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Betrayed by the Korean state: Sewol diver dead in apparent suicide

Current News - Sun, 06/19/2016 - 19:15

etrayed by the Korean state: Sewol diver dead in apparent suicide
Jun.18,2016 15:43 KSTModified on : Jun.18,2016 15:43 KST

Diver Kim Gwan-hong testifies about the ordeal he has suffered since working as a diver for the Sewol ferry at the first hearing of the Sewol Special Investigative Commission, Dec. 16, 2015.
Man in his early forties suffered psychological and emotional trauma since he pulled Sewol victims from the ship with his bare hands
Kim Gwan-hong’s voice took on an indignant tone as he testified as a witness in a parliamentary audit of the Ministry of Public Safety and Security last September by the National Assembly Security and Public Administration Committee. Then 42, he was a civilian diver who had gone to the scene at Jindo on Apr. 23, 2014, a week after the Sewol ferry sinking. “It wasn’t somewhere I went to make money. My ‘crime’ was going there as a matter of conscience. If there’s a disaster, don’t call the public. The government needs to figure this stuff out on its own [in the future],” Kim said.
“The victims were tangled together in their utter terror, and I prayed for and cradled each one of them as I brought them,” he raged after braving the pitch black conditions in the 48-meter ocean depths.
Early in the morning of June 17, Kim was found dead in the greenhouse where he lived in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, three days before he turned 43 years old.
No specific cause of death has yet been reported. But closed circuit camera footage showed him returning home around 2 am that night and drinking on his own before collapsing an hour later. The images, along with the discovery at the scene of a fallen pill bottle and final text messages to acquaintances with messages such as “I’m sorry” and “I’ll see you in a better place in a next life,” lead to the seemingly inescapable conclusion that he took his own life. No signs of trespassing were found.
Lawmaker Park Ju-min (left) and Yoo Kyung-geun of the Sewol Victims Families Committee, cry at Seobuk Hospital funeral home in Seoul at a service for diver Kim Gwan-hong, June 17. (by Kim Myoung-jin, staff photographer)
Family members of victims in the sinking were horrified by news of Kim’s death, which came as salvage efforts have been stymied by the damage to part of the hull during the raising of the Sewol’s bow.
“He really changed after the Sewol,” said Kim’s aunt during a visit to Seoul Metropolitan Seobuk Hospital, where his wake was being held.
Oh Byeong-hwan, the 44-year-old father of Danwon High School student and sinking victim Oh Yeong-seok, remembered Kim as “someone who was always cheerful when you saw him, someone who would joke with you and ask after you.”
But for the 787 days from his fateful visit to Jindo until his death, Kim’s life remain locked in the Sewol’s confines. While former Minister of Oceans and Fisheries Lee Ju-young and other officials in charge of the Sewol response have moved even further up the ladder, a civilian diver who personally recovered bodies faced indictment by prosecutors for errors in the process, accusations of taking financial advantage, and psychological trauma severe enough to have him declaring in a radio interview last year that he “wakes up in the morning thinking only, ‘How will I die?’”
Kim also suffered disk injuries to his neck and lower back during his diving for the Sewol search effort, as well a rotator cuff tear and paralysis to his left thigh - injuries that prevented him from continuing to make a living through diving. Instead, he earned money working at his wife’s flower shop and serving as a substitute driver.
“He hurt himself recovering the bodies, but after recognizing him as a civilian diver, the government turned around later and said he wasn’t, so he couldn’t receive disaster relief payments,” said Hwang Byeong-ju, a 57-year-old diver who also took part in the efforts to recover bodies from the Sewol.
“He suffered a lot emotionally as those things kept happening to him,” a tearful Hwang added.
For the civilian divers, the time since the sinking has been nearly as traumatic as it has been for those who lost their family members.
“We were touching each of those children from the Sewol with our bare hands as we brought them up. Even now, I can’t hold my wife or my children,” said a diver colleague of Kim’s. “I can’t stand the feeling of skin.”
Despite his physical and financial troubles, Kim was also one of the most active in calling for a more thorough investigation into the sinking. As recently as an hour before his death, he was sharing news about the Sewol salvage effort on his Facebook account.
“I can remember everything that happened,” he said while appearing as a witness last December in the first hearing of the special Sewol investigative commission, after numerous government officials claimed they had “no memory” of the events in Apr. 2014.
“I can’t ever forget it. It pierces me to the core,” he said. “How can these senior government officials not know or remember?”
Kim also volunteered as a personal staffer to “Sewol attorney” Park Ju-min during his run in the Apr. 13 general elections as a candidate for the opposition Minjoo Party of Korea.
“I thought he was someone who would do whatever it took to investigate the Sewol tragedy,” he said in an April 2016 interview with the Hankyoreh. In Park, he saw someone who could potentially “help relieve the injustice for the family members and listen for once to what the divers had to say.”
Sources said Kim spoke often of his frustration as the government began treating an early end to the special Sewol commision’s activities as a foregone conclusion without a thorough investigation into the tragedy.
“Kim was very concerned that the truth about the Sewol was going to end up buried,” said Oh Byeong-hwan.
“He did everything he could to bring back our children, and instead he was betrayed by the state. He was tormented by that, and by his sense of guilt for not saving the children.”
By Lee Jae-uk and Park Su-ji, staff reporters

Tags: SewolDivercover-up
Categories: Labor News

US government won’t allow another West Coast port crisis says PM president

Current News - Sun, 06/19/2016 - 18:47

PMA President: US government won’t allow another West Coast port crisis
Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor | Jun 19, 2016 11:16AM EDT

LONG BEACH — The head of the group representing U.S. West Coast waterfront employers said the federal government and shipping public won’t again allow negotiations with longshoremen to go down the tortuous path that led to containerized supply chain disruption in 2014-2015.

“Negotiations are more visible now. There is pressure on both sides, and pressure does a lot to get things done,” Pacific Maritime Association President Jim McKenna told the annual conference of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition in Long Beach.

The 2014-15 contract negotiations resulted in crippling International Longshore and Warehouse Union work slowdowns and a PMA response that included cessation of lucrative night and weekend work for longshoremen. The job actions began on Oct. 31, 2014, and continued until a tentative agreement was reached Feb. 20, 2015.

West Coast ports went into gridlock for almost four months. Exporters, especially agricultural exporters who must ship their perishable cargo through the closest port, are still smarting from the loss of business, some of which was lost indefinitely.

McKenna acknowledged that loss of market share is certainly possible. That was exactly what happened during the contentious 2002 contract negotiations, which involved ILWU work slowdowns, a 10-day lockout called by the PMA, and federal intervention with a Taft-Hartley back-to-work injunction. “You lose 5 percent, but only 2 percent comes back,” he said of such negotiations.

The 2014-15 negotiations spawned at least three proposed bills in Congress aimed at preventing future talks from degenerating into work slowdowns, strikes or lockouts. None of the bills have passed. The reason West Coast contract negotiations are prone to work slowdowns and lockouts is that the talks invariably extend beyond the expiration of the existing contract. When a contract expires, the union usually refuses to extend it, so the “no-strike” clause is void.

Employers always seek to extend a contract until a new one is reached, and some members of Congress think that is a good idea. One of the bills that was proposed last year would mandate that contracts be extended during negotiations to keep the no-strike clause in effect. The odds of such legislation passing are low, so if employers are ever to achieve that goal, “it would have to be negotiated,” McKenna said.

The PMA president suggested, however, that an even more favorable scenario is possible. During the 16th TPM conference in Long Beach in March, ILWU President Bob McEllrath was asked if the ILWU would agree to early discussions to extend the 2014 contract beyond its expiration date of July 1, 2019. McEllrath said that if McKenna formally requested early negotiations, he would present the proposal to the union membership.

McKenna in fact sent a letter to McEllrath, and the union is now considering the request. McKenna said he is “hopeful” that the ILWU will agree to negotiate an extension. “The logical thing is an extension of the contract for three to five years,” he said, although he gave no time frame for a response from the union or a date when early negotiations would begin.

On the other hand, neither side wants a repeat of 2014-15, when the secretaries of Labor and Commerce joined in the negotiations. “The feds didn’t broker a deal. The fear of interference forced us into a deal,” he said.

Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at bill.mongelluzzo@ihs.com and follow him on Twitter:@billmongelluzzo

Tags: PMAilwudeal
Categories: Labor News

Mexico: Teachers protest: Six killed in Oaxaca clashes

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 06/19/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: BBC
Categories: Labor News

UK Leeds bus workers strike First Bus over pay

Current News - Sun, 06/19/2016 - 09:36

UK Leeds bus workers strike First Bus over pay
By Barbara Slaughter
18 June 2016
More than 1,000 bus drivers and customer hosts employed by First Bus Leeds struck for 24-hours on June 13 in pursuit of a pay increase. First Bus operates 63 of the Leeds’ bus routes and almost the whole city was brought to a halt by the action, which began at 2 a.m. Monday.
Bus workers are demanding a wage increase of 36 pence per hour (51 US cents). After rejecting management’s offer of a 10 pence an hour (14 US cents) increase, in a ballot for strike action, 90 percent voted in favour in an 80 percent turnout. On June 9, management’s “final offer” was put to a branch meeting by Unite trade union officials. This represented an immediate pay increase of 16 pence per hour (23 US cents) and a further 20 pence (28 US cents) next January. The 250 workers at the meeting voted unanimously to reject the offer and begin a campaign of strike action.
On June 13, pickets were outside the garages from early morning.
One of the pickets, who wished to remain anonymous, spoke to the World Socialist Web Site about the wages and working conditions at the Leeds depots. He said that drivers could be rostered to work anything from seven to 12 hour shifts. They regularly have to sit in the cab for up to five-and-a-half hours at a stretch, with only four minutes turnaround time at the end of each run.
He said angrily, “They wouldn’t treat a tin of beans like that, but that is how they treat human beings. The schedules are worked out by computer, paying little regard to the actual conditions on the road, and as a result are so tight that it is almost impossible to maintain them and lost time has to be made up. The constant pressure affects the health of bus workers and cases of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems and obesity are common.”
He explained that there is a three-tiered pay system for workers who are essentially doing the same job. New starters have to work between 42 and 44 hours for £20,000 (US$28,400).
Long-standing workers on the “A rate” work 36 hours for the same amount, but then can choose to work an extra seven-and-a-half hours of overtime, but without any kind of enhancement. He said the work was so structured, it was impossible for new starters to ever achieve the A rate of pay.
He continued, “The company is constantly having to recruit new staff because young people just can’t do it. It’s donkey work. It’s just work, sleep and back again. It messes up your body. They [the company] are always short staffed. Many of the lads pick up extra shifts because the pay is not enough to live on.”
First Bus run bus services in many other cities including Manchester, Bristol, Huddersfield, Halifax, Glasgow and Aberdeen. They also run one fifth of the UK’s passenger rail network, including Great Western Railways, Trans-Pennine Express, First Hull Trains, Train-Link in London and others. The company began with a management buyout of the Bristol Omnibus Company and expanded through purchases of formerly publicly-owned bus and rail companies in England and Wales in the 1980s. Since then, they have invested in transport companies throughout North America.
In the UK, bus workers’ wages and conditions differ from city to city. For example, drivers in nearby Halifax are paid £2 per hour more than drivers in Leeds. The Leeds drivers are among the lowest paid of First Bus operations in the county of Yorkshire. Last year, the company made £11million (15,580,000 $US) clear profit over turnover from its Leeds operation alone.
On the day of the strike, WSWS reporters distributed leaflets to pickets about the recent strike of bus workers in San Diego, California, employed by First Transit. This company is part of the same multinational, First Group plc.
Several of the pickets already knew of the San Diego dispute and were interested to read the report of the strike. One picket said, “We are facing the same battles to put food on the table for our families. All we want is a normal decent life. But that is becoming less and less possible.”
Unite is currently organising a 100,000 signature petition to present to the Conservative government, calling for a reduction in the maximum time a driver can be expected to be in the cab to be reduced to four-and-a-half hours from five-and-a-half hours. Asked by the WSWS why the union would seek to pressure the David Cameron-led anti-worker Tory government to defend workers’ conditions, Phil Bown, a Unite official, replied: “You’ve got to start somewhere.”
According to Unite, First Bus in the UK generates a third of its profits from its Leeds operation. Leeds First Bus recently pushed through redundancies when it got rid of its two-person-operated “bendy buses”, which employed a host as well as the driver. While the drivers will be absorbed into the workforce, the hosts were offered redeployment but would have to apply for any available suitable posts throughout the group’s national operation.
The vote and high turnout for the one-day strike shows the determination of the drivers to take on the company. A further 24-hour strike is planned for June 20, with negotiations between management and Unite, aimed at ending the dispute, underway.

Tags: First Busstrike
Categories: Labor News

Turkey: Resistance at Avon - Turkish workers fight back

Labourstart.org News - Sat, 06/18/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: DGD-SEN
Categories: Labor News

Finland: Plans for a new trade union confederation come to nought

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Trade Union News from Finland
Categories: Labor News

France: Strike action set to continue after talks fail to break deadlock

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: euronews
Categories: Labor News

Years After United Merger, Flight Attendants, IBT UAL Work for Two Airlines

Current News - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 16:08

Years After United Merger, Flight Attendants, IBT UAL Work for Two Airlines
JUNE 16, 2016

United Airlines flight attendants, represented by the Association of Flight Attendants, outside Newark Liberty International Airport on Thursday. CreditRichard Perry/The New York Times
Despite the name on its airplanes, United Airlines is anything but fully unified.

More than five years after United merged with Continental, the combined carrier’s 24,000 flight attendants are still operating as if the company were running two airlines. That disconnect has made scheduling crews and flight routes more complicated and has contributed to operational challenges, including flight delays.

Now, after three years of negotiations, the airline and its flight attendants seem to be near an agreement that could integrate the work force.

United management and the Association of Flight Attendants, the union representing the airline’s cabin workers, are scheduled to meet for four days in Chicago next week in what both parties hope is a final mediation session. A new contract would unify all the flight attendants on issues like health care plans, wages and scheduling.

“We feel optimistic,” said Sara Nelson, the union’s international president and a United flight attendant for 20 years.

Still, the union has sought to keep up the pressure. It has staged demonstrations outside major airports eight times over the last year, including informational pickets on Thursday from Newark to Hong Kong.

United said it was committed to getting the flight attendants a new contract.

While United’s pilots, dispatchers and machinists have all reached new agreements with the company, the flight attendants have operated under separate contracts. That has meant pre-merger United flight attendants working exclusively on legacy United planes, and the former Continental flight attendants on Continental planes.

New hires and new airplanes are also divided between the two.

Since the merger in October 2010, about 6 percent of United flights have been delayed because of complications within the airline’s control, like crew scheduling or maintenance problems, according to the Department of Transportation. But in 2009, that number was 4 percent.

The chief executive, Oscar Munoz, returned to his job in March after a lengthy absence during which he had a heart transplant, and industry analysts are watching for the airline to turn a corner. On-time rates started inching up earlier this year, which is one indication of improvement, said Craig Jenks, president of Airline/Aircraft Projects, an airline consulting firm in New York.

“Investors are keeping their fingers crossed that positive change is happening at United, and that comprises both employee morale and customer issues,” Mr. Jenks said.

But in other areas, the company is still struggling. United has reported declines in passenger revenue for every seat-mile, a key metric in the industry.

The airline blames a strong dollar, which has contributed to weak demand in international markets, and low oil prices, which have reduced revenue from fuel surcharges and curbed traffic in Houston, an energy center that is one of United’s largest hubs.

James Compton, United’s chief revenue officer, said in April that the passenger revenue for every seat-mile could decline another 6.5 to 8.5 percent year over year in the second quarter, which ends in June, after falling for several quarters. That is a gloomier revenue forecast than those of the two larger United States carriers by revenue, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines.

Both employee morale and customer satisfaction have suffered. In a survey by Skytrax, an air travel research group, passengers have given United a grade of 3 out of 10, compared with grades of 5 for Delta and 6 for Southwest. Lufthansa, the German airline, received a 7.

Labor peace is at the top of Mr. Munoz’s agenda. He was named to the post last fall after the previous chief, Jeffery A. Smisek, resigned in the face of a corruption investigation related to the company’s dealings with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

In April, United reached an agreement with its 30,000 on-the-ground airport workers, represented by the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers. Those workers will receive a 30 percent pay raise over the next five years.

While the flight attendants are also pushing for a raise, United rejected their initial compensation plan, saying the proposal was “significantly more costly than at American and Delta and would have a negative impact on United’s ability to operate the airline.”

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants negotiated a 6 percent pay increase for American Airlines Group flight attendants earlier this year. Under that contract, American will adjust its pay scale once United reaches a deal with its flight attendants. Ms. Nelson said she hoped the provision would lead to higher wages throughout the industry.

One provision that is not an issue in these negotiations is employee seniority, a point of contention for pilots in recent airline mergers because it factors into how pilots and flight attendants can be scheduled on their preferred routes. In United’s case, the flight attendants agreed early on to base seniority on the original hire date, without regard to whether the employee worked for pre-merger United or Continental.

United also has yet to strike a deal with its 9,000 mechanics, represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. It is scheduled to meet with that group later this month.

On his first official day back on the job in March, Mr. Munoz met with the major unions, and the change from the previous leadership was like “night and day,” said Ms. Nelson, the flight attendants’ leader.

She added, “Once he was engaged and pressing for an agreement, there was movement at the table.”

Correction: June 17, 2016
An earlier version of this article misidentified the union that negotiated a 6 percent pay increase for American Airlines flight attendants earlier this year. It was the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, not the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents United flight attendants and former Continental flight attendants.

Tags: UALAFAIBTContract
Categories: Labor News

Nearly half of NYC private garbage trucks have maintenance issues; drivers say they’re ‘unsafe for everyone’

Current News - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 11:51

Nearly half of NYC private garbage trucks have maintenance issues; drivers say they’re ‘unsafe for everyone’ “When a worker complains about brakes that don’t work or wheels that are missing lugnuts, it doesn’t get fixed,” said Sean Campbell, president of Teamsters Local 813. “The companies are sending workers out on trucks that are unsafe for everyone.”
“When a worker complains about brakes that don’t work or wheels that are missing lugnuts, it doesn’t get fixed,” said Sean Campbell, president of Teamsters Local 813. “The companies are sending workers out on trucks that are unsafe for everyone.”
Private companies' garbage trucks have been cited as hitting the streets with bald tires, faulty brakes and broken lights.
Private companies' garbage trucks have been cited as hitting the streets with bald tires, faulty brakes and broken lights. (MIKE CLARKE/KOZMOAT98/ISTOCK/GETTY)
Thursday, June 16, 2016, 6:24 PM
Trash hauling is a dirty business — and a dangerous one for crews working for private companies.

A new report has found that truck drivers are laboring on city streets with bald tires, faulty brakes and broken lights, and that nearly all safety violations against New York’s largest private sanitation companies involve basic maintenance issues.

The two groups behind the report released Thursday — Transportation Alternatives and Transform Don’t Trash NYC — back a City Council bill that would transform how business is done.

The bill proposes giving the private companies exclusive rights to pick up trash in designated zones. Proponents say this will make city oversight simpler.

Cops stun, nab naked Ga. college student in garbage truck

Truck drivers gathered at City Hall Thursday shared unnerving tales of the road.

“I’ve had trucks in rainstorms with no windshield wipers, so you can’t see,” said Carl Orlando, 24, a former driver with training in diesel mechanics. “Nighttime, no headlights, no brake lights no flashing lights, no horn.”

Orlando said he crashed his truck into a telephone pole when his brake lines froze last winter.

The two-year study that ended in February found that nearly half of all private sanitation trucks from the city’s top 20 trash haulers, on average, had to be taken out of service with maintenance problems, according to the report, which used federal inspection data.

Queens postal worker who tossed 1,000 letters gets probation

A City Council bill would give private companies exclusive rights to pick up trash in designated zones.
A City Council bill would give private companies exclusive rights to pick up trash in designated zones.(ROBERT NICKELSBERG/GETTY IMAGES)
“When a worker complains about brakes that don’t work or wheels that are missing lugnuts, it doesn’t get fixed,” said Sean Campbell, president of Teamsters Local 813. “The companies are sending workers out on trucks that are unsafe for everyone.”

The report found that companies, such as Crown Container, had a vehicle out-of-service rate as high as 86% over the two-year period.

Crown Container’s president, Gerald Antonacci, disputed that, saying his trucks are regularly inspected and that he is upgrading his fleet.

“Some of them are minor, minor things,” he said of the violations. “And none of them have resulted in any types of crashes, any harm to anybody.”

“I would put our fleet up against anybody's fleet,” he added.

Kendall Christiansen, manager of the National Waste & Recycling Association's New York chapter, disputed the report's criticism of the industry's safety record.

"While waste collection trucks are complex pieces of equipment, no company benefits from trucks that can't perform properly, or create safety hazards," Christiansen said in a statement.

Tags: IBT 813NYC private garbage truckshealth and safety
Categories: Labor News

Uber, Lyft drivers push to unionize

Current News - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 08:39

Uber, Lyft drivers push to unionize
By Carolyn Said
June 17, 2016 Updated: June 17, 2016 7:00am

Photo: Michael Noble Jr., The ChronicleTeamsters organizer Misty Tanner, from one of several unions talking with drivers, meets with Uber driver Valerie Mitchell.
In five years as a union organizer, Misty Tanner has approached employees of San Bernardino and Butte counties, and school bus drivers and custodians in Clark County, Nev. But now she’s facing a unique challenge: signing up Bay Area Uber and Lyft drivers for representation by the Teamsters.

“We’re the backbone of Uber’s business; we should have some say,” said Valerie Mitchell, a San Francisco driver who met with Tanner on Wednesday at a Mission District coffee shop. “We need a force to be reckoned with to back us, so we’re not seen as just a bunch of drivers throwing a tantrum.”

The drivers are a far-flung workforce that is by definition highly mobile and extremely varied in their hours, locations, attitudes and personal situations. Unlike most union targets, they are independent contractors, not employees. That means Uber and Lyft drivers lack even basic protections that unions fought for a century ago, such as minimum wage and overtime. The conundrum for unions: Would seeking to represent drivers validate their nonemployee status?

The question of whether drivers should be employees is a major point of contention that has spurred class-action lawsuits. While Uber and Lyft have reached tentative settlements in those cases that keep drivers as contractors, some are raising objections, and the courts may end up rejecting them, throwing their status back up in the air.

Photo: Michael Noble Jr., The ChronicleUber driver Valerie Mitchell says her fellow drivers need “a force to be reckoned with.”
Whether you call them contractors or employees, though, with hundreds of thousands of drivers nationwide and tens of thousands in California, Uber and Lyft workers represent a potent new resource for unions seeking members — and hoping to get a foothold in the emerging gig economy in which online marketplaces connect workers with customers for services such as rides, cleaning or errands.

“We don’t like an independent contractor model; the Teamsters have been in the forefront of fighting that for years,” said Rome Aloise, Teamsters International vice president and president of Joint Council 7, the union’s Northern California/Nevada arm. “On the other hand, we’re not going to dismiss the reality of the world at this point. We think we’re better off being in front of it than behind. It’s new territory, and traditional answers may not fit.”

Not the only option

The Teamsters have been the most active in seeking to organize ride-service drivers in California, but other unions are also jockeying to be part of the action.

“We have met with the Teamsters, with SEIU and with the (New York) Taxi Workers Alliance,” said Gladys Quinones of Sunnyvale, an Uber driver who’s played a leadership role in the San Francisco Bay Area Drivers Association, one of several loose-knit groups now coalescing. “We’ll see who can help us the most.”

Likewise, Mitchell said she’d had contact with the various unions and was agnostic about which one to work with.

Despite differing circumstances, Uber and Lyft drivers seem unanimous on one key issue: higher pay, or at least more consistent rates.

“We would like the rates to be more stable, so they don’t drop them whenever they want,” Quinones said.

“Since I started driving 2½ years ago, fares have decreased so much,” said Edward Escobar, who is helping to organize a related group, United Drivers, under the umbrella name Alliance for Independent Workers. His group has also met with the Teamsters, SEIU and the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, he said. “You hit that button (to see the fare), and your jaw just drops.”

Adding impetus to the movement is the fact that Uber has agreed to recognize and fund peer-run drivers associations in California and Massachusetts as part of the settlement of the class-action lawsuit over employment status. So far, the Teamsters seem most interested in that opportunity.

“We think drivers are workers who need representation, and we think we can help them, especially under the proposed class-action settlement,” Aloise said.

But other labor experts question the concept of an Uber-sanctioned drivers association and slam the Teamsters for even considering participating.

“I’m very skeptical of any association financially supported by Uber,” said Veena Dubal, an associate law professor at UC Hastings College of Law. In late May she filed an objection to the class-action lawsuit settlement on behalf of five drivers, on the grounds that leaving them as independent contractors and creating “illusory mechanisms” such as the association would exacerbate economic and social inequality.

‘Undermines the idea’

“The idea that a company would be involved in facilitating a drivers association undermines the idea of an independent labor organization that can make decisions and fight for things to benefit the workers,” Dubal said.

She pointed to Uber’s recent recognition in New York of a group called the Independent Drivers Guild, to be affiliated with a local branch of the machinists union. The guild will have no bargaining power over fares and benefits. “It’s troubling because (the guild is) agreeing to not work for the one thing workers care about most, which is wages,” she said.

About 5,000 other Uber drivers in New York are working with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which this month filed a proposed class-action saying they should be employees. It also criticized the machinists pact.


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“If a union agrees to not challenge classification or any other labor violations, not engage in work stoppages and not negotiate over economic issues, that to me is a tragic concession,” said Bhairavi Desai, a founding member of the New York group and a representative on the AFL-CIO executive council. “It’s not novel organizing; it’s just a company union.”

Likewise, she’s dubious of the Teamsters or others seeking to form an association under terms set by Uber, as could be the case in California. “Gaining numbers but losing economic power is actually a step backwards,” she said. “They would be giving political cover to the drivers’ misclassification (as independent contractors). If you give up on employee status and the right to a democratic union, workers lose far more.”

The Teamsters say they’re hardly about to roll over for Uber and that they’ve already helped drivers. This month San Francisco Treasurer José Cisneros agreed to cancel late fees and penalties for business registration permits for Uber and Lyft drivers after the city sent out thousands of notices reminding drivers that they needed to register. While his office wouldn’t say how he reached the decision, the Teamsters had set up meetings for drivers with Cisneros and all the members of the Board of Supervisors.

“The question of employee status is far from being answered, but in the meantime the workers need and want representation,” said Doug Bloch, political director for the Teamsters Joint Council 7. “We have an obligation to help these workers any way we can.” One action the Teamsters might pursue is seeking state legislation to set a single business license fee for independent drivers, rather than making them bear the expense of separate ones in each city they drive in.

Pay is dropping

As a union carpenter for 20 years, Kelsey Tilander understands the importance of organized labor, he said. After injuries stopped his career, he became a truck driver, but his family wanted him closer to home. Two years ago he leased a car to drive for Lyft at a time when it was paying $2.35 a mile. “I jumped on it and was doing fine,” he said. “Then they lowered the price some more, and some more and more and more.”

Now he’s active in trying to organize other drivers to work with the Teamsters, noting that there are dozens of Bay Area companies that use on-demand gig workers, such as Postmates and TaskRabbit.

“Those workers all need a voice,” he said. “Getting organized is what gets us in the door.”

Carolyn Said is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: csaid@sfchronicle.com

Tags: UBER UnionizationLyft
Categories: Labor News

Global: LabourStart wins Svensson prize

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 06/16/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Eric Lee
Categories: Labor News


Current News - Thu, 06/16/2016 - 15:24



MARTA Mobility bus operator Preyonda Price loves her job helping Atlantans with disabilities and seniors get to the doctor, church, grocery store and other daily tasks. But sadly the Local 732 member and single mother, who also cares for her own mother and grandmother, may have look for a new job because she is now going to have pay more than $1,800 per month for health care costs – almost more than she makes.
Why? Because MARTA is privatizing its paratransit service, contracting it out to MV Transportation in direct violation of its contract with Local 732.

Adding insult to injury, Price and her fellow workers will also lose their pensions and hundreds could lose their jobs as a result of MARTA outsourcing this critical service that many people depend on each day.


“This is devastating to me and my family. I’ve already had to give up my house, and move with my children into my mom’s apartment with my grandmother,” Price said. “I love my job and the people I pick up each day. It’s not an easy job; it’s humbling. And MARTA is trying to take it away from me. My kids have health issues and now I’m not going to be able to afford to provide the care they need. I’m one of many of my fellow workers facing this dim future.”

This is the cost of privatization – real hard working people losing their livelihood and their health care while greedy executives at private transit companies get bonuses.

Riders lose too

Riders also lose. These private companies win transit contracts with lofty promises of cutting costs and improving service, but time after time they end up costing more, leading to fare increases, service cuts, and safety and maintenance shortcuts.

This isn’t a new story at MARTA. The board and CEO Keith Parker have been scheming to dismantle and sell off MARTA to private contractors for years.

They say people learn from their mistakes, but that doesn’t seem to apply to MARTA. The agency outsourced paratransit in the 1990s, but the service was so bad the Board brought it back in-house.

Furthermore, in a previous job Parker commissioned a report sponsored by the Federal Transit Administration concluding that the quality and stability of privately operated paratransit service is extremely poor, nationwide, compared to service operated by public agencies.

Disturbing trend

This is a disturbing national trend says a new report, by the group, “In the Public Interest”, detailing the many ways private contractors harm the public, workers and the environment in their pursuit of profit.

Cutting Corners describes how companies, like First Transit and MV, have reduced the quality and accessibility of services, lowered worker wages, and sidestepped protections for the public and the environment

“MARTA once lifted a generation of workers, especially African Americans, into the middle class,” said Local President Curtis Howard. “Now, MARTA is throwing those workers under the bus by ramrodding the outsourcing of its Mobility service and leaving our city’s most transit dependent – seniors and people with disabilities – to face an uncertain and unsafe future.”


Tags: outsourcing
Categories: Labor News

City of Alexandria tries to censor ATU 981 transit workers

Current News - Thu, 06/16/2016 - 15:23

City of Alexandria tries to censor ATU 981 transit workers
City of Alexandria tries to censor transit workers

In an attempt to illegally censor transit workers, the City of Alexandria, LA, threatened to discipline Local 981 members if they carried out plans to hold a public town hall meeting on the need to increase funding for critical bus service.

The Local invited Alexandria city councilmembers to attend the public town hall with city residents in hopes of opening a conversation about the importance of adequate funding of bus service in the city. However, City Attorney Charles Johnson contacted Local President Darnice Briggs accusing him of violating Alexandria’s civil service rules and threatening to discipline him and other workers for insubordination.

Threatened legal action

Finding no language in the civil service rules that prohibited public employees from holding “public discussion with stakeholders and community members about an important issue like funding for public transportation,” the union’s legal counsel advised the city in a letter that the Local would take legal action in response to any violation of the transit workers’ First Amendment rights.

ATU Local 981 President Darnice Briggs, Jr.

“This is flat out censorship by the city,” says Briggs, Jr. “They are violating our First Amendment rights in an attempt to silence transit workers and divide us from riders who rely on public transportation each day.

Transit union, city of Alexandria embroiled in dispute
Richard Sharkey, rsharkey@thetowntalk.com, (318) 487-6490 2:04 p.m. CDT April 14, 2016
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(Photo: Richard Sharkey/The Town Talk)

A union says the city of Alexandria is trying to “illegally censor” employees of Atrans, the city bus transit system.

City Attorney Chuck Johnson, however, says the city is simply trying to get transit union officials to follow proper procedures. He also indicates that the transit union is using the controversy to try to pressure the city into a new contract that would increase Atrans employees’ pay.

More than 30 Amalgamated Transit Union members from around the state held a demonstration outside Alexandria City Hall last week to try to drum up support for more state transit funding.

Darnice Briggs, a city bus driver who is president of ATU’s Local 981 in Alexandria, was among Atrans employees at the demonstration.

The union planned to hold a “town hall” meeting on the need for additional transit funding and invited City Council members to attend, but the city “threatened to discipline Amalgamated Transit Union Local 981 members” over that, an ATU news release said.

“This is flat-out censorship by the city. They are violating our First Amendment rights in an attempt to silence transit workers and divide us from riders who rely on public transportation each day,” Briggs said.

“We will not be silent. Bus riders can’t get where they need to be because bus, train and trolley service has been slashed because there is not enough money to fund public transit. It’s time for state lawmakers to invest more in public transportation. It’s good for the community,” he added.

Johnson, in a statement, said the city is not censoring anyone but is trying to ensure the union follows established rules.

Chuck Johnson (Photo: Town Talk file photo)
“No employee of the city has been threatened with disciplinary action for the lawful exercise of any constitutional rights. However, our City Charter and the rules of the Alexandria Civil Service Commission place certain limitations on contact between city employees and City Council members regarding operations,” Johnson said.

“Those rules expressly prohibit certain types of political activity. My job requires that I simply inform the employees of where the line is.

“The right of unions to bargain collectively is free speech; but bus unions do not represent riders, they represent bus department employees. Any concerns the riders have may be brought to their elected officials at any time for redress. That is not what is happening here,” Johnson said.

Antonette Bryant, an ATU international representative based in Washington, D.C., attended the demonstration in Alexandria last week. She said the message of that “rally” and similar demonstrations around the state is “transit lives matter.”

More money is need to improve conditions for transit riders, she said.

“We have a problem of passengers having to wait out in the sun, in the rain, having inclement weather, having no shelters, bus stops on the side of the road some you can’t even see, no information available to them,” Bryant told The Town Talk at the demonstration.

The ATU news release said Johnson accused Briggs of violating the Civil Service rules by inviting council members to a “town hall” meeting and threatened “to discipline him and other workers for insubordination.”

“The union’s legal counsel sent a letter threatening legal action against the city for violating workers’ First Amendment rights after reviewing the Civil Service rules and finding no restrictions for prohibiting public employees from holding ‘public discussion with stakeholders and community members about an important issue like funding for public transportation,’” the ATU said in its release.

ATU International President Larry Hanley said in a statement that any attempt to “trample on the free speech rights of transit workers … is a real abuse of power and unlawful. Transit workers will continue our campaigns to expose the truth and protest as long as it takes to protect our livelihoods and those of our riders and our community.”

Bryant said Mayor Jacques Roy's administration has “tried intimidation factors and tactics to prevent us from speaking on it, which is a direct violation not only of union business … but also the freedom of speech.”

Alexandria budget includes 3 percent pay raises

Johnson’s statement indicates he thinks the union’s actions are a ploy to try to get more money for Atrans workers.

The 2016-17 city budget, which takes effect May 1, includes 3 percent pay raises for all workers.

“Atrans provides an important service to the community. I do not wish to see it imperiled by Mr. Briggs’ contract (salary) demands. We have been told — through negotiations — that if the city will not approve the deal the union wants, they will seek to eliminate our federal funding for transit. This will only hurt the people, approximately 10,000 per year, most in need of public transportation,” Johnson said.

“The city would like to receive more funding for transit, if available, and we would be glad to partner in such efforts. We have never been asked to do so by the union or the riders, and we were not invited to join the discussion.

“Don’t be confused by misinformation and the rhetoric of self-interest. We stand firm in our commitment to providing quality bus service, but we must do so within the limitations of the annual budget appropriations adopted by the City Council,” Johnson’s statement concluded.

In the current fiscal year, the city budget’s Municipal Bus Fund revenue totals about $3.2 million. More than $2 million of that comes in a transfer from the Utility Fund.

Councilman Ed Larvadain III said more transit funding is needed in Alexandria and statewide.

Ed Larvadain III (Photo: Courtesy)
“We want to encourage folks to use public transit. It’s good. It’s healthy. It’s inexpensive, and it’s good to move people throughout the city,” Larvadain said.

Briggs said the Atrans system has very few bus shelters. “We have about a thousand stops throughout the city of Pineville and Alex. Out of those thousand, we may have a total of 10 shelters,” he said.

Larvadain said the city is in dire need of more bus shelters.

“You have people in wheelchairs. You have people who have physical handicaps, and they’re forced to sit or to stand ... in horrible weather conditions. You want to make sure people are comfortable, because we want people to use the mass transit,” Larvadain said.

Tags: ATU 981 transit workerscensorship
Categories: Labor News

Global: Five Years of Progress for Domestic Workers, But Much Still to be Done

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 06/15/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITUC
Categories: Labor News

France: Country braced for new day of street protests

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 06/13/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: The Local
Categories: Labor News

Bahrain: Global condemnation of travel ban for Bahraini education union leader

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 06/13/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Education International
Categories: Labor News

6/17/16 Announcement of the 2016 Railroad Workers Memorial Day

Current News - Mon, 06/13/2016 - 16:19

6/17/16 Announcement of the 2016 Railroad Workers Memorial Day
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Railroad Workers
Memorial Day
Friday, June 17, 2016

Every year since 2009, Railroad Workers United has recognized the Friday prior to Fathers' Day as "Railroad Workers Memorial Day". All rails are encouraged to wear black to work on this day in honor and remembrance of our fellow workers killed on the job.

RWU has stickers, flyers and posters like the one depicted to the left available. Click HERE if you would like to place and order for some.

To see the history of this action, click HERE.
Railroad Workers Memorial Day is Friday, June 17th

Railroad Workers United will observe Railroad Workers Memorial Day once again this Fathers’ Day Friday, June 17th, 2016. This will be the eighth year that we have observed a day in honor of all fellow railroad workers killed on the job. The initial inspiration for Railroad Workers Memorial Day came when Jared Boehlke, a young conductor, was killed on Mothers’ Day, 2009 while working a single employee RCO job in the bowl in Selkirk, NY. RWU called for a day of remembrance and action for that Fathers’ Day Friday a month later.

Since then, we have called on railroad workers and their allies to wear black shirts every year on this date as a way to not just remember and honor those killed on the job, but to take action in support of better safety measures to prevent such tragedies. Click HERE to learn more about RWU's Campaign Against "Blame-the-Worker" Safety Programs.
The History of Railroad Workers Memorial Day
Order Your Stickers and T-shirts
Listings of Railroad Workers Killed on the Job
RWU Campaign Against "Blame-the-Worker" Safety Programs

Tags: railroad health and safetymemorial day
Categories: Labor News

LA UNIÓN NOS HACE MÁS FUERTES- Portugal Dockers Fight Back

Current News - Mon, 06/13/2016 - 16:15

LA UNIÓN NOS HACE MÁS FUERTES -Portugal Docker Fight Back
Published on Feb 27, 2015
ESTIBADORES PORTUARIOS, (la unión nos hace mas fuertes)

Tags: portugal dockersunionport workers
Categories: Labor News

June 11 2016 Fleet Memo

IBU - Mon, 06/13/2016 - 11:54
Categories: Unions

Egypt: Hard times in Egypt stoke labor unrest, showdown ahead

Labourstart.org News - Sat, 06/11/2016 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: The Telegram
Categories: Labor News


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