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Bangladesh: Probe anti-union activities: EU

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 04/24/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: The Daily Star
Categories: Labor News

N. CA towns lack resources to handle oil train fires, spills Lassen County town has no reliable water supply for firefighting Crude oil transport by rail grew 1,700 percent in 2015

Current News - Sun, 04/24/2016 - 15:00

N. CA towns lack resources to handle oil train fires, spills Lassen County town has no reliable water supply for firefighting Crude oil transport by rail grew 1,700 percent in 2015
http://www.sacbee.com/news/business/article73547512.html
APRIL 23, 2016 7:49 AM
Northern California towns lack resources to handle oil train fires, spills

Lassen County town has no reliable water supply for firefighting
http://www.sacbee.com/news/business/article73547512.html
Crude oil transport by rail grew 1,700 percent in 2015
Federal government providing hands-on response training
A BNSF train carrying dozens of tank cars crosses an 80-year-old trestle heading south to Union Pacific Railroad tracks through the Feather River Canyon.
A BNSF train carrying dozens of tank cars crosses an 80-year-old trestle heading south to Union Pacific Railroad tracks through the Feather River Canyon. Jane Braxton Little
BY JANE BRAXTON LITTLE
Bee Correspondent
WESTWOOD
BNSF Railway trains carrying crude oil and other hazardous materials rumble through this Lassen County community every day – past homes, churches and a scant block from the downtown commercial center.

If a tank car were to derail and explode, Westwood Fire Chief Forest Duerksen would take the only action he’s equipped for: Evacuation. Of all 1,000 residents.

Westwood Fire Chief Forest Duerksen CQ stands next to the BNSF Railway tracks, a stone’s throw from the fire station in this Lassen County community. Jane Braxton Little
Westwood has no consistent source of water, and the closest trailers with enough foam to extinguish a large blaze are a full four hours away, he said: “We’d just have to get everybody out and go from there.”

Rural officials like Duerksen have been worried for decades about the chlorine, ammonia, propane and crude oil transported through their northern California communities by BNSF and Union Pacific Railroad. But a dramatic surge in production in oil fields in the Midwest and Canada increased the volume from about 10,000 railroad tank cars in 2008 to nearly half a million in 2014. In 2015, the U.S. Energy Information Agency reported a 1,700 percent increase in crude oil transportation by rail.

That’s slowed significantly in the last year, a change generally attributed to a drop in the price of oil. But emergency responders worry that the volume will swell again when crude oil prices rise. In recent weeks, many have observed an increase in the number of tank cars on trains running south toward Sacramento and San Francisco.

That could be a precursor to the half-mile long oil trains planned for travel through Northern California to Benicia. Valero Refining Co. has proposed building a rail loading station that would allow importing oil on two 50-car trains a day to the city 40 miles northeast of San Francisco.

The trains would run through Roseville, downtown Sacramento, West Sacramento, downtown Davis, Dixon and other cities. East of Roseville, the route is uncertain. Trains could arrive via Donner Summit, Feather River Canyon, or through the Shasta and Redding areas.

Westwood Fire Chief Forest Duerksen

On Tuesday, the Benicia City Council postponed until September a decision on Valero’s appeal of a February planning commission recommendation that unanimously rejected the proposal.

Accidents have mounted with the increase in the number of trains transporting oil around the country. A 2013 oil train explosion in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, haunts firefighters across the continent. The fire and detonation of multiple tank cars carrying Bakken crude oil killed 47 people and destroyed dozens of buildings.

No one was hurt in 2014, when 11 cars derailed on Union Pacific tracks in the Feather River Canyon, spilling corn down a hillside above the river that supplies drinking water to millions of people as far south as Los Angeles. The cars could easily have been carrying crude oil, with substantial environmental consequences far beyond the Feather River, said Jerry Sipe, director of Plumas County’s Office of Emergency Services.

“We were lucky,” he said.

In 2015 there were 574 railway “incidents” involving hazardous materials while in transport, according to the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Of these, 114 were in California, and three in Roseville, site of a large rail yard. Most were minor, and none involved fatalities.

Officials in California’s up-rail cities, including Sacramento, have raised objections to plans to expand oil train traffic, saying not enough attention is being given to safety concerns. But these large urban jurisdictions are far better equipped to respond to incidents than their counterparts in rural Northern California, where train tracks pass through some of the state’s roughest terrain.

In these rural areas, the people responding first to oil spills and accidents are generally local fire departments like Duerksen’s, one of the nation’s 20,000 all-volunteer fire organizations. Among the small rural communities along BNSF’s tracks through Northern California, the Westwood Fire Department is one of the better equipped for a hazardous materials accident.

Duerksen took advantage of a BNSF program at the railroad industry’s training and research center in Pueblo, Colo. That gave him hands-on experience in using water and foam on a burning railcar, and taught him advanced techniques for containing spills.

1,700 percent Increase in crude oil transportation by rail in 2015
Since then, several volunteer firefighters from Westwood and communities along the BNSF line have attended the training. Quincy and other fire departments along the Union Pacific line have also sent volunteers to Pueblo.

Plumas County was recently awarded a grant to acquire an oil spill trailer with firefighting foam and 1,200 feet of “hard booms,” which can contain large quantities of hazardous materials. Sipe said it will be positioned along Highway 70 at Rogers Flat for quick deployment in the Feather River Canyon, where aging trestles and sharp curves make it among the most accident-prone rail lines in the state.

“We’re better protected now than a year ago,” Sipe said.

Despite the improvements, many fire departments remain untrained and poorly equipped. In Greenville, where the BNSF line passes directly through residential and commercial areas, none of the 25 volunteers has been to the oil-spill training in Pueblo, said Chris Gallagher, general manager of the Indian Valley Community Services District, which oversees the fire department. Four of the department’s 10 pieces of equipment have been deemed inoperable by the California Highway Patrol, he said.

“We definitely need some help,” said Gallagher.

That could come through an innovative program taking the Pueblo emergency response training on the road. Rail safety experts will travel to communities around the country providing hands-on accident preparedness to firefighters. Funded by a $2.4 million award from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the mobile training program is expected to train about 18,000 first responders from remote rural communities in 2016.

The award is part of a $5.9 million grant to provide hazardous materials training for volunteer or remote emergency responders. Plumas County has already requested the mobile training, Sipe said.

BNSF strongly supports these programs, said Lena Kent, a company spokeswoman. Last year alone it trained 10,000 first responders, 1,500 of them in California.

Duerksen, the Westwood fire chief, said he feels much safer than he did two years ago, when the increase in oil-train traffic had emergency responders on edge. “We’re better trained and better prepared now,” he said.

But not everyone is content with the increased training and beefed-up emergency response equipment. Larry Bradshaw, a retired therapist and community activist in Westwood, is advocating for additional safety requirements for BNSF. He wants to see a high-risk rail designation extended from Greenville to Westwood, imposing a 45 mph maximum speed and increasing the number of inspections.

“We’re not prepared at all. There’s no way we can respond to a spill. The only thing we can do is evacuate,” Bradshaw said.

Tags: Rail safetyOil Trainsemergency responders
Categories: Labor News

USA: Prince Was A Long-Standing Union Member and Champion for Working People

Labourstart.org News - Sat, 04/23/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: AFL-CIO
Categories: Labor News

4/28 SF 2016 Workers Memorial Day Remember The Dead And Fight For The Living Defend Our Health & Safety Rights And Our Lives And Families

Current News - Sat, 04/23/2016 - 10:17

4/28 SF 2016 Workers Memorial Day Remember The Dead And Fight For The Living Defend Our Health & Safety Rights And Our Lives And Families

2016 San Francisco Workers Memorial Day
Remember The Dead And Fight For The Living
Defend Our Health & Safety Rights And Our Lives And Families
Thursday April 28, 2016 7:00PM
ILWU Local 34 (next to AT&T Ballpark
801 2nd St. San Francisco, California
Parking available in union parking lot

April 28 is Workers Memorial Day and is commemorated throughout the world for workers who have died or been injured on the job and to fight for health and safety on the job for workers and the public.
In California workers die nearly every day because of the lack of health and safety protection and many are sickened by toxins and workplace bullying on the job which is reaching epidemic rates.
There also have been incidents of “hanging nooses” put up on worksites at SF Recology and the Bay Bridge to terrorize and intimidate African American and other workers.
At the same time there are only 200 Cal OSHA health and safety inspectors for 18.5 million workers in the State and only 2,000 for the federal government. We need to demand that there be proper enforcement for health and safety violations including jail for deaths caused by violating health and safety laws.
Additionally as a result of deregulation of workers compensation in California under SB 899 and SB 863 seriously injured workers have to go through hoops and a system called independent medical review to get medical treatment and the insurance controlled Workers Comp system stalls treatment and instead doctors in many cases are forced to prescribe opiate drugs that end up addicting injured workers and destroying their lives.
Under Federal and California law, workers union and unorganized are supposed to be protected when they complain to OSHA about health and safety violations. The reality is that companies and bosses regularly bully, harass and fire workers who fight for their health and safety for themselves and the public.
Federal OSHA lawyer Darrell Whitman who was investigating retaliation complaints at PG&E, Fed Ex, Test America, Lockheed Martin and other companies found that there was illegal retaliation and then OSHA management with the backing of DOL Secretary Of Labor Tom Perez. OSHA managers bullied and harassed AFGE investigators and lawyers in the Whistleblower Protection Program and illegally fired Whitman for trying to defend OSHA whistleblowers. We will discuss what workers can do to protect their rights and get justice and accountability.
It is time to remember the dead and fight for the living. We have a right to work in a healthy and safe workplace for ourselves and our families.
Initial Speakers:
Brenda Barros, SEIU 1021 SF General Hospital Chapter Chair
Dr. Larry Rose, Past Medical Director of Cal-OSHA
Daryle Washington, IBT 350 Worker At SF Recology who was bullied and fired for reporting "hanging noose incident"
Daniel Berman, Health and Safety Advocate and author of “Death on the Job”
Dorian Maxwell, Fired MTA TWU 250A bus driver and OSHA whistleblower
Roland Sheppard, Retired Painters Local 4 BA
Darrell Whitman, Fired Federal OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program Investigator by Skype
Carol Vertongen, SJSU Education Worker who was bullied and is a whistleblower

Endorsed by
San Francisco Labor Council SFLC, SMART UTU 1741, IWNN, UPWA
For more information Injured Workers National Network
https://www.facebook.com/Injured-Workers-National-Network-…/
(415)282-1908
info@iwnn.org

San Francisco Labor Council Resolution on Workers Memorial Day 2016 – April 28, 2016
http://sflaborcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/04-11-16Resolution-...

Whereas, April 28 is commemorated worldwide as Workers Memorial Day; and Whereas, health and safety on the job is a basic labor and human right; and

Whereas, injured workers deserve good medical care and compensation for their injuries on the job; and

Whereas, California has less than 200 Cal OSHA inspectors for 18.5 million workers; and

Whereas, the deregulation of Workers Compensation in California through SB 899 and SB 863 has led to the injured workers being denied healthcare benefits due to anonymous doctors and an obstacle course call independent review decisions by an outsourced company called Maximus; and

Whereas, the insurance industry has controls the Workers Compensation system; and

Whereas, there is more and more use of opiates and growing addiction due to injured workers not getting medical treatment; and

Whereas, there has been a major increase in workplace bullying on the job leading to health and safety problems and forcing workers on disability and workers compensation; and

Whereas, Federal OSHA only has 2,000 OSHA inspectors for 130 million workers and only 500 investigators of those workers who have been retaliated for making OSHA complaints; and

Whereas, Federal OSHA management have not enforced the protection of OSHA whistleblowers and have bullied AFGE OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program WPP AFGE Local 2371members in Region 9; and

Whereas, Federal OSHA management and the Department of Labor management have only allowed a small percentage of whistleblowers to be protected with a merit determination; and

Whereas, Federal OSHA inspectors including SFLC delegate and fired Federal OSHA investigator Darrell Whitman who is also a member and steward of AFGE Local 2371 have been bullied, harassed and fired from the agency for doing their jobs; and

Whereas, if workers both union and unorganized are not protected from making health and safety complaints and there is not proper enforcement of Federal OSHA protection laws this is a threat to all workers and the public; and

Whereas, the protection of worker health and safety in transportation, energy, healthcare, construction, education, agriculture, biotech and many other industries is critical for these workers and the public; and

Whereas, the Workers Memorial Day on April 28, 2016 commemorates the workers who have died on the job and those workers who have been injured; and

Therefore be it Resolved the San Francisco Labor Council calls for proper staffing of OSHA in the Cal- OSHA program and Federal Osha program, the rehiring of fired Federal OSHA lawyer Darrell Whitman and an end to the harassment and bullying of AFGE OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program worker, support for a independent investigator to investigate the retaliation against Federal OSHA staff who have been bullied, retaliated and fired for doing their job; and

Be it Further Resolved the San Francisco Labor Council calls for the elimination of the Independent Medical Review system with anonymous doctors not even licensed in California that is being used to prevent injured workers from getting treatment and for the elimination of the insurance industry control of our workers compensation system and for full rehabilitation training for injured workers and laws preventing workplace bullying; and

Be it Further Resolved the San Francisco Labor Council will support and publicize the April 28, 2016 Workers Memorial Day at ILWU Local 34 at 7:00 PM in San Francisco sponsored by the Injured Workers National Network; and

Be it Finally Resolved the San Francisco Labor Council calls for concurrence by all affiliated bodies including the California Federation of Labor.

Submitted by Brenda Barros, SEIU 1021, and James Charos, SMART 1741, and unanimously adopted by the San Francisco Labor Council on April 11, 2016.

Respectfully,

Tim Paulson Executive Director

OPEIU 3 AFL-CIO 11

1188 Franklin Street, Suite 203

San Francisco, CA 94109

Fax: 415.440.9297

Phone: 415.440.4809

www.sflaborcouncil.org

Federal Agency OSHA That Protects Whistleblowers Accused of Retaliating Against One of its Own
http://www.fairwarning.org/2016/04/ex-whistleblower-investigator-blows-t...
By Stuart Silverstein on April 11, 2016

Darrell Whitman, former whistleblower investigator for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration
For nearly five years, Darrell Whitman was a federal investigator who probed whistleblowers’ complaints about being fired or otherwise punished for exposing alleged corporate misconduct.

He wanted to help whistleblowers, viewing them as a crucial line of defense against employers who violated health and safety standards or wasted taxpayer dollars.

But now Whitman, 70, is blowing the whistle himself. And he is accusing the agency where he used to work, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the branch of the Labor Department whose duties include protecting whistleblowers.

Whitman, in a whistleblower claim filed last week with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, charges that the San Francisco regional office of OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program routinely dumped legitimate complaints. What’s more, Whitman’s complaint says his disclosures to senior OSHA and Labor Department officials -– all the way up to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez — “did not spark good faith corrective action. Rather, they led to investigations of Mr. Whitman that eventually formed the basis for his termination” last May. He claims that three other investigators who protested the office’s practices also were fired or pushed out.

The result, Whitman claims, is that safety hazards and wasteful spending persist while whistleblowers often are silenced by employers that get away with illegal retaliation.

Whitman’s complaint largely tracks the concerns he raised in letters to federal officials (examples here and here) and in interviews with FairWarning and previously with KNTV (NBC in the Bay Area). He zeroes in on his former boss, Joshua Paul, and other officials in OSHA’s San Francisco regional office, which oversees California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii.

Sometimes, Whitman said, Paul ordered investigators to water down their findings or reversed the findings without explanation. In other instances, Whitman said, cases would be closed out after quickie investigations that barely examined the retaliation claims. Other times, he said, Paul dragged his feet in completing investigations for three years or more, apparently to put pressure on whistleblowers to settle.

‘The companies would scream bloody murder’

Whitman told FairWarning that those problems in San Francisco reflect a broader breakdown across the 10 regional OSHA offices that administer the whistleblower program. He maintains that the program often is too cozy with business to take on rogue employers. “There’s open hostility within OSHA to this program,” Whitman said.

If the program did its job, “the companies would scream bloody murder,” added Whitman, an attorney with a PhD in politics who has taught college, served as a campaign consultant and worked as a lawyer in government and private practice.

Whitman’s complaint calls for his reinstatement, back pay and damages, while also seeking an investigation of Paul “and any other relevant DOL [Department of Labor] officials.”

OSHA disputed Whitman’s allegations. In a written response, Jordan Barab, a Labor Department deputy assistant secretary, said: “To suggest that OSHA is not committed to protecting workers or that it is arbitrarily dismissing cases is not only absurd, it’s a huge disservice to the investigators who work hard to protect the rights of whistleblowers across the country. The Whistleblower Protection Program is a small staff with an enormous task, and that staff is committed, at every level of the organization, to protecting the rights of workers and to upholding the law.”

As for Paul, in November he moved from his job as senior investigator overseeing whistleblower investigations in San Francisco to a new role as coordinator of the region’s alternative dispute resolution program, which works on whistleblower cases. OSHA said the job change was unrelated to Whitman’s allegations. OSHA turned down a request for an interview with Paul, saying it “would not be appropriate” for him to respond to Whitman’s allegations.

OSHA is responsible for enforcing whistleblower provisions under 22 federal laws that cover everything from nuclear power plants and public transit to the trucking, railroad and airline industries.
But as Congress has assigned OSHA one category of workers after another, some critics say its staff has been swamped by the added workload, creating incentives to dismiss cases to keep up.

Jordan Barab, deputy assistant secretary of Labor.
Whitman’s complaint cites six cases that he says were mishandled. One involved a nuclear plant official who said he lost his job after discussing security problems with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Another case involved Michael Madry. He was a Phoenix-based quality assurance specialist for EMLab P&K, which describes itself as North America’s “leading commercial indoor air quality testing laboratory.”

According to court records, Madry, 51, was promoted to quality assurance manager at EMLab in May 2008. Over the next year, Madry received reports from outside auditors questioning the accuracy of the firm’s asbestos testing as well as complaints from lab analysts about being pressured to rush through asbestos tests.

Madry investigated, focusing on the company’s San Bruno, Calif., lab, which tested for asbestos at schools and for the U.S. Navy and other customers. He became increasingly concerned about the accuracy of tests, and repeatedly raised the issue with company officials.

Soon he began getting poor performance reviews and, according to court records, the company president complained in an internal memo of his “emotional outbursts and obvious instability.”

On Sept. 30, 2010, soon after being put on medical leave by a psychiatrist, Madry filed his whistleblower complaint.

Whitman investigated and in July 2011 found that the complaint had merit. But then the case languished.

As Whitman recounts in his own complaint, Paul delayed action for almost a year by requiring four rewrites of his merit findings, and also pushed for Madry to accept “a nuisance settlement.” According to Whitman, after he complained to OSHA chief David Michaels, Paul removed Whitman from the case. Whitman told FairWarning that he eventually saved the case by going over his boss’ head and getting the whistleblower program’s national director to step in.

‘The system, it doesn’t work’

Three years of legal skirmishes followed for Madry. As a Nov. 16 trial before an administrative law judge was about to begin, Madry reached a settlement totaling $122,500 with EMLab. The company declined to comment after the settlement but, in an earlier interview, an EMLab spokesperson gave a blanket denial of Madry’s claims, without discussing specifics.

The struggle, in Madry’s view, wasn’t worth it. “I wouldn’t recommend anybody do what I did, just because the system, it doesn’t work,” he said.

“Here I am, more than five years later,” he added, “and I’m no better off than when I filed my complaint.”

Michael Madry, a whistleblower who raised questions about the accuracy of his company’s asbestos testing.
Nilgun Tolek, who headed OSHA’s whistleblower program until 2011, said she wasn’t familiar with the evidence behind Whitman’s allegations. However, she cautioned against assuming that when an administrator overturns an investigator’s finding there is “ill intent.”

“It’s always the case that what the investigator recommends in a report is subject to further review and may not end up holding water in the end. It’s not an individual person’s report. It’s the agency’s report, and it has to go through all kinds of review,” Tolek said.

Although Whitman’s case is novel for OSHA, it’s not the only time whistleblower defenders have been accused of mistreating their own employees. Two lawyers formerly with the National Whistleblowers Center, a nonprofit legal group in Washington, in late 2014 received an undisclosed sum to settle their complaints (here and here) that the organization fired them and also retaliated against other employees who tried to unionize. The settlement came shortly before a National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge was set to hear the case. The National Whistleblowers Center did not admit any wrongdoing.

Flawed investigations by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program and growing case backlogs were cited last fall in a report by the Labor Department’s inspector general.

In an audit tracking October 2012 through March 2014, the inspector general found problems in 24 of 132 randomly selected complaints. Among other deficiencies, investigators failed to contact complainants’ witnesses and to give complainants the time needed to provide evidence.

OSHA also failed to meet deadlines on 3,206 of the 4,475 complaints it received that warranted investigations. The investigations took an average of 238 days to complete, up from 150 days in 2010, when previous federal audits lambasted the agency for poor performance.

OSHA management, in response, acknowledged that improvements were needed. But the agency also noted that the number of new complaints climbed to 3,060 in the 2014 fiscal year, up 58 percent from 2005.

“Consequently, OSHA still lacks the resources that it needs to process and investigate whistleblower complaints with the expedience that we would like, while also maintaining the quality and thoroughness that is appropriate,” the agency said.

- See more at: http://www.fairwarning.org/2016/04/ex-whistleblower-investigator-blows-t...

OSHA, A Captured Agency: The Airlines, Trucking And OSHA With Fired OSHA Investigator Darrell Whitman
https://youtu.be/lfr7rtfqeFc
Has OSHA become a captured agency by the companies it is supposed to regulate? Former Federal OSHA investigator and lawyer Darrell Whitman looks at how the agency has stood up to the biggest companies in the airline and trucking industry. He also talks about how the industry controls the agency so it will not hold them accountable to OSHA and health and safety regulations and the affects of privatization and outsourcing of Federal jobs by privateers.
He looks at FedEx, Lockheed and other companies that are flagrantly violating the health and safety rights of workers and also threatening the health and safety of the public.
This interview was done in February 2015. On May 5, 2015 Whitman was fired by the Agency management and he and the whistleblowers he was trying to defend after receiving merit recommendations are still fighting for justice.
For more information:
https://soundcloud.com/workweek-radio/ww6-2-15-osha-lawyer-darrell-whitm...
https://soundcloud.com/workweek-radio/ww6-9-15-osha-lawyer-darrell-whitm...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQiB7bGHFas
http://thedailyshow.cc.com/episodes/xiptmz/february-26–2015—olivia-wilde
http://www.dailycensored.com/ohsagate/
Production of Labor Video Project
www.laborvideo.org

Whistleblower Protection Program & Fired WPP OSHA Investigator Lawyer Darrell Whitman With GAP Louis Clark
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WA0nLj6sZ5Y
Louis Clark, lawyer and co-founder of the Government Accountability Project GAP in Washington DC discusses the Whistleblower Protection Project and how it is working including the affect of deregulation and privatization of government agencies that protect health and safety and the environment..
The Whistleblower Protection Program WPP is supposed to protect Federal whistleblowers throughout the United States government. He also talks about the systemic corruption in the Department of Labor DOL and OSHA and the retaliation and firing of OSHA WPP investigator, lawyer and AFGE Local 2371 steward Darrell Whitman. Clark talks about the problem of bullying of AFGE members in San Francisco OSHA Region 9 office who were seeking to protect workers who were retaliated for doing their jobs and faced retaliation themselves by the management. He also discusses reports that OSHA officials met privately with Lockheed Martin, Test America H.I.G. Capital, PG&E and other companies to criminally collude to dismiss merit complaints and coerce bad settlements for workers retaliated against for whistleblowing. He discusses the potential criminal obstruction of justice by top government officials including ALJ judges who are aware of the corruption charges and conspired to cover them up.
He also discusses the efforts of GAP to develop rules that will be enforced to protect all government whistleblowers including in the financial industry to prevent another financial crisis like 2008.
This interview was done on March 10, 2016 in San Franciso by KPFA WorkWeek journalist Steve Zeltzer
For more information:
Government Accountability Project
www.whistleblower.org
http://www.dailycensored.com/ohsagate/
https://soundcloud.com/workweek-radio/ww6-2-15-osha-lawyer-darrell-whitm...
https://soundcloud.com/workweek-radio/ww6-9-15-osha-lawyer-darrell-whitm...
https://soundcloud.com/workweek-radio/ww3-17-15-osha-corruption-with-mad...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfr7rtfqeFc
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gotQhC1lHE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08OY7kMydSs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQ3zii0T3z4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQ3zii0T3z4
https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2015/10/28/18779351.php
HIG TestAmerica
http://higcapital.com/portfolio/company/98
http://www.mintpressnews.com/federal-whistleblower-investigator-fired-af...
Madry Court Cases
http://www.oalj.dol.gov/Decisions/ALJ/TSC/2013/MADRY_MICHAEL_J_v_EMLAB_P...(OCT_09_2015)_130744_ORDER_PB.PDF#search=michael%20madry
http://www.cc.com/episodes/xiptmz/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewart-februa...
http://www.nbcbayarea.com/investigations/OSHA-Whistleblower-Investigator...–293711041.html
Production of Labor Video Project
www.laborvideo.org

WW 3-29-16 OSHA Chief Michaels and DOL Secretary Perez In Corruption Scandal With OSHA Whistleblower Darrell Whitman And Fired OSHA Manager Adam Finkel
https://soundcloud.com/workweek-radio/ww3-29-16-osha-dol-manager-corrupt...
WorkWeek looks at the growing corruption scandal at the Department of Labor DOL and OHSA. We interview fired OSHA investigator and lawyer Darrell Whitman who is a steward in AFGE Local 2371 and Adam Finkel who is a OSHA management whistleblower and was fired from OSHA. He now is a Senior Fellow and Executive Director of Penn Program on Regulation, University of Pennsylvania.
They discuss the nearly complete failure of OSHA and the Whistleblower Protection Program to defend health and safety whistleblowers and also the criminal collusion between OSHA, DOL and the AJL with corporations they are supposed to regulate. Whitman discusses the role of ALJ Judge Steven B. Berlin who criminally colluding with Test America/H.I.G. Capital to limit their liability in the retaliation against OSHA whistleblower Michael Madry who was a Quality Assurance Manager at Test America which is owned by H.I.G. Capital. He was bullied, terrorized and fired by Test America/H.I.G. Capital after exposing massive fraudulent testing of toxic dump sites like San Francisco Hunters Point Naval Shipyard and Treasure Island. According to Whitman tens of thousands of test results on asbestos and other toxins were fraudulent and this was kept a secret by OSHA and the DOL putting the public in danger. He also reports that OSHA chief David Michaels and DOL secretary Tom Perez were personally involved in a criminal conspiracy to cover up his firings and those of other AFGE workers in the Region 9 office of OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program.
Adam Finkel talks about the role of the management in seeking to shutdown the protection of OSHA whistleblowers and the lack of accountability.
Further media and info:
http://www.dailycensored.com/ohsagate/
https://youtu.be/lfr7rtfqeFc
https://youtu.be/08OY7kMydSs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WA0nLj6sZ5Y
https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=3gotQhC1lHE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQiB7bGHFas
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3PTf6F887Q
https://soundcloud.com/workweek-radio/ww6-2-15-osha-lawyer-darrell-whitm...
https://soundcloud.com/workweek-radio/ww6-9-15-osha-lawyer-darrell-whitm...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQiB7bGHFas
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQ3zii0T3z4
http://www.oalj.dol.gov/Decisions/ALJ/TSC/2013/MADRY_MICHAEL_J_v_EMLAB_P...(OCT_09_2015)_130744_ORDER_PB.PDF#search=michael%20madry
http://www.cc.com/episodes/xiptmz/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewart-februa...
http://www.nbcbayarea.com/investigations/OSHA-Whistleblower-Investigator...–293711041.html
Production of WorkWeek Radio
workweek@kpfa.org
https://soundcloud.com/workweek-radio

Tags: Workers Memorial DayWMDhealth and safetyoshaTruckingRail safety
Categories: Labor News

Global: Why Boycotting Brands Won't Help Garment Workers

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 04/22/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Huffington Post
Categories: Labor News

Canada: Workers and unions celebrate major victory after Bill 24 shelved

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 04/22/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: rabble
Categories: Labor News

Qatar: World Cup: FIFA Announcement on Monitoring of 'Decent Working Conditions'

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 04/22/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITUC
Categories: Labor News

Global: Are employers doing enough to fight the causes of cancer at work

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 04/22/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Equal Times
Categories: Labor News

Uber settles groundbreaking labor dispute for up to $100 million. Drivers to remain independent contractors.

Current News - Fri, 04/22/2016 - 06:40

Uber settles groundbreaking labor dispute for up to $100 million. Drivers to remain independent contractors.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/04/22/uber-settl...
By Travis M. Andrews April 22 at 1:32 AM

In this July 15, 2015 file photo, Uber driver Karim Amrani sits in his car parked near the San Francisco International Airport parking area in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
Uber has settled two major class action suits in which its drivers challenged their classification as independent contractors as an unfair denial of benefits associated with being employees. Under the agreement, which covers about 385,000 of its drivers in California and Massachusetts, the drivers will remain independent contractors.

In return, Uber will pay them $84 million, with an additional $16 million if the company goes public and its “valuation increases one and a half times from our December 2015 financing valuation within the first year of an IPO.” The company also made concessions that will allow drivers to get tips, to form an association (albeit not a union) to discuss grievances with the company and to appeal deactivations by Uber to a special panel and if necessary an arbitrator.

It also agreed to “provide drivers with more information about their individual rating and how it compares with their peers,” according to an announcement from the company. “Uber will also introduce a policy explaining the circumstances under which we deactivate drivers in these states from using the app.” Uber also will create a “driver’s association” which would meet quarterly to discuss driver concerns.

The settlement does not set any legal precedent and the company still faces other suits that remain unresolved.

The cases against Uber have been cast as major tests of the future of the “sharing economy.” A ruling against Uber in court, which is still possible in the other cases, would cost it millions annually and could set precedents for other businesses. Workers classified as employees would be covered by federal labor laws and other regulations which would have entitled the drivers to coverage under minimum wage laws, unemployment benefits, workers’ compensation, the right to form unions under the federal labor law and reimbursement of expenses.

Despite the obvious monetary implications, the settlement is ultimately in Uber’s favor, though the company still faces risks from other unsettled lawsuits.

If the agreement is approved by U.S. District Judge Edward Chen of the Northern District of California, the company will not have to appear at the jury trial that was scheduled for June in San Francisco, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In its statement, Uber co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick said that “while the number of drivers using our app has grown dramatically, their reasons for doing so haven’t changed. In the U.S. almost 90 percent say they choose Uber because they want to be their own boss. Drivers value their independence—the freedom to push a button rather than punch a clock, to use Uber and Lyft simultaneously, to drive most of the week or for just a few hours. That’s why we are so pleased that this settlement recognizes that drivers should remain as independent contractors, not employees.”

“We realize that some will be disappointed not to see this case go to trial,” Shannon Liss-Riordan, the attorney representing the drivers, said in a statement according to the Wall Street Journal. “We believe the settlement we have been able to negotiate … provides significant benefits—both monetary and non-monetary—that will improve the work lives of the drivers and justifies this compromise result.” She noted that the legal issues are not resolved because of other outstanding cases.

“If Uber is going to be genuine about this, I think it’s a very, very good move forward,” Joesph Sandoval DeWolf, president of the California App-based Drivers Association, told the New York Times.

The “sharing economy” refers to the sharing of goods and services on a peer-to-peer level in exchange for mutual benefit. One prominent example is Airbnb, the company that empowers homeowners to rent their homes directly to other people. Unlike a hotel, the user is renting directly from the owner with Airbnb as an intermediary. This isn’t a new model; the Internet has just helped it spread. But the terms of the business relationships between the intermediary companies and the providers are murky.

Uber is part of the sharing economy. Drivers sign up with the company to provide taxi-like services, using their own vehicles, to customers looking for rides.

The company sets a fare for each ride, which is based on both the type of car in use and what city it is in. It also decides if that price should increase during “surge” or heavily trafficked times.

While Uber portrayed the arrangement as idyllic, letting drivers fulfill a dream of being their own boss, drivers involved in the lawsuits believed otherwise, that Uber was very much in charge and to their disadvantage.

The company decides who can and cannot offer services. It distributes gratuity, and it can, in essence, “fire” drivers by deactivating their accounts. There is little recourse left to drivers, of which there are more than 450,000 each month in the U.S. alone, who don’t like the terms.

Apart from the settlement money that will go to the drivers in the two cases if the judge approves the deal, Uber will allow drivers in effect to solicit tips, allowing them to place signs in their cars stating that tips are not included in the fare.

According to a statement emailed to news organizations from Liss-Riordan, the drivers’ attorney, drivers will no longer be subject to deactivation for low acceptance rates. And drivers who have been terminated will be able to appeal to a panel “made up of highly rated drivers.”

If still dissatisfied, she said, they will be able to bring their claim to a “neutral arbitrator, at Uber’s expense, who will determine if there was sufficient cause for the deactivation.”

“Uber will facilitate and recognize the formation of a Driver Association,” she added, “which will have leaders elected by fellow Uber drivers, who will be able to bring drivers’ concerns to Uber management, who will engage in good faith discussions (on a quarterly basis) regarding how to address these concerns.”

Uber, in its statement, acknowledged that “we haven’t always done a good job working with drivers. For example, we don’t have a policy explaining when and how we bar drivers from using the app, or a process to appeal these decisions.”

“So today,” said Kalanick, “we’ve published a driver deactivation policy for the first time. It will apply across the United States, and our goal is to roll out similar policies globally over time.”

Resolution of the cases is considered crucial to Uber’s valuation which soared “on the premise that it operates a technology platform connecting drivers and passengers, rather than a taxi service that owns cars and employs drivers,” as the Wall Street Journal reported. It is now valued at $62.5 billion, reported the Los Angeles Times.

In the statement, Kalanick said Uber still retains the right to terminate drivers who “are violent, drink and drive, or refuse someone a ride because of the color of their skin or sexual orientation.”

Tags: Uberindependent contractors
Categories: Labor News

Turkey: Global unions condemn Turkey detention of rights defenders

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 04/21/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITF
Categories: Labor News

Passenger Industry History

IBU - Thu, 04/21/2016 - 15:05
Puget Sound Ferry History with Historian Alan Stein from Voice of Vashon on

Strike And Chinese Owned Company In US Gets Complaint Over Harassment Of Truckers In LA- NLRB issues historic Complaint that misclassification violates workers' right to unionize

Current News - Wed, 04/20/2016 - 17:28

Strike And Chinese Owned Company In US Gets Complaint Over Harassment Of Truckers In LA- NLRB issues historic Complaint that misclassification violates workers' right to unionize

Justice for Port Truck Drivers
www.JusticeforPortDrivers.org

PRESS RELEASE: Wednesday, April 20, 2016; 2:55 PM PST

PRESS CONTACT: Barb Maynard, (323) 351-9321; barb@mcsonline.org

***UPDATE***

As misclassified truck drivers employed by Chinese government-owned port trucking company continue strike…
NLRB issues historic Complaint against company alleging that misclassification violates workers’ right to form a union

PORT OF LOS ANGELES/LONG BEACH – Just hours after misclassified employee drivers at Intermodal Bridge Transport (IBT) launched their third Unfair Labor Practice strike (click here for a copy of the charges filed against IBT), drivers received news that Region 21 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a Complaint alleging the company’s managers and supervisors violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by making unlawful threats and promises in violation of Section 8(a)(1) of the NLRA. Specifically, the Complaint alleges that:

IBT mangers and supervisors interrogated employees about their support for the Union, promised more work to employees if they ceased engaging in Union activities, and threatened employees with job loss and other unspecified reprisals if they continued to support the Union; and
“IBT has misclassified its employee drivers as independent contractors, thereby inhibiting them from engaging in Section 7 [union] activity and depriving them of the protections of the Act.”

“The government has confirmed what we’ve felt all along, that these companies have been intentionally misclassifying us in order to divide us and silence us, to keep us as slaves,” said Eduardo Quintero, a misclassified port truck driver employed by IBT and on strike today.

"This proves what we have always believed – that misclassification is not just wage theft; misclassification deliberately robs workers of their right under the law to unite for a better future,” said Fred Potter, Vice President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Director of the Teamsters Port Division.

“The Complaint issued by the NLRB Regional Director represents a determination that misclassifying drivers in and of itself violates the NLRA,” said Julie Gutman Dickinson, attorney for the Teamsters Port Division. “The complaint will lead to an historic trial where for the first time, a Judge will determine whether the act of misclassifying drivers in and of itself violates the National Labor Relations Act.”

Under the National Labor Relations Act, employees, but not independent contractors, have the right to organize a union. Therefore, Gutman Dickinson says, “If a company misclassifies its drivers as independent contractors when in fact they are employees, as is a common practice in port trucking across America, it is effectively telling workers that they cannot unionize, and thereby interfering, restraining, and coercing them in the exercise of their very basic rights to choose whether or not to form a union. The issuance of this Complaint by the Regional Director – and now the prosecution of the Complaint by the General Counsel of the NLRB – will send the message loud and clear to the trucking industry that misclassification carries a high price, and that companies can no longer violate the law with impunity without multimillion dollar liability, recurring labor unrest, and contempt of court, including fines and imprisonment.”

IBT DRIVERS ON STRIKE
Early Wednesday morning, misclassified employee drivers at Intermodal Bridge Transport (IBT), a subsidiary of the Chinese Government-owned COSCO Logistics Americas network, went on strike for the third time to protest misclassification as independent contractors – and misclassification-related harassment, favoritism, and retaliation – all “Unfair Labor Practices” pursuant to the National Labor Relations Act. The drivers, who haul containers on and off the docks for IBT’s name-brand customers, including Michael Kors, Sony, Toyota, General Electric, and Target, are participants in a myriad of class action, mass action, and individual lawsuits for misclassification and wage theft. This is their third strike in the last year (April 2015, Oct. 2015, and April 2016).

“My trucking company basically treats us drivers like slaves. The company deducts the cost of diesel fuel, insurance and truck lease payments from our paychecks every week. But as a subsidiary of COSCO, Intermodal Bridge Transport is basically owned by the Chinese government. Why can my employer get away with not respecting U.S. labor laws by stealing wages from us and playing favorites with certain drivers who promise not to stand up for our right to drive safe trucks and to receive the benefits of employees,” said Jose Ortiz, a misclassified independent contractor employed by IBT.

In December 2015, the People’s Republic of China announced the merger of COSCO and the China Shipping Group, which in 2005 was the benefactor of a lucrative multi-million subsidy from the Port of Los Angeles to help upgrade the company’s vessels with anti-pollution technology. In a recent expose by the Los Angeles Times, it was revealed that “the company, China Shipping, used the money to upgrade 17 ships, but the city didn't get all the promised environmental benefits. Most of the vessels stopped traveling to Los Angeles in 2010.” The Los Angeles Times reported in December 2015 that the Port of Los Angeles, under the leadership of former director Geraldine Knatz, allowed China Shipping – the port’s largest customer – to skirt emission-reduction requirements tied to the terminal expansion. “The city-owned port gave China Shipping North America permission to ignore some of the emissions-reduction requirements the city agreed to impose as part of a highly publicized legal settlement with environmentalists and homeowners near the complex,” reported the Los Angeles Times in December 2015.

###

Tags: Costcostrikenlrb
Categories: Labor News

Iran: Amnesty highlights plight of imprisoned trade unionist

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 04/20/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: NCRI
Categories: Labor News

Bangladesh: Garment Workers’ Union Rights Bleak

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 04/20/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Human Rights Watch
Categories: Labor News

Brazil: ITUC Call for Respect for Democracy and the Rule of Law

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 04/20/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITUC
Categories: Labor News

FTA ‘safety blitz’ uncovers more problems with DC Metro safety

Current News - Wed, 04/20/2016 - 14:56

FTA ‘safety blitz’ uncovers more problems with DC Metro safety
"Metro’s workers are placing themselves at risk, too, inspectors said. Many are failing to follow procedures established as part of a highly touted safety program designed to keep them safe."
https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/fta-safety-blit...

A train on March 30 arrives at the Metro Center station in Washington. Inspectors have found 229 defects in two areas of track between the Huntington and Metro Center stations. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
By Lori Aratani April 18
Federal safety inspections of Metro’s rail system have found that the transit agency is failing to provide basic safety protections — including working fire extinguishers and clear escape routes — to help its riders in the event of an emergency evacuation.

Metro’s workers are placing themselves at risk, too, inspectors said. Many are failing to follow procedures established as part of a highly touted safety program designed to keep them safe.

The concerns, outlined in a letter from the Federal Transit Administration to Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld and obtained by The Washington Post, are of such importance that FTA officials said immediate action is required.

“Although we are still compiling our final report from these inspections, the seriousness of these findings and a clear concern for public safety compel me to direct WMATA to take immediate action,” wrote Thomas Littleton, the FTA’s associate administrator for safety.

FTA inspectors found the problems during the agency’s recent “safety blitz,” which began in March and is ongoing.

[FTA launches safety blitz of Metro’s rail operations]

The defects aren’t complex in nature — rather, they involve basic safety practices designed to protect riders in an emergency. But they again raise questions about how seriously Metro is taking its pledge to fix myriad safety issues that have plagued its troubled rail system.

The new list of safety shortcomings comes just over a month after officials shut down the entire system for emergency inspection of power cables that officials feared could endanger the lives of thousands of riders.

Inspectors found emergency walkways blocked by construction debris and other materials; nonworking or expired fire extinguishers; out-of-order emergency traction power shut-off switches, which are used to cut third-rail power during an emergency; and “filth-covered emergency and safety signage.”

“In combination with one another, these defects create a systematic safety condition that significantly limits WMATA’s ability to manage a fire or smoke emergency in the tunnel,” Littleton wrote.

Metro spokeswoman Sherri Ly said via email that the agency has been briefed by FTA officials and that “all safety critical items are receiving priority attention.”

Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), a strong supporter and vocal critic of the Metro system, called the findings of the safety blitz “jaw-dropping.”

“This just underscores the institutional challenges Metro’s new chief safety officer will have to tackle when he begins next month,” Connolly said.

Added Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.): “While we all acknowledge that this system cannot be fixed overnight by new General Manager Paul Wiedefeld, it is clear that common safety procedures have gone ignored for far too long. This is simply more evidence that Metro needs a culture change and a top-to-bottom restructuring so that it can provide safe and efficient service.”

[Florida congressman labels Metro a ‘screwed-up mess’]

FTA inspectors said that during their walk-throughs with Metro personnel, they also observed “numerous violations of WMATA’s roadway worker program (RWP) rules and procedures.”

Metro’s roadway worker protection program was created after the deaths of several track workers. It has been touted as a national model for keeping transit employees safe. But FTA inspectors found that Metro’s employees weren’t following basic procedures.

Those included instances in which train operators were not following speed restrictions as they approached work crews and numerous incidents in which workers consistently violated the “15-second ample time rule” designed to protect them from being hit by a train. Instead, they often clear the tracks with five or fewer seconds to spare, the inspectors found.

Concerns about worker safety are so grave that Littleton said Metro must conduct safety briefings for workers and “confirm with FTA no later than Friday, April 22, 2016, the substance and date of completion of the requisite briefings.”

Ly, the Metro spokeswoman, said the briefings will be done this week.

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She added that other issues raised by Littleton’s letter — particularly those that require access to Metrorail tracks — will be incorporated into the comprehensive “track plan” that Wiedefeld is developing and that is expected to be released in the next few weeks.

“The plan will lay out the work being performed, set clear timetables for completion and provide customers with the advance information they need to prepare for impacts to service,” Ly wrote in an email.

Since October, the FTA has been responsible for safety oversight of Metro’s rail system. It is a temporary arrangement, but one that gives the agency the authority to conduct surprise inspections.

Officials have conducted 107 inspections focused on a variety of operations, including tracks, traction power and the rail operation control center, which manages trains as they move through the system.

As part of that work, inspectors have found 229 defects, including issues with track gauge — the distance between rails — in two areas of track between the Huntington and Metro Center stations. Wide gauge is significant because it can cause derailments.

Tags: DC Metrohealth and safetyoshadefects
Categories: Labor News

One of the nation’s largest pension funds IBT Central States Pension Fund could soon cut benefits for retirees

Current News - Wed, 04/20/2016 - 08:52

One of the nation’s largest pension funds IBT Central States Pension Fund could soon cut benefits for retirees
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/get-there/wp/2016/04/20/one-of-the-n...
By Jonnelle Marte April 20 at 7:04 AM

Members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and their supporters attend a rally outside the Capitol in Washington on April 14. The demonstrators protested a plan by the Central States Pension Fund to reduce payments to retirees. (Drew Angerer/Bloomberg)
More than a quarter of a million truckers, retirees and their families could soon see their pension benefits severely cut — even though their pension fund is still years away from running out of money.

Within the next few weeks, the Treasury Department is expected to announce a crucial decision on whether it will approve reductions to one of the country’s largest multi-employer pension plans.

The potential cuts are possible under legislation passed by Congress in 2014 that for the first time allowed financially distressed multi-employer plans to reduce benefits for retirees if it would improve the solvency of the fund. The law weakened federal protections that for more than 40 years shielded one of the last remaining pillars that workers could rely on for financial security in retirement.

For many workers, the promise of a guaranteed income stream for life — a benefit now nearly extinct for younger generations — was at times strong enough to convince them to sacrifice pay raises or other job opportunities. But after decades of challenges that left many pension funds in tough financial straits, some people are learning in retirement that the promises made to them may have to be broken.

The Central States Pension Fund, which handles the retirement benefits for current and former Teamster union truck drivers across various states including Texas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, New York and Minnesota, was the first plan to apply for reductions under the new law.

Consumer advocates watching the case say the move could encourage dozens of other pension plans across the country that are facing financial struggles to make similar cuts.

With some of the country's largest coal companies in bankruptcy, about 120,000 retired miners and their families in West Virginia could lose their pension and health care accounts. For many families in this region, this means losing their only regular source of income. (Jorge Ribas/The Washington Post)
“This is going to be a national crisis for hundreds of thousands, and eventually millions, of retirees and their families,” said Karen Friedman, executive vice president of the Pension Rights Center.

Like many other pension plans, the Central States Pension Fund suffered heavy investment losses during the financial crisis that cut into the pool of money available to pay out benefits. While the stock market has recovered since then, the improvements were not enough to make up for the shortfall that grew as the number of companies contributing to the plan declined and the number of people retiring and collecting benefits increased, said Thomas Nyhan, executive director of the Central States Pension Fund.

That imbalance left the fund paying out $3.46 in pension benefits for every $1 it received from employers. The shortfall has resulted in the fund paying out $2 billion more in benefits than it receives in employer contributions each year.

If nothing is done, the fund could become insolvent by 2025, said Nyhan. And because of its size, the plan could overwhelm the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the insurance agency meant to shore up private pension funds, if it went under, Nyhan said.

The Central States Pension Fund pays out $2.8 billion a year in benefits, which would be reduced if the plan became insolvent. By comparison, the PBGC fund that backs multi-employer plans has roughly $2 billion in assets and is also projected to be insolvent by 2025.

“This was a very hard decision, a gut-wrenching decision,” Nyhan said, adding that he feared not taking any action could leave retirees with no pension at all. “It’s not a question of if there are going to be cuts. The question is where and when.”

If Treasury approves the fund’s proposal, then retirees could see their paychecks shrink by July 1. The move would give the fund at least a 50 percent chance of lasting for another 30 years as opposed to running out of cash in 10 years if no changes are made, Nyhan said. A decision is expected by May 7.

But opponents say there may be some negative consequences if the cuts are approved.

“It’s going to open the floodgates for other cuts,” said Friedman of the Pension Rights Center.

Out of the 10 million workers and retirees covered by multi-employer pension plans, roughly 1 million people are in plans that could run out of money over the next two decades, according to estimates from the PBGC. Already, three other pension plans that pay benefits to truck drivers and ironworkers have applied to the Treasury to have their pension benefits reduced.

The proposal introduced in September by Central States would cut benefitsfor current workers and retirees by 23 percent on average, though exact amounts would vary based on people’s age, health status and where they worked.

For many retirees, the losses may be much steeper.

Ava Miller, 64, and her husband, Ed Northrup, 68, could see their combined monthly pension income cut to about $3,000 from the nearly $7,000 they receive now, according to a letter they received from Central States in October.

If the cuts go through, Miller, who worked as a dispatcher in Flint, Mich., said they will need to dip into their savings to help cover their $1,300 mortgage payment, heating bills and trips to visit her 84-year old mother. Northrup, a retired car hauler, has started applying for truck driving jobs that could supplement their potentially smaller pension payments.

What makes the cuts more painful, Miller said, is that she took pay cuts so that the company could continue making contributions to the pension.

“I did everything I was supposed to,” Miller said, adding that she and her husband made extra payments on their car loan to cut down on their monthly bills after they received letters in October informing them of the potential cuts.

Critics of the cuts say the fund still has time to come up with an alternative solution. Some retirees and other supporters have rallied behind a bill introduced by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (Vt.) that would repeal the measure allowing the cuts, calling instead for the government to provide assistance to troubled pension funds.

Nyhan says he also supports that proposal and would welcome the money, but feels the chances that it will pass politically are slim.

If the cuts are approved, the proposal would be put to a vote by all 407,000 participants of the plan, including current workers and retirees who are exempt from the cuts because of their age or a disability. But even if a majority of the members vote against the proposal, the pension fund is so large that the Treasury Department may still be required to implement the cuts in order to protect the pension guaranty program.

Last week, hundreds of retirees, workers and family members from Michigan, Wisconsin, Texas and other states gathered on the lawn in front of the Capitol to rally against the cuts. They waved signs and periodically broke into chants of “No cuts.”

A steady stream of lawmakers, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D- Mass.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), walked on to a stage to speak against the legislation and to push for an alternative solution.

Roy Wroblewski, 64, a retired truck driver from Detroit, stood near the stage pumping his fist and holding up a sign that said “no cuts.”

Wroblewski, who hauled cars for about 30 years before retiring at 58, said he had just begun to feel stable financially two years before when he began collecting Social Security benefits. If his pension payments are cut in half to about $1,300, he says he’ll have to go back to work. But after two knee surgeries, truck driving is no longer an option.

Like other retirees at the rally, he said his union often prioritized preserving the pension over other benefits like pay raises. “We always said the money was good enough but we want to have [our pensions],” Wroblewski said. “Now we’re back to fighting again.”

Roy Wroblewski, 64, a retired truck driver from Detroit, rallied against pension cuts in front of the Capitol on April 14. If approved, his pension payments could be cut by 50 percent. (Jonnelle Marte/The Washington Post)

Tags: IBTCentral States Pension FundCongressretired workersretired Teamsters
Categories: Labor News

April 16 2016 Fleet Memo

IBU - Wed, 04/20/2016 - 08:44
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Categories: Unions

April 9 2016 Fleet Memo

IBU - Wed, 04/20/2016 - 08:44
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Categories: Unions

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