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NYC TWU 100 Rookie conductor tries to mobilize his fellow transit union members to vote down MTA contract deal "The conductor started Progressive Action last year as an internet radio show, blog and bustling private Facebook group that's attracted nearly

Current News - Sat, 02/11/2017 - 18:27

NYC TWU 100 Rookie conductor tries to mobilize his fellow transit union members to vote down MTA contract deal "The conductor started Progressive Action last year as an internet radio show, blog and bustling private Facebook group that's attracted nearly 7,000 members."
Tramell Thompson, an MTA conductor and founder of Progressive Action, hands out flyers to campaign against the MTA union contract agreement on the platform at the Jay Street MetroTech station Thursday in Brooklyn.
Tramell Thompson, an MTA conductor and founder of Progressive Action, hands out flyers to campaign against the MTA union contract agreement on the platform at the Jay Street MetroTech station Thursday in Brooklyn. (BYRON SMITH FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)
Saturday, February 11, 2017, 4:06 PM
The transit union heralded its recent contract deal with the MTA as a rare victory for workers during dark times for the labor movement.

But that's not how Tramell Thompson, a 35-year-old conductor from Brooklyn who's been on the job for a scant three years, sees it.

"The contract was one of the worst contracts we've ever had," Thompson said of the deal Transport Workers Union Local 100 president John Samuelsen cut.

The Flatbush native may be new to the tracks and even newer to the union hall, but he's organizing an aggressive campaign for the group's rank-and-file members to vote down the contract. TWU members have until Wednesday to mail in their ballots.

MTA, Transit Workers Union reach deal on raises, TWU says

Meanwhile, Thompson is building recognition among the TWU ranks for a movement he calls Progressive Action.

The conductor started Progressive Action last year as an internet radio show, blog and bustling private Facebook group that's attracted nearly 7,000 members.

"They respond better through internet interactions versus the old-fashioned tactics the union is using, (like) mass membership meetings," Thompson said.

He is acerbic and blunt when it comes to TWU leadership, critical of how it runs the organization and the benefits it gets for workers.

MTA urged to nix planned Uber contract for Access-A-Ride

A flank of the TWU that supported former union president Roger Toussaint, who organized the 2005 transit strike, has allied with Progressive Action.

"We're like-minded," said Joe Campbell, a car inspector for 27 years with the MTA who twice ran unsuccessfully against Samuelsen and was a Toussaint ally. "He's bringing along a lot of the younger members."

On the Facebook group, transit workers have been posting pictures of their contract ballot with the "no" box checked.

To push the no vote, Thompson and three fellow union members hit the Jay St.-MetroTech station in Brooklyn during Thursday's snowstorm to hand out flyers to conductors passing by the platforms. He claimed 200 members were involved with Progressive Action's no vote campaign.

Strike's off! MTA chairman, LIRR union leader sign contract

Transit union workers protest amid contract negotiations with the MTA Nov. 15 outside the Bowling Green subway station in Manhattan.
Transit union workers protest amid contract negotiations with the MTA Nov. 15 outside the Bowling Green subway station in Manhattan. (ROSE ABUIN / NY DAILY NEWS/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)
The deal that 38,000 union members are voting on calls for 5% raises over 28 months, plus a $500 bonus, outpacing inflation. It also holds sweeteners to certain workers, like a pay boost for drivers behind the wheel of accordian-style buses.

The flyers implore workers, "Don't fall for their 'alternative facts.' " The flyers point out the raises come to 2.14% a year and "even the 'perks' don't perk."

Thompson and his team dashed between both sides of the station platform to make sure conductors pulled out of the station with a flyer in their hand. If a conductor said the ballot never arrived in their mailbox, they scrambled to give them a business card with a number to request one.

"Why should I vote 'no'?" one F train conductor asked while giving the flyer a glance.

LIRR unions ratify tentative contract with MTA

Another conductor told Thompson he was "on the fence."

Thompson replied that he's "gonna get off that fence."

Eric King, a conductor on an A train, stuck his head out of his cab to start a hearty chant of "Vote 'no'! Vote 'no'!" as his train pulled out of the station.

King later told the Daily News the size of the pay bump and benefits simply don't cut it in the city nowadays. He also said he sees a familiar face in Thompson.

"I see Tramell as a modern-day Toussaint," said King.

Samuelsen may agree, though not in the complimentary manner King intended. Samuelsen — himself once an insurgent at the TWU who led a slate that toppled its leadership — denounced Thompson and Progressive Action as "proteges of Toussaint."

Samuelsen rejected the suggestion that Thompson had any substantive following in the TWU. He angrily and repeatedly denounced Thompson as a "scab" — a reference to a Facebook post in which Thompson said he wouldn't strike under the TWU chief's leadership. Thompson said it was "hyperbole."

After Thompson handed him a flyer, conductor Eric King stuck his head out of his cab to start a hearty chant of "Vote 'no'! Vote 'no'!" as his train pulled out of the station.
After Thompson handed him a flyer, conductor Eric King stuck his head out of his cab to start a hearty chant of "Vote 'no'! Vote 'no'!" as his train pulled out of the station. (BYRON SMITH FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)
Thompson's critics have posted memes on Facebook with his face superimposed on a picture of a crusty old wound and left flyers in crew rooms.

"Tramell Thompson is a scab. He supported scabbing Local 100 if this ended up in a strike," Samuelsen said.

"There's been a 'no' vote for every contract in local 100 history, except there's never been a 'no' vote that's been led by a scab before," he added.

Samuelsen also defended the deal he cut for his members as one that boosts pay higher than the 2% the MTA wanted and shielded workers from higher health care costs.

"Once ... they take a look at the world around them and the contracts that other unions have delivered, they recognize that this is a solid contract that absolutely deserves to be ratified," he said.

Zachary Arcidiacono, a train operator and union official, also said the contract is a good deal, even if it was not what all members had hoped they'd get.

"It locks us in against a lot of the changes roiling the city, state and the country," he said.

But Thompson's message against the contract has resonated with some younger workers like train operator Kimberly McLaurin, 33, of Harlem.

McLaurin, who helped pass out flyers, said she started to follow Progressive Action after seeing criticism that Thompson faced. She wanted to learn more about how her union operates.

"I actually was a sleeping member for a while," she said. "You start realizing everything is not just about a paycheck. The quality of living down here is horrible. That's what woke me up. And I think that's waking up a lot of members."

Tags: TWU 100contract fightProgressive Action
Categories: Labor News

Hungary: EPSU supports sacked waste company trade unionists in Hungary

Labourstart.org News - Sat, 02/11/2017 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: EPSU
Categories: Labor News

Canada: Liberals to start imposing contract on teachers Monday

Labourstart.org News - Sat, 02/11/2017 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: CBC
Categories: Labor News

Turkey: Outspoken union head faces armed attack as pressure mounts on referendum naysayers

Labourstart.org News - Sat, 02/11/2017 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Turkey Purge
Categories: Labor News

LA Dockworker lottery is ‘false dream,’ says ILWU Local 13 longshore workers’ union leader

Current News - Fri, 02/10/2017 - 23:01

LA Dockworker lottery is ‘false dream,’ says ILWU Local 13 longshore workers’ union leader

ILWU Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr. speaks to hundreds of longshoremen gathered for work at the ILWU dispatch hall in Wilmington on Jan. 2, 2015. File photo. (Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)
By Rachel Uranga, LA Daily News

Longshoremen wait for available dock jobs to be called for an evening shift at the ILWU dispatch hall in Wilmington on Jan. 2, 2015. File photo. (Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)
The high-profile drawing for part-time jobs that could lead to full-time positions pulling in more than $100,000 a year creates a “false dream,” the head of the powerful Southern California dockworkers’ union said Friday.

The Pacific Maritime Association, representing shippers and terminals at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, insists the rare lottery prevents labor shortages by creating a ready pool of fill-in workers. The jobs start at about $25 an hour, but wages increase with experience. More appealing to applicants, however, is that the jobs can provide a path for workers to secure full-time union employment.

But union officials, who agreed to the drawing, say current freelancers, known as “casuals,” have been waiting and working for more than a decade in hopes of snagging a union gig.

“You’re winning a ticket to a false dream,” said Bobby Olvera Jr., president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 13, which represents about 7,000 full-time union workers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. “There are 5,000 (casuals) down there getting work two days a week.”

Olvera worries that bringing in more casuals allows the PMA — which negotiates and administers labor agreements with the ILWU on behalf of dozens of shipping companies and terminal operators — to dilute the talent pool and pay newer freelance workers less.

PMA spokesman Wade Gates wrote in a statement that terminal employers and the ILWU “work together to maintain a balanced approach on the number of full-time registered workers needed at the ports, as well as the number of approved casual workers.”

“These decisions are based on projected cargo volumes, gradual attrition in the workforce and other factors,” he stated. “Obviously, too many positions dilute the work opportunities for the individuals involved, and too few available workers can limit the ports’ ability to meet cargo-handling needs.”

Olvera maintains that there are too many casual workers for the shifts that are available.

“There is zero labor shortage,” he said, noting that he’s not heard a single case of jobs not getting fulfilled on the docks because there aren’t enough hands to handle it.

There are about 5,000 casuals who pick up intermittent work at a dispatch center in Wilmington.

About 46 percent of those casuals trained and approved to work make themselves available during any given week last year, according to the PMA. And those casuals worked on average 1.6 eight hour shifts per week.

The ILWU and PMA share a long history of contentious relations. Labor strife hobbled trade in 2014 and 2015 during bitter contract talks.

Most recently, the two have been locked in a dispute over the lottery process after some hopefuls who had filled out cards and mailed them in had them returned to their homes. The ILWU initially refused to participate in the drawing.

The lottery was temporarily halted earlier this week until an arbitrator ruled the process must go forward. The ILWU appealed the decision. Its appeal will be heard during a hearing Tuesday.

Meantime, InterOptimis, a business-services company based in Moorpark, is counting and verifying an estimated 80,000 submissions.

The last drawing was held in 2004, when about 18,000 names were pulled. Most eventually went into the casual pool. After years of waiting for full-time work, many frustrated casuals dropped out.

Olvera said the last time the PMA hired casuals on as full-time union members was in 2015, when 600 workers were hired.

In this round, the first 2,400 names picked will be eligible for the freelance positions.

Tags: ilwuLotteryILWU Local 13PMA
Categories: Labor News

Chile: Workers at BHP Billiton Copper Mine In Chile Go On Strike

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 02/09/2017 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: WSJ
Categories: Labor News

Brazil: Union Leader Killed in Police Strike Violence

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 02/09/2017 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: TeleSUR
Categories: Labor News

Bangladesh: Dozens of workers jailed for striking

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 02/09/2017 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITUC
Categories: Labor News

USA: A Kick in the Ass: Union Leader Considers the Age of Trump

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 02/09/2017 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: The Concourse
Categories: Labor News

Bangladesh: Free the jailed unionists and workers

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 02/09/2017 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: UNI Global Union
Categories: Labor News

Delta Air Lines and three other carriers accused of denying mandated sick leave to workers

Current News - Thu, 02/09/2017 - 13:44

Delta Air Lines and three other carriers accused of denying mandated sick leave to workers
Delta Airlines and three other carriers have been accused of denying workers' mandated sick leave. (JOSHUA ROBERTS/REUTERS)
Tuesday, February 7, 2017, 10:22 PM
Delta Air Lines and three other carriers have denied workers mandated sick leave, according to the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs.

Delta, the nation’s second busiest airline, was hit with administrative charges for allegedly violating the city’s Earned Sick Leave Act. Consumer Affairs investigators say the airline failed to give employees their mandated five paid sick days a year.

The case, in front of the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, marks the first against the airline industry, where city investigators believe there are widespread abuses.

The Atlanta-based airline — which generated $622 million in net income last year — faces thousands in fines for a series of violations.

Top companies in NYC fined for violating Earned Sick Leave Act

“Sometimes I would go to work sick because I was scared I'd lose my job and I know others who were scared too and did the same thing,” said a Delta flight attendant who asked not to be identified.

The case is based on complaints made by three Delta flight attendants who worked at Kennedy International Airport from August 2014 to April 2015, records show.

Delta defended its sick leave policy, saying it is more generous in some respects than what the city requires.

“However, Delta is confident that the local New York City sick leave law, which applies only to work being performed within New York City, cannot legally or practically be applied to flight attendants who perform nearly all of their work duties in federal air space and other jurisdictions outside of New York City,” said Delta spokesman Brian Kruse.

Trump blames 'big problems' at airports on Delta outage, protests

Consumer Affairs is probing three other unnamed airlines accused of the same violations as well as several subcontractors of the airline industry who employee cleaners and couriers. Many of them earn minimum wage. No charges have been filed in those cases.

Former wheelchair attendant Farouk Salim, 59, said “When we ask for the (sick) days they only pay us for five hours.”(HANDOUT)
“We just get five days of sick leave a year,” said Farouk Salim, 59, who used to work ferrying around passengers in wheelchairs for Pax Assist at Kennedy Airport. “But when we ask for the days they only pay us for five hours.”

Last summer he transferred to a different company, PrimeFlight, subcontracting with JetBlue.

“They are much better,” the father of two from Guyana said. “We get the full five days.”

De Blasio rips Quinn's sick-day bill

Pax Assist did not return a call seeking comment.

All told, the Department of Consumer Affairs has closed more than 1,000 paid sick leave cases, obtaining more than $4.4 million in fines and repayment, the city said. That has helped more than 15,100 staffers. Among the offenders are national businesses like CVS, Toys“R”Us and Lowe's.

“No one wants to get sick while they're traveling and yet the workers who are serving our food and are responsible for our safety in the air are being forced to go to work while sick or they risk retaliation by the airline,” DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas said. “Paid sick leave is a vital law that protects the health and wellbeing of workers and consumers, including airline employees and passengers.”

Mayor de Blasio pushed hard to boost the paid sick leave law shortly after he was elected even though business groups that argued it would unfairly burden small store owners.

More than 150 Delta flights canceled after systems outage

"New York City will defend its workers whether they work at a corner store or for an international airline," de Blasio said in a statement Tuesday. "Working people deserve basic protections like paid sick leave, and we will fight to make sure our laws are enforced."

Tags: Deltalabor rightssick leave
Categories: Labor News

Chile: World's biggest copper mine faces 'long, hard' strike

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 02/08/2017 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: AFP
Categories: Labor News

Norway: Why Norway is the best country for LGBT workers

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 02/08/2017 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: The Local
Categories: Labor News

Egypt: Drop Charges Against Workers: Change Laws that Restrict Right to Organize, Strike

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 02/08/2017 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Human Rights Watch
Categories: Labor News

Spanish Dockworkers to Face Massive Layoffs?

Current News - Wed, 02/08/2017 - 14:55

Spanish Dockworkers to Face Massive Layoffs?
Image Courtesy: Offshore and Home Trade Seamen's Welfare Trust
At least 6,500 Spanish dockworkers could be laid off according to the recently announced plan by the country’s Minister of Public Works to reform the port system.

Inigo de la Serna, the minister, aims to launch a decree issued by the European Union Court of Justice to reform the Spanish Port System, which would result in firing Spanish dockworkers at a rate of 25% of their full strength each year.

This means an absolute extinction of their employment within three years, according to the International Dockworkers Council (IDC). Dismissed dockworkers are to receive severance packages of only 20 paid days per year worked, IDC explained.

“The Spanish Government threatens the growth of the Spanish economy and seeks to make the dockworker profession disappear from national ports,” Jordi Aragunde, IDC General Coordinator, stated.

“Spanish ports are growing. The workers’ wages are also growing… and the Ministry of Public Works intends to act on a decree that prevents the country’s economic recovery,” Aragunde added.

Following the decree, the minister revealed he will not seek dialogue with trade unions to determine how to best carry out the mandatory reform of the Spanish Port System.

The announcement came as a surprise to many, including the Spanish trade union Coordinadora, as the minister’s actions are a “stark contradiction” to the platform maintained by his predecessor Ana Pastor, who always sought sector consensus of both interested companies and unions before enacting changes that would inevitably affect both, IDC said.

As explained by IDC, de la Serna’s decision to resist dialogue and assume an authoritarian attitude towards the inevitable implementation of a new Spanish Port System is viewed by port workers as a deliberate attack on their livelihood.

“We feel cheated,” Antolín Goya, General Coordinator of Coordinadora, said, adding that the minister refused to provide any documentation about the new legislation to the trade union and that he insists on verbal communication only.

“Since Brussels will only work officially with the Spanish government, de la Serna’s refusal to share these documents means that he is dictating the terms of this plan himself,” according to IDC.

“We have met with the European Commissioner for Transport, and we know that the Spanish Government´s approach to this law is much more severe for workers than the actual decree suggests” Goya noted.

Spanish trade unions are expected to raise support from other groups to resist the modification of the country’s port system.

With the support of the International Dockworkers Council, Coordinadora plans to initiate union actions across Europe to demand “clear channels of communication and a seat at the table for port workers” to be able to discuss the implementation of the new system.

Tags: CoordinadoraSpanish Dockersderegulationunion bustingInternational Dockworkers Council
Categories: Labor News

Joyous Africans Take to the Rails, With China’s Help

Current News - Wed, 02/08/2017 - 12:23

Joyous Africans Take to the Rails, With China’s Help
FEB. 7, 2017

Africa Debuts First Electric Railway
Africa’s first electric, transnational railway took its first journey from the capital of Djibouti toward Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, in January. By ANDREW JACOBS on Publish Date February 3, 2017. Photo by Andrew Jacobs/The New York Times.

DJIBOUTI — The 10:24 a.m. train out of Djibouti’s capital drew some of the biggest names in the Horn of Africa last month. Serenaded by a chorus of tribal singers, the crush of African leaders, European diplomats and pop icons climbed the stairs of the newly built train station and merrily jostled their way into the pristine, air-conditioned carriages making their inaugural run.

“It is indeed a historic moment, a pride for our nations and peoples,” said Hailemariam Desalegn, the prime minister of Ethiopia, shortly before the train — the first electric, transnational railway in Africa — headed toward Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. “This line will change the social and economic landscape of our two countries.”

But perhaps the biggest star of the day was China, which designed the system, supplied the trains and imported hundreds of engineers for the six years it took to plan and build the 466-mile line. And the $4 billion cost? Chinese banks provided nearly all the financing.

Having constructed one of the world’s most extensive and modern rail networks at home, China is taking its prodigious resources and expertise global. Chinese-built subway cars will soon appear in Chicago and Boston, Beijing is building a $5 billion high-speed rail line in Indonesia, and the Chinese government recently christened new rail freight service between London and Beijing. Another ambitious system in the works, the 2,400-mile Pan-Asia Railway Network, would link China to Laos, Thailand and Singapore.

But few places are being reshaped by China’s overseas juggernaut like Africa, a continent that has seen relatively little new railroad construction in a century.

Despite years of steady economic growth, sub-Sahara Africa remains hobbled by an infrastructure deficit, according to the Africa Development Bank, with only half of its roads paved and nearly 600 million people lacking access to electricity.

Chinese companies, many of them state-owned and grappling with an economic slowdown at home, have stepped unto the breach, spending some $50 billion a year on new ports, highways and airports across the continent, according to the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Many of the projects are part of Beijing’s new Silk Road initiative, a $1 trillion effort intended to deepen ties between China and its trading partners in the developing world.

Much of that spending has been directed at rail projects that planners hope will transform the way Africans travel and do business with one another, and the rest of the world.

Chinese-built and -financed projects include a two-year-old light-rail system in the Ethiopian capital; a $13 billion rail link between the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, and the port city of Mombasa that will open later this year; and an ambitious rail modernization project in Nigeriathat includes an urban transit system for Lagos.

“For the longest time, railroads across Africa were limping along and in decline, but with the Chinese, that’s definitely changing,” said Andrew Grantham, the news editor at Railway Gazette International, a trade publication.

China’s enthusiasm for constructing railroads, schools and stadiums in Africa stands in marked contrast to the role of the United States, which has largely shied away from financing infrastructure on the continent. One of the few exceptions, Power Africa, a $9.7 billion initiative announced by President Barack Obama in 2013, has fallen far short of its goal of providing electricity to 20 million households within five years.

When it comes to trade, China surpassed the United States in 2009 to become Africa’s biggest trading partner.

It remains unclear how that calculus might change under the Trump administration. President Trump has questioned the benefits of free trade agreements, and a questionnaire from his transition team that was sent to the State Department last month expressed skepticism for foreign aid and development efforts in Africa.

That worries some African officials and longtime experts, who fear the loss of American influence and largess — and the good will that is often produced by desperately needed infrastructure projects.

Amadou Sy, director of the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution, said the United States was also missing opportunities to cultivate loyal customers.

“If you’re looking for new markets, Africa is the place to be,” he said. “But right now, the U.S. is not leveraging Africa’s huge potential. By contrast, the Chinese are there, and they are willing to take risks.”

China is placing more than $14 billion worth of bets here in Djibouti, a geopolitically strategic speck of a country beset by soaring poverty and unemployment. The projects include three ports, two airports and a pipeline that will bring water from Ethiopia, its landlocked neighbor and a regional economic power that depends on Djibouti’s ports for 90 percent of its foreign trade.

Also on the drawing board are a series of Chinese-built, coal-fired power plants that would ease summertime electricity failures and help fuel a new tax-free manufacturing zone that officials hope will turn Djibouti into a Hong Kong-style entrepôt and international shipping hub.

Aboubaker Omar Hadi, chairman of the Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority, said he hoped the new railway linking his country to the Ethiopian capital would be just the first leg of a long-dreamed trans-Africa route, from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic.

“The train is already a game-changer,” he said, noting that it will cut to 12 hours what until now had been a grueling three- or four-day trip by truck.

Mr. Hadi praised the Chinese for going all in after Western banks declined to help finance the nation’s glaring infrastructure needs.

“We approached the U.S., and they didn’t have the vision,” he said. “They are not thinking ahead 30 years. They only have a vision of Africa from the past, as a continent of war and famine. The Chinese have vision.”

Not everyone is comfortable with China’s vision. Some worry about the leverage China wields and what happens when countries fall behind on loan payments.

For Djibouti, the debt is especially daunting, amounting to 60 percent of its gross domestic product. But Ilyas Moussa Dawaleh, the country’s finance minister, dismissed such concerns, saying Djibouti’s heady 6.7 percent growth rate would allow it to meet its loan payments.

“If we don’t take this risk now and develop our infrastructure, we will remain stuck in poverty,” he said. “Come back in a few years, and you will find that Djibouti has become the logistics hub of the continent.”

Others worry about the Djiboutian government’s lack of transparency, its authoritarian impulses and a vexing legacy of official corruption. Mohamed Daoud Chehem, a leader of Djibouti’s embattled opposition and a former presidential candidate, said the lack of information about the terms of China’s loans raised questions about potential malfeasance.

“We’re talking about billions of dollars and complete opacity,” he said. “Have there been kickbacks to government officials? There is no way to know.”

Others wonder what will happen to the system after the Chinese leave. European imperialists in Africa built a skein of lines, most of which fell into disrepair in the decades after their colonies achieved independence.

Jamie Monson, the author of “Africa’s Freedom Railway,” a book documenting the legacy of the Chinese-built train linking Tanzania and Zambia, said long-term maintenance could be more challenging than initial construction. Built during the Cold War and hailed as a symbol of Chinese-African friendship, the train, the Tazara Railway, has struggled to maintain regular service, prompting talk of a Chinese takeover.

“Without proper maintenance comes problems, which can have a huge impact on a regional economy and local people’s livelihoods,” she said.

For now, however, much of nation is euphoric over the completion of Djibouti’s first modern railway, which follows the path of a creaky French-built line, completed in 1917, that met its demise several years ago after generations of neglect.

Although workers from China did much of the technical and engineering work, thousands of Djiboutian and Ethiopian laborers were hired to lay tracks and dig tunnels, helping to head off some of the local resentment that has dogged other Chinese projects in Africa. The system will be operated by Chinese conductors for five years and then turned over to local citizens, many of them trained in China.

After a boisterous opening day ceremony in the broiling sun, only the best-connected attendees were allowed to board the train, which filled with applause and song as it glided out of the station.

Daha Ahmed Osman, 34, a tech specialist who works for the Djiboutian government, displayed a wide grin as he watched the arid, harshly beautiful landscape spill across the train’s picture windows.

He predicted that the new train would transform Djibouti and Ethiopia, and eventually all of Africa. “For this, we have the Chinese to thank, because they shared with us their money and their technology,” he said. “More than anything we thank them for showing confidence in us.”

Follow Andrew Jacobs on Twitter @AndrewJacobsNYT.

Tags: Chinese railroadsEthiopian laborers
Categories: Labor News

Strategy questions at union health care meeting

ILWU - Wed, 02/08/2017 - 11:53

The ILWU has been advocating for a national, single-payer health plan since 1938, and remains active in that effort through a network of unions and community groups who met in New York City on January 13-15, to continue pushing for a quality, non-profit health system that would cover every American. ILWU International President Bob McEllrath assigned pensioner and longtime “single-payer” health advocate Rich Austin, Sr., to attend the meeting and represent the ILWU.
Protest to protect Medicare & jobs

Activists from around the country began their 3-day meeting with an early-evening protest against threatened Medicare and Medicaid cuts proposed by Republican leaders in the House of Representative and U.S. Senate. They convened outside Trump Tower, where the President-elect had been meeting with Congressional leaders. The Tower also hosts offices of a union-busting company, Momentive Chemical, which forced 700 workers out on strike last November by demanding huge concessions in health care benefits. Workers are resisting those take-aways despite bitter-cold days on the picket line.

Growing strength in numbers

More than 100 new participants were on hand for the opening session of the health care conference that began after the evening protest ended. The 500 attendees came from many different unions and groups including Physicians for a National Health Program and the Labor Campaign for Single Payer, which hosted the event.

Labor for Bernie continues

Invitations for a special meeting held during the conference went out to the six national unions, including the ILWU, who backed Senator Bernie Sanders for President: the Communication Workers of America, American Postal Workers Union, National Nurses United, United Electrical Workers, and the Amalgamated Transit Union. The representatives who attended felt that progressive unions should work to expand the “Labor for Bernie” network by including other national and local unions to promote “Medicare for All” and other issues raised by the Sanders campaign. A future meeting on this topic is being planned for February.

ILWU contribution noted

A contribution check from the ILWU to support the “Labor Campaign for Single Payer” effort was welcomed with applause when Rich Austin presented the donation on the second day of the conference. He noted the ILWU’s longtime support for a national healthcare system that should cover everyone, similar to the Medicare program that already covers older Americans without using expensive, profit-making insurance companies.

Grassroots pressure

The conference ended with discussions about strategy, emphasizing the need to build grassroots support to protect and expand Medicare and Medicaid. After adjourning, Austin and others went to a rally at the “Wall Street Bull” statue in Bowling Green Park, an action inspired by Bernie Sanders to protect and improve America’s health care system. “Over 12 million Americans supported Bernie Sanders during the Presidential primary campaign because they liked what he said about ‘Medicare for All,’ good union jobs, and affordable college for everyone,” said Austin. “Those problems will remain front-and-center during the next four years, and we need to be involved in the process.”

Categories: Unions

Canadian Ousted Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 TTC union head accuses parent association of intimidating officials

Current News - Wed, 02/08/2017 - 11:22

Canadian Ousted Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 TTC union head accuses parent association of intimidating officials
The suspended president of the TTC’s largest union is accusing the association’s American-based parent organization ATU of coercing union officials into signing a “loyalty pledge” against him.

Bob Kinnear was relieved of his duties as president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 on Friday when ATU International abruptly placed the union under trusteeship. (VINCE TALOTTA / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO)

By BEN SPURRTransportation Reporter
Mon., Feb. 6, 2017

The suspended president of the TTC’s largest union is accusing the association’s American-based parent organization of coercing union officials into signing a “loyalty pledge” against him.

Bob Kinnear, longtime president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, was relieved of his duties Friday when ATU International abruptly placed the local under a trusteeship.

The Maryland-based parent union alleged that Kinnear had attempted to disaffiliate Local 113 from it without the consent of the local’s members or executive board.

Last week Kinnear wrote to the Canadian Labour Congress last week to begin the process that could have led to disaffiliation, but he has asserted he had the backing of the local’s members and intended to put the issue to vote.

Representatives of ATU International, which represents close to 200,000 transit workers in the U.S. and Canada, removed all 17 union executives from their positions on Friday, but swiftly reinstated 10 of them.

Each reinstated member willingly signed a document denouncing Kinnnear’s “unilateral and unauthorized” attempt to disaffiliate, according to ATU International. Similar letters have since been signed by other officials at the local.

In a news release issued Sunday evening, Kinnear accused ATU International of “intimidating elected local union representatives into signing prepared letters that agree with the American union’s trusteeship of the local.”

The release claimed that local union members had feared for their jobs if they didn’t sign the documents, which Kinnear characterized as a “loyalty pledge” to ATU International.

In an interview Monday morning, the international vice-president of ATU International who is leading the trusteeship called the allegations of coercion “completely absurd.”

“There was never any threats, no intimidation whatsoever. Everybody signed freely and willingly,” said Manny Sforza.

He said the letters were “a message of solidarity and support” for ATU International stepping in to remove Kinnear, “and the support is overwhelming.”

A news release from ATU International said 72 per cent of the ATU Local 113’s shop stewards had voluntarily signed the letters opposing Kinnear’s actions. “It’s not just a majority, it’s a super majority,” Sforza said.

According to the release, all stewards, including those who refused to sign the letter, were still on the job Monday.

While the dispute has exposed rifts at Local 113, it could prove to be a boon for other Canadian unions. According to a letter from the Canadian Labour Congress and provided to the Star by ATU International, the congress has suspended the protections that prevent other unions from “raiding” ATU Local 113’s membership.

Kinnear said that means other unions “can now go into our local and start signing cards.”

A spokesperson for the CLC did not immediately return a request for comment Monday.

Asked if he was working with other unions to recruit members of Local 113 into their shops, Kinnear told reporters Monday that he has had “numerous conversations with a variety of organizations.” He said some labour groups had offered financial assistance for the fight against ATU International.

Asked which union he would like to transfer Local 113 members into or which groups he was working with, Kinnear refused to specify.

“I’m hopeful that other organizations, the labour movement, are going to stand behind us and say that we are not alone, that the Canadian labour movement will take on this hard-ass American union that thinks they can come into Canada and squash our democratic rights,” he said.

In a statement posted online Monday, ATU International said Kinnear’s attempts to disaffiliate the local were part of a “campaign” by Unifor, the country’s largest public sector union, to “take over” ATU locals in Canada.

A spokesperson for Unifor didn’t respond to questions from the Star asking if the union was attempting to sign up Local 113 members. The organization represents 310,000 workers across the country, including employees of the Toronto Star.

Kinnear is fighting the takeover of the local in court. A hearing on the matter is expected in about two weeks.

ATU Local 113 represents more than 10,000 transit workers in Toronto. Kinnear was first elected its president in 2003 and has been re-elected several times since then. Late last year he ran for the vice-president’s position at ATU International, but was defeated by Sforza.

The infighting at the TTC’s largest union has not affected transit service. The provincial government designated the TTC an essential service in 2011, which stripped its workers of the right to strike.

Tags: ATU Local 113Canadian labor rightsTrusteeship
Categories: Labor News

Foss tug crews continue fight for fair contract

ILWU - Wed, 02/08/2017 - 11:17


ILWU support: ILWU locals from throughout the harbor area came to support
Foss Tug workers at their rally on January 6. International Vice President (Mainland)
Ray Familathe spearheaded a delegation of local leaders.

Crews at Foss Tug in Long Beach escalated their fight to renew a fair contract during January. Dozens of workers represented by the Inlandboatmen’s Union, the ILWU’s Marine Division, attended a rally on January 6 in front of the Foss Long Beach headquarters on Berth 35.

Rally shows support
“The rally expressed our unity, determination to fight and willingness to win,” said John Skow, IBU Regional Director for Southern California. After a short march to the assembly area, workers heard from IBU President Alan Coté. “This is an important struggle for the entire maritime industry,” said Coté. “We’re up against a big corporation that seems more comfortable dictating than negotiating, but solidarity has always been a powerful weapon to level the playing field for workers.”
ILWU International Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe spoke on behalf of the International union. “You’ve got the entire ILWU family behind you in this struggle,” said Familathe, who noted that the union has never flinched from taking on tough fights and difficult employers. “There are a lot of people here today who are supporting this struggle,” as he recognized an impressive contingent of ILWU leaders present that included Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr., Local 63 President Paul Trani, Local 94 President Danny Miranda, Local 68 Port Pilots President Ed Royals and leaders from Ship Scalers Local 56. Representatives of the Masters, Mates and Pilots (MMP) union also attended as did members of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association (MEBA) union.

Disrespect & legal violations
The rally occurred because management at Foss Long Beach has been refusing to negotiate in good faith and continues to retaliate against 30 IBU members with lay-offs, leaving roughly 20 workers employed out of the 50-member workforce.

Implementing their ultimatum
On January 5, the company took the drastic step of implementing new schedules that eliminated the contract’s 8-hour day – requiring workers to instead remain on vessels for days at a time. They also implemented a new pay schedule without union approval. These unilateral, one-sided actions are only allowed by law if the company has engaged in good-faith negotiations, exhausted all efforts to settle, and reached an “impasse” in the contract talks – something the IBU is vigorously disputing in legal charges that have been filed against the company.

Strike in Long Beach
IBU members responded to the company’s unlawful change in contract conditions by declaring an unfair labor practices (ULP) strike on January 16. The picket lines began to form early and were humming by 6am. They continued until 6pm that evening. The next morning, company officials were notified that union members agreed to return to work, with everyone back on the job that evening. “We’ve been trying to negotiate with a company that doesn’t seem to respect the law,” said Skow. “The contract talks began more than six months ago, but we were far from an impasse and could easily reach a settlement if Foss would respect the law and show a willingness to compromise.”
Big company with deep pockets

Foss is owned by Salchuk, a wealthy conglomerate created in 1982 that has grown with both union and non-union operations. Salchuk has used this flexibility to benefit wealthy owners at the expense of workers. For example, after Foss retaliated against workers with layoffs, they were able to keep clients by re-shuffling their tug business to a Saltchuk subsidiary known as “AmNav, ”which operates at various west coast ports including LA/Long Beach – without IBU crew members.
Union cooperation
Saltchuk workers are represented by several unions, including the Masters, Mates and Pilots (MMP), Marine Engineers Beneficial Association (MEBA) and the Seafarers International Union (SIU). The ILWU and IBU are coordinating information efforts with these unions. “In the end, the struggle here at Foss will come down to a combination of courage and solidarity, which is what it always takes to win on the waterfront,” said ILWU Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe. “Foss workers are showing that they’ve got what it takes to see this through to a just conclusion.”

Categories: Unions

Honoring King Day with action

ILWU - Wed, 02/08/2017 - 10:13

ILWU members in Los Angeles, Seattle, and the Bay Area honored Martin Luther King Day by marching, protesting and meeting to promote social justice.

Continuing the struggle: ILWU members joined an estimated 10,000 people who packed Seattle streets on January 16 to support racial justice, workers’ rights and resistance to President Trump’s anti-union agenda. Marchers included (L-R): ILWU Local 19 member John Krasucki, Labor Relations Committee member Justin Hirsch, and Local 19 Vice-President John Persak.

MLK breakfast in LA
“We can honor Dr. King’s legacy by continuing his struggle for justice, especially for the poor and oppressed in our society,” said ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams, who attended a breakfast on January 14 with other ILWU leaders organized by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. Adams noted that King was assassinated in Memphis while he was helping union sanitation workers win their courageous strike for respect and better pay.

California’s new Senator
Hundreds union members from throughout Southern California went to the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown LA where newly-elected U.S. Senator Kamala Harris was the featured speaker.“When our ideals and fundamental values are under attack, do we retreat or do we fight? I say we fight!” she said. “Whenever there’s been an assault on working families, we’ve never backed down. We ‘ve stood together. And that’s exactly what we’ll do now.”

Taking risks to win
Speakers at the LA event noted that King and other Civil Rights leaders of his generation were not afraid to take risks. King was arrested more than 30 times and suffered numerous beatings while advocating non-violent tactics in order to win public support.

King’s lessons for labor

“There’s still plenty we can learn from Dr. King’s leadership style and his approach to strategy,” said Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr. who attended the event. “There’s no progress without a struggle, and winning public support is as important today as it was then. King was challenged by how to win majority support for a “minority” cause, and that’s the same challenge labor unions face today with only 6% of private-sector workers in a union.”

Paying respect: ILWU leaders were among hundreds of union members who gathered in Los Angeles on the morning of January 16 for a breakfast honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. Pictured are (L-R): Local 13 Vice President Mondo Porras, International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams, Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr., and Local 63 Business Agent and District Council President Cathy Familathe.

Keynote speaker

The keynote speaker at the LA labor breakfast was Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, a leading human rights advocate who is challenging injustice in the courtroom and prison system. He has appeared before the Supreme Court and recently won a historic ruling that invalidated mandatory “lifewithout- parole” sentences for all children 17 or younger.
Seattle MLK march

ILWU members in the Puget Sound region joined a large event on Monday that began with workshops at a local high school, followed by a rally with speakers, and poetry and music in the gym. The main event was an afternoon march that drew an estimated 10,000 participants which ended at the federal building in downtown Seattle, where a final rally was held. This year’s event marked the 35th celebration held in Seattle to honor MLK’s legacy.
Bay Area breakfast

An early morning breakfast on January 16 brought ILWU members together with fellow unionists and civil rights activists at the Marriott Hotel San Francisco. The featured speaker was Dolores Huerta, a co-founder of the United Farmworkers Union, who helped lead a union drive five decades ago in California’s agricultural fields. The UFW played a central role in the continuing civil rights struggle by Latino immigrants.

Categories: Unions


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