Feed aggregator

Argentina: Largest Union Calls for General Strike on April 6

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 03/16/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: VoA
Categories: Labor News

Spanish parliament defeats government plan to deregulate hiring of dock workers

Current News - Thu, 03/16/2017 - 15:15

Spanish parliament defeats government plan to deregulate hiring of dock workers
https://www.thelocal.es/20170316/spanish-parliament-defeats-government-p...
AFP
news@thelocal.es
16 March 2017
14:23 CET+01:00

Shipping containers and cranes dockside at the "Terminal de Contenidors de Barcelona SL" (TCB) cargo terminal. Photo: AFP
Spanish lawmakers on Thursday defeated a decree that would deregulate the hiring of dock workers at the county's ports, in a blow to conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's minority government.
The proposed reform, fiercely opposed by dockers who threatened to stage a nationwide strike that would hurt exports if it went ahead, was shot down with 175 votes against, 142 in favour and 33 abstentions.

It is the first major defeat for Rajoy's Popular Party, which has since October headed a minority government that has just 137 seats in the 350-seat lower house of parliament.

The cabinet gave the green light to the decree more than two years after the EU Court of Justice ruled Spain must reform the sector, or face sanctions.

Currently, domestic or foreign companies can only hire dockers to load and unload ships from specific, already-established Spanish groups known as Sagebs that select, train and provide personnel, and no other firm.

The decree would allow companies to contract workers wherever they want.

"It is a European directive that we must follow," Rajoy said ahead of the vote in parliament on the decree.

"We have delayed its approval, we have given all the time in the world to reach an agreement."

Spain's 6,150 dockers fear that opening up the sector to competition will put their jobs and salaries at risk.

With aortic stenosis, the opening in the heart's aortic valve becomes narrow. Here are eight things you should know about this serious condition.

Over 60 percent of Spain's exports pass through the country's 46 main ports.

Spain, with its nearly 6,000 kilometres of coastline, is also a key transit point for exports from Europe to the rest of the world.

The International Dockworkers Council (IDC), an umbrella group of 91 unions in 41 countries, has also threated to stage coordinated strikes around the world in a show of support for Spanish dockers.

Tags: Spanish DockersderegulationIDCunion busting
Categories: Labor News

Spanish parliament defeats government plan to deregulate hiring of dock workers

Current News - Thu, 03/16/2017 - 15:15

Spanish parliament defeats government plan to deregulate hiring of dock workers
https://www.thelocal.es/20170316/spanish-parliament-defeats-government-p...
AFP
news@thelocal.es
16 March 2017
14:23 CET+01:00

Shipping containers and cranes dockside at the "Terminal de Contenidors de Barcelona SL" (TCB) cargo terminal. Photo: AFP
Spanish lawmakers on Thursday defeated a decree that would deregulate the hiring of dock workers at the county's ports, in a blow to conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's minority government.
The proposed reform, fiercely opposed by dockers who threatened to stage a nationwide strike that would hurt exports if it went ahead, was shot down with 175 votes against, 142 in favour and 33 abstentions.

It is the first major defeat for Rajoy's Popular Party, which has since October headed a minority government that has just 137 seats in the 350-seat lower house of parliament.

The cabinet gave the green light to the decree more than two years after the EU Court of Justice ruled Spain must reform the sector, or face sanctions.

Currently, domestic or foreign companies can only hire dockers to load and unload ships from specific, already-established Spanish groups known as Sagebs that select, train and provide personnel, and no other firm.

The decree would allow companies to contract workers wherever they want.

"It is a European directive that we must follow," Rajoy said ahead of the vote in parliament on the decree.

"We have delayed its approval, we have given all the time in the world to reach an agreement."

Spain's 6,150 dockers fear that opening up the sector to competition will put their jobs and salaries at risk.

With aortic stenosis, the opening in the heart's aortic valve becomes narrow. Here are eight things you should know about this serious condition.

Over 60 percent of Spain's exports pass through the country's 46 main ports.

Spain, with its nearly 6,000 kilometres of coastline, is also a key transit point for exports from Europe to the rest of the world.

The International Dockworkers Council (IDC), an umbrella group of 91 unions in 41 countries, has also threated to stage coordinated strikes around the world in a show of support for Spanish dockers.

Tags: Spanish DockersderegulationIDCunion busting
Categories: Labor News

Brazil: Brazilians protest, strike over pension changes

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 03/15/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: CTV
Categories: Labor News

Vatican City: Pope says closing firms without protecting workers ‘very grave sin’

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 03/15/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: religionnews
Categories: Labor News

Global: Modern slavery and human trafficking: Myths and facts

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 03/15/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: 50 for Freedom
Categories: Labor News

UK train conductors strike three rail companies

Current News - Wed, 03/15/2017 - 11:08

UK train conductors strike three rail companies
http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/03/14/rail-m14.html
By Robert Stevens
14 March 2017
Train conductors at Arriva Rail North, Merseyrail and Southern Rail struck Monday to oppose the planned introduction of Driver Only Operated services (DOO). Management’s proposals, backed to the hilt by the Conservative government, would lead to the loss of thousands of conductors’ jobs and undermine public safety.
The strike demonstrates the strength of the working class. Although the walkout involved only 2,000 conductors nationally, the rail firms were forced to cancel far more services than expected—with well over a 1,000 scheduled train journeys halted.
At Merseyrail, many drivers belonging to the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF) union refused to cross picket of conductors who are members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union. Only minimal services ran on the network, with all services ceasing at 7pm. Between 11am and 2pm, Merseyrail was forced to suspend all trains.
Merseyrail normally transports 110,000 passengers each weekday, via 67 railway stations on one of the most heavily used rail networks outside London. Whole sections of the network were halted, with no trains running between Hunts Cross/Kirkby and Liverpool Central and between Ellesmere Port and James Street. Services did not run to many stations, including Bidston, Birkenhead Park, Conway Park and Manor Park.

The picket line at Huddersfield rail Station
A Merseyrail spokesman said the firm was not able to run its previously advertised timetable, as “train drivers, who are not part of the industrial action taking place on the Merseyrail network today, have decided not to cross RMT picket lines.”
Arriva Rail North and Merseyrail have refused to relent on plans to introduce DOO over the next three years. Merseyrail is procuring a new £460 million fleet of trains by 2020, designed to enable drivers to entirely control the opening and closing of doors--one of the main roles of conductors who are trained in up to 35 safety critical tasks. The plan, if implemented will result in the loss of 220 conductors’ jobs at Merseyrail.
Arriva Rail North, which covers rail services connecting cities including Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle, claimed around 40 percent of services ran Monday. However, no services ran before 7am, with trains stopping completely from 5pm to 7pm. The strike’s impact resulted in Arriva Rail North having to hire 300 buses to transport passengers. The two main stations in Manchester—Piccadilly and Victoria—were much quieter than normal with Victoria’s concourses and platforms empty during the morning rush hour.
At Southern, conductors and drivers have been fighting plans to introduce DOO over the last year. In striking Monday, RMT members at Southern were taking their 30th day of intermittent job actions. According to Southern it ran nearly a full service, after it drafted in managers and other scabs to replace conductors.
However, Southern has constantly inflated figures during strikes. Many of its planned services to and from London did not run, with several lines completely unable to operate. The propaganda was belied by scenes of many virtually empty and quiet train stations in various towns and cities.
The RMT noted in a March 9 press release, “The company claims on the number of trains that they are set to run are bogus, rigged and not borne out by the passenger feedback on strike days…” It added, “Managers from elsewhere in GTR operations are being swung in at considerable cost, both in cash terms and disruption to work elsewhere, to try and break the strike.”
Last month, Go-Ahead, which owns 65 percent of Southern's operator Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), reported that half-year profits from its rail business had fallen 35 percent to £26.9 million.
Letting the cat out of the bag as to what the rail companies eventually want to impose, Angie Doll, Southern's passenger services director said Monday, “Our on-board supervisors [the job title conductors are being forced into] are now established in their roles and passengers are beginning to see the benefits of having someone whose sole job is customer service.” In other words, underpaid staff will operate solely as revenue collectors, with no responsibilities for public safety.
The strike proves the willingness of transport workers to fight the destruction of their terms, conditions and livelihoods. The action by the ASLEF drivers at Merseyrail was in direct opposition to the ongoing sabotage of their struggle by the trade union bureaucracy. Since the beginning of the Southern dispute, the unions have sought to divide conductors and drivers from waging a unified offensive against DOO, which is the spearhead of attacks on gains rail workers have won over generations.
Last month, Southern GTR drivers, members of ASLEF, voted down a sell-out deal that fully accepted DOO, negotiated by the union under the auspices of the Trades Union Congress (TUC). Following its rejection, Southern management and ASLEF have resumed private talks at a secret location.
Despite describing the actions of ASLEF as a “historical betrayal,” the RMT kept up the division of drivers and conductors by insisting that the deal was an internal affair of ASLEF’s, blocking any common struggle of rail workers.
The offensive against rail workers is set to intensify with the Department of Transport’s announcement that DOO must be included by whichever private firm wins the next two franchises due to be awarded, South Western and West Midlands.
Opposed to the mobilisation of its more than 80,000 membership nationally in support of rail workers, RMT officials have simply called for more negotiations. Even though conductors are fighting the same attacks, the RMT issued separate press releases regarding each company. For Arriva Rail North, the union said, “It is now down to the company to ‎get that pledge back on the table and engage with the union in talks over a safe and sustainable future built around the guarantee of a guard on the trains." Regarding the Southern strike, the RMT declared, “[I]t is about time Southern/GTR got out of the bunker and got back round the table with the union in serious and meaningful talks." Merseyrail management should get out of “the bunker and started serious talks with the union that secure a safe future for their services and the guarantee of a guard on their trains.”
As for ASLEF, the union has refused to even report on its web site or twitter account that its members struck in solidarity with conductors at Merseyrail.

Tags: UKRMTAssociated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF)
Categories: Labor News

UK train conductors strike three rail companies

Current News - Wed, 03/15/2017 - 11:08

UK train conductors strike three rail companies
http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/03/14/rail-m14.html
By Robert Stevens
14 March 2017
Train conductors at Arriva Rail North, Merseyrail and Southern Rail struck Monday to oppose the planned introduction of Driver Only Operated services (DOO). Management’s proposals, backed to the hilt by the Conservative government, would lead to the loss of thousands of conductors’ jobs and undermine public safety.
The strike demonstrates the strength of the working class. Although the walkout involved only 2,000 conductors nationally, the rail firms were forced to cancel far more services than expected—with well over a 1,000 scheduled train journeys halted.
At Merseyrail, many drivers belonging to the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF) union refused to cross picket of conductors who are members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union. Only minimal services ran on the network, with all services ceasing at 7pm. Between 11am and 2pm, Merseyrail was forced to suspend all trains.
Merseyrail normally transports 110,000 passengers each weekday, via 67 railway stations on one of the most heavily used rail networks outside London. Whole sections of the network were halted, with no trains running between Hunts Cross/Kirkby and Liverpool Central and between Ellesmere Port and James Street. Services did not run to many stations, including Bidston, Birkenhead Park, Conway Park and Manor Park.

The picket line at Huddersfield rail Station
A Merseyrail spokesman said the firm was not able to run its previously advertised timetable, as “train drivers, who are not part of the industrial action taking place on the Merseyrail network today, have decided not to cross RMT picket lines.”
Arriva Rail North and Merseyrail have refused to relent on plans to introduce DOO over the next three years. Merseyrail is procuring a new £460 million fleet of trains by 2020, designed to enable drivers to entirely control the opening and closing of doors--one of the main roles of conductors who are trained in up to 35 safety critical tasks. The plan, if implemented will result in the loss of 220 conductors’ jobs at Merseyrail.
Arriva Rail North, which covers rail services connecting cities including Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle, claimed around 40 percent of services ran Monday. However, no services ran before 7am, with trains stopping completely from 5pm to 7pm. The strike’s impact resulted in Arriva Rail North having to hire 300 buses to transport passengers. The two main stations in Manchester—Piccadilly and Victoria—were much quieter than normal with Victoria’s concourses and platforms empty during the morning rush hour.
At Southern, conductors and drivers have been fighting plans to introduce DOO over the last year. In striking Monday, RMT members at Southern were taking their 30th day of intermittent job actions. According to Southern it ran nearly a full service, after it drafted in managers and other scabs to replace conductors.
However, Southern has constantly inflated figures during strikes. Many of its planned services to and from London did not run, with several lines completely unable to operate. The propaganda was belied by scenes of many virtually empty and quiet train stations in various towns and cities.
The RMT noted in a March 9 press release, “The company claims on the number of trains that they are set to run are bogus, rigged and not borne out by the passenger feedback on strike days…” It added, “Managers from elsewhere in GTR operations are being swung in at considerable cost, both in cash terms and disruption to work elsewhere, to try and break the strike.”
Last month, Go-Ahead, which owns 65 percent of Southern's operator Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), reported that half-year profits from its rail business had fallen 35 percent to £26.9 million.
Letting the cat out of the bag as to what the rail companies eventually want to impose, Angie Doll, Southern's passenger services director said Monday, “Our on-board supervisors [the job title conductors are being forced into] are now established in their roles and passengers are beginning to see the benefits of having someone whose sole job is customer service.” In other words, underpaid staff will operate solely as revenue collectors, with no responsibilities for public safety.
The strike proves the willingness of transport workers to fight the destruction of their terms, conditions and livelihoods. The action by the ASLEF drivers at Merseyrail was in direct opposition to the ongoing sabotage of their struggle by the trade union bureaucracy. Since the beginning of the Southern dispute, the unions have sought to divide conductors and drivers from waging a unified offensive against DOO, which is the spearhead of attacks on gains rail workers have won over generations.
Last month, Southern GTR drivers, members of ASLEF, voted down a sell-out deal that fully accepted DOO, negotiated by the union under the auspices of the Trades Union Congress (TUC). Following its rejection, Southern management and ASLEF have resumed private talks at a secret location.
Despite describing the actions of ASLEF as a “historical betrayal,” the RMT kept up the division of drivers and conductors by insisting that the deal was an internal affair of ASLEF’s, blocking any common struggle of rail workers.
The offensive against rail workers is set to intensify with the Department of Transport’s announcement that DOO must be included by whichever private firm wins the next two franchises due to be awarded, South Western and West Midlands.
Opposed to the mobilisation of its more than 80,000 membership nationally in support of rail workers, RMT officials have simply called for more negotiations. Even though conductors are fighting the same attacks, the RMT issued separate press releases regarding each company. For Arriva Rail North, the union said, “It is now down to the company to ‎get that pledge back on the table and engage with the union in talks over a safe and sustainable future built around the guarantee of a guard on the trains." Regarding the Southern strike, the RMT declared, “[I]t is about time Southern/GTR got out of the bunker and got back round the table with the union in serious and meaningful talks." Merseyrail management should get out of “the bunker and started serious talks with the union that secure a safe future for their services and the guarantee of a guard on their trains.”
As for ASLEF, the union has refused to even report on its web site or twitter account that its members struck in solidarity with conductors at Merseyrail.

Tags: UKRMTAssociated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF)
Categories: Labor News

UK train conductors strike three rail companies

Current News - Wed, 03/15/2017 - 11:08

UK train conductors strike three rail companies
http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/03/14/rail-m14.html
By Robert Stevens
14 March 2017
Train conductors at Arriva Rail North, Merseyrail and Southern Rail struck Monday to oppose the planned introduction of Driver Only Operated services (DOO). Management’s proposals, backed to the hilt by the Conservative government, would lead to the loss of thousands of conductors’ jobs and undermine public safety.
The strike demonstrates the strength of the working class. Although the walkout involved only 2,000 conductors nationally, the rail firms were forced to cancel far more services than expected—with well over a 1,000 scheduled train journeys halted.
At Merseyrail, many drivers belonging to the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF) union refused to cross picket of conductors who are members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union. Only minimal services ran on the network, with all services ceasing at 7pm. Between 11am and 2pm, Merseyrail was forced to suspend all trains.
Merseyrail normally transports 110,000 passengers each weekday, via 67 railway stations on one of the most heavily used rail networks outside London. Whole sections of the network were halted, with no trains running between Hunts Cross/Kirkby and Liverpool Central and between Ellesmere Port and James Street. Services did not run to many stations, including Bidston, Birkenhead Park, Conway Park and Manor Park.

The picket line at Huddersfield rail Station
A Merseyrail spokesman said the firm was not able to run its previously advertised timetable, as “train drivers, who are not part of the industrial action taking place on the Merseyrail network today, have decided not to cross RMT picket lines.”
Arriva Rail North and Merseyrail have refused to relent on plans to introduce DOO over the next three years. Merseyrail is procuring a new £460 million fleet of trains by 2020, designed to enable drivers to entirely control the opening and closing of doors--one of the main roles of conductors who are trained in up to 35 safety critical tasks. The plan, if implemented will result in the loss of 220 conductors’ jobs at Merseyrail.
Arriva Rail North, which covers rail services connecting cities including Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle, claimed around 40 percent of services ran Monday. However, no services ran before 7am, with trains stopping completely from 5pm to 7pm. The strike’s impact resulted in Arriva Rail North having to hire 300 buses to transport passengers. The two main stations in Manchester—Piccadilly and Victoria—were much quieter than normal with Victoria’s concourses and platforms empty during the morning rush hour.
At Southern, conductors and drivers have been fighting plans to introduce DOO over the last year. In striking Monday, RMT members at Southern were taking their 30th day of intermittent job actions. According to Southern it ran nearly a full service, after it drafted in managers and other scabs to replace conductors.
However, Southern has constantly inflated figures during strikes. Many of its planned services to and from London did not run, with several lines completely unable to operate. The propaganda was belied by scenes of many virtually empty and quiet train stations in various towns and cities.
The RMT noted in a March 9 press release, “The company claims on the number of trains that they are set to run are bogus, rigged and not borne out by the passenger feedback on strike days…” It added, “Managers from elsewhere in GTR operations are being swung in at considerable cost, both in cash terms and disruption to work elsewhere, to try and break the strike.”
Last month, Go-Ahead, which owns 65 percent of Southern's operator Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), reported that half-year profits from its rail business had fallen 35 percent to £26.9 million.
Letting the cat out of the bag as to what the rail companies eventually want to impose, Angie Doll, Southern's passenger services director said Monday, “Our on-board supervisors [the job title conductors are being forced into] are now established in their roles and passengers are beginning to see the benefits of having someone whose sole job is customer service.” In other words, underpaid staff will operate solely as revenue collectors, with no responsibilities for public safety.
The strike proves the willingness of transport workers to fight the destruction of their terms, conditions and livelihoods. The action by the ASLEF drivers at Merseyrail was in direct opposition to the ongoing sabotage of their struggle by the trade union bureaucracy. Since the beginning of the Southern dispute, the unions have sought to divide conductors and drivers from waging a unified offensive against DOO, which is the spearhead of attacks on gains rail workers have won over generations.
Last month, Southern GTR drivers, members of ASLEF, voted down a sell-out deal that fully accepted DOO, negotiated by the union under the auspices of the Trades Union Congress (TUC). Following its rejection, Southern management and ASLEF have resumed private talks at a secret location.
Despite describing the actions of ASLEF as a “historical betrayal,” the RMT kept up the division of drivers and conductors by insisting that the deal was an internal affair of ASLEF’s, blocking any common struggle of rail workers.
The offensive against rail workers is set to intensify with the Department of Transport’s announcement that DOO must be included by whichever private firm wins the next two franchises due to be awarded, South Western and West Midlands.
Opposed to the mobilisation of its more than 80,000 membership nationally in support of rail workers, RMT officials have simply called for more negotiations. Even though conductors are fighting the same attacks, the RMT issued separate press releases regarding each company. For Arriva Rail North, the union said, “It is now down to the company to ‎get that pledge back on the table and engage with the union in talks over a safe and sustainable future built around the guarantee of a guard on the trains." Regarding the Southern strike, the RMT declared, “[I]t is about time Southern/GTR got out of the bunker and got back round the table with the union in serious and meaningful talks." Merseyrail management should get out of “the bunker and started serious talks with the union that secure a safe future for their services and the guarantee of a guard on their trains.”
As for ASLEF, the union has refused to even report on its web site or twitter account that its members struck in solidarity with conductors at Merseyrail.

Tags: UKRMTAssociated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF)
Categories: Labor News

Global: Over 2 million workers continue to suffer under system of modern slavery

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITUC
Categories: Labor News

Australia: New leader of Australian unions vows to take on corporate greed

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Guardian Australia
Categories: Labor News

How Japanese trade unions pulled the brakes on Uber’s bid to enter Tokyo

Current News - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 13:17

How Japanese trade unions pulled the brakes on Uber’s bid to enter Tokyo
https://www.equaltimes.org/how-trade-unions-pulled-the-brakes#.WMhOkBRBi-S
In 2015, the labour unions that represent Japan’s taxi drivers learned that Rakuten, one of the country’s largest retail and ecommerce companies, had made a large investment in the transportation app Lyft. This was the first sign of an emerging threat – the entrance of ride-hailing apps, most notably the global giant Uber – into the world’s largest city, Tokyo.

“We didn’t even know about ride-sharing, but after this, we started to study about it,” said Kazuhiko Kikuchi, chief secretary of the National Federation of Automobile Transport Workers’ Unions (Jiko-soren), one of several unions that represents taxi drivers in Japan. “We quickly realised that this is going to be a big issue [for us].”

The negative impact that ride-hailing has had on taxi drivers across the world has been well documented. Nearly every market they’ve entered has seen a dramatic drop in taxi usage, followed by wage reductions that, with time, impact ride-hailing drivers as well. In fact, the gig economy has also been shown to have a negative impact on workers wagesin many industries.

Japan, however, remains one of the few major developed countries that has yet to adopt the gig economy wholesale.
In fact, Uber was one of the first large platforms to attempt to break into the world’s third largest economy. The threat was palpable, though, because among OECD countries, Japan is country with the second lowest share of income concentrated in the top 10 per cent, after Belgium, and remains a country where CEOs make low salaries. The spread of the gig economy could alter Japan’s relative wage equality and have a huge, adverse impact on taxi drivers.

That is why, once Jiko-soren and others understood the threat Uber posed to their members, they began organising. In the end, they were able to do what few others around the world have – halt Uber’s entrance into Tokyo and preserve the livelihoods of its taxi driver members in Japan’s cities.

“Almost all the unions, from all over Japan, came together with the same purpose – to oppose ride-share,” said Jiko-soren chairperson Masatoshi Takashiro to Equal Times.

The case against Uber

Japan’s taxi sector is highly regulated, mostly a direct result of previous union organising and lobbying. These regulations both ensured protections for workers, decent wages due to government-set fares, and high safety standards for both passengers and drivers.

“In Japan, taxis are a form of transportation that is trusted by people,” said Takashiro.

While pricey, Japanese consumers consider taxis to be safe, reliable and clean. They also provide decent, well-paying jobs for several thousand workers in the Tokyo Metropolitan region.

For Jiko-soren, which represents independent taxi drivers and is an affiliate of the Zenroren national trade union centre, this meant that the potential entrance of Uber could destabilise the industry and have a dramatic impact on the livelihoods of its members.

“There are so many dangerous situations with Uber in other countries,” said Takashiro. “Drivers have been forced to work for very cheap wages.”

One challenge facing Jiko-soren was the fragmented nature of the taxi industry, with several unions representing workers. They range from Jiko-soren, a militant left-wing union, to those who represent corporate taxi drivers and quite often have close relationships with management. In fact, Japan’s various taxi unions had never worked together.

In other cities, it was this disunity that allowed Uber to come in and win. One advantage that Japanese organisers had was that they could learn from this example. Moreover, everyone was facing the threat equally – even corporate taxi companies stood to lose if Uber entered Tokyo.

In March 2016, eight Japanese unions organised a rally that brought together all their members, calling for the restriction of Uber-style ride-hailing and the maintenance of existing taxi regulations.
They sent in their demands to the government, and launched a public campaign alerting consumers to the real threat of Uber – and how, globally, the company has been resistant to the very safety measures that Japanese consumers take for granted.

“[The rally] had a very big impact, because we had never done anything like that before,” said Takashiro. “Even national politicians came, and both newspapers and TV media reported on it. Until then, people did not know about ride-sharing, but after this rally, they got to know about it…[and how] the entire taxi industry opposes this idea.”

It worked. Shortly after the rally, the government released new regulations that essentially ended Uber’s ride-hailing service in Tokyo and stated, bluntly, that ride-hailing would not be permitted in Japan’s major cities.

“That was a good result from our rally and organising efforts,” said Takashiro, but that did not mean the battle was finished.

A Trojan horse

Despite this initial success, Jiko-soren and its allies remain aware that Uber has not given up. The regulations did restrict its use in Japan’s big cities, but it also allowed for ride-hailing services in certain regions, specifically places that are termed “depopulated” where mostly elderly citizens reside. Already, Uber has launched a pilot project aimed at providing ride-hailing in two rural districts. To taxi union leaders, this could be a Trojan horse, and it something they continue to oppose.

“We are sure that they are going to use this opportunity – introducing ridesharing in depopulated areas – to take actions to expand services in the rest of the Japan,” said Takashiro. “[So we] will keep opposing Uber and trying to not to let ridesharing expand to the big cities.”

Moreover, Uber is continuing to lobby the Japanese government to deregulate the taxi sector, having recently joining the newly formed, pro-business Sharing Economy Association. The association is using the 2020 Olympics Games in Tokyo to justify the introduction of ride-hailing to Japan.

“We are waiting for the 2020 Games and we hope that by that time there will be some kind of right to be able to use these [rideshare] services,” said Takashi Sabetto, one of the founding members of Sharing Economy Association of Japan, which counts Uber as one of its members. “Some taxi companies might go bankrupt – but is that a bad thing?” he asks, adding that competition – not regulations – should decide their fate.

Tags: UberJapan taxi workersNational Federation of Automobile Transport Workers’ Unions (Jiko-soren)
Categories: Labor News

How Japanese trade unions pulled the brakes on Uber’s bid to enter Tokyo

Current News - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 13:17

How Japanese trade unions pulled the brakes on Uber’s bid to enter Tokyo
https://www.equaltimes.org/how-trade-unions-pulled-the-brakes#.WMhOkBRBi-S
In 2015, the labour unions that represent Japan’s taxi drivers learned that Rakuten, one of the country’s largest retail and ecommerce companies, had made a large investment in the transportation app Lyft. This was the first sign of an emerging threat – the entrance of ride-hailing apps, most notably the global giant Uber – into the world’s largest city, Tokyo.

“We didn’t even know about ride-sharing, but after this, we started to study about it,” said Kazuhiko Kikuchi, chief secretary of the National Federation of Automobile Transport Workers’ Unions (Jiko-soren), one of several unions that represents taxi drivers in Japan. “We quickly realised that this is going to be a big issue [for us].”

The negative impact that ride-hailing has had on taxi drivers across the world has been well documented. Nearly every market they’ve entered has seen a dramatic drop in taxi usage, followed by wage reductions that, with time, impact ride-hailing drivers as well. In fact, the gig economy has also been shown to have a negative impact on workers wagesin many industries.

Japan, however, remains one of the few major developed countries that has yet to adopt the gig economy wholesale.
In fact, Uber was one of the first large platforms to attempt to break into the world’s third largest economy. The threat was palpable, though, because among OECD countries, Japan is country with the second lowest share of income concentrated in the top 10 per cent, after Belgium, and remains a country where CEOs make low salaries. The spread of the gig economy could alter Japan’s relative wage equality and have a huge, adverse impact on taxi drivers.

That is why, once Jiko-soren and others understood the threat Uber posed to their members, they began organising. In the end, they were able to do what few others around the world have – halt Uber’s entrance into Tokyo and preserve the livelihoods of its taxi driver members in Japan’s cities.

“Almost all the unions, from all over Japan, came together with the same purpose – to oppose ride-share,” said Jiko-soren chairperson Masatoshi Takashiro to Equal Times.

The case against Uber

Japan’s taxi sector is highly regulated, mostly a direct result of previous union organising and lobbying. These regulations both ensured protections for workers, decent wages due to government-set fares, and high safety standards for both passengers and drivers.

“In Japan, taxis are a form of transportation that is trusted by people,” said Takashiro.

While pricey, Japanese consumers consider taxis to be safe, reliable and clean. They also provide decent, well-paying jobs for several thousand workers in the Tokyo Metropolitan region.

For Jiko-soren, which represents independent taxi drivers and is an affiliate of the Zenroren national trade union centre, this meant that the potential entrance of Uber could destabilise the industry and have a dramatic impact on the livelihoods of its members.

“There are so many dangerous situations with Uber in other countries,” said Takashiro. “Drivers have been forced to work for very cheap wages.”

One challenge facing Jiko-soren was the fragmented nature of the taxi industry, with several unions representing workers. They range from Jiko-soren, a militant left-wing union, to those who represent corporate taxi drivers and quite often have close relationships with management. In fact, Japan’s various taxi unions had never worked together.

In other cities, it was this disunity that allowed Uber to come in and win. One advantage that Japanese organisers had was that they could learn from this example. Moreover, everyone was facing the threat equally – even corporate taxi companies stood to lose if Uber entered Tokyo.

In March 2016, eight Japanese unions organised a rally that brought together all their members, calling for the restriction of Uber-style ride-hailing and the maintenance of existing taxi regulations.
They sent in their demands to the government, and launched a public campaign alerting consumers to the real threat of Uber – and how, globally, the company has been resistant to the very safety measures that Japanese consumers take for granted.

“[The rally] had a very big impact, because we had never done anything like that before,” said Takashiro. “Even national politicians came, and both newspapers and TV media reported on it. Until then, people did not know about ride-sharing, but after this rally, they got to know about it…[and how] the entire taxi industry opposes this idea.”

It worked. Shortly after the rally, the government released new regulations that essentially ended Uber’s ride-hailing service in Tokyo and stated, bluntly, that ride-hailing would not be permitted in Japan’s major cities.

“That was a good result from our rally and organising efforts,” said Takashiro, but that did not mean the battle was finished.

A Trojan horse

Despite this initial success, Jiko-soren and its allies remain aware that Uber has not given up. The regulations did restrict its use in Japan’s big cities, but it also allowed for ride-hailing services in certain regions, specifically places that are termed “depopulated” where mostly elderly citizens reside. Already, Uber has launched a pilot project aimed at providing ride-hailing in two rural districts. To taxi union leaders, this could be a Trojan horse, and it something they continue to oppose.

“We are sure that they are going to use this opportunity – introducing ridesharing in depopulated areas – to take actions to expand services in the rest of the Japan,” said Takashiro. “[So we] will keep opposing Uber and trying to not to let ridesharing expand to the big cities.”

Moreover, Uber is continuing to lobby the Japanese government to deregulate the taxi sector, having recently joining the newly formed, pro-business Sharing Economy Association. The association is using the 2020 Olympics Games in Tokyo to justify the introduction of ride-hailing to Japan.

“We are waiting for the 2020 Games and we hope that by that time there will be some kind of right to be able to use these [rideshare] services,” said Takashi Sabetto, one of the founding members of Sharing Economy Association of Japan, which counts Uber as one of its members. “Some taxi companies might go bankrupt – but is that a bad thing?” he asks, adding that competition – not regulations – should decide their fate.

Tags: UberJapan taxi workersNational Federation of Automobile Transport Workers’ Unions (Jiko-soren)
Categories: Labor News

Chicago CTA ATU On Int’l Women's Day - CTA Workers Want a Contract​

Current News - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 13:03

Chicago CTA ATU On Int’l Women's Day - CTA Workers Want a Contract​
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izoMgK7CGCo&feature=youtu.be
Published on Mar 13, 2017
On International Women’s Day, Amalgamated Transit Union women working at the CTA were facing intolerable conditions, as their locals have now been without a contract for over a year. The two unions — ATU 214 (buses) and ATU 308 (rail) — held practice pickets at several transit hubs, and demanded to speak to the Board of Directors at the downtown Chicago Transit Authority headquarters. The CTA tried, but failed, to bar union members and supporters from entering its March 8, 2017 Board meeting. In addition to decrying the fact that the bus drivers are forced to used porta potties, the unions presented disturbing photos of the unsanitary and unsafe conditions that workers are forced to deal with on the El trains, photos that the public can view here. Length 16:04.

Tags: ATU 241ATU 308International Women's DayChicago Transit AuthorityCTA
Categories: Labor News

The Crisis in the ATU: Labour Shoots Itself in the Foot

Current News - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 12:02

The Crisis in the ATU: Labour Shoots Itself in the Foot
http://socialistproject.ca/bullet/1382.php
Sam Gindin and Herman Rosenfeld

A sign of the tragic disarray of the Canadian labour movement is the extent to which its misadventures keep piling up. As the turmoil within the union representing the Ontario government's unionized employees (Ontario Public Service Employees Union – OPSEU) hits the press, the chaos continues in Local 113 of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU). The 10,500 members in that local – over a third of the ATU's Canadian membership – operate and maintain Toronto's transit system, North America's third largest public transit system, behind only New York and Mexico City. As with OPSEU, the acrimonious story is not about a tough strike or a response to an anti-union government. Rather, at a time when the union should be leading the charge to address popular frustrations with the failures in the city's transit system, the local is preoccupied with a messy internal battle.

Members of ATU Local 113 who work for Veolia Tansport on strike, October 2011 to Januay 2012.

Local 113 President Bob Kinnear had attempted to break away from its American-based parent and, in what was quickly apparent, to join Unifor, Canada's largest private sector union. For the time being he has clearly failed. The tale is mired in territorial conflicts over the members involved, legacies of personal nastiness among Canadian union leaders, whispers of conspiracy on the part of Unifor and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), of national flag waving and charges of U.S. imperialism, counter-denunciations of ‘nationalism’ and undermining international solidarity, opposing interpretations of democracy, a remarkable – if challenged – court decision, and miscellaneous elements impenetrable to either inside or outside observers.

Though we can't avoid delving into some of the sordid details of this development, we'll try to limit the noise of the various intrigues involved (for a blow-by-blow see: “ATU Trusteeship, Unifor Raid, CLC Crisis”).[1] The two crucial but difficult tasks are to get to the basic principles at stake and – above all – to figure out where the members stand and how their voices might play a more direct role in resolving this sordid clash.

Breaking Away

In trying to get a handle on this, a useful starting point is to compare it to an earlier breakaway from an American-based parent, one that is now generally even if not unanimously seen in positive terms: the formation of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) a little over three decades ago. The following differences are significant:

• The formation of the CAW involved a nation-wide section of an international union (the United Auto Workers – UAW) breaking away. ATU Local 113 is a local in one city.
• The autoworkers’ major bargaining was fully integrated across Canada and the USA. Local 113 bargains autonomously.
• The autoworkers’ split revolved around a clear and historic question: how to respond to concessions and the right of Canadians to make that decision themselves – in the face of actions taken by the international UAW to deny that right. No clear, agreed upon, issue has been articulated by Local 113.
• The Canadian autoworkers had established an overwhelming unity before it moved to break from their parent. Not only are the rest of the ATU locals (almost 2/3 of the Canadian members) apparently supportive of their international ties but even within Local 113, a clear majority of the executive board and an even larger proportion of the stewards have taken a stand against Kinnear and the split, with little or no indication (other than the usual rumblings in any union) of a rank and file rebellion against the parent.
• The Canadian autoworkers patiently developed the membership support for taking on the risks of breaking away. The union first withdrew from its cross-border collective agreement with Chrysler and struck the corporation on its own for the very first time. It later went on strike against GM in spite of pressures from its American parent, the UAW. Following that, it asked the UAW to take measures that concretely reflected Canadian autonomy. It was only after this was denied that the Canadians took the next, and very reluctant step of setting up their own Canadian union. All the while it brought its members into discussions of the growing tensions and went to the members to ratify the decision to break away. In the case of Local 113 on the other hand, the initiative by the president of the local to leave ATU seemed to very much come out of the blue.
• Finally, while it was easy to identify the Canadian autoworkers as representing progressive unionism against the faltering UAW, in the ATU conflict it is the Americans who apparently have the greater claim to that mantle. Larry Hanley, the president of the ATU, came to office with strong credentials in fighting for democratic unionism and won against the tired incumbents by promising to revive the union. He was one of the handful of U.S. union leaders who openly supported Bernie Sanders and has been moving to complement the workplace power of his members with community support through the organizing of a ‘bus riders’ union’. Hanley has as well dramatically expanded education and leadership training to ATU locals including in Canada. Local 113, according to Hanley, stands out as the one Canadian local that has abstained from these programs.
International Union, Canadian Members

The point is that the attempted breakaway from the ATU by Local 113 has no parallel to breakaways such as that of the CAW (now Unifor). It cannot be assumed – as Canadians generally tend to do – that the tag ‘Canadian” necessarily makes a group more progressive. Nevertheless, Canadian locals cannot be simply treated as any local in the U.S. with the same formal standing. No other country is penetrated by international unions centred elsewhere to anywhere near the extent that occurs in Canada and this fact demands great sensitivity on the part of unions that call themselves ‘internationals’ but which are in fact U.S.-based and controlled.

Unions straddling the Canada-U.S. border have, to varying extents, acknowledged this difference. Most have introduced structures and practices that move toward satisfying the principle of Canadian workers having the power to run their own affairs and determine their own policies, hopefully in solidarity with their American counterparts (The Canadian labour movement itself recognizes Quebec as a distinct region and its governing and operational procedures often apply differently in Quebec.) But even such accommodation can't foreclose the possibility of Canadian workers choosing to follow the general international pattern of establishing their own national unions.

In this regard, certain elements of the ATU's constitution are extremely troubling. As the court case launched against the receivership of the local by Kinnear and financed by Unifor noted, it is outrageously undemocratic to state that if only 10 workers decide to stay in the ATU, it is sufficient for those staying to retain the assets and ignore the votes of the other 99.9% of the membership. It is true that this rule – rooted in the 1930s and the desire to keep locals alive even if raided – doesn't prevent the workers from deciding to leave the local in spite of the assets. And in this particular case it can be expected that the subsequent support from Unifor or another suitor would offset that loss and so make a democratic exit possible. But this clause is anachronistic and should be unilaterally dropped by any union respecting the democratic process.

Similarly, though Canadian delegates elect a Canadian Director of the ATU, that position is alleged (though disputed by the ATU) to have little or no resources or power. Greater weight resides in the election of a Canadian to serve as an international vice-president of the ATU as a whole. But that position is elected by all the delegates to the ATU Convention, not just the Canadians. This conflicts with CLC policy going back to 1974 and is an affront to Canadian democratic autonomy. (Note that when the ATU imposed its trusteeship on the local, it was the international vice-president that was put in charge.)

The Process...

Canadian unions have, via the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) come together to reach a consensus on how to avoid the destructiveness of the conflicts that came with Canadian attempts to break away from U.S.-based parents and which overlapped with questions of raiding. This involved a step by step procedure enshrined in the CLC constitution (Article 4: CLC Constitution, Amended May 2014). This called for abstaining from tampering with another union's members, application by a Canadian union/local to the CLC for a negotiated process to be put in place, a review of the complaints and an opportunity for the international to correct the problem, an independent report if there is no agreement reached, and finally a supervised membership vote if necessary backed by sanctions if that is blocked. In this case, however, this process did not get off the ground as both sides accused the other of undermining the process.

The ATU argued that Unifor President Jerry Dias had been secretly meeting Kinnear (“tampering”) and that Kinnear had no mandate from his executive or members to apply to the CLC for support in a breakaway. Dias countered that Unifor had started no raiding drive and signed no cards, and that Unifor's financial support for Kinnear's court challenge was primarily in support of the right of Local 113's members to democratically determine their own future. In the court decision, the judge noted that the ATU's quick strike to put the local into trusteeship and exile Kinnear served to block free speech within the local. In reaction to the trusteeship, CLC President Hassan Yussuff – it did not ease suspicions that Yussuff came out of Unifor – took the unprecedented step of temporarily suspending the CLC process (under Article 4 of the CLC's constitution). This led to angry accusations, from international and national unions alike, that Yussuff was siding with Dias.

Suspending Article 4 formally allowed Unifor to raid Local 113, but with a trusteeship in place and no signs of serious membership support, a raid was clearly not on. The affiliates’ anger reflected a deeper concern: setting a dangerous precedent. Trusteeships are not uncommon in many Canadian unions; in condemning the ATU trusteeship and linking this to suspending protection against raiding, it seemed that raiding in cases of trusteeship was being endorsed. The strong reaction against this promptly led the CLC to reverse its position and reinstate Article 4.

Though the judge ruled that the rapid-fire trusteeship of the ATU wasn't justified, the story doesn't end here. If the judge's decision is upheld in a challenge, Kinnear remains president. But with a profoundly antagonistic board and steward body, and a membership hardly rushing to his defense, Kinnear has for the time being not been coming into the union office. If the court's decision is reversed, Kinnear will be formally gone but ATU's overall reputation as a progressive, democratic union will be damaged by the continuing charges of heavy-handed intervention.

As for Unifor, it seems to have walked into a minefield it was unprepared for. It will argue that its commitment to defending the right of Canadian workers to make their own decisions has been reinforced by the court's critical and precedent-setting decision for other Canadian workers contemplating a break from their parent. Even if the court order is reversed, the issue of greater or full Canadian autonomy has been highlighted. With the likelihood of Local 113 leaving the ATU seemingly foreclosed, at least for the time being, the ATU should be farsighted enough to consolidate this victory by consulting its Canadian locals on extending greater autonomy to them while deepening the impressive plans it has for strengthening the union and its locals’ activism more generally.

Closure to this sad chapter won't however end without addressing the great silence of the members. The survival of Local 113 is ultimately based – as is the case in all unions – not on the behind-the-scenes-machinations of union executives or even consensus-based constitutional procedures, as important as these might be, but on democratic decisions directly made by the rank-and-file membership. This could occur through a CLC supervised vote (unlikely given the current chaos around the use of the CLC's Article 4), or an ATU-initiated but independently-supervised ratification vote in Local 113 for staying in the union (also unlikely because of ATU concern for the precedent it sets for inviting such votes), or take some other form. But unless some democratic expression of membership sentiments emerges a cloud will continue to hang over all the parties involved.

Deeper Issues Confronting the Canadian Labour Movement

The dispiriting events piling up in the North American and Canadian labour movements are symptoms of the labour movement's disorientation. Underlying the tensions exposed by the conflict in Local 113 are three deeper issues confronting the Canadian labour movement. First, once workers join a union, they cannot be treated as the property of the union. Procedures for democratically leaving to join another union must be accepted and this is true whether it is a national or international union. Trusteeships to prevent this are undemocratic and, of course, the combination of an imposed trusteeship and it originating from a foreign-based parent makes such interventions particularly poisonous. Of course applying this principle universally is not always clear-cut. It would obviously be destructive if members decided to shop around for another home – rather than fight to change their union – because of a particular slight or imperfect end to bargaining. And local trusteeships determined by a central body on behalf of union-wide concerns are in fact sometimes necessary, as when there is corruption that is also linked to blocking internal democracy.

The problems with raiding is not just that it is destructive to class solidarity but that it tends to offer an easy ‘fix’ to tougher problems and serves as a diversion from these challenges.”

Second, this emphasis on the right to leave might suggest that what is negatively labelled ‘raiding’ might be validated as contributing to ‘liberating’ workers from an oppressive union. This will in some cases be true, but this defense of raiding is very often only a glib justification of expanding one union's dues collecting power at the expense of another. The problems with raiding is not just that it is destructive to class solidarity but that it tends to offer an easy ‘fix’ to tougher problems and serves as a diversion from these challenges.

Those familiar challenges include: How can unions correct their generally sorry record in organizing new members? Can unions actually demonstrate real solidarity and introduce joint campaigns to organize new members independent of which of them gets the ultimate dues (or whether none do as new unions are set up)? And is the key to organizing better techniques, or does it start with the kind of radical internal revival and reorientation that leaves unions both more attractive to non-union workers and more likely to mobilize the internal disposition and resources to make creative organizing breakthroughs possible?

Third, in the particular case of international unions, it is often said that globalization strengthens the case for international unions. In fact, however, because the main impact on workers’ lives has shifts from collective bargaining outcomes to the policies of the state – e.g. social service cutbacks, privatization, back-to-work legislation, inequitable tax reform, and free trade – the strategic importance of national class alliances becomes correspondingly more significant than cross border ties established in an earlier period. In this case, demanding the autonomy to genuinely address the development of class power within Canada – up to and including breaking away from the U.S.-based parent – may make perfect sense. And it need not be inconsistent with greater overall internationalism (the CAW became significantly more internationalist after it broke with the UAW).

But this involves more than reducing the serious step of a breakaway to an abstract nationalism. Working class sovereignty can only have legitimate meaning if it starts with the Canadian rank and file as the final arbiters of changes in Canadian structures. It demands building the working class in both Canada and the U.S. through bringing more workers into unions rather than fighting over dues. And it means collectively struggling with how to reinvent our unions and extend their boundaries into all dimensions of working class lives. •

Sam Gindin was an assistant to Bob White when he was CAW president, research director of the Canadian Auto Workers from 1974–2000 and is now an adjunct professor (retired) at York University in Toronto. He is the author of The Canadian Auto Workers: The Birth and Transformation of a Union.

Herman Rosenfeld is a Toronto-based socialist activist, educator, organizer and writer. He is a retired national staffperson with the Canadian Auto Workers (now Unifor), and worked in their Education Department.

Endnotes:

1. We attempted to talk to Bob Kinnear before writing this piece, but for whatever reason he did not get back to us.

Tags: ATU 113Canadian LabourTrusteeshipunion democracy
Categories: Labor News

The Crisis in the ATU: Labour Shoots Itself in the Foot

Current News - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 12:02

The Crisis in the ATU: Labour Shoots Itself in the Foot
http://socialistproject.ca/bullet/1382.php
Sam Gindin and Herman Rosenfeld

A sign of the tragic disarray of the Canadian labour movement is the extent to which its misadventures keep piling up. As the turmoil within the union representing the Ontario government's unionized employees (Ontario Public Service Employees Union – OPSEU) hits the press, the chaos continues in Local 113 of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU). The 10,500 members in that local – over a third of the ATU's Canadian membership – operate and maintain Toronto's transit system, North America's third largest public transit system, behind only New York and Mexico City. As with OPSEU, the acrimonious story is not about a tough strike or a response to an anti-union government. Rather, at a time when the union should be leading the charge to address popular frustrations with the failures in the city's transit system, the local is preoccupied with a messy internal battle.

Members of ATU Local 113 who work for Veolia Tansport on strike, October 2011 to Januay 2012.

Local 113 President Bob Kinnear had attempted to break away from its American-based parent and, in what was quickly apparent, to join Unifor, Canada's largest private sector union. For the time being he has clearly failed. The tale is mired in territorial conflicts over the members involved, legacies of personal nastiness among Canadian union leaders, whispers of conspiracy on the part of Unifor and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), of national flag waving and charges of U.S. imperialism, counter-denunciations of ‘nationalism’ and undermining international solidarity, opposing interpretations of democracy, a remarkable – if challenged – court decision, and miscellaneous elements impenetrable to either inside or outside observers.

Though we can't avoid delving into some of the sordid details of this development, we'll try to limit the noise of the various intrigues involved (for a blow-by-blow see: “ATU Trusteeship, Unifor Raid, CLC Crisis”).[1] The two crucial but difficult tasks are to get to the basic principles at stake and – above all – to figure out where the members stand and how their voices might play a more direct role in resolving this sordid clash.

Breaking Away

In trying to get a handle on this, a useful starting point is to compare it to an earlier breakaway from an American-based parent, one that is now generally even if not unanimously seen in positive terms: the formation of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) a little over three decades ago. The following differences are significant:

• The formation of the CAW involved a nation-wide section of an international union (the United Auto Workers – UAW) breaking away. ATU Local 113 is a local in one city.
• The autoworkers’ major bargaining was fully integrated across Canada and the USA. Local 113 bargains autonomously.
• The autoworkers’ split revolved around a clear and historic question: how to respond to concessions and the right of Canadians to make that decision themselves – in the face of actions taken by the international UAW to deny that right. No clear, agreed upon, issue has been articulated by Local 113.
• The Canadian autoworkers had established an overwhelming unity before it moved to break from their parent. Not only are the rest of the ATU locals (almost 2/3 of the Canadian members) apparently supportive of their international ties but even within Local 113, a clear majority of the executive board and an even larger proportion of the stewards have taken a stand against Kinnear and the split, with little or no indication (other than the usual rumblings in any union) of a rank and file rebellion against the parent.
• The Canadian autoworkers patiently developed the membership support for taking on the risks of breaking away. The union first withdrew from its cross-border collective agreement with Chrysler and struck the corporation on its own for the very first time. It later went on strike against GM in spite of pressures from its American parent, the UAW. Following that, it asked the UAW to take measures that concretely reflected Canadian autonomy. It was only after this was denied that the Canadians took the next, and very reluctant step of setting up their own Canadian union. All the while it brought its members into discussions of the growing tensions and went to the members to ratify the decision to break away. In the case of Local 113 on the other hand, the initiative by the president of the local to leave ATU seemed to very much come out of the blue.
• Finally, while it was easy to identify the Canadian autoworkers as representing progressive unionism against the faltering UAW, in the ATU conflict it is the Americans who apparently have the greater claim to that mantle. Larry Hanley, the president of the ATU, came to office with strong credentials in fighting for democratic unionism and won against the tired incumbents by promising to revive the union. He was one of the handful of U.S. union leaders who openly supported Bernie Sanders and has been moving to complement the workplace power of his members with community support through the organizing of a ‘bus riders’ union’. Hanley has as well dramatically expanded education and leadership training to ATU locals including in Canada. Local 113, according to Hanley, stands out as the one Canadian local that has abstained from these programs.
International Union, Canadian Members

The point is that the attempted breakaway from the ATU by Local 113 has no parallel to breakaways such as that of the CAW (now Unifor). It cannot be assumed – as Canadians generally tend to do – that the tag ‘Canadian” necessarily makes a group more progressive. Nevertheless, Canadian locals cannot be simply treated as any local in the U.S. with the same formal standing. No other country is penetrated by international unions centred elsewhere to anywhere near the extent that occurs in Canada and this fact demands great sensitivity on the part of unions that call themselves ‘internationals’ but which are in fact U.S.-based and controlled.

Unions straddling the Canada-U.S. border have, to varying extents, acknowledged this difference. Most have introduced structures and practices that move toward satisfying the principle of Canadian workers having the power to run their own affairs and determine their own policies, hopefully in solidarity with their American counterparts (The Canadian labour movement itself recognizes Quebec as a distinct region and its governing and operational procedures often apply differently in Quebec.) But even such accommodation can't foreclose the possibility of Canadian workers choosing to follow the general international pattern of establishing their own national unions.

In this regard, certain elements of the ATU's constitution are extremely troubling. As the court case launched against the receivership of the local by Kinnear and financed by Unifor noted, it is outrageously undemocratic to state that if only 10 workers decide to stay in the ATU, it is sufficient for those staying to retain the assets and ignore the votes of the other 99.9% of the membership. It is true that this rule – rooted in the 1930s and the desire to keep locals alive even if raided – doesn't prevent the workers from deciding to leave the local in spite of the assets. And in this particular case it can be expected that the subsequent support from Unifor or another suitor would offset that loss and so make a democratic exit possible. But this clause is anachronistic and should be unilaterally dropped by any union respecting the democratic process.

Similarly, though Canadian delegates elect a Canadian Director of the ATU, that position is alleged (though disputed by the ATU) to have little or no resources or power. Greater weight resides in the election of a Canadian to serve as an international vice-president of the ATU as a whole. But that position is elected by all the delegates to the ATU Convention, not just the Canadians. This conflicts with CLC policy going back to 1974 and is an affront to Canadian democratic autonomy. (Note that when the ATU imposed its trusteeship on the local, it was the international vice-president that was put in charge.)

The Process...

Canadian unions have, via the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) come together to reach a consensus on how to avoid the destructiveness of the conflicts that came with Canadian attempts to break away from U.S.-based parents and which overlapped with questions of raiding. This involved a step by step procedure enshrined in the CLC constitution (Article 4: CLC Constitution, Amended May 2014). This called for abstaining from tampering with another union's members, application by a Canadian union/local to the CLC for a negotiated process to be put in place, a review of the complaints and an opportunity for the international to correct the problem, an independent report if there is no agreement reached, and finally a supervised membership vote if necessary backed by sanctions if that is blocked. In this case, however, this process did not get off the ground as both sides accused the other of undermining the process.

The ATU argued that Unifor President Jerry Dias had been secretly meeting Kinnear (“tampering”) and that Kinnear had no mandate from his executive or members to apply to the CLC for support in a breakaway. Dias countered that Unifor had started no raiding drive and signed no cards, and that Unifor's financial support for Kinnear's court challenge was primarily in support of the right of Local 113's members to democratically determine their own future. In the court decision, the judge noted that the ATU's quick strike to put the local into trusteeship and exile Kinnear served to block free speech within the local. In reaction to the trusteeship, CLC President Hassan Yussuff – it did not ease suspicions that Yussuff came out of Unifor – took the unprecedented step of temporarily suspending the CLC process (under Article 4 of the CLC's constitution). This led to angry accusations, from international and national unions alike, that Yussuff was siding with Dias.

Suspending Article 4 formally allowed Unifor to raid Local 113, but with a trusteeship in place and no signs of serious membership support, a raid was clearly not on. The affiliates’ anger reflected a deeper concern: setting a dangerous precedent. Trusteeships are not uncommon in many Canadian unions; in condemning the ATU trusteeship and linking this to suspending protection against raiding, it seemed that raiding in cases of trusteeship was being endorsed. The strong reaction against this promptly led the CLC to reverse its position and reinstate Article 4.

Though the judge ruled that the rapid-fire trusteeship of the ATU wasn't justified, the story doesn't end here. If the judge's decision is upheld in a challenge, Kinnear remains president. But with a profoundly antagonistic board and steward body, and a membership hardly rushing to his defense, Kinnear has for the time being not been coming into the union office. If the court's decision is reversed, Kinnear will be formally gone but ATU's overall reputation as a progressive, democratic union will be damaged by the continuing charges of heavy-handed intervention.

As for Unifor, it seems to have walked into a minefield it was unprepared for. It will argue that its commitment to defending the right of Canadian workers to make their own decisions has been reinforced by the court's critical and precedent-setting decision for other Canadian workers contemplating a break from their parent. Even if the court order is reversed, the issue of greater or full Canadian autonomy has been highlighted. With the likelihood of Local 113 leaving the ATU seemingly foreclosed, at least for the time being, the ATU should be farsighted enough to consolidate this victory by consulting its Canadian locals on extending greater autonomy to them while deepening the impressive plans it has for strengthening the union and its locals’ activism more generally.

Closure to this sad chapter won't however end without addressing the great silence of the members. The survival of Local 113 is ultimately based – as is the case in all unions – not on the behind-the-scenes-machinations of union executives or even consensus-based constitutional procedures, as important as these might be, but on democratic decisions directly made by the rank-and-file membership. This could occur through a CLC supervised vote (unlikely given the current chaos around the use of the CLC's Article 4), or an ATU-initiated but independently-supervised ratification vote in Local 113 for staying in the union (also unlikely because of ATU concern for the precedent it sets for inviting such votes), or take some other form. But unless some democratic expression of membership sentiments emerges a cloud will continue to hang over all the parties involved.

Deeper Issues Confronting the Canadian Labour Movement

The dispiriting events piling up in the North American and Canadian labour movements are symptoms of the labour movement's disorientation. Underlying the tensions exposed by the conflict in Local 113 are three deeper issues confronting the Canadian labour movement. First, once workers join a union, they cannot be treated as the property of the union. Procedures for democratically leaving to join another union must be accepted and this is true whether it is a national or international union. Trusteeships to prevent this are undemocratic and, of course, the combination of an imposed trusteeship and it originating from a foreign-based parent makes such interventions particularly poisonous. Of course applying this principle universally is not always clear-cut. It would obviously be destructive if members decided to shop around for another home – rather than fight to change their union – because of a particular slight or imperfect end to bargaining. And local trusteeships determined by a central body on behalf of union-wide concerns are in fact sometimes necessary, as when there is corruption that is also linked to blocking internal democracy.

The problems with raiding is not just that it is destructive to class solidarity but that it tends to offer an easy ‘fix’ to tougher problems and serves as a diversion from these challenges.”

Second, this emphasis on the right to leave might suggest that what is negatively labelled ‘raiding’ might be validated as contributing to ‘liberating’ workers from an oppressive union. This will in some cases be true, but this defense of raiding is very often only a glib justification of expanding one union's dues collecting power at the expense of another. The problems with raiding is not just that it is destructive to class solidarity but that it tends to offer an easy ‘fix’ to tougher problems and serves as a diversion from these challenges.

Those familiar challenges include: How can unions correct their generally sorry record in organizing new members? Can unions actually demonstrate real solidarity and introduce joint campaigns to organize new members independent of which of them gets the ultimate dues (or whether none do as new unions are set up)? And is the key to organizing better techniques, or does it start with the kind of radical internal revival and reorientation that leaves unions both more attractive to non-union workers and more likely to mobilize the internal disposition and resources to make creative organizing breakthroughs possible?

Third, in the particular case of international unions, it is often said that globalization strengthens the case for international unions. In fact, however, because the main impact on workers’ lives has shifts from collective bargaining outcomes to the policies of the state – e.g. social service cutbacks, privatization, back-to-work legislation, inequitable tax reform, and free trade – the strategic importance of national class alliances becomes correspondingly more significant than cross border ties established in an earlier period. In this case, demanding the autonomy to genuinely address the development of class power within Canada – up to and including breaking away from the U.S.-based parent – may make perfect sense. And it need not be inconsistent with greater overall internationalism (the CAW became significantly more internationalist after it broke with the UAW).

But this involves more than reducing the serious step of a breakaway to an abstract nationalism. Working class sovereignty can only have legitimate meaning if it starts with the Canadian rank and file as the final arbiters of changes in Canadian structures. It demands building the working class in both Canada and the U.S. through bringing more workers into unions rather than fighting over dues. And it means collectively struggling with how to reinvent our unions and extend their boundaries into all dimensions of working class lives. •

Sam Gindin was an assistant to Bob White when he was CAW president, research director of the Canadian Auto Workers from 1974–2000 and is now an adjunct professor (retired) at York University in Toronto. He is the author of The Canadian Auto Workers: The Birth and Transformation of a Union.

Herman Rosenfeld is a Toronto-based socialist activist, educator, organizer and writer. He is a retired national staffperson with the Canadian Auto Workers (now Unifor), and worked in their Education Department.

Endnotes:

1. We attempted to talk to Bob Kinnear before writing this piece, but for whatever reason he did not get back to us.

Tags: ATU 113Canadian LabourTrusteeshipunion democracy
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