On the picket line

S.F. transit drivers protest contract with sick-out

More than 500 drivers of San Francisco’s buses, cable cars, streetcars and light rail system called in sick from June 2 to 4 to protest contract negotiations. The workers voted against a proposed two-year contract by a vote of 1,148 to 47 three days before the sickout. The mediated contract included a salary hike and pension swap. Union leaders say this would actually amount to a $1.10 an hour wage cut. The drivers have gone five years without raises. Proposition G, passed in 2010, took away the workers’ right to strike and to bargain on working conditions.

A June 2, the United Rank and File Drivers’ press release stated: “[Transport Workers Union Local 250-A] drivers are under attack by Mayor Ed Lee and the [Municipal Transportation Agency] managers who want workers to pay much more for their pensions. [They] have attacked MUNI drivers while supporting subsidies for Twitter and other billion-dollar corporations. The same attacks are going on against S.F. teachers. … Stop Union Busting Now!”

Eric Williams, president of Local 250-A, which represents 2,200 operators, told KQED TV on June 10, “At this point, the wall is so high in negotiations that we cannot get over it because it’s an unfair process.” He added: “That is not negotiating. That’s dictating the system. What kind of bargaining is this?” The deadline for the SFMTA board to agree on a new contract is June 15. If SFMTA does nothing, the old contract will stay in effect for another two years. Stay tuned.

Janitors win contract policy with Target in Twin Cities

Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha announced a huge victory June 10 for subcontracted janitors, mostly immigrant workers, who have faced poverty wages, wage theft, and health and safety hazards while cleaning retail stores in the Twin Cities metro area in Minnesota. After four years of organizing, including three strikes against cleaning companies in 2013 and a year of negotiations with Target Corp., Target has adopted an unprecedented Responsible Contractor Policy that will be implemented for new cleaning contracts at their stores. The policy is the first of its kind nationally in the retail janitorial industry. CTUL is now calling on every major retail store, like Michaels, Sears and Kohl’s, to follow Target’s lead and adopt the same policy.

As noted in CTUL’s press release: “This victory has implications beyond the estimated 1,000 retail janitors in the Twin Cities, opening the door to ensure that all low-wage workers of color have a place at the table in deciding the future of their work. The agreement is part of CTUL’s vision of empowering low-wage workers to play a leadership role in reorganizing the economy to ensure that it works for everyone, not just the 1%.” For more information, visit ctul.net.

Wash. state farmworkerswin record wage settlement

On June 12, Sakuma Brothers Farms in Burlington, Wash., agreed to pay a total of $850,000 in unpaid wages and to change job practices in the largest farmworker wage and hour settlement in Washington state. Farmworkers charged that, for years, Sakuma failed to accurately disclose their hours worked, so they couldn’t tell if they were being paid minimum wage, did not pay them for all hours worked and did not provide required rest breaks. About 1,200 migrant and seasonal farmworkers who harvested strawberries, blueberries, blackberries or raspberries between Oct. 23, 2010, and Dec. 31, 2013, are covered. The settlement, won by Columbia Legal Services, also provides changes in Sakuma Brothers’ employment practices and improvements in working conditions, including paid rest breaks, accurate information on wages and hours, and the elimination of unpaid work. (columbialegal, June 12)

U. of Maryland workers ratify new contract

Housekeepers, technical staff and other workers at the University of Maryland, College Park, ratified a new three-year contract on June 11. The agreement will save the 3,200 workers, members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees-Maryland Council 3, nearly a million dollars in parking costs over the life of the contract through a union-proposed, progressive, 5-tiered system. Workers also won immediate merit increases and a 2 percent cost-of-living raise as of Jan. 1, 2015, expanded parental and sick leave, and an increased shift differential for hours worked between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. ­(dclabor.net, June 13)