Current News

Subscribe to Current News feed
Updated: 2 hours 51 min ago

Former Portland BNSF rail engineer James Norvell fired for whistleblowing

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 14:42

Former Portland BNSF rail engineer James Norvell fired for whistleblowing
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3H4_SZpadc

KING 5
Published on Jan 24, 2018
A train engineer says he was wrongfully terminated by Warren Buffet’s BNSF Railway Company after he prevented a crash. He is now suing his old employer in federal court, saying his case highlights concerns about how locomotives are repaired.

Portland Ex-BNSF engineer and whistleblower claims he was wrongly fired after avoiding rail mishap in Portland

Former BNSF engineer says he was fired for avoiding wreck
A former BNSF Railway locomotive engineer is suing the Class I railroad because he was allegedly fired after preventing a wreck at a yard in Portland, Ore., the Seattle Times reports. Earlier this month, a federal judge denied a motion by the railroad to throw out the case.

According to court documents, James T. Norvell, a 13-year veteran of the railroad, was operating a transfer job between two yards in Portland in 2015 when the locomotive’s brakes failed. Norvell put the locomotive in reverse, bringing it to a stop but causing significant damage. Norvell was terminated soon after. The engineer says he should not be fired because the railroad failed to maintain its locomotives and because his actions prevented a derailment or worse.

BNSF denies all of the allegations within the suit.

Portland Ex-BNSF engineer claims he was wrongly fired after avoiding rail mishap in Portland

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/ex-bnsf-engineer-claims-he-was...

Originally published January 22, 2018 at 10:47 am Updated January 22, 2018 at 11:06 am
A federal judge recently denied the railroad’s request to dismiss a lawsuit filed by James T. Norvell, a Ballard resident, and scheduled a trial for later this year.

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/ex-bnsf-engineer-claims-he-was...

Portland Ex-BNSF engineer and whistleblower claims he was wrongly fired after avoiding rail mishap in Portland
By Mike Carter
Seattle Times staff reporter

A former engineer for BNSF Railway now working and living in Ballard claims in

a federal whistleblower lawsuit that he was fired for damaging company property after he was forced to throw a runaway locomotive into reverse to avoid a potentially catastrophic accident in Portland in 2015.

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4356128-Norvell-Complaint.html

A federal judge in Tacoma earlier this month denied a motion by the railroad to dismiss the lawsuit filed in August by James T. Norvell, finding that Norvell’s claims at this point give him standing to sue over his contention that he was improperly fired for discharging a public duty — protecting the lives of citizens The lawsuit claims that the tracks within the yard “are unique in that they all run downhill.”

According to the suit, Norvell was aware there were others working around him and “knew there were loaded hazardous tank cars at the bottom of the yard and parked in a manner roughly broadside to the direction of travel of his train.”

Moreover, the lawsuit notes, the Willbridge Yard is surrounded by petroleum and chemical tank farms.

“If he could not stop the train, Norvell would have put the lives of his co-workers in peril and likely would have caused an enormous explosion and/or spill of hazardous materials that would have put the public at large in danger,” according to the lawsuit.

“With no other option to stop the train in time to avoid catastrophe, Norvell threw the throttle into reverse and was able to bring the train to a safe stop,” the lawsuit said.

The result, however, was that the locomotive sustained serious damage.

Four days after the incident, according to the lawsuit, Norvell was notified that BNSF had initiated disciplinary proceedings against him because he had “failed to properly stop your movement in accordance with proper train handling,” resulting in damage to the locomotive.

At a hearing a month later, Norvell presented evidence — in the form of an affidavit and testimony of a BNSF locomotive mechanic identified as Warren Stout — about shortcomings at the Vancouver, Washington, BNSF maintenance facility where Locomotive 2339 had recently been serviced.

Norvell also provided maintenance logs showing the locomotive “had brake rigging defects that had not been properly addressed despite multiple reports of the problem and multiple trips to the BNSF locomotive facilities in Vancouver and Seattle” before the July 12 incident at Willbridge Yard, according to the lawsuit.

Stout, according to the lawsuit and the sworn affidavit, concluded that BNSF’s “Band-Aid” approach to maintenance and its “refusal to authorize proper repairs to locomotives, including 2339, had resulted in a ‘fleet of substandard and noncompliant locomotives haunting the area.’ ”

One of Norvell’s attorneys, Jeff Dingwall, of San Diego, said the railway “chose to blame him instead of owning up to the fact” of the maintenance problems.

Sonja Fritts, a Seattle lawyer representing BNSF, declined to comment Thursday on the allegations and referred inquiries to BNSF Railway spokesman Gus Melonas, who said the railroad had no comment.

However, in its answer to Norvell’s complaint, filed with the court on Wednesday, the railway denied all of Norvell’s substantive claims, up to and including his allegations that the public was in danger, that a catastrophe was averted, and that the tracks at the Willbridge Yard slope downhill.

In seeking to dismiss the claim outright, BNSF argued that the company’s collective-bargaining agreement with the engineer’s union governs his dismissal and that Norvell’s case doesn’t belong in federal court.

U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle disagreed and set a trial date for Sept. 17, although it is likely that will be delayed. In the meantime, both sides will proceed with discovery and depositions.

“It is clear that railroad employees such as plaintiff have important rights and duties under public policy that are protected independently of the [collective-bargaining agreements governing] their labor relations,” Settle wrote.

“For instance, [the law] expressly provides a cause of action for railroad employees who suffer retaliation for reporting railroad hazards and misconduct by railroad carriers,” the judge said.

Norvell now works as an engineer at the Ballard Terminal Railroad.

Mike Carter: mcarter@seattletimes.com or 206-464-3706

Categories: Labor News

Portland Ex-BNSF engineer and whistleblower claims he was wrongly fired after avoiding rail mishap in Portland

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 14:10

Portland Ex-BNSF engineer and whistleblower claims he was wrongly fired after avoiding rail mishap in Portland

Former BNSF engineer says he was fired for avoiding wreck
A former BNSF Railway locomotive engineer is suing the Class I railroad because he was allegedly fired after preventing a wreck at a yard in Portland, Ore., the Seattle Times reports. Earlier this month, a federal judge denied a motion by the railroad to throw out the case.

According to court documents, James T. Norvell, a 13-year veteran of the railroad, was operating a transfer job between two yards in Portland in 2015 when the locomotive’s brakes failed. Norvell put the locomotive in reverse, bringing it to a stop but causing significant damage. Norvell was terminated soon after. The engineer says he should not be fired because the railroad failed to maintain its locomotives and because his actions prevented a derailment or worse.

BNSF denies all of the allegations within the suit.

Portland Ex-BNSF engineer claims he was wrongly fired after avoiding rail mishap in Portland
https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/ex-bnsf-engineer-claims-he-was...
Originally published January 22, 2018 at 10:47 am Updated January 22, 2018 at 11:06 am
A federal judge recently denied the railroad’s request to dismiss a lawsuit filed by James T. Norvell, a Ballard resident, and scheduled a trial for later this year.

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/ex-bnsf-engineer-claims-he-was...

Portland Ex-BNSF engineer and whistleblower claims he was wrongly fired after avoiding rail mishap in Portland
By Mike Carter
Seattle Times staff reporter

A former engineer for BNSF Railway now working and living in Ballard claims in

a federal whistleblower lawsuit that he was fired for damaging company property after he was forced to throw a runaway locomotive into reverse to avoid a potentially catastrophic accident in Portland in 2015.

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4356128-Norvell-Complaint.html

A federal judge in Tacoma earlier this month denied a motion by the railroad to dismiss the lawsuit filed in August by James T. Norvell, finding that Norvell’s claims at this point give him standing to sue over his contention that he was improperly fired for discharging a public duty — protecting the lives of citizens The lawsuit claims that the tracks within the yard “are unique in that they all run downhill.”

According to the suit, Norvell was aware there were others working around him and “knew there were loaded hazardous tank cars at the bottom of the yard and parked in a manner roughly broadside to the direction of travel of his train.”

Moreover, the lawsuit notes, the Willbridge Yard is surrounded by petroleum and chemical tank farms.

“If he could not stop the train, Norvell would have put the lives of his co-workers in peril and likely would have caused an enormous explosion and/or spill of hazardous materials that would have put the public at large in danger,” according to the lawsuit.

“With no other option to stop the train in time to avoid catastrophe, Norvell threw the throttle into reverse and was able to bring the train to a safe stop,” the lawsuit said.

The result, however, was that the locomotive sustained serious damage.

Four days after the incident, according to the lawsuit, Norvell was notified that BNSF had initiated disciplinary proceedings against him because he had “failed to properly stop your movement in accordance with proper train handling,” resulting in damage to the locomotive.

At a hearing a month later, Norvell presented evidence — in the form of an affidavit and testimony of a BNSF locomotive mechanic identified as Warren Stout — about shortcomings at the Vancouver, Washington, BNSF maintenance facility where Locomotive 2339 had recently been serviced.

Norvell also provided maintenance logs showing the locomotive “had brake rigging defects that had not been properly addressed despite multiple reports of the problem and multiple trips to the BNSF locomotive facilities in Vancouver and Seattle” before the July 12 incident at Willbridge Yard, according to the lawsuit.

Stout, according to the lawsuit and the sworn affidavit, concluded that BNSF’s “Band-Aid” approach to maintenance and its “refusal to authorize proper repairs to locomotives, including 2339, had resulted in a ‘fleet of substandard and noncompliant locomotives haunting the area.’ ”

One of Norvell’s attorneys, Jeff Dingwall, of San Diego, said the railway “chose to blame him instead of owning up to the fact” of the maintenance problems.

Sonja Fritts, a Seattle lawyer representing BNSF, declined to comment Thursday on the allegations and referred inquiries to BNSF Railway spokesman Gus Melonas, who said the railroad had no comment.

However, in its answer to Norvell’s complaint, filed with the court on Wednesday, the railway denied all of Norvell’s substantive claims, up to and including his allegations that the public was in danger, that a catastrophe was averted, and that the tracks at the Willbridge Yard slope downhill.

In seeking to dismiss the claim outright, BNSF argued that the company’s collective-bargaining agreement with the engineer’s union governs his dismissal and that Norvell’s case doesn’t belong in federal court.

U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle disagreed and set a trial date for Sept. 17, although it is likely that will be delayed. In the meantime, both sides will proceed with discovery and depositions.

“It is clear that railroad employees such as plaintiff have important rights and duties under public policy that are protected independently of the [collective-bargaining agreements governing] their labor relations,” Settle wrote.

“For instance, [the law] expressly provides a cause of action for railroad employees who suffer retaliation for reporting railroad hazards and misconduct by railroad carriers,” the judge said.

Norvell now works as an engineer at the Ballard Terminal Railroad.

Mike Carter: mcarter@seattletimes.com or 206-464-3706

Tags: BNSF Engineerwhistleblowerrail accidentBNSF
Categories: Labor News

SPANISH BARCLONA DOCKERS STRIKE! ‘CNT PORTUARIS’ COMMUNIQUE !!

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 20:11

SPANISH BARCLONA DOCKERS STRIKE! ‘CNT PORTUARIS’ COMMUNIQUE !!

”Our affiliates are accused of putting their own lives ahead of the economic benefits of the company. And that’s why they ARE DISMISSED.

700 people die each year in work accidents in the Spanish State. THIS STRIKE IS FOR THEM. This strike is for all of you, WORKERS, who, like our companions, are forced day after day to choose between your safety or your sustenance.

First of all, DIGNITY. Soon they will know that we are not merchandise.

ALL TO THE PORT OF BARCELONA ON DAYS 15, 16 and 17 FEBRUARY.

COME TO SUPPORT THE STRIKE IN THE MOORING!”

Statement on the dismissal of three Dockers in the Port of Barcelona
Enviat per Sec. Premsa

Dismissal of three union workers without any cause. The message is clear: the firm defense of workers’ rights is not allowed. We pick up the glove. One month before the Trial for Collective Conflict is held before the Social Chamber of the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia, our company MOORING & PORT SERVICE intends to gain an advantage .that will allow it to influence collective bargaining

Three of our affiliates of the Mooring Section of the Port of Barcelona were dismissed yesterday after the disciplinary file that the company opened last Friday, accusing the workers of having disobeyed an order from the company to perform a special service.

The company has ordeed the dismissal without considering ANY of the allegations of the workers:

– That the conduct they now punish can not be a reason for sanction, because the company had tolerated it until now, in which, surprisingly, it has executed 3 dismissals.

– That the behavior that is punished is classified as SERIOUS (and not very serious) in our disciplinary regime, so the maximum penalty is 30 days of employment and salary.

– That the sanction to one of the workers was prescribed.

– That a worker is not obliged to execute the orders of the company if they entail a danger, they are illegal or if they do not belong to their duties.

Our company, MOORING & PORT SERVICE, provides mooring and unmooring services to merchant ships that enter and leave the Port of Barcelona. But the owner of MOORING has another port services company: RUDDER LOGÍSTICS. To save costs, and as we are on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, instead of hiring their own staff, they use our staff (ILLEGAL ASSIGNMENT OF WORKERS) to do some services that:

-Do not appear in our contract

-Do not appear in the functions of our agreement or in the internal reguloations

-Do not appear in the Occupational Risk Prevention Plan of the company.

– They are jobs for which we have not received training and which entail a high intrinsic danger (handling of cranes, transport of dangerous goods, etc.).

– These are jobs that, in many cases, are illegal, since we transport dangerous goods by sea without respecting international regulations, as well as the transport of people from ships to the city without any control or registration, without going through customs. , etc. (We would be delighted that the company gave those facilities to people in need of refuge that die every day in the Mediterranean, but certainly not the case.).

Our affiliates are accused of putting their own lives ahead of the economic benefits of the company. And that’s why they ARE DISMISSED.

700 people die each year in work accidents in the Spanish State. THIS STRIKE IS FOR THEM. This strike is for all of you, WORKERS, who, like our companions, are forced day after day to choose between your safety or your sustenance.

First of all, DIGNITY. Soon they will know that we are not merchandise.

ALL TO THE PORT OF BARCELONA ON DAYS 15, 16 and 17 FEBRUARY.

COME TO SUPPORT THE STRIKE IN THE MOORING!

PS: We did not want to miss the opportunity to transmit a MESSAGE to a special person. IGNACIO BERRUEZO: you must know that the CNT is not intimidated by the port MAFIA.

See also:
http://cntbarcelona.org/vaga-damarradors-comunicat-de-cnt-portuaris/

earlier report from La Directa

The CNT rejects the conditions of the company to readmit the moorings of the port of Barcelona and keep the strike

Mooring & Port wants to keep a very serious sanction on workers to oppose doing tasks that exceed their obligations, and to force them to renounce their right to challenge it through judicial channels
Assembly on February 7 to support the three dismissed workers
by Gemma Garcia 02/12/2018

It is two thirty seven in the afternoon on Wednesday, February 7th and about a hundred workers gather at the Muelle de Sant Beltran 4, at Tinglado 3, of the labyrinth port of Barcelona. CNT Portuaris has called an assembly to the Mooring & Port company following the dismissal of three moorings.

The ties of solidarity between maritime workers are solid and have become evident on other occasions, as with the fight against the dismantling of the sector. Everyone responds to the call: the CGT tug boat group, the Tepsa liquid liquor storage company, the Union de Trabajadores del Puerto Union (USTP) and the Port Dockers Organization (Coordinator BCN), as well as members of the Business Committee of the Worker Organization of Port Company (OTEP).

The assembly was key. The CNT had already made a strike announcement for February 15, 16 and 17 in case of non-readmission of the three workers, but at that meeting it was agreed .to push all together to pressure the company

Only two days later, with a conciliation meeting in between, Mooring it was reported that he would readmit the three workers. “With the strike announcement we have used our negotiating force,” says Enrique Costoya, the lawyer of the anarchist union, who was clear that victory is the result of not only the pressure of the squad but the whole port that has given us support “.

But the three workers then received a letter of dismissal on February 1, where they were accused of having “disobeyed the direct orders of their hierarchical superiors”

Costoya regrets that Mooring intends to maintain a very serious penalty and to force the moorings to renounce their right to challenge it by judicial means. “We can not accept it, so let’s go on strike,” he concludes.

Disobedience referred to the fact that the three, on different dates, had refused to carry out the supply of a vessel of the same company, because, according to the mooring agreement, it is not part of its obligations.

The document defines that they carry out “tasks of mooring or unloading of ships, as well as other tasks related to the internal traffic of ports according to the use and practice of each of them.” The cargo of merchandise is not contemplated in the plan of prevention of occupational hazards of the company and doing so may mean end up manipulating carts and pallets with corrosive, toxic or flammable products.

The company opened a disciplinary record although the Workers Agreement itself states that “mere disobedience to its superiors in any matter of service” is a serious fault, but which can only entail suspension of work and salary of two to thirty days / Gemma Garcia….

In the middle of the conflict, the CNT also warned on social networks that the company had given orders to put all vehicles in a ship to avoid retaliation by the union. Under this pretext, they welded an internal pin and installed a loop leaving all the lathe workers locked in.

A collective conflict as a backdrop

The collective conflict is due to be resolved on March 15 in the High Court of Justice of Catalonia. The origin is in the refusal of the company to pay 96 hours extra to a dismissed worker. His count of hours, explains the CNT, had exceeded the annual work time of 1,836 hours established in the Workers’ Statute and in May of 2015, a judge gave the reason.

On the one hand, the hours that exceed the established, by being overtime, are voluntary not obligatory and, on the other, they should be paid.

The workers of the CNT already put on the table that Mooring, with the layoffs, had tried to influence the collective conflict that will be resolved on March 15th in the High Court of Justice of Catalonia…..At present, moorings are working around 2,000 annual hours and therefore there are about sixty more. Mooring & Port Services SL ended the monopoly of the mooring and unpacking service in the port of Barcelona that was in the hands of CEMESA.

Tags: Barcelona Dockers Strike
Categories: Labor News

ATU 1555 BART employees report being kicked, punched, spat on, held hostage “I never thought a simple questions to assist a passenger would lead to me being assaulted,” said ATU 1555 President Gena Alexander, who is also a train operator but on leave due

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 08:38

ATU 1555 BART employees report being kicked, punched, spat on, held hostage
“I never thought a simple questions to assist a passenger would lead to me being assaulted,” said ATU 1555 President Gena Alexander, who is also a train operator but on leave due to her current union position.

http://www.ktvu.com/news/bart-employees-report-being-kicked-punched-spat...

By: Candice Nguyen
POSTED: FEB 19 2018 02:19PM PST
VIDEO POSTED: FEB 19 2018 10:51PM PST
UPDATED: FEB 19 2018 10:57PM PST
OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - As police continue to investigate assaults and mob-style robberies against riders, attacks on BART employees are also steadily rising. These are scenarios where station agents and train operators are kicked, spat on, punched, held hostage, threatened with weapons and pushed down stairwells, according to data obtained by 2 Investigates.

From 2013 to 2017, there were 20 reported violent attacks against BART train operators and 174 reported attacks against station agents, BART crimes data shows.

BART officials acknowledged that these attacks come at a time when BART is down police officers and would like to hire more to patrol more consistently and effectively.

“I never thought a simple questions to assist a passenger would lead to me being assaulted,” said ATU 1555 President Gena Alexander, who is also a train operator but on leave due to her current union position.

Alexander said when she was a station agent, a passenger waited for her to leave her booth and then spat and hit her. A struggle ensued resulting in the attacker pulling out Alexander’s hair. She suffered other injuries, which she said forced her to take time off work.

Year-to-year data on station agent and train operator assaults show the number of annual reports increasing in recent years. From 2015 to 2016, the annual number of reports about doubled. Yet the actual numbers of assaults are significantly higher, multiple train operators told 2 Investigates. They say a significant, yet unknown, number of cases go unreported.

As a train operator later in her career, Alexander said she faced similar situations. “It’s scary being the last train of the night and having to sweep [clear it of passengers] by yourself hoping and praying when you pull in, BART police is there to assist you,” she said.

BART train operator Marvin Jones said he was also attacked on the job during an end of line sweep. He said a man refusing to leave the train threw a phone and struck his face.

“If [the attackers] are going to do it to us, it’s just a matter of time it’s going to happen to passengers,” Jones said.

Station Agent Dana Reeves has been working for BART for 17 years and said she never had an incident until recently.

“I’ve been assaulted twice within the last two weeks,” Reeves said.

On Jan. 6, Reeves said she was closing the 16th and Mission BART station alone when a man on drugs forced himself into her booth trapping her inside. She said it was an unprovoked incident.

“I didn’t know if he had weapons. Is he going to kill me?” she said. “I want to defend myself but I don’t because I don’t want to lose my job.”

Alexander agreed saying, “There is a tendency by management to attack the employee and put them in the seat where they are the defendant.”

BART policy does in fact prohibit all employees from possessing any sort of weapon or self defense tool while on the job or face disciplinary procedures up to and including termination. In a statement, BART wrote, in part:

“Safety is our top priority at BART. That extends to not just to our riders by also our employees….If an employee feels they are in an unsafe situation we encourage them to try to create a safe distance between themselves and a potential threat. Our emphasis is on de-escalating a situation before it turns violent. Employees are trained to disengage, remain in a safe place, and contact BART Police immediately...If a BART worker finds themselves in a situation where they have no other recourse against an immediate threat, then they can defend themselves.”

BART Police Chief Carlos Rojas told 2 Investigates it is protocol for his officers to help train operators clear cars of passengers at the end of the night, but sometimes other high-priority calls force them to respond to something else. His department is working to hire more officers.

“Over time, the department lost personnel through attrition, retirement and other things. All of the suddenly you end up with 36 vacancies,” Rojas said. “What I can tell you, from a legal perspective, everybody has the right of self defense under the law.”

Tags: ATU 1555oshahealth and safetyinjuries on the job
Categories: Labor News

Another Possible Attack On ILWU Port Workers-Close Howard Terminal-Commissioner visits A’s potential stadium sites

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 09:25

Another Possible Attack On ILWU Port Workers-Close Howard Terminal-Commissioner visits A’s potential stadium sites
Commissioner visits A’s potential stadium sites
https://www.sfchronicle.com/athletics/article/MLB-commissioner-visits-st...
By Susan SlusserFebruary 16, 2018 Updated: February 16, 2018 4:08pm

Photo: Noah Berger, Special To The Chronicle
IMAGE 1 OF 2A ship docks at the Howard Terminal, one of the sites under consideration for a new Oakland Athletics baseball stadium, on Saturday, May 27, 2017, in Oakland, Calif.
MESA, Ariz. — Commissioner Rob Manfred was in Oakland last month and visited potential A’s stadium sites, team president Dave Kaval told The Chronicle on Friday.

“The commissioner came to look at our new offices and I think he was impressed, and he also looked at the sites for a ballpark,” Kaval said at the A’s minor-league complex. “It was nice to give him a good tour.”

According to sources, the main focus of Manfred’s visit was Howard Terminal, the waterfront area near Jack London Square that is minutes away from the team’s new offices and is one of three areas the A’s have pinpointed during their stadium search.

Manfred has visited the A’s preferred site near Laney College previously, and of course he’s familiar with the third option, the Coliseum. Manfred is in regular contact with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf — a longtime supporter of the Howard Terminal site — and as Kaval noted, MLB has extensive experience with helping to troubleshoot stadium development issues.

“More than anything, we want to make sure everyone knows our efforts in Oakland to build a privately financed stadium and what it will take to make that happen — working with all the key stakeholders: the league, the city, maybe the port, the (Coliseum Joint Powers Authority),” Kaval said. “The league has a lot of expertise when it comes to ballpark development and situations that have worked and not worked, and relying on that I think is important.”

In trying to evaluate the transportation issues, for example, at Howard Terminal — which is a 20-minute walk from the nearest BART station — MLB can point to past workarounds in Cleveland, Baltimore and Toronto, Kaval said, adding, “That’s really where the league can be a best-practice clearinghouse.”

The A’s remain “100 percent focused on Oakland,” Kaval reiterated. “Obviously, we had a setback with our preferred site, but we’re still looking at all three sites and working with our partners and various stakeholders with a timeline for a 2023 opening, and we’re still on track with that path.”

Minor-leaguer starts fund: A’s pitching prospect Jesus Luzardo, obtained in the Sean Doolittle deal with Washington last year, graduated from Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla, two years ago. Friday, the right-hander created a memorial fund for the family of murdered athletic director Chris Hixon.

”Chris played a huge role in supporting my dreams of becoming a professional baseball player and his loss will be felt by everyone in the Douglas community,” Luzardo said in a post with the fund.

To donate, go to https://www.youcaring.com/familiesofthedouglashighschoolvictims-1101050#....

Susan Slusser is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.

Tags: Oakland Howard TerminalilwuOakland A's Ball Park
Categories: Labor News

In Uganda, unions are helping to drive transport workers into decent work

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 22:44

NEWS
<262e688cc93660d44174673291889c.png>
By Diana Taremwa Karakire
9 February 2018

In Uganda, unions are helping to drive transport workers into decent work

https://www.equaltimes.org/in-uganda-unions-are-helping-to#.WoWf-qjwaUm

Three years ago, Samuel Mugisha almost quit his job. As the driver of a motorbike taxi (known locally as a boda-boda) in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, rampant police harassment was having a huge, negative impact on his daily earnings. But today, Samuel is thriving as a member of the 38,000-member Kampala Metropolitan Boda-Boda Association (KAMBA).

Launched in January 2014, the association is one of the newest members of Uganda’s oldest trade union, the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers’ Union (ATGWU), which today is leading the drive to represent informal transport workers and help secure decent work for all of its members.

After decades of ever-declining numbers of formal transport workers, the ATGWU is on the up. It now has close to 60,000 members, with the significant intake of informal transport workers such as minibus taxi drivers, bicycle taxi drivers and boda-boda drivers giving the union a new lease of life.

"It hasn’t been easy. Many hurdles stood in the way of this formalisation, but we have covered a lot of ground so far," says Usher Wilson Owere, the national chairman of the ATGWU. "The journey is still long but we are taking one step at a time."
Since it was founded in 1938 as the Uganda Motor Drivers Association, the ATGWU has faced various hurdles, but perhaps the biggest threat to its existence came from the plummeting membership numbers that followed the collapse of state-owned passenger road transport services.

Like elsewhere in Africa, the imposition of Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) in Uganda during the mid-1980s resulted in mass job losses, particularly in the public sector. For the ATGWU, large-scale redundancies at the public bus companies that formed the bulk of its membership base decimated the union.

By 2006, things were so bad that membership fell to an all-time low of around 2,000 (mainly airport worker) members.

"After structural adjustment programmes and privatisation, Uganda was [facing] a new form of raw capitalism, in which you were either rubbed out or [you had to] build your own power," explains Owere in a report by the German foundation Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES). It’s titled ’’Transforming transport unions through mass organisation of informal workers: a case study of the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers’ Union (ATGWU), Uganda.’’

Regroup and rebuild

It was at this point, sometime in the mid-2000s, that the ATGWU decided to regroup and rebuild - and the inclusion of informal workers was key to this. Although it wasn’t until 2015 that the International Labour Organization (ILO) adopted the landmark Recommendation 204 to help facilitate the formalisation of the 50 per cent of workers in the world who operate in the informal economy, in 2006 the new ATGWU general secretary, Aziz Kiirya, did just that.

Kiirya knew that in order to regenerate the ATGWU, his trade union would have to organise and represent informal workers - estimates put the number of boda-boda drivers in Kampala alone at anywhere between 100,000 and 250,000, in addition to the capital’s 50,000 minibus drivers - and so he changed the union’s constitution to include them.

"The ATGWU strategy for organising informal economy workers was based on an understanding that these workers are in many cases already organised, not within the trade union movement, but through credit and savings cooperatives, informal self-help groups, community-based organisations, and, most importantly, associations," says the report.
The Airport Taxi Operators Association was the first such association to affiliate with the ATGWU back in 2008, closely followed by a number of other national and regional organisations such as the Long Distance Heavy Truck Drivers Association and the Entebbe Stages and Conductors Association.

For Uganda’s informal transport workers, unionisation has "had a dramatic impact" according to the report, including "a reduction in police harassment, substantial gains through collective bargaining, reduced internal conflict within the associations, and improvement of visibility and status for informal women transport workers".

Kampala’s airport taxi drivers, for example, have secured standardised branding for their taxis, an office and sales counter in the arrivals hall, proper parking facilities, and rest areas, amongst other collective bargaining gains. Meanwhile, other members have benefited from having union membership cards, particularly when crossing borders.

The ATGWU received a major boost in 2013 when the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) launched a project to improve the capacity of unions across Africa, Asia and Latin America to represent informal transport workers.

Key objectives included training organisers and also improving work conditions for women in the sector. The number of women working in the very male-dominated transport sector in Uganda is very small; KOSTA, for example, only has 45 women conductors and just 13 drivers out of a membership of approximately 36,000.

Juliet Muhebwa is one of KOSTA’s female conductors. Although the AGTWU has formed a women’s committee to support the needs of female transport workers, Juliet says they still face the same issues affecting informal women workers across the world, namely long working hours, low pay, dangerous working conditions and the threat of violence, harassment and intimidation.

She describes the attitude towards women working in the sector as "largely negative, which discourages new workers" although the workshops and training has been held by the AGTWU for women workers to deal with some of these issues.

More work to do

In February 2015, the union established the ATGWU Informal Sector Committee, comprising the chairs and secretaries of all the affiliated associations. This has helped the members not only get to know one another but also to improve systems and procedures within their respective organisations.

There is still more work to do but the AGTWU has experience in overcoming major challenges. In 2013, Ugandan authorities passed a law prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people. Although trade unions were officially exempted from the law, in August of that year, police occupied and later shut down the ATGWU’s offices where taxi drivers and conductors had gathered for a meeting the police considered illegal because they weren’t not considered ’workers’.

The ATGWU responded strongly, threatening to call a strike and bring the whole of Kampala to a standstill if the legitimate rights of these workers were not recognised. The ITF even wrote to the Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni and as tensions threatened to escalate, the police backed down and the union called off the strike.

"The confrontation and subsequent victory proved to be a pivotal moment in the organisation of informal workers for the ATWGU," says the report.
"It was not only a victory against police interference in the business of the associations, but against the day-to-day police harassment and extortion suffered by informal transport workers."

But even the ATGWU recognises that it has "only just scratched the surface" of what still needs to be done, ranging from the huge number of people still in the informal economy to tackling the reluctance of white collar unions to accept informal economy members as workers of equal standing.

At present, affiliated association members still do not enjoy full union membership and a lack of voting rights deprives informal workers of the right to fully participate in trade union activities. There are a number of barriers preventing this: for example, full ATGWU members must pay 2 per cent of their salary in union dues. This poses a very real problem for informal workers who experience daily income fluctuations - many don’t even have bank accounts.

"We are members but in a way we are more outsiders," says Juliet, the bus conductor. "We want to be brought closer. It’s the only way we will get more empowered."

The reform of the ATGWU constitution to ensure the total integration of informal workers into the ATGWU was a key topic at the 2017 Quinquennial Delegates Conference of the ATGWU.

But for informal workers like Frank, the difference being affiliated to the AGTWU has made to his life has been huge.

"Previously, almost half of my earnings were going into bribing police officers to let me operate. That pressure is off my back now," says the 32-year old father-of-three.
Because he is able to save more money, Frank says he can now pay his children’s school fees. He has also been able to help his wife start a grocery business to supplement their household income.

"I was more pessimistic about the future three years ago," he says while leaning on his crimson-red bike. "Now I see better times ahead".

Tags: Uganda transport workersAmalgamated Transport and General Workers’ Union (ATGWU)
Categories: Labor News

A day in the life of a United Airlines flight attendant, who woke up before 3 a.m. and ran circles around me for 9 hours

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 16:21

A day in the life of a United Airlines flight attendant, who woke up before 3 a.m. and ran circles around me for 9 hours
http://www.businessinsider.com/flight-attendant-united-airlines-day-in-t...

"You could give me a million dollars, and it wouldn't be better than one day here," our flight attendant says.Rachel Gillett/Business Insider

Robert "Bingo" Bingochea is a Denver-based flight attendant for United Airlines who commutes to work from his home in Phoenix and back.
Bingochea has been a flight attendant with United for seven years and previously worked in the airline industry in other capacities.
Though he says every day on the job is different, we joined him on a trip from Denver to Houston and back to capture what a day in the life of a flight attendant might look like.

It's 3 a.m., and I'm jolted awake by the ring of the hotel phone.

The bright red numbers on the clock next to me are the only thing that illuminate my pitch-black hotel room, and I groan as I roll over and steal another five minutes of sleep.

When I checked into the hotel at 10:30 the night before and asked for my wake-up call, the front desk clerk was horrified to hear how little sleep I'd be getting.

"At least I'm getting the 'true' experience," I tell myself. "Flight attendants probably do this all the time."

As it turns out, Robert "Bingo" Bingochea, a 63-year-old who has worked with United Airlines as a flight attendant for seven years, went to bed early that night, and he has already been awake for more than an hour by the time I finally bolt out of bed. He's had his morning coffee, watched some TV news, and checked the weather from his hotel room before I even clicked the lights on in my room.

Like me, Bingochea has also flown in the day before the 5:24 a.m. flight from Denver to Houston.

He's what you call a "commuter" in the airline industry. He's a flight attendant based out of Denver, but he lives in Phoenix with his wife and commutes to Denver and back for each trip he works.

Bingochea got the first flight into Denver the day before our flight, which isn't uncommon for commuters, since flying standby means you aren't guaranteed a seat on the flight you want, and it can sometimes take a full day to get a flight on standby.

I'm shadowing him for the day, and we're to meet at Denver International Airport to begin our journey together.

View As: One Page Slides
As our flight will begin boarding at 4:50 a.m., I arrive at the airport at 4 a.m. I'm scheduled to meet Bingochea at United's In Flight area, but before that, we both need to go through airport security.
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider
Just my luck, getting through TSA security takes me longer than I expected. I must remove my shoes, take all electronics out of my bag and place them, exposed, in the screening bin. And, since I wear some medical devices, I'm treated to a full pat down and tested for bomb residue.

Bingochea, on the other hand — and other flight attendants flying through Denver International — goes through an expedited TSA screening, a process that usually takes less than a minute.

Bingochea has packed enough clothes — rolled, of course — and supplies to last at least four days. "You want to be ready for everything," he tells me. "Anything can happen."
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider
Apart from the essentials like extra underwear and t-shirts, medication, and clothing, he also takes a couple trinkets with him: A pink, rubber frog that was his daughter's when she was younger always goes around the world with him, as well as his Vietnam Veteran cap, which commemorates his time as a medic in the U.S. Army during Vietnam.

In general, Bingochea doesn't pack a lunch. He'll bring some snacks with him, but he opts not to eat while he's working — it makes him sluggish — and instead budgets enough money to try the different cuisines of where he's traveling.

As a passenger, you won't ever see United's operations station. With the swipe of my handler's United Airlines ID badge, we take an elevator up to the fourth floor, home of United's conference rooms, HR and IT departments, and Inflight Services.
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider
During check in, he lets the staff know he's physically there and ready to go. "They cover their bases because the plane has to be out," he says. "You can't be late. You can't be looking for coffee. You have to be there on time."
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider
If you're not, United has other flight attendants on standby at the airport as "ready reserves" who will step in if needed. The lounge is their temporary home while they wait to see if they're called for duty. It's equipped with plenty of comfy couches and a darkened sleeping room should flight attendants want to nap …
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider
... 
As well as TVs with flight times, plenty of outlets for charging phones, and a red phone for scheduling. Crew other than those on ready reserve sometimes also use the lounge and sleeping rooms, including "lounge lizards," commuters who don't have anywhere in town to stay between trips and need a place to crash for the night.
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider
There's also a grooming area with toiletries, irons, and steamers. Though flight attendants aren't officially checked for uniform and grooming compliance before flights, Bingochea recalls a recent instance when he leaned in for a hug with a United executive, who discreetly said to him, "You look good. Get rid of that pocket square."
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider
Bingochea says he loves the uniforms and is excited that flight attendants get new ones every few years. "I always like wearing my uniform. I like to make myself available to people," he says. "If people see you in uniform, they'll often say, 'Can I ask you a question?'"
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider
After check in, we head to the gate, and Bingochea scans his United ID to board the plane.
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider
Once Bingochea and his fellow crew members have boarded the plane and stowed their baggage, it's time for the pre-flight briefing. Apart from addressing logistics and procedures, the crew can also get to know each other a little better during pre-flight briefings, as they likely haven't traveled together before.
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider
Captain Bob tells the crew that our flight will be two hours and two minutes, so we should arrive at the gate eight minutes early.

It's standard security on this flight, so nobody "special" — meaning people like air marshals, secret service, or federal flight deck officers, who carry weapons — will be on board, and cabin crew will have to rely on able-bodied passengers for help in an emergency.

There won't be any in-flight meals available — just snacks for purchase and beverages.

And — "thankfully" (it's usually stressful for all involved) — no live animals will be on board this flight.

Finally, Bob reminds the cabin crew to let him know if anything out of the ordinary jumps out at them during boarding.

It's time for the flight attendants to do their preflight checks at their assigned crew stations. For our almost 200-passenger flight, there are four flight attendants, two in the front of the plane and two in the back. Since Bingochea is assigned the FA01 position, he's responsible for checking the emergency equipment at his station in the back galley, in the bathroom, and in the overhead bins at the back of the plane.
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider
Bingochea also checks the door to ensure it has sufficient pressure should we need to evacuate. He says that, every once in a while, the FAA will take something out of the airplane to see if flight attendants are checking everything thoroughly.
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider
Flight attendants are trained to know every position, Bingochea says. Once you've achieved a certain level of seniority, you can bid for certain trips and positions — although he chooses not to. He says changing positions all the time helps keeps him on his toes, and he doesn't have a preference for class, either. "People are people, whether they're in first class or economy," he says.
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider
While Bingochea performs his checks, his back-galley partner, Kristine, who is working the FA02 position, checks the galley to make sure food, drinks, and other items are on board and stowed properly.
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider
Bingochea and his coworkers have a great deal of information for and about passengers right at their fingertips. If passengers want to upgrade to economy plus during boarding, for example, Bingochea can easily accommodate the request using a proprietary app on his handheld device called Link. He can also use the Link app to check each passenger's reservation, including whether they have a connecting flight they need to make, as well as their flier status, and he also uses the app for food and drink sales.
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider
If something does go wrong, Bingochea says flight attendants are empowered with resolution options, from offering a free drink or meal to updating fliers and giving them more points. "We can't fix everything, but at least we can try to give it a chance and try to make things acceptable," he says.
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider
Once the doors close, Bingochea and his fellow flight attendants are finally on the clock. In a series of calls, the head flight attendant lets the rest of the cabin crew and the first officer know that the cabin is ready, the doors are armed, the plane is ready to push back from the gate, and approximately how long the taxi will be.
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider
When a passenger gets up to use the bathroom, Bingochea alerts the flight deck.

"Once the aircraft starts moving, there's always the fear of someone falling down, and we're in that position of liability if we don't let the captain know," he says.

Once the passenger exits the bathroom, Bingochea gives the flight deck the all clear to start moving.

"Communication is everything here," Bingochea says. "It has to be paramount, because, as Mr. Munoz said years ago, a series of small mistakes is the beginning of a big mistake."

At this point, it's time for a quick pick-me-up. And, yes, Bingochea drinks the airplane coffee.
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider
After a safety briefing and a final check to see if seat belts are fastened and personal items are stowed properly, the plane is ready for take off. The captain alerts flight attendants to be seated for departure.
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider
During take off, he says his mind goes to a different place.

"You go through the different situations that can happen in your head," he says.

According to Bingochea, protocol for different emergency situations are embedded in flight attendants from day one of training so that, in an emergency, they don't have to think about it. "It's just there," he says.

Somehow, Bingochea and his colleagues glide up and down the aisles with ease. As I clumsily follow him around for the day, I find it almost impossible not bump into passengers, and I bang my knee hard on an armrest at least once.
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider
As the plane levels off, Bingochea and Kristine prepare the beverage cart, shuffling around each other and the bar cart in the tiny box that is the galley. Since most passengers are sleeping, they anticipate a fairly easy service of coffee, juice, and water in no more than 20 minutes. On busier day-time flights, it can take an hour to get to all the passengers.
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider
As the plane reaches cruising altitude, Bingochea makes his way through the aisles with drinks, greeting every passenger like an old friend. "We don't know why our customers are going where they're going," he says. "They're traveling, they're on their way to a funeral, they're going for business, going to weddings. We have the whole world on our plane. You make a big difference when you interact with people. People will remember you, either by what you did or what you didn't do."
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider
While Bingochea and I are chatting, a passenger interjects, "You're one of the nicest flight attendants I've ever met." To Bingochea, moments like these are everything. "When I hear things like that, that tells me I have a value to this company," he says.
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider
At one point during service, Bingochea asks me how I'm feeling.

As someone who appreciates her sleep, I'm honest: "I feel exhausted," I say. "How do you feel?"

"I could go another 12 hours," he tells me.

Baffled, I ask him how this could be.

"You either want to be here or you don't," he responds. It's the people, he says, that keep him going.

It takes a certain kind of person to be energized by other people. They're what you would call extroverts. It may not be a required skill for the job, but it certainly helps in Bingochea's case.

"This job will test your skills with people. It's not for everybody," he says. Even he has bad days, he admits.

But, he says, "Coming here, you regroup and re-instill your faith in yourself and your fellow man."

And if you can't manage it? "Every time we lose somebody, there are 100 people waiting for this job," Bingochea says.

Once we're below 10,000 feet — which is indicated with a ding everyone aboard the plane can hear — we've entered final descent, and everything has to be buttoned up. Flight attendants make sure the galley is secure, instructing passengers to put their tray tables up, fasten their seatbelt, and return their seats to their upright positions.
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider
They also perform another safety check in preparation for landing.

"We always go through these silent drills in our mind so, should something happen, we're ready to take on this challenge," Bingochea says.

Final descent is also considered a "sterile period," meaning the flight deck is concentrating on landing the plane, and cabin crew are not to communicate with them during this time.

Once we land and all passengers are off the plane, is time to head to the next gate. This trip is what you would call a quick turn, meaning there's little time between arriving at the airport and heading back out to the skies.
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider
Bingochea's crewmates sprint ahead of us so they can get to Starbucks before our next flight. "If you've been through the airports enough times, you know where you have to be and how long it takes to get there," he says.
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider
During our march through the airport, Bingochea — in full uniform — gets quite a few looks from passengers and is instantly recognized by an old friend. "This, to me, is the best part of the industry, because you have so much exposure," he says.
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider
"Once you set foot in this airport, you belong to United," he says. Bingochea explains that you represent the company and the industry any time you put on the uniform, and that visibility comes with a lot of responsibility. "If planes break down, if weather happens, you're on duty, and you're here for the duration of your trip, whether it be a quick turn or three days or four days," he says. "You want to do your job, and do it the best you can."
Rachel Gillett/Business Insider

Tags: Flight AttendantUALcommutingairline workers
Categories: Labor News

New York & Atlantic Railway Railway Workers Sue, Citing Discrimination and Low Pay

Wed, 02/14/2018 - 15:24

New York & Atlantic Railway Railway Workers Sue, Citing Discrimination and Low Pay
Whenever federal or state rail inspectors showed up, they said, supervisors ordered those who had climbed the fence to hide, sometimes yelling that “federales” had arrived.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/14/nyregion/railway-workers-lawsuit-disc...
By COLIN MOYlNIHANFEB. 14, 2018
Photo

Edison Gutierrez is one of 18 men who filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against New York & Atlantic Railway, its parent company, Anacostia Rail Holdings Company, and three officials.CreditLaylah Amatullah Barrayn for The New York Times
For more than a year, Mario Pesantez said he was told to report to work by climbing over a tall, chain-link fence that separates the streets of Glendale, Queens, from a yard used by his employer, the New York & Atlantic Railway.

Once inside he joined a group of Mexican, Ecuadorean and Dominican men who said they routinely spent 12- to 14-hour shifts working on sections of the Long Island Rail Road that New York & Atlantic had leased to transport freight. The men said they righted derailed trains, maintained switches and cut thick railroad ties, earning much less than white co-workers while being denied safety equipment and training.

Whenever federal or state rail inspectors showed up, they said, supervisors ordered those who had climbed the fence to hide, sometimes yelling that “federales” had arrived.

“We felt embarrassed,” Mr. Pesantez said, speaking through a Spanish-language translator as he sat at a table with a dozen other former New York & Atlantic workers. “We felt ashamed, we felt humiliated.”

On Wednesday, 18 men who said they worked for New York & Atlanticbetween 2010 and 2016 filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court in Manhattan accusing the railway, its parent company, Anacostia Rail Holdings Company, and three officials of discriminating against and underpaying employees who they believed to be immigrants. In addition, the lawsuit said, the company obstructed a train crash investigation by keeping the men away from federal inspectors.

The suit seeks class-action certification and a declaration that the defendants violated New York City’s Human Rights Law, New York State labor laws and the Federal Employers Liability Act. It also asks for minimum wage and overtime pay, damages for physical injuries and pain and suffering, and a court order forbidding repetition of the alleged actions.

Michael D. Hall, a lawyer for New York & Atlantic, provided a statement from the railway denying the lawsuit’s “unsubstantiated, uncorroborated, and unsupported allegations” and maintaining the company has followed all federal, state and local regulations.

“These allegations are baseless and without merit,” the statement said, adding that while contractors and employees maintained rail lines and equipment “the individuals making these employment claims were never N.Y.A.R. employees, and as such, their claims are directed at the wrong party.”

Photo

Antonio Adame held what he said was a fabricated certification card provided by New York & Atlantic Railway, a freight transport company where he worked, asserting that he met the railroad’s regulations.CreditLaylah Amatullah Barrayn for The New York Times
Kristina Mazzocchi, a lawyer for the workers, rejected the argument that her clients were not employees. They worked full time and were paid weekly, in cash, she said. Their labor benefited New York & Atlantic, she said, and they were hired, fired, disciplined and directed by railway supervisors.

“They were treated as if they were disposable,” she added. “They were subjected to deplorable health and safety conditions.”

The suit raises questions about practices at New York & Atlantic, which has been criticized in the past by federal investigators and elected officials over its record of complying with regulations

The suit raises questions about practices at New York & Atlantic, which has been criticized in the past by federal investigators and elected officials over its record of complying with regulations.

The railway began operating in 1997 after the L.I.R.R. decided to privatize freight operations on its lines, which are part of the country’s busiest commuter railroad system. Today New York & Atlantic transports 30,000 carloads a year of construction material, food, waste and other items over about 270 miles of tracks that stretch from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, to Montauk, on the eastern tip of Long Island.

A 20-year contract that the railway, then known as the Southern Empire State Railroad Company, signed in 1996 called for payments totaling $12.7 million over 20 years to the L.I.R.R. plus fees tied to track usage and switch maintenance. The freight railway agreed to maintain the tracks it uses and said that all “employees, agents and contractors” would adhere to laws and regulations.

The agreement was to be renewed for 10 years at a cost of $15.7 million provided that New York & Atlantic was not in “material breach” of the contract and maintained a safety record equal to or better than the national industry average for the three years before a notice to renew.

L.I.R.R. officials said they received figures from the Association of American Railroads, a trade group, showing that New York & Atlantic’s safety record was better than average from 2011 to 2013, the three years before the railway sent a renewal notice. But the railway came under scrutiny in 2015 after a train went through three crossings before the gates that block vehicles had been lowered, then plowed into a tractor-trailer in Queens, sparking a fire and causing minor injuries.

Federal investigators later issued a report concluding that New York & Atlantic had allowed engineers to operate locomotives without proper documentation that they were qualified under federal regulations. During the inquiry, the railway failed to produce requested records that regulations say should be “readily provided,” according to the report by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Photo

Franklin Lopez, a railway worker, said he was ordered to squeeze beneath derailed cars in an effort to place them back onto the track.

CreditLaylah Amatullah Barrayn for The New York Times
By the time the report was issued, New York & Atlantic’s contract had been renewed. In 2016, Thomas F. Prendergast, then the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees the L.I.R.R., said the contract could be reconsidered in light of the federal findings, according to Newsday, but it has remained in effect. Still, L.I.R.R. officials said they have insisted that New York & Atlantic implement a review of its safety practices and compliance with regulations.

A spokesman for the L.I.R.R. declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The workers’ lawsuit claims New York & Atlantic had a two-tiered system of full-time employees: nonimmigrants and others whom the lawsuit described as being “of indigenous or Afro Dominican ethnicity” and “perceived immigrants.”

The second group, the lawsuit said, was hired from Home Depot parking lots and told to enter the rail yard by scaling a fence instead of through a gate. Those workers, the suit added, were given a segregated and substandard changing area, subjected to racial slurs and denied protective equipment and training while working for unlawfully low pay in dangerous conditions.

Workers said that they installed and repaired rails, used chain saws to remove trees felled by storms and sprayed herbicides and pesticides. Several workers said they were not instructed how to properly use tools. Some said they watched YouTube videos to learn how to perform certain tasks.

Workers were sometimes hurt, suffering a traumatic brain injury, impaired vision and rashes, the lawsuit said. The suit also accused New York & Atlantic of failing to report on-the-job injuries to the Federal Railroad Administration as required.

The workers said that they were paid $120 for shifts that sometimes lasted 24 hours or longer. On multiple occasions, the lawsuit said, workers were forced to hide from federal inspectors among trees, in trucks or in a locked trailer as supervisors shouted “the federales are here, run!”

Two workers, Antonio Adame and Edison Gutierrez, said that though they received no meaningful instruction, New York & Atlantic supervisors issued them credentials stating that they were “qualified.”

Mr. Adame said that he witnessed one co-worker slice into his own leg with a chain saw and another lose fingers while using a piece of equipment to pull a misplaced railroad spike. Two workers, Armando Gutierrez and Franklin Lopez, said that supervisors ordered them to squeeze beneath derailed cars as part of an effort to place them back onto the rails.

“We had to crawl under the train,” Mr. Gutierrez said. “I was afraid it would crush me.”

Tags: Railroad workersdiscriminationhealth and safety
Categories: Labor News

Trump administration wants to sell National and Dulles airports, other assets around U.S. in privatization

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 11:00

Trump administration wants to sell National and Dulles airports, other assets around U.S. in privatization drivehttps://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/trump-administr...

People gather in Gravelly Point Park as an aircraft prepares to land at Reagan Washington National Airport. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
By Michael Laris February 12 at 12:42 PM Email the author
The Trump administration is making a push to sell off federal assets as part of its infrastructure plan released Monday.

Among the targets: Reagan National and Dulles International airports and two major parkways serving the Washington region, as well as power assets around the country, according to a copy of the proposal.

Power transmission assets from the Tennessee Valley Authority; the Southwestern Power Administration, which sells power in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas; the Western Area Power Administration; and the Bonneville Power Administration, covering the Pacific northwest, were cited for potential divestiture. The Washington Aqueduct, which supplies drinking water in D.C. and Northern Virginia, also is on the list.

“The Federal Government owns and operates certain infrastructure that would be more appropriately owned by State, local, or private entities,” the Trump plan says. It calls for giving federal agencies “authority to divest of Federal assets where the agencies can demonstrate an increase in value from the sale would optimize the taxpayer value.”

The Washington region’s George Washington Memorial Parkway and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, both run by the National Park Service, are listed as “examples of assets for potential divestiture.” It was not immediately clear what public or private entity might buy those roads, whether they might be tolled, or other details. Same with the two airports in Virginia, which are leased from the federal government.

The Trump proposal is consistent with an overall $200 billion infrastructure initiative, a year in the making, that is focused on speeding up permitting by reducing environmental regulations, and trying to prompt state and local governments and private industry to spend more on projects without making major new federal investments.

[Trump advisers call for privatizing some public assets to build new infrastructure]

Some state officials said they were uncertain about how their residents would benefit from such a proposal. Federal assets come with crucial federal dollars that could not easily be replaced, officials said.

“All I can see now is a federal obligation that they're trying to push off. Where would we get the money from without a revenue source?” asked Virginia Finance Secretary Aubrey Layne.

Layne, an accountant and former transportation secretary, said numerous unanswered questions make it impossible to gauge the administration’s proposal at this point.

“I don’t even know what’s being sold — I don’t mean just physical, I mean obligations,” Layne said. “What level of funding? Is the federal government just going to wash their hands of it?”

Administration officials said Saturday that the $200 billion in planned federal spending on its infrastructure plan is meant to spur some $1.5 trillion in activity overall. Some critics on Capitol Hill have dismissed the administration’s math and the thrust of its approach, and pointed to cuts in infrastructure spending long proposed by the administration, which also released its budget request Monday.

Efforts to privatize federal assets were discussed early in the administration by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, National Economic Council director Gary Cohn and other advisers as a preferred way to come up with capital for much needed improvements. But it was also lambasted as irresponsible by opponents.

A high-profile Trump effort to move the nation’s air traffic control system out of government hands was blocked in Congress.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Tags: privatizationairportsunion bustingNational AirportDulles Airport
Categories: Labor News

‘A Taxi Driver’ Honors a Humble Hero in South Korea

Sun, 02/11/2018 - 21:50

‘A Taxi Driver’ Honors a Humble Hero in South Korea
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/10/movies/a-taxi-driver-review.html
A TAXI DRIVER Directed by Hun Jang Action, Drama, History 2h 17m
By ANDY WEBSTERAUG. 10, 2017
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbUwOP9HZQk

From left, Thomas Kretschmann and Song Kang-ho in “A Taxi Driver,” based on a true story of heroism in South Korea in 1980. CreditCho Won Jin/Well Go USA
With (“The Front Line”) takes historical events in South Korea — the imposition of martial law in 1980 by the dictator Chun Doo-hwan — to construct an affecting what-if tale. The plot has a factual basis: the relationship between a German TV journalist, Jürgen Hinzpeter, and the cabdriver who drove him from Seoul to the locked-down city of Gwangju, at the time a hotbed of pro-democracy student rebellion and violent repression. While the real-life name of the cabby and his ultimate fate are unclear (his name may have been Kim Sa-bok), the film calls him Kim Man-seob and gives him a poignant back story and destiny.

A preview of the film. By WELL GO USA on Publish DateAugust 10, 2017. Image courtesy of Internet Video Archive.Watch in Times Video »
Embed
ShareTweet
Kim (Song Kang-ho) is a garrulous if gruff widowed father to an 11-year-old girl, impatient with traffic jams resulting from protests in Seoul. If it weren’t for the back rent he owes, he wouldn’t need to take Hinzpeter (Thomas Kretschmann) to the besieged Gwangju. But when he does, they witness a huge street demonstration that is met with tear gas and military brutality. The soft-spoken Hinzpeter is determined to smuggle footage of the dictatorship’s abuses to a German news organization, while the heretofore neutral Kim comes to realize the urgency of Hinzpeter’s mission.

The film climaxes with a breathless escape from Gwangju, as Kim and Hinzpeter elude government vehicles with the aid of other cabdrivers. But most impressive is Mr. Song, who persuasively conveys a working stiff’s political awakening.

A Taxi Driver
Director Hun JangStars Kang-ho Song, Thomas Kretschmann, Hae-jin Yoo, Jun-yeol Ryu, Hyuk-kwon ParkRunning Time 2h 17mGenres Action, Drama, History
Movie data powered by IMDb.com
Last updated: Nov 2, 2017
Not rated. In Korean, with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 17 minutes.

Film Review: ‘A Taxi Driver’
An entertaining journey into a tragic and violent chapter of Korean modern history.
http://variety.com/2017/film/reviews/a-taxi-driver-review-taeksi-woonjun...
By Maggie Lee @maggiesama
Maggie Lee
Chief Asia Film Critic

Director: Jang HoonWith: Song Kang-ho, Thomas Kretschmann, Ryoo Yun-ryul, Oh Dal-su. (Korean, English, German dialogue)
Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6878038/
Revisiting the 1980 Gwangju Massacre, a landmark historical event in South Korea’s march towards democracy, director Jang Hoon brings a sappy, feel-good touch to a tragic subject by focusing on the bond between a German reporter (Thomas Kretschmann) and the taxi driver(Song Kang-ho) who helped him get the news out to the world.

Jang, who’s established himself as a hit-maker with features like “Secret Reunion” (also starring Song) and “The Front Line,” again worked B.O. miracles, earning the third highest domestic opening score of all time with “A Taxi Driver.” While the film clearly taps into the national zeitgeist, buoyed by a sweeping show of people’s power that ousted the president, international audiences should also appreciate the actors’ feisty turns. (It opened in the U.S. on Aug. 11.)“A Taxi Driver” is the first major production to tackle the Gwangju Uprising head-on since the 2007 blockbuster “May 18.” Having less pretensions to epic grandeur than that film, it instead gains credibility from being based on a true story, and closing footage of the German reporter returning to the democratized country in 2003 certainly adds historical heft.

The script by Uhm Yoo-na and Jo Seul-ye has drastically simplified the political context that triggered the uprising, but this in turn helps foreign viewers grasp the plot more easily than denser, more intellectual probings of the subject in such films as Im Sang-soo’s “The Old Garden” or Lee Chang-dong’s “Peppermint Candy.” Opening titles explain how the 1979 assassination of dictator Park Chung-hee sparked hopes of democracy among the younger generation, though the power vacuum was soon filled by Gen. Chun Doo-hwan, who declared martial law in a 1980 coup. In Gwangju, protest quickly spilled out of universities and engulfed the southwestern city.

Despite the government’s attempts at keeping foreign press in the dark, Juergen Hinspeter (Kretschmann), correspondent for a German broadcast channel, gets wind of the unrest brewing in South Korea. From his base in Tokyo, he flies to Seoul where his contact helps him book a taxi to drive him south to the beleaguered city. When the protagonist (Song) whose real name is never revealed in the film, overhears that a foreigner is forking out about $900 for the fare, the cash-strapped single father cunningly steals the job from the intended driver.

They arrive on May 19, a day after the uprising broke out, to find the city completely sealed off by the army, although the two still manage to bluff their way pass blockades. Initially, they come across a group of students whose youthful innocence is expressed by the way they sing and dance like revelers at a Woodstock concert, but eventually wind up at a hospital where the casualties provide raw evidence of the bloody crackdown.

The protagonist becomes embroiled in a squabble with local taxi drivers, who scoff at his mercenary attitude. Jang makes good-humored fun of biases between Seoul citizens and natives of the Jeolla district, where the film takes place, but later demonstrates how humanist values transcend regional differences. Although the driver initially displays cowardice in the face of conflict, his personal struggle is rendered agonizing enough by Song to give full force to a climactic U-turn.

Apart from re-creating one incident in which paratroopers tried to wipe out a whole crowd in front of a broadcast station, the film eschews the kind of bombastic, effects-heavy setpieces that characterized “May 18.” Instead, it depicts the regime’s brutal repression implicitly through its blatant attack on press freedom and shameless distortion of the truth. This in turn accentuates Hinzpeter’s role in raising international awareness for their crimes.

According to historical records, on May 20, hundreds of taxis mobilized themselves in a parade to support marching citizens and rescue the injured. Hailed as “drivers of democracy,” many lost their lives. Since only a few taxis are deployed in any given scene, the film hasn’t re-created an adequate sense of the scope of their heroism. However, the power of solidarity is conveyed in a late car-chase sequence that’s choreographed to rousing effect. (The film looks polished overall, its mood buoyed by a playful, jazzy score.)

Although the film’s portrayal of its main characters has recognizable precedents, the two lead actors calibrate their mutual respect and co-dependency to engaging effect, as the escalating violence and peril heighten their sense of personal mission. Echoing the role of American correspondent Sydney Schanberg in “The Killing Fields,” Hinzpeter arrives in Korea as an opportunistic newshound rather than a champion of justice. Kretschmann plays him initially with an unlikable cold efficiency, treating his driver and other Koreans as mere tools or fodder for his article. Impressively, there are no overnight changes in his persona. Rather, the actor maintains a certain stiff composure even as his passion and affection for the democracy fighters visibly grows. The final parting is genuinely touching as the two men now relate to each other as equals.

Audiences familiar with Korean cinema will instantly recognize a resemblance between the character of the taxi driver and Song’s role in “The Attorney,” in which he transforms from a mercenary tax solicitor to an altruistic human-rights lawyer. And yet Song makes a subtle distinction between the two characters, as his comic charm betrays the tough-talking character’s soft heart, as when he keeps letting passengers in need short-change him.

Film Review: 'A Taxi Driver'

Reviewed at Korean Film Council screening room, Aug. 4, 2017. Running time: 137 MIN. (Original title: "Taeksi Woonjeonsa”)

PRODUCTION: (S. Korea) A Showbox Mediaplex (in South Korea), Well Go USA (in U.S.) release of The Lamp production in association with Ace Investment & Finance, Leo Partners Investment, Signature Film, Interpark, Huayi Investment, Huayi Brothers Korea, Korea Broadcast Advertising Corp. (International sales: Showbox) Producer: Park Un-kyoung. Executive producer: You Jeong-hun. Co-executive producers: Hwang Young-won, Kim Song-soo, Han Suk-woo, Park Jin-young, Oh Seung-wook, Ji Seung-bum, Kwak Sung-moon. Co-producer: Choi Ki-sua.

CREW: Director: Jang Hoon. Screenplay: Ho Kei-ping. Camera (color, widescreen): Ko Nak-sun. Editors: Kim Sang-bum, Kim Jae-bum. Music: Cho Young-wook.

WITH: Song Kang-ho, Thomas Kretschmann, Ryoo Yun-ryul, Oh Dal-su. (Korean, English, German dialogue)

FEATURED POSTINTERVIEW
INTERVIEW: DIRECTOR JANG HOON ON THE MAKING OF ‘A TAXI DRIVER’
http://www.awardscircuit.com/2017/11/18/interview-director-jang-hoon-mak...
By Shane Slater - Nov 18, 2017

Released earlier this year to strong box office both at home and abroad, “A Taxi Driver” shines a spotlight on South Korean history with poignant and entertaining results. Now, director Jang Hoon hopes to make some history of his own. The film is now an official submission for the Foreign Language Oscar, an award for which South Korea has never been nominated. And for Jang Hoon, it will be his second chance at bat. As we await this year’s nominations, I caught up with the promising filmmaker for a chat about the making of the film and his Oscar hopes. Below is an edited version of our conversation.

Shane Slater: How did you come across this taxi driver’s story?

Jang Hoon: The production company saw the awards speech of the German journalist Mr. Hinzpeter in 2003. They got the idea from watching that speech. It took a while and the first draft of the screenplay was completed in 2015. Then they sent the draft to me and I read the script and decided to join the team.

SS: How did you choose the right actor for this role?

JH: Song Kang-ho was the first person that occurred to me when I read the script. I couldn’t think of anyone else.

SS: There seems that there was a great atmosphere of denial surrounding the events depicted. What is the public’s perception of it today?

JH: Those who actually had to live through this tragedy of the Gwangju Uprising, they knew about it of course. And their contemporaries learned about it through many testimonies, including the reporter and his documentary. Of course, there are younger generations who didn’t know about it and I guess the film helped these younger generations to understand what really happened in Gwangju.

SS: The Gwangju Uprising happened when you were very young. Did your understanding of the events change during the process of making the film?

JH: Yes, I was young at the time. The first time I heard about the Gwangju Uprising was when I was in college. I knew a little bit, not too much. So while preparing for the film I had to do a lot of research and I got to know the details really well.

SS: You’ve made a number of genre films before and some of those elements are included here. Were those action scenes like the car chase based on real life?

JH: The car chase didn’t happen, but it was a known fact that taxi drivers in Gwangju helped out the citizens a lot and made a lot of sacrifices themselves. It’s a symbolic expression of their sacrifice and their help. To be honest with you, that scene was really hard. I felt a lot of pressure. It’s the most cinematic scene.

SS: Do you find it easier to direct true stories, or do you prefer fictional ones?

JH: That’s a difficult question. Both have easy and difficult parts. I understand that when you create something based on a piece of history, I don’t have complete liberty. Certain facts must be there. So what’s hard about making a film based on a true story, is that I have to keep those facts in mind but I also have to create a movie that will appeal to audiences effectively. So while I was working on “A Taxi Driver” I deeply felt that my next project should be completely fiction.

SS: This is such an important part of South Korean history and the film is also representing the country at the Oscars. Is there added pressure?

JH: Yes, I feel added pressure. If I was chosen as an Oscar contender with a completely fictional story, I would feel less pressure. But this is based on a true story, so yes, there is extra pressure.

SS: South Korea has never been nominated before. Is there excitement from the public for this film to finally make it?

JH: I was in the race with my previous movie “The Front Line” in 2011. This is my second time as a contender and yes, I feel the expectations are higher this time. But of course, I’m telling you from my own experience.
ogle.com/d/optout.

Tags: Korean martial lawGwangjusolidarityrepression
Categories: Labor News

Ship Queue Grows as Truck Strike Slows Argentina Grain Exports

Sat, 02/10/2018 - 23:09

Ship Queue Grows as Truck Strike Slows Argentina Grain Exports
http://gcaptain.com/ship-queue-grows-truck-strike-slows-argentina-grain-...
February 9, 2018 by Reuters

argentine grain exports
Ships used to carry grains for export are seen next to a dredging boat (L) on the Parana river near Rosario, Argentina, January 31, 2017. File photo. Picture taken January 31, 2017. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci
BUENOS AIRES, Feb 9 (Reuters) – Some 93 cargo ships were waiting to load soy and corn from Argentina’s main exporting hub of Rosario on Friday, more than a week into a truck owners strike, the spokesman for an industry group said.

That was up from just over 60 on Thursday, said Andres Alcarez, spokesman for export company chamber CIARA-CEC.

Truck owners went on strike last week in a bid to force the adoption of mandatory minimum grains hauling rates. The work stoppage also slowed the unloading of beans at soyoil and meal manufacturing sites.

Argentina is the world’s top exporter of soybeans and soymeal and the No. 3 exporter of both corn and soymeal. Some 80 percent of Argentina’s agricultural exports depart from Rosario. (Reporting by Maximilian Heath, writing by Caroline Stauffer Editing by Marguerita Choy)

Tags: Argentina truckerssolidarity
Categories: Labor News

Ship Queue Grows as Truck Strike Slows Argentina Grain Exports

Sat, 02/10/2018 - 23:09

Ship Queue Grows as Truck Strike Slows Argentina Grain Exports
http://gcaptain.com/ship-queue-grows-truck-strike-slows-argentina-grain-...
February 9, 2018 by Reuters

argentine grain exports
Ships used to carry grains for export are seen next to a dredging boat (L) on the Parana river near Rosario, Argentina, January 31, 2017. File photo. Picture taken January 31, 2017. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci
BUENOS AIRES, Feb 9 (Reuters) – Some 93 cargo ships were waiting to load soy and corn from Argentina’s main exporting hub of Rosario on Friday, more than a week into a truck owners strike, the spokesman for an industry group said.

That was up from just over 60 on Thursday, said Andres Alcarez, spokesman for export company chamber CIARA-CEC.

Truck owners went on strike last week in a bid to force the adoption of mandatory minimum grains hauling rates. The work stoppage also slowed the unloading of beans at soyoil and meal manufacturing sites.

Argentina is the world’s top exporter of soybeans and soymeal and the No. 3 exporter of both corn and soymeal. Some 80 percent of Argentina’s agricultural exports depart from Rosario. (Reporting by Maximilian Heath, writing by Caroline Stauffer Editing by Marguerita Choy)

Tags: Argentina truckerssolidarity
Categories: Labor News

New SF TWU 250A Muni union president to take office after dispute

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 09:52

New SF TWU 250A Muni union president to take office after dispute

http://www.sfexaminer.com/new-muni-union-president-take-office-dispute/

Newly appointed Muni Union President Roger Marenco poses for a portrait in front of a Muni bus in San Francisco’s Mission District on Wednesday, Feb. 7th, 2018. (Mira Laing/Special to S.F. Examiner)
By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez on February 7, 2018 8:10 pm

Muni service, the backbone of San Francisco’s transit infrastructure, lives or dies by its operators. Now those operators have a new union president, known for his dogged organizing and fiery rhetoric: Roger Marenco.

Yet his rise in Muni’s union ranks has been accompanied by strife.

At union meetings, the 35-year-old Muni operator and Mission District local often wears his brown Muni jacket around his shoulders like a cape. His last assignment was to operate trains on the F-Market & Wharves historic streetcar line.

Marenco won the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A election in a landslide victory of 725 Muni operator votes. The next runner up, DeJohn Williams, received 231 votes. Some operators credit Marenco’s win to his text message group, which includes 1,200 Muni operators, as well as to his YouTube show exclusively targeted at educating Muni operators called “The Transit Talk.”

The election took place in mid-December, but was contested by union election officials. The dispute, which involved allegations of Marenco “interfering” with the election, was only resolved in recent weeks, according to an explanation in Marenco’s show, The Transit Talk.

“These charges are based on inaccurate statements, incorrect information, rumors, etcetera,” Marenco said, in his video. “Don’t believe the rumors.”

Though his opponents sought to invalidate the election, in the end Marenco was only delayed in assuming the presidency, which will begin in April.

TWU Local 250-A executive vice president Pete Wilson said it was against the union constitution to discuss member disputes.

The terms of the appeal and resolution with the union mean Marenco cannot talk directly about his union presidency yet. Generally, however, he told the San Francisco Examiner he sees much opportunity for Muni service to improve.

“There’s a tremendous lack of morale among operators,” he said, “Many politicians think ‘I’m going to fix Muni.’ You know what operators really want and need?”

“Dignity,” he said.

Operators also are seeking better restroom facilities, time to move between yards for runs, more publicity around assaults on operators and a shorter wage progression for new operators to obtain full pay, Marenco said.

The freshman union president will have a year to prepare to negotiate the next contract between 2,000-plus Muni operators and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

Irwin Lum, a past Muni union president, said he was concerned Marenco may not yet have enough experience to negotiate a contract with The City.

“I think he needs to get a handle on it and pull ideas from the membership,” Lum said.

The last major contract negotiation, in 2014, was led by past president, Eric Williams, and resulted in the “sickout” that saw hundreds of Muni operators simultaneously calling in sick, crippling The City’s transit.

When asked if he thought San Francisco would experience another “sickout,” Marenco said “ I hope not,” and said better treatment of operators would make for smooth negotiations.

Born and partially raised in El Salvador, Marenco said his family brought him to San Francisco when he was seven years old. He attended Mission High School.

Tags: TWU 250ARoger Marenco
Categories: Labor News

New SF TWU 250A Muni union president to take office after dispute

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 09:52

http://www.sfexaminer.com/new-muni-union-president-take-office-dispute/

Newly appointed Muni Union President Roger Marenco poses for a portrait in front of a Muni bus in San Francisco’s Mission District on Wednesday, Feb. 7th, 2018. (Mira Laing/Special to S.F. Examiner)
By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez on February 7, 2018 8:10 pm

Muni service, the backbone of San Francisco’s transit infrastructure, lives or dies by its operators. Now those operators have a new union president, known for his dogged organizing and fiery rhetoric: Roger Marenco.

Yet his rise in Muni’s union ranks has been accompanied by strife.

At union meetings, the 35-year-old Muni operator and Mission District local often wears his brown Muni jacket around his shoulders like a cape. His last assignment was to operate trains on the F-Market & Wharves historic streetcar line.

Marenco won the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A election in a landslide victory of 725 Muni operator votes. The next runner up, DeJohn Williams, received 231 votes. Some operators credit Marenco’s win to his text message group, which includes 1,200 Muni operators, as well as to his YouTube show exclusively targeted at educating Muni operators called “The Transit Talk.”

The election took place in mid-December, but was contested by union election officials. The dispute, which involved allegations of Marenco “interfering” with the election, was only resolved in recent weeks, according to an explanation in Marenco’s show, The Transit Talk.

“These charges are based on inaccurate statements, incorrect information, rumors, etcetera,” Marenco said, in his video. “Don’t believe the rumors.”

Though his opponents sought to invalidate the election, in the end Marenco was only delayed in assuming the presidency, which will begin in April.

TWU Local 250-A executive vice president Pete Wilson said it was against the union constitution to discuss member disputes.

The terms of the appeal and resolution with the union mean Marenco cannot talk directly about his union presidency yet. Generally, however, he told the San Francisco Examiner he sees much opportunity for Muni service to improve.

“There’s a tremendous lack of morale among operators,” he said, “Many politicians think ‘I’m going to fix Muni.’ You know what operators really want and need?”

“Dignity,” he said.

Operators also are seeking better restroom facilities, time to move between yards for runs, more publicity around assaults on operators and a shorter wage progression for new operators to obtain full pay, Marenco said.

The freshman union president will have a year to prepare to negotiate the next contract between 2,000-plus Muni operators and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

Irwin Lum, a past Muni union president, said he was concerned Marenco may not yet have enough experience to negotiate a contract with The City.

“I think he needs to get a handle on it and pull ideas from the membership,” Lum said.

The last major contract negotiation, in 2014, was led by past president, Eric Williams, and resulted in the “sickout” that saw hundreds of Muni operators simultaneously calling in sick, crippling The City’s transit.

When asked if he thought San Francisco would experience another “sickout,” Marenco said “ I hope not,” and said better treatment of operators would make for smooth negotiations.

Born and partially raised in El Salvador, Marenco said his family brought him to San Francisco when he was seven years old. He attended Mission High School.

Tags: TWU 250ARoger Marenco
Categories: Labor News

A NYC Driver’s Suicide Reveals the Dark Side of the Gig Economy

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 11:44

A NYC Driver’s Suicide Reveals the Dark Side of the Gig Economy
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/06/nyregion/livery-driver-taxi-uber.html

Big City
By GINIA BELLAFANTE FEB. 6, 2018
Continue reading the main storyShare This Page
Photo

Doug Schifter, a New York livery driver, said he killed himself to illuminate how ride hailing services have devastated taxi workers financially.Creditvia Black Car News
Last spring, Bhairavi Desai, a middle-aged woman without a driver’s license and thus an unlikely leader for thousands of mostly male drivers in the world’s largest market for hired vehicles, delivered emotional testimony in front of New York City’s Taxi & Limousine Commission about the mounting existential difficulties in her field.

The executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, Ms. Desai had been a labor activist for 21 years but she had never seen anything like the despair she was witnessing now — the bankruptcies, foreclosures and eviction notices plaguing drivers who were calling her with questions about how to navigate homelessness and paralyzing depression.

“Half my heart is just crushed,’’ she said, “and the other half is on fire.”

The economic hardship that Uber and its competitors had inflicted on conventional drivers in New York and London and other cities had become overwhelming. For decades there had been no more than approximately 12,000 to 13,000 taxis in New York but now there were myriad new ways to avoid public transportation, in some cases with ride-hailing services like Via that charged little more than $5 to travel in Manhattan. In 2013, there were 47,000 for-hire vehicles in the city. Now there were more than 100,000, approximately two-thirds of them affiliated with Uber.

While Uber has sold that “disruption” as positive for riders, for many taxi workers, it has been devastating. Between 2013 and 2016, the gross

Tags: taxi workerssuicideUber
Categories: Labor News

The UK RMT On Privatization Of Rail, The Attacks On Workers & The Fightback In The UK with Mark Carden RMT Ass. Gen. Secretary

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 02:48

The UK RMT On Privatization Of Rail, The Attacks On Workers & The Fightback In The UK with Mark Carden RMT Ass. Gen. Secretary
https://youtu.be/TXQEZNyoAsk
Mark Carden, the Assistant General Secretary of the British Rail, Maritime and Transport Union RMT discusses the result of privatization in rail and the attacks on workers in transportation including the health and safety dangers of privatization. He also discusses the growing attacks on working people including the National Health Service and the growing anger in the working class in the UK. This interview was done on February 5, 2018 at the offices of the RMT in London.
Additional media:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZOY7s131js
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-jh0WNiXy8
For more information on the RMT
www.rmt.org.uk/home/
Production of the Labor Video Project
www.laborvideo.org

Tags: RMTRail Privatizationcapitalismoutsourcinghealth and safety
Categories: Labor News

NTSB: Amtrak engineer sounded horn, applied emergency brake in S.C. crash

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 02:46

NTSB: Amtrak engineer sounded horn, applied emergency brake in S.C. crash

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/ntsb-amtrak-eng...

FILE PHOTO: Emergency responders are at the scene after an Amtrak passenger train collided with a freight train and derailed in Cayce, South Carolina, U.S., February 4, 2018. REUTERS/Randall Hill/File Photo (Randall Hill/Reuters)
By Lori Aratani and Ashley Halsey III February 5 at 7:30 PM Email the author
The engineer of an Amtrak train sounded his horn for three seconds and eventually hit the emergency brake, slowing the train to 50 mph before it slammed head-on into a freight train near Columbia, S.C., federal investigators said Monday.

The impact of the crash early Sunday was so intense that it moved the empty CSX freight train 15 feet from where it was parked on tracks adjacent to the main rail line, according to Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash. The Amtrak train’s conductor and engineer were killed, and 116 others were hospitalized.

Sunday’s crash in Cayce, S.C., about four miles south of Columbia, was the third high-profile incident involving an Amtrak train in less than two months. Last Wednesday, an Amtrak train carrying GOP lawmakers to their annual retreat in West Virginia hit a garbage truck outside Crozet, Va. No lawmakers were seriously injured, but a passenger in the truck was killed.

The crashes have renewed concern about whether enough is being done to equip railroads with an automatic braking system known as positive train control, which Sumwalt and others say could have prevented Sunday’s fatal crash and one that occurred in December, just outside Seattle.

PTC originally was supposed to be in place by the end of 2015, but after a push by the rail industry, Congress postponed the deadline until the end of this year, with the possibility that it could be extended to the end of 2020.

Authorities investigate the scene of a fatal Amtrak train crash in Cayce, South Carolina, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018. At least two were killed and dozens injured. (Tim Dominick/The State via AP) (Tim Dominick/AP)
[NTSB investigators focus on why switch was set in the wrong position]

Last month, however, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao sent letters warning railroad industry leaders that they must meet the end-of-year deadline.

On Monday, members of the Association of American Railroads, which lobbies for the freight industry, said its members will meet the deadline.

“The railroads are very far along,” said Michael J. Rush, senior vice president of the Association of American Railroads. “All of the (seven major railroads) are going to make it by (December) 2018.”

What “making it” means will vary. The law passed by Congress puts a December deadline on hardware installation, acquisition of the mandated radio spectrum and training of employees in its use.

The law also requires that 50 percent of the system be switched on by December. If the railroads comply with that deadline they will then be required to complete the balance of the system by the end of 2020.

In the briefing with reporters on Monday, Sumwalt said the information about the Amtrak train’s speed and the engineer’s actions comes from the data recorder, which was retrieved from the wreckage. Investigators were hopeful that the front-facing video camera retrieved from the train’s locomotive Sunday would offer them more insight into what happened before the crash. However, it was discovered that the recording ended a few seconds before the crash. A forensics team in Washington is working on the footage, he said. The train hit a top speed of 57 mph before the engineer began to slow it; the speed limit in the corridor is 59.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt presents the ongoing investigation to the media during a press conference at SC Emergency Management Division in Cayce, South Carolina, on February 4, 2018. Two Amtrak employees were killed and more than 100 other people were injured early Sunday when a passenger train carrying 147 people hit a CSX freight train in South Carolina, authorities said. / AFP PHOTO / Logan CyrusLOGAN CYRUS/AFP/Getty Images (Logan Cyrus/AFP/Getty Images)
About seven seconds before the end of the recording, the train’s horn was activated for three seconds.

“A lot has been done, and a lot needs to be done,” Sumwalt said. “But I’m confident that our investigator will be able to piece this together.”

He said investigators are expected to remain in Cayce though the weekend.

Amtrak 91, traveling on tracks owned and maintained by freight railway giant CSX, was supposed to pass over the switch to continue onto the main-line tracks. Instead, it was directed onto a portion of track known as “siding,” which was occupied by the parked CSX train, Sumwalt said.

Sumwalt said officials have confirmed that a signal outage along the rail corridor meant that trains had to be manually directed through the area. He said the outage occurred because of upgrades tied to the installation of PTC. Investigators also are focusing on why a railroad switch was locked in the wrong position, sending the Amtrak train off the main line and onto the side track.

Sumwalt said NTSB investigators have also been able to interview four CSX crew members, including the engineer, conductor and the dispatcher who would have been responsible for directing the Amtrak train because of a signal outage along the rail line.

Sumwalt could not say whether the Amtrak engineer’s actions before the collision indicated that he knew the train had detoured off the main line and onto the side track.

[Chao: Rail industry must meet 2018 deadline for installing PTC]

Amtrak trains have PTC equipment, but the freight railroads on which Amtrak trains travel, including the one involved in Sunday’s crash, must install and activate transponders along their rail beds for the system to work.

According to Sumwalt, the Amtrak train was headed south on the main track, as directed by dispatchers with CSX. The empty freight train, which had unloaded its cargo of automobiles, was parked on a side track adjacent to the main line. When the Amtrak train moved past the area, it hit a switch that moved it to the side track where it crashed into the freight train.

Installing PTC is an expensive challenge for the railroads, requiring that hardware be added in 25,000 locomotives and sensors be placed along the railway beds. The payoff, safety advocates say, is that it will help prevent collisions and derailments.

Rush said Monday, that PTC has been implemented on 56 percent of required route miles. He added that 78 percent of locomotives have been equipped with the technology. PTC has also been installed on 72 percent of the track segments required by law.

In addition, 87 percent of railroad employees have been trained in the system.

When the industry appealed to Congress for relief from the looming deadline in 2015, it said it had already invested more than $6.5 billion, anticipated a total price tag of $10.6 billion and needed additional time to put the system in place.

The NTSB says it has investigated 146 rail incidents since 1969 that positive train control could have prevented. The toll in those incidents is 291 people killed and 6,574 injured.

But industry groups have disputed the contention that PTC would prevent most rail crashes.

PTC could prevent only about 4 percent of incidents, said the Association of American Railroads’ Rush. “There are lots and lots of other accidents that are not PTC preventable.”

Tags: Amtrak wreckhealth and safety
Categories: Labor News

UK DPD courier who was fined for day off to see doctor dies from diabetes

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 12:33

UK DPD courier who was fined for day off to see doctor dies from diabetes
“How can modern Britain allow workers who are dedicated to their job to be driven to an early grave by such appalling exploitation?” said Field. “DPD have been told time and again that their punitive regime is totally unjust, particularly as their workers are labelled ‘self-employed’. Such mistreatment of workers smacks of sweated labour from the Victorian era.”

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/feb/05/courier-who-was-fined-f...
Don Lane’s widow says he was afraid of getting fined if he did not ensure his round was covered
Robert Booth
Mon 5 Feb 2018 07.27 GMT

18k
Ruth Lane with Don
A courier for the parcel giant DPD who was fined for attending a medical appointment to treat his diabetes collapsed and died of the disease, it has emerged. Don Lane, 53, from Christchurch in Dorset, missed appointments with specialists because he felt under pressure to cover his round and faced DPD’s £150 daily penalties if he did not find cover, his widow has told the Guardian.

DPD delivers parcels for Marks & Spencer, Amazon and John Lewis but only pays couriers per parcel delivered. It treats them as self-employed franchisees and they receive no sick or holiday pay. The company’s system of charging drivers if they cannot cover their round has been described as appalling by the chairman of the House of Commons’ work and pensions committee, Frank Field.

Lane had collapsed twice, including once into a diabetic coma while at the wheel of his DPD van during deliveries, when the company fined him in July after he went to see a specialist about eye damage caused by diabetes. He collapsed again in September and finally in late December having worked through illness during the Christmas rush. He died at the Royal Bournemouth hospital on 4 January, leaving behind a widow, Ruth, and a 22-year-old son. He had worked for DPD for 19 years.

Ruth Lane
Ruth Lane, the widow of Don Lane, who was a courier with DPD at its Bournemouth depot. Photograph: Richard Crease/BNPS
Ruth Lane told the Guardian: “There was a constant threat of a fine. They had to deliver the parcels to tight slots and the pressure to get them done was huge. He was putting the company before his own health. He wasn’t able to do his parcels first and make the hospital appointments, so he would cancel on the day.

“He collapsed in January 2017 and they knew that because they collected his van. It was after that Don cancelled three appointments. DPD had a duty of care to make sure he got to those appointments, but they failed in it.” She added that in March her husband had told her: “I think I am going to die.”

Lane’s death comes as concern mounts at the human cost of the gig economy, which accounts for 1.1 million people, many working as couriers and minicab drivers. It is likely to increase pressure on the government to make meaningful reforms to employment law in a delayed announcement on modern working practices expected this week.

Q&A
What are your experiences of working in the gig economy?
Show
Advertisement

Trade unions last night said the government must crack down on bogus self-employment. The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “The insecure work free-for-all has to end … this will be a real test of Theresa May’s government. Does she even have a domestic agenda any more?”

DPD, one of the most successful firms operating in the gig economy, made over £100m profit after tax in 2016. Both it and Hermes, another parcel company relying on self-employed couriers, are facing employment tribunal claims from people who believe they should be treated as employed.

Field described Lane’s death as “a new low for the gig economy” and called on Theresa May to urgently introduce new legislation to protect “this small army of workers at the bottom of the pile … who are being badly exploited”.

<2083.jpg>
Guardian Today: the headlines, the analysis, the debate - sent direct to you
Read more
Lane disputed the £150 charge in July, insisting that he had told his bosses about the appointment months earlier. According to correspondence seen by the Guardian, he told his manager: “I have cancelled so many appointments because I couldn’t make the time to get there that the renal department have stopped treating me. I had to go.”

His DPD area manager replied: “I fail to understand why a full day off was required and as such do not see that the breach [the £150 fine] should be rescinded.”

During the appointment, doctors found Lane’s blood pressure and cholesterol were high, he had anaemia and rising levels of creatine in his kidneys, a warning sign of renal failure. In September 2017 he collapsed into another diabetic coma.

In the days before he died, he was feeling sick and vomiting blood, Ruth said, adding that he told her: “I really don’t want to work, but I have to.”. “They are like employees, not self-employed,” she said.

A colleague, who asked not to be named for fear that DPD would terminate his contract, said: “Don was falling apart, but they wouldn’t take it easy on him. They push drivers till they break. I definitely think they contributed to this. They knew Don was diabetic. They should have looked after him more.”

Q&A
DPD working practices: What do drivers get fined for?
Show
Advertisement

DPD said in a statement that it was “profoundly sorry” that it had charged Lane, but cited “confusion” at the time. “Don attended his appointment, but it isn’t clear why he was then charged, when the charge hadn’t been been applied at any other time,” it said. “We got it wrong on that occasion.”

Lane first collapsed on 27 December 2016 and Ruth texted his manager to say: “he knows he has to come into work tomorrow as he’ll get charged”. On that occasion, the manager responded that “he has no worries about being charged”.

“In relation to Don’s poor health at the end of December 2016 and into January 2017, we refute the claim that he was under pressure and threatened with a £150 charge,” DPD said. It said that it monitored Lane’s health during 2017 but did not know that he had suffered another diabetic coma in September. It said he had a quiet rural route with a relatively small number of deliveries, which suited him “as it was convenient for his hospital appointments”.

“In the runup to Christmas, it is normal in the industry for drivers to work additional days at the weekend and Don was working his normal route,” DPD said. “We weren’t made aware that Don was feeling sick and vomiting up some blood at this time. We were shocked and hugely saddened by Don’s death and our thoughts go out to his family and friends at this difficult time.”

DPD said its drivers “do not have to provide the service personally, and drivers have the option of providing a substitute driver in the event of sickness. Don was aware of the need to provide a substitute.” It said if a driver cannot find a substitute, it tries to reallocate the route among other drivers.

DPD uses around 5,000 self-employed couriers. They are under pressure to deliver parcels to restricted time slots, must wear a uniform, hire a DPD liveried van and not work for any other courier company. MPs and unions have argued that these strict conditions mean they are bogusly self-employed and should be treated as employed workers. Courier companies using self-employed drivers, including ParcelForce and UK Mail, have also sparked anger by levying fines if rounds are not covered.

DPD said that it charged fines in 4.6% of the cases where couriers did not provide a service, but declined to say how much it raised because this information was “operationally sensitive”.

“How can modern Britain allow workers who are dedicated to their job to be driven to an early grave by such appalling exploitation?” said Field. “DPD have been told time and again that their punitive regime is totally unjust, particularly as their workers are labelled ‘self-employed’. Such mistreatment of workers smacks of sweated labour from the Victorian era.”

Tags: killing workersstress on the jobhealthcarecourier
Categories: Labor News

Chicago ATU Contract Discussion 2018 going on a contract/strike campaign to force the Chicago Transit Authority to accept a better contract.

Sun, 02/04/2018 - 21:15

Chicago ATU Contract Discussion 2018
going on a contract/strike campaign to force the Chicago Transit Authority to accept a better contract.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Phk34Cs9HrU&feature=youtu.be
\
Erek Slater
Uploaded on Feb 4, 2018
This video is a discussion of the Feb. 8th 2018 ratification vote for Amalgamated Transit Unions 241 and 308 in Chicago. Erek Slater, an executive board member for ATU Local 241, outlines a third option for coworkers: going on a contract/strike campaign to force the Chicago Transit Authority to accept a better contract. The views expressed in this video do not reflect the official positions of ATU or CTA. This video is for ATU members to view only.

Please send factual corrections, questions and ideas to trasitworkersunite@gmail.com or eslater@atu241chicago.org

Tags: ATU 241ATU 308contract campaignright to strike
Categories: Labor News

Seattle School union busting bus contractor First Student is no stranger to labor disputes

Sun, 02/04/2018 - 10:01

Seattle School union busting bus contractor First Student is no stranger to labor disputes
https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/education/seattles-contractor-...
Originally published February 4, 2018 at 6:00 am Updated February 3, 2018 at 5:03 pm
Striking bus drivers for Seattle Public School’s including Ed Dornbach, center (blue jacket) and Larry Smith, right, picket at the First Student bus facility on the corner of Lake City Way Northwest at Northeast 137th Street on Thursday. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)
Striking bus drivers for Seattle Public School’s including Ed Dornbach, center (blue jacket) and Larry Smith, right, picket at the First Student bus facility on the corner of Lake City Way Northwest at Northeast 137th Street on Thursday. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)
Seattle’s strike, which has left families of some 12,000 students scrambling to find ways to get their children to school, will likely surpass Montreal’s and continue into next week.

By Paige Cornwell
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seattle isn’t the first city to find its school district caught between its striking bus drivers and their employer, First Student. In the past month alone, drivers in Southern California and Montreal, Canada, have launched strikes against the giant bus company over contract disputes.

Both strikes ended Wednesday, one day before Seattle’s began.

Like Seattle Public Schools, several districts in those areas were left without bus service. The Southern California strike ended after two weeks, while the Montreal drivers staged a two-day strike.

Seattle’s strike, which has left families of some 12,000 students scrambling to find ways to get their children to school, likely will surpass Montreal’s and continue into next week. First Student and Teamsters Local 174, which represents the 400 bus drivers, appear far from an agreement. Both sides have said they want to return to the negotiating table, but no talks were scheduled through the weekend.

First Student is the largest school-bus contractor in North America, with more than 50,500 employees who drive 44,00 buses in more than 1,000 school districts. It’s a division of FirstGroup, a company based in England that has revenue of about $7 billion a year, according to the company.

The company is no stranger to labor disputes and other issues.

“It doesn’t surprise us at all that First Student would have all these problems,” Teamsters spokeswoman Jamie Fleming said. “Their business model is based on paying their employees as little as possible with no benefits.”

First Student has maintained that it provides competitive pay and health benefits for its drivers.

“During this difficult time, we are doing everything we can to provide as much service as possible to Seattle Public Schools families,” First Student said in a statement Friday. “We know how important our work is, so any driver who wants to continue to work can certainly do so. First Student remains available and willing to take a call from the union at any time.”

The union members in Southern California who drive buses for the Alhambra, Glendale and Pasadena school districts wanted better pay and health benefits, and had concerns about poor working conditions. Teamsters Local 572, which represents drivers in all three districts, rejected two offers from First Student and then decided to strike, according to the Pasadena Star-News. About 3,000 students in those districts take the bus.

A First Student spokesman told the Pasadena Star-News that the company offered to cover 60 percent of employees’ health care premiums.

In Seattle, the company currently gives full- and part-time drivers up to $1,900 in annual stipends to pay for health premiums. The company’s current offer would pay 80 percent of the premiums for full- and part-time employees as well as 80 percent for the dependents of full-time employees. The union has rejected the offer but hasn’t said publicly what it wants to get. The sides are also at odds over retirement benefits.

In Montreal, 330 school-bus drivers went on strike after negotiations stalled with Autobus Transco, which is owned by First Student. The drivers, represented by a Quebec union, wanted a pay increase and a three-year contract, while the company wanted a five-year contract.

The strike affected about 15,000 Montreal students.

Steilacoom, Pierce County, bus drivers went on strike against First Student in May 2017 to protest their hourly pay of $12.75, which they said wasn’t a livable wage. The drivers, represented by Teamsters Local 313, were only on strike for four hours before the two sides came to an agreement that workers would receive an average of $5 more per hour, the union said. Classes were delayed by two hours.

In addition to the strikes, other districts across the nation have decided to go with another bus provider over concerns about driver behavior, late arrivals and old equipment.

The Shawnee Mission School District in suburban Kansas City, Kansas, for example, changed bus companies last year after concerns about late arrivals. The district documented more than 600 cases in one school year where drivers were late or didn’t pick up students at all, The Kansas City Star reported.

Seattle school district officials have said they had no choice but to hire First Student because it was the only company to bid when its previous contract expired last year. The school district agreed to a three-year contract, worth $27 million a year, through 2020.

Paige Cornwell: 206-464-2530 or pcornwell@seattletimes.com; on Twitter @pgcornwell.

Tags: First Studentunion bustingoutsourcing
Categories: Labor News

Pages