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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Central American Children Deserve Due Process

When President Barack Obama first announced his candidacy for president, he said: “I am running in this race because of what Dr. Martin Luther King called ‘the fierce urgency of now.’ Because I believe that there’s such a thing as being too late. And that hour is almost upon us.” Like Dr. King, our president was calling on America to make real the promises of our democracy.

That fierce urgency of now is here for thousands of refugee children from Central America. I know many of these kids’ stories because it is my story too.

In 1982, after too many friends and family had been jailed, tortured or killed by a brutal military government, my family knew my best chance of surviving into adulthood was to flee my home in Ethiopia. I did not want to leave. My parents did not want me to leave. We knew I would be risking my life to journey to Sudan to seek asylum. We also all knew I was likely to lose my life if I remained at home.

I was barely 13 years old when I, along with four of my childhood friends, set out on a brutal journey across the desert to Sudan. We used money we had earned doing odd jobs, sold any valuables we had and collected donations from family and friends to hire a peasant to help us reach Sudan. We were quickly robbed and abandoned by the peasant we hired. We then roamed hundreds of miles, lost. We grew ill and hungry, and we were exploited by farmers who offered us work along the way.

When we finally arrived at Sudan’s border, I weighed only 67 pounds — at 5 feet 10 inches. Although I would eventually recover, I never grew any taller than I was when I arrived in Sudan.

Upon arriving in Sudan, I was sick and starving and still had to adapt to a different language and culture. I got help from the Sudanese government and international nongovernmental organizations.

I had to go through many screenings and tests to prove my life was in danger and to get refugee status. Though I was relieved to be safe and I did get to the United States, all I really wanted was my family and my home. After I left Ethiopia, I never saw my father again. I never got to go through our house and collect photos or attend his funeral and honor his life. I could only imagine what he would tell me as I strove to become the kind of man I think he would have wanted me to be.

When my older brother, whom I admired and adored, was killed, I didn’t find out about it or know where he was buried for many years. I didn’t get to be with my nephew when he was born, and I didn’t know the whereabouts of my mother for nearly a decade.

But because I received asylum, I now get to live my version of the American dream. Because my friends and I received due process, we got a chance to escape the violence, political upheaval, environmental crisis and famine.

Like many new immigrants, I worked hard in high school, college and graduate school to better myself. I was the first person of color to head the California Young Democrats. One of my happiest moments was being accepted as a working-class American, when I landed my first union job as a Teamster at UPS. And now, as the first African-American man elected as an officer of the national AFL-CIO, I work for more than 12 million working Americans.

As a former child refugee, I cannot comprehend our government turning away children from any country arriving at our border without giving them basic due process.

As Americans, we must respond with speed and flexibility to address the individual problems presented by Central American children. There must be clear guidelines for screening arrivals and processing resettlement claims for at-risk refugees.

Every day when I look in the mirror, I see the faces of my childhood friends who didn’t live to adulthood. And I see the faces of Central American children pressed against bus windows as they are greeted with tomatoes, rocks and profanity.

If, in 1982, instead of being taken to a refugee camp where I was given due process by Sudan and the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, I had been turned around at the border and sent back to Ethiopia, I would not be alive to write this today.

Many Central American refugees arriving at our border need urgent resettlement action, just as I did when I left my home country. Their cases need to be addressed. They must not be casually turned back or left in detention centers to languish. I know because I’ve been in their shoes.

Tefere Gebre is executive vice president of the AFL-CIO.

Reposted from the Las Vegas Review Journal.

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Union Members Play Big Part in Super Bowl Game Plan

Sunday is the first outdoor, cold weather site Super Bowl in the game’s 48-year history. The frigid weather in the weeks leading up to the game and expected temps in the 20s and 30s won’t stop the thousands of union members who are bringing you the game. On the scene at MetLife Stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands or behind the scenes at many facilities in the Metro New York-New Jersey area, union members are making the nation’s national party day possible.

So, as a preview before you sit back, open a beverage and eat far too many snacks that are far from healthy, we introduce Sunday’s starting union lineup.

Of course, on the field, the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos players are members of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), and the men in the striped shirts are members of the NFL Referees Association.

The announcers, camera operators, technicians, field workers and other hardworking folks bringing the game to your flat-screened football cave or favorite Broncos or Seahawks bar include members of SAG-AFTRA, Broadcast Employees and Technicians-CWA (NABET-CWA), Electrical Workers (IBEW) and Laborers (LIUNA).

The annual over-the-top halftime show is a down-to-the-second, choreographed, on-the-field, off-the-field 12-minute extravaganza made possible by the skills of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM) and other performing artists. Anyone who takes in a show in the city likely will enjoy the talents of Actors’ Equity (AEA).

For the fans who head for the concessions, their hot dogs will be served and their beer will be drawn by men and women from UNITE HERE Local 100.

Away from the stadium, union members are making an impact, too. Folks taking the area’s huge mass transit system are being safely delivered to their destinations by members of the Transport Workers (TWU), Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and United Transportation Union (UTU).

A large number of the area’s hotels are staffed by members of unions of the New York Hotel Trades Council. Many of the firefighters, emergency medical personnel and other public service workers who are ensuring a safe and efficient Super Bowl week are members of the Fire Fighters (IAFF) and AFSCME.

Of course, the fans who flew in for the big game got there safely, thanks to aviation workers from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), Air Line Pilots (ALPA), Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), Transport Workers (TWU) and Machinists (IAM).

Also, a big thanks to AFT and NFLPA for raising awareness about human trafficking during large sports events such as the Super Bowl.

Image via @northjerseybrk on Twitter

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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