SOME major strike actions are taking place in the USA.
In Tucson, Arizona the collective bargaining agreement covering more than 530 Teamster represented employees of Sun Tran expired at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, August. 5, 2015, after negotiations between representatives of Teamsters Local Union 104 and Professional Transit Management, Inc., and Sun Tran, failed to reach an agreement for a new collective bargaining agreement.
Teamster members employed at Sun Tran voted to reject Sun Tran management’s firm and final contract offer on Saturday, August. 1, 2015, by an overwhelming margin of 98.91% with 363 employees voting no and only 4 employees voting yes. An extension of the collective bargaining agreement until 11.59pm Wednesday, August. 5, 2015, allowed both the union and the company to engage in additional negotiations utilising the services of a federal mediator from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services (FMCS).
However, the bargaining representatives of Sun Tran made no changes to the firm and final offer that was overwhelmingly rejected on Saturday and informed the Teamster representatives that no further improvements to the offer would be presented. Teamsters Local Union 104 has filed unfair labour practice charges against Professional Transit Management, Inc. The union still had a large number of open negotiation proposals when the company presented the union with a firm and final offer effectively ending the negotiations.
Several of the unresolved open issues involve the safety and health of Sun Tran employees such as continued assaults on Sun Tran drivers, numbering 22 over the past 13 months, and include a driver being stabbed multiple times. Additionally, the unresolved mould contamination afflicting the north maintenance facility continues to cause respiratory and health hazards to the maintenance employees working there.
Another major issue revolves around the independent audit of Sun Tran’s financial operations which clearly proves that Professional Transit Management, Inc., did not utilise funds totalling more than $2.2 million dollars in 2013 and 2014 that had already been approved in the transit budget specifically for wages and benefits for the employees, and instead returned those funds to the City of Tucson’s General Fund.
This fact is all the more troubling when coupled with the fact that the recently rejected firm and final offer provided for no wage increases, except for a one time fifty cent raise for new hires, for all three years and a continuation of the wage progression freeze. The fifteen, thirty and sixty second video messages linked below address important issues affecting not only the striking Sun Tran employees, but also the passengers of Sun Tran. The videos will continue to air at various times throughout the day on several local area television stations and will continue moving forward as necessary to ensure that the public has access to accurate information regarding the ongoing strike.
• Last October 11, Sherwin Alumina locked out 450 hard-working USW Local 235A members at their plant in Gregory, Texas. The lockout came after 235A members overwhelmingly rejected the company’s demands for major cuts in pension and health care benefits for members and retirees, as well as reductions in overtime pay. Sherwin is owned by Glencore, a hugely profitable Swiss commodities giant that is the 10th largest corporation in the world, with net income of $4.6 billion in 2013.
With alumina prices on the rise and production costs declining, there is simply no reason for this greedy company to demand cuts from the working families and retirees of south Texas. Although it has been a difficult year for locked out Sherwin Alumina employees, some people in the community tried to ease the financial burden on their families.
United Steel Workers Local 235-A donated school supplies Friday to the children of employees who are currently not working. Children received items they’ll need for back to school, including backpacks, notebooks, pencils, and other items. ‘We felt like it was our duty to do so,’ said Terry Howard, the president of Local 235-A. Get the kids back to school, help with supplies, because they are our future, and it’s just unfortunate that they’re locked out and most of our members don’t have jobs to be able to afford these supplies.’
Kevin Freeman brought his two daughters, one in 2nd grade, the other in 6th. ‘It helps a lot,’ said Freeman. ‘I mean, everything they do for us helps out financially for us, when we’re down. Obviously, we’re not working right now, so anything they do, and they do a lot, it helps out.’
Sherwin Alumina makes metal products near Gregory. The company and the workers’ union are currently at odds over health care benefits, pension plans, and overtime. The lockout, which has been going on for more than nine months, affects more than 450 workers.
• During World War II, Rosie the Riveter inspired women to take on jobs traditionally held by men, with the iconic slogan declaring ‘We can do it!’ Modern day Rosie the Riveters are still doing it, working hard as electricians, assembly technicians and quality inspectors at transit equipment manufacturing facilities such as the Illinois rail car factory of Nippon Sharyo.
While these women are bravely taking on leadership roles, they still face challenges when they speak up on the job. Jennifer Svenkerud, a two-year veteran at Nippon Sharyo, recently blew the whistle on safety concerns, including fall hazards up to 17 feet, and was fired shortly after. Jennifer had previously stood her ground, knowing that workers should be guaranteed safety, and reported the safety violations to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), whose inspectors found more than 11 safety violations this year. Jennifer is adamant: ‘We need to make sure the workers are safe, and that they can go home every day the same way they went to work.’
Donna Comp-Penwarden, a quality interior inspector, has also faced challenges as an outspoken woman worker at Nippon Sharyo. ‘Recently, I was told by management that I had a promotion as a team leader but it was taken away, they said it was all a misunderstanding,’ says Donna Comp-Penwarden. Donna applied for the position, pointing out her years of experience and background in quality assurance. Instead, they promoted a guy who had no background in quality assurance… I know 100% I was more qualified than him.’
Stacey Corcoran, a 24-year transit manufacturing veteran, made it well known early on that she would not tolerate discrimination. ”At the beginning, we had one of my co-workers who treated one of the girls pretty bad,’ says Stacey Corcoran. ‘I stepped in, and said, ‘Let’s not forget, I’m a female, I know more than you do, I make more than you do, and I’m little. So what now? And he got the message right then and there.’ Stacey’s long experience in transit manufacturing has made her a linchpin in the workplace.
‘I was the only one that walked into this brand-new facility that could step in and build,’ she said.
Workers at Nippon Sharyo are banding together, supporting brave women like Jennifer who demand their rights to have a safe workplace. Recently, Jennifer said: ‘Stand up for yourself. Stand up for your co-workers!…Workers need to come together.’
All workers should have the right to work in a safe environment without the fear of harassment or discrimination. Modern-day Rosies like Jennifer, Donna and Stacey are addressing issues important to workers and showing true leadership on the factory floor. Over the last 70 years, women have lived up to the Rosie the Riveter chant by showing that women can build. Now, it’s up to us to show our support for them. As the original Rosie said: ‘We can do it!’
In solidarity, show your support by signing the petition urging Illinois public transit agency Metra to reinstate Jennifer Svenkerud and ensure safe working conditions for Nippon Sharyo workers.