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Today in labor history for the week of October 9, 2017

October 09 United Hebrew Trades is organized in New York by shirt maker Morris Hillquit and others. Hillquit would later become leader of the Socialist Party - 1888 Retail stock brokerage Smith Barney reaches a tentative sexual harassment settlement with a group of female employees. The suit charged, among other things, that branch managers asked female workers to remove their tops in exchange for money and one office featured a "boom boom room" where women workers were encouraged to "entertain clients." The settlement was never finalized: a U.S. District Court judge refused to approve the deal because it failed to adequately redress the plaintiff's grievances - 1997 October 10Today in labor history for the week of October 9, 2017 Six days into a cotton field strike by 18,000 Mexican and Mexican-American workers in Pixley, Calif., four strikers are killed and six wounded; eight growers were indicted and charged with murder - 1933 October 11 The Miners’ National Association is formed in Youngstown, Ohio, with the goal of uniting all miners, regardless of skill or ethnic background - 1873 Nearly 1,500 plantation workers strike Olaa Sugar, on Hawaii’s Big Island - 1948 October 12 Company guards kill at least eight miners who are attempting to stop scabs, Virden, Ill. Six guards are Today in labor history for the week of October 9, 2017also killed, and 30 persons wounded - 1898 Fourteen miners killed, 22 wounded at Pana, Ill. - 1902 Some 2,000 workers demanding union recognition close down dress manufacturing, Los Angeles - 1933 More than one million Canadian workers demonstrate against wage controls - 1976 October 13 American Federation of Labor votes to boycott all German-made products as a protest against Nazi Today in labor history for the week of October 9, 2017antagonism to organized labor within Germany - 1934 More than 1,100 office workers strike Columbia University in New York City. The mostly female and minority workers win union recognition and pay increases - 1985 National Basketball Association cancels regular season games for the first time in its 51-year history, during a player lockout.  Player salaries and pay caps are the primary issue.  The lockout lasts 204 days - 1998 Hundreds of San Jose Mercury News newspaper carriers end 4-day walkout with victory - 2000 October 14 Int’l Working People's Association founded in Pittsburgh, Pa. - 1883 Today in labor history for the week of October 9, 2017The Seafarers Int’l Union (SIU) is founded as an AFL alternative to what was then the CIO’s National Maritime Union.  SIU is an umbrella organization of 12 autonomous unions of mariners, fishermen and boatmen working on U.S.-flagged vessels - 1938 Formal construction began today on what is expected to be a five-year, $3.9 billion replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River.  It's estimated the project would be employing 8,000 building trades workers over the span of the job - 2013 October 15Today in labor history for the week of October 9, 2017 President Woodrow Wilson signs the Clayton Antitrust Act—often referred to as "Labor’s Magna Carta"—establishing that unions are not "conspiracies" under the law. It for the first time freed unions to strike, picket and boycott employers. In the years that followed, however, numerous state measures and negative court interpretations weakened the law - 1914 —Compiled and edited by David Prosten  

300 Union Members Head To Puerto Rico To Assist In Recovery Efforts

United ALPA Pilots Prior tl Flight to Puerto Rico
Image from ALPA

Unions and United Airlines Come Together to Fly More than 300 First Responders and Skilled Volunteers to Puerto Rico

35,000 pounds of relief supplies also delivered on flight
Evacuees to fill seats on return flight to Newark, New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J., Oct. 4, 2017 – Today, the AFL-CIO, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and United Airlines teamed up to fly more than 300 first responders and skilled volunteers—including nurses, doctors, electricians, engineers, carpenters and truck drivers—to Puerto Rico to help with relief and rebuilding efforts.

The flight was one way to respond to the urgent need to get highly skilled workers to Puerto Rico to help people seeking medical and humanitarian assistance as well as to help with the rebuilding effort. While in Puerto Rico, workers will coordinate with the Puerto Rico Federation of Labor and the city of San Juan on various efforts, including helping clear road blockages, care for hospital patients, deliver emergency supplies, and restore power and communications.

United Airlines volunteered a 777-300, one of the largest and newest aircraft in its fleet, to airlift this humanitarian relief team to San Juan. In addition to the hundreds of highly skilled workers assembled by the AFL-CIO, the flight was operated by ALPA- and AFA-CWA-represented United Airlines pilots and flight attendants volunteering their time. IAM-represented United ramp employees also will support the flight on the ground in Newark and San Juan.

The flight departed Newark Liberty International Airport at 11 a.m. ET and will arrive at San Juan Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport at approximately 2:45 p.m. ET. The flight also is transporting more than 35,000 pounds of such emergency relief supplies as food, water and essential equipment. The airline has operated more than a dozen flights to and from Puerto Rico, carrying nearly 740,000 pounds of relief-related cargo and more than 1,300 evacuees.

The United aircraft is returning to Newark this evening with evacuees from Puerto Rico. These passengers are being provided complimentary seats as part of United’s ongoing humanitarian relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

“The working families of Puerto Rico are our brothers and sisters. And this incredible partnership will bring skilled workers to the front lines to deliver supplies, care for victims and rebuild Puerto Rico,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Our movement is at its best when we work together during times of great need. But we are even better when we find common ground and partner with business and industry on solutions to lift up our communities. This endeavor is entirely about working people helping working people in every way possible. In times of great tragedy, our country comes together, and we are committed to doing our part to assist the people of Puerto Rico.”

“When our union sisters and brothers see a need in our national or international community, we don’t ask if we should act, we ask how,” said AFA-CWA International President Sara Nelson. “Today is the result of our collective strength, compassion and commitment to action. I am proud United responded to the call to carry a union of relief workers among America’s working families to care for our sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico. We are united in lifting up our fellow Americans. It is an honor to serve on the volunteer crew of Flight Attendants and Pilots transporting skilled relief workers and returning to New York with hundreds needing safe passage out of Puerto Rico.”


“Our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico need help and this is a race against time,” said Captain Todd Insler, Chairman, ALPA United Airlines. “The ALPA pilots of United Airlines are honored to fly these skilled workers and medical professionals to San Juan today, and will continue to support the humanitarian efforts going forward. We applaud these brave volunteers who are dedicating their time, selflessly leaving their homes and families, and answering the call to help. The strength of the unions represented on this flight comes from workers joining together to help one another. Likewise, the strength of this joint relief effort comes from all of us—labor, management and government—standing together to help our fellow citizens in their time of need.”

“This flight carries not only much-needed supplies and skilled union labor, but also the love and support of more than 33,000 IAM members at United who will continue helping the people of Puerto Rico recover,” said IAM General Vice President Sito Pantoja.

While in Puerto Rico, OPEIU nurse members Kris Teed, RN , Elizabeth Moreno, RN, and Kyra Keusch, RN, will coordinate with the Puerto Rico AFL-CIO and the City of San Juan on various efforts.

“When our communities call out for help, we can come together and solve the biggest challenges by summoning the best of ourselves. We’ve answered this call many times over the past couple months, and Puerto Rico is no exception,” said Oscar Munoz, CEO of United Airlines. “This flight embodies how working Americans, union leaders and business can unite with a shared sense of purpose to make a life-changing difference at this critical moment. We are deeply grateful to all of the first responders, highly skilled professionals and United employees who are going above and beyond to come to the aid of Puerto Rico.”

 

Unions throughout America have continued to offer supplies and other volunteer efforts in addition to today’s flight. Members on today’s flight are represented by 20 unions from 17 states.

Leo W Gerard: Unfair Trade, Uncertainty Killing American Aluminum and Steel

Kameen Thompson, president of the USW local union at ArcelorMittal’s Conshohocken mill

Kameen Thompson started his workday Sept. 15 thinking that his employer, ArcelorMittal in Conshohocken, Pa., the largest supplier of armored plate to the U.S. military, might hire some workers to reduce a recent spate of overtime.

Just hours later, though, he discovered the absolute opposite was true.

ArcelorMittal announced that, within a year, it would idle the mill that stretches half a mile along the Schuylkill River. Company officials broke the bad news to Kameen, president of the United Steelworkers (USW) local union at Conshohocken, and Ron Davis, the grievance chair, at a meeting where the two union officers had hoped to hear about hiring.

ArcelorMittal wouldn’t say when it would begin the layoffs or how many workers would lose their jobs or which mill departments would go dark. The worst part for everyone now is the uncertainty, Kameen told me last week.

“If ArcelorMittal said they would shut down on a date certain, everybody could move on to something else or prepare. Right now, we are in limbo. We have a lot of guys with a lot of time, but they’re still not old enough to retire. The only thing we can do is ride it out. But the uncertainty is very, very hard on them. It’s difficult not knowing who and what departments are affected and how long we are going to run,” Kameen said.

Uncertainty from Washington, D.C., is a major contributor to the idling of the plant. ArcelorMittal and every other aluminum and steel producer in America are in limbo as they wait for a decision on import restrictions that could preserve U.S. capacity to produce defense materials – like the light armored plate that’s Conshohocken’s specialty ­– and to build and repair crucial infrastructure, like roads, bridges and utilities.

Initially, the Trump administration promised a determination in June. But June came and went. As the months dragged on, imports surged. That threatens the viability of mills like Conshohocken. Then, just last week, administration officials said they would do nothing until after Congress passes tax legislation.That compounded uncertainty.

The Conshohocken mill may not survive the delay. Kameen, Ron and the 203 other workers there could lose their jobs because Congress dawdles or fails to act on taxes. America could lose its domestic capacity to quickly produce large quantities of high-quality light-gauge plate for armor.

After work at other, non-union jobs, Kameen began at Conshohocken at the age of 25. He finally had a position that provided good wages and benefits. “That gave me an opportunity to plan for a future and build a family,” he explained.

Ron, the mill’s training coordinator, is 45 and has worked at the plant for 22 years. “This was my first true job that I could sustain a family with,” Ron told me.

He has five children ranging in age from five to 26. He needs a good job with good benefits. He knows jobs like the one he has at the mill are rare, but he’s not giving in to gloominess. “I am just trying to stay positive,” he said. “That is all I can do right now.”

Photo is of Ron Davis, grievance chair for the USW local union at ArcelorMittal’s Conshohocken mill

Both Ron and Kameen are frustrated by the Trump administration’s failure to penalize the foreign producers whose illegal trade practices have killed steel and aluminum jobs, closed mills across the country and threatened America’s domestic capability to produce metals essential to construction of critical infrastructure and vital to the defense department to safeguard the country.

Since the Trump administration launched the national security probes into steel and aluminum imports under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act in April, imports have risen significantly. Steel imports are up 21 percent over last year. Countries like China, fearing impending penalties for predatory and illegal trade practices, dumped more than ever.

The administration has nine months to complete the Section 232 investigation. It could be January before the results are announced. Then the president has another three months to decide what to do. Instead of the two months the administration initially promised, the whole process could take a year.

A year could be too long for mills like Conshohocken.

“It doesn’t take that long to investigate this,” Kameen said. “We are losing jobs. They are dropping like flies. The administration needs to act now to prevent these unfair imports from killing more American jobs.”

Because of unfair and illegal imports since 2000, particularly from China, U.S. steel mills idled sections or closed, cutting the nation’s capacity to produce by 17 million tons a year and throwing 48,000 steelworkers out of jobs.

Now, there is only one surviving U.S. mill capable of producing grain-oriented electrical steel (GOES)required for electrical transmission.

The same decline occurred in aluminum, only it happened even faster. The number of U.S. smelters dropped from 14 in 2011 to five last year. That is the loss of thousands more good, family-supporting jobs. It happened because China expanded its overcapacity to produce cheap, state-subsidized aluminum, depressing the global price by 46 percent in just eight years.

Now, there is only one surviving U.S. smelter capable of producing the high-purity aluminum essential to fighter jets like the F-35 and other military vehicles.

While ArcelorMittal may contend that it can manufacture military-grade steel plate at its other U.S. mills, the loss of Conshohocken would mean a dangerous decline in U.S. capacity.

Capacity is crucial in emergencies. An example occurred in 2007 when U.S. military deaths were rising in Iraq and Afghanistan. In response, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates ordered a 15-fold increase in production of mine-resistant, ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles. That meant the number produced each month had to rise from 82 to more than 1,100. The Conshohocken plant produced much of the steel needed to achieve the goal.

Without that mill, the nation’s ability to gear up in such an emergency is compromised.  Two weeks ago, 10 retired generals wrote President Trump warning: “America’s increasing reliance on imported steel and aluminum from potentially hostile or uncooperative foreign governments, or via uncertain supply routes, jeopardizes our national security.”

They also said of the Section 232 investigation, “Prompt action is necessary before it is too late.”

When Kameen started at the mill 11 years ago, he felt good about the work. Conshohocken was making a lot of armor for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that gave him the sense that he was doing something for his country.

Now, he’s concerned for his local union members, whose average age is 50.

As their president, Kameen, who is only 37, feels responsible to help each of them through the uncertainty and the difficulties ahead. “My members are looking at me for answers and leadership,” he told me. “So if I don’t stay strong and lead, then I’m the wrong man for the job.”

Every steelworker and aluminum worker in America is looking to President Trump for that kind of leadership. Their uncertainty could be relieved if the administration would announce the results of the Section 232 investigation now and act immediately to ensure the United States has the domestic ability to produce essential metals.

Today in labor history for the week of October 2, 2017

October 02 American Federation of Labor officially endorses campaign for a 6-hour day, 5-day workweek - 1934 Joining with 400,000 coal miners already on strike, 500,000 CIO steel workers close down the nation’s foundries, steel and iron mills, demanding pensions and better wages and working conditions - 1949 Starbucks Workers Union baristas at an outlet in East Grand Rapids, Mich., organized by the Wobblies, win their grievances after the National Labor Relations Board cites the company for labor law violations, including threats against union activists - 2007 (Grievance Guide, 13th edition: This easy-to-use handbook documents patterns in a wide range of commonly grieved areas including discharge and discipline, leaves of absence, promotions, strikes and lockouts, and more. The editors give a complete picture of the precedents and guidelines that arbitrators are using to address grievance cases today.) Union members, progressives and others rally in Washington D.C., under the Banner of One Nation Working Together, demand “good jobs, equal justice, and quality education for all.” Crowd estimates range from tens of thousands to 200,000 - 2010  October 03 Today in labor history for the week of October 2, 2017The state militia is called in after 164 high school students in Kincaid, Ill., go on strike when the school board buys coal from the scab Peabody Coal Co. - 1932 The Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America is founded in Camden, N.J. It eventually merged with the Int’l Association of Machinists, in 1988 - 1933 Pacific Greyhound Lines bus drivers in seven western states begin what is to become a 3-week strike, eventually settling for a 10.5-percent raise - 1945 The United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA) is formed as a self-governing union, an outgrowth of the CIO's Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee. UPWA merged with the Meatcutters union in 1968, which in turn merged with the Retail Clerks in 1979, forming the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) - 1943 Today in labor history for the week of October 2, 2017 The United Auto Workers calls for a company-wide strike against Ford Motor Co., the first since Ford’s initial contract with the union 20 years earlier - 1961 Folk singer/songwriter Woody Guthrie ("This Land is Your Land", "Union Maid" and hundreds of others) dies of Huntington's disease in New York at the age of 55 - 1967 Baseball umpires strike for recognition of their newly-formed Major League Umpires Association, win after one day - 1970 October 04 Today in labor history for the week of October 2, 2017Work begins on the carving of Mt. Rushmore, a task 400 craftsmen would eventually complete in 1941.  Despite the dangerous nature of the project, not one worker died - 1927 President Truman orders the U.S. Navy to seize oil refineries, breaking a 20-state post-war strike - 1945 The United Mine Workers of America votes to re-affiliate with the AFL-CIO after years of on-and-off conflict with the federation. In 2009 the union’s leader, Richard Trumka, becomes AFL-CIO President - 1961 Distillery, Wine & Allied Workers Int’l Union merges with United Food & Commercial Workers Int’l Union - 1995 Today in labor history for the week of October 2, 2017October 05 A strike by set decorators turns into a bloody riot at the gates of Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, Calif., when scabs try to cross the picket line. The incident is still identified as "Hollywood Black Friday" and "The Battle of Burbank" - 1945 The UAW ends a 3-week strike against Ford Motor Co. when the company agrees to a contract that includes more vacation days and better retirement and unemployment benefits - 1976 Polish Solidarity union founder Lech Walesa wins the Nobel Peace Prize - 1983 Some 2,100 supermarket janitors in California, mostly from Mexico, win a $22.4 million settlement over unpaid overtime. Many said they worked 70 or more hours a week, often seven nights a week from 10 p.m. to 9 a.m. Cleaner Jesus Lopez told the New York Times he only had three days off in five years - 2004 Today in labor history for the week of October 2, 2017 (Mobilizing Against Inequality: Unions, Immigrant Workers, and the Crisis of Capitalism: Are immigrant workers themselves responsible for low wages and shoddy working conditions?  Should unions expend valuable time and energy organizing undocumented workers?  Unions in Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States have taken various approaches to confront the challenges of this significant segment of the workforce.  As U.S. immigration policy is debated, readers will gain insight into how all workers benefit when wages and working conditions for immigrant workers are improved.) October 06 First National Conference of Trade Union Women – 1918 Today in labor history for the week of October 2, 2017The first “talkie” movie, The Jazz Singer, premiers in New York City.  Within three years, according to the American Federation of Musicians, theater jobs for some 22,000 musicians who accompanied silent movies were lost, while only a few hundred jobs for musicians performing on soundtracks were created by the new technology - 1927 Some 1,700 female flight attendants win 18-year, $37 million suit against United Airlines. They had been fired for getting married - 1986 Thirty-two thousand machinists begin what is to be a successful 69-day strike against the Boeing Co. The eventual settlement brought improvements that averaged an estimated $19,200 in wages and benefits over four years and safeguards against job cutbacks - 1995 Today in labor history for the week of October 2, 2017October 07 Joe Hill, labor leader and songwriter, born in Gavle, Sweden - 1879 The Structural Building Trades Alliance (SBTA) is founded, becomes the AFL’s Building Trades Dept. five years later. SBTA’s mission: to provide a form to work out jurisdictional conflicts - 1903 Hollywood’s "Battle of the Mirrors." Picketing members of the Conference of Studio Unions disrupted an outdoor shoot by holding up large reflectors that filled camera lenses with blinding sunlight. Members of the competing IATSE union retaliated by using the reflectors to shoot sunlight back across the street. The battle went on all day, writes Tom Sito in Drawing the Line - 1946 Today in labor history for the week of October 2, 2017October 08 Thirty of the city's 185 firefighters are injured battling the Great Chicago Fire, which burned for three days - 1871 Structural Building Trades Alliance organizes in Indianapolis with goal of eliminating jurisdictional strikes that were seriously disrupting the industry and shoring up the power of international unions over local building trades councils. Conflicts between large and small unions doomed the group and it disbanded six years later - 1902 In Poland, the union Solidarity and all other labor organizations are banned by the government - 1982 Upholsterers' Int’l Union of North America merges with United Steelworkers of America - 1985 —Compiled and edited by David Prosten  

Workers on Janus: A Political Effort to Further Rig the Rules Against Working People

In a rigged economy, workers say the freedom to come together in strong unions is more important than ever

WASHINGTON — The following statement was issued by members and leaders of AFSCME, AFT, NEA, and SEIU – the nation’s four largest public sector unions – in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to grant Certiorari in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31:

The Janus case is a blatantly political and well-funded plot to use the highest court in the land to further rig the economic rules against everyday working people. The billionaire CEOs and corporate interests behind this case, and the politicians who do their bidding, have teamed up to deliver yet another attack on working people by striking at the freedom to come together in strong unions. The forces behind this case know that by joining together in strong unions, working people are able to win the power and voice they need to level the economic and political playing field. However, the people behind this case simply do not believe that working people deserve the same freedoms they have: to negotiate a fair return on their work.

This case started with an overt political attempt by the billionaire governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, to attack public service workers through the courts. And, in a letter to supporters detailed in The Guardian, the CEO of the corporate-backed State Policy Network (SPN) reveals the true intent of a nationwide campaign of which Janus is a part: to strike a ‘mortal blow’ and ‘defund and defang’ America’s unions. The merits of the case are clear. Since 1977, Abood has effectively governed labor relations between public sector employees and employers, allowing employers and employees the freedom to determine labor policies that best serve the public. When reviewing the legal merits of this case, it is clear that this attempt to manipulate the court against working people should be rejected.

“This case is yet another example of corporate interests using their power and influence to launch a political attack on working people and rig the rules of the economy in their own favor. When working people are able to join strong unions, they have the strength in numbers they need to fight for the freedoms they deserve, like access to quality health care, retirement security and time off work to care for a loved one. The merits of the case, and 40 years of Supreme Court precedent and sound law, are on our side. We look forward to the Supreme Court honoring its earlier rulings.” – Lee Saunders, President, AFSCME

“My work as a Child Protection Investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is vital to the safety of our state’s most vulnerable children and families. This court case is yet another political attack on the freedom of my colleagues and I to speak up to ensure that we can safely and adequately manage our caseloads, which reflects our commitment to safety and public service to our communities.” – Stephen Mittons, AFSCME Council 31 member, Child Protection Investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services

“Unions are all about fighting for and caring about people—and in the public sector that includes those we represent and those we protect and teach in communities across America. Yet corporations, wealthy interests and politicians have manufactured Janus as part of their long and coordinated war against unions. Their goal is to further weaken workers’ freedom to join together in a union, to further diminish workers’ clout.

“These powerful interests want to gut one of the last remaining checks on their control—a strong and united labor movement that fights for equity and opportunity for all, not just the privileged few. And under the guise of the First Amendment, they want to overturn a 40-year precedent that’s been reaffirmed numerous times. In other words, this would be a radical departure from well-established law. We believe that after resolving a similar case last year, the Supreme Court erred in granting cert in Janus, and that the trumped-up underpinnings of the plaintiff’s argument will rapidly become clear before the full bench.” – Randi Weingarten, President, AFT

“My union just went through a lengthy contract fight in Philadelphia. We had to fight hard to protect our students’ basic needs, such as having at least one nurse and counselor in each school and ensuring that kids had necessary textbooks and materials. And we had to fight back against the district’s desire to eliminate class sizes and get lead testing for the school’s water fountains. Most people assume that the union only fights for teachers’ rights, when in reality, most of our contract is there to protect the basic rights and needs of our students. Those rights are at grave risk in Janus.” – Jeff Price, AFT Local 3 member, Teacher at Central High School, School District of Philadelphia.

“For decades corporate CEO’s and the wealthy have fought to enrich themselves at the expense of the rights and pocket books of working people, and that harms families in communities across the country. As the nation’s largest union, we know this fight will not only impact the lives of educators, but it also impacts the families of the children we educate. We won’t back down from this fight and we will always stand up to support working people, our students and the communities we serve.” – Lily Eskelsen García, President, NEA

“More and more, the economy is working against working people, including the families whose children I teach. My union gives me a voice and a seat at the table to advocate for my students, my colleagues, and my community.” – Sonya Shpilyuk, NEA member, High School English teacher, Montgomery County, MD

The anti-worker extremists behind this case want to divide working people, make it harder to pool our resources, and limit our collective power. But SEIU members won’t let any court case stand in our way of sticking together for good jobs and strong communities.” – Mary Kay Henry, President, SEIU

“By sticking together in our union, we’ve lifted the wage floor to a $15 minimum wage, protected and expanded health care benefits for our families, and won more funding for our schools. Together, we’ll continue to fight to ensure all students have the support and services they need to succeed in school. That’s why the extremists are attacking us, to stop our progress. But we plan to stick together no matter what and keep standing up for quality public services.” – Edna Logan, SEIU Local 99 member, Custodian at Esteban Torres School, Los Angeles Unified School District.

TTD Urges Senate Commerce Committee to Exempt Commercial Vehicles from New Self-Driving Car Bill

Big Rig Truck-SafetyDriver FLIKR CC

On Wednesday, Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) President Larry Willis urged the Senate Commerce Committee to exempt commercial vehicles from a new driverless car bill after they held an open hearing on the matter.

While Willis thanked the committee for providing the hearing, he also cautioned against “moving too hastily and putting millions of jobs and lives at risk.”

With millions of Americans employed in commercial driving jobs, Congress would be foolish not to heed Willis’ warning. Automation could revolutionize commercial driving in a way that benefits both employers and working people, but only if applied thoughtfully and regulated deliberately. Anything less will violently disrupt one of the largest employment sectors in the country, putting millions out of work at a time when many families are still recovering from the Great Recession and the economy is still fragile.

We need only look around the country for examples of what happens when industries collapse. We have seen the devastation of closed mines and relocated factories, and the communities that suffer when working people lose their livelihoods. The upending of the commercial driving industry would have the same effect, but on a grand scale.

Commercial drivers are integral members of communities across America, in big cities and small towns, red and blue states. Rushing through new legislation without considering the effects on the commercial driving workforce will not just rattle one community; it will rattle the entire country. It is a dangerous game, one that will not be played out on the floor of Congress but in households from from Boston to Boise, from Los Angeles to Louisiana. Willis’ calls for care and caution are not protectionism, as some might argue, but a call to reason.

The Senate Commerce Committee has an imperative to work in the best interest of the American people, and until there has been a full dialogue between industry leaders, working people and lawmakers, new legislation concerning commercial vehicles and driverless technology will prove to be irresponsibly inadequate. Congress ought to reexamine the issue once the implications are clear, but until then Larry Willis and TTD are right: for the sake of working people and the economy, commercial vehicles must be exempt from its driverless car bill. The threat of disrupting the commercial driving industry is currently too great, and too unknown, to risk.

 

 

Today in labor history for the week of September 18, 2017

September 18 The Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) is formally founded at an Ohio convention, during a period of serious corruption in the union. Two years earlier at an IBT convention in Las Vegas, a union reform leader who (unsuccessfully) called for direct election of officers and a limit on officers’ salaries had been beaten by thugs - 1978 Nine strikebreakers are killed in an explosion at Giant (gold) Mine near Yellowknife, in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Miner Roger Warren confessed that he planted the explosives that caused the deaths. He recanted the confession but later confessed once again - 1992 A 20-month illegal lockout of 2,900 Steelworkers members at Kaiser Aluminum plants in three states ends when an arbitrator orders a new contract. Kaiser was forced to fire scabs and fork over tens of millions of dollars in back pay to union members - 1999 Today in labor history for the week of September 18, 2017One week after the September 11, 2001, attacks, anthrax spores are mailed by an unknown party to several news media offices and two U.S. senators. Five people exposed to the spores died, including two workers at Washington, D.C.’s USPS Brentwood facility: Thomas Morris, Jr. and Joseph Curseen, who were to die of their exposure within the month – 2001 September 19 Chinese coal miners forced out of Black Diamond, Wash. - 1885 Today in labor history for the week of September 18, 2017 Between 400,000 and 500,000 unionists converge on Washington D.C., for a Solidarity Day march and rally protesting Republican policies – 1981 Musician and labor educator Joe Glazer, often referred to as “Labor’s Troubadour,” died today at age 88.  Some of his more acclaimed songs include "The Mill Was Made of Marble," "Too Old To Work" and "Automaton." In 1979 he and labor folklorist Archie Green convened a meeting of 14 other labor musicians to begin what was to become the annual Great Labor Arts Exchange and, soon thereafter, the Labor Heritage Foundation - 2006 September 20 Upton Sinclair, socialist and author of The Jungle—published on this day in 1906—born in Baltimore, Md. - 1878 Today in labor history for the week of September 18, 2017According to folklorist John Garst, steel-drivin’ man John Henry, born a slave, outperformed a steam hammer on this date at the Coosa Mountain Tunnel or the Oak Mountain Tunnel of the Columbus and Western Railway (now part of the Norfolk Southern) near Leeds, Ala. Other researchers place the contest near Talcott, W. Va. - 1887 Int’l Hod Carriers, Building & Common Laborers Union of America changes name to Laborers' Int’l Union - 1965 September 21 Militia sent to Leadville, Colo., to break miners’ strike - 1896 Mother Jones leads a march of miners' children through the streets of Charleston, W. Va. - 1912 Today in labor history for the week of September 18, 2017(Changing Roles, Changing Lives: Stories of Women During the Industrial Revolution: During the Industrial Revolution, workers were forced to endure dangerous working conditions for miserable wages. Among those who courageously spoke out against this poor treatment were some remarkable women, including Mary Harris “Mother” Jones and Sarah G. Bagley, whose stories are told here for young readers.)  National Football League Players Association members begin what is to become a 57-day strike, their first regular-season walkout ever - 1982 Today in labor history for the week of September 18, 2017Members of five unions at the Frontier Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas begin what was to become the longest successful hotel strike in U.S. history. All 550 workers honored the picket line for the entirety of the 6-year, 4-month, 10-day fight against management’s insistence on cutting wages and eliminating pensions - 1991 September 22 Emancipation Proclamation signed - 1862 Today in labor history for the week of September 18, 2017Eighteen-year-old Hannah (Annie) Shapiro leads a spontaneous walkout of 17 women at a Hart Schaffner & Marx garment factory in Chicago. It grows into a months-long mass strike involving 40,000 garment workers across the city, protesting 10-hour days, bullying bosses and cuts in already-low wages - 1910 Great Steel Strike begins; 350,000 workers demand union recognition. The AFL Iron and Steel Organizing Committee calls off the strike, their goal unmet, 108 days later - 1919 Martial law rescinded in Mingo County, W. Va., after police, U.S. troops and hired goons finally quell coal miners' strike - 1922 U.S. Steel announces it will cut the wages of 220,000 workers by 10 percent - 1931 United Textile Workers strike committee orders strikers back to work after 22 days out, ending what was at that point the greatest single industrial conflict in the history of American organized labor. The strike involved some 400,000 workers in New England, the mid-Atlantic states and the South - 1934 Some 400,000 coal miners strike for higher wages in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Illinois and Ohio - 1935 The AFL expels the Int’l Longshoremen's Association for racketeering; six years later the AFL-CIO accepted them back into the house of labor - 1953 Today in labor history for the week of September 18, 2017OSHA reaches its largest ever settlement agreement, $21 million, with BP Products North America following an explosion at BP's Texas City, Texas, plant earlier in the year that killed 15 and injured 170 - 2005 Eleven Domino's employees in Pensacola, Fla., form the nation's first union of pizza delivery drivers - 2006 San Francisco hotel workers end a 2-year contract fight, ratify a new 5-year pact with their employers - 2006 September 23 The Workingman's Advocate of Chicago publishes the first installment of The Other Side, by Martin A. Foran, president of the Coopers' Int’l Union. Believed to be the first novel by a trade union leader and some say the first working-class novel ever published in the U.S. - 1868 Today in labor history for the week of September 18, 2017A coalition of Knights of Labor and trade unionists in Chicago launch the United Labor party, calling for an 8-hour day, government ownership of telegraph and telephone companies, and monetary and land reform. The party elects seven state assembly men and one senator - 1886 A 42-month strike by Steelworkers at Bayou Steel in Louisiana ends in a new contract and the ousting of scabs - 1996 California Gov. Gray Davis (D) signs legislation making the state the first to offer workers paid family leave - 2002 September 24 Canada declares the Wobblies illegal - 1918 —Compiled and edited by David Prosten

Defense Workers Union Objects to More Base Closures

AFGE: Costly new BRAC round would disrupt military readiness, harm communities

WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 300,000 civilian employees in the Department of Defense, is urging lawmakers to reject efforts to launch a new round of military base closures.

An amendment to the Senate’s version of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would require the Pentagon to develop a list of military base closures that would be presented to Congress for action. The amendment, from Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Jack Reed of Rhode Island, would in effect launch another Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round.

“In this age of military uncertainty, it is not the time to authorize a new BRAC round,” AFGE Legislative Affairs Director Thomas Kahn said in a Sept. 11 letter to members of the Senate. “A precipitous BRAC action at this time would have serious consequences and the toll on military readiness is not worth the risk.”

A new round of BRAC would incur significant upfront costs, at a time when DoD and other federal agencies have been forced to cut spending under the 2011 Budget Control Act. Much of the promised savings from previous base closures never came to pass.

“Previous BRAC rounds have not always resulted in the initially projected longer-term savings. To the extent that savings were realized, the impact frequently occurred much later than anticipated and the amount was lower than promised when bases were closed,” Kahn wrote.

The House rejected efforts to include a BRAC in its version of the NDAA, which passed overwhelmingly in July. AFGE is calling on members of the Senate to follow the House’s lead.

“Military bases are critical to our nation’s defense, to millions of military and civilian employees who work at defense bases, and to local communities that depend on bases for their economic survival,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “We must not repeat the mistakes of the past, where the Base Realignment and Closure process increased our national debt in the short term and disrupted the lives of hardworking civilians and service members for promised savings that never materialized to the extent promised.”

Today in labor history for the week of September 11, 2017

September 11
Some 75,000 coal miners in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia end a 10-week strike after winning an 8-hour day, semi-monthly pay, and the abolition of overpriced company-owned stores, where they had been forced to shop. (Remember the song, “Sixteen Tons,” by coal miner’s son Merle Travis, in which there’s this line: “I owe my soul to the company store.”) – 1897

More than 3,000 people died when suicide highjackers crashed planes into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.  Among the dead in New York were 634 union members, the majority of them New York City firefighters and police on the scene when the towers fell – 2001

Today in labor history for the week of September 11, 2017Crystal Lee Sutton, the real-life Norma Rae of the movies, dies at age 68. She worked at a J.P. Stevens textile plant in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., when low pay and poor working conditions led her to become a union activist – 2009

September 12
Eugene V. Debs, labor leader and socialist, sentenced to 10 years for opposing World War I. While in jail Debs received one million votes for president – 1918

Jobless workers march on grocery stores and seize food in Toledo, Ohio – 1932

National Guardsmen fire on “sullen and rebellious” strikers at the Woonsocket (Rhode Island) Rayon plant, killing one and injuring three others.  A correspondent said the crowd of about 2,000 “went completely wild with rage.”  Word spread, 6,000 more workers arrived at the scene and the city was put under military rule.  The governor declared that “there is a Communist uprising and not a textile strike” in the state – 1934

Today in labor history for the week of September 11, 2017United Rubber Workers formed in Akron, Ohio – 1935

A total of 49 people are killed, 200 injured, in explosion at the Hercules Powder Company plant in Kenvil, N.J. – 1940

New York City’s Union Square, the site of the first Labor Day in 1882, is officially named a national historic landmark. The square has long been a focal point for working class protest and political expression – 1998

September 13Today in labor history for the week of September 11, 2017
The Post Office Department orders 25,000 railway mail clerks to shoot to kill any bandits attempting to rob the mail – 1926

Eleven AFSCME-represented prison employees, 33 inmates die in four days of rioting at New York State’s Attica Prison and the retaking of the prison. The riot caused the nation to take a closer look at prison conditions, for inmates and their guards alike – 1971

September 14
The Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel, and Tin Workers union calls off an unsuccessful 3-month strike against U. S. Steel Corporation subsidiaries – 1901

Today in labor history for the week of September 11, 2017Gastonia, N.C., textile mill striker and songwriter Ella May Wiggins, 29, a mother of five, is killed when local vigilantes and thugs force the pickup truck in which she is riding off the road and begin shooting – 1929

A striker is shot by a bog owner (and town-elected official) during a walkout by some 1,500 cranberry pickers, members of the newly-formed Cape Cod Cranberry Pickers Union Local 1. State police were called, more strikers were shot and 64 were arrested. The strike was lost – 1933

Congress passes the Landrum-Griffin Act. The law expands many of the anti-labor provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act, increasing union reporting requirements and restricting secondary boycotting and picketing – 1959

Today in labor history for the week of September 11, 2017(The Essential Guide To Federal Employment Laws, 4th edition: This is a well-indexed book, updated in 2013, offering the full text of 20 federal laws affecting workers’ lives, along with plain-English explanations of each. An entire chapter is devoted to each law, explaining what is allowed and prohibited and what businesses must comply with.)

September 15
Some 5,000 female cotton workers in and around Pittsburgh, Pa., strike for a 10-hour day. The next day, male trade unionists become the first male auxiliary when they gather to protect the women from police attacks. The strike ultimately failed – 1845

President Kennedy signs off on a $900 million public-works bill for projects in economically depressed areas – 1962

Today in labor history for the week of September 11, 2017More than 350,000 members of the United Auto Workers begin what is to become a 69-day strike against General Motors – 1970

Int’l Association of Siderographers merges with Int’l Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers – 1992

September 16
More than 43,000 oil workers strike in 20 states, part of the post-war strike wave – 1945

A player lockout by the National Hockey League begins, leading to cancellation of what would have been the league’s 88th season. The lockout, over owner demands that salaries be capped, lasted 310 days – 2004

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee wins a signed contract with the Mount Olive Pickle Co. and growers, ending a 5-year boycott.  The agreement marked the first time an American labor union represented guest workers – 2004
Today in labor history for the week of September 11, 2017
Richard Trumka is elected president of the AFL-CIO at the federation’s convention in Pittsburgh.  He had served as the secretary-treasurer under predecessor John Sweeney from 1995 to 2009, and prior to that was president of the United Mine Workers for 13 years – 2009

September 17
Seventy-five workers die in explosion at Allegheny Arsenal, Pittsburgh, Pa. – 1862

Today in labor history for the week of September 11, 2017At a New York convention of the National Labor Congress, Susan B. Anthony calls for the formation of a Working Women’s Association. As a delegate to the Congress, she persuaded the committee on female labor to call for votes for women and equal pay for equal work. But male delegates deleted the reference to the vote – 1868

One hundred thousand Pennsylvania anthracite coal miners go on strike. Their average annual wage is $250. They are paid by the ton, defined by Pennsylvania as 2,400 pounds, but which mine operators have increased to as much as 4,000 pounds – 1900

National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) formed at a convention in Washington, D.C. In 1999 it became part of the Int’l Association of Machinists (IAM) – 1917

Some Depression-era weekly paychecks around the New York area: physician, $55.32; engineer, $40.68; Today in labor history for the week of September 11, 2017clerk, $22.15; salesman, $25.02; laborer, $20; typist, $15.09 – 1933

Southern employers meeting in Greenville, N.C., ready their big counter-offensive to break the textile labor strikes that have hit the Eastern seaboard. Ultimately they deploy 10,000 national guardsmen and 15,000 deputies, but fail to drive hundreds of thousands of strikers back to work – 1934

A Southern Pacific train loaded with sugar beets strikes a makeshift bus filled with 60 migrant workers near Salinas, Calif., killing 32. The driver said the bus was so crowded he couldn’t see the train coming – 1963

A total of 98 United Mine Workers of America members and a minister occupy the Pittston Coal Company’s Moss 3 preparation plant in Carbon, Va., beginning a year-long strike. Among other issues: management demands for drastic limitations in health and pension benefits for retired and disabled miners and their dependents and beneficiaries – 1989

The Occupy Wall Street movement is launched with an anti-Wall Street march and demonstration that Today in labor history for the week of September 11, 2017ended up as a 2-month encampment in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park. The event led to protests and movements around the world, with their focus on economic inequality, corruption, greed and the influence on government of monied interests. Their slogan: “We are the 99%.” – 2011

—Compiled and edited by David Prosten

Working on Labor Day to Recover from Harvey

Watching helplessly as flood waters rose was not an option for Brandon Parker. This Texas refinery worker and member of the United Steelworkers (USW) union has a jacked-up Suburban and a friend with a boat. There was no way he was going to let family members, neighbors or strangers drown.

Like Brandon, many union members couldn’t sit still through the storm. One drove her high-riding pickup truck two hours to find baby formula for co-workers rescued from their roof with a newborn. Another used his pickup truck to rescue people whose cars got caught in fast-moving water.

These are among the many workers across Texas and across the United States whose sense of community drove them to respond to the crisis created by Hurricane Harvey.

Brandon’s most harrowing rescues occurred on Sunday, Aug. 27, when he joined the citizens armada, the flotilla of boats owned by civilians who drafted themselves to serve as first responders when the catastrophic size of the emergency overwhelmed professionals.

The crew on Brandon’s boat was all union. His longtime friend, Kenneth Yates, a member of Plumbers Local Union 68 in Houston, owned the Bay Stealth craft. Yates’ stepfather, Robert Young, a retired member of the American Federation of Teachers, joined them on the expedition through engulfed Dickinson, Texas.

A home in Dickinson, Texas, on Aug. 27 as seen from Brandon Parker’s rescue boat.

The crew on Brandon’s boat was all union. His longtime friend, Kenneth Yates, a member of Plumbers Local Union 68 in Houston, owned the Bay Stealth craft. Yates’ stepfather, Robert Young, a retired member of the American Federation of Teachers, joined them on the expedition through engulfed Dickinson, Texas.

They launched the boat into deep water on Interstate 45. Bands of storm clouds pelted them with rain, paused, then resumed. The flood water was about six feet deep, not quite over the front door of most homes they passed. The current was strong, making it hard to maneuver the boat.

Kenneth Yates and Robert Young on Yates’ Bay Stealth boat in Dickinson, Texas, on Aug. 27 as they set out to rescue people.

At one point, Brandon saw – just two inches below the water’s surface – an iron fence topped by arrow-shaped finials. He quickly shoved the boat away with an oar, preventing the metal points from puncturing the hull and sinking the craft. They were lucky. They saw rescue boats that were flipped over and one wrapped around a light pole. Ultimately, though, both the hull and propeller of Kenneth Yates’ boat were damaged from striking unseen underwater objects.

They picked up nine people. One family came from a second-story deck. They climbed down the deck’s steps and got into the boat. Another group was on the second story of an apartment building and descended its exterior staircase to the boat.

This was before evacuation was ordered, and Brandon was frightened for the people who chose to remain in their homes. He said he urged everyone he saw to leave while they could but many refused. “Because all the professional resources were being used, it might be hours before they could be rescued in an emergency,” Brandon told me last week.

When it got dark, Brandon, Kenneth and Robert went home. They didn’t have lights on the boat, so it wasn’t safe to continue.

Brandon wasn’t done though. That night, a family in his neighborhood needed to get out of their house after water had risen four feet inside. It was a young boy, a friend of Brandon’s 11-year-old son, and the boy’s uncle. Brandon drove as close as he could to the house, then got a guy in a boat to go in and bring them out to where the car was.

Brandon’s neighborhood in League City, Texas, on Aug. 29.

That is how Brandon started rescuing people – with his car, which would end up with damage to the steering system, differentials and wheel bearings from driving in high water. He first put his car into service Saturday night, Aug. 26. He was headed home from his brother-in-law’s house where he’d watched boxer Floyd Mayweather defeat Conor McGregor. Rain was pouring down and lightning flashing. He saw people walking along the swamped road, drenched.

Some had lost their cars in the rising water. Some had parked, afraid to drive further. Brandon picked up about a dozen in his high-riding, 1990 Suburban and drove them to their homes, most to the neighborhood where his brother-in-law lived.

By Sunday, Aug. 27, the roof of Brandon’s house in League City, Texas, was leaking, and he and his wife and three children had taken in flooded out in-laws. Still, he told his wife that he wanted to go out and help people. “She wasn’t too happy, but she understood that I needed to do that,” Brandon recounted. “I have been in situations where people have helped me. Why wouldn’t I go and help other people?”

That morning, he drove to a neighborhood in hard-hit Dickinson, where nearly every house was flooded. He found hurricane refugees walking through deep water carrying plastic garbage bags of belongings over their heads. This is dangerous because people can step in the wrong place and suddenly slip under water. That’s because there were deep ditches on both sides of the road and floods push manhole covers off.

He piled people into his Suburban and drove them to a bar that was still on dry ground. Other volunteers ferried them to shelters from there.

The 1990 Suburban Brandon Parker used to rescue people.

On Monday, Aug. 28, Brandon drove his truck through high water to get to a donation center in Galveston. He picked up cases of water, food, toiletries and other supplies. He distributed them in his neighborhood because many elderly residents had refused to leave their homes. “I went door to door giving out water and food. A lot of people turned me down. They said they didn’t want to take what others needed.”

The supplies were crucial because even when people with high vehicles like Brandon could get out, they found stores closed and gas stations out of fuel. Brandon continued checking on his neighbors and handing out provisions through Wednesday, when water started receding and he had to go to work at the LyondellBasell refinery in Houston.

Like Brandon, Felicia Weir of Santa Fe, Texas, is a USW refinery worker with a high-riding truck. Even after her home flooded, she drove for hours on Wednesday, backing up constantly to circumvent flood-closed roads, to get baby formula and clothes for a couple who had been plucked from their rooftop with an infant granddaughter and two other young grand kids.

Felicia Weir of Santa Fe, Texas, with supplies to distribute from her union hall.

Marcos Velez, a USW staff member from Pasadena, Texas, drove his pickup truck through flood waters to rescue a refinery worker whose car was inundated by three feet of fast moving water in Baytown, Texas, as he tried to drive to his job before dawn. Then Velez turned around and, despite blinding rain, rescued another dozen people whose cars were bobbing in the fast-rising water in that same neighborhood.

Meanwhile, the Texas AFL-CIO set up a charitable organization, the Texas Workers Relief Fund to aid working families, and local unions from across the country began donating. The National Nurses United Registered Nurse Response Network, an organization of volunteer unionized nurses, deployed its first unit to Houston on Thursday. Three Texas USW local unions handed out food and water to first responders and the public.

These efforts won’t stop when the rain does. This Labor Day, workers from across the country will be volunteering. They’ll be helping victims of Hurricane Harvey recover. And they’ll continue donating their services for months.

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