Saturday, April 19, 2014

Today's Teamster News 04.19.14

Trade
One-Fifth of China’s Farmland Is Polluted, State Study Finds  New York Times   ...The Chinese government released a report on Thursday that said nearly one-fifth of its arable land was polluted, a finding certain to raise questions about the toxic results of China’s rapid industrialization, its lack of regulations over commercial interests and the consequences for the national food chain...
Progress but no deal in US-Japan TPP trade talks  Agence France-Press   ...The United States said Friday there had been progress but no final deal in talks with Japan that are crucial to advancing the ambitious 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal...
State Battles
Nebraska Joins States Banning Employers from Asking Job Applicants About Criminal History  Alternet   ...Gov. Dave Heineman  signed a bill Wednesday making Nebraska the 11th state that bars employers from asking prospective employees if they have a criminal record. The prohibition is a provision in a law designed to reduce prison overcrowding...
War on Workers
The tea party radio network  Politico   ...conservative groups spent nearly $22 million to broker and pay for involved advertising relationships known as sponsorships with a handful of influential talkers including Beck, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh between the first talk radio deals in 2008 and the end of 2012...
Inmates to strike in Alabama, declare prison is “running a slave empire”  Salon   ...Inmates at an Alabama prison plan to stage a work stoppage this weekend and hope to spur an escalating strike wave...
Judge says American can't end retiree benefits yet  Associated Press   ...A federal judge has rejected an attempt by American Airlines to quickly cut off benefits for many of its retirees...
Job Loss Would Quickly Lead to Hardship for Many in U.S.  Gallup   ...A substantial minority of U.S. workers say they could go just one week (14%) or one month (29%) before experiencing significant financial hardship if they lost their job...
Princeton Study: U.S. No Longer An Actual Democracy  Talking Points Memo   ...Asking "[w]ho really rules?" researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page argue that over the past few decades America's political system has slowly transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where wealthy elites wield most power...
Big banks lend to corporations over consumers  CNN Money   ...Lending was up in the first quarter, but that jump has hidden the fact that individuals are still having a tough time getting loans...
As we sweat government surveillance, companies like Google collect our data  Guardian   ...Google confirmed this week what many people had assumed: even if you're not a Gmail user, your email to someone who does use their services will be scanned by the all-seeing search and the advertising company's increasingly smart machines...
Miscellaneous
Keystone decision delayed yet again  Politico Pro   ...The State Department declined to specify how long the delay will last, saying only that it needs to extend its review because of an ongoing dispute in front of the Nebraska Supreme Court that could affect the project’s route inside the state...

Friday, April 18, 2014

Today's Teamster News 04.18.14

Teamster News
Teamsters Urge Investor Support For Changes At Swift Transportation  teamster.org   ...“The inability of Swift’s board to rein in CEO Moyes from pledging tens of millions of shares of Swift Transportation stock as collateral for personal loans or hundreds of millions of dollars in related-party transactions between Swift and Moyes-controlled businesses has put investors at risk and raises serious questions about the true independence and effectiveness of the company’s directors,” said Ken Hall, General Secretary-Treasurer of the Teamsters Union...
Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan is up to union-busting  teamster.org   ...The pension plan, which is funded by contributions by and on behalf of Ontario’s unionized teachers, is waging a ruthless, vindictive campaign of harassment, intimidation and threats against U.S. workers of a company it owns: Exal...
Animal activism is great. Why can't we get as loud on (human) workers' rights?  Guardian   ...Save the horses? How about save the horse carriage drivers? It's time to focus on the everyday abuse endured by actual people...
In Defense of New York’s Carriage Horse Industry  Brooklyn Magazine   ...It’s the carriage drivers who are concerned, first and foremost with the welfare of the horses...
Wabasha County Board Spars Over Social Media, Union Ad  Rochester Post Bulletin   ...What began as a review by Wabasha County board members Tuesday of a policy on use of social media drifted into a far ranging disagreement over who has been attacking whom, and whether the board chairman condoned a recent Teamsters ad...
Port Drivers File Complaint Over Working Conditions  The Times Herald   ...Port truck drivers who ferry goods from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach for Total Transportation Services, Inc. today will urge the Port of Los Angeles to address what they contend are "serious hazards" in working conditions at the Carson company...
Trade
Malaysia stands firm on TPP ahead of Obama visit  Nikkei Asian Review   ...The Obama visit will not serve as pressure to sign the pact, Malaysian International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed said last month. The country's opposition to reforms setting conditions for competition between state-owned and private businesses is one reason for the stalemate in negotiations...
Workers Strike at Shoe Factory Over Benefits Dispute  New York Times   ...Tens of thousands of workers at one of the world’s largest shoe manufacturers are continuing a strike in the southern Chinese city of Dongguan in a dispute over benefits...
U.S. Agrees To Let Japanese Tariffs Stand On Rice, Wheat  The Japan Times   ...The United States has agreed to allow Japan to retain tariffs on rice and wheat, government sources said Thursday during bilateral talks related to the wider Pacific free trade negotiations...
State Battles
Mississippi Governor Signs 3 Bills Placing Limits On Labor Union Activities  The Republic   ...Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed three bills to limit union activities in Mississippi, saying he hopes they strengthen the state's reputation as a place where organized labor has little influence...
War On Workers
Sallie Mae Cheated Soldiers On Federal Student Loans, Government Investigators Find  Huffington Post   ...Federal investigators have uncovered evidence that Sallie Mae cheated active-duty soldiers on federal student loans, according to people familiar with the matter...
NYS Attorney General Issues Subpoenas to Least Lawyered-Up High Frequency Traders  Wall Street on Parade   ...Why not ask the three big stock exchanges, the New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq and BATS to hand over the names of all high frequency traders to whom they have sold expensive perks that have the effect of rigging the stock market against the average investor.
...
Koch Brothers Net Worth Soars Past $100 Billion  Huffington Post   ...Charles and David Koch hit a milestone on Wednesday, as a $1.3 billion boost to their collective fortune sent their net worth above $100 billion, according to Bloomberg News...
Postal Union Fights Staples Partnership 'A Big Step Toward Privatization'  Huffington Post   ...On a recent Saturday morning, 500 protesters poured out of a parade of school buses, signs and megaphones in hand, and tried their best to shame a single Staples store just outside Chicago...
Some Exempted From Minimum Wage, Increased Or Not  Philly.com   ...Some low-paid workers won't benefit even if a long-shot Democratic proposal to raise the federal minimum wage becomes law. More than a dozen categories of jobs are exempt from the minimum, currently $7.25 an hour...
About 400 Chicago Concrete Truck Drivers Go On Strike  Chicago Tribune   ...About 400 concrete truck drivers walked off their jobs on Tuesday and Wednesday after rejecting a proposed labor contract with the Northern Illinois Ready Mix and Materials Association...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

No action on safety in the year since the West Texas fertilizer explosion



One year ago today, a fertilizer plant in West Texas blew up and killed 15 people, injured 160 and flattened dozens of homes.

Chemical plants are still ticking time bombs as virtually nothing has been done to make them safer. (Here's why.)

The Teamsters are working with the Coalition for Sensible Standards to fight for stronger protections for workers and the public. The Coalition blog RegsTalk reminds us of our responsibility to make sure our system of safeguards and standards isn't dismantled:
Thursday, April 17, 2014 is the one year anniversary of the West, Texas fertilizer storage facility explosion, a disaster that devastated a community, claimed 15 lives, and injured over 160 others. The West Fertilizer Company supplied chemicals to farmers since it was founded in 1962, and was last inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 1985. 
In the aftermath of the explosion, the operator of the fertilizer plant was cited for 24 safety violations and charged $118,300 in penalties. Safety violations included exposing workers to explosion hazards and chemical burns, unsafe handling and storage of chemicals, failing to have an emergency response plan and not having an appropriate number of fire extinguishers. 
The US Chemical Safety Board reported that regulation of the dangerous chemicals used in the industry fall under shoddy standards that are dated and far weaker than standards in other countries. However, Texas, which has the country’s highest number of workplace fatalities, is still wary of regulations. 

During the government shutdown 90% of CSB employees were furloughed, causing a delay in the investigation of the West, Texas disaster.
Please sign this petition here to tell the EPA to increase standards for chemical safety, work harder to ensure responsible chemical storage and transportation, and mandate that companies replace dangerous chemicals with safer alternatives.


Study: The majority does not rule in America

The U.S. government is run by corporations and rich people and pays little attention to what average people want, according to a new study by researchers at Princeton and Northwestern universities.

Researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page studied 1,779 changes in government policy between 1981 and 2002. They chose policies that the public was asked about in a national poll. They compared what happened with the preferences of three groups: the median American, at the 50th percentile of income; with affluent Americans, at the 90th percentile of income; and with the position of powerful interest and lobbying groups.

What they found was something we've been noticing:
...economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence. 
Sometimes ordinary Americans and rich Americans want the same things from government, and they get it. When that happens, notes our friend Hamilton Nolan at Gawker,
...regular people tend to think that their political interests are being represented when they see the triumph of some political position that they agree with. In fact, the researchers say, this is a mere coincidence. Yes, the average American will see their interests represented—as long as their interests align with the interests of the wealthy.
Ordinary Americans and interest groups that spend a lot of money on lobbying do not want the same thing from government, according to the researchers:
Some particular U.S. membership organizations – especially the AARP and labor unions – do tend to favor the same policies as average citizens. But other membership groups take stands that are unrelated (pro-life and pro-choice groups) or negatively related (gun owners) to what the average American wants. Some membership groups may reflect the views of corporate backers or their most affluent constituents. Others focus on issues on which the public is fairly evenly divided. Whatever the reasons, all mass-based groups taken together simply do not add up, in aggregate, to good representatives of the citizenry as a whole. Business-oriented groups do even worse.
Depressed yet? If not, consider this conclusion by the researchers:
In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule. 

Teamsters join huge international campaign to stop the secrecy over the TPP

Next week will be critical for working Americans. President Obama will hold crunch meetings in Asia to try to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership -- a corporate power grab that will kill jobs, lower your standard of living, create national security risks, undermine environmental protections, do away with food safety standards and weaken your democratic rights.

This is urgent: They’re trying to nail down this deal right now under cover of extreme secrecy, with citizens and public interest groups excluded from the talks. Meanwhile, at home an army of lobbyists are trying to ram through a fast track law that would force the TPP through the U.S. Congress without a public debate.

The Teamsters are joining the biggest ever international campaign against the excessive secrecy surrounding the TPP. The last thing we need is politicians pulling a fast one on American workers with Fast Track legislation that locks us into a trade deal before Congress has even seen it. We're doing our best to stop them, but we need your help. Can we count on your support to tell decision-makers to reject Fast Track?

They’re pulling out all the stops to finalize this deal in secret talks -- but Teamsters, union members and workers around the globe are speaking out and fighting back. We’re calling for negotiators to end the secrecy by immediately releasing the full text of the TPP so that it can be debated democratically by the public.

The campaign will use a high-powered spotlight to beam a hard-hitting Stop the Secrecy message on key buildings in Washington, D.C. This signal will get larger and larger as more people sign petitions being circulated.

The more who support us the more powerful our voice will be. That’s why we’re urging you to join hundreds of thousands speaking out here.

The stakes could not be higher. Please, join us and speak out now before it’s too late.

Another way you can join the fight is to host a rally in your city, or participate in an event already planned. The list of events is here.

Stay tuned. We'll have more information as developments unfold. 

Today's Teamster News 04.17.14

Teamster News
Chicago Art Handlers Vote To Become Teamsters, 4/25  Art World News   ...Art handlers with Mana-Terry Dowd LLC may set an industry precedent by being the first employees of a major art transportation company in Chicago to unionize...
Teamsters drop grievance against inmates doing pothole patching  Youngstown Vindicator   ...Sheriff Jerry Greene said today that county Engineer Patrick Ginnetti received a letter from the Teamsters’ union on Tuesday, saying the union was withdrawing the grievance because of the extreme winter weather the county has recently experienced and in the interest of public safety...
Trade
U.S. Allows Japan To Exclude Rice In Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations  Oryza   ...The U.S. has allowed Japan to exclude rice in Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, but has asked the Japanese government to increase imports of U.S. rice, according to local sources...
State Battles
State GAB vote approved probe into Scott Walker recall  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel   ...Former judges on the state Government Accountability Board voted unanimously last year to authorize the investigation of fundraising and spending by Gov. Scott Walker's campaign and his allies during the recent recall elections, according to a Tuesday court filing...
U.S. States Revive Debtors’ Prisons  firedoglake   ...More and more states have revived the debtors prison, albeit in a specific form, locking people up for failure to pay court costs and fees...
Missouri Supreme Court Expands Legal Rights For Injured Workers  Kansas City Star   ...The Missouri Supreme Court overturned 30 years of precedent with a ruling Tuesday that gives greater legal protections to injured workers who are fired from their jobs...
One Democratic Congressman Escalates The Fight Over ALEC  Washington Post   ...A federal lawmaker from Arizona wants the Interior Department to investigate an active conservative group for what he alleges is unregistered lobbying...
Koch Brothers Are Killing Rapid Bus Transit In Tennessee  Auto Blog Green   ...Last week, the Tennessee Senate voted 27-4 against the very idea of rapid bus transit in the state. The vote, which is oddly specific about its target--the Amp Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project in Nashville--was supported by the wealthy Koch brothers, Charles and David, and their group Americans for Prosperity...
War on Workers
When Did Men's Income Peak?  Demo Memo   ...The median income of men aged 25 to 34 has plunged since 1973, falling from $46,598 to $34,113 after adjusting for inflation—a loss of $12,485...
Income Inequality Institute Will Pay Paul Krugman $25,000 Per Month  Gawker   ...According to a formal offer letter obtained under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, CUNY intends to pay Krugman $225,000, or $25,000 per month (over two semesters), to “play a modest role in our public events” and “contribute to the build-up” of a new “inequality initiative...”
Gap Between Executive Pay And Worker Wages Continues To Grow  Al-Jazeera America   ...In 2013 the average American CEO was paid 331 times what the average worker in the United States earned and 774 times what full-time minimum wage workers made, according to a new analysis released Tuesday by the AFL-CIO...
Clemson Studying Impact Of Sports Labor Ruling  Greenville News   ...Clemson University President James P. Clements said Tuesday he and other major college presidents are examining a stunning labor ruling that could revolutionize college sports...



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Congressman calls for federal investigation of illegal lobbying by ALEC

Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona asked the U.S. Interior Department's Inspector General to investigate ALEC for secretly lobbying state lawmakers to transfer federal lands to state control -- presumably so ALEC members can get hold of the oil, gas and coal from them.
And investigated?

Grijalva notes that ALEC's internal documents show its concern over an IRS audit and points to ALEC's 501c4 spinoff to avoid an investigation into its charitable status. He wrote that ALEC for years has lobbied in state legislatures without registering as a lobbyist.

"The consequences of ALEC's positions are severe and deserving of careful scrutiny," wrote Grijalva.

Niraj Chokshi at the Washington Post reports Grijalva,
...called for an investigation into the American Legislative Exchange Council’s “aggressive effort” to change state laws regarding public land use. The group’s work constitutes unregistered lobbying, he argues. 
“Despite actively pressing state lawmakers on a range of issues, ALEC has failed for decades to register as a lobbying organization in states where it has promoted changes to state laws,” Grijalva writes. 
In the letter, Grijalva also requests an investigation into how ALEC’s efforts have affected department employees. ALEC’s position, he argues, is consistent with those of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, whose decades-long fight resulted in a weekend showdown between government officials and anti-government militia groups.
Brendan Fischer at the Center for Media and Democracy explains:
Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who had refused to pay grazing fees for 20 years, risked having his cattle confiscated by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Bundy, who says his ownership rights go back to his 1870 Mormon ancestors and says he believes in a “sovereign state of Nevada” but doesn't "recognize the United States government as even existing," likewise had refused to recognize the authority of the BLM. 
As the feds began to round-up Bundy's cattle, hundreds of state's rights protesters and armed militiamen prompted a string of raucous confrontations. Over the weekend, the BLM halted the roundup "because of our serious concerns about the safety of employees and members of the public," said BLM chief Neil Kornze.
Fischer notes one of ALEC's arguments is that al Qaeda might burn down the forests because they're federally owned. We're not kidding. Writes Fischer:
One of ALEC's arguments in favor of this resolution, in its own words, was the following: 
"Because of the inordinate buildup of fuel in the national forests due to decades of unduly restrictive federal 'preservationist' policies, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security have recently issued criminal activity alerts warning that Al Qaeda is actively publishing in their 'Inspire' terrorism magazine of the opportunity to burn down our national forests — causing billions of dollars in damage and destroying our watersheds for decades — with only a few matches."