Wisconsin Transit Strikers Defend Full-Time Jobs and Bathroom Breaks
July 02, 2015 / Samantha Winslow
Bus drivers and mechanics in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, began their strike at 3 a.m. July 1. “This is not Walmart," says union President James Macon. Photo: Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association (CC BY-NC 2.0)
In Wisconsin, 750 bus drivers and mechanics are on day two of a three-day strike against Milwaukee County. The key issues are protecting full-time work and giving drivers adequate time for bathroom breaks.
But the county executive is misleading the public on what the strike is about, said Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998 President James Macon.
“The main issue county executives keep bringing up is money, money, money,” he said. “It has nothing to do with money.” The county has offered a 7 percent wage increase over two years.
What members don’t want, Macon said, is for the privately managed transit authority to weaken their job standards by bringing in 50 part-time drivers.
“Why not hire full-time workers and give them benefits?” Macon said. “This is not Walmart.”
Bathroom breaks are another sticking point. Union leaders say drivers need more time on breaks.
“How can you use the bathroom in four minutes?” Macon said, pointing out that drivers must pull the bus over, disembark, walk to a gas station or another of the limited options, and return. “You can’t do it.”
Local 998 is calling the action a “work stoppage” because it’s a time-limited strike. Members walked off the job at 3 a.m. on July 1, and plan to resume work July 4.
It’s their first strike since 1978, when they stayed out for 39 days.
The strike has shut down the bus system during Summerfest, an 11-day music festival that draws 90,000 people. The festival adds 20,000 additional rides per day to the transit system.
Macon said that gives the union some leverage. The system ordinarily serves 150,000 passengers daily.
Milwaukee’s transit system has faced cuts since 2001, when Governor Scott Walker was the county executive. In 2011, the transit budget was cut again by 10 percent.
So after 15 years of budget cuts, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele’s accusations that the union is hurting the riding public ring hollow. “All he cares about is Summerfest,” Macon said.
Rideshare giant Uber, which recently expanded into Wisconsin, was quick to capitalize on the situation, expanding its Summerfest promotional rides (free for fares less than $20).
Milwaukee teachers brought food to the strikers and joined them in picketing at the city’s three bus depots. Supporters grilled bratwursts, handed out water, and chanted along.
“We haven’t seen anything like this in Milwaukee in a long time,” said teacher Josh Jackson. “I’m only 26 and this is my first strike experience.”
“We are deep in it,” Jackson said, “in that we are serving the people who need as much assistance as possible. The bus drivers make sure the people who need to get to work.”
Working with the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association and religious leaders from All Peoples Church, activists have set up “solidarity rides,” where riders can sign up to get where they need to go and volunteers drive them.
The first evening, 400 people—including members of the Teamsters, Service Employees (SEIU), and AFSCME—rallied with the strikers outside the transit authority headquarters.
“People want humane schedules,” said Angela Walker of Wisconsin Jobs Now, a workers’ rights organization.
A former Milwaukee bus driver, she’s been organizing support for the strikers. She says the fight for longer breaks is part of a larger problem: drivers being pressured to complete their routes in less time.
With fewer buses running routes due to years of budget cuts, Walker said passengers are rushing to catch what might be the only bus coming in the hour. Drivers are forced to choose whether to take the time to help passengers, do their job safely, and take breaks—or squeeze all those things to finish their route on time.
“That’s a lot of stress on a driver,” Walker said.
Samantha Winslow is a staff writer and organizer with Labor Notes.
- See more at: http://labornotes.org/blogs/2015/07/transit-strikers-defend-full-time-jo...
Port Authority has provided the space for more conversation about the fare system. Here is a link to a multiple choice survey. And here is an opportunity to share more of your thoughts in writing.
Let's make sure they hear our voices!
7/8 An Injury To One Is An Injury To All! The Lessons of ILWU Local 10's May Day 2015 Action Against Racist Killings
An Injury To One Is An Injury To All!
The Lessons of ILWU Local 10's May Day 2015 Action Against Racist Killings
July 8 (Wednesday) 7:00 PM (Free) ILWU Local 10 - Henry Schmidt Room - 400 Northpoint, at Mason near Fisherman's Wharf
On May Day ILWU Local 10 shut the port down, marched from the port of Oakland and rallied at City Hall to protest the racist killings in this country. Local 10's organizer, Stacey Rodgers, will chair the meeting. Other ILWU Local 10 members and retirees, veterans of past ILWU solidarity actions will speak.
On May 1, 2015 ILWU Local 10 called for a stop work meeting to protest the police terror and murders of African Americans, Latinos and other working people. Thousands marched to demand justice and human rights. ILWU made history as the only union in the United States to not only to challenge the epidemic of police murders, but also to take action on the job.
This educational forum will look at why the ILWU Local 10 took this action and how their members have been affected by the increasing militarization of the police and repression in working class communities, especially against black and brown people.There will also be a screening of a new documentary of ILWU Local 10’s initiated action by Kavena Hambira of Namibia. The Henry Schmidt room is on the second floor of the smaller building at the location.Tags: ILWU 10maydayPolice Terror
- Incarcerated Workers’ Uprising In Nebraska
- Kansas City IWW Member Released From Prison
- Syndicalists Organize And Win In Berlin!
- Building Workers’ Power in the United Kingdom
- Summer Special: Reviews, Wobbly Entertainment
- New Austerity Measures To “Liberate” French Workers From Regulations
Download a Free PDF of this issue.
Bosses Reclassify Workers to Cut Costs-Super Shuttle Drivers Classified As Independent Contractors
Scrutiny into relationships with contractors leads to new strategies
Harjinder Dubb of Norwalk, Calif., drove a SuperShuttle from 2003 to 2008 and says he was labeled an independent contractor. PHOTO: JONATHAN HANSON FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
By LAUREN WEBER
June 30, 2015 5:36 p.m. ET
As courts and regulators increase their scrutiny of the relationship between businesses and independent contractors, employers are turning to a range of tactics to classify workers, taking them off the formal payroll and lowering costs.
Employers have long shifted work from employees to independent contractors, often relabeling the workers and slightly altering the conditions of their work, court documents and settlements indicate. Now, businesses are turning to other kinds of employment relationships, such as setting up workers as franchisees or owners of limited liability companies, which helps to shield businesses from tax and labor statutes.
In response, some state and federal agencies are aggressively clamping down on such arrangements, passing local legislation, filing briefs in workers’ own lawsuits, and closely tracking the spread of what they see as questionable employment models.
All this is happening against the backdrop of a broader shifting of risk from employers to workers, who shoulder an increasing share of responsibility for everything from health-insurance premiums to retirement income to job security. Alleged misclassification of workers has been one of the primary battlegrounds of this shift, leading to high-profile lawsuits against Uber Technologies Inc. and FedEx Corp., among others. Both have recently lost or settled big cases. Uber is appealing one decision, and FedEx settled in California for $228 million but is continuing to challenge classification lawsuits in other states.
“We’re seeing more creative ways to misclassify workers,” Patricia Smith, chief litigator at the U.S. Labor Department, said at a legal conference in the spring, referring to a recent victory by the agency over construction companies in Arizona and Utah using phony LLCs.
Former SuperShuttle driver Harjinder Dubb. Drivers for SuperShuttle purchase their own vans.
“LLCs are generally small businesses that are trying to get back to business and are facing an increasingly difficult time because of this kind of enforcement,” said Jerry Howard, chief executive of the National Association of Home Builders. “We educate our members on a very regular basis and teach them how to comply” with labor statutes, he added. He declined to comment on the findings of the Arizona and Utah investigation.
In that investigation, the department and its state counterparts found that more than 1,000 construction workers were building houses as employees one day and then a day later had begun performing the same work on the same job sites as so-called owners of LLCs, but without any wage or safety protection. In April, the construction firms that had put the plan in place—and had avoided paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in payroll taxes—were ordered to pay $700,000 in back wages, damages and penalties.
In the coming days, David Weil, the administrator of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, is expected to release a detailed memo on worker classification, the first such guidance since President Barack Obama took office.
A particular focus for Mr. Weil and for plaintiffs’ lawyers is brands that sell franchises not to a traditional small-business owner—say, a person who owns six outlets of a national fast-food chain and hires dozens of employees—but to low-wage workers such as janitors and delivery drivers who essentially pay franchise fees in exchange for work.
“There are a lot of legitimate franchise forms,” but companies that abuse the franchise model deny workers access to overtime and minimum-wage pay requirements as well as health and safety protections, and they lower the standards at rival firms, which can’t compete unless they follow the lead of unscrupulous firms, Mr. Weil said in an interview. “They can undermine responsible employers and take root in an industry,” he added.
In 2012, Maria Jacobo sold many of her personal belongings to buy a franchise from CleanNet USA, a janitorial service. In exchange for paying the $10,000 franchise fee, she said she was told she would receive accounts valued at several thousand dollars a month to clean offices and other commercial buildings. Ms. Jacobo had been a solo housecleaner before she seized the opportunity to become a small-business owner through CleanNet, according to court documents.
But last year, Ms. Jacobo joined a lawsuit against the company, charging that it controls all aspects of the cleaners’ work, including their fees and communications with clients, making them essentially employees of the firm even as it uses the franchise model to avoid the obligations of an employer, such as minimum-wage and overtime payments.
Janitorial services were among the first to use the franchise model to designate individual workers, often low-skilled immigrants, as independent owners. CleanNet alone has faced claims from workers in California, Maryland, Texas, Pennsylvania and Illinois in the past two years. Those claims are in settlement discussions or have moved to arbitration due to a clause in the company’s contracts.. Another franchise cleaning service, Coverall North America Inc., agreed to pay $5.5 million and stop operating in Massachusetts as part of a pending settlement with franchisees there and has faced other franchisee lawsuits in at least two other states. A case in Tennessee was settled in 2007, and a case in California in 2014. Ms. Jacobo’s case is currently in arbitration; she declined to comment.
“CleanNet has no reason to believe that its California franchisees are misclassified,” said its outside general counsel, Benjamin Hahn, who added that aside from Massachusetts, states have upheld the janitorial franchise model. Norman Leon, an attorney with DLA Piper who has represented Coverall and whose firm is general counsel to the International Franchise Association, said, “The premise that some of the smaller janitorial companies abuse the franchise model or that all of those franchises are operated as sole proprietorships—both of those assertions are incorrect.”
The model isn’t limited to cleaning companies. Last year, SuperShuttle agreed to pay $12 million to drivers in California who had argued that they weren’t true franchisees—independent owners operating businesses and controlling their own destinies—but in practice were employees who should be reimbursed for business expenses like fuel and maintenance and paid for the overtime hours they worked.
Harjinder Dubb drove for SuperShuttle from 2003 to 2008 and says he was labeled an independent contractor. He quit after SuperShuttle tried to convert him to a franchisee, which would have required him to pay fees to “rent” the SuperShuttle brand—essentially paying to do the same work he had done before.
As part of the settlement, SuperShuttle maintained its franchise model but changed its contract terms to reduce its control over drivers and give them more opportunities to earn other income with their vans, which the drivers purchase themselves for as much as $35,000. SuperShuttle had settled similar suits in Minnesota, New York and Florida, but the California settlement is the largest to date.
“We felt it was in our best interest to settle the case because we wanted to move on with running our business,” said Tom Lavoy, deputy chief operating officer of SuperShuttle’s parent, Transdev On Demand. He added that the franchise system has reduced turnover and improved safety among drivers. “We still believe it’s the right model because independent business owners are more efficient than what we can generate from an employee business,” he said.
Write to Lauren Weber at email@example.comTags: Super ShuttleDriversindependent contractors
Do the times hold dilemmas?
The appeal to the referendum by “for the first time” Left government was the natural outcome of a futile political negotiation which aimed “to have its cake (capital) and eat it too” (to satisfy both its needs and those of institutions). To be sure, this frame of negotiations took place without the real subject that shall pay the cost of remaining in Europe, whether in Euro or drachma, that is the working class, the unemployed, the precarious workers, the immigrants and the pensioners. The point is that, despite the Left tone of dignity that the Left governmental administrators use, this is a one-way blackmail. We need a radical change of shift, not in words but in action.
July 1, 2015: The UPS Package Division has launched a public campaign to call on UPS to drop its support for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), because of ALEC’s extreme anti-union and anti-worker lobbying.
In documents sent to all locals today, the IBT asks locals to post the leaflet on union bulletin boards.
ALEC is notorious for not only supporting, but actually writing, anti-union laws such as “Right to Work,” along with laws attacking the rights of teachers to join unions, and laws attacking worker safety. Then ALEC uses its money to get laws passed in state legislatures. It is funded by a number of major corporations, including UPS and FedEx.
UPS Among Many Teamster Employers
SourceWatch lists corporations which fund and support ALEC. Major Teamster employers listed include Anheuser Busch, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, CN Railroad, Crown Cork and Seal, CSX, Honeywell, J.R. Simplot, Marathon Oil, Norfolk Southern, and Waste Management, among others.
It is not clear if the IBT intends to take the campaign to these companies, or if Ken Hall is using the UPS campaign to bolster his sagging fortunes among UPS Teamsters.
The IBT notes that some Teamster employers have joined the many companies which have dumped support for ALEC in recent years, including PepsiCo and Coca Cola.Issues: UPS
Former LA Metrolink auditor alleges she was bullied and fired for disclosing railroad's problems
Metrolink rider looks out window as train pulls into the Santa Ana Transportation Center. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
By DAN WEIKELcontact the reporter
Allegations in a new lawsuit by a former top watchdog at Southern California's Metrolink commuter railroad paint an alarming picture of the operation's management problems and internal politics.
Chief auditor Barbara Manning, 64, who was fired late last year, asserts that contracts were mishandled, accounting irregularities were rampant, ticket revenue was poorly tracked and that she was defamed and terminated for bringing some of the problems to light.
Scott Johnson, a Metrolink spokesman, said railroad officials do not comment on pending litigation as a matter of policy.
In her lawsuit filed Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Manning names the Southern California Regional Rail Authority--Metrolink's operator--and singles out three high-profile board members. They are former state legislator Richard Katz of Los Angeles, Moorpark City Councilman Keith Millhouse and Larry McCallon, mayor of Highland in San Bernardino County.
Katz declined to discuss the lawsuit, and McCallon could not be reached for comment.
Millhouse said the lawsuit is "completely baseless" and predicted that any allegations against him will be promptly dismissed. "At that point," he added, "I will seek my redress for malicious prosecution."
The lawsuit comes amid an ongoing effort by Metrolink to assess and correct a variety of management and accounting irregularities, which one internal agency report described as "a morass."
That scathing report found poor management, inadequate cash reserves and shoddy record-keeping and concluded it was difficult for officials to assess the railroad's financial standing. Metrolink's chief financial officer at the time resigned in light of the findings.
Manning was hired by Metrolink in June 2013 to help correct the problems. The lawsuit states that she was fired by the board for allegedly lying to investigators and trying to impede an investigation into her conduct.
Her attorney, William M. Crosby, said Manning was a "consummate professional" and has worked in a variety of high-level positions. "It has never been suggested that she had performance issues," he said. "It's outrageous what they did to her."
According to the lawsuit, Manning and her audit team discovered financial irregularities, possible fraud and a failure by Metrolink officials to respond properly to negative federal audit findings. At the time, the Federal Transit Administration was threatening to withhold funding from Metrolink, her court papers state.
Manning's legal complaint asserts her reviews found a lack of accountability and transparency, unapproved wire transfers of funds and bank records that were inaccessible because no one on staff, including the chief executive officer, had signature authority to access them.
Accounts that contained fare revenue weren't properly reconciled and short of funds, she alleged. Manning also claims she found discrepancies between cash collected and reported, as well as ticket sales that could not be accounted for--both matters she described in the lawsuit as "high fraud indicators."
Her lawsuit also claims Manning's difficulties began after she uncovered irregularities in a security guard contract. She purportedly found unauthorized salary increases for security guards and an over-extended budget that resulted in job cutbacks and reduced safety for passengers. The lawsuit claims the cutbacks coincided with an increase in assaults on riders.
The lawsuit states that after Manning disclosed the findings of her work to board members over McCallon's objections, she was falsely accused by the defendants of causing safety problems for the railroad, not following audit procedures and intending to issue an inaccurate report.
She alleges that Katz accused her of "creating an atmosphere of hostility and fear" and spearheaded the effort to fire her.
The lawsuit claims Manning experienced depression, extreme anxiety and insomnia due to her treatment by agency officials and that she will have difficulty finding comparable future employment due to the stigma of her firing. She is seeking punitive and compensatory damages.
Uber's numbers seem ugly either way you look at them
• ALEXEI ORESKOVIC
• Jun. 29, 2015, 10:01 PM
Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesTravis Kalanick, chief executive officer of Uber Technologies Inc., speaks during the Institute of Directors (IOD) annual convention at the Royal Albert Hall in London, U.K., on Friday, Oct. 3, 2014.
Uber’s financial performance is shakier than previous reports suggested, based on the leaked numbers reported by Bloomberg on Tuesday.
The numbers, which Bloomberg said were part of a term sheet for a bond offering that Uber is planning, provide a rare glimpse into the popular ride-hailing business’ money-making machine.
According to Bloomberg, Uber had revenue of $415 million (we assume net revenue after payments to drivers, not gross revenue) and an operating loss of $470 million.
It’s an incomplete glimpse into Uber, as the numbers are missing one major piece of context: the time period that the financial results correspond to. It’s unclear whether these are financial results for a single quarter, for a whole year, or for some other period of time.
Nor do we know how fresh the numbers are — an Uber spokesperson told Bloomberg they are “substantially old,” which suggests they come from 2014.
It's also not clear where the numbers originated — Uber told Fortune that the prospectus in question was not distributed by Uber, but didn't comment further on their accuracy.
Still, the numbers present some worrying signs whether they are viewed as quarterly or annual results.
If one assumes that the numbers correspond to one single quarter’s financial results, then Uber appears to be losing some serious money. That’s because if you create an annualized run-rate based on those numbers (multiply by four), Uber’s annual operating loss is nearly $2 billion.
Of course, there are plenty of caveats to assuming that Uber is actually losing that much money on an annual basis given how little we know. The one-quarter snapshot may have been an anomaly; perhaps Uber ramped up its spending that quarter and sustained a much greater than normal operating loss.
Still, it’s reasonable to at least consider the possibility that Uber is operating at that kind of run rate based on the reported numbers.
But perhaps the Bloomberg numbers represented an entire year’s worth of financial results? In other words, Uber’s $470 million operating loss could be for the 2014 year. The problem with looking at it that way is that it means Uber’s revenue for all of 2014 was only $415 million.
That’s a pretty small number for a company with Uber’s valuation — it was $18 billion at the end of 2014, and is over $40 billion approaching $50 billion now. It also suggests that the company will fall short of the $2 billion net revenue run rate that earlier reports expected it to attain this year, even at a reported 300% growth rate.
Uber has not responded to requests from Business Insider. We'll update this story if we hear back.Uber
June 29, 2015: Teamsters and retirees across the union are battling to save our earned pension credits. If Hoffa's on our side, here's how he can show it.
On June 18, 150 retirees converged on Washington to support the introduction of the Keep Our Pension Promises Act.
Hoffa serves on the board of the NCMMP, which drafted and lobbied for the pension cut legislation. But he sent International VP John Murphy to the Capitol on June 18 to support its repeal.
If Hoffa is serious about protecting our pensions, he needs to show it with action, not just words.
Three Simple Steps Hoffa can Take Right Now
- Post an Open Letter to the Central States Trustees and Director, asking them to temporarily hold off initiating pension cuts, and back our work on the Promises Act.
- Send a letter to all U.S. Local Unions and retiree clubs, asking them to voice support to all US Senators and Congressional Reps in their respective areas. And ask them to call on Central States Trustees to do the right thing.
- Send a blast email calling on all Teamsters and retirees to join this fight.
So far, we have not seen these minimal, low-cost steps taken. We call upon the Hoffa administration to take action now. And then go on to help mobilize for a mass mobilization in Washington D.C.
Teamsters and retirees are working together with allies to save our pensions. We expect our International union to be on our side – with actions, as well as press releases.