Tentative Deal Reached in Oil Strike

The United Steelworkers (USW) have reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year contract with Shell Oil Co., the union announced Thursday. The deal will serve as a pattern agreement for the rest of the industry. USW members at several refineries struck on Feb. 1, and the strike grew to include about 7,000 workers at 15 sites across the country.

USW spokeswoman Lynne Hancock told the Los Angeles Times:

We are hopeful that with the settlement of the national pattern agreement, this will push both parties at the local level to reach agreement quicker on their local issues.

Workers are expected to remain on the picket lines until local issues are resolved and the ratification process begins. Overall, some 30,000 USW members work at 65 refineries and hundreds of pipelines, terminals, petrochemical plants and other facilities.

USW President Leo W. Gerard said:

We salute the solidarity exhibited by our membership. There was no way we would have won vast improvements in safety and staffing without it.

Safety issues were central to the negotiations. In the past five years, 27 workers have been killed and hundreds more seriously injured. The proposed agreement calls for the immediate review of staffing and workload assessments, with USW safety personnel involved at every facility. Daily maintenance and repair work in the plants was another critical issue that, too, was addressed.

The tentative contract contains language that addresses worker fatigue, which is tied to accidents, and the use of contractors versus unionized labor. It also safeguards gains made in previous contracts and raises wages.

Read more from the USW.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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USW Oil Workers Expand Strike, Cite Safety Concerns

Photo via USW Facebook page

Oil workers at three more refineries and a chemical plant joined the United Steelworkers’ (USW’s) unfair labor practice strike against the oil industry over the weekend. With workers and plant safety a major concern, USW President Leo W. Gerard said:

The industry’s refusal to meaningfully address safety issues through good faith bargaining gave us no other option but to expand our work stoppage.

Some 1,350 workers are employed at the four facilities, bringing the number of striking workers to about 6,550 at 14 and the chemical plant.

The new strike sites are the Motiva Enterprises refinery in Port Arthur, Texas—a 50-50 joint venture between Shell Oil Co. (American subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell) and Saudi Refining Inc. (subsidiary of Saudi Aramco)—Motiva’s two Louisiana refineries in Convent and Norco, as well as the Shell chemical plant in Norco.

The union is bargaining for new labor agreements to cover some 30,000 workers throughout the oil industry at 65 refineries and hundreds of pipelines, terminals, petrochemical plants and other facilities.

USW Vice President Thomas Conway says:

We’re committed to reaching a settlement that works for both parties. But adequate staffing levels, worker fatigue and other important safety issues must be addressed.

The issue of refinery safety was reinforced last week with an explosion at an ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance, Calif., earlier this week that injured four workers and shook homes for miles around.

Click here to sign a petition to oil industry management and federal, state and local officials supporting the striking workers in their efforts to secure a fair contract that will protect the health and safety of workers and communities.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Collective Action Pays Off, Just Look at These 24 Hours

Collective Action Pays Off, Just Look at These 24 Hours

In 24 hours starting late Wednesday, workers who have been standing together in collective action scored three major victories.  Walmart workers got a raise, Electrical Workers (IBEW) and Communications Workers of America (CWA) members settled their strike with FairPoint, and United Steelworkers made safety at oil refinery plants a national issue.

Says AFL-CIO Communications Director Eric Hauser:

One 24-hour period shows how much progress can be made when workers come together to speak with one voice. Collective action must be at the heart of the growing discussion about raising wages.  Only when workers pool their power can they make progress that benefits not just union members but all workers and entire communities.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Help Save Christmas for the Children of Striking FairPoint Workers

FP-Picketers

This post originally appeared at NH Labor News.

When the IBEW and CWA workers said they were about to go on strike against FairPoint Communications, I knew they were in for a long fight. The decision to walk is not an easy one. Workers weigh the decision to walk against their personal financial situation. How long can we afford to go without pay?

A strike can be especially hard on the children of the striking workers. Some older children understand the reasoning behind the strike, others just know that mommy or daddy are not getting paid right now.

Many workers have already begun to inform their children that Christmas is going to be very, very small this year. Buying gifts falls way down on the list of priorities when you are on strike. Just keeping the roof over your head and the food in the fridge become serious issues.

This is where you and I can help save Christmas for hundreds of children.

CWA Local 1400 has compiled a wish list of gifts on Amazon for the children of its members who are currently on strike. There are hundreds of items to choose from, and every gift will bring a smile to a child’s face this Christmas.

After you purchase the gift through Amazon, have it shipped directly to the CWA hall at:

CWA Local 1400
Christmas Gifts
155 West Road
Portsmouth, NH 03801

Help make the holiday season bright by buying a few items for the children of these striking workers.

No gift is too big or too small, and every gift is special. Help to keep the magic of Christmas alive by spending a few dollars buying gifts for children who otherwise won’t be getting anything this year.

There are other ways you can help and show your support for the IBEW and CWA workers on strike against FairPoint.

Make a donation to the IBEW–CWA Strike Fund by clicking here.

If you live near one of the many strike lines throughout New England, please stop by and show your support. Hold a sign for a while. Bring a “box of Joe” or a couple of pizzas to show your support as they stand out in the cold.

The IBEW and CWA are also asking for people to drop off gift cards to local grocery stores and gas stations.

This holiday season dig deep and give a little extra to our brothers and sisters standing up for their rights against a greedy corporation who would rather outsource their jobs, than settle their contract disputes.

Send a gift to the children of striking workers today.

If you would like to donate to the IBEW–CWA Strike Fund, click here.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Still Without a Contract, Golden Gate Ferry Captains Hold One-Day Strike

Golden Gate Bridge District photo via Facebook

The ferryboat captains—members of the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (MEBA)—who operate San Francisco’s commuter ferries between Sausalito, Larkspur and the city are holding a one-day unfair labor practice strike today. The action follows another round of negotiations with the Golden Gate Bridge District that failed to reach a settlement.

MEBA is a member of the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition, and the 450 workers in the unions that make up the coalition have been in negotiations since April and working without a contract since July 1.

The ferry captains announced the strike early Thursday to give commuters time to plan alternate transportation.  Ferryboat captain Rob Barely said:

Like many of my co-workers, going on strike is the last thing I want to do. However the district, in its continuing failure to negotiate with us on good faith, has left us with little choice.

On Wednesday, MEBA filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Public Employees Relations Board against the district.

On Sept. 16, members of Machinists (IAM) Local 1414 held a one-day unfair labor practice strike over retiree health care proposals.

In addition to the retiree health care issue, management has proposed a three-year contract that would increase the cost of employees’ health care premiums, negating a minimal wage increase.  Alex Tonisson, co-chair of the coalition, said one health care proposal could leave workers liable for $12,000 a year in health care costs.

In August, the workers authorized a strike if a settlement could not be reached. Golden Gate Bridge workers include ferry deckhands and captains, bus servicers and mechanics, bridge ironworkers and inspectors and construction trades workers.

The Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition includes the following unions: International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Local 21, the Inlandboatmen’s Union-ILWU (IBU-ILWU), Teamsters locals 665 and 856, Machinists (IAM) Local 1414, Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (MEBA) (Captains), Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 6, Laborers (LIUNA), Operating Engineers (IUOE), Plumbers and Pipe Fitters (UA), Carpenters and Plasterers and Cement Masons (OPCMIA).

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Fast Food Workers and Allies Arrested In Nationwide Strikes

Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) was among numerous people arrested as fast food workers and their supporters rallied in more than 150 cities on Thursday.  Thousands of workers walked out of restaurants and picked up picket signs, demanding that big restaurant chains pay them a living wage of $15-per-hour.  Home care workers also participated in the strikes.  Moore was arrested in West Milwaukee, Wis., and other arrests were made in New York City, Detroit, Chicago and elsewhere.

“I take great pride in supporting Milwaukee workers as they risk arrest in pursuit of a brighter tomorrow for their families,” Moore said in a statement. “I’ve read their letters, I’ve heard their calls and I’ve listened to their stories. I understand their struggle, but more importantly, I see their drive to fight for a future that is equal to their talents and worthy of their dreams.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka expressed support for the strikers:

Working families everywhere applaud the courage of the fast-food workers who are striking today and engaging in acts of civil disobedience in over 150 cities. And we applaud the unity and the collective spirit displayed by members of AFL-CIO state federations and labor councils who have joined today’s protests in solidarity.

This nation was built on the fundamental beliefs that work should be a gateway to the middle class, and that no job should ever trap someone in poverty. That’s why the “Fight for Fifteen” movement is surging and the protests are getting ever louder. It’s time for corporations to hear this resounding message: Every worker deserves a fair wage and the right to form a union without retaliation. We support them.

Kendall Fells, organizing director for Fast Food Forward, explained why protesters were willing to take arrest:

There has to be civil disobedience because workers don’t see any other way to get $15 an hour and a union. There’s a long history of this, from the civil rights movement to the farm workers movement.

Here are some key tweets related to the strikes:

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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What the NLRB Announcement on McDonald’s Means

mcd

In case you missed it, National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel Richard F. Griffin made a pretty significant announcement about McDonald’s and its role as an employer to workers in franchise locations all over the country.

Historically McDonald’s has claimed it has no authority over wages or complaints of workers’ rights violations at its franchise locations because that is up to the individual owners, but the NLRB general counsel determined McDonald’s could be liable as a joint employer in these kinds of situations.

There’s been a lot of head scratching over what this announcement means and its implications for other large companies and workers at these kind of fast food franchises, so here is some basic information to break it all down for you.

How Did This All Come About?

You’ve probably noticed that fast food workers all over the country are fed up. In recent years these workers have been speaking out against low pay and working conditions in the fast food industry, culminating in several strikes and days of action that have captured the hearts and minds of people who care about workers’ rights. Some workers who spoke out said that their employers retaliated against them, even though such concerted activity is protected by federal labor law. Those workers filed charges of unfair labor practices with the NLRB and presented evidence that McDonald’s does indeed have significant control over wages and labor relations at its franchisees. Which brings us to the NLRB McDonald’s news.

What Did the NLRB Say?

General Counsel Griffin investigated charges alleging McDonald’s franchisees and their franchisor, McDonald’s, violated the rights of workers as a result of activities surrounding the fast food strikes and protests. He found some of these charges to have merit and, significantly, determined that McDonald’s should be considered a joint employer with its franchisees. Basically, McDonald’s wouldn’t be able to hide behind the franchisee, but also may be held responsible for the policies in place that deal with terms and conditions of employment, and labor practices.

What Happens Next?

If the workers and the employers cannot come to a settlement, the NLRB general counsel will issue complaints and try the cases before administrative law judges. Those judges then make rulings and the losing parties can appeal to the full NLRB board in Washington, D.C. NLRB decisions could be appealed to a federal appeals court, and then possibly to the Supreme Court.

Will All Franchisors Be Considered Joint Employers Now?

Not necessarily. This case is specific to McDonald’s. That being said, this could have implications for other employers on a case-by-case basis if more unfair labor practice charges come up.

What’s the Big Picture?

Even though this story has a long way to go, this is “pretty significant,” says AFL-CIO Legal Counsel Sarah Fox. What makes this case so interesting is that the joint employer doctrine can be applied not only to fast food franchises and franchise arrangements in other industries, but also to other practices companies use to avoid directly employing their workers, such as subcontracting, outsourcing and using temporary employment agencies. “Companies are increasingly using these kinds of arrangement to distance themselves from their workers and shield themselves from liability as employers,” says Fox. “These are the devices they use so that they can get the benefit of the work the employees do, but say ‘I’m not responsible’ for unfair labor practices, health and safety violations, paying proper employment taxes or complying with other legal responsibilities of an employer.”

The notion of the joint employer doctrine is an important concept for holding employers responsible, even if there’s a third party involved, when they are effectively exerting control over wages and working conditions.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW.

Photo courtesy of Mike Mozart via Flickr.

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