Over Six Thousand Spanish Dockworkers’ Jobs Face the Axe Over six thousand Spanish dockworkers could be made redundant if the Spanish government abides by the demands of the European Commission to scrap the country’s current port labor system.
Over Six Thousand Spanish Dockworkers’ Jobs Face the Axe
Over six thousand Spanish dockworkers could be made redundant if the Spanish government abides by the demands of the European Commission to scrap the country’s current port labor system.
March 09, 2017
Spain’s entire workforce of dockworkers — over 6,000 workers — could be laid off in the next four years if a Royal Decree Law announced on February 17 is adopted by the Spanish parliament. This Decree Law is due to be put to a vote on March 9, when the minority government of conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy places it before the Spanish Congress of Deputies.
The jobs and livelihoods of the Spanish dockworkers came under serious threat on December 11, 2014, the day that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the current Spanish port labor system was at odds with the European Union (EU) Treaty. In particular, the Court ruled the current system violated Article 49 of the EU Treaty which deals with the principle of freedom of establishment.
Under the current Spanish port labor system, all dockworkers must be members of a stevedoring society, known as a Sociedad Anónima de Gestión de Estibadores Portuarios(SAGEP - Port Stevedores Management Company). These stevedoring societies are responsible for the recruitment, training and allocation of all dockworker labor to stevedoring companies. All terminal operators and other cargo handling companies are required to source their labor through the SAGEP system as well as financially contribute to it.
The system works in a similar fashion to the hiring halls of longshore workers in the United States. All work allocated through the SAGEP system occurs on a rotational basis, thus ensuring that dockworkers work in an environment that is relatively free from discrimination and favoritism. Employers argue that this system is effectively a “closed shop” which allows for the continuation of “inefficient and expensive work practices.”
It was this SAGEP system that was targeted by the December 11, 2014 European Court of Justice ruling. The Court ruled that the Spanish port labor system forces businesses from EU member states outside of Spain to register and take part in these stevedoring societies, which it deems to be in breach of the Article 49 of the EU Treaty.
Along with its ruling, the ECJ gave the Spanish government a February 2015 deadline to inform the EU of how it was going to comply with the European Court ruling, a deadline which the Spanish government failed to meet.
During the first half of 2015, the union that covers the vast majority of Spanish dockers, the Coordinadora Estatal de Trabajadores del Mar (CETM - State-wide Coordinating Committee of Maritime Workers, better known as La Coordinadora), met with stevedoring employers and the Ministry of Public Works to try and draw up a consensus document that would facilitate the adaptation of new legislation. However, this negotiation process was paralyzed by Spain’s ongoing political instability. The country has had two indecisive general elections in December 2015 and June 2016 and a continuing deadlock that was only broken in October 2016 with the coming to power of the current minority conservative government.
For failing to meet this deadline, the European Court handed down a fine to the Spanish government of 15.6 million Euro ($16.4 million) in July 2016 along with additional daily fines of 134,000 Euro ($141,000) for each day that this ruling was not abided by.
The conservative Partido Popular (PP - People’s Party) government has now moved to abide by the European Court’s ruling with its recent Royal Decree Law. This now infamous decree law which seeks to amend the Ports Act of 2010, was put forward by the Minister of Public Works Iñigo de la Serna and signed by the Spanish Council of Ministers on February 24. De la Serna claims that his decree will make use of the maximum amount of flexibility allowed under EU law to protect jobs and workers’ rights. But this claim could not be further from the truth.
De la Serna’s decree law would see the scrapping of the SAGEP system within four years. If adopted, this legislation would oblige stevedoring companies to only contract 75 percent of their labor needs from the SAGEP system in the first year, 50 percent in the second, 25 percent in the third and none by the beginning of the fourth year. The Spanish government would then have to subsidize the redundancies of the over six thousand dockworkers made redundant as a result.
Removing this system would leave stevedoring companies free to hire untrained, increasingly casualized and non-union labor in an industry with a union density of over 95 percent. If this was to occur, injury and fatality rates in an already dangerous industry would skyrocket, secure full-time jobs would be replaced with casual labor, and dockworkers’ wages could fall by as much as 60 percent. One consultancy report suggests that the average annual salary of 67,800 Euro ($72,000) — a figure disputed by dockers’ unions — would collapse to 26,934 Euro ($29,500).
Spanish dockers’ unions have pointed out that the current Royal Decree Law is in contravention of International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 137, which ensures the permanent and regular employment of dockworkers, the maintaining of registers for all categories of dockworkers, and states that registered dockworkers should have priority for all dock work.
Spanish ports – a strategic economic sector
Spanish ports are a strategic sector of the Spanish economy. Along with tourism, the fragile Spanish economy is heavily dependent on the export sector which has continued to grow while the country’s industrial sector continues to fall behind. As a consequence, the Spanish economy is heavily dependent on its ports, with over half of all Spain’s exports and nearly 80 percent its imports moving through Spanish ports. The strategic location of Spanish ports also makes them a good location for the transshipment of goods from one country to another. A quarter of all goods that pass through Spanish ports are in transit, and the port of Algeciras on the southern tip of Spain is one of the top ten transshipment ports in the world.
Along with the Spanish economy’s heavy dependence on exports and the port sector, another factor that is spurring sections of Spanish capital to take on the dockworkers is the country’s recent improvement in export competitiveness compared to that of other EU member states. An employer think tank suggests that the economic crisis that began in 2008 has seen wages being held down while productivity has increased. It is this process of wage devaluation that has put Spanish manufacturers and exporters in a better position vis-à-vis their European competitors.
It is this advantage that Spanish employers want to hold on to, and they see the current port labor system as an obstacle to maintaining it. In an article in Port Strategy, Mike Mundy refers to the annual “financial hit” of 220 million Euro that Spanish port employers have to endure because dockworkers’ wages are “up to 50% higher” than those that “would apply in a free market”. Of course, when these people refer to the “free market”, they point to the low wages of North African workers, such as those in the growing port of Tangier, and expect Spanish workers to compete with them.
Spearheading the current push to liberalize the Spanish port sector is the Plataforma de Inversores en Puertos Españoles (PIPE - Platform of Investors in Spanish Ports), a lobby group formed in 2013 of major companies working in the ports such as Noatum (owned by investment funds such as JP Morgan), OHL Concesiones, Algeposa and Boluda. PIPE claims that slashing dockers’ wages by 60 percent would inject 2.4 billion Euro into the Spanish economy. Another business lobby group, the Asociación Nacional de Empresas Estibadoras y Consignatarias de Buques (Anesco - National Association of Stevedoring Companies and Ship Consignees) has been working closely with the Minister of Public Works Iñigo de la Serna and the Partido Popular government.
Given the desire of stevedoring and shipping companies to force Spanish dockworkers to receive the “free market” wages of poorly paid North African dockers, it is no surprise that these companies, along with their big business press and conservative political party friends have unleashed a campaign to turn public opinion against the dockworkers. In fact the campaign from these quarters is so formulaic that El Diario journalist Isaac Rosa called it out weeks before the Decree Law was even tabled.
Rosa’s article “Get ready to hate the dockworkers” highlights the way that any group of workers who refuse to succumb to ‘labor reforms’, liberalization and casualization are quickly tagged as “privileged.” In Spain’s recent past there were the public service “parasites”, the “subsidized” miners, the teachers who are “always on vacation” and the “most hated” air traffic controllers (who had their strike of 2010 broken by military intervention). Spanish dockworkers, along with being “privileged”, have also been dubbed a “mafia” and an “aristocracy” that “earns a lot” and “works little” in their “hereditary” jobs. These barbs are thrown by the same conservative forces that uphold the hereditary offices of the Spanish Royal Family and turn a blind eye to the corrupt political and business acquaintances of wealthy entrepreneurs who receive massive salaries and envelopes under the table.
Despite this campaign, there has been a massive show of popular support for the besieged dockworkers. Social movements and left-wing organizations have expressed their solidarity with the country’s dockers, and social media has seen an explosion of support with trending hashtags such as #SOSestiba (SOS stevedores) and #NiUnPasoAtras (Not One Step Back).
Such support is of course very encouraging. But with the European Union, local and international stevedoring and shipping companies, political parties such as PM Rajoy’s Partido Popular and the big business press all lined up against them, Spanish dockworkers’ and their unions are in for the fight of their lives.
Just over six thousand dockworkers have the power to paralyze all of Spain’s 46 ports, and with it, the flow of exports and imports that is so vital to the Spanish economy. It is this power that they are going to have to use if they are to have any chance to beating the array of opponents lined up against them.
This article includes information from articles which first appeared at izquierdadiario.es here and hereTags: Spanish DockersEuropean Unionderegulation
ITF Pres MUA Nat Sec. Pres Paddy Crumlin at Melbourne rally against Turnbull Government
Maritime Union of Australia
Published on Mar 8, 2017
MUA National Secretary and ITF President Paddy Crumlin addresses the anti-ABCC rally in Melbourne
Union-backed Lyft drivers object to $27-million settlement “Lyft makes its profits by undercutting workers and taxpayers,” Joint Council 7 President Rome Aloise said in a statement. “This is an unfair settlement and drivers have earned more and deserve be
Union-backed Lyft drivers object to $27-million settlement “Lyft makes its profits by undercutting workers and taxpayers,” Joint Council 7 President Rome Aloise said in a statement. “This is an unfair settlement and drivers have earned more and deserve better.”
Lyft At Its San Francisco Headquarters Showcasing Lyft Cars, The Glowstache, The Lyft App, Lyft Passengers And Drivers
A Lyft ride in San Francisco. (Mike Coppola / Getty Images for Lyft)
Paresh Dave Paresh DaveContact Reporter
A handful of California Lyft drivers and a Teamsters-backed drivers’ alliance are seeking to squash a proposed $27-million settlement in a lawsuit against the ride-hailing app company.
The objectors have written to U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria in recent days, saying the payout and contractual concessions to drivers are insufficient. They also expressed concern that the deal doesn’t address the most important issue: whether drivers for ride-hailing companies such as Lyft and Uber should remain independent contractors or be treated as employees, eligible for healthcare benefits and paid time off, among other provisions.
The union-backed objectors acknowledged that trying to resolve that question once and for all carries significant risks -- namely losing in trial. But they told the court that “the stakes for the state, the economy and the drivers themselves are much higher.”
That classification of app-centric workers has led to several legal battles across the country, including the 2013 class-action case against Lyft in Chhabria’s San Francisco courtroom. An estimated 100,000 drivers could be eligible for a portion of the $27 million based on how much they drove. About 40,000 drivers already have filed claims, according to Shannon Liss-Riordan, the lawyer representing the class.
She said Tuesday that worker classification remains highly contested and the settlement represents the best achievable outcome at this time.
“We’re doing what we can do to advance the workers’ rights,” she said. “Nothing about this settlement is a statement that the drivers are properly classified.”
But it does preserve Lyft drivers as independent contractors, potentially limiting their ability file future class-action lawsuits and collectively bargain with the company.
Labor-union groups including the Uber Lyft Teamsters Rideshare Alliance, Teamsters Joint Council 7 and Teamsters Joint Council 42 say that’s not OK.
“Lyft makes its profits by undercutting workers and taxpayers,” Joint Council 7 President Rome Aloise said in a statement. “This is an unfair settlement and drivers have earned more and deserve better.”
Lyft doesn’t generate profits, but it could soon, company president John Zimmer recently said.
The settlement was already upped from about $12 million earlier this year after Lyft submitted updated data about its business. The Teamsters group voiced objections about the agreement at that point too, but Chhabria said such issues were better addressed through legislation than court rulings.
It’s unclear how much sway the latest letters will have with Chhabria, who gave preliminary approval to the $27-million figure in June. A hearing for final approval is expected Dec. 1.
Lyft expressed confidence that the settlement would stand.
It “preserves the flexibility of drivers to choose when, where and for how long they drive, and enables consumers to continue benefiting from Lyft's convenient, affordable rides,” the company said.
A similar case against Uber is now in jeopardy. U.S. District Court Judge Edward Chen rejected a $100-million settlement in the Uber drivers’ case in August. A month later, an appeals court in an unrelated case ruled Uber drivers must take their grievances to arbitration as opposed to the courts.
“We’re now picking up the pieces,” said Liss-Riordan, who’s also representing the Uber drivers.Tags: Lyftindependent contractorsteamsters
The troubled, covert agency responsible for moving the nation's most lethal cargo
Office of Secure Transportation big rigs haul nuclear weapons and highly enriched uranium on the nation's highways each day. (Office of Secure Transportation)
Ralph Vartabedian and W.J. HenniganContact Reporters
The unmarked 18-wheelers ply the nation’s interstates and two-lane highways, logging 3 million miles a year hauling the most lethal cargo there is: nuclear bombs.
The covert fleet, which shuttles warheads from missile silos, bomber bases and submarine docks to nuclear weapons labs across the country, is operated by the Office of Secure Transportation, a troubled agency within the U.S. Department of Energy so cloaked in secrecy that few people outside the government know it exists.
The $237-million-a-year agency operates a fleet of 42 tractor-trailers, staffed by highly armed couriers, many of them veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, responsible for making sure nuclear weapons and components pass through foggy mountain passes and urban traffic jams without incident.
The transportation office is about to become more crucial than ever as the U.S. embarks on a $1-trillion upgrade of the nuclear arsenal that will require thousands of additional warhead shipments over the next 15 years.
With purposeful design, breakthrough efficiency and state-of-the-art technology, the all-new Prius Prime is more than the most advanced Prius yet. It’s the new possible.
The increased workload will hit an agency already struggling with problems of forced overtime, high driver turnover, old trucks and poor worker morale — raising questions about its ability to keep nuclear shipments safe from attack in an era of more sophisticated terrorism.
“We are going to be having an increase in the movements of weapons in coming years and we should be worried,” said Robert Alvarez, a former deputy assistant Energy secretary who now focuses on nuclear and energy issues for the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington. “We always have to assume the worst-case scenario when we are hauling nuclear weapons around the country.”
That worst case would be a terrorist group hijacking a truck and obtaining a multi-kiloton hydrogen bomb.
“The terror threat is significant,” said one high-level Energy Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the program publicly. “If you are in one of the communities along the route, you have something to worry about.”
The Times reviewed government documents dating back two decades and interviewed dozens of government officials, former military officers and arms control advocates to examine the agency. The picture that emerges is an organization hampered by an insular management, a crisis of morale among the rank-and-file and outdated equipment.
Among the findings of the Times investigation:
• The agency is 48 agents short of its planned staffing of 370, a result of budget cuts. Weapons and tactics classes were canceled in 2011 and 2012 for lack of money.
• More than a third of the workforce has been putting in more than 900 hours a year of overtime, which former couriers and Energy Department officials say has contributed to a breakdown in morale and rapid turnover.
• In 2010, an inquiry by the Energy Department’s inspector general inquiry found widespread alcohol problems. It cited 16 alcohol-related incidents over a three-year period, including an agent on a 2007 mission who was arrested for public intoxication and two agents on a 2009 mission who were handcuffed and detained by police after a fight at a bar.
• In 2014, the commander of the agency’s operation at the Y12 National Security Complex in Tennessee threatened to kill an employee in an altercation, but no disciplinary action was taken.
• The agency’s top executive in 2009 was charged with drunk driving after police found him parked on a sidewalk with an open bottle of beer and a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.15%, nearly twice the legal limit, according to New Mexico court records.
• The agency’s truck fleet is antiquated by commercial standards and well past its operational life even under the department’s own guidelines. About half the tractors are more than 15 years old. The high-security trailers used by the agency are even older, designed before the current era of terrorist threats.
How the agency wound up in this state is a story of neglect that begins at the end of the Cold War.
After the Soviet Union broke apart in 1991 and chances of a nuclear attack faded, the U.S. dramatically reduced its nuclear stockpile and gave it less attention as military priorities shifted.
The transportation office budget stagnated, and was hit by big cuts in some years, leading to staffing shortages and delays in updating equipment. Drivers had to start working long hours of overtime, which led to morale problems and management breakdowns.
Despite these problems, the agency asserts that it has maintained a high level of security and has never lost a weapon, though it has been involved in several accidents.
The agency denied repeated requests for interviews with top managers. It issued a statement touting its safety record: “For more than 40 years — even after driving the equivalent distance of a trip to Mars and back — no cargo has ever been damaged in transit,” it said.
Yet even one of its most stringent security measures was breached, the inspector general found in 2014, when an “unauthorized” employee had access to a nuclear weapon on a convoy mission.
According to two knowledgeable sources, the person in question had lost his human reliability rating, which is based on screening for drugs, alcohol abuse or mental health problems, among other things. Under the agency’s rules, the unidentified employee should not have been allowed on the mission. The employee was discovered at a military base and removed from the assignment.
Overseers in Congress say the transportation office is less prepared for an attack than it used to be.
"It clearly needs a reinvestment,” Rep. Mac Thornberry, the Texas Republican who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, said in an interview. “Like other parts of the nuclear enterprise, the agency has been allowed to atrophy as the country has focused on other things.”
‘Transportation is the Achilles heel of nuclear security’
The United States has 4,018 nuclear warheads.
About 450 are in underground silos in Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, Nebraska and North Dakota. An additional 1,000 or so are on submarines, which dock at bases in Washington and Georgia. Hundreds more bombs are assigned to the U.S. strategic bomber fleet, which is based in Louisiana, North Dakota and Missouri. And a reserve stockpile sits in bunkers near the transportation office headquarters at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.
Each weapon — a complex physics machine that contains as many as 6,000 parts, including tanks of gas, wheels and gears, batteries, wiring, plastic-type explosives and radioactive materials — requires routine inspection, testing and maintenance.
The workers who perform those services don’t travel to the weapons. The weapons go to them.
They are picked up by the transportation office and driven to the government’s sole plant for working on live nuclear warheads, the Pantex Plant outside Amarillo in the Texas panhandle.
From there, various pieces are parceled out to government plants and laboratories across the country. Uranium assemblies travel to Tennessee, plutonium parts to New Mexico, radioactive gas canisters to South Carolina, non-nuclear classified parts to California and firing mechanisms to Kansas.
Those parts are then returned to Texas so the warheads can be reassembled and trucked back to their silos or military bases.
The system dates back to the 1950s and the rapid buildup of nuclear arms that accompanied the Cold War. Weapons were spread across the nation to ensure that a significant number could not be destroyed in a focused missile strike.
The same went for the facilities that service those weapons. But exactly where they wound up — and where they are today — largely came down to politics, as members of Congress schemed to bring high-paying jobs to their districts.
The result is an unwieldy system that requires some of the most dangerous and vulnerable components of the nation’s defense system to be routinely shipped on long-distance journeys from one end of the country to the other — and the shipments, with the coming modernization effort, are only expected to multiply.
“This has a classic footprint of an antiquated and inefficient supply chain management system that was created at a time of national emergency," said Nick Vyas, an industrial logistics expert at USC.
“If this were a private operation, it would be out of business in less than 90 days,” he said. “No person in their right mind would subscribe to a service like this.”
More serious than the inefficiencies in moving so many parts is the vulnerability inherent in placing nuclear bombs on the highways, several experts said.
“Transportation is the Achilles heel of nuclear security and everyone knows that,” said Bruce Blair, a retired Air Force missile officer, Princeton University researcher and founder of Global Zero, a nonprofit group that seeks elimination of nuclear weapons.
The danger is not a traffic accident — even a fiery crash is not supposed to explode a warhead — but a heist.
“In an age of terrorism, you’re taking a big risk any time you decide to move nuclear material into the public space over long distances via ground transport,” Blair said. “Bad things happen.”
The high-security trailers that carry the weapons present potential intruders with formidable obstacles, including shock-delivering systems, thick walls that ooze immobilizing foam, and axles designed to explode to prevent a trailer from being towed away, according to independent nuclear weapons experts.
“The trucks will kill you,” a scientist involved in the matter said.
The Energy Department recruits ex-soldiers and special operations commandos for its courier jobs, usually veterans of U.S. wars. Incoming agents train for 21 months at Ft. Chafee in Arkansas, focusing on how to counter a roadside attack by terrorists set on stealing a weapon. The couriers must pass yearly psychological and medical assessments.
Security officers protect big rigs hauling nuclear weapons. (Office of Secure Transportation)
They spend months each year working out in private gyms, rehearsing tactics and training with high-powered weapons to counter an attack.
The work itself is mundane and tiring, involving long hours on the road under a constant state of high alert. Workers often put in 75 hours a week, according to numerous reviews of the agency.
Matt Hill joined the transportation office after 13 years in the Marine Corps and three deployments to Iraq. He was looking for civilian employment that would tap into his military experience.
But the job was not what Hill expected. Life on the road meant long weeks away from his family. The pay, about $73,000 a year with overtime, was less than he made in the Marines.
Couriers have been quitting, many of them the experienced veterans so crucial to maintaining safety, Hill said. Finally in February 2016, after just three years on the job, Hill quit too.
"The senior agents are all leaving," he said. “People at the top won’t listen.”
‘Ominous symptoms’ of structural problems
The agency has been the target of worker complaints for years.
In the 1990s, a nuclear courier named Jim Bailey alleged that that on-the-job radiation exposure had damaged his DNA and led to birth defects in his daughter.
A panel of experts found that was unlikely. But in a 67-page report issued in 1998, it laid out a number of other deep problems within the agency, finding that “low morale, distrust and poor communications” among agents are “the ominous symptoms of progressively worsening structural problems” in working conditions.
Two-thirds of couriers had symptoms of sleep disorders, including irritability, and the cramped trucks led to knee and back ailments, the report found.
Bailey was fired but sued and won a small amount of back pay and the right to return to his job. He never did.
After the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the government turned its attention to the nation’s most critical vulnerabilities and concluded that more needed to be done to prevent terrorists from obtaining a nuclear bomb.
In a 2005 letter to Congress, then-Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman called the transportation office a “top priority” and asked Congress for money for more agents, special weapons, tougher armored vehicles and improved tactics.
The goal was to increase staffing from about 290 to 420 couriers by 2008. But the agency never never reached that level, as lawmakers rejected most of the funding request. Today it aims to employ 370 agents but has 332.
The long hours couriers must work — identified as a chronic problem by the inspector general — contribute to poor morale and a tense work environment.
Those tensions can boil over, as when the supervisor in Tennessee threatened to kill an employee. The same supervisor had been involved in seven verbal and physical incidents that weren’t reported, including “uncontrolled anger, hostility and aggression toward fellow workers and authority figures, according to a 2014 report by the inspector general.
The failure to discipline the employee posed a grave danger, the report found, concluding that it raised the risk that “unsuitable individuals could be allowed to protect nuclear weapons, weapon components and special nuclear material, raising possible national security concerns."
As for the alcohol issues cited by the inspector general, the agency has banned beer kegs at parties at the Ft. Chafee dormitory for trainees and mandated random alcohol testing and suspension of agents with a blood alcohol concentration above 0.02%.
And after years of lean budgets — and sometimes outright cuts — the agency requested a 19% increase in fiscal 2017, to $283 million. But Congress didn’t approve it, and the agency’s funding for this year is less than what it received in 2012.
The agency has been able to purchase five new rigs a year. More potent self-defense systems for the trucks are on the way in a trailer dubbed the Mobile Guardian, which the Energy Department is spending $670 million to develop. But the new trailers are not expected to hit the road until 2023 — long after the weapons modernization program is underway.
Meanwhile, the older rigs are well maintained and log fewer miles than comparable commercial trucks, and agency officials are confident they will be able to do the job, said Al Stotts, a spokesman for the nuclear administration.
“They don’t send them out with problems,” he said.Tags: nuclear safetyTruckinghealth and safety
Lyft Drivers Fed Up And Angry Against Settlement Deal In SF
Lyft and UBER drivers protested a legal settlement in a case of fraud against Lyft in San Francisco on March 9, 2017. The drivers said the settlement would not benefit many driver properly and that many were on starvation wages. Also Edward Escobar of The Alliance For Independent Workers reported that the danger of privatization of BART and other public transit was a direct result of platforms like UBER and Lyft that are encouraging people to take private transportation and creating environmental problems and that the lack of regulation is also leading to serious accidents and threatening the health and safety of the drivers, the passengers and public. The deal which would benefit the lawyer primarily would also allow Lyft to continue to classify the workers as independent contractors which means that that they have no problem continuing to exploit them with no control of their work as they are "gig workers". A large part of the settlement will go to the lawyer instead of the drivers in the settlement deal which was approved by the judge.
For more information on Alliance for Independent Workers
Known for his independent views, militant tactics and progressive outlook that favored social justice for all workers, Bob White died on February 20 at the age of 81. White was mourned by union members across Canada and hailed as a “giant of the Canadian labor movement.”
White emigrated with his family from Ireland to Canada at the age of 13 and went to work in a factory at the age of 15 where he quickly experienced his first strike. Two years later he was elected a Steward, and led a strike of 500 workers at the age of 22.
Elected to leadership positions within the U.S. – based United Auto Workers, he led a successful break-away effort that created the Canadian Auto Workers union (CAW) in 1985. White was elected President for three terms before becoming President of the Canadian Labour Congress. White was a bitter foe of contract concessions, the NAFTA Free Trade Agreement and U.S. military expansion.
He pushed hard for social service funding, while also backing organizing campaigns and affiliations that helped the CAW expand, eventually merging with Canada’s Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union in 2013 to form a new union called Unifor which describes itself as “a new kind of union that advocates on behalf of all working people – employed or unemployed – across the country.”
“Bob was a true unionist who spoke what he believed,” said ILWU Canada President Rob Ashcroft, “including the principle that workers should belong to the union of their choice. White honored his word by seeing that Local 400 members joined the ILWU’s ranks after a merger could have put them into the Canadian Auto Workers. This was just one example of Brother White’s integrity that made him such an exceptional leader.”
Three ILWU-endorsed candidates in Southern California have won Delegate seats in the California Democratic Party. Two other ILWU-supported candidates narrowly lost elections that took place on January 7.
Among the winners were Local 63 Business Agent Cathy Familathe who also serves as President of the Southern California District Council, Irene Huerta who serves as Secretary to ILWU Local 13 President and is member of OPEIU Local 537, and Shannon Ross, wife of ILWU Local 94 member Marcel Ross.
Local 13 members Jerry Avila and Vivian Malauulu both narrowly lost their bids. All candidates were endorsed by ILWU Locals 13, 63, 94 and the Southern California District Council. Malauulu was elected to the Long Beach Community College District Board of Trustees in 2016.
“This is historic, because it may be the first time that the ILWU has endorsed candidates and friends of our union to become delegates in the California Democratic Party,” said Cathy Familathe. She added that candidates on the ILWU-supported slate were “pro-Bernie” and will use their delegate positions to press for a pro-worker platform.
The Assembly District Election Meetings are held every two years. Each District elects seven women and seven men to serve as delegates from their Assembly District to the state Party. Delegates are responsible for planning and attending informational meetings throughout the region and working with other delegates to represent their community. They vote at regional meetings and the California Democratic Party Convention.
“I think it’s important for union members to get involved in politics,” Huerta said. “Especially with all that is going on right now, it is important that workers have a voice in shaping the agenda for the Democratic Party.” Huerta was first elected as an Assembly Delegate in 2015 and has been encouraging other union members to do same.
The new Trump administration announced some disturbing news in February that signaled a growing threat to union members.
Support for anti-union law
On February 1, “right-to-work” legislation (H.R. 785) was proposed in Congress by anti-union Representatives Joe Wilson of South Carolina and Steve King of Iowa. The term “right-to-work” was coined decades ago by anti-union business owners.
Union members are more likely to describe it as “right-to-freeload,” the “right-to-work-for-less” or “right-to-wreck- the-union.”
Trump quickly supports
Trump quickly announced his support for the new legislation through Presidential Spokesman Sean Spicer, who said: “The President believes in ‘right to work.’ He wants…to do what’s in the best interest for job creators.”
To further emphasize strong support from the White House, Spicer added: “Obviously the Vice President has been a champion of this as well.”
The White House didn’t mention that Vice President Pence has been quietly working with a team of Trump advisors who are gathering strategy ideas to weaken unions, based on “right-to-work” laws and similar policies already enacted in many states.
On February 1, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker revealed he attended a January 28 meeting with V.P. Pence and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in Washington, D.C. Walker said he advised Pence and Gingrich “how they may take bits and pieces of what we did” with the union law and civil service reform to “apply it at the national level.” Gov. Walker and other anti-union leaders are advising Trump to begin his attacks by going after workers in public unions, something the new President already pledged to do during his campaign.
Divide and conquer
If Trump keeps his promise to attack public union members, it may explain why the President was also holding high-profile meetings with building trade leaders on January 23, and why he met earlier with Teamster President James Hoffa. Those unions have sometimes supported anti-union candidates who cater to narrow interests while ignoring attacks by the same politicians on the broader working class and other union members.
How law hurts workers
“Right to work” laws are designed and funded by big business to weaken unions. They force unions into an impossible position by making them legally responsible for representing all workers in a shop, while stripping the union’s ability to collect enough fees to cover those representation costs. Strong union shops where everyone is a paying member would be outlawed under the proposed law – and replaced with “open shops” where division, disunity and financial hardship weaken the union and leave workers with lower pay, meager benefits and little say over working conditions.
Ugly origins of “right-to-work”
“Right to work” laws were pioneered in 1936 by the Texas-based “Christian American Association,” a racist outfit funded by Southern oilmen and Northern industrialists.
A top associate of the group once explained her hostility toward workers by criticizing what President Roosevelt’s wife, Eleanor, had done to help workers, especially African- Americans, because Roosevelt stood for a “$15 a week salary for all n***** house help, Sundays off, no washing, and no cleaning upstairs,” adding, “My n***** maid wouldn’t dare sit down in the same room with me unless she sat on the floor at my feet!”
Start in segregated South
Arkansas and Florida were the first to pass “right to work” laws in 1944, followed quickly by Texas and other Southern states that totaled 14 by 1947 when a Republican majority in Congress passed the notorious “Taft-Hartley” law that stripped unions of powers gained under President Roosevelt, including the right to conduct effective pickets and boycotts. The anti-union law became popular in the South where segregationists warned that union shops and civil rights would lead to “race-mixing and communism.”
Criticized by MLK
The Rev. Martin Luther King warned about the danger of “right-to- work” laws, saying in 1961: “we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone. Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights.”
The “Southern strategy”
Passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965 re-shuffled America’s political deck, with Southern whites switching their political loyalty from the Democratic to Republican Party, while African Americans abandoned the Republican Party of Lincoln and Reconstruction to vote predominantly Democratic. Segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina was one of the first to change his political affiliation in 1964 – the same year that Republican
Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act and lost the 1964 election, boldly campaigning for “states’ rights” to the delight of Southern segregationists.
Racist code words
Richard Nixon won in 1968 with a “Southern strategy” that used racist code language, including talk about “welfare, less government, violent criminals and “states’ rights” to win white votes in the South – plus blue collar votes from whites in the Midwest and Northern industrial cities.
Nixon’s Chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman explained: “you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the Blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognized this while not appearing to.” Ronald Reagan’s campaign strategist, Lee Atwater, explained how racist appeals had helped conservatives win white votes: “You start out in 1954 by saying, “N*****, n*****, n*****.” By 1968 you can’t say “n*****” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff…”
This is how the term “right-to-work” became one of the many racist code words that white politicians used to communicate bigotry and win elections; beginning in the South, and now throughout much of the country.
Behind the campaigns
Big business is still financing today’s campaigns to pass “right-to-work” laws, just as they have since 1936. Some of the work is being done by the National Right To Work Committee and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), both of which have been passing laws in state legislatures with help from the Koch brothers – using the same oil fortune that funded the racist John Birch Society and other anti-union groups more than a half century ago.
Majority of states
Corporate lobbyists and antiunion politicians have now succeeded in passing “right-to-work” laws in a majority of state legislatures. Kentucky joined the list in early January and Missouri become the 28th “right-to-work” state on February 6. Similar laws have been enacted in the former industrial union strongholds of Wisconsin and Michigan – states which also account for Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory. Efforts to pass similar laws in California, Oregon and Washington have failed – but a federal law or court decision could supersede pro-union laws at the state and local level.
Supreme Court decisions
The Supreme Court has the power to change federal labor laws. With one unfilled vacancy that President Obama was prevented from filling, the Supreme Court deadlocked with 4-4 votes on several cases involving issues related to “right-to-work,” including the ability of unions to collect representation fees. If Trump nominates a conservative anti-union member to the Supreme Court, the new anti-union majority could change national labor laws without passing any legislation.
Promises or betrayal?
Many promises were made by politicians during the election, claiming they wanted to help America’s working class. The coming months will reveal how sincere those promises were, and whether the ones made to the working class will be honored over the demands of big business, billionaires and Wall Street executives. Those forces have already taken control of the government’s most powerful jobs where they will make decisions felt by every worker and family in America.
Only way for workers
“Workers and unions have never gotten anything handed to them on a silver platter because progress only gets made by pushing the powerful to do what’s right,” said ILWU President Robert McEllrath. “That’s the way it’s always been, and that’s what we need to be doing now and in the future.”
The Coast Longshore Division held a Grievance and Arbitration Procedures (GAP) workshop from February 5-10 in San Francisco. The five-day workshop provided extensive training for 70 ILWU members and local union officials.
The goal was to prepare teams with expertise and skills that will enable them to represent members during grievances, arbitrations and appearances before regional Labor Relations Committees (LRCs).
The workshop began with presentations by experienced ILWU officers, attorneys and staff that covered a range of topics including research and investigative tools, an overview of key provisions of the Coast Longshore Division Contract, plus important issues relating to health and safety and technology.
The week culminated in a mock arbitration exercise that allowed participants to apply their new skills and knowledge in a group exercise that closely mimicked a real arbitration from beginning to end. Participants were placed in groups and randomly assigned roles as either employers or union members and then presented with a fictional scenario involving a jurisdictional issue. Each team had to prepare their case including researching past arbitrations, interviewing witnesses and identifying key issues in the dispute. Teams then engaged in a mock LRC meeting, followed by a mock arbitration in front of a panel of three arbitrators.
The workshop was put together by the Coast Longshore Division’s Education Committee. “GAP helps give local officers the information and tools to do their jobs more effectively and more efficiently, said Education Committee and Local 13 member Sunshine Garcia. “GAP also educates emerging leaders who will be stepping into those positions later on, so they’re better prepared to represent members, protect ILWU jurisdiction and defend our rights on the job.”
Local 63 member Calvin Wade said the GAP training was a great experience. “This was an opportunity for me to gain knowledge about how to access a vast amount of information that I can use to help many members in Los Angeles,” Wade said. “This is invaluable and by far the best experience I’ve had being a part of the ILWU.”
Local 18 member Rene Way also reported a positive experience: “GAP gave me tools that I can take back to help me serve my union better and help protect our work,” she said.
Planning and follow-up
The Education Committee planned the workshop for months. And after the workshop concluded, they met to evaluate the training sessions, using feedback from participants and presenters The constructive feedback allows the program to be constantly improved and updated.
“Education is an investment in the union and our membership,” said Local 19 President Rich Austin, Jr., who has been a member of the Education Committee since 2005. “Hopefully some of the attendees will emerge as future leaders in this union, as has happened with past workshops and trainings.”
President McEllrath and other titled officers were present for much of the training. “We need a lot more members with leadership skills to keep the ILWU strong,” said McEllrath. “This training is a great way to help people get some of those skills to assume leadership roles in our union.”
REJECT LYFT SETTLEMENT
SELLING OUT DRIVERS RIGHTS
▪ MOST LYFT DRIVERS WILL ONLY RECEIVE ABOUT $40!
▪ FIRE ATTORNEY SHANNON LISS-RIORDAN: LYFT settlement betrays Drivers Rights by promoting TNC Misclassification as Independent Contractors - LYFT avoids paying employment taxes, workers compensation, unemployment & fair wages
LYFT’s other problems... Profits before People
*LYFT CUT DRIVERS EARNINGS AGAIN IN JANUARY - DRIVERS WORK MORE AND MAKE LESS THAN MINIMUM WAGE
*LYFT PROFITED DURING JFK STRIKE FAR MORE THAN UBER... LYFT EVEN SURGED PRICES! Undermining New York Taxi Workers Alliance Strike 1/28 - LYFT UNETHICAL - Strategically exploited liberal dissatisfaction with its main competitor, UBER.
*LYFT INVESTORS: PETER THIEL & CARL ICAHN – HUGE TRUMP SUPPORTERS
Join Workers Rights Protest March 9th, Thursday 9a 450 Golden Gate Ave. SF
Organizer: The Alliance for Independent Workers Contact: Edward Escobar 415.992.0061
*Supported by SEIU National & Fight For 15
Lyft Drivers Protest of $27 Million Settlement
On Thursday morning, many San Francisco Bay Area Lyft drivers will be asking the US DISTRICT COURT Judge Chhabria to reject the final settlement in the class-action matter of Cotter Vs Lyft. Despite the perceived high dollar amount of $27 million dollars, if the final settlement is approved, the vast majority of Lyft Drivers will only receive approximately $40, with some higher amounts going to few drivers with longest history of driving with Lyft...however, the greatest amount of the settlement proceeds would go to class attorneys, who generally receive 33-40%.
The majority of the drivers outrage, is directed to the potentially damaging impact on employment status determination for future cases brought by Workers, who are misclassified as Independent Contractors but yet treated with less consideration and compensation than minimum wage employees. Many workers in technology are also experiencing the same work related employment classification challenges throughout the greater San Francisco Bay area, as Silicon Valley tech leaders push the envelope to introduce a third classification of Employment - One that is much more beneficial to their profit motivated interests.
As was the case with Uber's $100 million dollar settlement rejection by US District Court Judge Edward Chen, end of last year - Uber drivers protested the settlement and were successful - Now Lyft drivers are protesting to get the same results - sending a reject settlement message to Judge Chhabria to not let LYFT off the hook so easily, LYFT has been known to get off lightly compared to Uber - both rideshare companies operate in the same manner and have demonstrated equally their ability to ride roughshod over any legal restrictions that obstruct their ultimate goals to improve their bottom line - profits before people.
THE ALLIANCE FOR INDEPENDENT WORKERS Unites the voices of the voiceless many... Addressing the ever growing needs of the New Gig Economy Workers... Advocating on their behalves to succeed - not just survive!
for Independent Workers