You are here

Teamsters

Communities Unite to Fight Coal in Oakland

By Eric K. Arnold - Reimagine, March 2016

Coal, once the staple of American industrial production, may be on its last legs. With domestic production showing a long-term decline, the fossil fuel’s days appear to be numbered.

According to the most recent annual report [1] of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2013, U.S. coal production fell below two billion short tons for the first time in two decades; coal mining capacity decreased, as did the average number of coal mine employees, the average sales price of coal, and total U.S. coal stocks. In April of 2015, the EIA projected coal would hit a 28-year low, reflecting significant drops in domestic demand and exports. In August, Goldman Sachs divested itself of its coal holdings; a month later, it issued a gloomy forecast[2] for coal’s future, stating, “the industry does not require new investment,” dashing hopes for a miraculous upturn in the coal market. A report[3] by the Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI) noted that 26 domestic coal companies have recently gone into bankruptcy proceedings; and coal’s value on the Dow Jones index dropped by 76 percent between 2009-14 (a period when the overall Dow index went up 69 percent).

According to CTI, domestic energy generation has remained flat for the past decade but energy sources have shifted: coal and oil are down, but natural gas and renewable energy are up. America’s largest coal producers are recording annual losses in the billions of dollars, while Chinese coal demand has slumped and new environmental regulations[4] aimed at significantly reducing air pollution and increasing wind and solar consumption are being phased in by the Chinese government. Additionally, all federal coal leasing is currently under moratorium until a comprehensive review can be completed. As the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) noted[5] in its online magazine, OnEarth, “it would be difficult to overstate the industry’s current distress.”

This is scary news for the coal industry, yet a welcome announcement for environmentalists who have waged national campaigns against coal for decades. These desperate times for coal producers have led to desperate measures. Their last hope, it would seem, is to increase coal’s export capacity by transporting the black gunk through West Coast ports. But even there the pro-coal forces have met with unexpected resistance, as city after city in Oregon and Washington have mounted grassroots campaigns to deliver an emphatic message: “Say no to coal.”

Hoffa Ally, Rome Aloise Facing Charges. Organized Labor's Rank and File Must Clean House

By Richard Mellor - Facts for Working People, February 15, 2016

In October 2104, supporters of this blog spent time on the picket lines at Waste Management, the company that handles refuse from Oakland and parts of San Leandro. The strikers were mostly the low paid sorters, sorting through trash every day for $12 an hour. They were mostly Latino, members of ILWU Local 6.

The truck drivers at waste Management are in the Teamsters union, but due to the usual pissing contests that take place between different sections of the labor hierarchy the drivers, whose job is crucial to the operation of the company, drove through the picket lines. As the drivers drove in to the plant we could see by the expressions on their faces that they didn’t like doing it. It goes against the grain for any class conscious worker to do such a thing, help the bosses’ break a strike.

What was even more sickening were the Teamster officials, alongside the bosses ushering their members in, making sure they weren’t impeded. In other words, they took action that helped undermine the strike, increased the suffering of the workers on the lines and increased the chance of a victory for the multi-millionaires that profit from the waste business. According to PR Watch,Waste Management's top executives combined made $119,201,381 from 2006 to 2012.

I approached one driver who had his window open and asked him how he felt about crossing the lines: "I don't like it but our leadership says we have to.", he replied.  He drove through and I turned and asked the striker for a copy of the leaflet they ere handing out appealing for help and solidarity..  The Teamster official then came scurrying over and told me to "Stop harassing my drivers, if you want to harass anyone harass me." As if he cares about his drivers.

As if being on strike isn’t bad enough and having the overpaid officials of a potentially powerful union ally act as strikebreakers by telling their members to work across a picket line, top union officials were busy attacking the striking workers in the media. Rome Aloise, who is a VP of the Teamster Joint Council 7, a Teamster International Vice President and also an official in Local 853 that represents the drivers at Waste Management, told the Mercury News that the fight against Waste Management is “unrealistic” and that the workers were just “pawns” of the ILWU leadership and that the campaign for these workers , “…is based on a promise that cannot be met and is designed to create false hopes for the workers.”

Aloise was joined in the public offensive against these $12 an hour workers who sort through garbage 8 or ten hours a day, by Don Crossato, an official with Machinists union probably on over $100,000 a year, and Felix Martinez, of Teamsters local 70. They both agreed that what the workers were asking was “unrealistic” with Crossato claiming the differences didn’t “warrant a strike”. The workers were asking for a raise from $12 to $20. 

Rome Aloise made $346,722 in salaries and allowances in 2014 according to the Teamster for a Democratic Union that’s beside all the other perks like double pensions. Aloise, the strikebreaker and union bureaucrat is now in hot water as the members of an Independent Review Board have recommended to the IBT General Executive Board that he be brought up on charges for “requesting and receiving things of value from IBT employers..” and among other things “entering in to sham collective bargaining agreements with the GrandFund” and interfering in union elections.

The reality is that pretty much all union contracts are “sham”, contracts in the sense that the entire labor leadership from the AFL-CIO on down has thrown in the towel when it comes to fighting the bosses; they don’t have to openly act criminally in the sense that they break the law. They simply refuse to fight and hold back any rank and file movement from below that challenges the relationship they have built with the bosses’ based on labor peace.They don’t even pretend any more. They openly call for concessions and that their own members must sacrifice in order to help the employers out. This entire strategy flows form the dominant philosophy in the trade union movement today, the Team Concept. This manifests in many forms, Labor/Management partnerships, Focus Groups, Quality of Life Circles, Interest Based bargaining etc. The union hierarchy practices this Team Concept strategy on the job in the form of cooperation with the boss and in the political arena through their association with the Democratic Party acting as agents of this major capitalist party in the workers’ organizations.

The likes of Aloise and others who suck the life blood out of the labor movement betray their members, and live high on the hog at their members’ expense are the lowest type of human being. To betray workers, to side with the forces of capital against labor, to use the workers' organization for one’s own advancement, is criminal.

None of us are exempt from such betrayals. Many a rank and file member has entered the leadership with good intentions but ended up betraying those they claimed to fight for. Many others simply quit. Any individual or group that offers themselves as an alternative to the present ideologically bankrupt leadership must unequivocally reject and abandon the Team Concept on the job and in politics through the Democratic Party. They must openly campaign against the present leaders' concessionary policies.

Rank and file caucuses based on a program that demands and fights for what workers and our communities need rather than what’s acceptable to the bosses, or “realistic” to them and the Democrats must be built from the ground up. They should be built in the workplaces, offices, and construction sites where we work and meet every day and link up with the communities in which we live and work. Rank and file committees can and must look toward the unorganized and link up with the unemployed, the student movement and the myriad of movements that have sprung up throughout the country from Flint to the urban ghettos, the movement against police brutality and mass incarceration, disproportionally people of color, the rural communities and increasingly the suburbs. Small (community business) can also be an ally of labor if approached correctly. The offensive of the 1% will not cease and will in fact intensify as a disastrous US foreign policy and the cost of it in terms of human life and money will be laid on the shoulders of workers and the middle class. It is in the workplace where out power lies, our ability to stop the machine form running, to halt profit taking and organized workers have many allies but we have to use this power in conjunction and in solidarity with other social movements.

Rome Aloise is not alone, there is this type of blatant corruption within organized labor but the main problem is not crass criminal activity, it is that the heads of organized labor are ideologically bankrupt. They worship the market, they idolize profits, they have the same world-view as the 1%.

Were there a genuine militant rank and file caucus in that local, the drivers that objected to scabbing on their co-workers at Waste Management would have had somewhere to turn, they would have had it before it happened. This is the task facing the rank and file dues payer, ridding ourselves of the present leadership of our organizations. But it has to come from below; no one will do it for us. The time for whining has long gone.

Green versus Yellow Unionism in Oakland

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, November 11, 2015

Author's Note: This article is a sequel of sorts to my previous piece, Unions and the Climate Justice Movement, which briefly mentions the No Coal in Oakland campaign. The image, depicted at the right, compares a pro-capitalist-logging poster (yellow, near right) ostensibly created by timber workers (but actually crafted by the employers) to mobilize support for a counter-demonstration to a rally and march, held in Fort Bragg in July 1990, organized by the Redwood Summer coalition (which included timber workers). The green poster (far right), represents the Redwood Summer coalition's response, and accurately summarizes their position on timber workers and timber jobs.

At first glance, the Oakland City Council meeting, held on September 21, 2015 looked much like many public hearings where public opposition had organized in response to the plans, practices, or proposals of capitalist interests that threatened the environment. For most of the evening, and well into the night, council members and the Mayor watched and listened as speaker after speaker (out of a total of over 500) either spoke in favor (or against) coal exports or ceded their time to their allies. On one side were a widely diverse group of activists, organized by a coalition known as No Coal in Oakland-- adorned in red (union made and printed) T-shirts--opposed to plans to export coal through a proposed Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT), as part of the Oakland Global Trade and Logistics Center (or Oakland Global), and on the other were the project's supporters, dressed in business attire accompanied by several dozen union workers, many of them from the Laborers' Union, dressed in yellow.  As is often the case, the project's supporters tried to frame the opposition as being composed of insensitive outsiders, and themselves and the supporting "workers" as placing the economic interests of Oakland and its residents above all else. "We support good paying union jobs that will help the struggling, predominantly African-American residents of west Oakland" opined the supporters, trying to suggest that those in opposition didn't.

This is an old, and shopworn script, that has been trotted out numerous times in the past quarter century or more. Anyone who has experienced or studied the "Timber Wars" that took place in the Pacific Northwest during the late 1980s and early-to-mid 1990s will recall the armies of loggers and mill-workers decked out in yellow shirts, sporting yellow foam car radio antennae balls or yellow ribbons who would show up en massé (at the behest of their employers, often with pay) to oppose limits to clear-cutting or protections for the Northern Spotted Owl and to denounce (often) green shirted environmentalists as "unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs" and/or upper middle class "elitists" (or--defying logic--both). Sometimes, in drawn out campaigns, the employers have often furthered this illusion by creating false front "Astroturf" groups, ostensibly composed of workers, to distract attention away from themselves.

The truth is far much more complex and nuanced, of course. Usually the "jobs" promised by the projects' supporters often don't materialize (indeed, the opposite--namely automation, downsizing, and outsourcing--usually occurs). Those in opposition to environmentally destructive practices and proposals are usually composed of and led by locals, most of whom are, themselves, gainfully employed, and sympathetic to the needs and concerns of the affected workers (in fact, the opposition's counter proposals, if well thought out, do more to create "jobs" and job security than those in support of the project). Meanwhile, the actual level of support among the rank and file workers purportedly backing up the capitalists interests could accurately be described as a mile wide and an inch deep, at best. And the bosses? When they speak of jobs, they actually refer to profits. Nevertheless, in the past, the capitalist media has typically and dutifully reported that these projects are opposed by "green clad environmentalists" (or red in this particular case) and supported by "yellow clad workers" (often neglecting to draw any distinction between the workers and their employers).

Therefore, it is both surprising and refreshing, that in spite of the attempts by the employing class to replay that same script on September 21, 2015 in Oakland, the attempt backfired, due to the diligent and tireless organizing by their grassroots opposition. A closer examination of what happened, and how the opposition organized, will illustrate why this is so and how others can duplicate the organizers' efforts to defeat further attempts by capitalist interests to use divide and conquer tactics to push their climate and environment (not-to-mention job) destroying projects through.

East Bay Labor Unions Say 'No' to Coal in Oakland

By Darwin BondGraham - East Bay Express, September 18, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The official voice of the labor movement in the East Bay has come out against plans to export coal from Oakland. This morning, the Alameda Labor Council’s executive committee passed a resolution opposing the export of coal from the bulk commodity terminal planned for construction at the city’s former Army Base.

The resolution cites health hazards and environmental harms that are likely to result from shipping and storing coal in West Oakland — hazards that will impact both workers and Oakland residents.

“Jobs involving coal are unhealthy and unsafe due to dust emissions; coal is increasingly an anti-union industry,” states the resolution. “West Oakland residents are already twice as likely to visit the emergency room for asthma as the average Alameda County resident, and are also more likely to die of cancer, heart and lung disease… .”

Terminal Logistics Solutions, the company proposing coal exports from the terminal, has claimed that the facility will be served by covered rail cars to reduce the amount of coal dust that drifts into nearby neighborhoods. TLS recently unveiled sketches on its website depicting dome-covered silos and enclosed conveyor belts that will store and load the coal onto ships for export overseas.

Opponents of the coal plan have said, however, that covered rail cars, silos and chutes are not used anywhere in the United States today, and their efficacy hasn’t been studied.

The Labor Council’s resolution states that despite the unions’ “unified opposition to coal,” they believe that the project can move forward without coal. Their resolutions welcomes commodities such as steel, wood, grains, sand, gravel ,and other "non-hazardous materials."

A special meeting of the Oakland City Council is scheduled for Monday. The city clerk’s office has already received more than three hundred speaker cards from members of the public.

Rail workers score big safety win in California

By Mark Gruenberg - People's World, August 26, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Rail workers scored a big safety win in California on August 21 as state lawmakers gave final approval to a bill mandating two-person crews on all freight trains.

The measure, pushed by the Teamsters and their California affiliates, the Rail Division of SMART - the former United Transportation Union - and the state labor federation, now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown, D-Calif., who is expected to sign it.

Rail unions nationwide have been pushing for the two-person crews while the rail carriers have been pushing for just one, an engineer. Several months ago, the head of one carrier, the Burlington Northern, advocated crewless freights.

The unionists told lawmakers presence of a second crew member would cut down on horrific crashes such as the one that obliterated downtown Lac-Megantic, Quebec, two years ago. Then, a runaway oil train crashed and exploded, killing 47 people. That train had only an engineer. There has been a string of similar U.S. accidents since, especially of oil-carrying trains. Recent oil train accidents were near Galena, Ill., Lynchburg, Va., and in West Virginia.

The proposed California statute requires trains and light engines carrying freight within the nation's largest state - home to one of every eight Americans - to be operated with "an adequate crew size," reported Railroad Workers United, a coalition of rank-and-file rail workers from SMART, the Teamsters and other unions.

The minimum adequate crew size, the bill says, is two. Railroads that break the law would face fines and other penalties from the state Public Utilities Commission. The commission supported the bill, SB730.

Stop Retaliation & Hanging Noose Incidents: Defend Recology IBT 350 Member Daryl Washington

By Steve Zeltser - Labor Video Project, July 27, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

San Francisco Recology company has retaliated against IBT 350 member Daryl Washington who reported on a "San Francisco Recology company has retaliated against IBT 350 member Daryl Washington who reported on a "hanging noose" incident at the company in 2013.

The company discriminated against him and sought to buy his silence with a bribe. Speakers pointed out that workplace bullying is a growing issue in the workplace including many other locations.

This rally/press conference which took place on July 27, 2015 was endorsed by United Public Workers For Action, Stop Workplace Bullying Group, and Transport Workers Solidarity Committee.

Additional video - http://youtu.be/g5PBHHR2m38
Production of Labor Video Project

Boston school bus drivers vote in fired union leaders

By Brenda Ryan - Workers World, May 4, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In a stunning victory, the militant, fighting rank and file of the Boston school bus drivers’ union, United Steelworkers Local 8751, voted in the full slate of Team Solidarity candidates, led by four illegally fired leaders, on the union’s Executive Board.

The April 30 election was the largest voter turnout in the history of the local and resulted in an unprecedented landslide vote by more than 3 to 1 for the Team Solidarity ticket. The membership sent a clear message to Veolia/Transdev, the union-busting school bus management company, as well as to Boston Public Schools and Mayor Marty Walsh, that they will fight and win a just contract and the rehiring of their leaders. They will also unite with the communities they serve to struggle for Equal Quality Education.

The new executive board-elect of the 850-strong union, whose members are largely Haitian, Cape Verdean and African-American, includes President Andre Francois, long-time chief steward; Vice President Stevan Kirschbaum, a founder of the local; Treasurer Georgia Scott, veteran of the 1965 Civil Rights battle on Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala.; Financial Secretary Steven Gillis, the outgoing vice president and benefits administrator; Recording Secretary Claude “Tou Tou” St. Germain, a Fanmi Lavalas activist; Grievance Committee members Garry Murchison, a three-term past president, Frantz Mendes, two-term president, and Richard Laine; Trustees Frantz “Fan Fan” Cadet, Fred Floreal and Judy Long; Guide Chantal Suffrant Casimir; Guards Adriano Barbosa and Ludnay Pierre; and Accident Review Committee members Jerome Samir Stanley, Kathy Moore and Robert Salley. Murchison led the local’s last five-week strike in 1991, which ended with a 48-hour occupation of the mayor’s office.

Veolia illegally fired Francois, Gillis, Kirschbaum and Murchison in November 2013, following a company-ordered, police department-enforced lockout on Oct. 8, 2013, which occurred after the local requested an emergency meeting. The lockout occurred in the midst of a three-month fight with the new company over wage theft, its refusal to honor the drivers’ long-standing contract and Veolia’s illegal demand — because it’s in violation of the contract — made the day before, that even 40-year veteran drivers must file new hire applications.

A small clique of business-minded, company-inspired opponents, including the current president — who bowed out during the election campaign — tried to turn the membership against Team Solidarity’s fighting slate. They bombarded members with the message: “Don’t vote for the people who were fired. They won’t do you any good.”

The climax of year-long bargaining over a new concessionary contract was the company’s divisive campaign that included pushing a “final” proposal with no amnesty for the fired leaders and using false “retro-pay” payroll documents produced by management. But the members voted for the new board based on their personal experience with Team Solidarity’s leaders, who have filed hundreds of their grievances, administered and defended their benefits, and fiercely fought for them and the union’s survival during the nearly two years since Veolia and the mayor’s office began their union-busting assault.

EcoUnionist News #30

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, February 9, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

  • Register now for the Future of Railroads: Safety, Workers, Community & the Environment Conferences: Richmond, California (March 14, 2015) and Olympia, Washington (March 21, 2015) - railroadconference.org

USW Refinery Workers Strike News:

Crude by Rail:

Carbon Bubble:

Green Jobs and Just Transition:

March for Real Climate Leadership:

Other News

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC

ILWU Local 6, strikes Waste Management. AFL-CIO leaders tell their members to scab.

By Richard Mellor - Facts for Working People, October 26, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The ILWU Local 6 represents sorters and other workers at the Waste Management recycling center (we used to call them dumps) at the end of Davis Street in San Leandro CA. The workers have not had a raise in four years.

Most of the workers are Latino's, many of them immigrants and they complained to me about disrespect and discriminatory treatment on the job. Workers told Facts For Working People that management is refusing to budge on wage increases and workers don't trust the management to comply with the Oakland City Council's meager wage increase provisions which would raise wages from round $12 an hour now to around $21 an hour by 2019. This is the only possible increase on the table so far. It is a sorry state of affairs when the only chance of making any headway albeit an inadequate one, is relying on a municipal body run by politicians in one of the two Wall Street Parties.

As I walked the picket line, drivers for Waste Management, members of Teamsters Local 70,  drove through the picket lines as the strike does not have sanction from the Alameda Labor Council.  I called the Labor Council to find out why and was told that the ILWU local 6 is no longer affiliated to the AFL-CIO.  The source said that she hoped the strike is successful.  Unfortunately hope doesn't pay the rent and it doesn't win strikes.

"Sharing economy" companies like Uber shift risk from corporations to workers, weaken labor protections, and drive down wages.

By Avi Asher-Schapiro - Jacobin, September 19, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Kazi drives a Toyota Prius for Uber in Los Angeles. He hates it. He barely makes minimum wage, and his back hurts after long shifts. But every time a passenger asks what it’s like working for Uber, he lies: “It’s like owning my own business; I love it.”

Kazi lies because his job depends on it. After passengers finish a ride, Uber asks them to rate their driver on a scale from one to five stars. Drivers with an average below 4.7 can be deactivated — tech-speak for fired.

Gabriele Lopez, an LA Uber driver, also lies. “We just sit there and smile, and tell everyone that the job’s awesome, because that’s what they want to hear,” said Lopez, who’s been driving for UberX, the company’s low-end car service, since it launched last summer.

In fact, if you ask Uber drivers off the clock what they think of the company, it often gets ugly fast. “Uber’s like an exploiting pimp,” said Arman, an Uber driver in LA who asked me to withhold his last name out of fear of retribution. “Uber takes 20 percent of my earnings, and they treat me like shit — they cut prices whenever they want. They can deactivate me whenever they feel like it, and if I complain, they tell me to fuck off.”

In LA, San Francisco, Seattle, and New York, tension between drivers and management has bubbled over in recent months. And even though Uber’s business model discourages collective action (each worker is technically in competition with each other), some drivers are banding together.

Pages