September 29, 2010: The main cargo ports in New York Harbor were shut down by picketing dockworkers on Tuesday and could be idle again on Wednesday if local longshoremen decide to defy a federal judge.
A group of dockworkers from the Port of Philadelphia picketed at the gates of the container terminals in New Jersey and on Staten Island on Tuesday. They were protesting the imminent loss of union jobs on the docks in Camden, N.J., and their fellow union workers in the New York area refused to cross the picket lines.
Click here to read more at The New York Times.
September 21, 2010: About 40 medical marijuana industry employees joined with the Teamsters Local 70 in Oakland, California earlier this month, ratifying a contract after their employer recognized their union without interference. These employees are different from those of medical marijuana dispensaries who joined with UFCW Local 5. The newest Teamster members are those who tend to plants at a medical marijuana management company.
Click here to read more at Fire Dog Lake.
September 13, 2010: The Great Divergence coincided with a dramatic decline in the power of organized labor. Union members now account for about 12 percent of the workforce, down from about 20 percent in 1983. When you exclude public-employee unions (whose membership has been growing), union membership has dropped to a mere 7.5 percent of the private-sector workforce. Did the decline of labor create the income-inequality binge?
The chief purpose of a union is to maximize the income of its members. Since union workers usually earn more than nonunion workers, and since union members in higher-paying occupations tend to exercise more clout than union members in lower-paying ones, you might think higher union membership would increase income inequality. That was, in fact, the consensus among economists before the Great Divergence. But the Harvard economist Richard Freeman demonstrated in a 1980 paper that at the national level, unions' ability to reduce income disparities among members outweighed other factors, and therefore their net effect was to reduce income inequality. That remains true, though perhaps not as true as it was 30 years ago, because union membership has been declining more precipitously for workers at lower incomes. Berkeley economist David Card calculated in a 2001 paper that the decline in union membership among men explained about 15 percent to 20 percent of the Great Divergence among men. (Among women—whose incomes, as noted in an earlier installment, were largely unaffected by the Great Divergence—union membership remained relatively stable during the past three decades.)
Click here to read more at Slate.
August 20, 2010: A Teamster hero was honored yesterday when New York City unveiled Ron Carey Avenue.
New York City officially unveiled Ron Carey Avenue, renaming the street near the home of the Teamster militant who changed the direction of our union.
The new leadership of Teamsters Local 804 joined members of the Carey family at the ceremony.
Carey made labor history in 1991 when he teamed up with Teamsters for a Democratic Union and led a reform ticket in the first one-member, one-vote election for top Teamster officers.
Working Teamsters swept the Ron Carey Members First Slate into office. During his tenure, Carey reversed a 16-year decline in Teamster membership and led members to victory in the historic UPS strike in 1997.
Carey stepped down from office after the strike and was later barred from the union for a fund raising scandal in his reelection campaign. He was later exonerated from charges that he had any role in the fund raising scandal.
For the rest of his life, Carey remained a reform supporter and vocal critic of the Hoffa administration—including the givebacks in the recent UPS contract.
Ron Carey died on December 11, 2008.
Click here to learn more about Teamster reform history and the Ron Carey era.
Click here to watch the video, “The UPS Strike: America’s Victory.”
August 19, 2010: The battle over the employment status of drivers at FedEx Ground moved to Massachusetts this week as 31 current and former drivers sued the carrier, alleging improper classification.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, seeks class-action status. Plaintiffs contend FedEx exerts enough control over its drivers to consider them employees rather than independent contractors. FedEx controls the days the drivers work, enforces appearance and vehicle standards and monitors performance. The suit seeks monetary damages as well as an injunction changing the independent contractor classification.
Click here to read more at The Journal of Commerce.
August 17, 2010: The Laborers' International Union is rejoining the AFL-CIO five years after leaving in a bitter dispute that split the U.S. labor movement.
The 800,000-member laborers' union represents workers in the construction industry.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says the move is an important step in helping organized labor become more unified. Mr. Trumka has also reached out to Teamsters President James Hoffa about making a return to the AFL-CIO, and said in a recent interview that he'd be pleased if Change to Win re-affiliated with the AFL-CIO.
Click here to read more.
August 13, 2010: A convoy of beer trucks with horns blaring and Teamsters drivers flashing the thumbs up would not normally bring a lump to the throat and a tear to the eye. Then again, the scene at Hartford Distributors Inc. on Wednesday morning was not just another day at the warehouse.
It was a remarkable moment of unity, all the more so because it was one of three memorable events happening at the same time around Connecticut that galvanized union workers.
Click here to read more at CT Now.
August 6, 2010:The inflatable rat is back, as New York City Teamsters strike to say it’s not fair to pay some movers $16-$22 an hour and others—mostly Black and Latino—just $8.
It started when workers at ATM Enterprises, who unload furniture from out of state and put it on the trucks belonging to Trucking Office Products System (TOPS), started raising a stink about their low wages. The TOPS workers make up to $22 an hour for delivering the furniture to Manhattan office buildings and belong to Teamsters Local 814. ATM workers, on the other hand, have no health care.
Click here to read more at Labor Notes.
BNA Daily Labor Report: Report Finds Unions Must Make Changes To Avoid Risk of Losing Young Female Talent
July 26, 2010: Unions must begin to make changes now or today's young activists, and their younger colleagues, will abandon the labor movement and pursue social justice in other organizations with more welcoming cultures and values, according to a report released July 16 by the Berger-Marks Foundation.
While there have been significant gains for women in workplaces and the labor movement, a two-day summit in March 2010 in New Orleans among 30 women activists from at least 20 unions and other advocacy organizations outlined steps unions can take to attract young workers, and support them in key leadership roles, according to the report, Stepping Up, Stepping Back: Women Activists ‘Talk Union’ Across Generations.
The Berger-Marks Foundation helps to organize women into unions by providing financial support and “camaraderie to people and organizations doing that work,” according to its website (www.bergermarks.org).
The foundation's “trustees weren't sure quite what to expect when we brought together 30 women activists—half of them younger than 35, the other half older than 35—to New Orleans last March for an intergenerational conversation about the labor movement,” the foundation said in a statement. “What we got was a deeper understanding of what it is about unions that turns younger women on and what turns them off.”
The report “pulls no punches in its critique of today's unions. Its prescription for change includes practical, yet bold, steps that America's labor movement should undertake in order to ensure it becomes a ‘safe space’ for tomorrow's women workers and activists,” the foundation said.
The report found that the women under age 35 attending the conference want to spend their adult lives supporting organized labor. However, whether that happens will depend on “how quickly unions and allied organizations respond to their needs.” Members of the under-35 group have already thought about making the transition from labor organizations to social justice organizations because the culture for women and younger activists is more accepting, the report said.
The loss of more than 8 million jobs from 2007 to 2010 has meant that many women under age 35 “feel stuck” in positions that they would otherwise abandon, the report said. But it observed that a guaranteed revenue stream of monthly dues from union members gives women who work for various labor organizations more job security than their colleagues who work for other organizations and nonprofits.
Making Unions More Responsive to Young Women
Some of the goals for unions that the women under 35 recommended during the summit included creating “safe spaces” for women and younger activists, the report said. It found that younger union activists “need room to make mistakes and have the freedom to discuss their experiences without being judged by the higher-ups in the union hierarchy.”
The report also pointed out that sexism and sexual harassment still are “too common” throughout the labor movement and must end or unions will not have the chance to recruit and retain a new generation of women activists and leaders. Adopting policies that avoid sexual harassment has not been enough to change an ingrained culture of sexism, the report said. It asserted that union leaders must be willing to call out and punish union members who engage in inappropriate conduct.
Unions should reach out to younger workers by providing opportunities for interaction that does not rely on social networking, the report said. “What matters to younger workers are the issues unions tackle, not whether their leaders have a large following on Twitter.”
Shifting Labor's Agenda
Organized labor's agenda and its traditionally male-dominated culture make adoption of a feminist agenda “all but impossible for unions,” the report said. It suggested that unions partner with women's organizations at the community and national level.
Other recommendations included establishing a mentoring program for younger women. In addition to formal traditional mentoring, the report recommended peer-to-peer mentoring programs.
Younger activists want training in basic union skills, such as managing meetings and handling grievances as well as comprehensive, continuing education on economics, politics, and why unions matter, the report said.
Unions should implement term limits for certain elected offices at labor organizations that do not already have them, the report said. It added that term limits would send a strong signal to younger activists that they could get the chance to reach the top leadership ranks of their unions. Expanding the number of seats on union governing boards would allow more women and persons of color in leadership positions, according to the report.
Younger workers also want to be included in “real decision-making” and have the opportunity to take responsibility for important projects, the report said.
“The young women who met in New Orleans are tough, seasoned labor leaders who can make a real difference for the union movement,” the report said. “They want to be at the main table. They don't deserve to be relegated to the ‘kids' table.’ But, younger activists don't want just a seat. They want to help plan the menu and prepare the meal.”
Lastly, the report recommended that union meetings be structured to allow younger members to network and interact face-to-face with older, more experienced leaders and activists. Younger members should be encouraged to plan and execute social events, not just for their own peer group, but for the entire membership, the report said. “Life for working families is tough enough these days, so union-sponsored events should be fun as well as informational and substantive,” the report concluded.
By Alicia Biggs