Posts Tagged ‘solidarity’

TD members may act in solidarity for striking workers, but actions limited by RLA

Local 313 (Grand Rapids, Mich.) member Chris Larson, a member of our union for seven years, wrote to the office of SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson asking the extent that members can go to support and show solidarity to an ongoing labor action by another labor union against an employer.

More than 1,000 members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) union have been striking for more than a month in locations in Portland, Ore.; Richmond, Va.; Norcross, Ga., and Chicago against Nabisco/Mondelez. Brother Larson suggested in a letter that unionized train operators stop deliveries to the company’s plants in a concerted effort in support of the strikes.

“Nabisco / Mondelz (sic) International will quickly notice when their raw inputs of flour, sugar, and other bulk commodities delivered by rail are no longer being delivered because SMART-TD is supporting the BCTGM strike,” Larson wrote. “I would like to encourage SMART-TD to quickly explore how our union can honor the BCTGM strike by not delivering raw inputs to Nabisco / Mondelz (sic) International by rail.”

While a strong and impactful suggestion by Larson, the federal Railway Labor Act limits when, where and why rail workers can engage in a work stoppage, as the union’s response noted.

“…it is important to note that the governing federal law (specifically the Railway Labor Act, as amended,) limits our ability to go on strike to very narrow and specific circumstances. Unfortunately, those circumstances do not include the secondary strike action you describe in your letter,” the TD office replied.

“We absolutely support the BCTGM workers in their fight for fairness and justice with Nabisco/Mondelez,” Ferguson said. “Our members and leadership will do what we can within the law through personal boycotts and outreach initiated by local members to show support from our union. We thank Brother Larson for speaking up and asking this question, and we appreciate his desire to act in solidarity with our fellow workers at BCTGM.”

Constitutionally, members can act in the interest of their personal safety in areas where a strike is taking place. According to Article 21B, Section 92 of the SMART Constitution:

When a strike of any other nationally recognized labor organization is in effect and danger to the safety of our members exists in or about the area affected by the strike, and/or if there exists any substantial present or potential threat of danger to the members enroute to or from their work, and/or to the members’ families, it is the policy of SMART to support its members in declining to enter the territory directly affected.

The strikes against Nabisco/Mondelez first began in August with BCTGM workers in Portland, then spread to the three additional locations during the month to protest the company’s outsourcing of U.S. jobs to plants in Mexico and the disproportionate hazard pay given to management when workers received only a $300 bonus.

As of this writing, the work stoppages are ongoing, and there are multiple ways TD members and their families can assist in the effort in the spirit of solidarity suggested at the BCTGM website.

  1. Check the label of Nabisco/Mondelez snacks and do not buy products made in Mexico by non-union labor.The UComm blog has an extensive list of the brands under the Nabisco/Mondelez umbrella, and the BCTGM has a PDF (image reproduced and linked here and below) showing where to check a Nabisco/Mondelez product’s place of manufacture. Some of the most-popular products sold by the company include Oreo, Chips Ahoy and Fig Newtons cookies as well as Ritz crackers.

  2. Join one of the picket lines to give supplies or offer support at the following sites:
    • Portland, Ore.: 100 N.E. Columbia Blvd.
    • Aurora, Colo.: 17775 E. 30th Ave.
    • Chicago, Ill.: 7300 Kedzie Ave.
    • Norcross, Ga.: 6300 Brook Hollow Pkwy.
    • Richmond, Va.: 6002 S. Laburnum Ave.
  3. Send a message of solidarity to the strike organizers.
  4. Donate to the BCTGM local strike funds:
    Local 1, Chicago Bakery Workers
    Local 42, Atlanta/Norcross Distribution Workers
    Local 358, Richmond Bakery Workers
    Local 364, Portland Bakery Workers
  5. Spread the word through your community by posting this flier or online through social media by following the BCTGM union’s accounts and using the #NabiscoStrike and #NoContractNoSnacks hashtags.

Together, we can assist the BCTGM workers to achieve a fair and favorable outcome to stop the corporate greed exhibited by Nabisco/Mondelez management.

Read Brother Chris Larson’s letter and the TD response. (PDF)

SMART TD General Chairpersons resolve to act in solidarity in face of negotiations, lawsuit

SMART Transportation Division officers and attendees of the Association of General Chairpersons — District 1 conference stand together at the conclusion of the meeting on Oct. 3.

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Hours after a lawsuit by rail carriers targeting our union over crew consist was announced Oct. 3, the Association of General Chairpersons — District 1 unanimously resolved to act in solidarity.

The resolution states:

“In response to the Carriers’ attempts to undermine bargaining and divide us, we, the members of District 1, resolve to act in solidarity in every effort to protect our members and our rights under the Railway Labor Act.”

Every general chairperson in attendance signed the resolution as the meeting concluded.

Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson praised the leadership of the General Committees for a quick and unified response at the conclusion of the District 1 conference in the Cleveland area that also finalized the Section 6 notices that will trigger the beginning of the next round of National Rail Contract negotiations.

“As we progress forward into this negotiating period and beyond, solidarity among our membership at all levels everywhere will drive us as we overcome the challenges ahead,” Ferguson said. “This unanimous resolution shows at the outset that we stand together and will speak with one loud, clear voice.”

On Oct. 3, the National Railway Labor Conference (NRLC) filed a lawsuit in federal district court in the Northern District of Texas.

President Ferguson stated that this attempt to undermine our collective bargaining agreements was not unexpected.

“It is not the first time that carriers have attempted this tactic,” he said. “We are well prepared to respond.”

TD Hollywood, Fla. Regional Meeting, Day 1: Previsich says U.S. labor movement at critical juncture

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — Transportation Division President John Previsich looked to the recent past to point the way to the future on Monday, Aug. 6, at a critical point in United States labor history.

In opening remarks to the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers’ first combined educational meeting at the Hilton Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, Florida, Previsich reflected on the status of the coordinated bargaining unit’s national rail agreement talks that appeared to be at a standstill last summer and an appearance at the Sheet Metal Business Agents Conference in Vancouver last year that he said might have changed the tide.

At the time, a declaration of an impasse was likely at the next meeting between the rail labor unions and the carriers and a Presidential Emergency Board would convene, Previsich said.

But the potential impasse was broken at the next meeting with the carriers willing to negotiate, and Previsich has an inkling of what played a big part: unity.

“I told the Sheet Metal brothers and sisters in the room that when the time came, and that we had to look at a Presidential Emergency Board, I said I didn’t want 65,000 Transportation Division members calling the White House, I wanted 200,000 SMART members calling the White House,” Previsich said. “Every brother and sister stood up and pledged their support. I would like to think that support, that word, that message, got – maybe to the White House. It got somewhere good, because at the very next session immediately after that meeting in Vancouver, the railroads came into the room and started negotiating.”

Within a month, a contract offer was on the table that was ratified Dec. 1, 2017, by four out of five TD members, Previsich said.

“It was the support of everyone in that room that made that happen,” he said.

Establishing that unity not only within SMART but among all labor organizations nationwide and education efforts will be key in the aftermath of the attack on labor in the form of this summer’s Janus decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, Previsich said.

“There are forces out there that want to reset the entire playing field. They want to move the goalposts to a place that we can’t get to. They started with Janus,” he said.

The Janus decision nullifies the ability of public-sector unions to collect what are known as maintenance fees from “free-riders” — those people who take advantage of union membership benefits but do not pay for those benefits.

“It’s not going to be fatal to our organization, but it will be close to fatal to other organizations,” Previsich said.

Teachers unions, the SEIU and unions that protect government employees will be most affected, but that doesn’t mean that those anti-union forces will stop at just that single victory to crush labor in the U.S., he said.

“The next step is to private employers and there are already efforts to start that happening,” Previsich said. “They create a dispute here, a dispute there, get some conflicting court decisions and boom, it bubbles up to the Supreme Court.”

With a second Supreme Court vacancy to be filled by the Trump administration, 150 years of labor history that workers fought and died for is under attack and in jeopardy in the United States, Previsich said.

Union members need to act.

“We can no longer sit back and let somebody else take care of our business. We have to take care of it,” Previsich said. “We have to stand united, not only within, but with every other labor organization in the country. We need to talk to our friends, our relatives, our neighbors and everybody we encounter in the grocery store and let them know the labor movement is an honorable movement.

“It’s the foundation of America, and if they start beating back the unions, they’re going to beat back every employee in any form whether they’re unionized or not … we can’t let it happen.”

The key to stopping the attack will be individual action and spreading the word, member-to-member, about the importance of the November mid-term elections, Previsich said.

“This is really the cliff-side point in labor history. I can’t stress strongly enough how important it is that we get out there and motivate our members to get out there to preserve the labor movement,” he said. “We can’t forget our paychecks. We can’t forget our pensions, our benefits and our families.

“We need to make sure our members are educated on everything that is important to the cause, the movement, the preservation of the labor lifestyle that comes about as the result of unions and the hard work that they’ve been doing for 150 years.”

Earlier in the opening session, SMART General President Joseph Sellers Jr. and General Secretary-Treasurer Rich McClees also encouraged the further development of solidarity by increasing cooperation between the Sheet Metal and Transportation Division membership.

The Hollywood, Fla., combined educational meeting itself marks the first time since the Sheet Metal and Transportation Division’s merger that both a TD regional meeting and a Sheet Metal business agents conference have taken place at the same location.

SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich addresses the opening session of the Transportation Department Regional Meeting at the Hilton Diplomat Resort on Monday, Aug. 6, in Hollywood, Fla.

SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich addresses the opening session of the Transportation Division regional meeting at the Hilton Diplomat Resort on Monday, Aug. 6, in Hollywood, Fla.

Members helping members, the UTU way

By Vic Baffoni,
Vice president, UTU Bus Dept.

Local UTU officers sacrifice much of their personal time, without compensation, to assist and serve their memberships, and they deserve recognition for their outstanding commitment.

That is what I intend to do in this month’s column.

Two such individuals deserving of recognition for their hard work and dedication are Lonnie Hookfin, president of Local 1496, Riverside, Calif., and David Ojeda, president of Local 1563, El Monte, Calif.

When the Teamsters initiated a representation drive on our members in Local 1496, who work for Laidlaw Transit in the Riverside area, Lonnie spent hours explaining to his membership the many benefits and advantages of UTU representation and solidarity.

David, a friend of Lonnie’s, volunteered to help and came to Riverside and gave to the members of Local 1496 the perspective of another local on how to work together and resolve internal issues.

This willingness and commitment to assist fellow officers and members, to help them identify, improve and advance their mutually beneficial goals for the betterment of all, is very important to labor-union members everywhere, and especially to those working for Laidlaw Transit.

It also forms the foundation of the UTU and its predecessor labor organizations; it is upon this foundation that the UTU has built 40 years of success.

If you are seeking a solution to a problem in your local, or are looking for information and advice on better serving your fellow workers, you always have brothers and sisters ready to assist.

Together, nothing can stop us.