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Waste Management

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.

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.