On the picket line
May 9, 2003 | Page 11
By Donny Schraffenberger, steward, Teamsters Local 705
THE DEPARTMENT of Transportation announced new "hours of service" rules April 24 that will increase the hours that commercial drivers spend driving. Drivers will now be "permitted" to drive 11 hours each day--up from the current 10--with two more hours of rest time required.
But the more hours a truck driver sits behind the wheel, the more likely the driver is to be involved in an accident. Teamster officials estimate that 755 fatalities and 19,705 injuries result from fatigued drivers each year.
Unions and safety groups oppose the rule change--but trucking companies are for the increased driving time.
Sadly, the official Teamster press release wrongly blames the reform organization, Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), for forcing a government ruling that caused the change. In truth, TDU opposes the new increase in driving hours.
It's the trucking bosses and their friends in the federal government that want to squeeze more hours out of an exhausted workforce. Injuries and deaths are of little concern--if the titans of trucking can make more profits. Our anger should be centered on them--not on an organization of Teamster rank and filers.
By Jesse Hagopian and Jeff Skinner
WASHINGTON--Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 82 negotiated an improved contract on May 1 for the more than 4,000 janitors it represents. Officials of the Washington Contractors Association had said they wouldn't budge, but bowed under threat of a strike.
At a strike deadline rally, Local 82 leaders claimed victory. It was a militant and lively demonstration of more than 200 people, including SEIU members from locals all over the East Coast. The deal will boost pay from the current $8 per hour to $10.20 an hour over five years and establishes paid vacation and sick days for the first time. Hours will increase as well--a key demand, since most janitors work part-time, from 6-10 p.m.
The weak point of the deal is that health care benefits will only be available to the 750 longest-serving janitors. Rank-and-file workers voted to ratify the contract May 3.
By Ken Morgan, ILWU Local 6
SAN FRANCISCO--The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) held its 32nd convention from April 28 to May 2. The 299 delegates, from the West Coast, British Columbia, Alaska and Hawaii, represented workers in jobs ranging from longshore to food service.
Guest speakers included Paddy Crumley of the Maritime Union of Australia, who criticized the war in Iraq; AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka; and Ken Riley, President of International Longshoremen's Association Local 1422, Charleston, S.C.
Union leaders were able to prevent the ILWU from taking a position against war on Iraq, although several locals had already done so. The convention did, however, approve a resolution calling for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and the right of self-determination, free from U.S. interference, of all people in the Middle East.
A labor leader from Colombia reported on how paramilitary units, acting on behalf of Coca-Cola, terrorize and murder union activists. The convention voted to make the brother an honorary member of the ILWU, donate $5,000 to assist in his union's campaign, and to remove all Coca-Cola vending machines from ILWU property.
There was disappointment from many members, when current International President James Spinosa was nominated for re-election with no opposition despite his conservatism and top-down leadership style.
Those in the ILWU who wish the union to continue its tradition of democracy and solidarity with other social issues will have to rely on rank-and-file organization rather than union leaders.
By Jessica Preston
CHICAGO--After enduring decades of sexual harassment, 100 women at the Dial Corp. agreed to settle out of court for $10 million. Dial officials were allowed to deny wrongdoing and arrogantly proclaim that the settlement was principally a "business decision," adding that they didn't foresee any changes in policy.
Women workers at the Aurora, Ill., plant were subjected to harassment ranging from the public display of pornography to stalking by male coworkers. The women agreed to the settlement out of concern that a trial would place further strain on their children and marriages.
The settlement also provides for the appointment of three independent monitors to propose changes at the plant, where workers are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers. But Dial's lawyer says that the company may appoint a lawyer from her firm to serve on the panel--obviously compromising its "independence."
By Dafni Ioannou
BOSTON--Some 500 union members, community activists, retirees and students protested budget cuts at the State House here. The protest was in response to the proposed cuts in health care, affordable housing, student summer programs, smoking prevention and drug rehab programs, and the future closing of a number of schools in the area.
"They never said that they couldn't afford to go to war. Let's fire all of them--we have to get active and let them know that we're drawing a line in the sand," said Diane Dujon from the College of Public and Community Service.
Not only are people in Boston feeling the impact of the budget cuts, but a recent study came out that the cost of living for a family of four rose by 28 percent in five years, which means an annual income $55,000 is barely enough get by. We not only have to say stop the cuts, but tax the rich, too.
By Kevin Chojczak
SAN FRANCISCO--More than 500 workers with the Service Employees International Union Local 790 held a rally April 23 on the steps of City Hall to protest the city's "solution" to its $347 million deficit.
A wide array of city services are threatened with cuts. Recreation and health programs will be some of the hardest hit--with a loss of up to 1,000 jobs. City officials want Local 790 to pay a 7.5 percent contribution to their pension fund that the city used to cover. And the Mental Health Rehabilitation Facility (MHRF), a state-of-the-art psychiatric facility that treats long-term patients who can't provide themselves with food, clothes or shelter, is going to be closed down by the city in order to save $8.1 million.
"These people are going to die when they are forced out of the county to seek similar services," Local 790 member Deborah Logan, an advanced practitioner nurse at MHRF, told Socialist Worker.
Kate Richardson, also with Local 790, works at Laguna Honda Hospital as a recreation therapist. They're already short staffed, and with more cuts, there'll "be more mental illness and more substance abuse in the streets."
"If they're going to cut, the 'fat' has to be cut from the top," Richardson told Socialist Worker.
By Sarah Barnes and Chad Walsh
SACRAMENTO, Calif.--Union members rallied May 1 against budget cuts and corporate greed at the University of California-Davis Medical Center. "Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! Executive greed has got to go!" chanted custodians, patient billers and lab technicians.
While CEO Robert Chason is overseeing 300 job cuts and hospital workers get an anemic 1.5 percent raise, Chason received a $64,420 bonus--which amounts to a 19 percent raise! "We're here today to tell Chason that he can't hide," said cafeteria cashier and executive board member Frank Massar to the crowd of about 80 members of AFSCME Local 3299.
After promising to hold a meeting in April to address the workers' demand that he give back his bonus, Chason then canceled and has refused to discuss the issue further.
Hospital management is claiming that the cutbacks are necessary due to expected cuts in Medicare, MediCal and Sacramento County funding for health care. But the hospital made a profit of $35.3 million just last year.
At the end of the rally, workers presented hospital officials with signed petitions demanding that management "share the pain" when it comes to raises and cutbacks. And the petitions call for new taxes on the rich and on corporations in order to pay for education and public services.