CWA condemns the Obama proposal for immigration raids and deportations!

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THE CWA trade union has issued a statement on the Obama administration’s planned Immigration Raids and proposed mass deportations.

It reads: ‘We have seen too much terror this Christmas season. It is disappointing that the US Department of Homeland Security added to this sense of insecurity announcing plans to begin deportation raids targeting Central American refugees.

‘While it is alleged that only individuals with final deportation orders are targeted, immigration advocates have documented serious abuses of due process, resulting in removal orders against persons, including thousands of children, who have legitimate asylum claims.

‘No workers in the United States should depart for work in the morning fearing that they will not make it home to their families at the end of the day. No worker should be silenced from speaking up about workplace hazards or sexual harassment or wage theft because he or she fears being rounded up in a deportation raid.

‘Central American immigrants face serious and growing threats and violence in their countries of origin, due in part to social upheaval resulting from America”s failed trade policies. These immigrants should be given humanitarian protection rather than face detention and deportation. CWA condemns the fear, division and xenophobia that are driving the policies of exclusion and making us weak.We demand that the Administration not give in to the messengers of hatred divisiveness by victimising refugees who are already victims of violence and terror.’

l A Carson-based trucking company serving the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports was ordered to pay $6.9 million to dozens of drivers who said they were cheated out of wages and wrongly classified as independent contractors, Teamsters union officials said last Wednesday.

The California Labour Commissioner ruled on December 14 that 37 drivers who filed wage claims in 2013 and 2014 were indeed employees of Pacific 9 Transportation and are owed a total of $6.9 million in compensation, with the amounts ranging from $3,684 to $386,703. The payments are related to missed meal and rest breaks, business expenses paid by the drivers, hours when drivers were paid below minimum wage, illegal deductions for such costs as truck rentals and insurance, and other issues, according to a Teamsters statement.

The commissioner denied a 38th driver’s claims, saying his complaints fell outside the three-year statute of limitations, according to Jean Choi, an attorney employed by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy that represented the drivers. Representatives of Pac 9, which can still appeal the ruling, did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

The company has until Dec. 29 to appeal, according to Labour Commissioner spokeswoman Julia Bernstein. But in order to appeal, Pac 9 must post a bond in the amount of the award, according to the ruling.

The ‘drayage’ company that provides trucking and other transportation cargo services, carries goods for Costco, Goodyear Tyres, Microsoft and the boot company UGG, according to the Teamsters. The ruling, which followed six weeks of back-to-back hearings on 38 claims against a single employer, is considered unusual and a ‘landmark’ decision from the Labour Commissioner’s office, according to the Teamsters. Typically the office would only rule on a handful or more cases at once for each employer.

Pac 9 drivers have been on strike since July to protest against the company’s labour practices, according to Barb Maynard, a spokeswoman for the Teamsters. Prior to the commissioner’s ruling on the drivers’ wage claims, Pac 9 had agreed in March 2014 to settle a case related to a National Labour Relations Board investigation. The deal was expected to allow drivers to unionise, but the board later withdrew the agreement after Pac 9 violated the terms, according to Teamsters officials.

• The Missouri state legislature recently proposed a controversial bill that would strip student-athletes of their scholarships if they call for, incite, support or participate in any strike or refuse to participate in a scheduled game. It is absolutely fair to say that the proposal is a knee-jerk reaction to the University of Missouri Tigers football team having threatened to go on strike over the school administration’s handling of a series of racial incidents that occurred on campus throughout the scholastic year, including a faeces-drawn Nazi swastika that was found in a dormitory bathroom.

The team’s preemptive refusal to take the field against the Brigham Young University Cougars on November 14th, along with pressure from fellow students and faculty, forced the resignation of university president, Tim Wolfe, and school chancellor, R. Bowen Loftin. Considering the actions taken by the student-athletes on the Tigers football team, it is hard to deny that the attempt to change the rules on scholarships was triggered as a result of the football squad having flexed their economic muscle.

Simply put, the players are the cogs that help run the football machine that brings in millions of dollars in revenue from corporate sponsors such as Nike, Coca-Cola and Papa John’s. Cancellation of the game against BYU would have not only cost the school over a million dollars but it would have also hurt the pockets of the Southeastern Conference (SEC), their broadcasts partners – such as the SEC Network, Fox Sports, and ESPN; their sponsors; and apparel companies – all who grow richer and richer every single year at the expense of the student-athletes’ work on the field.

It was an unprecedented move by the Missouri football players, leveraging the fact that, without them, there is no football on Saturday. Much to the chagrin of the Missouri legislature and school administration, students participating in collegiate athletics are becoming savvier and wiser about their worth in the pecking order of the business of college sports, despite legal obstacles.

The ‘student-athlete’ legal status set a precedence that has prevented them from having any voice in such matters as legal use of their likeness, workers’ rights issues, health care issues and market-value compensation greater than a scholarship, three hot meals, and shelter. The ambiguous term ‘student-athlete’ was coined by Walter Byers’, the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) first executive director, who openly admitted the term was created to avoid paying workers compensation for student-athletes.

The legality of ‘student-athlete’ status came into play in the case of Kent Waldrep, who sued Texas Christian University (TCU) after he severely injured his neck playing running back for the Horned Frogs in 1974, resulting in not only paralysis but the school rescinding his scholarship, preventing him from finishing his education.

Waldrep sued TCU in 1991, seeking to be labelled an employee of the university, as opposed to a ‘student-athlete,’ in order to receive workers compensation, claiming he was recruited to play football and that his scholarship contract was a contract for work, with coaches controlling his schedule and pay.

Byers, on behalf of TCU and the NCAA countered that, ‘the student-athlete was a term used to try to offset these tendencies for state agencies or other governmental departments to consider a grant-in-aid holder to be an employee,’ in his court testimony. The Texas Court of Appeals ended up rejecting Waldrep’s claim, in 2000, stating that Waldrep was not an employee because he had not paid taxes on the financial aid that TCU provided for him.

Missouri’s legislative strong-arm tactics to neuter the student-athlete’s economic leverage over the university shows the necessity for an organisation that will protect their rights and give them greater voice in addressing their needs within the business of college athletics. If anything, moves such as the ones taken by the state of Missouri reinvigorate the need for a collegiate players union, much like the one Northwestern University Wildcats football players attempted to form last season.

Students from the Northwestern football team filed a petition with the National Labour Relations Board (NLRB), in 2014, to be declared employees for the purpose of unionising student-athletes. The NLRB ruled against the Wildcat football players, declining to exercise jurisdiction on the matter on the basis that Labour laws only allow them to rule on private sector issues. Currently, only 17 schools out of the 125 colleges and universities that make up the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) are private schools.

‘The Board held that asserting jurisdiction over a single team would not promote stability in labour relations across the league,’ said the NLRB in a statement. While the NLRB struck down Northwestern University”s attempt to unionise, they have kept the door open should another athletic programme is bold enough to try it again.

Considering the great power athletic departments and head coaches already wield over their student-athletes, the Missouri legislature was flat out piling on the Tigers football team. The proposal seemed so vague, making it extremely easy for a student-athlete to lose his scholarship, that it only helped highlight why such a union for student-athletes may be needed.

If universities and state legislatures continue to go down the path of stripping away what little economic advantage the student-athletes have, on top of stomping all over their Constitutional rights, it is just a matter of time before student-athletes show administrators and lawmakers that without them, there is no football on Saturday or revenue to be made off of collegiate sports.