Since 2006, May Day in the United States has come to mean immigrants’ rights. That was the year millions of people marched to stop a bill that would have made undocumented immigrants (and anyone who helped them) felons.
Many took the day off work to march—making that May Day the largest political strike in U.S. history.
Those immigrant marchers from Latin America undoubtedly knew more about the origins of May Day as International Workers’ Day than U.S. workers do.
On Saturday, May 1, 1886—a work day—35,000 Chicago workers walked off their jobs, demanding the eight-hour day for 10 hours’ pay. Strikes for the eight-hour day continued throughout the city, police rioted, and four workers who had led demonstrations (three of them German-born immigrants) were hanged.
A hundred years later, on May Day 1986, I was living in Guatemala City. Some workers at a small factory were on strike, resisting the 12-hour day their boss wanted to impose. A leader named Julio Coj spoke at a rally: “The martyrs of Chicago died for the eight-hour day, and we owe it to their memory to fight for it as well.”
I was moved to tears by Coj’s words—and embarrassed that so few U.S. workers had ever heard of “the martyrs of Chicago.”
Assault from Both Ends
Twenty-seven years further on, the eight-hour day is in worse shape than Julio Coj could have imagined—and it’s under assault from both ends. Some of us work stupefying amounts of overtime, willingly or no, and others can’t get enough hours to make ends meet. Everywhere, the trend is for management to demand “flexibility” to schedule the number of hours it decides on for a given day or week, with diminishing notice to the worker.
At least we get paid for all those extra hours, for now—but House Republicans have just introduced a bill with the Orwellian title “Working Families Flexibility Act.” The bill would let employers replace time-and-a-half overtime pay with time-and-a-half comp time. No worries, though: the bill forbids the boss to “intimidate, threaten or coerce” a worker to accept this arrangement. All you gotta do is say no. If you’re not worried about keeping your at-will job.
At UPS, which has the largest union contract in the private sector, some Teamster drivers have been agitating for a mandatory work-day of no more than 9.5 hours; 12 hours is not unusual for them, and those who try to keep it to 9.5 will find the boss riding with them in their truck. Their new tentative agreement may or may not address forced overtime.
In the auto industry, workers have fought unsuccessfully to “Stop the FOP”—a Flexible Operating Pattern that has them working 10 hours a day, four days a week, all at straight time. In this “Alternative Work Schedule,” two-thirds of the workforce is in the plant every Saturday. A third works two different shifts (day and evening) in the same week.
The Postal Workers’ 2011 contract took away the guarantee of a 40-hour job, giving management flexibility to establish work weeks anywhere from 30 to 48 hours. A worker’s regular schedule can be from six to 12 hours a day, with no overtime paid, and up to 10 percent of the clerk craft can work without a fixed weekly schedule, as “full-time flexible.” In practice, says Seattle APWU Vice President David Yao, the new options have been “a mixed bag, for both sides.” In some areas the union has used it to establish schedules that some workers actually prefer, such as four 10s.
Meanwhile a hiring freeze has many letter carriers working 10-hour days, six days a week, delivering letters after sundown to cover vacant mail routes. The contract prohibits delivery in the dark, reports recent retiree Jamie Partridge, but “they just settle all the grievances and pay people $50 each time,” since paying overtime and penalties is still cheaper than hiring more full-time workers.
In retail and fast food, meanwhile, management has workers on just-in-time non-schedules where they seldom get as many as eight hours a day. Companies like Jamba Juice, Pier One, and Aeropostale use software that predicts customer traffic based on the weather and other factors, and makes last-minute schedule changes in increments as small as 15 minutes.
A survey of 436 New York retail workers last year found that 70 percent didn’t know their schedules more than a week ahead of time and only 17 percent had a set schedule.
Walmart workers around the country are complaining that short hours are creating long lines and empty shelves while workers rush around trying to do more in less time. Walmart store managers get bonuses for keeping down payroll. OUR Walmart and the Retail Action Project—a project of the United Food and Commercial Workers—are fighting for more normal hours.
Warehouse workers at Fresh Direct, an online grocer in New York, say their shifts can last 16 hours—and that might be in a facility refrigerated to 38 degrees. But then they’ll be told to stay home the next day, to avoid overtime pay.
Incentive to Downsize Hours
The Affordable Care Act is likely to make the short-hours problem worse. A higher education publication reports that colleges in Ohio, Virginia, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have told adjunct instructors to keep their hours, including prep time, under 30 per week. That’s because the ACA, which takes effect next January, requires employers to grant health benefits to those who work 30 or more.
For the same reason, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell ordered in February that all part-time state employees work 29 hours or fewer. Walmart’s scheduling software warns managers when workers are approaching enough hours to make them eligible for health care benefits.
Long hours, short hours, or variable schedules don’t just make life miserable for the individual worker and her family. They also make it harder to take collective action. How do you call an after-shift meeting if no one’s shift is the same—or if the work-day is so long that folks can’t wait to get home? How do you socialize outside of work if you can’t find a time when everyone’s free?
In 1995 Labor Notes published a booklet called Time Out! The Case for a Shorter Work Week. Frankly, it wasn’t a big seller. Our readers at the time seemed more interested in working the o.t. than in cutting their hours to 35.
But a Ford worker at the Cleveland Engine Plant, sick of working nine- and 10-hour days, ordered a copy last year. “I gave it to my committeeperson [steward] and then my building chairman and told them both, ‘Read over and over until you get it,’” Teri Norris told me.
Norris’s plant worked the Alternative Work Schedule for 11 months, with mounting absenteeism, injuries, and workers’ comp claims. She made two motions at the local union meeting, for the local to support the eight-hour day, and to petition the international union to support it, too. They gathered more than 600 signatures.
A month ago, the eight-hour day returned to Cleveland Engine.
Get on the Bus
Unions and immigrant rights groups are joining together to march today. In 1886 Chicago, immigrant workers were at the forefront of the fight for decent hours. Today, many run from one part-time job to another, and another, and have even more reason than the rest of us to back the original May Day slogan.
Come out to a rally and say, “Immigrant rights are workers’ rights! Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours for what we will!”
To tell your Congressperson to oppose HR 1406, which would replace overtime pay with comp time, call 888-866-2561.
Last week on April 24th, hundreds of Walmart workers in 200 stores stood up to demand that Walmart honor its public commitment to be more consistent, transparent, and fair in scheduling shifts and hours for workers. They were joined by over 10,000 people taking action online.
Walmart heard their calls.
On the same day, Walmart posted an explanation of why workers have yet to see changes in their stores despite the fact that Walmart made a public commitment to addressing these scheduling issues four months earlier. In the post, Walmart claims that it had initiated a pilot program in two cities and lays out a timeline for expanding the program, stating:
"Walmart is piloting the program in Denver and Fort Smith, Ark., to provide associates with transparent and consistent information on available shifts throughout the store and give them the opportunity to request to work any of those shifts. Associates now have more transparency into available shifts outside of their department...The pilot program, which began Feb. 1, is scheduled to expand to more stores in July and roll out to the company's more than 4,000 stores by the end of October."
Since the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) started organizing over a year ago, hours and scheduling issues have been a central issue for workers speaking out for change. Inconsistent hours and erratic schedules often make it difficult for workers to budget and nearly impossible for them to take on a second job or go back to school.
This victory is a major success for Walmart workers and those of us who are standing with them, but we must remain vigilant to ensure that Walmart makes good on its public commitments.
Here are a couple of awesome pictures from last week's events:
Workers and supporters take action in California.
Community supporters at a Phoenix action.
On May 1, 1886, over 340,000 workers in Chicago went out on strike to fight for an 8-hour workday. Four years later May Day demonstrations spread to thirteen countries. And since we celebrate May 1 as International Workers Day.
Almost 130 years later and we are still defending the eight-hour day, as hard-won workers’ rights are under attack.
Click here to find a May Day event near you.
Seven hundred workers have died in factory fires in Bangladesh since 2005, including the 112 who burned to death or jumped to their deaths at the Tazreen factory on November 24th. Now hundreds more bodies are being pulled from the rubble of the Rana Plaza building, in an industrial district 18 miles from Dhaka.
At Tazreen the owners didn’t build fire escapes. They’d locked the doors on the upper floors “to prevent theft,” trapping workers in the flames.
At Rana Plaza, factory owners refused to evacuate the building after huge cracks appeared in the walls, even after safety engineers told them not to let workers inside.
Workers told IndustriALL union federation representatives they’d be docked three days pay for each day of an absence, and so went inside despite their worries. As a result, the death toll is already over 250 and more are still trapped under debris.
Perhaps the building codes at Rana Plaza were not enforced, and permits never even obtained, because Sohel Rana, the building’s owner, is reportedly active in Bangladesh’s ruling party, the Awami League. At Tazreen the company was cited by fire inspectors, but never forced to install safety equipment.
Bangladesh’s development policy is based on attracting garment production by keeping costs among the world’s lowest. Safe buildings that don’t collapse or trap workers in fires raise those costs. So do wages that might rise above Bangladesh’s 21 cents an hour -- not a livable wage there or anywhere else.
The beneficiaries of those costs are the big brands whose clothes are sewn by the women in those factories. They give production contracts to the factories that make the lowest bids. Factories then compete to cut costs any way they can.
Tazreen made clothes for Wal-Mart, among other big brands. The Rana Plaza building held several factories where 2500 women churned out garments. According to the International Labor Rights Forum, “One of the factories in the Rana complex, Ether-Tex, had listed WalMart-Canada as a buyer on their website.” Labor activists found other documents in the rubble listing cutting orders from Benetton and other labels.
Workers have been trying for years to organize militant unions to raise wages and enforce safety codes. If they’d been successful, they would have had the power to make the factories safe. The morning after the Rana collapse, 20,000 poured out of neighboring factories in protest – other factory owners had ordered them to keep working as though nothing had happened.
Meanwhile, the giant companies controlling the industry insulate themselves from responsibility for the conditions they create. And their most important accomplice is the corporate social responsibility industry.
According to a report just released by the AFL-CIO, Responsibility Outsourced, just before a fire at the Ali Enterprises factory in Pakistan killed 262 workers in 2012, clothing manufacturers hired an auditing firm, Social Accountability International, to certify it was safe. SAI then subcontracted inspection to an Italian firm, RINA, which subcontracted it yet again to a local firm RI&CA. Ali Enterprises was certified that August. “Nearly 300 workers died in a fire two weeks after,” the report charges.
Certifying factories that kill workers has become an $80 billion industry that “helped keep wages low and working conditions poor, [while] it provided public relations cover for producers,” Responsibility Outsourced says. “Manufacturing work has left countries in which there were laws, collective bargaining and other systems in place to reduce workplace dangers,” it says, while “jobs instead have gone to countries with inadequate laws, weak enforcement and precarious employment relationships.”
This transfer was enabled by corporate-friendly trade agreements guaranteeing the products of these factories unfettered access to U.S. and European markets. They simultaneously put pressure on developing countries to guarantee the rights of foreign corporate investors and an environment of low wages, lax enforcement of worker protections, and attacks on unions.
In Bangladesh, after the Tazreen fire, a binding agreement was developed by IndustriALL, the ILRC and other labor NGOs, that seeks to prevent fires and increase safety by guaranteeing workers' right to organize and enforce better conditions. Some companies, including PVH and Tchibo, have signed on. Wal-Mart and Sears, however, not only refused, but would not even pay compensation to the Tazreen fire victims.
As Bangladesh workers pull the bodies of their friends from ruin of Rana Plaza, people half a world away wearing the clothes they sew should not turn their faces away. They need real knowledge about how their shirts and blouses are produced, and who produces them. Rather than the image manipulation of Social Accountability International and its competitor, the Fair Labor Association, they should demand the truth, and then use their power as consumers.
They should drive companies guilty of industrial homicide out of the world’s markets.
So far, the Westboro Baptist Church hasn't followed through with their threats to picket memorial services and ceremonies held for the victims and families impacted by the Boston Marathon bombings. But another group of locals showed up in Medford on Monday—just in case—and formed a human shield to block them.
According to a press release distributed by members of the Westboro Baptist Church, the group was going to protest outside of St. Joseph's in Medford, where funeral services for Krystle Campbell started at 10 a.m. Monday. Campbell, 29, was one of three people killed in the bombings last week.
In a statement, the church group, notorious for blaming catastrophes and the deaths of innocent people on "God's wrath" because President Barack Obama supports same-sex marriage, protesters were going to "picket the memorial" with large signs.
"[President Obama] is chiefly to blame for bringing down the wrath of God on Boston, on Massachusetts, and the USA...WBC will remind you at every opportunity that God is your enemy," the group said.
On Sunday, April 21, members of Teamsters Local 25 issued a press release promising to block such protests outside of the funeral services for Campbell by forming a human wall. Local 25 President Sean O'Brien asked all off-duty Teamsters to participate. "Teamsters Local 25 will be out in full force [Monday] morning at St. Joseph's Church in Medford to form a human shield and block the Westboro Baptist Church from protesting the funeral of Krystle Campbell. The Campbell family and friends have already endured immeasurable amounts of heartache and tragedy this week, and deserve a peaceful funeral with time to grieve privately," said O’Brien. "Westboro Baptist Church should understand that we will go to great lengths to make sure they don't protest any funerals of the victims of the past week's tragedies, and that those we lost receive a proper burial."
As of 10 a.m. there was no word if members of the Westboro Baptist Church showed up, however, hundreds of people from the union were present if, at any time, the church group arrived. "Hundreds of Teamsters formed a solid wall on the suburban roadway approaching the church. They stood silent guard as mourners drove slowly by on the way to the 11 a.m. funeral service," the group said on their website.
Supporters pulled a similar move last week when Obama visited Boston to speak at a memorial service in the South End, just days after the attack. Members of the WBC promised to show up with signs, but never did. Regardless, roughly 1,000 people dressed in all black came to the aid of the city and held a silent protest in case the members followed through.
The House of Representatives has renewed its decades-old attack on the 40-hour workweek. Once again, some members of Congress are pushing so-called "comp time" legislation that would allow employers to stop giving workers any extra pay for overtime work.
H.R. 1406, the so-called "Working Families Flexibility Act" would take away "Overtime Pay" and replace it with "Comp Time". This bill is not about providing employees with greater flexibility, but rather about providing employers with greater flexibility to not pay overtime!
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) established the 40-hour workweek to allow employees to spend more time away from work and encourage employers to hire more staff when workloads increase. The "Working Families Flexibility Act" however would encourage employers to demand longer hours because it would allow employers to receive the benefits of overtime work at no additional cost. Employers could pay workers nothing at all for overtime when the work is performed, and schedule "compensatory time" only at their convenience. Under H.R. 1406, mandatory overtime would become cheaper for employers and result in more unpredictable work schedules and higher day care costs for workers.
Five hundred dockworkers are facing down the richest man in Hong Kong (and, according to Forbes, eighth-richest in the world) in a strike that has entered its third week and brought transport in the world’s third-busiest port to a virtual halt.
Li Ka-shing, the billionaire behind Hongkong International Terminals (HIT), controls more than 70 percent of Hong Kong’s port container traffic and oversees a vast transnational network of enterprises including the oil and gas giant Husky.
Arrayed against this financial titan often referred to as “Superman” are dockworkers exhausted by 12-hours shifts lacking even toilet breaks, surviving in one of the world’s most expensive cities on wages that haven’t risen in 15 years, and now waging a labor battle that observers are calling pivotal.
The confrontation appears to have tapped a vein of indignation against the “greed economy” and its glaring inequalities, bringing the workers broad public support.
Strikes are rare in Hong Kong, and strikes that gain this much solidarity are unprecedented in recent memory. The dockworkers represent a new level of action among the fastest growing segment of workers: subcontracted, not yet unionized, hyper-exploited.
Fifteen days into the strike, union spokespeople say not more than 20 dockers have returned to work while 120,000 containers sit untouched, ships experience delays of up to 60 hours, and daily losses of half a million U.S. dollars mount.
On the other side of the fulcrum, thousands of Hong Kong citizens have rallied to “occupy” the Kwai Tsing Port, bringing vast quantities of food, water, and funds (more than $1 million so far) to ease the strain on strikers.
Solidarity Sick-Out, Boycott
The dockers are holding firm in their demand for recognition of their newly formed Hong Kong Dockworkers Union, humane working hours, safety measures, and wage hikes of 15-20 percent. Under immense public pressure, Hong Kong’s pro-business government has had to intervene to make management negotiate.
A court injunction initially limiting strikers’ access to the docks was later amended, providing the right for 80 to picket at a time. But the sustained presence of hundreds of strikers and supporters camping out on surrounding streets has disrupted all normal flow of work, and a sympathy “sick-out” earlier in the week by port truck drivers reinforced the strike.
Meanwhile an activist student group, Left 21, has begun organizing a boycott of Li Kai-shing’s mega-supermarket chain Park and Shop, and the president of the International Federation of Transport Workers, the global organization of transport unions, traveled to Hong Kong for a solidarity event. The AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center is donating $5,000.
While support floods in from students, other unionists, and citizens, buoying up the strikers, the solid commitment of the dockworkers themselves is driving this piece of history. The workers organized despite differences in craft and employer (at least four major contractors supply staffing to the Kwai Tsing Port), divisions between subcontracted workers and permanent port employees, lack of formal recognition of their union, and no precedent of collective bargaining.
The dockers have no illusions about the concentrated wealth and power of their ultimate boss Li Ka-shing, but they realize that they have in their hands something no one else controls: the ability to withhold their labor.
Repercussions on the Mainland
The colonial history of Hong Kong left little in the way of labor rights, and unions are rather weak, operating with limited legal rights to bargain or represent workers. Still, both of Hong Kong’s two major union federations are playing roles in this strike.
The larger, the HKFTU, has ties to mainland China’s official labor federation, the ACFTU, and is considered pro-business and politically conservative. In this strike its lack of legitimacy among workers was further weakened by revelations that one of its leaders holds a management position in Global Stevedoring Service, one of the contractors that employ dockworkers.
HKFTU tried to funnel management’s offer of a 5 percent wage increase to a subgroup of workers, but was shamed and now seems to have retreated entirely.
The smaller federation, the HKCTU, is considered a pillar in the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, and has taken the lead in supporting the strike: raising funds, organizing logistics, doing PR and outreach, making demands on politicians.
The conflicts between the two Hong Kong labor federations point to implications of this strike for mainland China. Though total reintegration of Hong Kong into China is still 35 years in the future, the two economies are already thoroughly enmeshed. Because of the strike, some portion of Hong Kong ship traffic will almost certainly be re-routed to the southern mainland ports at Shenzhen or Guangzhou, where labor conditions are way below those in Hong Kong.
A strike of crane operators at the Shenzhen port several years ago was met with swift government intervention and rapid agreement to workers’ demands, in an incident believed to show the government’s determination to prevent a spread of worker militancy—not through repression but through accommodation.
Given that there are already tens of thousands of wildcat strikes annually on the mainland, rising on 30 years of wage repression and an absence of union representation, the potential for this spark of Hong Kong labor militancy to jump the straits and ignite a prairie fire on the mainland may be on the minds of China’s leaders.
Ellen David Friedman is a retired union organizer, on the Policy Committee of Labor Notes, and a Visiting Scholar at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou.
April 9, 2013: "We're just like human machines," TDU member Phil Richards told the Los Angeles Times. "But with machines, they don't care whether you feel good, or if you're having a bad day."
High unemployment rates from the economic recession are excuses for employers to undervalue and exploit their workforces, because there are thousands of people waiting for a job. Technology is being used by management to monitor the workforce 24/7 looking for any way to discipline or fire their employees. Production quotas are through the roof, and harassment is at an all-time high.
There is a growing movement of workers who are saying enough is enough. TDU members are an important part of this movement and have been featured in a Los Angeles Times two-part series, The Tougher Workplace, on how technology and global competition are changing the workplace. (Part 1 and Part 2)
Matt Taibi, a long-time employee of UPS and member of Local 251 in Providence, R.I., explained that, "There's more and more push towards doing more with less workers. There are more stops, more packages, more pickups. What's happening is that we're stretched to our limits and beyond."
Phil Richards, of Local 630 in Los Angeles, recalls a time when he had pride in his job at Unified Grocers, who have implemented automation technology to cut back their workforce and use the savings to increase management salaries.
Rather than enjoy his job, Richards says his day consists of being harassed to work quicker with fewer employees. "We're just like human machines," said Richards. "But with machines, they don't care whether you feel good, or if you're having a bad day."
Join Matt and Phil and become a member of TDU. We are rebuilding union power and fighting back against this war on workers.
An ongoing strike by Hong Kong dock workers demanding a pay raise and protesting arduous working conditions is delivering a costly blow to the city's port operators and winning widespread support from the public.
A few hundred workers began to camp inside the docks on March 28, 2013 after subcontractors for Hutchison International Terminals (HIT) which runs the docks, rejected their demand for a 100 Hong Kong dollars [12.88 US dollars] or 20 percent pay increase per eight-hour shift. The subcontracting companies countered with an offer of 5 percent, far below what workers expected. A survey among dock workers showed that they are willing to settle with a 10 percent [zh] rise.
The workers, some of whom work 24-hour shifts, said that they haven't received raises since 2003 and their current salary is lower than what was paid in 1997.
A judge has since rule that the striking workers cannot enter the ship terminals; protests continue on the street outside the entrance.
HIT, which made a net profit of 2.2 billion HK dollars [zh] [283 million US dollars] from its terminal operation business in 2012, has refused [zh] to negotiate with the workers, insisting that the workers are not their employees but employees of the subcontracting companies. Those companies receive a service charge of 3.2 billion HK dollars [412 million US dollars] from HIT and spend only 710 million HK dollars [91 million US dollars] on dock workers.
According to HIT, the strike is costing the company five million Hong Kong dollars [644,000 US dollars] a day.
Hong Kong is the third busiest container port in the world, growing more than 50 percent between 2000 and 2012. But the growth has brought with it deteriorating working conditions because of what workers claim is exploitation by subcontractors.
Click here to see a video by Yiuman Fung from inmediahk.net showing the strike on April 1, 2013:
The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) explained the relation between terminal operators, subcontractors and workers in an illustration, maintaining that the terminal operators sole objective is to squeeze workers and make a profit. In the illustration, subcontractors appear as executors:
Stories of worker mistreatment have circulated on social media and citizen media, alerting the public to the miserable working conditions at the docks.
Since September 2012, dock workers started sharing their hardships on a Facebook page dedicated to collecting their stories. On October 2, 2012, one worker wrote:
The income of a security guard is now more than 10,000 Hong Kong dollars [1,288 US dollars] per month. As a specialized operator of heavy machinery such as crane operator, our monthly salary is 470 HK dollars [61 US dollars] x 26 days = 12,200 HK dollars [1,572 US dollars] And we have to work continuously for eight hours without a meal break.
There are no benefits and after a few years, you develop pain all over your body and there is no medical insurance.
Do you want to remain cheap labor? Wake up crane operator drivers, please reflect on the situation.
One worker uploaded a photo of the shabby crane operator seat [zh] that he is provided to Facebook on November 26, 2012:
I have to sit on it 12 hours a day. I will develop back problems in the long run.
The management class have 3-4 months bonus at the year end.
But they refuse to change the seat to save a few hundred dollars.
After a container truck driver died in his diver seat on January 19, 2013, a worker uploaded the news and commente
This is a warning. Low salary and long working hours at the dock
If you are sick, rest, don't risk your life. Rest in peace, fellow worker.
Student activist Willis Ho described [zh] on inmediahk.net the working conditions of subcontracted dock workers and explained why HIT, a company under Hutchison Whampoa Limited, the largest dock operator in the world, is the main target of the strike:
HIT is working with five subcontractors, including Yin Chong, Luen Wing, Ko Bo, Wing Fung, and Pui Kei to hire workers responsible for managing cargo, packing up the cargo, driving the crane operators, connecting the crane with containers, driving trucks, and double checking the cargo. The workers are divided into subcontract workers and company workers. Company workers are hired by HIT under Lee Kar Shing's business empire. They have better fringe benefits and more job security, for example they work one shift per day and are paid monthly (usually they have 17 monthly payments in one year), meal time break, year-end bonus, etc. As for the subcontracted workers, they are hired by the second or third tier subcontracting companies. Their working time is 16 to 24 hours (two to three shifts) and paid by shift. For every 24 hours, they are paid around 1,115 HK dollars, approximately 144 US dollars. Every shift has different pay. As for fringe benefits, subcontracted workers do not have meal time, medical insurance, or bonuses.
Just try to imagine a person working round the clock for 24 hours around docks 4 and 6 and 7 and 8 (note: the docks are owned by HIT), day and night. The reality is for the dock workers who are responsible for arranging and packing up the cargo, they are working in this manner, continuously for 24 hours in three shifts. […] At peak time, such as before and after holidays, subcontractors will force the workers to work overtime for 72 hours in order to avoid hiring more workers. […] The dock workers responsible for the cargo managing and packing who work continuously for three shifts only are paid 1,115 HK dollars [144 US dollars], lower than the 1,480 HK dollars [191 US dollars] paid back in 1997. In other words, their hourly paid is just 50 HK dollars [less than 7 US dollars].
The dock workers’ plight has won sympathy from members of the general public. Many have shown their support with photos such this one:
Student volunteers have collected supplies [zh] such as rain clothes, sleeping bags, and bottled water for the striking workers. The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions has also set up a fund to support the striking workers and has so far collected 1.4 million HK dollars [180,328 US dollars].
April 2, 2013: Financial reports for the year 2012 are now available for most Teamster locals, joint councils, conferences and the International union.
Federal law requires these reports to be filed by March 31, and most Teamster locals have complied. A guide on how to download and print a report is available here. Or you can call TDU at (313) 842-2600.
The International union 323-page financial report is available here.
Right away you will see that the Teamsters Union unfortunately lost 52,000 members in 2012, falling from 1,309,690 to 1,257,765 as organizing has lagged.
The reports detail income, expenditures, salaries, payments to vendors and more.
Oftentimes, this information leads to more questions. For example, Los Angeles Local 630 lists a receipt of $75,452 for “Crime Bond Insurance Settlement.” Crime bond insurance provides coverage for money and property stolen by local officials. Members of Local 630 will surely want to ask for details on that matter. They may also want to ask if former local leader Paul Kenny has paid any of the $168,168 he was fined by the Independent Review Board.
These LM-2 financial reports are required of all unions in the US, except those composed only of public workers.
If you would like help interpreting or analyzing a union financial report, contact Teamsters for a Democratic Union at 313-842-2600 or tdu [at] tdu.org
TDU will publish an analysis of Teamster finances and the $150,000 Club later in the summer.