On the picket line

NYC taxi drivers win raises & rights

After months of negotiations with the Taxi and Limousine Commission — and strong opposition from powerful taxi fleet owners — the New York Taxi Workers Alliance won the first raise for drivers in six years on July 12. When fares rise by 17 percent in September, most of that will go directly to higher wages.

NYTWA President Bhairavi Desai proudly proclaimed: “Our incomes will end the downward spiral of poverty we have suffered for almost a decade. We’ll be able to earn a decent living.” NYTWA became affiliated with the AFL-CIO last year. (nytwa.org, July 12)

But the raise isn’t all the mostly immigrant workforce, predominantly from Southern Asia, won. A health and disability fund was set up, providing benefits for the first time to workers who labor in dangerous and exhausting conditions. Desai noted that “the loopholes in existing regulations will be closed, ending eight long years of rampant lease overcharges” and that “the great 5 percent credit card heist — we lose 5 percent on every transaction, including the tip, the toll and the tax … will finally end.”

San Diego taxi drivers join area labor council

In a precedent-setting agreement, the United Taxi Workers of San Diego became affiliated with the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council on July 19. The Labor Council, which represents 192,000 members, noted in its press release that for the first time, it is “welcoming a new group not covered by collective bargaining agreements into our fold.”

The taxi drivers, who are largely immigrant workers, are erroneously labeled “independent contractors” and therefore not protected by state and federal employment laws. That means “they often face 12-hour shifts and uncapped lease fees, lack health insurance and face retaliation in their efforts to improve safety conditions.” (unionyes.org, July 19)

A joint statement about the affiliation reads: “The United Taxi Workers affiliation with the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO, is part of a growing partnership effort by the labor movement and the larger worker rights’ movement to strengthen advocacy and mobilization efforts for taxi drivers, day laborers, domestic workers and all working people. This is the first worker center affiliation in San Diego and the 14th affiliation in the country. This affiliation is part of a historic effort by the AFL-CIO to connect with workers who work in a variety of industries with little to no protection, but who deserve the same collective voice that all people do.”

Longshore workers to negotiate contract

The International Longshoremen’s Association contract for nearly 15,000 dockworkers at East and Gulf Coast ports is due to expire on Sept. 30. In 2011, the 14 ports handled more than 110 million tons of import and export cargo, accounting for 95 percent of containerized shipments from Maine to Texas. Altogether, the ports include 24 container carriers, including the 10 largest carriers worldwide.

The ILA has been in contract talks with the U.S. Maritime Alliance (USMX) since March. The next scheduled negotiations are Aug. 22-24, with full wage scale meetings set for early September. Meetings in mid-July led to “breakthrough agreements for the ILA on automation and chassis work” — two critical issues in the changing industry. Several ports are also engaged in local bargaining. (ilaunion.org, Aug. 2)

The Journal on Commerce reported July 17 that “retailers are growing nervous as they approach the summer-fall peak season for holiday imports.” The Industry Leaders Association “asked the ILA and USMX to … promise to keep the ports open even if no deal is reached before the current agreement expires.”

La. food workers vote union

More than 150 workers at ConAgra Foods in Delhi, La., won union representation the week of July 30 after they voted to join Food and Commercial Workers Local 455. That UFCW local represents more than 20,000 workers in Texas and Louisiana.

The ConAgra organizing campaign, which began in February, focused on winning respect on the job as well as decent wages and affordable health care. Organize the South!

Meanwhile, the UFCW voted to attend the Southern Workers Assembly on Sept. 3 in Charlotte, N.C., during the protests at the Democratic National Convention.

Housekeepers launch global boycott of Hyatt

UNITE HERE statistics show that housekeepers at Hyatt Hotels suffer a higher rate of injuries than housekeepers at other hotel chains because of heavy workloads. Hyatt has fired housekeepers shortly after they have spoken out about debilitating injuries, abuse and indignities at work. Recently the company replaced career housekeepers with temporary workers earning minimum wage. Hyatt even turned heat lamps on workers protesting these conditions during a brutal Chicago heat wave.

However, the housekeepers are fighting back. The week of July 23, they launched a global boycott of Hyatt. To show solidarity, vote that Hyatt is the worst hotel employer in America at votehyattworst.org.

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