India: The class struggle is real: India is making labor history with the world’s largest general strike
ATU condemns attacks on Standing Rock Sioux and Opposes Dakota Access Pipeline
ATU condemns attacks on Standing Rock Sioux and Opposes Dakota Access Pipeline
Amalgamated Transit Union International President Larry Hanley issued the following statement to concerning the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“The Amalgamated Transit Union joins others in the Labor movement in condemnation of the ongoing violent attacks on the Standing Rock Sioux and others who oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline. These attacks by a private security company bring back horrific memories of the notorious Pinkertons, who used clubs, dogs and bullets to break up peaceful worker protests.
"Union members understand that today the greatest threat to jobs, health and decent living standards is climate change. We support the National Day of Action on September 13th, and we urge President Obama to stop construction of this destructive pipeline and keep dangerous fossil fuels in the ground."Tags: atuStanding Rock SiouxDkota Access Pipeline
Georgia Ports Authority ILA Local 1414 longshoreman dead after accident at Ocean Terminal
Posted September 7, 2016 03:18 pm - Updated September 7, 2016 08:44 pm
By Mary Carr Maylemary.firstname.lastname@example.org
Georgia Ports Authority longshoreman dead after accident at Ocean Terminal
SUV plunges into river at Ocean Terminal during cargo operations
A longshoreman died Wednesday morning when the vehicle he was loading onto a ship jumped off the ramp and fell into the Savannah River at Georgia Ports’ Ocean Terminal.
The accident occurred about 8:30 a.m. as a car carrier vessel was being loaded by members of ILA Local 1414.
Local 1414 President Tommy Stokes III said the accident is still under investigation. He declined to provide the worker’s name pending notification of his extended family.
“We don’t know yet what happened that caused him to lose control of the car,” Stokes said, adding that the victim was a five-year veteran of the docks.
“The car went in upside-down,” he said. “One of our longshoremen and a stevedore who was working the ship both went into the water almost immediately, but the airbag had deployed and they couldn’t get him out.
“They called for a hammer and knife to break the window and deflate the airbag and were able to get him out and begin CPR. But he was pronounced dead at the hospital.”
Savannah Fire and Marine 1 responded to the scene on the docks just west of the Talmadge Bridge.
Stokes said he expected to know more about what happened when the investigation was complete.
“Right now, our focus is on coming together to provide the family with prayers and support during this very difficult and tragic time,” Stokes said.
Georgia Ports Authority also issued a statement saying “our hearts and prayers go out the the family, friends and entire membership of ILA 1414.”Tags: ILA 1414Murder
This following is a statement from the IWW Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee.
Prisoners from across the United States have just released this call to action for a nationally coordinated prisoner workstoppage against prison slavery to take place on September 9th, 2016.
This is a Call to Action Against Slavery in America
In one voice, rising from the cells of long term solitary confinement, echoed in the dormitories and cell blocks from Virginia to Oregon, we prisoners across the United States vow to finally end slavery in 2016.
On September 9th of 1971 prisoners took over and shut down Attica, New York State’s most notorious prison. On September 9th of 2016, we will begin an action to shut down prisons all across this country. We will not only demand the end to prison slavery, we will end it ourselves by ceasing to be slaves.
In the 1970s the US prison system was crumbling. In Walpole, San Quentin, Soledad, Angola and many other prisons, people were standing up, fighting and taking ownership of their lives and bodies back from the plantation prisons. For the last six years we have remembered and renewed that struggle. In the interim, the prisoner population has ballooned and technologies of control and confinement have developed into the most sophisticated and repressive in world history. The prisons have become more dependent on slavery and torture to maintain their stability.
Prisoners are forced to work for little or no pay. That is slavery. The 13th amendment to the US constitution maintains a legal exception for continued slavery in US prisons. It states “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” Overseers watch over our every move, and if we do not perform our appointed tasks to their liking, we are punished. They may have replaced the whip with pepper spray, but many of the other torments remain: isolation, restraint positions, stripping off our clothes and investigating our bodies as though we are animals.
Slavery is alive and well in the prison system, but by the end of this year, it won’t be anymore. This is a call to end slavery in America. This call goes directly to the slaves themselves. We are not making demands or requests of our captors, we are calling ourselves to action. To every prisoner in every state and federal institution across this land, we call on you to stop being a slave, to let the crops rot in the plantation fields, to go on strike and cease reproducing the institutions of your confinement.
This is a call for a nation-wide prisoner work stoppage to end prison slavery, starting on September 9th, 2016. They cannot run these facilities without us.
Non-violent protests, work stoppages, hunger strikes and other refusals to participate in prison routines and needs have increased in recent years. The 2010 Georgia prison strike, the massive rolling California hunger strikes, the Free Alabama Movement’s 2014 work stoppage, have gathered the most attention, but they are far from the only demonstrations of prisoner power. Large, sometimes effective hunger strikes have broken out at Ohio State Penitentiary, at Menard Correctional in Illinois, at Red Onion in Virginia as well as many other prisons. The burgeoning resistance movement is diverse and interconnected, including immigrant detention centers, women’s prisons and juvenile facilities. Last fall, women prisoners at Yuba County Jail in California joined a hunger strike initiated by women held in immigrant detention centers in California, Colorado and Texas.
Prisoners all across the country regularly engage in myriad demonstrations of power on the inside. They have most often done so with convict solidarity, building coalitions across race lines and gang lines to confront the common oppressor.
Forty-five years after Attica, the waves of change are returning to America’s prisons. This September we hope to coordinate and generalize these protests, to build them into a single tidal shift that the American prison system cannot ignore or withstand. We hope to end prison slavery by making it impossible, by refusing to be slaves any longer.
To achieve this goal, we need support from people on the outside. A prison is an easy-lockdown environment, a place of control and confinement where repression is built into every stone wall and chain link, every gesture and routine. When we stand up to these authorities, they come down on us, and the only protection we have is solidarity from the outside. Mass incarceration, whether in private or state-run facilities is a scheme where slave catchers patrol our neighborhoods and monitor our lives. It requires mass criminalization. Our tribulations on the inside are a tool used to control our families and communities on the outside. Certain Americans live every day under not only the threat of extra-judicial execution—as protests surrounding the deaths of Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland and so many others have drawn long overdue attention to—but also under the threat of capture, of being thrown into these plantations, shackled and forced to work.
Our protest against prison slavery is a protest against the school to prison pipeline, a protest against police terror, a protest against post-release controls. When we abolish slavery, they’ll lose much of their incentive to lock up our children, they’ll stop building traps to pull back those who they’ve released. When we remove the economic motive and grease of our forced labor from the US prison system, the entire structure of courts and police, of control and slave-catching must shift to accommodate us as humans, rather than slaves.
Prison impacts everyone, when we stand up and refuse on September 9th, 2016, we need to know our friends, families and allies on the outside will have our backs. This spring and summer will be seasons of organizing, of spreading the word, building the networks of solidarity and showing that we’re serious and what we’re capable of.
Step up, stand up, and join us.
Against prison slavery.
For liberation of all.
Find more information, updates and organizing materials and opportunities at the following websites:
It’s High Time for Mass Mobilization to Free Mumia!
SEPTEMBER 9, 2016
It’s High Time for Mass Mobilization to Free Mumia!
by JACK HEYMAN – ERIC CLANTON
Could Mumia Abu-Jamal, one of the twentieth century’s most high profile political prisoners, a powerful and renowned author and a former Black Panther, have hope of being released after 34 years in prison, 30 of those years on death row? Could Mumia, unlike the anarchists, Sacco and Vanzetti, or the Communists Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed by the state, finally see the light of day after decades in prison like former Black Panthers Geronimo Pratt, the Angola Three and Eddie Conway?
A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Williams v. Pennsylvania,could provide a legal precedent to open the door for Mumia’s release. But that will not end the police vendetta against him as demonstrated by the bitter experience of unending persecution by courts, cops and prison authorities. For every legal principle there is a “Mumia exception.” There can be no reliance on the courts for justice, in large part because Mumia is falsely accused of killing a cop. As in the case of Angela Davis, it will require mass mobilizations to free Mumia, mobilizations from trade unions with large black memberships and community organizations like Black Lives Matter.
In the meantime, Mumia’s life is in grave danger as a federal court judge refused to grant an injunction to require that the state of Pennsylvania give him proper medication for his life-threatening Hepatitis C. And yet the judge found the state prison system’s protocol for treating prisoners with Hep-C unconstitutional! Another Mumia exception, no doubt.
As prisoners are commemorating the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison uprising on September 9 by organizing a nationwide strike protesting the horrid conditions of mass incarceration, we outside the prison walls, need to be demonstrating in sympathy with their demands and calling for freedom for class war political prisoners like Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Ron Castille and the Racist Frame-up of Mumia
The new Supreme Court ruling establishes a precedent for the court to vacate all of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s denials of Mumia’s post-conviction appeals. On August 7, 2016 a motion was filed with the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas. This legal action “provides a path in the courts to overturn Mumia’s conviction and win his freedom” according to Rachel Wolkenstein, a former attorney of Mumia. This legal action could result in a new appeal process and then a new trial. But again, in Mumia’s case (and so many others), such legal precedents are routinely overridden when the state is prepared to go to the wall against a defendant.
Still this new decision offers a new opportunity for Mumia and his supporters to forcefully challenge the blatant frame-up that lead to his conviction, and, to bring broader exposure to a racist system of injustice.
After decades of frustration and disappointment the fight for Mumia’s freedom could see a breakthrough. The new precedent–setting decision in Williams v. Pennsylvania has established that judicial bias occurs when a judge participating in a criminal appeal had “a significant personal involvement as a prosecutor in a critical decision regarding the defendant’s case.” Ronald D. Castille has played the central role of both prosecutor and judge in the course of Mumia’s legal nightmare. He was the Assistant District Attorney in Philadelphia during Mumia’s 1982 trial, was the elected Philadelphia District Attorney during Mumia’s direct appeal, and as a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice in 1998 and 2002 rejected a motion demanding his recusal from decisions concerning Mumia’s case.
Castille and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court have stood in the way of each of Mumia’s attempts to appeal his post conviction decisions, including those appeals which argued that Castille’s participation constituted a conflict of interest. From the beginning Castille showed prejudice. As DA he made a training video on how to exclude blacks from a jury when blacks were nearly 40% of Philly’s population.
Mass Mobilizations Must Bolster Mumia’s Court Fight
By extension, this struggle must link the Black Lives Matter movement on the streets to the mass incarceration of black lives behind prison walls. But Mumia’s fight for freedom can only happen if his case gains traction through mass labor and black mobilizations like the one organized by the San Francisco longshore union on April 29, 1999 or the Oakland teachers’ union that organized a city-wide teach-in on the death penalty and the frameup of Mumia a few months before that.
At that time the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) organized a one-day coastwide shutdown and led a march of 25,000 people through the streets of San Francisco to demand freedom for Mumia and call attention to racist repression and the plight of class war prisoners. Actions like this succeeded in bringing attention to Mumia’s case but at this late date there needs to be much more now. Left to the courts alone, he will certainly die by “legal lynching” from medical mistreatment of Hepatitis C, in the same way that the apartheid regime of South Africa handled its imprisoned opponents.
From Young Black Panther to “Slow Death Row”
Mumia, who takes his name from Kenyan anti-colonial fighters, was already in the crosshairs of the police when as a teenager he was Minister of Information for the Black Panther Party. After the Panthers split in 1971, Mumia went to college to study radio journalism and began a career of reporting and broadcasting. Throughout his years as an award-winning radio broadcaster, Mumia used his platform to direct attention to police brutality and other forms of state violence, most notably exposing the Philadelphia Police Department’s targeting of the militant back-to-nature organization MOVE.
Mumia’s speaking truth-to-power reporting made him the target of escalating hounding by the police, especially former Philly “top cop”, Mayor Frank Rizzo. In December of 1981, PPD Officer Daniel Faulkner was killed while conducting a traffic stop of Mumia’s brother, William Cook. Mumia Abu-Jamal, who had been driving a taxi part time, arrived at the scene to see what was happening. As Mumia approached, he was shot, critically wounded and beaten by police.
Mumia’s subsequent trial was a case study of a political frame-up in capitalist America today: police corruption and a federal investigation, judicial misconduct, denial of basic rights, witness tampering, and evidence fabrication. Most grotesquely, in his chambers the presiding judge Albert Sabo, an honorary member of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), was quoted as saying by the court stenographer of the impending legal proceeding, “I’m going to help them fry that n—-r.” Having had his right to self-representation revoked and barred from his own trial, Mumia was convicted in 1982 and later sentenced to death. Mumia’s case is an ironclad frame-up by the state and FOP. In a gross understatement Amnesty International calls Mumia’s trial “unfair”.
Mumia spent 30 years in solitary confinement on death row Pennsylvania. Yet, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez, has said that solitary confinement of more than 10 days is unhumane treatment.
After a lengthy, hard-fought appeals process Mumia, in 2011, had his sentence commuted to life without the possibility of parole or as he calls it “slow death row”. When continued medical mistreatment led to near-fatal diabetic shock, Mumia, was finally diagnosed with the deadly hepatitis C virus. He was then denied the curative medication, without which, he will certainly die. That’s why the urgency is to keep him alive and fight for his freedom.
International Labor Solidarity Rallies to Save Mumia
As the searing protest letter sent to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf from comrades of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa NUMSA: “The refusal to health-care reminds us of the conditions we were put in under Apartheid prisons where sick detainees were allowed to die in very deplorable lonely conditions in solitary as part of the punishment for their role in the struggle.”
Mumia has continued writing and publishing numerous volumes about racism, his experience on death row, and the depredations of capitalism. Called the “voice of the voiceless”, he has won audiences around the world.
The International Dockworkers Council (IDC) which represents the most militant port workers is meeting later this month in Miami. On July 7, the IDC organized dockworkers to simultaneously shutdown ports around the world for one hour to highlight the injuries and deaths caused by this most profitable, yet dangerous industry. The IDC has already taken a stand on social issues like racist police terror in the U.S. They’ve sent a letter this year to the Pennsylvania governor citing Mumia’s unjust imprisonment and demanding proper medical treatment and his “immediate and unconditional release” from prison.
International attention and protest are key to the effort to free Mumia. In light of this new legal opening, a renewed international campaign, can not only win Mumia’s release, but will continue to highlight the racist and class oppression that is constantly perpetrated by this justice system that enforces the law and order of capital.
Solidarity with the Nationwide Prisoners Strike!
Stop the Death of Hep C Prisoners! Hep C Meds for All!
Save the Life of Mumia Abu-Jamal!
Release Mumia From Prison Now!
Jack Heyman, is chair of the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee, and member of the Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Eric Clanton, member of Ghostown Prisoners SupportTags: Mumialaborrepressionsolidarity
By the elected delegates to the 2016 IWW Convention - Industrial Workers of the World, September 3, 2016
The international convention of the Industrial Workers of the World just unanimously voted in favor of an “Emergency Resolution” in solidarity with the resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline!
In the introduction the Chair of the convention acknowledged that the convention is being held on Ohlone land. We also strongly encouraged workers to organize solidarity actions, travel to Standing Rock, and materially support the struggle.
The Industrial Workers of the World stands in solidarity with the resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline. We call on the labor movement and working class to take a stand against environmental racism and join the fight for a just transition as our collective future is at stake. We recognize that the capitalist system that oppresses the working class has always oppressed indigenous people of the World.
Therefore we feel that settlers and indigenous workers should unite to take direct action against colonial industrial capitalism and do everything in our power to restore justice to indigenous people and Mother Earth. An injury to one is an injury to all! #nodapl #sacredstonespiritcamp #redwarriorcamp #waterislife
September 4, 2016
Editor's Note: This appeal has been updated to address the attack on the demonstrators were attacked by private security led dogs.
If you've not read or seen the news about the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the vast and growing opposition to it (#NoDAPL) by now, you've not been paying attention.
According to One Account,
Beneath the cover of the endless presidential election season, which in Iowa started a year and a half ago, the Texas-based company Dakota Access LLC (a division of the corporation Energy Transfer Partners [ETP]) has moved methodically ahead with its plan to build this ugly, winding, and ecocidal tube of death. The $4 billion, 1134-mile project would carry 540,000 barrels of largely fracked crude oil from North Dakota’s “Bakken oil patch” daily on a diagonal course through South Dakota, a Sioux Indian burial ground,18 Iowa counties, and a Native American reservation to Patoka, Illinois. It will link with another pipeline that will transport the black gold to terminals and refineries along the Gulf of Mexico.
Right now, several thousand indigenous tribal members (supported by over 160 tribes), land owners, environmentalists, climate justice activists, and supporters of #BlackLivesMatter have gathered together into two camps in rural North Dakota to organize nonviolent resistance to this massive project which will parallel and match the length of the infamous (but rejected by Presidential order) Keystone XL pipeline. Several others have been protesting all along the pipeline's route over the past couple of weeks. These 1000s strong intrepid folks are supported nationally and internationally by 100,000s.
The leaders in this effort have done all they can working "within the system" to oppose this project to no avail:
Anti-pipeline activists have been playing by all the official local, state, and federal rules. They’ve gone through the established channels of law and procedure. They’ve worked the legal and regulatory machinery to the point of exhaustion. They’ve gone through all available avenues of reason and petition. They’ve written and delivered carefully worded petitions and given polite, fact-filled testimony to all the relevant public bodies. They’ve appealed to the IUB. They’ve appealed to the Army Corps of Engineers and to numerous other federal agencies and offices including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Advisory on Historic Preservation, and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration. They’ve sued in court, defending farmers’ traditional American-as-apple-pie private property rights...And it’s all been for naught because the state is stuck in the deep pockets of Big Carbon. Last week a long-awaited district court ruling in Des Moines gave DA, ETP, Enbridge, and Marathon and their big financial backers what they wanted. DA is free to complete construction on fifteen parcels where the farm owners had challenged the state’s right to enforce eminent domain on behalf of the Bakken snake.
This project would represent a disaster for the world's climate. Already humanity is experiencing a climate emergency--as the increase in the Earth's average overall surface temperature has surpassed 1°C--brought on by fossil fuel capitalism. Every sensible scientific peer reviewed study dictates that in order to avoid the destruction of the ability of humanity (and much else living) to survive on our planet, the global increase must reach no higher than 2°C, at most (and most agree that an increase beyond 1.5°C would be bad enough). In order to do this, at least 80% of the known fossil fuel "reserves" must remain in the ground. This pipeline would make that prospect increasingly difficult, because it is designed to facilitate the continuing extraction of the Bakken Shale in North Dakota.
Worse than that, this pipeline represents the further colonization of indigenous lands, particularly that which lie adjacent to or solidly within the path of this project.
None of this is necessary. Studies show that all of the world's energy needs can be met by a combination of conservation, 100% renewable energy generation--which is entirely feasible using existing technology, and a reordering of the world's economic systems to facilitate production for need, not profit. The 100,000s of people who oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline understand this.
In spite of this massive opposition however, one group, in particular, has remained disturbingly silent, and that's labor unions.
Criminal Negligence Of BART Bosses Led To Murder Of Two Scabs During Strike
BART could face additional fines for 2013 worker deaths
Courtesy BARTBART may still be on the hook for additional fines after a train struck and killed two workers in 2013.
By ERIN BALDASSARI | email@example.com
PUBLISHED: September 7, 2016 at 4:00 pm | UPDATED: September 7, 2016 at 6:11 pm
Nearly three years after a BART train struck and killed two workers inspecting a portion of the track in Walnut Creek, the transit agency could be forced to pay additional fines for lax safety protocols that led to the workers’ deaths.
The California Public Utilities Commission released its final investigative report earlier this year and issued an order in late June for the agency to prove why it shouldn’t be fined or face penalties for the Oct. 19, 2013, incident in which BART employee Christopher Sheppard, 58, of Hayward, and contractor Laurence Daniels, 66, of Fair Oaks, were killed.
The accident, already emotionally taxing to the workers’ families and co-workers, is also becoming increasingly costly for the agency. The CPUC could fine BART $500 to $50,000 per day for each offense deemed to be an ongoing violation. And BART is facing $210,000 in fines following an investigation by Cal-OSHA, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, though it has appealed the agency’s findings.
BART has also recently settled a civil suit brought by representatives of the Daniels family. A BART spokesperson said the final settlement agreement will be released once it has been filed with the Alameda County Superior Court, likely later this month. Members of the Daniels family and their lawyers did not return requests for comment.
The CPUC report contains new details about the incident — including evidence that the authorized train operator, who was overseeing a trainee at the time, had been using a cellphone throughout the day, a possible violation of both state regulations and BART’s own policies.
Since the accident, the transit agency has instituted a suite of new safety protocols to protect employees working on the tracks. But Chris Finn, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents BART employees, said that more work needs to be done to ensure workers’ safety.
“There’s a concern that redundancy is really important,” Finn said. “But I don’t think the current system provides the redundancy that the various agencies would want to see.”
Both Cal-OSHA’s report and a 2015 investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board emphasized the inherent danger in a procedure called “simple approval,” which allowed workers to operate within a certain distance of the tracks and put the onus on the workers to ensure their own safety. Under the procedure, workers were supposed to designate a member of the team whose sole job is to watch for any passing trains. That didn’t happen on Oct. 19, 2013, as both workers were facing away from the train that struck them, according to the investigations.
BART suspended the simple approval procedure immediately following the workers’ deaths and later eliminated the procedure entirely. But unlike previous investigations, the CPUC report highlights other failures, including errors in judgement by the train controller, train operator and a trainee, who was driving the train at the time.
New details emerge:
The weather on the day of the accident was warm, sunny and clear, but nearly everything else was out of the ordinary. BART workers had gone on strike the previous day. Managers were performing essential track maintenance, and the agency was also preparing to offer limited service from the East Bay to San Francisco during the labor action.
Sheppard and Daniels were out inspecting a dip in the tracks between the Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill stations. They had called the train control center earlier that day to get approval for the work, which was granted.
But, according to the CPUC, that’s where the problems began. Instead of allowing the workers to designate their own watchman, the train controller could have required a “work area clearance” order, which prevents trains from entering areas where workers are present — an oversight that Alicia Trost, a spokesperson for BART, acknowledged.
“(The workers) were on simple approval, which meant they shouldn’t have been in the track zone,” Trost said. “To go in the track zone we required a lookout person and work orders. Work orders would have locked out the area (to passing trains).”
The CPUC cited this failure as one of three primary causes of the incident.
It also cited the inexperience of the trainee who was operating the train at the time as another primary cause. Earlier reports noted that the train operator, who was supposed to be overseeing the trainee, was not in the cabin with the trainee at the time of the accident. The CPUC report includes evidence that the supervisor had also sent or received 47 text messages and logged 11 calls between 6 a.m. and the time of the collision, 1:44 p.m., including one text message sent one minute before the men were struck by the train.
“Text messages … may have distracted the (supervisor) from his supervisory duties regarding the (trainee),” the CPUC report reads. “Further, the (supervisor’s) location away from the operator’s chair combined with the distractions of his cellular telephone … may have made proper observation and instruction very difficult.”
Moments before the collision, the trainee operating the train saw the two workers standing in the middle of the track. He applied the emergency brake and tried to sound the train’s horn, but he hit the door control button instead, according to the CPUC. The train hit the workers 4.7 seconds later.
In its formal response to the CPUC, BART officials maintain that the trainee was overseen by a qualified train operator, though the response does not directly address whether the supervisor violated BART’s policies or state regulations by using a cellphone while supervising the trainee and by failing to be present in the same train car. It puts the blame for the accident on the workers who died.
“If the workers had complied with the watchperson required by BART’s Simple Approval rules (before it was required by any CPUC regulation), then this accident would not have occurred,” the agency’s response reads. “The accident at issue was the result of human error, not the violation of any applicable rule or regulation by BART.”
BART has since put in place new safety protocols and created new positions specifically focused on safety. A designated “employee in charge” must give clearance to trains before they pass, a task that was previously handled by the train controller. Workers also must place flashing red or blue lights at both ends of the work area so train operators have advanced warning that people are in the track area, Trost said. And trains must travel at 27 mph or slower through work areas once clearance from the employee in charge is given. The agency is also investing $4 million in physical safety barriers to protect workers who need to access areas near, but not on, the tracks.
“These positions allowed for the creation of watchpersons and employee-in-charge positions,” Trost said. “The additional positions provide the backbone of our right-of-way safety program.”
BART also set up a Road Worker Protection Technology Committee to conduct research on early warning technologies available in the rail industry. That committee met three times following the workers’ deaths, Trost said. The agency’s system safety department reached out informally to Protran Technology to develop prototype testing of early warning system technology, but that solution was not being actively pursued, Trost said.
While there haven’t been any major developments in prototype testing, Trost said some small steps have been taken.
“Agencies have been comparing notes on their product evaluation and have invited each other to participate in others’ evaluation activities,” she said. “Also, we are constantly exploring other new products in the field to see if any of them fit BART’s needs.”Tags: BART deathshealth and safetyscabsDeathsCal-OSHA
Washington State Labor AFL-CIO Resolutions On Mass Public Transit, Railroad Health and Safety
RESOLUTION ON SOUND TRANSIT 3
WHEREAS the Greater Puget Sound Region’s traffic is the sixth worst in the country, the average driver losing 66 hours of his or her life each year due to gridlock; and
WHEREAS, relief from gridlock will get major help from the bold Sound Transit 3 plan (ST3) announced by Sound Transit, to go before the voters of King, Snohomish and Pierce counties this November; and
WHEREAS, ST3 will greatly expand mass transit in the Puget Sound region adding 62 miles of light rail, commuter rail, and bus rapid transit, to the existing Sound Transit System and upon completion of ST3 we will have 116 miles of light rail — about the size Washington, D.C.’s Metro System — extending from Tacoma in the South, West Seattle and Ballard to the West, Issaquah and Redmond to the East, and Everett to the North; and
WHEREAS, ST3 will be a $54 billion infrastructure project creating about 50 million labor hours providing many tens of thousands of building and construction jobs and great opportunities for local hire and for new, young apprentices to join the trades and few years into the project and ST-3 will account for over 1 in 10 construction jobs through both good and bad economic cycles; and
WHEREAS, the wages from these jobs will be spent locally giving an economic boost to businesses in the region and bringing much needed tax revenue into state and local governments; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, that the WA State Labor Council support the Mass Transit Now campaign to pass ST3 this November; and be it further
RESOLVED, that the WSLC engage with affiliated unions and community partners to endorse Mass Transit Now and pass ST3.
RAILROAD CONTRACT CREW TRANSPORTATION SAFETY
WHEREAS, railroads in Washington State employ over 2,700 operating craft workers who perform work aboard moving trains; and
WHEREAS, railroad operations require that railroad operating crews be transported to and from trains and in deadhead transportation all across our state on a 24/7/365 basis in all weather conditions, on public roads and highways as well as in rural areas on private unpaved roads and trails; and
WHEREAS, railroads once provided such transportation services in-house subject to state regulation, with a staff of unionized and qualified clerks who functioned as drivers; in the late 1980’s the railroad companies eliminated these workers and outsourced these services to unregulated, out of state, lowest bid contract operators, after which the safety of rail crew transportation has continuously declined, while accidents and injuries increased; and
WHEREAS, three rail employees died and another was critically injured in a tragic needless accident near Longview, WA. in March of 2011, while occupying a crew hauling transport van operated by a non-railroad contract company which was struck by a moving train at a private crossing on railroad property; and
WHEREAS, our legislature has failed for four consecutive years to pass legislation to address these problems, resulting in a continuing occurrence of railroad crew fatalities and accidents in contracted transportation vehicles, including the following:
• On May 1, 2013 an accident occurred about 10 miles N. of Pasco, WA. A Crew was in route from Spokane to Pasco – when an accident occurred involving the crew van being sandwiched between two semis. All the occupants were injured – one was off work for many months.
• On October 10, 2013, at 8:00 a.m., a crew transport van with four railroad crew members was traveling from Pasco, WA, to Vancouver, WA, on I-84 when the driver drove off the road near Hood River, OR, injuring two of the four railroad employees. The driver has been charged with reckless driving, and it has been reported that one of employees was injured so severely that he will never be able to return to work on the railroad.
• On November 13, 2013, a driver was assigned to pick up a rail crew at a rural siding near Pasco, WA. The driver, proceeding at 50 mph in dense fog, failed to slow down and stop at a “T” intersection, driving through the intersection, off the road, and into a field. All railroad crewmembers riding in the van were injured.
• On February 21, 2014, at approximately 9:15 a.m., crew van #711, operated by QM Shuttle Services, was nearly struck by a southbound Amtrak train in Burlington, WA. The van had just dropped off a BNSF rail crew at a nearby location. The Amtrak engineer reported that the crew van backed off the tracks just a split second before they would have collided; and
• On September 18, 2015 – A PTI van transporting crews (4 passengers) from Pasco yard was attempting to make left turn across the opposing lane of traffic (in a 65 mph zone), they were stopped waiting for traffic to clear in opposing lane – a vehicle in opposite lane struck the crew van as it turned in a T-bone collision. Two of the injured crew members are in litigation.
• On January 20, 2016 a PTI crew van transporting a Washington state crew traveling between Vancouver, WA and Pasco, WA was rear ended by a semi in Portland, OR. None of the railroad employee passengers have yet returned to work. One member suffered cracked vertebrae and will never be able to return to work. After the accident, the PTI crew van driver tested positive for both alcohol and drugs; and
WHEREAS, railroad contract crew transportation operations have contributed to many other injurious accidents affecting railroad workers including the loss of many railroad careers; and
WHEREAS, these out-of-state contract operators pay their drivers poverty wages based on waiting times and mileage, resulting in extremely high turnover rates; fail to ensure that their drivers are physically able to perform the duties of the job, nor are drivers screened for adequate vision; are not required to meet DOT driver physical standards; do not adequately check their drivers’ backgrounds for criminal histories and drug or alcohol-related issues; do not require drivers to demonstrate a working knowledge of safe driving practices associated with transporting rail crews in all weather conditions on a round the clock basis; do not ensure that their drivers are properly trained for the hazards associated with driving around and near railroad operations; do not implement specific route training and familiarization; and do not have adequate driver fatigue abatement practices; and
WHEREAS, in December 2014 a Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission inspection revealed 188 Administrative Code Violations resulting in the assessment of a civil penalty of $18,800 against Professional Transportation Inc. (PTI) the primary railroad crew transportation contractor operating in our state, and
WHEREAS, in June 2016, a Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission compliance follow-up inspection discovered that PTI had committed yet another 324 new Administrative Code Violations resulting in the assessment of a civil penalty of $170,900 against PTI; and
WHEREAS, railroad employees are not covered or protected under state labor and industry coverage while working; instead rail workplace injuries fall under the Federal Employers Liability Act of 1908, in which rail worker injury protection hinges entirely on fault. This creates a unique absence of protection affecting no other workers in Washington State except railroad employees when injured while riding in employer provided transportation. In rail crew transportation accidents that are the fault of third parties, with no fault on the part of the railroad, the contract crew hauling firm or their driver, a railroad worker has minimal to no coverage and may have no recourse even in the most critical or deadly accidents; and
WHEREAS, the BNSF Railway Company and the Union Pacific Railroad continue to steadfastly oppose any efforts to require their contractors to maintain adequate uninsured motorist insurance coverage to provide adequate protection for rail workers, or increase state oversight into these largely unregulated operations, or increase the minimum qualification of such drivers; and
WHEREAS, the railroad companies have engaged in a despicable ongoing campaign of misinformation, deceit, and misrepresentation in order to block passage of this critical legislation, including issuing completely false assertions that through this legislation our rail labor organizations are seeking only to unionize the contract van drivers and put the van transportation companies out of business; and
WHEREAS, such contract van services utilized by the railroads operate with minimal regulation or government oversight, and the drivers for these service companies have no requisite training or requirements greater than any other private non-commercial licensed drivers; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, that the Washington State Labor Council strongly supports, endorses and demands the immediate enactment of Railroad Contract Crew Transportation Safety legislation that imposes a minimum uninsured motorist insurance requirement sufficient to protect a full vehicle of employees in a catastrophic accident, requires such drivers possess and maintain commercial driver’s licenses, and provides appropriate state agencies will full safety enforcement authority over these contract operators to ensure safe transportation for passengers; and we hereby strongly encourage the passage of this legislation within our 2017 Washington State Labor Council Legislative Agenda; and be it finally
RESOLVED, that the Washington State Labor Council send a copy of this resolution to all members of the legislature.
RAIL LINE ELECTRIFICATION PROJECT
WHEREAS, the fiery crash of an oil train in Mosier, Oregon along the Columbia River on June 3 places a heightened focus on the safety challenges posed by Crude by Rail shipments. The Mosier derailment resulted in forced evacuations, a regional first-responder alert, and shutdown of a wastewater treatment facility polluted by spilled oil. Fate was on the side of Mosier as unusually calm winds aided in containing and controlling the oil fire; and
WHEREAS, significant oil train derailments leading to spills, and some to fires, have totaled over twenty-five in North America over the past 10 years with the Lac Megantic’, Canada disaster of 2013 the most devastating: 47 people incinerated; and
WHEREAS, in years past as crude by rail dominated capacity as the profit generators for the railroad, ports and agricultural producers faced increased delays in getting other food related commodities to market. Additionally, knee jerk manpower reductions by efficiency fixated rail management resulted in crew shortages that further impacted rail capacity. Now that energy prices are lower, many railroads have furloughed recently hired workers and mothballed locomotives waiting for the next commodity surge to fill capacity; and
WHEREAS, railroad labor whistleblowers have brought many railroad carrier operational and safety shortfalls into the public spotlight, there is a long way to go in improving rail worker safety. Minimum, mandatory two-person train crews are essential, crew fatigue issues must be addressed, and adequate and available rail crews who are properly trained and maintained are essential; and
WHEREAS, by illuminating the pitfalls of dangerous commodity transportation, other opportunities can be progressed demonstrating the vital importance of modern infrastructure to improve upon the overall plight of all workers; and
WHEREAS, within organized labor, most support improvements and upgrades to infrastructure and recognize the importance trade has to the Washington State economy. However, improved bulk commodity infrastructure has drawn the wrath of many because of the commodities that are shipped today. We believe rail and trade modernization opportunities made today are essential in attracting the trade commodities of tomorrow; and
WHEREAS, a strategy for rail line electrification provides an opportunity to create an even more sustainable transportation mode and a pathway for providing economic options beyond diesel power. The Solutionary Rail concept provides a transition strategy that leverages rail’s unique capacity among long-haul transportation modes to operate on electricity, unlike many other modalities. Solutionary Rail centers on electrification of major rail lines using renewable energy; and
WHEREAS, in conjunction with a program of track modernization, the Solutionary Rail concept would enable increased speeds, capacity and reliability. It is not a proposal for high-speed passenger rail that must run on its own line. Rather, it is for practical increases in speeds, attracting back freight cargo and passenger services previously lost, and would modernized existing rail line to carry both; and
WHEREAS, by providing a low-carbon transportation option, the Solutionary Rail proposition would provide significant climate benefits. Rail electrification could also be leveraged to create transmission corridors for renewable resources now stranded by lack of capacity, providing even greater carbon reductions; and
WHEREAS, the Solutionary Rail team developed a concept to overcome these hurdles, a Steel Interstate Development Authority (SIDA) created by an alliance of state governments. The SIDA raises funds in public capital markets and joins in public-private partnerships with railroad companies to erect electrification infrastructure and potentially fund track upgrades; and
WHEREAS, Solutionary Rail proposes a demonstration on one major line to jumpstart rail electrification in the U.S. The team has identified the BNSF “Hi-Line” corridor for initial rollout of the concept. It is the intermodal line from Seattle to Chicago on which higher speed is critical and it also runs through some of the most wind-rich regions in the world; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, that to further the concept, the Washington State Labor Council calls on Governor Inslee to direct the Washington State Department of Transportation and other appropriate state agencies to evaluate the feasibility of the Solutionary Rail proposal and to bring the general concept of rail corridor electrification, powered by renewable energy, into the broader “green” industrial transportation system.
RESOLUTION REGARDING RAILROAD WORKER AND PUBLIC SAFETY REGULATION AND LEGISLATION
WHEREAS, railroads are a vital infrastructure and industry in Washington State, critical to commerce and the economy; and
WHEREAS, the economic vitality of Washington State is predicated on safe, viable rail networks with adequate capacity to provide freight service for our ports, aerospace industry, maritime cluster, agriculture, and other businesses, as well as adequate capacity for passenger rail; and
WHEREAS, railroads employ over 5,000 unionized workers in Washington State and provide stable, family-wage jobs with premium healthcare benefits and retirements; and
WHEREAS, significant and serious safety concerns currently exist regarding railroad operations and infrastructure in Washington State, which affect rail union members in various job crafts and which when combined create a hazardous workplace that also affects public safety, including the following:
• Insufficient and/or poorly maintained walking surfaces, footpaths, and rail yard walkways utilized by railroad crews for safety inspections of trains and other safety-related duties;
• Poor lighting conditions in and around rail yards;
• Lack of maintenance of critical rail appliances and infrastructure, including switches and derails lacking proper ergonomic standards or any physical operational force requirement standards;
• Unregulated contractors providing transportation services for railroad workers;
• Lack of any Hours of Service laws or regulations for the craft of yardmasters, who are the “rail traffic controllers” of train yards;
• No minimum train crew size requirements;
• Draconian attendance and outrageous availability policies contributing to an epidemic of chronic long term fatigue among most railroad workers,
• No paid sick leave while subjecting workers to severe discipline and or termination for illness or injuries to themselves or their families,
WHEREAS, railroad yardmasters, who control train movements in and around the various rail terminals and facilities, are not protected by the Federal Railroad Hours of Service laws, which limit the number of consecutive hours other railroad employees can work to 12, with no less than 10 hours between shifts; and
WHEREAS, many railroad yardmasters are forced to perform service for 16-hour shifts, with only 8 hours off between shifts, creating dangerous sleep deprivation situations that endanger the lives and safety of the rail workers they are supervising, the public and themselves; and
WHEREAS, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) inadvertently requested that its own legislative authority over railroad safety be repealed (RCW 81.44.065) in 2007, which has resulted in confusion as to which state agency has authority over various aspects of railroad safety and/or which department is empowered to enforce assorted railroad safety regulations, so that four state agencies and ten local governments have different facets of rail regulatory authority; and
WHEREAS, adoption and aggressive enforcement of railroad safety regulations is critical to ensure public and workplace safety, and such authority should be coordinated by one state agency; and
WHEREAS, a clear determination of which state agency will be ultimately entrusted with most all railroad safety regulatory and enforcement authority must be made; now, therefore, be it
WHEREAS, the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO (WSLC), at its 2016 convention, supported and endorsed the following legislative efforts related to railroad workplace and public safety:
• HB 1284/SB 5696, seeking adoption of state regulatory authority, equivalent to the Federal Hours of Service Laws that now cover railroad operating craft personnel, for Class I railroad yardmasters working in the State of Washington; and
• Continued progress in consolidation all of State of Washington railroad public and workplace safety and regulatory functions possible under a single agency, the WUTC; and providing this agency with the maximum regulatory authority over railroads permissible under federal law, as well as providing adequate funding, which includes additional inspectors with federalized rail enforcement authority; and
• Adoption of legislation insuring the availability of safe sick leave usage by employees in Washington State who work for transportation carriers regulated by the Surface Transportation Board, and
• HB 1809/SB 5697, seeking adoption of a minimum, mandatory railroad crew size of no fewer than two qualified operating craft employees on all trains and railroads operating in Washington State, and requiring additional crewmembers required on trains containing high risk volatile hazardous materials to be positioned on the rear end of such trains so they can monitor the cargo as well as respond to any incident or emergency; and be it further
RESOLVED, that the WSLC recognizes that crude shipments by rail pose a real and potentially deadly threat to both rail workers and the public, and strongly urges the Washington State Legislature to work in close cooperation with rail labor organizations to critically examine all aspects of crude-by-rail operations; and be it further
RESOLVED, that the WSLC supports and urges the Washington State Legislature, as well as all Washington State agencies having such authority, to develop a coordinated, consolidated, expanded, and effective rail regulatory and enforcement program for the purpose of ensuring increased protection of both railroad workers and the public; and be it finally
RESOLVED, that the WSLC hereby determines that the resolution of these critical railroad public and employee safety issues and the passage of this legislation with any newly issued bill numbers with equivalent meaning and intent shall again be a part of, and a priority in, the 2017 Washington State Labor Council’s legislative agenda.
RESOLUTION SUPPORTING LEGISLATION REQUIRING MINIMUM RAILROAD TRAIN CREW SIZE
WHEREAS, over the past 50 years, US railroads have continuously pursued a reduction in the size of crews operating trains, from six persons down to the current negotiated minimum of two crew members on through freight services; and
WHEREAS, in 1967 Washington State repealed a long-standing law requiring a minimum of six persons on all trains operating within our state, and since that time no standard minimum train crew size requirements have been enacted; and
WHEREAS, the elimination of crew members down to the current negotiated minimum of only two has created a situation that significantly reduces the years of on-the-job experience formerly available on larger crews, which had allowed crew members to develop their skills, knowledge, and territorial familiarity; this has resulted in a scenario where new and inexperienced train crews are now operating trains without seasoned, well-qualified persons, to the detriment of the safety of the public and the employees alike; and
WHEREAS, railroad operational requirements require that train crews perform numerous tasks while concurrently operating moving trains, which the National Transportation Safety Board has labeled “task saturation,” which can result in crews overlooking specific actions related to safe train operation; and
WHEREAS, technology, while improving the safe movement of trains, cannot replace the safety and security of train crews consisting of a minimum of two qualified persons, the presence of which provides additional safeguards, including the ability of crew members to cross-check and verify each other’s actions and activities while operating trains, to adequately respond to accidents and critical incidents, as well as the capability to separate rail cars at crossings to allow emergency responders to cross tracks which is a function which cannot be performed by one person; and
WHEREAS, on July 6, 2013, a Montreal, Maine and Atlantic freight train, staffed by only one crew member, was left unattended and inadequately secured and therefore rolled away, resulting in a major derailment of hazardous oil that caught fire, killing 47 people and causing catastrophic destruction to the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada; and
WHEREAS, between July 24, 2013 and June 28th, 2016 there have been 27 major railroad accidents involving hundreds of death, countless injuries, explosions, fires and environmental damage; and
WHEREAS, on June 3, 2016 a Union Pacific oil train with 96 carloads of flammable crude oil derailed in Mosier, OR. on the south side of the Columbia River Gorge while moving at 26 mph, resulting in an oil leak and fire involving four railcars, and resulting in the evacuation of the town for several days; and
WHEREAS, crude oil and hazardous material shipments by rail have increased exponentially in recent years, outpacing rail capacity; first-responder training and state spill response planning are inadequate; and railroad crew fatigue abatement programs are nonexistent, creating public safety and environmental concerns; and
WHEREAS, chronic fatigue is epidemic on US railroads, due to operational requirements that include no regular working schedule for crew members, as well as intentional underemployment policies by the carriers, through which they maximize profits at the expense of public and employee safety, requiring crew members to return to work immediately after the minimum required federal rest has expired; and
WHEREAS, rail carriers have recently imposed draconian attendance policies that punish railroad employees who attempt to take additional time off for rest or family matters, resulting in train crew members reporting for work even when they know they are not rested and ready for duty, creating a serious employee and public safety risk; and
WHEREAS, in 2014 the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad proposed that freight train crew sizes be reduced to just one person: the locomotive engineer, who would be alone in the locomotive cab and working frequently for time periods as long as 12 hours, the proposal was rejected by a margin of 83% of rail labor union members voting; and
WHEREAS, Transport Canada, the equivalent of the US Department of Transportation, now requires all trains moving hazardous materials to have a crew of no fewer than two persons, it being recognized that train crews should consist of at least two qualified employees, due to the large number of tasks required of such employees in order to operate a train safely; and
WHEREAS, when considering railroad safety and hazardous commodity train safety, it is irresponsible and illogical to ignore train crew size issues and rail crew response capabilities when considering methods and legislation to increase train safety, as the two are intertwined and inseparable; now, therefore, be it
WHEREAS, the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO (WSLC), at its 2014 convention, in the interest of public safety and employee safety, passed a resolution to steadfastly oppose any actions to permit one-person train crew operations on Class I railroads operating in our state and elsewhere; and be it further
RESOLVED, that the WSLC supports and fervently urges the Washington State Legislature to enact proposed legislation prohibiting one-person train crew operations which are already operating in our state on short-line railroads to the detriment of public safety, and enact minimum two person crew size requirement on all trains both passenger and freight; and be it further
RESOLVED, on trains consisting of large quantities of commodities of highly volatile, flammable, explosive or radioactive materials that additional qualified train crew members be required to be positioned on the rear of these trains to provide constant and ongoing inspection and monitoring of the transportation of such hazardous cargo; and be it further
RESOLVED, that the placement of additional qualified crewmembers provides the public and our communities with additional levels of safety on trains transporting dangerous commodities, additional crew members ensures train crews are in a position to recognize and respond quickly to any trouble that may occur in route, as well as being available to separate the train quickly if necessary as well as quickly cut grade crossings for emergency response vehicles who may need to the cross tracks to respond to any emergencies; and be it further
RESOLVED, that the WSLC supports and advocates that members of our congressional delegation cosponsor and work to pass HR 1763 the Safe Freight Act, which would require all trains operating in the United States to be staffed with a crew of no fewer than two persons; and be it finally
RESOLVED, that the WSLC hereby determines that the enactment of legislation to prohibit one-person train crews and require additional train crew members on hazardous commodity trains shall be a priority in its 2017 legislative agenda.Tags: Public Transitrailroad safetyRailroad Worker Whistleblowers
Global: G20 Leaders push for short-term recovery with structural reforms – trade unions call for long-term inclusive growth
Brazil Transit & Public Workers Speak Out In São Paulo About Privatization & Union Busting
Brazilian transit workers from São Paulo and public workers and unionists discussed the attack on transit and public workers through privatization and contracting out work. This took place during an international conference with the São Paulo Metro Workers Union. Sindicato dos Metroviarios de São Paulo-Metro Workers Union of São Paulo initiated the call for an Transport Workers International Meeting Against Privatization which was held in July 1-3, 2016 in São Paulo . The president of the union local is also running for mayor of São Paulo and discusses the issues he is running on.
Production of Labor Video Project
Marty Walsh throws latest MBTA privatization idea under bus
Walsh: Plan won’t give savings
Matt Stout Tuesday, September 06, 2016
Credit: Faith Ninivaggi
UNION DUES: Mayor Martin J. Walsh speaks at the Greater Boston Labor Council’s Labor Day breakfast in Boston yesterday.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh yesterday came out swinging against the MBTA for weighing the privatization of core functions such as bus routes and maintenance, calling it a “mistake” that could pave the way to widespread outsourcing at the cash-strapped agency.
“It’s a slippery slope. It’s a dangerous way to go,” Walsh told reporters after speaking to a pro-labor crowd at the Greater Boston Labor Council’s annual Labor Day breakfast. “When you talk about privatization, in an initial contract, it always seems like it’s going to save money. Long-term it doesn’t save money, the costs go up. I’ve had some conversations with the governor about this.
“I think it’s a mistake,” Walsh later added. “Privatizing the whole MBTA is not the way to go.”
The Herald reported on Saturday that the MBTA is taking a hard look at private contracts within its massive operations and maintenance departments, which account for $875 million of spending each year.
The T’s Fiscal Management and Control Board, writing in a report filed with lawmakers, said the agency is “beginning to actively examine” the possibility, citing areas such as its bus operations, where the T’s bus drivers, at $35.86 per hour, are the highest-paid in the country, according to a T analysis.
Under the law Gov. Charlie Baker signed last year, the T has just a three-year window — or through mid-2018 — to identify areas to privatize without the restraints of the so-called Pacheco Law. Facing a $110 million deficit, the T has thus far sought out private vendors for smaller departments, such as its parts warehouse and its “cash” room.
“When you look at the money room, that’s one thing,” said Walsh, a former head of the Boston Building Trades Council. “But when you talk about going systemically across the system, I think that’s a problem.”
One board member has said that there is no “magic number” that would limit how widespread privatization could go. The MBTA has said that “leveraging flexible contracting remains a critical tool” for the agency as it seeks out savings.
At yesterday’s Labor Day breakfast, signs of opposition littered the Park Plaza Hotel ballroom, including one that read in all capital letters: “Keep Public Transportation Public!!!!! Stop MBTA Privatization.”
Steve Tolman, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, echoed the message, telling the crowd that “investment, not privatization, is the way to a better public transit system.”Tags: privatizationMTA
Major job losses feared when self-driving cars take to the road-Former SEIU Pres Andy Stern Says Plan Ahead
Major job losses feared when self-driving cars take to the road-Former SEIU Pres Andy Stern Says Plan Ahead
Major job losses feared when self-driving cars take to the road
By David R. Baker and Carolyn Said
September 6, 2016
<920x1240.jpg>Photo: Leah Millis, The ChronicleTed Chen, 56, drives his truck in Oakland toward the Bay Bridge to pick up recycled materials from Recology for export. Chen, who has been driving trucks for 18 years, says he believes autonomous trucks could be dangerous.
Millions of Americans make a living by driving trucks, delivery vans, taxis and ride-hailing cars. When technology takes the wheel, what will happen to their livelihoods?
That question is growing more urgent as the advent of self-driving vehicles accelerates. Major players like Ford, Volvo and Tesla Motors have introduced concrete plans. In Singapore, autonomous taxis are already on city streets, and Uber’s first fleet hits Pittsburgh this month.
Predictions range from apocalyptic warnings of major unemployment and economic collapse to utopian views of new job categories, increased efficiency, and dramatic decreases in deaths and injuries from vehicle crashes.
Even Tesla CEO Elon Musk, whose company is pushing hard to develop autonomous vehicles, has warned that the technology could cost jobs.
“If you have self-driving cars, then what happens to the 12 percent of the population whose job it is to drive a car or drive a truck?” Musk said at a forum in May. Self-driving vehicles, he said, are just one example of how artificial intelligence could create a “tremendous upheaval in terms of employment.”
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has taken positions on both sides. He infuriated drivers two years ago by saying at a tech conference that getting rid of “the other dude in the car” through driverless technology would make Uber rides cheaper. But last month, he told Business Insider that human-piloted Ubers would still be needed and predicted that autonomous cars would spawn new jobs such as fleet maintenance. Initially, Uber’s Pittsburgh cars will carry an engineer ready to take the wheel if needed.
<920x1240.jpg>Photo: Leah Millis, The ChronicleTed Chen keeps a thermos handy as he drives his truck over the Bay Bridge to pick up recycled materials from Recology for export from the Port of Oakland.
Many ride-hailing drivers are dubious about their future but figure they will have time to devise a Plan B.
“Most drivers know (autonomous cars) are coming; it’s just a matter of when,” said Christian Perea, who drives part time for Uber and Lyft in San Francisco and writes for the Rideshare Guy blog. (Lyft is also pursuing driverless taxis through a partnership with General Motors.) “But I don’t think it will be a situation where robots show up one day and clean house within five minutes. It will happen slowly enough for me and others to adapt and find other ways of earning money.”
The majority of Lyft and Uber drivers work part time, studies show. Many drivers already plan to transition to other work, as spates of price cuts by Uber and Lyft have hurt their income, Perea said.
Edward Escobar, a San Francisco driver and founder of the Alliance for Independent Workers, an association of ride-service drivers and other contractors, takes a dim view.
“Uber has Walmartized the process and brought on people to be like spokes in a wheel, replaceable, expendable,” he said. “Most drivers will get the short end of the stick” when autonomy happens. Meanwhile he’s already looking ahead, diversifying the types of gigs he does.
Labor leader Andy Stern sees the biggest potential hit to America’s 3.5 million truck drivers. “Commercial truck driving is going to be the leading edge of a tsunami of labor displacement,” said Stern, former president of the Service Employees International Union. “It’s not something the next generation is going to have to deal with — it’s going to happen in the next decade.”
Truck drivers, he noted, support a vast web of workers whose own jobs may be imperiled.
<920x1240.jpg>Photo: Leah Millis, The ChronicleTed Chen, 56, jumps out of his truck to check the back after docking at Recology in San Francisco.
“We’re talking millions of jobs: the drivers themselves, but also the people in insurance, repairs, restaurants, hotels,” Stern said. “I think it’s incredibly irresponsible that no one’s making plans for this.”
Of course, not everyone agrees that self-driving technology will render truckers and cabbies obsolete.
Many truck drivers themselves say they simply cannot envision being replaced by robots.
“Can a computer drive an 80,000-pound machine at 80 miles per hour?” asked Manuel Silveira, a 22-year industry veteran who drives a big rig between Oakdale (Stanislaus County) and the Port of Oakland. He and several other drivers interviewed at the port last week said their top concern isn’t their work; it’s how safe the technology might be.
“Driving a truck is not a simple task,” said Gurmit Singh, an owner-operator based in Fresno. “We’re not going to sleep well (with autonomous vehicles on the road) unless they have special lanes on the highway. A machine will never be perfect.”
In fact, even the companies developing autonomous trucks say they will not supplant drivers.
German auto giant Daimler, the world’s leading truck manufacturer, which has been testing its own autonomous truck in Nevada, pitches its Inspiration Truck system as a way to maintain consistent speeds, stay in lanes and brake as needed. It has no plans to create trucks that can drive without human intervention, Derek Rotz, director of advanced engineering for Daimler Trucks North America, said in an email.
<920x1240.jpg>Photo: Leah Millis, The ChronicleTruck driver Mike McLendon, stopping to weigh his rig near the Port of Oakland, calls self-driving vehicles a “losing proposition.”
In fact, he said, the technology could help attract younger drivers, who are badly needed in an industry that saw a shortage of 48,000 drivers in 2015, according to the American Trucking Association.
“Drivers are aging rapidly, are nearing retirement, and new recruits have not filled the void,” Rotz said. “Current trends show the shortage increasing in the coming years. Technology, including safety systems, autonomous systems and connectivity, would make trucks and truck driving as a profession more attractive to the next generation of drivers.”
Uber’s new acquisition, San Francisco startup Otto, which is developing a self-driving kit to retrofit existing trucks, says its trucks will always need a driver on board. Its plan is that they could catch some sleep while its system — a sort of super cruise control — handles freeway driving.
“We don’t think we’ll replace drivers,” said Eric Berdinis, Otto product lead. “There’s lots of complexity around loading, unloading, paperwork, weigh stations, police, refueling. To autonomate those aspects is not possible. We see this as a way to extend the amount of time truck drivers can drive safely.”
Chris Spear, president of the American Trucking Associations, says some of the technologies being tested could offer major benefits to trucking companies and their drivers.
Vehicle-to-vehicle communication, which allows autonomous cars or trucks to signal each other on the road, could prevent accidents, he said. Systems that allow trucks to follow each other closely in a tight convoy — an idea called “platooning” already tried in Europe — could cut fuel use. He doubts that trucks could become fully driverless anytime soon.
“I keep telling our members, ‘We cannot be afraid of technology — it can solve more problems than it creates,’” Spear said. “If this technology can be a catalyst to getting to zero fatalities, we want to be part of that.”
ON THE ROAD
• Google still lurks in self-driving race with Uber and others
• California’s electric car program may be running out of gas
• The mystery behind California’s high gas prices
Not everyone in the trucking business is so upbeat.
“There certainly is discussion among drivers,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “They’re not naive enough to think that anyone would be pursuing this for any reason other than doing away with those jobs.”
And yet like Spear, Spencer doubts that trucks will soon be able to run entire trips on their own, no human required. Navigating a big-rig through narrow city streets, he said, is much harder than staying in-lane on a quiet rural interstate. And even the open road may present challenges that sensors and algorithms can’t handle.
“When you’re on top of a 6,000- or 8,000-foot grade in the dead of winter, and it’s 10 degrees, and you’re just getting glimpses of the road … it requires the absolute best somebody has to get down that mountain without losing it,” said Spencer, a former driver. “That’s not a time that anyone wants to gamble with technology.”techdriverless truckstechnology