agree with the DGB unions, despite all their conflicts. Both accept the capitalist profit system.
Weselsky has taken care not to damage the German economy. During the protest strikes at the beginning of September he rejected taking any joint strike action with Lufthansa and French pilots who were on strike. He said at the time, “We occupational unions act responsibly concerning our right to strike. We are taking care to ensure that through discussions there are no parallel strikes”.
In France as well, the pilots union brutally strangled the strike at precisely the moment other sections of the working class signalled their support and it could have become the launch point for a mobilisation against the Hollande government.
The train drivers and conductors’ readiness to fight is very welcome. But this poses the urgency of establishing the political and organisational independence of the working class on the basis of an international socialist programme.
Global: UN Intellectual Property Agency WIPO Fires Staff Union Head Following Exposure of Dubious Management Practices
ILWU International President Robert McEllrath and International Secretary Treasurer Willie Adams joined San Francisco Port Director Monique Moyer and a host of other officials on September 25 to dedicate the new James R. Herman Cruise Ship Terminal.
The $100 million state-of-the art facility has already hosted several Princess cruise ships this fall, with 80 vessels expected next year, carrying 300,000 passengers. The terminal was named for former ILWU International President and Port Commissioner, James R. “Jimmy” Herman.
McEllrath and Adams both praised Herman for his courage, commitment to working class values and advocacy for San Francisco’s maritime industry. A special interactive video sculpture was included inside the terminal to educate visitors about Jimmy Herman, the ILWU and working class struggles along San Francisco’s seven-mile waterfront. Donations to pay for the exhibit were led
by a $100,000 contribution from the Coast Longshore Caucus, accompanied by donations from various Locals, Pensioners, Auxiliaries, individuals and the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU).
A fundraising breakfast will be held on October 9th at the Delancey Street Restaurant – operated by the Delancey Street Foundation drug and alcohol recovery program which was supported by Herman. An event dedicating the interactive exhibit is tentatively scheduled for November. To contribute, call Local 34 President Sean Farley at 415-362-8852.
Concerned about safety, California to inspect railroad bridges for first time
By Tony Bizjak
Published: Monday, Oct. 6, 2014 - 12:00 am
For more than a century, California has relied on assurances from railroad companies that thousands of rail bridges across the state, from spindly trestles in remote canyons to iron workhorses in urban areas, are safe and well-maintained to handle heavy freight traffic.
That era of trust is over. Concerned about the growing number of trains traversing the state filled with crude oil and other hazardous materials, the California Public Utilities Commission is launching its first railroad bridge inspection program this fall. Federal officials say it will be the first state-run review of privately owned rail bridges in the country.
The goal, the PUC says, is to end what a recent report called the “dearth of information on the structural integrity of California’s railroad bridges.” Almost all train bridges in the state are owned and maintained by private railroads. Federal rules require railroads to inspect those bridges annually.
One of those private bridges, the 103-year-old I Street Bridge in downtown Sacramento, sits in the heart of a heavily populated area, straddles an important public waterway, and also carries thousands of cars daily. Another, the dramatic Clear Creek Trestle in the Feather River Canyon, carries trains through remote, rugged terrain where the risk of derailment is relatively high. Both bridges are expected to be conduits for increased hazardous material shipments.
“I don’t mean to criticize the railroads’ programs, but for the public to have the confidence that bridges are in good shape, our role is to offer oversight,” said PUC Rail Safety Deputy Director Paul King. “Given the heightened risk of one of these crude oil trains derailing and given the projections of a significant increase in tonnage across these bridges, we need to fulfill this role.”
It will be a limited program, however. The PUC, which is responsible for assuring safe rail systems in California, is hiring two bridge inspectors this fall for the massive task of verifying the integrity of an estimated 5,000 bridges statewide. Those inspectors are expected to conduct visual inspections at bridges and to audit railroad companies’ inspection and maintenance programs.
They are among seven new rail safety division inspectors being hired from funds allocated this summer by Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration and state legislators. The funding is a direct result of growing fears at the state Capitol and in cities along the rail lines about the potential for derailments and explosions as more crude oil trains begin rolling through the state. A crude oil train explosion last year in Canada killed 47 people.
The other new hires will be used to bolster existing utilities commission teams of track, equipment and train inspectors. Track and rail car inspections are one of the few regulatory functions states are allowed in dealing with railroads, working in conjunction with the Federal Railroad Administration, which maintains regulatory control over rail operations nationally.
The launch of a bridge inspection program comes amid ongoing criticism of the PUC after a catastrophic 2010 gas line explosion in San Bruno in which eight people were killed and 38 homes destroyed. Critics say the PUC wasn’t adequately overseeing Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s pipeline maintenance and inspection efforts. The National Transportation Safety Board cited “CPUC’s failure to detect the inadequacies of PG&E’s pipeline integrity management program.”
Mindy Spatt of The Utility Reform Network, a consumer advocacy group and PUC watchdog, said she is not familiar with the rail bridge inspection program, but that the commission needs to be proactive and independent to protect the public.
“We would hope one thing the PUC has learned is its job is not to trust utility companies, but to oversee them,” Spatt said. “When the PUC doesn’t do its job, there can be really disastrous results.”
Bridge failures are rare, safety officials say, but consequences are potentially huge. The largest chemical spill in California history, in Dunsmuir in 1991, involved a train derailment on the curving Cantara Loop bridge that poisoned more than 40 miles of the Sacramento River. The bridge structure did not fail, but it has since undergone major modifications to reduce chances of another derailment.
The PUC bridge inspection program faces a notable upfront challenge. The commission does not yet have a comprehensive list of railroad bridges in the state, and may struggle to come up with one that includes detailed design specifications and load capacities on all bridges. PUC officials are negotiating with Union Pacific and BNSF railroads to gain access to their in-house bridge inventories.
To help fill out its inventory, the PUC said it may resort to Google searches, including tapping an amateur bridge fan website, www.bridgehunter.com.
The two bridge inspectors likely will work as a team. PUC officials calculate that the two of them can view two bridges a day, two days a week. The other three days will be for travel and report writing. “At a rate of 98 bridges per year, it would take approximately 50 years to complete inspections,” the PUC said in a report last month on its bridge review plans.
Those numbers are “intimidating,” but the job is not as improbable as it seems, King said. The PUC inspectors, like federal bridge inspectors, will serve largely in a safety review role, making sure the railroad companies are doing their jobs. Although they will visit bridges and look them over, they will not have the time or equipment to conduct full, detailed inspections.
“This is an oversight situation,” King said. “We are looking at the railroads’ inspection program, trying to verify it. Our inspectors’ role is to do spot checks. We may find that we need more inspectors. It is hard to tell at this point. We are plowing new ground.”
For their part, Union Pacific and BNSF, the state’s two major railroads, say they spend substantial time and money making sure bridges are in good shape. Union Pacific said it has six full-time, two-person crews supported by more than 50 bridge maintenance employees in California.
“Safety is just as important to Union Pacific as it is to anyone,” the railroad said in an email. “Our hope is that the CPUC continues to recognize and support this important element of our safe and efficient freight transportation efforts.”
BNSF officials say they inspect their 1,100 railway bridges in California two or three times a year, more than required by the Federal Railroad Administration, as well as after major events such as earthquakes and storms.
“BNSF is committed to ensuring that we operate on a safe and reliable rail network and therefore invests millions of operating and capital dollars annually into routine and major rehabilitation, repair, and upgrading of railway bridges and structures in California,” BNSF spokeswoman Lena Kent said in an email.
The PUC plans to come up with a priority list by year’s end of 30 key bridges for initial visits next year. This list will include bridges that have the highest probability of failure based on age, materials, design, traffic and other risk factors, such as proximity to an earthquake fault. The PUC will merge that list with an analysis of which bridges have the highest potential for negative outcomes if they fail. Those may include bridges used frequently by trains carrying hazardous materials, as well as bridges near schools, hospitals and population centers.
The calculation also will include bridges that cross sensitive waterways, such as the Feather, American and Sacramento rivers that carry drinking water for Northern California.
PUC officials say they hope to have inspectors looking at the first 10 to 15 bridges in the first half of 2015. The rest in the priority group would be inspected by the end of 2015.
A Federal Railroad Administration official said his agency welcomes California’s decision to inspect bridges.
“California already has the largest involvement in our safety program and we welcome the addition of more state assistance,” said spokesman Michael Booth. “It’s what we call a force multiplier.”
Call The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.Tags: railroadsbridgessafety
Facebook’s Shuttle Bus Drivers Seek to Unionize With Teamsters
By STEVEN GREENHOUSEOCT. 5, 2014
A Teamsters official said the union was first seeking to unionize Facebook drivers, and then hoped to organize drivers for Google, Apple and other Silicon Valley companies.
Jim Wilson/The New York Times
They shuttle highly paid Facebook employees to and from the company’s headquarters in Silicon Valley, yet many say their pay is so low that they can’t afford to live in the area. Moreover, many complain that they start work around 6 a.m. and do not finish until 9 p.m., 15 hours later.
Now, some of these shuttle bus drivers, who get Facebook employees to work, are seeking representation by the Teamsters union. And, in a move to help make that happen, the union has written to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, asking him to intervene on the drivers’ behalf.
In a letter sent on Thursday, the top Teamsters official for Northern California urged Mr. Zuckerberg to press Facebook’s shuttle bus contractor to agree to bargain with the union on behalf of the 40 drivers who ferry Facebook employees to work.
“While your employees earn extraordinary wages and are able to live and enjoy life in some of the most exclusive neighborhoods in the Bay Area, these drivers can’t afford to support a family, send their children to school, or, least of all, afford to even dream of buying a house anywhere near where they work,” the Teamsters official, Rome Aloise, said
Mr. Aloise added: “It is reminiscent of a time when noblemen were driven around in their coaches by their servants. Frankly, little has changed; except the noblemen are your employees, and the servants are the bus drivers who carry them back and forth each day.”
Mr. Aloise said the Teamsters were first seeking to unionize Facebook drivers, and then hoped to organize drivers for Google, Apple and other Silicon Valley companies.
“You have to start someplace,” Mr. Aloise said by telephone. “We hope there will be a domino effect. If we get Facebook and a decent contract, others will follow.”
Cliff Doi, 55, a Facebook bus driver, said the biggest problem was not the pay, but a grueling split-shift schedule. He starts work at 6:10 a.m., shuttling Facebook workers from Mountain View, Calif., to the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park. He finishes his morning shift at 11:10 a.m., he said, and resumes work at 5:15 p.m., to shuttle Facebook employees home, with that shift ending at 9:45.
He said that like many drivers, he lives far enough away that the prospect of driving home for a few hours before turning around and driving back to work is not appealing.
Many drivers try to nap in their cars during their break, covering the car windows with a blanket. Some hang out in Facebook’s cafeteria.
“I’d like to have a union come in and see if they can negotiate something about this six-hour split, so it would be more comfortable for the drivers in some way,” said Mr. Doi, who earns $20.80 an hour. “Maybe the union could come up with some creative way to help with the schedule.”
Facebook declined to comment, although one company official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Facebook had signed a contract with the bus company for a certain amount of money, and that it was the bus company that set drivers’ wages and schedules.
Jeff Leonoudakis, president of Facebook’s shuttle bus contractor, Loop Transportation, said many Facebook drivers earned $18 to $20 an hour.
“We believe that we take really good care of our drivers,” Mr. Leonoudakis said. “They’re the heart of our company. Without them, we can’t provide service to our customers.”
He also said Loop provided a generous medical and dental insurance plan.
“We pay overtime, which most of our competitors do not pay,” Mr. Leonoudakis added, noting that the company provided vacations, sick leave and holiday pay.
“In keeping with the fact that we provide this high level of wages and benefits to our drivers, I don’t think the union is necessary in this case,” he said.
Mr. Leonoudakis acknowledged that the split shifts were a strain for drivers.
“The split shift is a necessity — that’s what our customers are asking for,” he said. “We are trying to make the conditions as pleasant and comfortable as we can.”
He added, “I don’t have an answer for” the split-shift problem. “I don’t think anyone in the industry does.”
Some drivers have suggested an expensive solution: that the bus companies keep two sets of drivers, giving full-time pay for the part-time morning shift and the same for the evening shift.
Mr. Leonoudakis said his company has set up a lounge for the drivers with reclining chairs and a big-screen TV at the Loop bus parking lot that Mr. Doi uses. He said the company was putting in bunk beds.
That lounge is in a trailer, Mr. Doi said, adding that he had not seen any bunk beds and that the reclining chairs were less than ideal for napping.
Jimmy Maerina, 54, another Facebook driver, said the split shifts have made his life miserable. He said he leaves home at 5 each morning and returns at 9 at night.
“You spend 16 hours a day — no time for family, no time for the kids,” Mr. Maerina said. “When I leave home in the morning, my kids are sleeping, and when I get home at 9, they’re done with their homework.”
Mr. Maerina, who earns $18 an hour and was out temporarily with an injury, said his 51-passenger bus had been attacked by San Francisco residents who resent highly paid high-tech workers pushing up rents and gentrifying neighborhoods, forcing out some longtime residents. “It’s very hard for me to make ends meet,” he added. “Housing costs are crazy in the Bay Area.”
In recent months, labor groups have complained that Silicon Valley companies use outside contractors that provide far worse pay and benefits than the high-tech companies provide to their direct employees.
Responding to such pressures, Google has said it planned to hire more than 200 security guards as its own employees, instead of getting them through a contractor — a move expected to lead to better wages and benefits for the guards.
The Teamsters say a majority of the Facebook drivers have signed cards saying they want Teamsters Local 853 to represent them. Mr. Aloise said the Teamsters were pressing Loop Transportation to grant union recognition based on those cards, but added that if the company refused, the union would seek an election to show that a majority favored joining the Teamsters.
On September 29th Insomnia Cookies fired union organizer Colin James for his union activity under the guise of company theft. Colin has been a model employee without a single write-up and has been organizing at Insomnia Cookies for over 6 months.
This is the same union busting tactic this company used late last year, firing union organizer Tommy Mendez in Nov. of 2013. (http://openmediaboston.org/content/another-worker-fired-insomnia-cookies-unionization-effort-boston-location-picketed-2784).
[This article originally appeared in the May 2006 edition of the Dispatcher. It was written by Arne Auvinen, President of the Pacific Coast Pensioners from 2003-2006. He passed away on July 31st of this year and was honored at 47th annual PCPA convention held this September in Vancouver, BC. We reprint this excellent article on the PCPA written by Arne to honor his legacy and dedication to the ILWU even in retirement and the important work he did for the PCPA.--Eds]
In a monumental negotiations breakthrough, the first ILWU pension checks were passed out to retiring ILWU longshoremen, clerks and foreman in July 1952 at special meetings held up and down the Coast.
Soon after retiring, these pensioners began to organize into clubs in the various areas of the West Coast. In the beginning a main purpose of the pension clubs was to provide a place and an opportunity for ILWU retirees and their wives to visit and keep alive the satisfying work and fraternal relationships going back many years. Before long most pension clubs to face up to and take action on senior and labor problems and issues of direct concern to their clubs and the locals from which they retired. They found out they needed their pension clubs to represent them in maintaining and improving their living standards under the contract and Social Security. Realizing that strength was in their numbers, in 1968 ILWU pensioners took the next step, forming the Pacific Coast Pensioners Association.
The original driving force in organizing the PCPA was Leo Miller, Local 63 Wilmington Marine Clerks. He received help from Locals 13 and 24 in raising money and encouragement. The criteria for a coastwise organizing meeting were: 1) find a location half the distance between Bellingham, Wash. And San Diego Calif.; 2) stay away from the seaports; 3) have parking for RVs and hotel accommodations.
After investigating various sites from Red Bluff, Calif. to Medfore, Ore., Miller recommended Anderson, Calif. The call was sent to all pension groups to hold an organizing convention Sept. 16, 17 and 18, 1968. The delegates assembled at the organizing convention and came without compensation, instruction, or constitution, but with enthusiasm and the will do something, not only for themselves, but for all pensioners.
Miller favored a loose organization, with just a coordinator and an Executive Board. The northern delegates wanted to elect a President, Vice President, Secretary and Executive Board, with a constitution to be written and presented to the 1969 convention.
They resolved their difference and Bill Lawrence, Local 13, was elected President; Mike Sickinger, Local 8, Treasurer; Rosco Craycraft, Local 19, Secretary of the Executive Board and Brother Leo Miller to serve as coordinator until the 1969 convention.
The purpose of all this was to have a fraternal organization of ILWU pensioners that would give them unity, direction and purpose. Through their association they would have a voice to speak for them at both the union and the national level. They believed that a fraternal adjunct to the ILWU would be of considerable value.
The pensioners and wives who gathered at the first convention were all veterans of the 1934 strike. They had all been together through the struggles of the 30s and 40s and knew there was no such thing as a free lunch. They understood that in order to maintain their benefits they had to support the ILWU as they did when they were working.
In the beginning most pensioners and their spouses believed in the PCPA, but attitudes changed in pensioners retiring after the 1960s. When they retired, they failed to participate or even join the PCPA. The ILWU still needs the support of all pensioners, spouses and widows. Out of 8,700 eligible retirees, only 2,700 are members of the PCPA. Our union and the labor movement as a whole are at a crossroads, and both need the support of all the ILWU pensioners.
Prosperity breeds greed, apathy and complacency. Workers and pensioners become self-serving during the good times. There is no one among us working or retired who should forget that what we have today is here because someone fought on our behalf long before we were part of the union movement. We “old timers,” pensioners or whatever we want to be called, should not sit back and collect our pensions and Social Security and ignore what has happened with the airline and automobile companies, where pensions and retiree health care have been slashed or eliminated altogether and think we are immune. Only be joining in the struggle can we be sure what we enjoy today is not lost.
We should not just think of ourselves, but of future generations of workers, including our children and grandchildren. We should remember the past and constantly remind the active workers how it was.
Many years ago, IWW leader Big Bill Haywood said, “You can put two bits in a working man’s pocket and do anything you want with him. If you try to take any part of it away, he becomes a fighting SOB.”
We have to be prepared for the worst, so join the struggle now. Join the PCPA.
[ILWU pensioner Arne Auvien passed away on July 31st. Arne was an active union member who dedicated his life to the ILWU. He was elected to numerous local union positions over his long career and was an active member of the Pacific Coast Pensioners Association in his retirement. Arne was first chosen to serve his local in 1957 when he was elected Secretary of Local 21. Over the years was elected by the membership to serve the union in several offices including caucus and convention delegate, dispatcher, trustee and in 1964, Local 21 President. In 1970 he was elected Vice President of Local 92 and Local 92 President in 1971.
In retirement Arne served as President of the PCPA from 2003-2006 and as the PCPA Secretary for 10 years. The 47th Annual PCPA Convention, held this September in British Columbia ,was dedicated to his memory. –Eds]
Arne Auvinen was my Pap and my hero. I was blessed to have him 65 years. He and my mother, Margie, who died in 1982, raised my sisters and me to believe that we could do anything we wanted if we worked for it, and work was paramount to achieving our dreams. They also taught us that people are people, regardless of our color or race.
My Pap was born into the labor movement in Southwest Montana on May 9, 1923, in the small mining town of Bear Creek. His father, Paul, was active in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), helping workers fight for humane working conditions against employers who viewed employees as expendable.
My granddad eventually ended up being black-balled from the mines, which happened to many union supporters & organizers. Their family moved to Washington where my granddad went to work on the waterfront in 1927. He settled in Longview, WA, where he became a member of Local 21 in 1933.
Granddad passed away in 1943 because of the lung disease he got from working in the mines. This left my grandmother destitute with a mortgage to pay on an unfinished house. Growing up in those circumstances deeply influenced my father’s commitment to improving conditions for working families.
I cannot remember a time when my dad wasn’t involved in what was happening at the union hall, which he believed was crucial to keeping our union healthy and strong because it made workers more informed and involved. He believed that the hiring hall was the single most important result of the 1934 strike and must never be surrendered. I can remember when the unity and strength of my father’s generation made the 8-hour day a reality, so he could get home at 5:30 instead of 6:30.
My Pap believed that you owed your employer a good day’s work for a good days pay. He never believed in working 2 hours on then taking 2 hours off, or working 4 on and 4 off, even though it became more common before he retired. His rule was this: if you were supposed to be working a job and weren’t there, you should be fired. It was totally against everything he believed for someone to be paid for not working. Pap believed that our jobs were secured through the strength and sacrifice of union members, and that union members had a responsibility to care for those jobs and not abuse them.
When I worked on the docks in 1966-1977, most cargo was still being moved by hand. It was hard work, but I never felt that I was worked too hard for the pay that I received. Workers who are fortunate enough to be part of the ILWU’s elite longshore workforce enjoy the best blue-collar working conditions and benefits in our country. My father believed that employers would always find ways to exploit unorganized workers – and he believed that it was the responsibility of union members with good jobs and benefits to help unorganized workers build unions. He thought this was the only way to preserve and improve the working class. He didn’t see it as a local issue, but a world issue. He didn’t think these were individual problems, but ones for union members to address together with the entire labor movement. He believed the ILWU’s Ten Guiding Principles should be respected and followed.
Arne didn’t quit when he retired in 1985. He and our stepmother, Esther, became active in the Pensioners. He advocated for widows to receive a larger portion of their husband’s pension benefit after their husbands died. He also pushed to bring the pensions of older retirees more in line with current pensions.
My Pap’s last hurrah was the Lower Columbia Longshore Federal Credit Union’s 60th Anniversary on April 26, 2014. He was instrumental in it getting it established, and I was glad to join him that day when he was still sharp and witty. Today he is gone, and I miss the conversations and his comments more than could ever have imagined.
I wish that those of you who follow in his footsteps will cherish and protect the work that he and others like him were able to do. I hope you realize how fortunate we are today because of the work that was done by our elders who were totally committed to the cause of the working man.
My dad and the others of his generation are mostly gone now – but there’s still plenty of work to be done – so the rest is up to us to carry it on.
– Michael Auvinen
The campaign by East Bay recycling workers for dramatic wage and benefit improvements continued to make progress in September.
Oakland Council OK’s raises
On September 22, the Oakland City Council adjusted their future franchise agreements so that two firms will share responsibility for collecting refuse and processing recycling from City residents – and both firms will provide workers with dramatic wage increases and good health benefits.
Because of the City’s decision, recycling workers at Waste Management (WM) and California Waste Solutions (CWS) who are members of ILWU Local 6, will see their wages increase from $13.22 at CWS and $12.50 at WM, rising steadily to $20.94 by the year 2019. Both companies will also provide workers with affordable family health insurance.
The victory resulted from two years of organizing and job actions – including numerous strikes. Local 6 recycling workers have led the fight for better pay, launching their effort in February of 2013, following the historic “Alameda County Recycler Workers Convention” attended by hundreds of workers and community supporters.
Waste Management contract needed
Now that the City Council has included the wage increases into Oakland’s franchise agreements, it’s up to Waste Management officials to sign a new union contract with the ILWU that locks-in the raises and benefits. CWS officials signed a contract with Local 6 at the end of July, but Waste Management officials have been avoiding a new contract with the ILWU for over three years. With the City’s action on
September 22, and the possibility of continued worker actions, pressure is building on the company to sign the contract and begin paying raises approved by the City Council.
Inspiring ACI workers
On September 9, recycling workers at Alameda County Industries (ACI) announced their decision to form a union and join the ILWU. With 85% of the 70 workers signing ILWU representation cards, their commitment was clear. ACI management was asked to immediately recognize the ILWU as the recycler’s union, but the company refused and is requiring workers to vote in an election.
Company officials made it clear that they would prefer to have recycling workers represented by the Teamsters Union, which has represented ACI drivers for over 20 years – but did nothing to help the 70 recyclers who have suffered as “perma-temps” and received only minimum wages with no benefits for at least 15 years. Recycling workers say that they became angry at the Teamsters eight years ago when Local 70 officials solicited representation cards from recycling workers, then ignored the recyclers after securing the contract for Teamster drivers.
Surveillance, not support
During a September 15 rally at ACI’s headquarters in San Leandro, Teamster Local 70 officials and company managers kept workers and community supporters under surveillance from the sidelines – while supervisors inside the plant threatened workers who supported the rally with retaliation.
ACI used an especially dirty trick to cheat recycling workers out of decent pay, benefits and a union – and the company did so with the knowledge and tacit approval of officials at Teamsters Union Local 70. For 15 years, ACI has pretended that the recyclers they employ aren’t actual employees – because the company obtained them through a temp agency. Some workers have been employed at ACI in this manner as “temps” for up to 15 years.
The phony “temp” gimmick is part of ACI’s “union avoidance” strategy, and the company is apparently willing to pay a high price – paying the temp agency over $19 an hour for permanent temporary workers who receive only the minimum wage of $9 an hour. Prior to July 1, 2014, ACI’s recycling workers were paid only $8.30 an hour.
Living wage violation
ACI’s decision to pay recycling workers just $9 an hour isn’t just shameful – it’s also illegal. ACI was supposed to pay workers much higher wages under the City of San Leandro’s “living wage ordinance” that became effective in 2007. The ordinance requires workers to earn $14.57 an hour without benefits or $13.07 with benefits. In a separate effort, not connected with the union organizing effort, ACI workers filed a class-action lawsuit against ACI for back-wages owed under the Living Wage ordinance. On September 24, ACI agreed to settle the lawsuit by paying the workers involved a total of $1.2 million – and confirming that ACI is the actual employer of recycling workers.
City Council support
Ironically, ACI’s questionable business practices have been unknowingly supported by ratepayers in four East Bay cities with franchise agreements obligating ACI to provide garbage and recycling services.
The largest customer is the City of San Leandro, followed by Livermore and the city of Alameda. On the evening of September 15, ACI workers attended the San Leandro City Council meeting where they announced their decision to join the ILWU and end ACI’s unethical behavior.
The following night, ACI workers went to the Alameda City Council with the same message. At both meetings, workers were well-received by City Council members who seemed shocked and surprised by ACI’s business practices.
“We’re making progress, and we saw what ILWU recycling workers have accomplished in Oakland and Fremont,” said ACI recycling worker Salvador Hernandez, “so we want to do the same thing here at ACI to help our families.”
This August “ILWU Walk the Coast” coordinated events in three ports and raised over $70,000 for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation with fundraisers sponsored by Locals 13, 63 and 94 in Los Angeles, Local 46 in Port Hueneme, and Local 10 in San Francisco. The Coast Longshore Division contributed $5,000. Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) was adopted by the ILWU Walk the Coast Committee as the charity of choice. ALSF raises funds for support, research and treatment of childhood cancers.
On August 9th, under direction of Jessie Ramirez and Rita Allison, Local 46 sponsored a three-kilometer fundraising walk and barbeque in Port Hueneme. The event honored a third-grader from Oxnard, Natalia Tanguma who, at the age of 4, was diagnosed with leukemia. Local 10’s event was organized by Frank Gaskin and “featured food and entertainment at the Dispatch Hall in San Francisco. Locals 13, 63 and 94 in Los Angeles, with support from the Southern California Pensioners, sponsored their very popular 3rd annual fundraising Texas Hold’em Poker Tournament.
Since its inception in 2012, ILWU Walk the Coast has raised over $221,000 for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, and an additional $46,000 to fight pancreatic cancer and $5,000 to fight ovarian cancer. This year’s fundraisers would not have been successful without a team effort. Key volunteers included Robert Maynez (Administrator, Local 63), Jessie Ramirez (Local 46), Rita Allison, (Local 46), Frank Gaskin (Local 10), Isidro Felix (Local 13) and Dan Imbagliazzo (Local 13). The Committee is hoping that next year all locals will join in the annual charity effort.