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Largest-Ever Black Friday Protests at Walmart

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Mon, 12/01/2014 - 07:56

December 1, 2014: Walmart workers and allies ramped up the pressure for $15-an-hour with protests across the country.

Walmart workers held pickets, rallies and walk-outs at more than 1,600 stores nationwide on the biggest shopping day of the year. Some workers fasted and risked arrest to highlight their demands for $15-an-hour and full-time work at Walmart, the nation’s largest employer. In Washington, organizers reported protests at 64 stores—every store in the state.

Click here to read more from protesting Walmart workers and see a survey of the protests.

Issues: Labor Movement
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Open Letter In Response to SF Building Secretary-Treasurer Theriault’s “Open Letter to the ILWU”

Current News - Mon, 12/01/2014 - 00:14

Open Letter In Response to SF Building Secretary-Treasurer Theriault’s “Open Letter to the ILWU”
Response to Secretary-Treasurer Theriault’s “Open Letter to the ILWU”

113 STEUART STREET LANDMARK COMMITTEE 113 STEUART LABOR CENTER PROJECT

535 Geary St 912 •• San Francisco, CA 94102 •• phone: 415.694.3605 •• email: 113steuart@pacbell.net

Response to Secretary-Treasurer Theriault’s “Open Letter to the ILWU”

On June 23, 2009, Michael Theriault, San Francisco Building Trades Secretary-Treasurer, published “An Open Letter to Longshore and Warehouse Locals.”

This “Open Letter” by Brother Theriault attacks the ILWU for passing a Resolution at its International Convention on June 10th opposing the demolition of the historic building at 113 Steuart Street where the 1934 Great Maritime and General Strikes were organized.

The “Open Letter” also attacks the proponents of preserving 113 Steuart Street as a landmark building.

The ILWU Resolution calls for a building project involving the development of 113 Steuart Street as a landmarked labor center that applies the lessons of the 1934 General Strike to the protection and securing of union jobs for workers today, while reflecting and respecting planning criteria that preserve the Waterfront and Maritime District.

Two Unanimous Resolutions

There were, in fact, two Resolutions passed respectively in June by the ILWU International and by the Longshore Caucus for the entire West Coast.

Each Resolution passed unanimously – by acclamation – without one delegate from the assembly nor any member taking exception to the detailed, four page Resolutions setting out the facts and issues bearing upon the history and needs of the ILWU and of organized labor today.

Secretary-Treasurer Theriault describes the ILWU membership as dupes who don’t understand the issues and who were prevented by the ILWU leadership from knowing the “facts” concerning developer Hines’ efforts to

raze 113 Steuart Street to the ground and replace it with an eleven-story glass high-rise.

“We do not believe,” wrote Brother Theriault, “that you would have taken this action had you known our side of the matter. We think it very unlikely that the proponents of the resolution even told you that there is another Labor position on the landmarking.”

It is curious that Secretary-Treasurer Theriault didn’t call the ILWU when he was privy to the plans of Hines to demolish 113 Steuart Street, plans concealed from the Planning Commission and the public.

Maintaining Silence

He kept silent about what Hines was planning; or will Brother Theriault maintain that he was duped by Hines and believed their claim, presented as a formal historical report to the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors, that this building had played no significant role in the history of the city nor had any person associated with it made a contribution to the history and development of San Francisco?

On March 17, 2009 a five-hour hearing took place at the Board of Supervisors, preparatory to their vote on whether to authorize the demolition of 113 Steuart Street.

At this hearing, Brother Theriault, then as now, presumed to speak for the ILWU. “The ILWU,” he declared to the Board of Supervisors “in contradistinction to some of its members, considers this building so altered that it does not oppose demolition. I repeat, the ILWU does not oppose the demolition of this building.”

At this very meeting, Brian McDonald, President of ILWU Local 91, Russ Miyashiro, from ILWU Local 34 and Frank Gaskin, from ILWU Local 10 spoke and declared their firm

opposition to the demolition of 113 Steuart Street.

These ILWU figures were joined by former ILWU International President of seven years, Brian McWilliams, whose open letter to the Board of Supervisors was read into the record.

In addition, 77 officers and members of Executive Boards and Locals of Maritime and Bay Area trade unions joined in expressing opposition to the Hines project and in support of preserving 113 Steuart Street and the Waterfront District.

The Board of Supervisors, in rejecting the claim by Secretary-Treasurer Theriault to speak for the ILWU, repudiated the false claims of Hines and his enablers concerning 113 Steuart Street by a decisive vote of 8 to 3.

A report of the Board of Supervisors Hearing of March 17 was presented by attending ILWU and other participants to the membership of their respective Locals.

After these reports to the membership, ILWU Locals 34 and 10 adopted the March 23rd detailed Resolutions that addressed all the issues. These Resolutions support the development of 113 Steuart Street as a land- marked labor center. After full discussion, each Resolution was passed unanimously.

“Don’t Raze the Hall Where It All Began”

On April 29, 2009, an article was published in the San Francisco Chronicle entitled “Don’t Raze the Hall Where It All Began” that set forth the issues and the position of the ILWU Bay Area Locals. It was signed by President Rene Ducroux and Secretary-Treasurer Alan Fung of ILWU Local 34, President Melvin MacKay and Secretary Treasurer Adam Mendez of ILWU Local 10, President Brian McDonald of ILWU Local 91 and by former seven year ILWU International President Brian McWilliams.

Secretary-Treasurer Theriault writes, “You will forgive us, then, if we do not understand what there is magical, talismanic, of near religious importance in the particular arrangement of building materials that constitutes 113 Steuart.” He cites a corner

display at Mission and Steuart commemorating the 1934 Strike and sundry markers and plaques at other locations.

He seeks to dismiss the importance to labor and the community of a historic building such as 113 Steuart Street and the actual Hall that served as ground zero for the General Strike. It is a building that has survived intact seventy- five years since the seminal events of 1934.

113 Steuart Street is on every walking tour and waterfront district tour for a reason. Workers were gassed in that Hall and week after week of organizing, deadly combat, and life and death struggle were centered in that Hall.

The hall where the Liberty Bell hung and where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were ratified has meaning to people who care about history and the origins of the country. So it is with the birthplace of the ILWU and of the decisive victories that prepared for the gains of the labor movement today.

A pizza parlor or a glass high rise with a plaque at the entrance is hardly an equivalent – anymore then it would be for the house in which Jack London, Mark Twain or Shakespeare lived and wrote their work.

Buildings and Locations Matter

Buildings and locations where the people who made history that shaped our culture and society lived and fought matter to each generation. The places where great works were composed, life and death issues were discussed, historic decisions taken and dramatic events unfolded are a precious legacy enabling us to touch and feel and experience the events that have shaped our sensibility.

Secretary-Treasurer Theriault further claims, as did Hines, that the building at 113 Steuart Street has been so altered and modified that it has no physical continuity whatsoever with the original building. He claimed before the Board of Supervisors that the Hall itself was a gutted shell.

Unfortunately for Hines and for Brother Theriault, the Board of Supervisors saw the

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actual photographs of the building and of the ILA Hall. The building and the Hall are intact.

Brother Theriault claimed to the Board of Supervisors and to the San Francisco Labor Council that the building was in unstable condition and composed of decaying old brick.

Invincible Ignorance

While he may be Secretary-Treasurer of Building Trades, Brother Theriault either is ignorant of the actual composition of the building or, like Hines, makes things up as he goes along. 113 Steuart Street is composed of reinforced concrete with no brick whatsoever.

It takes a callous disregard for the meaning of our past to ride roughshod over the importance to a city or community of such a site, let alone the significance of this Hall, building and location to the ILWU and to the labor movement in San Francisco and the United States.

The eleven-story glass high rise of Hines – all the lies and attempts to deceive the Planning Commission aside – violates the planning criteria and legal zoning for the Waterfront and Maritime District.

The Board of Supervisors rejected the Hines planning report and its fabrications and they rejected the spot zoning that is the opening shot of Hines’ plan to deep-six the Waterfront District.

Hines has been put on notice that this project as presented – 66% over the height limit – will never be approved or come into existence.

In the intervening five months since the Board of Supervisors rejected Hines and Secretary-Treasurer Theriault’s s boondoggle high-rise, a scheme that would demolish 113 Steuart Street and pave the way for the elimination of what remains of the historic Waterfront and Maritime District, Hines has failed to prepare a new Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

Not one penny further has been expended by Hines to put together an accurate historical report on the site or to modify their environmental documents to meet the legal

planning requirements for the building and the district.

Secretary-Treasurer Theriault: ILWU Membership Vote “Exploited”

In his “Open Letter,” Secretary Treasurer Theriault claims that the ILWU membership had been manipulated. “It is in this dispute that your vote will be exploited. We are sure that none of this was discussed with you before you voted. We do not know if there is any way or will to undo now what you have done. We do hope you understand the consequences of your actions better than when you acted.”

Hines Interests Defaults to Lenders

Let us examine who is misleading whom. On July 28, 2009 the San Francisco Chronicle carried a revealing article entitled “S.F. Tower’s owners will forfeit it to lender.”

It reads as follows:

“The owners of a premier San Francisco office tower plan to forfeit the property to their lenders, the city’s second distressed transaction involving a major commercial building in recent weeks and another sign of the growing pressures in this sector.

“Hines and Sterling American Property decided to transfer their interest in 333 Bush Street to the original financiers, following the surprise dissolution of law firm Heller Ehrman in September, according to a letter Hines sent to local real estate brokers and obtained byThe Chronicle. The 118-year old law firm defaulted on its 250,000 square foot lease, leaving the nearly 550,000 square foot property 65 percent vacant.

“Industry watchers have been openly speculating that the building would fall into default in the months since. Hines and Sterling bought the tower for $281 million in 2007 near the top of the market when it was 75% leased.”

In short, Hines has defaulted on a major tower property at 333 Bush Street. Hines was required to send a letter to local real estate brokers admitting the default of a 118-year-old law firm on a 250,000 square-foot lease.

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The Chronicle uncovered that Hines was compelled to admit its inability to maintain its interest in this “major tower property” in a letter to real estate brokers “obtained by the Chronicle.” The letter discloses:

“’We diligently worked with the lender, but were not able to come to a mutually satisfactory restructure of the existing debt.”

Revelations Concerning Hines

This is not the only revelation concerning Hines and their speculative high-rise projects that devastate neighborhoods in San Francisco:

The Chronicle article further reveals, “...the Houston real estate investment company has defaulted on two other Bay Area properties in recent months. Those include the three buildings at the 1.2 million-square-foot Watergate Towers complex in Emeryville that it held in a joint venture with CalPERS, as well as the nearly 500,000 square foot Marin Commons office property in San Rafael.”

The article makes clear that the collapse and abandonment by Hines of major high rise projects is part of a rapidly growing crisis facing Hines and other developers pursuing the same speculative path:

“Earlier this month The Chronicle reported an undisclosed private equity fund bought the $40.8 million note on 250 Montgomery Street (at) about half of its face value after owner Lincoln Property Co. fell into default on the loan.

“Less than two weeks later, it emerged that the Four Seasons Hotel on Market Street defaulted on a $90 million loan. A handful of other ... office buildings, hotels and multi- family properties have gone into default in recent months.

More Distressed Deals Are Expected

“More distressed deals are expected. Nearly three-quarters of Class A office buildings downtown sold between 2005 and 2007, a bonanza that drove up prices to all-time highs and squeezed the ratio of rental income to cost to record lows. But the economic collapse

sharply reduced rent and occupancy levels, making it increasingly difficult for landlords to meet their debt obligations.”

Inventing a Straw Man

Secretary-Treasurer Theriault invents a straw man that, like 113 Steuart Street, he attempts to demolish:

“The opponents of the demolition of 113 Steuart Street and so of the construction of 110 Embarcadero talk of providing us employment by putting a labor history museum in the existing building. We have seen nothing that permits us to consider this a serious possibility. ...The museum proposal asks us to forego work that could start in a few months in exchange for words dying on the air. The result would be that a few more of us would lose homes, health care, the ability to support our families.”

“Crackpot Realism”

In furthering this delusion, dressed up as a sordid pragmatism, Brother Theriault’s attempt to sell the Hines boondoggle as a source of jobs embodies what C. Wright Mills called “crack- pot realism.”

The PIPE DREAM is the delusion that the Hines project - 66% over the height limit - will ever be approved or come into existence. It will be fought in every arena - including the courts, if it comes to that.

A commercial project involving a building of six storys - with, for example, a restaurant on the first floor called The General Strike, and commemoration of the Hall on the second floor and four additional stories of office space – or any variation on the theme – is FEASIBLE AND REALISTIC.

This is the project that can actually be built and provide jobs at this site.

The location is a plum. Any number of commercial investors had approached the property owners with proposals.

They will be interested, now as then, in a viable project of six stories that preserves the first two floors and builds four additional floors with materials and design that complement the

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Waterfront District and the buildings on Steuart Street.

113 Steuart Street Will Be Landmarked

This building will be land-marked as historic – one of the most important such sites of organized labor in the United States.

There remains the real prospect that foundation funds for a more ambitious labor center in the six stories will be mobilized - with important ensuing tax credits - but whether this unfolds or not, the commercial development of 113 Steuart Street that preserves the Hall and respects the planning criteria for the Waterfront is a viable project that will actually produce jobs. It can unite everyone.

Labor has a real stake in public planning that defends neighborhoods and the lived history of residents - whether in Alameda or San Francisco. That includes rebuilding infrastructure and fighting for the type of development that is intended to create a city in which the workers who build it can afford to live.

We should all be united in that struggle.

The ILWU membership, contrary to the specious claims of Secretary-Treasurer Theriault, has a clear-sighted understanding of the interests of organized labor in preserving 113 Steuart Street and in a united fight by labor for union jobs in projects that restore our cities.

Secretary-Treasurer Theriault demeans the ILWU membership as he arrogates to himself the right to speak for the ILWU – in service to interests that were antithetical to the rank and file struggles of 1934, even as they are to organized labor today.

What are the facts concerning Secretary- Treasurer Theriault’s claims about the role of the Building Trades Council at the time of the Great Maritime and General Strike of 1934?

The Role of the Building Trades Council in 1934

What was the actual role of Secretary- Treasurer Theriault’s 1934 counterparts?

Secretary-Treasurer Theriault wrote, “We honor the memory of Harry Bridges and the strike of 1934, in which this Council also participated.”

What then is the historical record regarding the role of the Building Trades Council with respect to the General Strike of 1934 and Harry Bridges specifically?

Calling for the Deportation of Harry Bridges

On Sunday, July 8, 1934, the San Francisco Examiner carried the headline “Labor Paper Asks U.S. to Deport Alien Agitators in Marine Strike.” The article states, “A demand for action by Secretary of Labor Perkins toward deportation of alien agitators involved in the San Francisco maritime strike is contained in yesterday’s issue of Organized Labor, the official paper of the State and Local Building Trades Councils.

“The article is featured on page 1 under a four-column head which says, ‘When William B. Wilson was Secretary of Labor, He Deported Communists.’

“It then reads: ‘Read any of the daily papers dealing with the longshoremen’s strike on the San Francisco waterfront, also other ports on the Pacific Coast and you’ll agree that all of the papers are unanimous in their summing up that the delay in the settlement of the strike is the existence of Communistic influence, the leader of which is not a citizen of the United States.’”

The Building Trades Council publication, Organized Labor, demanded, in effect, that the Secretary of Labor deport Harry Bridges, and cited as worthy precedent for this demand previous U.S. government actions against “acknowledged members of the Communist Party for their prominence in plotting against our Government.”

The San Francisco Examiner article of July 8, 1934 reveals that the Building Trades Council paper “reprints an article it published in February 1918 under a Washington date line telling of Secretary Wilson’s decision that the Communist Party was a ‘revolutionary party’ within the meaning of statutes providing for

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deportation of aliens who affiliate with such organizations.”

The Building Trades Council and its newspaper organized a sustained campaign to deport Harry Bridges and to attack and arrest the rank and file leadership of the Maritime and General Strike.

“Deport the Undesirables!”

The San Francisco Examiner article on July 8, 1934, stressed repeatedly how the Building Trades Council paper demanded the deportation of “undesirables.”

“In conclusion, Organized Labor states, “Surely if the then Secretary of Labor had the power to order deportation of undesirables, does not the same power rest today in the hands of Secretary of Labor Perkins?”

Beating this drum demanding the immediate deportation of Harry Bridges, Organized Labor intones:

“Why does she not act at once in this particular emergency and help clarify the situation which has become a danger and a menace to our American citizenship?”

The direct consequences of the urgent demand of the Building Trades Council to deport Harry Bridges and to attack rank and file leaders of the 1934 General Strike emerged dramatically, in the front page report of the San Francisco Chronicle on July 18, 1934.

The summons by the Building Trades Council calling for repressive action against the leaders of the rank and file, not only among long shore workers but among all sections of labor, was adopted by the conservative leadership of the American Federation of Labor:

“A Strike Bred in Moscow”

The Chronicle’s lead article bore the headline: “Strike Bred in Moscow, A.F.L. Avers.” The sub-headline read, “Federation Chiefs Say Communists Getting Upper Hand in U.S. Labor.” The second sub-headline read, “American Revolution Asserted to be Soviet Plan.”

The article continues, “Communists, acting as a unit and under directions from Moscow, are churning up the strikes and industrial unrest that now spot the country, according to charges made here today on behalf of the American Federation of Labor and the National Association of Manufacturers.”

The AFL was eager to take up the call:

“Communist activity is undoubtedly responsible for much of the General Strike crisis in San Francisco, a spokesman for the American Federation of Labor said today. ...”

These charges, made jointly by the American Federation of Labor and the National Association of Manufacturers, were preceded by the campaign on the part of the Building Trades Council and its official paper Organized Labor.

The red-baiting hysteria was not confined to Harry Bridges and the rank and file leadership centered at 113 Steuart Street. It was expanded to include all labor struggles in the United States:

The article sub-head reads, “TAKING OVER LABOR” and the text unfolds as follows:

“That radicals of a communistic or similar leaning are fast taking the American labor movement out of the hands of the American Federation of Labor and other conservative leaders also became apparent today. The National Manufacturers Association reported that in every strike situation known to it the Communists had gained the upper hand over old- line American Federation of Labor leaders.

Strike Fever Spread Throughout Country

“Meanwhile the strike fever spread throughout the country, lending ... support to the theory that a central agency, communistic or otherwise, is fomenting the trouble.

“In Minneapolis, 7,000 truck drivers and freight handlers struck, tying up the city; immediately rumors of a general strike, like that in San Francisco, began to spread.

“In Alabama, 22,000 textile operatives quit their jobs in a State-wide strike.

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“Portland, Oregon was undergoing a waterfront strike similar to that in San Francisco.

“At Kohler, Wisconsin; Danbury, Connecticut; Houston, Texas and Baltimore, Maryland strikers were stopping the wheels of industry

The articles note with emphasis, “The Federal Government redoubled its efforts regarding these spreading “danger spots.” Requests for decisive action “had been pouring in,” the Chronicle trumpets ominously.

The character of these “decisive actions” emerges in the adjacent columns on the same page under the following headline:

“Unionists Smash Radical Hangouts in Purging Move.” The sub-heading stated: “Police Nab 300 in Dredging Cauldrons of Discontent in Raids; Many Seized Face U.S. Deportation.”

Here is the intended outcome of the fevered calls of the Building Trades Council, demands that took as a starting -point the round-up and deportation of Harry Bridges and his “band” of “communist agitators:”

“Conservative union labor moved swiftly yesterday to purge its ranks of Communists.

“Aroused by the discovery that Communist groups had been parading as union strikers and flaunting banners and placards completely at variance with union tenets, conservatives quickly took the situation into their own hands.

35 Separate Vigilante Squads

“They organized 35 separate vigilante squads, equipped them with fast automobiles and then started on a city-wide cleanup of ‘red’ centers and known Communist headquarters, wrecking several of the meeting places, destroying equipment and severely beating ... asserted Communists.

“At the same time, the Police Department began an independent drive to rid the city of communist-inspired terrorism. They staged raids on communist headquarters.

“By nightfall more than 300 alleged Communists had been carted off to jail and

several of their meeting places had been wrecked internally.

“If we find out that any of those arrested are undesirable aliens, or are in this country illegally,” said Chief Inspector W. E. Walsh, “steps will be taken to have them deported.”

Once again, the principal target among rank and file leaders, branded “undesirable aliens” to be deported, was Harry Bridges.

The Police and Vigilante Pogrom

The Chronicle account of the organized police and vigilante pogrom, including brutal assaults by fink “unionists,” is particularly graphic:

“Windows were smashed, typewriters and other office paraphernalia were thrown from windows and purported Communists were severely beaten by unionists. These purging raids targeted the gathering points and organizing centers of the rank and file:

“The headquarters of the Marine Workers’ Industrial Union. ... Here police swooped down in their first raid of the day and arrested nearly 100 men.

“A strikers’ soup-line in front of 84 The Embarcadero: Here police looked over the line of men waiting for food and several known communists were recognized and arrested.”

Brutal Assaults Coordinated With Police

Other brutal assaults were coordinated with the police who arrived on the scene as soon as the goon squads had wreaked sufficient havoc:

“The plant of the Western Worker at 37 Grove Street. Here 25 vigilantes pulled up in five automobiles, threw rocks through the windows and stormed inside, completely demolishing everything in sight.

“Police arrived to find the raiders gone and the plaza crowded with grinning ‘spectators.’

“A supposed communist branch at 1223 Fillmore Street. Here the civilian raiders followed their customary plan of window breaking and dragged out three men, whom they soundly trounced. Police arrived just in time to take the injured to Central Emergency Hospital.

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“The Workers’ School of International Labor Defense, 121 Haight Street, was the next raid undertaken by the vigilantes. Here a large group, arriving in automobiles, broke all of the windows in the two-story building, broke through to the second floor and threw typewriters, furniture and ... literature into the alley below.

Beatings, Leaping from Second Floor Windows

“Several communists were in the building when the raiders entered and saved themselves a beating by leaping from the second floor windows as the raiders rushed upstairs.

“The Mission Workers Neighborhood House, 741 Valencia Street. Here the same group of unidentified civilians arriving by automobiles stormed the large building, this time gaining entrance by means of the rear doors. Once inside, the raiders smashed down the doors to private offices and in an efficient manner destroyed all of the records and files found therein.

“The interior of the building was damaged beyond repair and even a platform that speakers apparently had used, was splintered like kindling wood.

“The Ex-Service Men’s League, 765 Howard Street, a supposed outdoor meeting place for communists. Here a posse of police under the direction of Captain Thomas Hoertkorn broke up a meeting of about 175 men and while a crowd of spectators cheered them on, herded the men to the Southern Police Station where they were charged with vagrancy.

Dozens injured, Several Thousand “Scattered”

“Dozens of men were injured, four arrested and several thousand others were scattered when 40 police officers broke up a riot that was the outgrowth of a Communist meeting at Eddy and Fillmore Streets.

“Police raided a hall at 637 Linden Avenue, asserted Communist headquarters, seized four guns, seditious literature and arrested one man.

“The riot at Eddy and Fillmore Streets was the major disturbance of the day. Thousands of men, some in an angry mood, blocked traffic along the street as they lined up on both sides, listening to the high-pitched exhortations of a Communist (sic) orator.

“Suddenly the police appeared and the fight was on. Many of the rioters, felled by police clubs were picked up and carried away in private cars.

Those “resisting arrest” were “subdued with police billies and taken to the Central Emergency Hospital before being jailed.”

Three Hundred More in the City Prison

“In the Linden Avenue hall, police arrested Donald McKee. ... By nightfall the crime prevention bureau and anti-radical squad, under Captain J. J. O’Meara, had bottled up more than 300 alleged inciters in the City Prison.

“Immigration authorities will run an eye down the line this morning when the accused appear in Police court – with a view to deportation. Nearly all were charged with vagrancy.

Vigilantes Supplied Machine Guns and Bayonets

“Although the raids were made under cover of militia machine guns and bayonets, the National Guardsmen had no part in them.

“It was ostensibly through coincidence that the radicals’ Jackson Street headquarters was blocked off by sandbag barricades and squads of riflemen on foot.

“Around the corner and into the picture comes a police patrol swarming with officers – some in uniform, some not.”

“They are led by Lieutenants James Malloy and Henry Ludolph. Into the narrow alleyway they pour and into the shabby basement room that comprises the headquarters. The place is surrounded.

“‘Halt!’ shouts one of the soldier guards as a plainclothes inspector rushes around a corner, a sawed-off shotgun in his hand. The inspector fails to hear him. Two more cries to halt, each in

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a high, more agitated pitch. The inspector is still impervious. The doughboy levels his rifle.

“‘For the love of ---- yells a militia captain. Don’t shoot THAT man, he’s a police officer!’

Black Men, White Men and All Colors in Between

“Inside headquarters are huddled black men, white men and all colors in between. They are shoved none too gently into the back room and lined up. Coppers recognize some of them of yore. They get a thwack on the rump in remembrance of the parades to the City Hall when the blue coats had to take their taunts without retaliation.

“In the front room tables are knocked over. A typewriter is lifted head -high and slammed against a wall. ‘Evidence’ is being gathered -up by the armful – a red flag, an embroidered banner, loads of radical literature.

“Don’t Go Out Alone”
“Hanging about are placards: “Don’t Go Out

Alone.” Patrols are coming up and men are being shunted into them.

“Late afternoon brings the biggest police raid of the day – the cleaning out of the radical stronghold on Howard Street between Third and Fourth. Police Captain Thomas Hoertkorn has gone in with men and clubs. Fully 200 men are corralled in there and are waiting for the wagons. Crash! Bang! Everything in the place is being demolished.

“San Francisco has got at the seat of its trouble!

“At a special meeting held today of Rincon Hill Post No. 407, Department of California, American Legion, it was voted to advise you that members of this post individually and as citizens and legionnaires and collectively as the American Legion heartily endorse the stand that you have taken for the preservation of law and order in San Francisco.

“We want you to know that whatever further steps you may find necessary to take ... will have our complete cooperation and support. We

pledge ourselves to perform any duties that you may request of us.”

Building Trades’ Rank and File Declare for the General Strike

While the Building Trades Council leadership aligned itself with the police, the vigilantes of their own promotion, the AFL “conservative” leadership and the National Association of Manufacturers (!), Building Trades locals, and their rank and file, were in the front lines of the struggle.

The San Francisco Examiner carried on page two a story (July 8, 1934) with the headline: “These Unions to Back I.L.A. in General Walkout.”

Half of the union locals who declared their support from the outset for the General Strike – and backed the call from the ILA and Harry Bridges - were from Building Trades rank and file.

These workers and locals defied the Building Trades Council and declared for the General Strike ten days before the commencement of the three days known as the General Strike.

“Here are the unions represented at yesterday’s meeting of the I.L.A. who declared they were ready to support a General Strike when and if it is called:
Sign, Seal and Pictorial Workers, Local 510 Painters Local, 1158
Shipyard Workers, Local 1305
Machinists, Local 248, Oakland
Garment Workers, Local 8
Bronze and Metal Workers
Shipyard Workers, Local 2, Oakland
Window Cleaners, Local 10
Painters, Local 460
Cleaners and Dyers, Local 176
Pile Drivers, Dock and Wharf, Local 34 Machinists, Local 68
Barbers
Boilermakers
Motion Picture Projectionists
Waiters, Local 30

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Waitresses, Local 48 Certified Welders, Local 10”

The Role of the San Francisco Labor Council

On July 7, 1934, Organized Labor carried an article with the headline “Labor Council Denounces Communism”

It read as follows:

“Charging that communistic propagandists and radical agitators have taken advantage of the Longshoremen’s strike to undermine organized labor, the San Francisco Labor Council and the San Francisco Longshoremen’s Association (sic) both went on record during last week as denouncing the asserted radical activities.

Organized Labor embraces The Blue Book Company Union

It is critical to note here that Organized Labor, the voice and publication of the Building Trades Council, has embraced the vicious attacks upon the rank and file and its leadership by the Blue Book Company Union!

The San Francisco Longshoremen’s Association cited here approvingly by Organized Labor is none other than the ship- owners company union, the bosses’ vehicle for enslaving long shore workers – the men on the docks – delivering them to the shape-up and coordinating their brutalization.

“The vote at the Labor Council was 129 to 22. The sentiment of the delegates was unanimously against radical activities and such votes as were cast against the resolution represented the sentiment of the leaders of the public mass meeting the previous Tuesday that the views of all strikers should be given to the public.

Organized Labor shows its true colors

Organized Labor continues in the same vein: “The Longshoremen’s Association adopted resolutions requiring all members to disavow connections with communistic organizations under penalty of expulsion.

“Michael Casey, John P. McLaughlin and John O’Connell supported the resolutions

adopted by the Labor Council, which were as follows:

Labor Council: “Communist Propagandists Take Advantage of Waterfront Strikes”

“Whereas, Communist propagandists have taken advantage of the waterfront strike to issue numerous scurrilous attacks upon the Unions affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and upon the duly elected officers of said unions; and,

“Whereas, The anonymous slander of the A.F. of L. Unions and the officials thereof has had a tendency to weaken the morale of the strikers and to confuse the minds of trade unions not familiar with the tactics of communistic character assassins; and,

“Whereas, At the mass meeting of waterfront strikers held in the Civic Auditorium Tuesday, June 19, the chairman introduced the spokesman for a notorious Communist organization, thereby creating the altogether erroneous impression that the Unions involved have made common cause with the Communists; therefore, be it

“Resolved: Disavow All Connections with Communistic Elements on Waterfront”

“Resolved, By the San Francisco Labor Council, in regular meeting assembled on Friday, June 24, 1934, that we repudiate all Communist organizations, especially the so- called Marine Workers Industrial Union, and denounce their efforts to inject themselves into an industrial conflict for the sole purpose of making converts to Communism; further

“Resolved, That the San Francisco Labor Council strongly advises the International Longshoremen’s Association, its members and representatives, to disavow all connections with the communistic elements on the waterfront; and further

“Resolved, That copies of this resolution be forwarded to the President of the American Federation of Labor, to the Presidents of the International Unions involved, and to the press.

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“Adopted by the San Francisco Labor Council, June 22, 1934.

Mike Quin sums up the position and the politics of the San Francisco Labor Council

The Big Strike by Mike Quin described presciently the politics that defined the position of the San Francisco Labor Council on the General Strike and the events of 1934:

“But the top salaried officials of the Labor Council who headed the conservative faction were in constant touch with Mayor Rossi, the mediation board, the Industrial Association, the Newspaper Employers’ Union.

“They held continual secret conferences with these interests and acted within the strike committee as virtual agents of the employers.”(emphasis added)

Mike Quin set forth authoritatively and indisputably the class role of controlling business unionists in this crucial historical juncture:

“By this time, the idea of a general strike in San Francisco had entered the minds and conversations of union men to such an extent that conservative officials of the Labor Council were seriously alarmed.

“The Labor Council, comprising delegates from all the unions in the city, was to labor, in a certain sense, what the Chamber of Commerce and the Industrial Association were to employers.

“The organized employers of the city had already taken command of the whole strike situation, but so far the Labor Council had not budged.

Top Labor Council Officials Congenial to the Interests of the Employers

“The reason for this was that the top officials of the Council consisted of men like Joseph P. Ryan and Mike Casey, who were more congenial to the interests of the employers in their oft-repeated charge that the rank and file committeemen of the waterfront unions were

‘irresponsible,’ and that Joseph P. Ryan was their ‘bona fide representative.’

“The resolution conformed exactly with the statements previously issued by J. W. Maillard, Jr., Thomas G. Plant, and others. It was passed by a vote of 129 to 22 in the Council, which, at the time, was under the complete dominance of the conservative faction.

The Uses of Red Baiting and the Mantra of “Outside Agitators”

“Before any mention of a general strike could be brought up, the anti-communist resolution was introduced, which despite the minority of opposition present, precipitated a tumultuous discussion that lasted most of the evening and forced the general strike into obscurity.

Harry Bridges Leads the Resistance

“Delegates from striking unions, including Harry Bridges, vigorously opposed the resolution and newspapers quickly made use of the fact in their propaganda. The truth was that they opposed it solely on the grounds that it was detrimental to the cause of the strikers.

“But in view of the ambiguous wording of the proposition, anyone who cared to do so could interpret their opposition as an espousal of communism.

“Their position was such that if they argued for the resolution, they were playing into the hands of the Industrial Association, and if they argued against it, they would be, apparently, professing “communism.”

Between the Red Herring and the Deep Blue Sea

“They were caught between the red herring and the deep blue sea.”

“Furthermore, the maritime unions were committed to the principle that all members would have absolute freedom of religious or political belief and that no man would be discriminated against on such grounds. To them it was the old gag all over again: Have you stopped beating your wife? Answer, yes or no.’”

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Mike Quin documents the decisive relationships in the General Strike and in the class struggles of 1934:

Close Ties Between Police, City Government, Labor Council and the Industrial Association

“The close relationship of the police, the city government and the conservative officials in the Labor Council with the plans of the Industrial Association is revealed by Mr. Paul Eliel, who states in the Industrial Association’s official record:

“ ‘While the public was not kept advised through the press or by the Association as to the latter’s plans for the movement of freight, the Association kept the leaders of the organized labor world in San Francisco thoroughly in touch with its plans and conferred with them almost daily relative to its program.

“ ‘As soon as it had been definitively decided that a movement must be undertaken to restore normal freight movements to and from the waterfront and across the streets of San Francisco, the Association called in Messrs. Casey and McLaughlin, representing the Teamsters Union, and told them of its decision.

“ ‘Almost daily, thereafter, either in personal conversations in the offices of the Association, or by telephone, these men were advised of the successive steps which the Association had undertaken: when warehouses were leased they were informed to this effect. When trucks were purchased they were advised of this.

“ ‘When non-union men were engaged to drive the trucks and act as warehousemen, they were informed of this also.

“ ‘In fact, these officers of the Teamsters’ Union were more thoroughly in touch with what the Industrial Association proposed to do than was anyone except the high officials of the city and the officers and staff of the Association itself.’

Breaking the General Strike

“President Roosevelt, in response to private communications from Governor Merriam and Mayor Rossi, appointed a National

Longshoremen’s Board to take the situation in hand. Appointees of this Board were: Archbishop Edward J. Hanna, of the Catholic Diocese in San Francisco; O.K. Cushing and Edward F. McGrady, Assistant Secretary of Labor.

“McGrady, as a first move, informed the strikers that the employers were dissatisfied with the present membership of the International Longshoremen’s Association and with its leadership.

“He declared that a thorough examination and combing over of the membership would have to be accomplished by paid investigators and experts, and that steps must be taken to determine whom the strikers wanted to represent them.”

Employers Move In For the Kill

“His exact words were:

“ ‘From the employers has come the charge that the ranks of the ILA here and in other Pacific ports have been stacked with men who are not really longshoremen and have never worked at this craft. Equally from the ranks of the men has come the charge that “ringers” have been thrust into waterfront employment with instructions to vote for any measures favored by the shipping men.

“ ‘Therefore the first task of the board will be to determine who are the longshoremen and who they want to act as their spokesman. We will undoubtedly employ paid investigators and experts to determine this point and we will supoena records of the employers and of the union, one to be checked against the other to determine who the real longshoremen are.’ ”

Discrediting the Joint Marine Strike Committee – Attacking Bridges

“Newspapers were energetically cooperating in the campaign to discredit the Joint Marine Strike Committee and made wide use of a statement issued by Joseph P. Ryan on June 27 attacking Harry Bridges, chairman of the Committee.

“Ryan said:

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“ ‘The leader of the local strike committee has refused to go along with the majority.

“ ‘A policy was decided on by the Executive Committee of the International Longshoremen’s Association on the Pacific Coast ... but the local strike leader has refused to agree to it. Bridges won’t go along with anything, but sticks to his original demands. It is my opinion that the time has come for modification.

“‘Bridges doesn’t want this strike settled and it is my firm belief that he is acting for the Communists.’ ”

The Duplicitous Role of the Building Trades Council

On August 4, 1934, The Building Trades Council and its publication, Organized Labor, ran a headline celebrating the betrayal of the General Strike:

General Strike End is Praised by William Green of the AFL

“The good judgment of the San Francisco trade unions in calling off the general strike ... was stressed by William Green, president of the American Federation of Labor, in a statement on the fatal philosophy underlying the sympathetic strike in labor disputes.

“They made a grave mistake when they engaged in a sympathetic strike, but they acted wisely when they ordered it officially terminated.

“Workers who are organized into unions affiliated with the American Federation of Labor cannot afford to engage in a sympathetic strike...

“It is a dangerous experimentation fraught with grave consequences. The economic losses that workers sustain when they are compelled to return to work, demoralized and disheartened as a result of the loss of a sympathetic strike, cannot be adequately appraised.

“All Experiments of This Kind Have Failed”

“No sympathetic strike of any consequence or possessed of any national significance was ever won.

“To the contrary, the record shows that all experiments of this kind have failed.

“These are stern facts which all workers who do not see in every strike the possibilities of a political revolution must ultimately learn.

“The Government Must be Supreme”

“When a sympathetic strike occurs, the issues primarily responsible for the strike become subordinated and a new conflict arises between those engaged in the strike and governmental authorities. The sympathetic strike is immediately accepted as a challenge to government and because the Government must be supreme, it is compelled to bring all resources into action.

“That means that the workers on strike are no longer fighting against the employers ... but, instead, the fight is between the city, state and Federal governments on one side and the strikers on the other.

“Government Must Win”

“Everyone must know and understand that in such a conflict the Government must win; it cannot surrender.

“It must establish its supremacy, and usually the result of such a conflict is that the Government wins, the strikers lose and the employers become the beneficiaries.

“Fortunately, Strike Wisely Terminated”

“Fortunately, the sympathetic strike in San Francisco was terminated before this point was reached. ...That means that now the organized labor movement in San Francisco and elsewhere ... can demand and require that the differences and disputes responsible for the longshoremen’s strike are all submitted to a fair (sic) tribunal for final decision and final settlement.”

“To be a Trade Unionist is to be a Self-Respecting American Citizen”

...To be a trade unionist is to be a self- respecting American citizen who carries over into industry and group relations the principle of representation as the basis for just dealing.”

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The Blue Book Union and the Building Trades Council

It cannot go unnoted that the Blue Book Union, the bosses’ union, the company union that Harry Bridges struggled to defeat in 1933 and 1934, denounced Harry Bridges and ILA Local 38-79 as communists who should be removed by any means necessary.

In 1935, the Blue Book took up residence at the Building Trades Council Temple, completing thereby the circle defined by the actual class role of the Building Trades Council in the General Strike of 1934.

Then and Now

In his Open Letter to the ILWU, Secretary- Treasurer Theriault reprises the methods and the message of the Building Trades Council in 1934.

He equates public planning with “gentrification and jobs with cheer-leading for the developers’ agenda. Meanwhile, non-union projects go up next to union halls without a demonstration or picket line organized by this leadership.

City-funded jobs with non-union labor take place unchallenged by the Building Trades Council’s Secretary-Treasurer.

Workers from great distances are brought to work on projects in the city while union craft workers in the city languish unemployed.

Fewer and fewer Black carpenters on placed on city jobs, despite protests by members of Carpenters Local 22 and by Black worker organizations such as ABU.

Public Planning and the Interests of Labor

Public planning and oversight of the development agenda of giant corporations and speculative developers are basic issues affecting labor, union jobs and projects that serve the public interest.

Pharmaceutical companies also object to “government regulation.” They do not want the side effects of medications to be monitored or their health consequences exposed to the public.

The Real Interests of Working People

Big developers, in tandem, do not want public oversight monitoring and curtailing the impact on the community of ventures that destroy affordable housing and livable neighborhoods.

Hines Interests and their cohorts demand carte blanche and Secretary-Treasurer Theriault leads the charge against any public official, such as Supervisor Chris Daly, who speaks and acts openly in the public interest.

Their current speculative target by Hines Interests and others is based upon the chimera of a new heyday to come.

This delusion comes with a social price. Neil Barofsky informed Congress that the estimated price to date is $23.7 trillion handed over without conditions to the incestuous club of banker moguls responsible for the useless paper – the fictive capital – that fueled precisely the speculative frenzy underwritten by these banksters in the recent and catastrophic past.

South of Market had been their next target for a “financial district.” It is this agenda that has fueled the demagogic campaign to gut the residue of public planning in the name of putative jobs – jobs that in this economy will not materialize and, when occurring, carry with them the loss of purchasing power, health care, affordable housing and a living environment for the mass of working people – the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of San Francisco

The protection of planning criteria pertaining to height limitation, opposition to the destruction of neighborhoods, defense of affordable housing and historic districts of the city – these are the underlying stakes in Hines Interests abortive attempts to raze113 Steuart Street to the ground. It was the intended opening shot.

Workers who build developer projects that ravage San Francisco live hours outside the city. They cannot afford to live in the city they build precisely because the social impact of such development is never addressed.

Multi-million dollar condos and high-rise executive offices have reaped obscene profits.

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They have also driven the cost of housing in San Francisco through the stratosphere, resulting in a city whose working class and ethnic neighborhoods have been decimated or are in extremis, while skilled workers have been driven out, and, perforce, live hours away from the cities they have built as emblems of the unbridled greed of exploiting others.

The vast amount of work necessary to restore the city’s livable infrastructure — housing, schools, transportation, libraries, museums, parks and gardens, training centers, theatres, day-care centers, senior care facilities, health- care facilities, modern mass transit – this is the real locus of permanent work at union wages – not the bank-dependent, speculative vagaries of amoral developers.

Restoration work is labor intensive and there is a vast documented need for it.

This is why the preservation of 113 Steuart Street encapsulates the issues for working people today, as it did in 1934.

Hines spends fortunes on lobbyists to contrive false historical studies, pressure political figures and ensnare potential opponents. Lennar gives 500,000 dollars to the San Francisco Labor Council for concrete reasons and palpable results. The political purpose is transparent.

Secretary-Treasurer Theriault supports the developers’ plans and attacks any who would subject the Chamber of Commerce agenda to public scrutiny.

He describes a commitment to planning and a call for the rebuilding of the infrastructure of San Francisco with familiar code- words: “zealotry against the private sector.”

In describing the presentation to the San Francisco Labor Council in which the concealed plans of Hines Interests to demolish 113 Steuart Street were documented and exposed, Secretary- Treasurer Theriault quickly labeled the person setting forth these facts as “a Marxist,” a tired and recognizable ploy that replays the siren notes of the Building Trades Council in 1934.

Red-Baiting and Secretary-Treasurer Theriault

The Berkeley Daily Planet was quick to call out the method. Becky O’Malley commented succinctly that this studied red-baiting by Secretary Treasurer Theriault harkens to the era of Joseph McCarthy, rooted as he is in the methods of the Building Trades Council when it targeted Harry Bridges and rank and file workers in precisely these vicious ways – with recorded consequences.

“Evidently, she noted acidly, “McCarthy- like red-baiting is alive and well in the Building Trades, dead though it may be in other venues.”

Secretary-Treasurer Theriault and the Chamber of Commerce are on a campaign now, surfacing virtually daily in the kept Press, that demonizes Supervisor Daly, the sponsor of a Resolution to landmark 113 Steuart Street, because Supervisor Daly has fought for public oversight and planning review of development in San Francisco – while implementing actual projects on the ground that embody both.

Secretary-Treasurer Theriault wrote in his “Open Letter to the ILWU:”

“It is in this dispute that the opponents of the demolition of 113 Steuart Street by their own account see their efforts as a first shot. It is in this dispute that your vote will be exploited. You have been drawn into a fight over the nature of development by some whose zealotry against the private sector (emphasis added) had led them to ignore both the history of what they advocate and its effect present and future on other unionists.”

His method reprises the Building Trades Council’s demagogy and the red-baiting of Harry Bridges.

The sneak attack by Hines Interests to demolish 113 Steuart Street is linked to the history of the General Strike in profound ways. The role of union collaborators with the Industrial Association and the Chamber of Commerce in 1934 is replicated by Secretary- Treasurer Theriault today.

15

The jobs we want and the jobs we need will not be forthcoming from developers rapidly engulfed by bank default, as with Hines Interests, relying upon bank paper in short supply and of diminishing value.

Secretary-Treasurer Theriault wrote that the Building Trades Council “was there” in the General Strike and “defended” Harry Bridges.

History belies him. We need to reclaim that history so it cannot be besmirched and falsified.

For as the shocking evidence assembled herein shows indisputably, those who oppose preserving Harry Bridges’ Hall today led the assault on Harry Bridges and the rank and file in 1934 – calling for his deportation and orchestrating the purging and brutalization of rank and file workers who put their lives on the line and fought heroically in a seminal moment in the history of American labor.

“We are sure,” Brother Theriault, intones “that none of this was discussed with you before you voted.”

The shoe is on the other foot.

Such mis-leadership as that of Secretary- Treasurer Theriault’s Building Trades Council is on the wrong side of the class line – then and now.

ILWU Resolutions Address Precisely that History

The Resolutions passed unanimously by the ILWU International and by ILWU Locals 10 and 34 address precisely this history.

“Considering that Harry Bridges declared that the general strike and the struggle was not about long shore alone but was for all organized labor and all working people...

“Considering that there is vast work to be done in creating decent and affordable housing for all working people, schools that are not collapsing around the heads of students and teachers, restoration and renewal of the infrastructure of San Francisco and of cities across the United States.

“Considering that the jobs we want will come only through the mobilization of working people as in 1934.

“Considering that it was the very mobilization of Maritime and organized labor across San Francisco and the Bay Area that exposed the lies of Hines and led to a huge victory for all working people as in 1934.

“Be it resolved that the ILWU calls for 113 Steuart Street to become a land marked history and education center project and calls for good union jobs for working people on projects that restore our city and serve the needs of our people and not the greed of duplicitous developers.”

This is the political analysis that Secretary- Theriault seeks to demonize with the red-baiting language and methods of the Building Trades Council in 1934 when it targeted Harry Bridges, betrayed the General Strike and slandered its most dedicated fighters as “subversives” and foreign agents.

“Is there any way or will to undo now what you have done?”
It bears repeating that Secretary-Treasurer

Theriault ended his “Open Letter to the ILWU” with these words:

“We do not know if there is any way or will to undo now what you have done.”

He will try.

He will maneuver behind the scenes. He will seek to muscle ILWU officials to retreat from Resolutions voted unanimously by the membership.

The fight to landmark 113 Steuart Street is a fight to preserve a history that teaches us by example. The labor officials and business unionists who colluded with police, vigilantes and the forces of repression in 1934, who demonized the rank and file and their militant leadership as dangerous radicals subverting organized labor, are at it again.

The Lived Reality

In reality, the dedicated labor militants of the day represented the rank and file and the

16

interests of workers against a deeply reactionary officialdom that colluded with the employers and with the forces of State repression.

The lines of demarcation are clear. The fight to landmark 113 Steuart Street is a fight to preserve the history of the General Strike – and that entails revealing the consequences for working people of servicing the agenda of the Chamber of Commerce then – and now.

This lived experience, the revealing history of the 1934 General Strike and of the Great Maritime Strike, will be preserved.

The Committee to Landmark 113 Steuart Street defends that history.

In doing so we keep faith with the legacy of Harry Bridges and of ILA Local 38-79 — indispensable to the struggles of the present in a moment of unprecedented economic crisis.

There are larger issues at stake here. The Hall where that fight was waged is part of a broad historic commitment to a city conceived, planned and built in the interests of its vast laboring majority.

This Struggle Will Not Be Abandoned or Betrayed

Accordingly, we call upon the Building Trades Council to join the ILWU, together with the support enjoyed from unions and the broader community, including, as in 1934, many members of Building Trades locals themselves, in a united campaign to landmark113 Steuart Street – a template for a viable project that reflects and respects the planning criteria of the city of San Francisco and the living legacy embodied in the historic Waterfront and Maritime District.

Additional List of Signer/Endorsers in Progress

Rick Hauptman, PDA, San Francisco; 113 Steuart Labor Center Project; 113 Steuart Landmark Committee

Jack Heyman, ILWU Local 10 Executive Board

Marcus Holder, ILWU Local 10 delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council

Howard Keylor, ILWU Local 10, retired
Peter Nasatir, 113 Steuart Labor Center Project;

113 Steuart Landmark Committee

Dave Osgood, Rincon Center Tenants Association, 113 Steuart Labor Center Project; 113 Steuart Landmark Committee

Jan Overstreet, ILWU Local 10
Leo Robinson, ILWU Local 10, retired

Ralph Schoenman, UAW 1981; 113 Steuart Labor Center Project; 113 Steuart Landmark Committee.

Keith Shanklin, ILWU Local 34
Roland Sheppard, Business Representative,

retired, Painters Union Local 4
Clarence Thomas, ILWU Local 10
David Walters, San Francisco Union Member

Bradley Wiedmaier, SIEU; UHW Homecare; 113 Steuart Labor Center Project; 113 Steuart Landmark Committee

Howard Wong, AIA, President Retired, IFPTE Local 21; 113 Steuart Labor Center Project: 113 Steuart Landmark Committee.

Steve Zeltzer, Labor Video Project; 113 Steuart Labor Center Project; 113 Steuart Landmark Committee

Add Your Name/Contact:

113 Steuart Labor Center Project/113 Steuart Landmark Committee; phone: 415.694.3605 • email: 113steuart@pacbell.net

17

Tags: ilwu
Categories: Labor News

A Former Uber Driver Reveals The Worst Things About The Job

Current News - Sun, 11/30/2014 - 23:42

A Former Uber Driver Reveals The Worst Things About The Job
http://www.sfgate.com/technology/businessinsider/article/A-Former-Uber-D...
Lisa Eadicicco, provided by
Published 10:00 am, Sunday, November 30, 2014

UberX driver Ramzi Reguii, 32, takes a fare to his destination in San Francisco this spring.
Image2of4
A black sedan bearing the distinctive "U" logo of the Uber ride-sharing service takes the transit lane on Geary Street in San Francisco.
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Working for a multi-billion dollar company isn't always as glamorous as it may seem.
Claire Callahan Goodman, a San Francisco-based mother who worked part time for Uber to earn some extra cash, just revealed why she decided to quit her job as a driver ina new post on Salon.
Goodman said her background growing up in the city and speaking English as her first language should have made this an easy, stress-free part time job for her.
After all, she already knew her way around the city and could easily communicate with passengers.
But, in her post on Salon, she outlines a few key factors that drove her to leave the company.

• Uber Is Destroying The Value Of Taxi Monopolies In A Bunch Of American Cities
• Uber's Android App May Be Collecting An Alarming Amount Of Your Personal Data
• Uber Attempts to "Weaponize Facts," Shoots Self in Foot Instead
• Uber's software makes it difficult to do the job accurately. According to Goodman's account, the software Uber drivers use to estimate how long it will take to get to a rider is inaccurate. "The first thing I found was that Uber's software sometimes wildly underestimates the number of minutes it takes to reach a rider," Goodman wrote. Goodman says the software malfunctioned "at least" 50 percent of the time, which resulted in a lot of cancellations.
• Uber makes its drivers rent a phone from the company for $10 per week. Goodman said she couldn't start driving until she recieved the iPhone 4 Uber had sent her. She writes that she could have used her iPhone 5, but the company never made it clear that she could have used her own personal phone. She eventually sent Uber's iPhone 4 back so that she could use her own phone, but still had to pay a $30 rental fee.
• Uber hits drivers with charges and fees that take away from their hourly rate. Goodman said that after subtracting charges and fees, plus the 20% Uber takes from each ride, the hourly rate during surge pricing periods comes out to about $10 per hour. "At least for me, driving for Uber is not worth it," she wrote, saying her requirements are closer to $15 an hour.
It's important to keep in mind that this is just one Uber driver's account, and not all drivers may feel this way. It does, however, raise a point that Uber drivers have been complaining about for months. In September, drivers gathered outside of Uber's main offices in Long Island City in Queens, New York to protest some of the company's policies.
In particular, Uber drivers seemed to be angry about the no tipping policy and the fact that drivers are expected to pay for maintenance expenses. The company says these are suggestions — not policies —but one driver told Business Insider during the protest that it's not possible to make a living as a driver on Uber's pay alone.

Tags: Uberworking conditions
Categories: Labor News

RWU to Co-Sponsor Railroad Conferences on the West Coast

Current News - Sun, 11/30/2014 - 23:01

RWU to Co-Sponsor Railroad Conferences on the West Coast
https://gallery.mailchimp.com/cac2ccfa5fdaa38fd4dd57abc/files/Conference...

This coming winter, RWU will co-sponsor two conferences, one in the Bay Area and one in the Pacific Northwest. Tentatively entitled “The Future of Railroads: Safety, Workers, Community and Environment”, Railroad Workers United is partnering with the Backbone Campaign and other citizens and environmental groups to organize these innovative and cutting edge conferences.

In recent months, public attention has focused on the railroad in a way that it has not been for decades. In the wake of Lac Megantic and other derailments and resulting fires and explosions, the public is alarmed about oil trains and the movement of trains in general through their communities. Environmental activists are up-in-arms about the amounts of fossil fuels moving by rail. Farmers and other shippers are concerned about the congestion that has occurred in recent months, due in part to the oil boom. All of this attention gives railroad workers a golden opportunity to educate the general public about the railroad, its inherent efficiencies, its value to society, and its potential. It also give us an invaluable opportunity to inform non-railroad workers about the situation that we face on the job every day.

The public generally has no idea what goes on daily on America’s railroads. At this conference, we plan to talk about crew fatigue, single employee train crews, excessively long and heavy trains, draconian availability policies, short staffing, limited time off work and other concerns. These issues are of concern not just to railroaders, but are of concern to environmentalists, the community at large and society in general. Non-railroaders in attendance at the conference will come away with a deeper understanding of our workplace and a greater appreciation of the issues facing us. They will without a doubt, become valuable allies in our future fights with the rail carriers.

Tentative workshops and discussion topics include but are not limited to:

•  Single employee train crews, why they will not work, and the safety hazards they pose for workers, communities and the environment.

•  Excessively long and heavy trains and their inherent problems and dangers.

•  Crew fatigue and the need for adequate time off, proper train line-ups, advance call times,

call windows and all the rest to ensure well-rested, alert and safe train crews.

•  Building worker-to-worker alliances along the supply chain of all transport workers.

•  “Railroading for the General Public 101”.

•  “Environmental Politics for Railroad Workers 101” for railroad workers.

•  Ensuring safe track, bridges and rolling stock.

•  The “Solutionary Rail” campaign and a vision for what a sustainable railroad of the future

could look like.

•  Building a labor-community alliance around safety issues.

•  A history of blue-green alliances and how to build one that revolves around the railroad

industry.

The conferences are planned for February though no dates are set at this time. For more information, watch the RWU newsletter, these Monthly Bulletins, the RWU Facebook Page and the RWU list serve. To get involved in organizing either conference and to attend, contact Gifford Hartman at 415-410-9299 or giffordhartman@gmail.com.

Tags: RWU
Categories: Labor News

UK: The invisible role of trade unions in the fight against slavery

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 11/30/2014 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Stronger Unions
Categories: Labor News

Hong Kong: Calls for HKCTU leader on #OccupyHK frontlines to replace Hong Kong Chief Executive

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 11/30/2014 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Union Book
Categories: Labor News

Qatar: 100 striking migrant workers arrested - to be deported

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 11/30/2014 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITUC
Categories: Labor News

Supreme Court to hear UPS driver's pregnancy bias claim

Current News - Sun, 11/30/2014 - 11:20

Supreme Court to hear UPS driver's pregnancy bias claim
http://www.mercurynews.com/entertainment/ci_27034280/supreme-court-hear-...
By Mark Sherman

Associated Press

POSTED: 11/29/2014

WASHINGTON -- Peggy Young only has to look at her younger daughter to be reminded how long she has fought United Parcel Service over its treatment of pregnant employees, and why.

Young was pregnant with Triniti, who's now 7 years old, when UPS told Young that she could not have a temporary assignment to avoid lifting heavy packages, as her doctor had ordered.

"They told me basically to go home and come back when I was no longer pregnant," Young said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I couldn't believe it."

She sued the Atlanta-based package-delivery company for discriminating against pregnant women. She lost two rounds in lower courts, but the Supreme Court will hear her case Wednesday.

The 42-year-old Young, who lives in Lorton, Virginia, said her persistence is not only for herself. "I am fighting for my two daughters and I'm fighting for women who want to start a family and provide for the family at the same time," she said.

UPS spokeswoman Kara Gerhardt Ross said the law is on the company's side. "UPS did not intentionally discriminate," Ross said.

The outcome could have wide-ranging effects.

Three-quarters of women entering the workforce today will become pregnant at least once while employed, and many will work throughout their pregnancies, employment discrimination expert Katherine Kimpel wrote in a court brief. Some will experience complications or physical effects that cause them to ask their employers for a change of duties or other modifications, Kimpel said.

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Young's case hinges on the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, a law that Congress passed in 1978 specifically to include discrimination against pregnant women as a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Congress acted after the Supreme Court, then composed entirely of men, said workplace rules that excluded pregnant workers from disability benefits and insurance coverage did not amount to sex discrimination under the landmark civil rights law.

The question in Young's case is whether UPS violated the law through its policy of providing temporary light-duty work only to employees who had on-the-job injuries, were disabled under federal law or lost their federal driver certification. "If you were painting your house and fell off a ladder, or if you had a ski accident, that wouldn't qualify for restricted light duty. That's where pregnancy fell at that time. It was not covered in any state law except California's," Ross said.

UPS also notes in its court filings that the Postal Service, an independent agency that receives no tax dollars but is subject to congressional control, maintains an identical policy when it comes to pregnant workers. The Postal Service declined comment.

The Obama administration and 120 congressional Democrats are supporting Young. The reason for the work limitation is less important than the company's decision to distinguish between pregnant and nonpregnant workers with similar restrictions on the work they can do, Young and the administration told the court.

An unusual array of liberal, conservative, labor and women's interest groups also has lined up behind Young. The pregnancy discrimination law "protects the unborn child as well as the working mother who faces economic and other difficulties in bearing and raising the child," lawyer Carrie Severino wrote on behalf of anti-abortion organizations.

UPS employed Young as a part-time driver whose main job was to deliver overnight letters by 8:30 a.m. UPS requires people in those jobs to be able to lift packages as heavy as 70 pounds. Young said she rarely handled anything over 20 pounds and dealt almost exclusively with letters that sat on the passenger seat of her van.

In 2006, Young, then in her mid-30s, took a leave of absence to undergo in vitro fertilization in her desire to have a third child. On the third try, she became pregnant.

Young wanted to return to work, and her doctor and a midwife wrote notes saying she should not lift packages heavier than 20 pounds.

But UPS told Young she could not continue in her job and did not qualify for a temporary assignment.

Unable to work, Young also lost her medical and pension benefits, although she was covered under husband's health insurance. "The benefits were good and benefits were hard to find with part-time jobs," she said.

Young eventually returned to UPS, but left in 2009, a year after she sued. She argued that because UPS made accommodations for nonpregnant employees with work restrictions, it should have done the same for her.

But lower courts dismissed the suit, agreeing that Young did not prove UPS discriminated against her because of her pregnancy.

The justices agreed in July to review the case. Since then, there have been two notable developments.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updated guidance to employers to make clear that they should accommodate people in Young's situation.

UPS itself has changed its policy so that pregnant employees will be eligible for light-duty work. "UPS believed it was appropriate to update its workplace policies so that we can attract and retain the best workforce we can," Ross said.

The change does not affect Young, now a contractor for the federal Customs and Border Protection agency.

Looking back, Young said the situation was so upsetting because she felt she was able to work and considered herself pretty tough. Recalling the birth of her second child, Young said, "I was at work when I went into labor."

The case is Young v. UPS, 12-1226.

Follow Mark Sherman on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/shermancourt

AP-WF-11-29-14 1310GMT

Tags: upsdiscrimination
Categories: Labor News

Twin Cities IWW: 7th Annual ‘Red November, Black November’ a success!

IWW - Sun, 11/30/2014 - 10:34

From the TC Organizer

Red November, Black November
Red November, black November,
Bleak November, black and red.
Hallowed month of labor’s martyrs,
Labor’s heroes, labor’s dead.

Labor’s wrath and hope and sorrow,
Red the promise, black the threat,
Who are we not to remember?
Who are we to dare forget?

Black and red the colors blended,
Black and red the pledge we made,
Red until the fight is ended,
Black until the debt is paid.

— Ralph Chaplin (1932)

This is a somber month for labor.

The Haymarket Martyrs were executed in November. Joe Hill was put before a firing squad in Utah during November. Bueventura Durruti was killed in November. The Centralia, Everett and the First Columbine massacres all occurred in November.

read more

Categories: Unions

Uber suspends operations in Nevada following legal setback

Current News - Sat, 11/29/2014 - 22:21

Uber suspends operations in Nevada following legal setback
http://touch.latimes.com/#section/617/article/p2p-82119621/
BY TRACEY LIEN
November 28, 2014, 10:42 a.m.
Uber suspended its operations in Nevada on Wednesday night after a Washoe County District Court issued a preliminary injunction preventing the ride-hailing company from operating in the state.

The court sided with the state over regulatory concerns, arguing that services like Uber should have to face the same stringent regulations that taxi cabs do, and that drivers should carry more extensive insurance policies.

"It’s unfortunate that Nevada is the first state in the Nation to temporarily suspend Uber - that means nearly 1000 jobs just disappeared overnight and those residents lost their ability to earn a living,” Uber spokesperson Eva Behrend said in a statement.

"We remain committed to working with Nevada’s leaders to create a permanent regulatory framework that affords Nevadans the flexibility and innovation offered by Uber.”

In a blog post written on its website, Uber said the service will be suspended in Nevada while the company “evaluate[s] a path forward."

Twitter: @traceylien

Tags: UberNevada
Categories: Labor News

SF Mayor Ed Lee's SFO Boss John Martin Attacking Taxi Drivers Using Ride Share

Current News - Sat, 11/29/2014 - 10:38

SF Mayor Ed Lee's SFO Boss John Martin Attacking Taxi Drivers Using Ride Share
http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/nevius/article/To-save-their-jobs-cab...
To save their jobs, cabbies must pull up to the future
By C.W. NeviusNovember 28, 2014

Photo: Paul Chinn / The ChronicleCabs in a staging area await service at San Francisco International Airport.
It isn’t often that you can watch the future pass someone by, but San Francisco cabdrivers are making that happen.

The ride-service phenomenon isn’t just taking off in San Francisco, it’s taking over. What might be the final straw happened last month, when San Francisco International Airport announced it was giving permits to what are called “transportation network companies.”

Uber, Lyft and Sidecar can now legally drop off and pick up passengers at the airport. Don’t underestimate what that means.

There are two things to keep in mind, airport Director John Martin says.

“We are on the front lines because Uber and Lyft are based here, and this is probably their biggest market,” Martin said. “And we are the first in the country that has permitted all of the companies.”

So it’s a big deal — here and across the country.

“I think (the ride-service companies) may well see this as a model for the United States and around the world,” Martin said. “It legitimizes their operation.”

And, of course, it’s a huge threat to traditional taxi services. Clearly, cab companies and drivers need to respond and do something smart, effective and sympathetic. Or, they could shoot themselves in the foot. Which is what they decided to do.

A protest organized by the Taxi Workers Alliance encouraged cabbies to block the lanes at the airport last week, creating a two-hour traffic jam. It was a classic, old-school union tactic — create a big fat disturbance to force change. And it worked about as well as the Occupy protests — lots of sound and fury and virtually no change.

Early this week, Martin got word that another protest could happen during the incredibly busy Thanksgiving week travel window. He says the idea was to apply the pressure before an upcoming meeting between airport and taxi reps.

“Some of the leaders thought if they did more protests we would relent and our meeting would be more successful,” Martin said. “I let them know I would cancel the meeting.”

Behind the curve

Whether that was the reason or not, the protest was scrubbed. Eva Cheong, assistant deputy director for airport services, says the taxi groups seemed to have experienced an attack of common sense.

“I believe there is a large contingent of the taxi drivers who feel that an action at the airport is not helping their cause,” she said. “I think they understand that what they need to do is bring up their service.”

But do they? The cabbies and the companies have been behind the curve on this all the way. Drivers fought attempts to increase the number of medallions, or cab permits. They hang around the downtown hotels, hoping for a fare to the airport. They decline to pick up riders in far-flung parts of the city, like the Outer Sunset. And frankly, in many cases, they aren’t that pleasant.

The ride-service folks found a soft spot and exploited it. And the reaction by cabbies was to stomp their feet, block traffic and complain how unfair it all is.

Now, that is not to say that this isn’t a hardship. The entire transport matrix has shifted, and it has rocked the livelihood of the drivers. A report in September said that taxi rides have decreased 65 percent in the previous 15 months.

“These are not easy issues,” Martin said. “I really feel for the cabdrivers. In some cases they have invested their life savings for a medallion. It is the great unknown how all this will unfold.”

Saving their jobs

But surely, we’ve gotten their attention now. They need to become as innovative, modern and convenient as the transportation network companies. That’s what will save their jobs.

Because there’s a reason we call it old-school. That’s what you say when you’ve graduated to the next level. Cabbies need to drop the act and start studying for the future.

C.W. Nevius is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. His columns appear Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail: cwnevius@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @cwnevius

Tags: deregulationtaxi workersunion busting
Categories: Labor News

Southland would quickly feel economic effects of a port shutdown

Current News - Fri, 11/28/2014 - 22:57

Southland would quickly feel economic effects of a port shutdown
http://touch.latimes.com/#section/1780/article/p2p-82122333/

BOB CHAMBERLIN, LOS ANGELES TIMES

BY ANDREW KHOURI
November 28, 2014, 6:40 p.m.
Elbowing their way into malls this weekend for dolls, televisions and reindeer sweaters, shoppers probably will give little thought to how the future holiday presents got to retail shelves.

For U.S. imported products, about 40% sail through Southern California's sprawling harbors in San Pedro Bay, underscoring the key role the twin ports play in international trade.

So how severe would the economic hit be if labor problems were to shut down the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, along with the rest of the 29 West Coast cargo-handling destinations?

In the Southland, the financial pain would be immediate for many of the nearly 700,000 people who base their livelihoods on the goods-movement industry — dockworkers, truck drivers, warehouse workers and importers, among others.

But the region and nation might escape more serious discomfort, some economists say, especially if any disruption were to be cut short by government intervention, as happened in 2002.

Such predictions aren't a mere academic exercise. As West Coast dockworkers enter a sixth month without a contract, representatives of the union, employers and big retailers appear to be returning to old scripts from 12 years ago.

In 2002, an employee group representing international shipping lines accused dockworkers of go-slow tactics amid negotiations for a new West Coast contract.

Management then locked out workers for 10 days, crippling international trade along the coast and sending ripples through the regional and national economy.

Now, amid negotiations for a new contract, employers say the International Longshore and Warehouse Union is slowing cargo flows once again. And business groups, including the National Retail Federation, have called for the federal government to inject itself into contract negotiations, warning a shutdown could prove dire for a still-fragile economy.

Both the union and the Pacific Maritime Assn., which represents employers, say their focus is on the negotiating table, and neither side has raised the prospect of a strike or lockout, a more amicable stance than in 2002. But the various parties have grown increasingly irritable in public.

Employers accuse the union of worsening already heavy congestion caused by a surge of cargo as the economy improves and a shortage of trailers that truckers use to haul goods, among other factors. They say businesses are already piling up heavy costs, because of the slow movement of goods.

In response, dockworkers, who have never acknowledged use of the slowdown tactic, have accused management of a smear campaign.

The National Retail Federation has sought to pressure the sides to a deal. The group has urged that a federal mediator help reach an agreement.

The retailers and other national business groups have lobbied the president that, if the ports were to close, he should invoke the Taft-Hartley Act to reopen ports — just as President George W. Bush did in 2002 to end the 10-day lockout, citing threats to the economy and national security.

"The impact [a closure] would have on jobs, down-stream consumers and the business operations of exporters, importers, retailers, transportation providers, manufacturers and other stakeholders would be catastrophic," the groups wrote President Obama in early November.

According to a report commissioned by the retail group and the National Assn. of Manufacturers, a shutdown would cost the national economy roughly $2 billion a day in lost gross domestic product.

Agriculture firms could lose sales if they can't get their goods out of the country, and manufacturing plants that rely on the timely shipment of parts may go dark, said Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation.

"It could be felt far and wide throughout the economy," he said.

But international trade experts and economic impact specialists said the estimates of economic loss are grossly inflated and make too many assumptions.

Although the report acknowledges cargo wouldn't be dumped into the sea, it still estimates too much would be a total loss and underestimates the ability of businesses to adjust, said Patrick Anderson, principal of Anderson Economic Group, a business consulting firm that specializes in economic impact studies.

In 2002, the economy lost $1.67 billion during a 10-day lockout, according to a study from Anderson's firm — far less than the $1-billion-a-day figure cited then, or the $2-billion figure used now.

The principal author of the retailers' report said there's a difference of opinion over how many goods would never sell. Part of the loss stems from reduced buying power consumers and businesses would have, said Jeffrey Werling, executive director of the Interindustry Forecasting Project at the University of Maryland, who conducted the study for the retail federation.

As companies face higher costs to get their cargo into the country, prices for many items would rise, sending down demand and sales, he predicts.

But even a 20-day shutdown, which Werling pegs as a $50-billion hit, wouldn't be catastrophic for a national economy with a $17.5-trillion gross domestic product, he said.

"This is tough for certain people," Werling said. "But it's something the economy can inherently bounce back from."

He compared a shutdown to severe weather, like that seen across much of the country earlier this year, which helped send first-quarter GDP down 2.9%.

Economists said the pain from a lockout or strike would primarily hit those employed at the ports or workers closely linked to international trade such as warehouse employees, dockworkers and truck drivers. For Southern California, that would be a hit given the large number of importers, exporters and logistics workers.

"If they go out, it's going to put everyone out of business," said Dick Schroeder, owner of Wilmington-based trucking firm Ohana Transportation Inc.

But several factors would probably limit any pain, economists said.

A closure probably would be short-lived, given the immense political pressure Obama would face to intervene. In addition, Southern California's economy is diverse enough to weather such a storm, international trade economist Jock O'Connell said.

"The impact will not be that great," said Sung Won Sohn, a California State University Channel Islands economist and former Port of Los Angeles commissioner. "If it's a matter of three weeks, we would be OK."

If a labor showdown erupts, goods still to come wouldn't disappear but would largely be rerouted or come through the West Coast when ports reopen, economists say. And though that would impose additional costs for many, the businesses hired to reroute goods would take on work they otherwise wouldn't, lessening the total economic drag.

For Gary Toebben, chief executive of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the real fear isn't what occurs during a shutdown, but what comes later.

Los Angeles and Long Beach face increased competition from ports nationally and abroad, especially as Panama prepares to open an expanded canal that would allow bigger ships from Asia to bypass Southern California and head straight for the Gulf and East coasts.

Toebben said now is the wrong time to give shippers another reason to look elsewhere.

"I am even more concerned about the long term and the image of doing business in the ports of L.A. and Long Beach," he said.

andrew.khouri@latimes.com

Twitter: @khouriandrew

Tags: ILWU Westcoast ContractLockout
Categories: Labor News

Spain: trade union leaders are criminalised for striking

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 11/28/2014 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Equal Times
Categories: Labor News

Brazil: Paper industry union president murdered

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 11/27/2014 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: IndustriALL
Categories: Labor News

China: Teacher strikes hit three more cities

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 11/27/2014 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: The Financial Times
Categories: Labor News

Global: How can the OSCE combat human trafficking without the unions?

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 11/27/2014 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Equal Times
Categories: Labor News

Qatar: 'Time’s up on kafala,' say campaigners

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 11/27/2014 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Equal Times
Categories: Labor News

SFO Boss Retaliates Against Cab Drivers Protesting Ride-Share Operations

Current News - Thu, 11/27/2014 - 14:20

SFO Boss Retaliates Against Cab Drivers Protesting Ride-Share Operations
http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Democratic-bigwigs-fail-to-sw...
Ride rumble: San Francisco Airport Director John Martin’s decision to suspend pickup privileges of two drivers involved with last week’s taxi demonstration that blocked airport traffic isn’t improving the cabbies’ mood as a holiday truce takes effect.

“It certainly isn’t making things any easier,” said Taxi Workers Alliance head Mark Gruberg.

Martin said the two drivers had removed barriers set up by police during the Nov. 17 protest.

“It was a safety issue,” Martin said.

The cabbies are annoyed that lightly regulated ride-share competitors including Lyft, Sidecar and Uber have been given the green light to pick up airport fares, with no consequences for all the years they were doing so without official permission.

Rumblings of a second shutdown were swirling around the airport — until Martin let it be known that trouble during the busiest travel week of the year would do little to resolve cabbies’ grievances.

A meeting has been set for next week — with the hope being that the truce will last until then.

Tags: SFOrideshareCCSF
Categories: Labor News

Under Pressure From Uber, Taxi Medallion Prices are Plummeting

Current News - Thu, 11/27/2014 - 14:14

Under Pressure From Uber, Taxi Medallion Prices are Plummeting
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/28/upshot/under-pressure-from-uber-taxi-m...
NOV. 27, 2014

In major cities throughout the United States, taxi medallion prices are tumbling as taxis face competition from car-service apps like Uber and Lyft.

The average price of an individual New York City taxi medallion fell to $872,000 in October, down 17 percent from a peak reached in the spring of 2013, according to an analysis of sales data. Previous figures published by the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission — showing flat prices — appear to have been incorrect, and the commission removed them from its website after an inquiry from The New York Times.

In other big cities, medallion prices are also falling, often in conjunction with a sharp decline in sales volume. In Chicago, prices are down 17 percent. In Boston, they’re down at least 20 percent, though it’s hard to establish an exact market price because there have been only five trades since July. In Philadelphia, the taxi authority recently scrapped a planned medallion auction.

Most major American cities have long used a system to limit the number of operating taxicabs, typically a medallion system: Drivers must own or rent a medallion to operate a taxi, and the city issues a fixed number of them. In New York, which established its medallion system in 1937, that number is 13,437. The number has risen only gradually since the late 1990s, even as the city’s economy has boomed.

Photo

Larry Ionescu, center, who owns a fleet of taxis in Chicago, talking with two of his drivers, Mohamed Igal, left, and Adediran Adeosun. “I’m already at peace with the idea that I’m going to go bankrupt,” he said. CreditAlyssa Schukar for The New York Times
The turmoil in the medallion market has been obscured in part because publicly disclosed data about taxi medallion prices can be misleading. And the turmoil suggests that the taxi business, which has undergone little change over many decades, is now in the midst of a revolution.

“I’m already at peace with the idea that I’m going to go bankrupt,” said Larry Ionescu, who owns 98 Chicago taxi medallions. That might be overly dramatic; after all, Mr. Ionescu also compared Chicago’s pro-Uber mayor, Rahm Emanuel, to Nicolae Ceausescu, the reviled ex-dictator of his native Romania. It’s likely Mr. Ionescu remains a very rich man. In November, Chicago medallion sale prices averaged $298,000, well below the $357,000 price that was typical this spring, but far up from the $50,000 price of a decade ago.

But it’s easy to see why he’s worried about the medium term: A seven-mile ride from the Loop to the University of Chicago in a medallion taxi costs about $26, including tip. The same trip cost $12.29 this April with UberX, the lowest-cost service option from Uber.

The crucial question for medallion owners like Mr. Ionescu is, if Uber is that much cheaper than a taxi, why would anyone take a taxi, and therefore why would any driver pay to lease a medallion? Mr. Ionescu says his revenues are down around 25 percent, and he’s having trouble leasing out his whole fleet.

Official data on medallion prices can be misleading for two main reasons: simple inaccuracy — as in New York, where officials excluded most sales from their calculations — or the very small number of sales. In Chicago, for example, there have been only 11 medallion sales since July 1, compared with 147 during the same period last year. Just because somebody sold a medallion for $300,000 doesn’t mean it will be consistently possible to sell at that price into a thin market.

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
“Those are fake prices,” said Mohammad Kamran, a medallion broker in Chicago, who blames UberX. “The price has plunged big time, and there are no buyers or sellers because the lenders are not lending money.”

Mr. Kamran said owners are increasingly unable to charge Chicago’s maximum weekly lease rate for medallion taxis, which is around $780, including taxes and insurance, for a late-model Toyota Prius. Drivers have been bargaining that rate down to $700 or $725, he says; others are defecting to services like Uber.

After decades in which it seemed taxi medallion prices could go only up, prices in New York City have slumped below $900,000.

Monthly average price for an individual (nonfleet) medallion:
$1,000,000
800,000
600,000
400,000
200,000
0
$871,667
July
Oct.
2013
April
July
Oct.
2014
April
July
Oct.

Source: New York Times calculations based on Taxi and Limousine Commission data
In Boston, the story is similar. As recently as April, Boston taxi medallions were selling for $700,000. The last sale, in October, was for $561,000.

“Right now Uber has a strong presence here in Boston, and that’s having a dramatic impact on the taxi industry and the medallion values,” said Donna Blythe-Shaw, a spokeswoman for the Boston Taxi Drivers’ Association. “We hear that there’s a couple of medallion owners that have offered to sell at 425 and nobody’s touched them."

Not long ago, with demand for taxis rising and the supply fixed, medallions soared in value: A medallion that could be bought for $250,000 in New York a decade ago (or about $315,000 in inflation-adjusted dollars) was worth over $1 million last year.

Medallion sales volume has often fluctuated in New York, but right now it is at a low point. There was only one medallion sale in September, followed by nine in October. Ominously, five of the 10 sales in those two months were foreclosure sales. New York’s taxi market had generally been thought less vulnerable because of the importance of street hails, which Uber can’t do, and because New York requires Uber drivers to be licensed by the T.L.C. and drive vehicles with livery plates and commercial insurance.

Yellow taxis in New York also face competition from new green “boro taxis,” which may pick up fares only in the boroughs outside Manhattan and in northern Manhattan. That program has been in the works for three years, including during a period when medallion prices were still rising. The vast majority of yellow cab pickups occur in Manhattan below 110th Street or at airports, where yellow cabs face competition from Uber but not from green cabs. Still, the green cab program has faced strong opposition from yellow cab medallion owners, and the start of falling medallion prices coincides with a June 2013 court ruling upholding the green cab program.

The trouble in New York’s market was also partly obscured by a flaw in the average price reports that were published monthly by the city’s taxi commission until September. Those reports erroneously said average prices for individual medallions had stayed largely the same since setting a record of $1.05 million in June 2013.

In fact, individual medallions have traded below $1 million for most of the last year. But the commission excludes from its statistics any transaction at a price more than $10,000 below the previous month’s reported average.

The commission does so in the name of excluding sales that do not occur at an arm’s length — say, between two relatives. When prices are flat or rising, as they generally have been for decades, the methodology can produce a reasonably accurate result. But when prices are falling, the commission’s method is guaranteed to mischaracterize the market.

A spokesman for the T.L.C. pointed to disclaimer language saying its average price reports “may be misleading and may not accurately convey trends in medallion prices, among other things.”

Tags: deregulationTaxi driverstechnology
Categories: Labor News

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