Federal bills aim to stop exploitation of port truckers

Tuesday October 24, 2017

House Democrats will introduce two federal bills Thursday aimed at cracking down on port trucking companies that have for years exploited their workforce with lease-to-own contracts that forced drivers to work around the clock for pay that sometimes dipped to pennies on the hour.

The measures come in response to a USA TODAY Network investigation that revealed truckers were working as modern-day indentured servants while hauling goods for America’s retail giants.

The Port Drivers’ Bill of Rights Act of 2017 lays out basic work standards for port truckers, including fair pay, protection under labor laws, and freedom from “exploitative truck lease or rental arrangements,” according to a draft obtained by USA TODAY Network.

“For truck drivers to be treated fairly and paid fairly,” said Grace Napolitano, D-CA, one of the eight bill sponsors, “that’s a no-brainer.”

Read the full story from USA Today

America’s Industrial Accident Investigators: Their Uphill Battle to Prevent Disasters

Wednesday October 4, 2017

Before dawn, Jim Gannon kissed his sleeping wife and kids goodbye and drove to work at the Napp Technologies chemical plant near his home in Lodi, New Jersey. There, like most mornings, he parked his car and headed off to his locker, but this morning Gannon was hit with the strong stench of rotten eggs. Hydrogen sulfide gas, he guessed, and he knew something was wrong. Gannon and his friend Buster McKenzie put on their protective face masks and both volunteered to go into the process room to check out the problem. They argued and McKenzie won, and while Gannon waited in a hallway outside, McKenzie went in and died.

“Everything got quiet, and then it was like the sun came into the hallway,” Gannon explained. “I was flying backwards, but my arms and legs were being sucked in opposite directions. I could feel my hair burning off, and the skin burning off my hands. But as hard as I could try, I couldn’t pull them in. I felt like I was going to die, so I relaxed because I figured it would just be easier if I just let it happen, rather than trying to fight it.”

Read the full story from the Alicia Patterson Foundation

Nissan Accused of Snooping in Labor’s Latest Fight for the South

Tuesday October 3, 2017

Automakers have battled hard to keep organized labor from gaining traction in the U.S. south. Mostly, they’ve won — as Nissan Motor Co. did when workers at its Mississippi plant voted in August against joining a union. But the Japanese company has been accused of fighting dirty.

It could prove a test-case for labor in the age of Donald Trump. Unions have been fighting a rearguard action as automakers shifted production to southern states, where wages are lower and laws are more management-friendly — something Trump encouraged, even as his campaign was winning union votes. It’s part of a wider squeeze on workers who’ve seen pay stagnate and protections erode, sparking a backlash in industrial regions that both Trump and Bernie Sanders tapped into.

Read the full story at Bloomberg

Teamsters organize truckers to move supplies in Puerto Rico

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Major U.S. labor unions are organizing truck drivers to help with relief efforts in Puerto Rico as the island continues to grapple with the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria last week.

The Teamsters union and the AFL-CIO, a federation of more than 50 unions, are working together to recruit truckers to travel to Puerto Rico and help distribute a stockpile of relief supplies

Thousands of shipping containers full of food, water, and medicines were sitting unused at Puerto Rico’s Port of San Juan.

Read the full story at CNN

Low-wage workers, union activists rally for higher pay and right to organize without fear of retribution

Monday, September 4, 2017

Uber drivers, street vendors, fast-food workers and union activists arrived downtown by the busload on Monday to participate in a boisterous march and rally aimed at mustering the political power of low-wage employees in next year’s United States congressional elections.

On a hot and sticky morning, more than 1,000 workers and Service Employees International Union members blew whistles, banged drums and chanted, “If we fight, we win,” as they marched from the intersection of North Grand Avenue and West Cesar Estrada Chavez Avenue to Los Angeles City Hall.

Giving the noisy procession an approving nod, state Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), said, “On a Monday when the vast majority of Americans are relaxing by the pool or at the beach, this is a wonderful turnout.”

Service Employees International Union organizers said it was only one of many Labor Day events across the nation focused on mobilizing dissatisfaction with the Trump administration and lawmakers opposed to boosting the minimum wage — and unionization in general — and turning it into a collective vote at the polls.

Read the full story at LA Times

The Democratic Party needs to become a workers’ party

Monday, September 4, 2017

There’s a debate in the Democratic Party about how to win in the Trump era. Some progressives have been shocked over President Trump’s appeal to working class voters, and Beltway pundits speculate that a surge in blue collar support for Trump explains Hillary Clinton’s defeat. Some commenters have argued, therefore, that the Democrats should shy away from the left and move back to the center if they want to recapture Trump’s voters. This summer, for instance, Democratic insiders Mark Penn and Andrew Stein argued in the New York Times that Democrats “need to reject socialist ideas and adopt an agenda of renewed growth, greater protection for American workers and a return to fiscal responsibility” if they want to win in the future. In other words, campaign and legislate more like Republicans.

If the Democratic Party listens to this conventional wisdom, we are going to lose big again in 2018. The truth is that Hillary Clinton didn’t lose the election to Trump; she lost to apathy from working people who have given up on politics altogether.

Read the full story at Washington Post

Labor unions are trying to take back politics in the Midwest

Sunday, September 3, 2017

On Labor Day — designated a federal holiday in 1894 to honor America’s labor movement — at least eight Democratic candidates will hold rallies in five Midwest cities to tell workers just how far the country has veered from its pro-labor roots.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R) has helped turn the state red by decimating public-sector unions. In Iowa, Republicans rolled back an increase in the minimum wage in March. Just last week, Illinois’ Republican governor vetoed a bill that would have raised the minimum wage. And Republican governors in Michigan and Ohio have also pushed for regulations that would cripple workers.

In 2018, each will face challenges from unconventional, labor-aligned candidates inspired to run by President Trump’s election and the decline of pro-worker lawmakers, which has resulted in a political system in the Rust Belt that favors the wealthy over the working class. Each candidate will center their campaigns on their support for a $15 minimum wage, progressive health care, and pro-union policies.

Read the full story at Think Progress

Plant Explosions, Spills Test Industry’s Response to Harvey

Friday, September 1, 2017

Explosions and fires at a Texas chemical plant inundated by Harvey’s floodwaters are raising questions about the adequacy of industry preparations for the monster storm and stoking fears of more accidents in the days ahead.

As portions of the plant erupted in flames for the second day in a row, its owners said Friday they would let 500,000 pounds (227,000 kilograms) of liquid organic peroxide that caused two explosions continue to burn, because they have no way to cool the unstable chemical to prevent it from igniting.

Eric Frumin, health and safety director for a federation of labor unions, Change to Win, said the plant flooding was foreseeable.

“They clearly knew they were in a hurricane zone and could lose power because they had backup generators,” he said. “Where was their ‘plan C’?”

Read the full story from Associated Press

Labor groups step up pressure on Trump to deliver

Saturday, August 20, 2017

Labor leaders, once courted by President Trump, are stepping up their campaign to turn workers against the White House if it does not deliver more on jobs and trade — and if it does not stop undoing Obama-era regulations.

The most visible effort, which starts in Indianapolis on Monday afternoon, is a two-week tour organized by the coalition Good Jobs Nation that ropes in labor-friendly politicians. The coalition, launched in 2013 to pressure Barack Obama’s White House on trade and wage issues, is organizing rallies throughout the Midwest through Labor Day.

“Trump ran as a working-class hero, so let’s look at the results,” said Joseph Geevarghese, Good Jobs Nation’s executive director. “We’re seven months into his administration, and wages are flat. People are still getting pink slips.”

Read the full story at Washington Post

Progressives quickly organize responses to Charlottesville

Saturday, August 12, 2017

ATLANTA — The aftermath of the weekend’s white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville, and the resulting violence, reverberated in the last hours of the annual Netroots Nation conference. On Saturday afternoon, attendees of the progressive gathering quietly shared the latest news from Virginia. Some began organizing a response.

One of the first responses came from Mikey Franklin, a digital director of the labor-backed Good Jobs Nation campaign, who had found a print shop that could quickly make T-shirts. Franklin made a black-and-white shirt reading “Punch More Nazis,” then was dogged by questions about them, then printed 30 more.

Read the full story at Washington Post