Striking Port Truck Drivers Against Wage Theft

Dan Braun , Capital and Main

As Capital & Main reported recently [1], drivers with one of the larger

English: Kenworth near Sears Boyle Heights , L...

English: Kenworth near Sears Boyle Heights , Los Angeles. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

trucking companies serving the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach went on strike just before dawn October 26th.  They struck XPO Logistics, a major international freight transportation company, while at the same time other drivers picketed Pacific 9 Transportation as they entered the 15th week of a strike against that company.

These drivers are on the front lines of a critical fight impacting the future of work in the United States. “Misclassification,” a condition in which companies wrongly treat their workers as “independent contractors” rather than as employees, is a growing problem that is receiving increasing attention. By misclassifying their workers, companies are able to claw back pay, duck standards like the minimum wage and overtime restrictions, and shift risk onto employees. This is wage theft, according to both labor advocates and the striking port truck drivers, as well as a growing list of rulings [2] from courts and regulatory agencies. Continue reading

Sanders Introduces Major Labor Law Reform

Progressive legislators introduced a law on Tuesday Oct. 6  that would speed up the process for forming labor unions and penalize companies that delay negotiating with newly formed unions — as labor allies in Congress try to preserve some of the gains they have made during President Barack Obama’s second term.

The Workplace Democracy Act, sponsored by Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, and Rep. Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin Democrat, would eliminate the two-stage balloting process for union election, a move that labor advocates say will make it easier for workers to form unions.

Under current law, employees in a given workplace can trigger an election if at least 30 percent of them sign union authorization cards. After those cards are signed, workers must obtain a majority vote in favor of the union in a second process to get the union certified. The Sanders proposal would eliminate the ballot and lead to union certification if a majority of workers sign cards.

“If we are serious about reducing income and wealth inequality and rebuilding the middle class, we have got to substantially increase the number of union jobs in this country,” Sanders said.

Labor union leaders say that the steady decline of union membership rates over the past four decades is, in part, a product of the cumbersome administrative process for forming a union. They also say they believe the recent strikes by workers who are not part of a union — such as the recent wave of day-long nationwide strikes initiated by fast food workers and other service employees — are a sign that workers are finding it easier to strike than to try to form a union.  Continue reading

California Judge Throws Out Anti-Union Election

By David Bacon
Working In These Times, 9/25/15


A California farm worker picking peaches.

FRESNO, CA — The strategy by one of the nation’s largest growers to shed its obligation to sign a contract with the United Farm Workers was dealt a key setback last week.  An administrative law judge not only threw out one of the dirtiest decertification elections in recent labor history, but did so because California growers had given tens of thousands of dollars to set the union-busting scheme in motion.

That election, at Gerawan Farming, has a key role in an even broader grower strategy to invalidate the enforcement mechanism of the state’s farm worker labor law.  Last week’s ruling seriously undermines their case, now before the state’s Supreme Court, in which they claim to be protecting workers’ democratic rights.  Instead, they have been exposed using obviously illegal methods to deny workers union representation. Continue reading

Broad Plan : How To Take Over Public Schools in Los Angeles

Billionaire’s Secret Plan: A ‘Hostile Takeover’ of LA Public Schools

BroadDeirdre Fulton
September 23, 2015    Common Dreams

Last week the Los Angeles Times obtained a secret 44-page proposal drafted by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and other charter advocates, that according to one critic would “do away with democratically controlled, publicly accountable education in LA.” With the aid of a billionaires’ club of supporters, the plan is designed to charterize 50% of LA public schools.

More than 1,000 teachers, students, parents, and community members protested at the opening of the Broad museum in downtown Los Angeles Sunday. , Mayra Gomez/UTLA Facebook photo,

A California billionaire is enlisting other wealthy backers in a $490 million scheme to place half of the students in the Los Angeles Unified School District into charter schools over the next eight years—a plan at least one critic says would “do away with democratically controlled, publicly accountable education in LA.”
The Los Angeles Times obtained a confidential 44-page proposal, “The Great Public Schools Now Initiative,” drafted by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and other charter advocates.
“Los Angeles is uniquely positioned to create the largest, highest-performing charter sector in the nation,” the executive summary reads. “Such an exemplar would serve as a model for all large cities to follow.”

The document outlines the following three objectives that would serve to overthrow the current public system:
to create 260 new high-quality charter schools;
to generate 130,000 high-quality charter seats;
to reach 50 percent charter market share.
The initiative seeks to accomplish these ambitious goals between by 2023. As the LA Times reports:
Organizers of the effort have declined to publicly release details of the plan. But the memo lays out a strategy for moving forward, including how to raise money, recruit and train teachers, provide outreach to parents and navigate the political battle that will probably ensue. Continue reading

The Supreme Court and “Friedrichs”

U.S. Supreme Court building.

U.S. Supreme Court building. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lessons from Wisconsin

by Donald Cohen

Next spring, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide a case that could threaten the economy and American democracy. Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association asks the justices to consider overturning a 1977 Supreme Court unanimous ruling (Abood v. Detroit Board of Education) that protected the right of teachers, nurses, librarians, firefighters and other public workers to form unions. The Abood case emphasized that these workers act as the middle class’ backbone by providing quality public services and ensuring healthy communities.
In Abood, the Court ruled that every public worker who benefits from collective bargaining could be required to pay their fair share for those efforts. It’s a basic democratic principle.
For a preview of what will happen if the Court sides with the plaintiffs in Friedrichs, we should look at Wisconsin. In 2011, Governor Scott Walker stripped collective bargaining rights for most public workers. The result? Vital public functions and assets were privatized, public services were undermined and the state economy suffered:
While an estimated $1.1 billion will be spent by 2017 on the state’s private school voucher program since Walker first expanded it in 2011, Wisconsin classrooms have fewer and less-experienced teachers than before the program, resulting in crowded classrooms and less individualized attention for students. Continue reading

Sanders: The Economy is Rigged by Corporate America

Friedrichs v CTA – A Potential Union Killer


by Harold Meyerson

About a month ago, the Supreme Court closed out its term in a blaze of nonpartisan glory. Or nonpartisan obloquy, depending on one’s reaction to the court’s legalization of same-sex marriage and its upholding of Obamacare — but nonpartisan either way. A court with a Republican-appointed majority upheld a Democratic president’s health insurance program and a marital policy that most Republican officeholders felt obliged to oppose (even if most Republican political consultants felt relieved to see gay marriage rendered a fait accompli).

But that was then. In the term that will begin this fall, the court has a splendid opportunity to deliver the most partisan decision it has rendered since Bush v. Gore. When the court rules in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association , which will be argued in the coming months, the Republican-appointed justices will be able, if they so choose, to create a long-term advantage for their party over the Democrats.

Friedrichs is a case brought by a California teacher who objects to paying dues to the union that has bargained the contract that secures her pay and benefits. The union does not collect any money from her to support its political activities, but, by virtue of the court’s 1977 Abood decision, and hundreds of later decisions based on Abood, she is obliged to pay that portion of her dues that goes to bargaining and administering her contract. That obligation, the court ruled in Abood, is essential if public employees are to have an effective right to collective bargaining. If employees can benefit from union representation without funding the union, the court reasoned, the union could be weakened to the point that it couldn’t represent those employees adequately, if, indeed, at all. Continue reading


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