Serious contract negotiations are now underway between the University of California system and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents nearly 14,000 clerical workers and administrative support staff.
Tony Sheldon, an internationally known trade unionist and the national secretary of Australia’s Transport Workers Union, recently attended a Las Vegas convention of world labor representatives, hosted by the Teamsters. Capital & Main caught up with him later in Los Angeles.
Self-employed independent contractors in the Golden State can neither form unions nor negotiate collective bargaining pacts, but part of those conditions could soon change, according to Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego). Gonzalez, Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Women in the Workplace, introduced Assembly Bill 1727 on January 28 as an amendment to the state’s Labor Code. Gonzalez’s bill, which will be updated today, is called the California 1099 Self-Organizing Act. It would allow independent contractors to form employee associations that could negotiate working conditions and pay, though not to form labor unions.
“All workers should have the right to organize and collectively bargain,” Gonzalez said in an email to Capital & Main. “Our laws need to catch up to the innovation happening in our economy to ensure independent contractors have a pathway to these workplace rights as well.”
Two days ago, with truck driver strikes expanding at Los Angeles-area ports, Capital & Main shared a conversation with a pair of drivers who detailed safety concerns about a trucking system that imposes long hours and unaffordable maintenance burdens. As the strikes spread among trucking companies and into port warehouses, those safety concerns took center stage with a shocking accident.
On Tuesday afternoon a shipping container slipped from a truck and killed a bicyclist in Carson. The container had struck a railroad bridge, though a witness said that the truck may not have been appropriate for the job.
“I’m assuming that they’re hiring those flatbeds because yesterday it was a flatbed too,” David Alva told ABC7 News. The day before, Alva saw a similar accident that did not involve injuries. “Those containers weigh from 40,000 [pounds] and up. They just strap them on with straps,
Capital & Main recently sat down with actor Ed O’Neill, best known for his role as Al Bundy in the Fox TV Network sitcom, Married With Children, and currently starring in ABC’s award-winning comedy, Modern Family, which will be honored in December at the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy’s 2014 City of Justice Awards Dinner.
What are your thoughts on the direction of the country after this last election?
I voted — I had to vote absentee because I was working. But these midterm elections are always puzzling to me because usually not many people come out for the vote. But obviously the country goes back and forth about so many things. I personally think Obama’s doing a pretty good job. Then again, I don’t follow it every day. For me,
For the fourth time within a year, truck drivers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have gone on strike. The drivers allege that two hauling companies, Total Transportation Services Inc. and Pacific 9 Transportation, have been retaliating against workers challenging their company-defined status as independent contractors, or who have expressed pro-union sympathies. At the heart of the drivers’ complaint is the charge that the two companies have broken the letter and spirit of a cooling-off agreement brokered by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti last July.
That agreement, which called on trucking companies to take back strikers without retaliating against them, had ended a weeklong walkout by the drivers over the issues of job classifications and working conditions.
At a waterfront press conference held today in Wilmington, Teamster union activist Alex Paz told listeners, “We are fed up with the injustices committed by companies that haven’t gotten the message yet” about the need to honor the cooling-off agreement.
Over a span of 20 summer days truck driver Daniel Linares had moved some 110 cargo containers at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach for Pacific 9, a drayage company based in Carson.
Linares’ August 15, 2014 check showed his gross earnings to be $3191.87. But another line item on the check stub offered a nasty payday shock: By Pac 9’s calculations Linares owed the company $296.47. In other words, he had received a “negative” paycheck.
Pac 9, a company whose “180-plus independent drivers” annually deliver more than 100,000 containers from Southern California’s ports and whose “customer list includes many of the most recognizable Fortune 100 companies,” according to the company website, had handed Linares the bill for the insurance, registration and other expenses incurred for the truck he leases from the company. He had already paid up-front for its fuel.
With his pressed jeans, vegan diet and runner’s frame, Jeff Farmer could be a high-tech entrepreneur. But his heart is with low-wage parking attendants, taxi drivers and truckers instead of corporate profits.
As the International Brotherhood of Teamsters’ national organizing director, Farmer doesn’t mind that his union has a reputation for being the biggest and baddest kid on the block. Farmer says that when workers organize they want to know they have an even chance to win against the abuses of some of the biggest international companies out there. With a good strategic organizing plan and by bringing the right people together, Farmer feels they can. Fresh from a five-day trucker strike at the Port of L.A. that was launched to win basic employee rights, the Teamsters are putting this approach into practice.
True to his roots as an organizer, Farmer believes unions have to be open to new relationships and ways of organizing.
It’s 5:45 a.m. on Wednesday morning and it’s been a long night for Dennis Martinez and his fellow port truck drivers.
Martinez is nearing the end of a 48-hour strike against Total Transportation Services, Inc. (TTSI), the logistics company for which he has worked for two and a half years. The drivers are about to go through the toughest part of the two-day action – asking the company they have been striking against if they can return to work.
The fatigue shows on Martinez’s face. He hasn’t gotten much sleep but he expected that. He knew taking on a wealthy company wasn’t going to be easy.
A slender man dressed in a gray Aero sweatshirt, jeans and tennis shoes, Martinez is 29 but can pass for a teenager. He keeps headphones in his right ear just in case he needs a pick-me-up from Daddy Yankee and Pit Bull, two of reggaeton’s biggest artists.
It took about a year of hard-fought organizing and several weeks of balloting, but Wednesday the vote tally spoke for itself: Nearly 70 percent of New Jersey-based port truck drivers employed by the Toll Group chose to form a union. The 112 truckers, who include long-haul drivers and hostlers that move trailers within Toll’s yards, have affiliated with Teamster Local 469.
Toll, an Australian-owned transportation and logistics industry giant, had only last year agreed to allow drivers at its Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach facility to unionize with Teamster Local 848, capping a contentious struggle there. (The company’s Australian facilities have long been unionized.) Rather than learn from its California experience and take a constructive approach to labor relations, Toll flat-out fought its East Coast workers, who service the ports of New York and New Jersey. During its organizing campaign, the Teamsters filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board,
John Thomas and Hans Burkhardt have a lot in common. For more than 17 years each man had a good paying union job, with health and pension benefits, near San Francisco Bay. Thomas worked as a warehouseman for VWR International, a medical supply company with a warehouse in Brisbane, south of Candlestick Park. Burkhardt also worked as a warehouseman, for BlueLinx, a building products company with a facility across the bay in Newark.
The similarities don’t end there. Both Thomas and Burkhardt are now collecting unemployment, having lost their $22-an-hour jobs after their employers moved to take advantage of California’s enterprise zone plan, a controversial state program that is supposed to create jobs.
The enterprise program, established in 1984, provides $700 million in tax breaks for companies that set up business or move to one of 40 zones within the state.
On February 14, 68 employees of VWR in Visalia voted affirmatively to join Teamsters Local 948 in an election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board. The election punctuates a very high profile and controversial move by the company from the Bay Area to Visalia and continues the Teamsters struggle with the company.
VWR, which [distributes laboratory equipment], was founded as a local California company, has grown into a global corporation, reporting more than $4.1 billion in sales for 2011. The Teamsters have represented VWR employees at their distribution center in Brisbane for over 50 years. For most of that time, labor-management relations were good. But when Madison Dearborn, a Chicago-based private equity firm, bought the company in 2007 things quickly changed.
In the midst of contract negotiations in 2010, VWR announced plans to close its Brisbane distribution center and move its operations 220 miles south to a new 500,000 square foot facility in Visalia.
The seven-month standoff between the bankrupt Hostess Brands, Inc. and the union workers that drive their trucks and bake their Twinkies is about to come to an end, and it isn’t looking good for workers. Hostess, who filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in January, sent a letter out to workers Monday putting forth a final offer to the Teamsters, the largest union at Hostess. The offer releases Hostess from millions of dollars in pension obligations, and if approved, will result in eight percent wage cuts within one year.
Frank Hurt, president of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union (BCTGM), the second-largest labor organization at Hostess after the Teamsters, expresses justified anger at the offer. He tells In These Times: “I would never sign this piece of crap. They keep giving us new proposals and each one is even worse than the last.”
Hurt’s union has a particularly weak hand in negotiations.
With large-scale domestic manufacturing off-shored and de-unionized, Hollywood film and television production may now be the most heavily unionized private-sector industry in the American economy. I had no idea when I started in the labor movement in the 1980s that I would get my foot in the (back) door of “the business” by working with some of the entertainment industry unions and guilds. Today’s “above the line” unions include the Directors Guild, the Writers Guild and the newly-merged SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists); “below the line” unions encompass the IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees – also called the “IA”), the Teamsters and others.
Though I barely knew which end of the camera to look through, I was first hired-on for some interesting projects by IA Local 600 – the Cinematographers Guild. When three regional camera locals were consolidated in the mid-1990s, I wrote and edited mail-outs to members about the merger and,
In mid-May, the management at Paleteria La Michoacana ice cream fired long-time delivery drivers, merchandisers, office workers and warehousemen at the Gardena and Modesto facilities, despite the fact that the boss, Ignacio Gutierrez, told employees earlier this year that his company is growing and profitable. The employee terminations occurred nearly on the eve of the scheduled Teamster representation election date.
Rick Middleton, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 572 in Carson:
“The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) is under attack. This means Americans are under attack. This employer is blatantly showing a disregard for our laws. We are a country of laws – we respect our laws. No man, no company is above the law.”
The union has since filed charges against the company with the NLRA.
Join Teamsters and labor union supporters at our rally on Tuesday, June 26th in Modesto to protest the unlawful firing of workers at Michoacana.