CTU’s Lewis calls Byrd Bennett scandal, “the tip of the iceberg”

Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, called on the Chicago Board of Education to revisit all decisions that the board made while Barbara Byrd Bennett was CEO of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

Byrd Bennett recently pleaded guilty to taking bribes from her former employer that in 2013 won a $20 million no-bid contract to train Chicago Public School principals in executive management techniques.

She was appointed in 2012 by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to lead Chicago’s public school system. She resigned in June 2015 after being indicted in federal court on 20 counts of taking bribes and kickbacks.

“I am calling for the Board of Ed to overturn every decision she made during her unethical tenure, including closing 50 neighborhood schools, the layoffs of thousands of educators, and the awarding of lucrative contracts to politically connected companies and allies tied to both her and City Hall,” said Lewis. “The disgraced CEO is at the tip of the iceberg. The CTU has been calling for an investigation into the Board’s dealings for several years. It is unfortunate that it took someone going to federal prison for them to take our pleas seriously.”

According to Byrd Bennett’s arrest warrant, she conspired with the owners of the SUPES Academy to steer contracts to SUPES in return she was promised a 10 percent cut of the contracts.

SUPES Academy advertises itself as “a dynamic leadership preparation program for emerging K-12 leaders, aspiring principals, sitting principals, and regional, central office, and cabinet level administrators.” It is owned by Gary Solomon and Thomas Vranas, both of whom have been indicted for bribing Byrd Bennett. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Before the indictments, SUPES was involved in an intricate web of connections to politicians and corporate executives who championed what they call education reform.

Reform for these reformers means replacing public schools with privately operated charter schools.

One of these groups of so called reformers is the Chicago Public Education Fund (CPEF).

According to the Chicago Tribune  CPEF “is made up of influential politicians and business leaders–all of whom have made restructuring education a top civic priority.”

CPEF gave SUPES $380,000 in seed money get its “dynamic leadership preparation program” off the ground.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is a director emeritus of CPEF and his family foundation has contributed “many millions of dollars to CPEF over the years.”

Rauner has denied any connection to Solomon, Vranas, or the SUPES Academy.

Solomon also is said to be politically connected to Mayor Emanuel; although, the mayor recently denied knowing Solomon.

The Chicago Sun Times reports that Solomon played a key role in the hiring of Byrd Bennett’s predecessor Jean-Claude Brizard, and that Brizard told the Sun Times that Solomon also was instrumental in Byrd Bennett’s hiring. Emanuel appointed both Brizard and Byrd Bennett.

SUPES and Solomon are also linked to the Broad Foundation, the creation of ardent charter school advocate Eli Broad, who Forbes ranks as the 65th most wealthy person in the US.

When SUPES was in its start-up phase it hired Dr. Timothy Quinn to help develop its curriculum. Dr. Quinn also helped Broad create the Broad Superintendents Academy, which trains school superintendents in Broad’s management philosophy.

Solomon is also the head of a superintendent search company called PROACT Search that helps school districts identify possible candidates for superintendent openings.

PROACT draws draws heavily from graduates of the Broad Superintendents Academy when identifying candidates for open superintendent jobs.

Spokes people for Broad have denied any connection to Solomon. Internet links that showed a connection have been deleted.

One of  Broad’s education management philosophies is that public school closures present an excellent opportunity for superintendents to introduce or expand charter schools.

Broad’s education foundation  has even produced a manual that guides school superintendents through the closure process.

In addition to being a former employee of SUPES, Byrd Bennett is also connected to Broad.  In These Times reports that she worked as an executive coach for the Broad Superintendent Academy in 2006.

During her tenure as CPS CEO, she oversaw the closure of 47 public schools, the largest single public school closure in the US.

Most of the closed schools were in low-income, predominately African-American neighborhoods. Of those students affected by these closures, 88 percent were African American.

The closures were met with heavy resistance by parents, students, and members of the communities affected by the closures.

She justified the closures by saying that they were needed to cope with budgetary constraints.

Coincidentally, the Broad manual for school closures is entitled, “School Closure Guide Closing Schools as a Means for Addressing Budgetary Challenges.”

She also approved opening seven new charter schools.

In her comments on the Byrd Bennett guilty plea, CTU President Lewis said that private agendas of Byrd Bennett, Solomon, and their backers brought into question whether CPS board members and its CEO should continue to be appointed by the mayor.

“The mayor’s handpicked CEO’s admission of guilt is an also admission of bad management and the culture of failed leadership that have plagued our district over the last five years,” said Lewis. “This is why we need an elected representative school board.”

UAW members ratify Chrysler contract; tentative deal reached with GM

UAW members have ratified a new collective bargaining agreement with Chrysler. In contrast to an earlier vote in which Chrysler UAW members soundly rejected a tentative agreement, 77 percent voted yes this time around.

Shortly after Chrysler workers ratified the agreement, the union announced that it had reached a tentative agreement with GM.

The new Chrysler collective bargaining agreement addresses some of the criticisms that members raised about the rejected tentative agreement. .

Most significantly, the new collective bargaining agreement creates a path that will gradually eliminates the wide wage differential between workers hired after 2007 and those hired before.

In 2007, when the US auto industry was struggling financially, the UAW agreed to allow GM, Ford, and Chrysler to pay new hires a substantially lower wage than that of workers already on the job, thus creating a two-tiered wage system.

Before bargaining with US auto companies began this year, many UAW members including tier 1 workers told the leadership that equal pay for equal work should be a bargaining priority for the union.

The rejected tentative agreement closed the gap between tier 1 and tier 2 workers, but didn’t eliminate it.

Under the new contract, tier 2 workers with at least four years on the job will be making tier 1 pay by the end of the contract, which expires in 2019.

All other tier 2 workers will reach tier 1 status within eight years.

A small number of workers will remain in tier 2 status. Those hired at Chrysler’s parts division, MOPAR, after the new collective bargaining agreement goes into effect will be paid a tier 2 wage.

Temporary workers will also be paid a tier 2 wage, but the contract contains language that limits the use of temporary workers.

Another difference between the agreement that was rejected and the one that was ratified is that the ratified agreement maintains the workers’ current health care plan, one in which the company pays the full premium and workers’ out of pocket costs for services are much lower than the national average.

The rejected collective bargaining agreement established a health care cooperative that was supposed to replace the current plan, but members were wary that the new cooperative would result in lower benefits and higher costs.

The ratified agreement does require tier 2 workers to pay a $100 deductible for emergency room visits that don’t result in hospital admissions and a $50 deductible for urgent care visits. Tier 1 workers began paying these deductibles in 2011.

The bargaining team told members that it expects health care costs to increase substantially during the four-year period of the contract and that the union and the company would continue to discuss ways to contain costs.

The implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) excise tax could also affect health care costs in the future.

Because of the ACA, health care plans that pay exceptional benefits like the one at Chrysler will be subject to an excise tax in 2018.

Such a tax could cause workers in these plans to pay more for health care.

The collective bargaining agreement limits the increased cost that workers may have to pay to a maximum deductible of $400 for individuals and $800 for families.

Another concern that caused the original tentative agreement to be rejected was its vague language about how Chrysler would invest the $3.5 billion that the company plans to invest in its US operations.

Not knowing where the money would be invested made workers uneasy about the future stability of their jobs.

The new contract specifies where the new investments will be made.

It identifies four plants where staffing will increase by an estimated total of 2900 workers; 12 plants where the current workforce will be retained, and two plants where the workforce could potentially be reduced by 2856 (Indiana Transmission Plant ll, 450, and Warren Truck Assembly, 2406).

The ratified contract also contains language that strengthens job security protections for skilled trade members and places more restrictions on outsourcing skilled trade work.

Skilled trade workers at Chrysler, electricians, tool and dye makers, millwrights, etc., have been critical of Chrysler’s moves to reduce their work by deskilling and outsourcing it.

The ratified contract reduces the time that outsourcing contractors have to complete a job from 35 to 30 days and gives union representatives more opportunities to review the company’s proposals for outsourcing work.

The company also agrees to add 150 new apprenticeship positions in 2016.

After UAW’s members ratified the revised Chrysler contract, the union turned its attention to GM.

A little before midnight on October 24, the union reached a tentative agreement with GM.

The details of the agreement have not been released.

UAW’s GM negotiating team will present details of the agreement to UAW’s National GM Council in Detroit on Wednesday, October 28.

If the national council, which is composed of local leaders at GM plants, votes to recommend ratification, the union will publish the tentative agreement on its website for members to read and review.

After that, members will have an opportunity to ratify or reject the tentative agreement.

CBTU reports on conditions of Afro-Colombians

A delegation from the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) recently returned from a fact finding mission to Colombia.

They found that the Labor Action Plan signed in 2011 by Colombia and the US is not being enforced and that Afro-Colombian workers “are particularly affected by labor violence and other abuses.”

The CBTU delegation was led by US Rep. Hank Johnson, a long-time advocate for Afro-Colombian labor and human rights.

The visit was made at the request of the Afro-Colombian Peace Council (CONPA).

CONPA is a coalition of Afro-Colombian groups seeking an end to Colombia’s civil war and economic and social justice for the 6 million people of African decent living in Colombia and for the country’s indigenous people.

Among other things, CONPA has become alarmed by the recent surge in racially motivated violence committed against Afro-Colombians.

Al Jazeera reports that there has been an increase in racially motivated attacks against Afro-Colombians. In Bogata, the nation’s capital, 14 Afro-Colombian youths died in the first six months of 2015 in drive by shootings with racial overtones.

Afro-Colombian workers have also been the target of violence. In many cases, the violence committed against them takes place on the job.

The CBTU toured regions of the country where sugar is grown and processed. About 90 percent of the workers in Colombia’s sugar industry are Afro-Colombian.

One worker on a sugar cane plantation told the CBTU that he and his fellow workers work in slave like conditions.

Their work is arduous and dangerous but there are few health and safety protections in place.

They are forced to work in recently burned cane fields where they breathe noxious smoke that damages their lungs.

For those who get sick or injured and are unable to work there is no disability insurance or workers compensation.

It is not uncommon for sugar cane workers to work 13-hour days seven days a week, but they receive no overtime pay, which is contrary to Colombia’s labor laws.

Their pay is also irregular. They don’t receive a base wage; instead, they are paid on a piece rate that workers complain is too low to support a decent standard of living.

When these workers have tried to organize to improve their working conditions and their lives, they have been met with violence.

One of the most publicized acts of violence took place in 2012 when a young sugar cane worker name Daniel Aguirre, the father of three, was gunned down as he walked home from work.

Aguirre was a leader of the sugar cane workers union SINPROSEC.

Aguirre is hardly the only union activist to be murdered in Colombia. The Escuela Nacional Sindical, a research center concerned with labor issues in Colombia, reports that since 2011, 105 union activists have been assassinated.

In 2011, the US and Colombia signed a Labor Action Plan (LAP) that was designed to end these kinds of labor abuses, which are not confined just to the sugar growing and processing industries.

By all accounts, the LAP is well designed and could go a long way toward ending labor abuses in Colombia. The problem is that it is not being enforced.

One example of the lax enforcement can be found on the sugar plantations.

At one time, plantation owners used labor co-operatives to work in the field. These co-operatives were supposedly made up of individual contractors who as such were not protected by the country’s labor laws.

The LAP was supposed to have ended this practice, but it continues under a different guise. Now, instead of working as part of a labor co-operative, the workers work for companies that contract with the plantation owners. In some cases, the plantation owners own these companies and don’t even try to hide their ownership.

Nevertheless, the workers in the field are still treated as temporary workers who don’t have any legal protections that permanent workers have.

Even though this practice is common knowledge, nothing has been done to end it.

And of course nothing has been done to stop the murders of union leaders and activists.

In addition to abuses in the sugar cane fields, the CBTU delegation found other problems:

  • Afro-Colombian women and youth told the delegation about the gender discrimination and sexual violence that they face;
  • The struggle of indigenous people for autonomy has faced serious setbacks in recent years; and
  • Afro-Colombians have not been given a voice in the peace negotiations between the government and leftist guerillas even though many of them live in highly contested areas and have been the victims of violence committed by both sides.

Finally the report issued by CBTU found that, “Racism against Afrodescendants remains a major obstacle towards their exerting full rights as citizens of Colombia.”

Israeli law center challenges UE on its support of BDS movement

An Israeli non-government organization has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against UE, a US labor union that represents 30,000 workers.

The complaint by Shurat HaDin, the Israeli Law Center, accuses UE of an illegal secondary boycott because the union at its national convention in August passed a resolution supporting the boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) movement that seeks to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

According to Shurat HaDin, the UE resolution encourages its members to “boycott Israeli enterprises and institutions during the course of their work, similar to the BDS Movement’s public encouragement of dock workers to refuse to unload ships arriving from Israel and academics to refrain from participating in joint projects with Israeli institutions.”

UE passed its resolution 10 years after Palestinian trade unions and human rights organizations called for a global movement to protest Israel’s occupation of Palestine, its establishment of new settlements in Palestinian territories, and its discrimination against Palestinians living in Israel.

The call urged groups around the world to join in a boycott of Israeli products, to divest holdings in Israeli companies, and to support sanctions against Israel. The movement was based on a similar campaign against the apartheid government of South Africa.

UE was spurred to adopt its resolution by Israel’s bombing of Gaza during its 50-day war with Hamas in 2014. The bombings and other military action killed 1,462 civilians, 495 of whom were children.

UE’s resolution urges the US government to end military aid to Israel and to pressure Israel to negotiate a peace agreement “on the basis of equality, democracy, and human rights for Palestinian and Israeli people, including Palestinian self determination and the right of return for refugees.”

The resolution also endorses the BDS movement and urges other unions “to become engaged in BDS and the movement for peace, justice and equality between the Palestinians and Israelis.”

Shurat HaDin is seeking an injunction that forces UE to withdraw its resolution.

Shurat HaDin also sent a letter to GE CEO  Jeffrey R. Immelt urging him to “rescind its recently concluded labor agreement with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (UE).” The letter also warns GE that it could face “severe criminal and civil liability” if UE continues to support the BDS movement.

UE and GE are not the only two organizations that have been challenged by Shurat HaDin.

In 2014, it accused Oxfam, the worldwide anti-hunger non-governmental organization, of funding the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an organization identified by the US as a terrorist organization.

According to Shurat HaDin, Oxfam is a donor to the Palestinian Union of Health Workers Committees (UHWC) and the Union of Agricultural Workers Committees (UAWC), both of which Shura HaDin says are front organizations of the PFLP.

The NGO Monitor reports that UAWC is an organization of “volunteers and agronomists” whose aim is to make Palestine a food secure country that is free and governed democratically. It is also wants to enable “farmers both male and female to contribute effectively in all aspects of life.”

In addition to receiving funds from Oxfam, UAWC receives funding from the European Union, Catholic Relief Charities, Orthodox Christian Charities, Action Against Hunger, and others.

The Union of Health Workers Committees provides primary and secondary health care services to people in Palestine especially the poor and marginalized.

According to UHWC, UHWC and Oxfam have had a very strong relationship and partnership since 2006 where both parties have implemented programs and projects to provide essential and emergency health services to the needy Palestinians.”

The Electronic Intifada reports that Shurat HaDin is linked to Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency.

One of its purposes is to engage in “lawfare,”  “the use of international law with the intention of damaging an opponent.”

UE appears to be undeterred by the challenge to its resolution supporting the BDS movement.

“There is a long tradition of nonviolent protest against human rights abuses that includes boycotts,” said Leah Fried  UE’s director of international strategies to The Electronic Intifada. “This attempt to end that peaceful protest with a charge filed at the National Labor Relations Board is not founded in law and will surely be dismissed.”

Union organizing campaigns can now use the internet to collect authorization cards

Workers who want to organize a union can now take the first step on the internet in the privacy of their own homes.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel in September issued guidelines establishing procedures for authenticating union authorization cards that have been electronically accessed and signed via e-mail, a social media account, or a mobile phone.

The International Association of Machinists (IAM) has already set up a website that allows Boeing workers in North Charleston, South Carolina to use their electronic signature when signing union authorization cards.

The North Charleston Boeing plant employees 3,000 production workers and is in the midst of a union organizing campaign.

Union authorization cards are a way for workers to express interest in forming a union. The NLRB is authorized to hold a union representation election when at least 30 percent of an employer’s potential bargaining unit–for example, production workers in a factory– sign authorization cards or a petition.

The use of electronic signatures is one several reforms that the NLRB has implemented to make union representation elections more streamlined and cost efficient.

By creating the electronic signature option, said NLRB board members, they are following the lead of Congress, which has encouraged federal agencies to use electronic forms and signatures when practicable and cost efficient.

In his September 1 memorandum establishing guidelines for authenticating electronic signatures, Richard C. Griffin, Jr., the NLRB’s General Counsel, said that Congress encourages agencies to use electronic forms and signatures because this new technology benefits the public.

He acknowledged that critics of the new technology are concerned that it will make it easier to submit fraudulent authorization cards, but he noted that the new electronic signature guidelines “are more stringent than what is currently required for non-electronic signatures.”

Unlike traditional authorization cards, authorization cards that are accessed and signed electronically must contain personal contact information such as an address, phone number, and an e-mail address, which will allow NLRB staff to contact signees should there be a question about the authenticity of signatures.

(The guidelines also expressly forbid electronic authorization cards from asking for a social security number, date of birth, or other information that might result in the improper use of a signees’ identity.)

In addition, Griffin’s guidelines require that signees receive a notification acknowledging that their electronically signed authorization card has been received. Such an acknowledgment also can be used to determine a signature’s authenticity.

The organizing campaign at Boeing in South Carolina appears to be the first time that electronic authorization cards have been used.

Boeing has shifted some work from its unionized plants like the ones near Seattle that employ 35,000 workers to its non-union plant in South Carolina.

As a result, the IAM, which represents Boeing workers, has been trying to organize Boeing’s workers in South Carolina.

The Boeing Workers website shows that Boeing union workers make higher wages even when cost of living differentials are taken into account and union workers have a far superior health care plan than non-union workers.

But Boeing has mounted an aggressive campaign to keep its South Carolina plant union free.

The IAM is hoping that it’s new electronic authorization card will allow workers to express their desires to join a union in private without having to worry about retaliation by the company.

Using the new technology also makes it easier for workers to involve their families in their decision-making process.

“It’s easier for workers,” said IAM spokesman Frank Larkin to the Charleston, South Carolina Post and Courier. “Very often, this is a family decision, and now it can be made with the family sitting around the kitchen table in the privacy of their own home. It’s a matter of convenience and acknowledges the growth of digital technology.”

Nations agree on TPP; opponents will fight its final passage

After the US and 11 Pacific Rim nation trading partners reached an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the nations’ trade representatives issued a joint statement promoting the new trade deal as one that will “support jobs, drive sustainable growth, foster inclusive development, and promote innovation across the Asia-Pacific region.”

Most importantly, continues the statement, the agreement will “benefit our nations’ citizens.”

Opponents, however, are much less sanguine about the widespread benefits that will accrue from the deal.

“The TPP represents a sweet deal for multinational corporations and the 1 percent,” said Chris Shelton, president of the Communication Workers of America.  “For the rest of us–US working families and communities, and workers in the other TPP countries–this agreement is bad news.”

“The new monopoly rights for big pharmaceutical firms would compromise access to medicines in TPP countries,” said Peter Maybarduk, a program director Public Citizen to The Independent. “The TPP would cost lives.”

“The Trans Pacific Partnership would empower big polluters to challenge climate and environmental safeguards in private trade courts and would expand trade in dangerous fossil fuels that would increase fracking and imperil our climate,” said Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director.

The details–where the devil always resides–of the TPP have not been officially released and won’t be until 30 days after the agreement was announced.

But based on past experiences with other trade deals there is plenty of cause for concern.

Language in other trade deals included labor standards that were meant to protect workers rights to free association and collective bargaining. These standards were supposed help workers in developing countries bargain for higher wages and better working conditions, and in doing so, reduce incentives for transferring jobs from richer to poorer countries.

But enforcement of these standards has been anemic.

According to the US Government Accountability Office, the US Labor Department has accepted only five formal complaints about violations to labor standards set out in previous trade deals. Only one has been resolved.

The report goes on to note that in Guatemala and Colombia, which have both signed trade deals with the US, “violence against union leaders continues.”

Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, reports that the TPP may include some improvements over previous trade deals on worker rights, the environment, and consumer protection, but “whether they are enforced or not is a critical matter.”

As the GAO’s report shows enforcement of trade agreement labor standards has been spotty during the present Democratic administration. In a Republican Administration enforcement would be non-existent.

Despite losing the congressional vote on giving the TPP fast track authority in April, opponents of the deal forced concessions from Congress and President Obama that should give opponents several opportunities to defeat the TPP.

One of the concessions, requires a 90-day review period after the President announces his decision to sign the deal.

Prior to the 90 review period, the full TPP text will be made available on the internet, which will give opponents some time to review it and publicize their objections.

During the review period, members of Congress may propose changes that if accepted by the administration could require more negotiations between the US and its trading partners.

Once the President signs the TPP, the administration has 60 days to report to Congress on the laws that Congress must change to comply with the deal.

During the same time, the US International Trade Commission has 105 days to analyze the TPP’s impact on the US economy.

Congress would then have to ratify the TPP. The New York Times estimates that a vote on the deal is not likely until April.

One of the problems with the TPP is that it has been negotiated in secret with little input from any stakeholders except multinational corporations.

But the review period should give opponents time to shine a light on it.

“There is a lot of concern that the American people have not been involved in the (TPP) process, that there’s not a lot of transparency,” said Senator Bernie Sanders, who has been a long-time opponent of  the TPP.

Sanders said that during the review period he wants “to make sure that this debate (on the TPP) takes place out in the public, that the American people have as much time as possible to understand the very significant implications of this trade agreement.”

“And I suspect (that we) will do our best to make that happen,” said Sanders.

Chrysler workers reject tentative agreement

Chrysler workers rejected a tentative agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement by a wide margin.

Voting began a few days after the UAW and Fiat Chrysler Automobile announced on September 15 that the two sides had reached an agreement on a new contract.

The Detroit Free Press reported on September 19 that UAW President Dennis Williams told a meeting of Chrysler union leaders that he thought that the agreement was “balanced and thoughtful” and that members would ratify it.

But when the results were announced on October 1, 65 percent of the workers had voted no.

The margin of rejection was even higher in some locals. At Chrysler’s Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio, 87 percent of the production workers and 80 percent of the skilled trades workers voted no.

For many, the new agreement didn’t go far enough toward eliminating the two-tier wage system, which allows Chrysler to pay new production  workers about $10 less an hour than those on the job in 2007.

The union agreed to the two-tier system when Chrysler was on the verge of bankruptcy.

But Chrysler reported a $4.1 billion profit in 2014, and members thought that it was time to start dismantling the two-tier system.

In the spring, Williams said that he wanted new contracts with Ford, GM, and Chrysler to build a bridge toward the elimination of the two-tier system.

But according to its opponents, the tentative agreement was a bridge to nowhere.

“It should be equal pay for equal work,” said Jennifer Daubenmeyer, a tier-two Chrysler worker to the Detroit News. “We’d like to see an opportunity at some point to get to the point to what (the tier-one workers) are making. We’re not asking for it now.”

Daubenmeyer may have had in mind an agreement that Unifor, the Canadian autoworkers’ union, reached with auto companies in Canada that creates a ten-year ladder of pay raises that eventually brings the pay of tier-two workers up to that of tier-one workers.

Instead, the Chrysler pact raised wages of tier-two workers in increments over a four year period, but the raises maxed out $5 an hour less than tier-one workers.

Most tier-two workers would have continued to make substantially less than the tier-two maximum and many would have to wait seven years before they reached the tier-two maximum.

The agreement also created two new tiers for production workers: the tier-two maximum for workers at Chrysler’s Mopar auto parts plant and the company’s axle factory was $3.35 an hour and $3 an hour respectively less than the maximum for other tier-two workers.

In an open letter to Chrysler Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne, Denny Walker Crum, a tier-two worker in Toledo, called the tentative agreement “disrespectful.”

“(Wouldn’t you consider it disrespectful) if your employer told you that after working for seven years, you will still make five dollars an hour less than the person working next to you doing the same job?” asked Crum.  “Is it not disrespectful for the company to tell you that your time is worth less than the person next to you? Is it not disrespectful that one would have to work for three quarters of a decade and STILL isn’t worth the same as their coworkers?”

Other two-tiered workers thought that the new contract would raise many of them to tier-one status and were disappointed when they learned that it did not.

They thought so because a union summary of the 2011 contract said that by 2015, there would be a cap in place that would reduce the percentage of tier-two workers to 25 percent.

Currently, 43 percent of Chrysler’s production workforce are tier-two workers. Many thought that when the cap went into effect, they would be bumped up to tier-one pay.

Despite what the union said in the summary, there was no language in the old contract about setting a cap and the new agreement did not address the issue.

Disappointment with the agreement was not limited to tier-two workers. The nearly two to one rejection margin suggests that many tier-one and skilled trades workers were unhappy with it.

Tier-one workers had gone without a pay raise for a decade, and many were looking for a raise that would recover some of the lost buying power that the wage freeze had cost them.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, it costs $122 today to buy what $100 bought ten years ago.

But the agreement only called for two 3 percent raises over the four-year span on the agreement and two lump sum payments. Workers also could earn a bit more through production bonuses if they met goals set by the company.

The agreement also did not restore cost of living raises that workers gave up to keep Chrysler solvent.

The agreement established a new health care cooperative to replace workers’ health care benefit, and there was concern among members that the new cooperative would soon start charging workers more for health care.

Finally, the agreement said that Chrysler would invest $3.5 billion in its US facilities, but there was no specific language that identified how the money would be spent.

Workers were concerned that the vague language would allow Chrysler to move work to other locations, which would cost some workers their jobs. Workers are also expecting Chrysler to shift some work now being done in the US to Mexico.

Skilled trade workers such as tool and die makers, millwrights, electricians, etc., were wary of Chrysler’s past practices of taking away their work by deskilling jobs and outsourcing work. The agreement did little to address these concerns.

On the Monday after the union announced the rejection, Chrysler and the UAW resumed negotiations.

In his open letter, Crum urged Williams to come back with a better offer.

“Please do what a union is supposed to do,” wrote Crum. “Get us equal pay for equal work.”

ILWU locals vote no on coal

After thorough research and much discussion, members of ILWU Local 10, whose members load and unload ships at the Port of Oakland, and ILWU Local 34, the Oakland marine clerks union, voted on September 18 not to handle coal at the Oakland Global Trade and Logistics Center, which is currently under construction.

“Coal is not the right way to bring jobs to Oakland,” said Derrick Muhammad, business agent for Local 10. “Oakland families are worried about asthma and other sicknesses because of highway and port activity. It’s not right to ask them to take on the worry of nine million tons of coal passing through their neighborhoods on trains each year.”

The Trade and Logistics Center is being constructed on land where the former Oakland Army Base was located.

The redevelopment of the former Army base is a collaboration between California Capital & Investment Group (CCGI), a private real estate company, and the governments of the city of Oakland and the state of California.

According to Sean Farley, president of Local 34, when the construction of the new port facility was being considered, the project’s developer promised not to ship coal from any terminal at the new port.

“They need to make good on that promise,” said Farley. “Waterfront space is in short supply on the West Coast, and it would be a mistake to lock Oakland into a decades long lease with a coal industry that many are saying is dying.”

Farley added that other West Coast ports have rejected similar proposals to export coal and “Oakland shouldn’t become the dumping ground for dirty, low-value cargoes that no one else wants.”

The prospect that coal may be shipped and exported through Oakland is the result of an unusual public-private partnership deal between CCGI, Terminal Logistics Solutions, and the state of Utah.

Terminal Logistics Solutions (TLS) is building and will operate the Bulk and Oversized Terminal at Oakland’s Global Trade and Logistics Center.

It recently signed a deal with the state of Utah in which Utah agreed to a loan of $53 million in public funds to help finance TLS’ new terminal.

In return, Utah is guaranteed that exports from four of the state’s counties will be handled by TLS’ new terminal.

Three of the four counties named in the agreement produce all of the coal mined in Utah.

The agreement will allow Bowie Resources, which owns the Utah mines, to export 9 million tons of coal a year through Oakland.

When the deal between Utah and TLS came to light, environmental protection groups like the Sierra Club, protested.

According to the Sierra Club, coal mining and the use of coal is a primary contributor to climate change.

Coal also threatens the health and well-being of people exposed to it and workers who handle it.

As a result, the use of coal is fading in the US as energy consumers such as utilities are using more alternative energy sources.

The squeeze on coal has meant that coal companies are looking to markets outside of the US.

To take advantage of these markets abroad, coal companies need specialized export facilities that can load foreign-bound ships with coal.

As Farley said, coal companies have been unable to persuade other West Coast ports to handle their coal.

Their best hope for doing so seems to be the new facility being developed in Oakland, but the fate of the coal-exporting project remains up in the air.

After the ILWU passed its resolution, The Oakland City Council held a hearing on the coal deal.

Both opponents and supporters testified.

But the city took no action. In fact, it’s unclear whether the city of Oakland has any authority to stop the shipment of coal.

Nevertheless, the ILWU made its “no coal” position clear to all.

“We are adamantly opposed to coal coming through Oakland, California,” said Muhammad as he testified at the hearing.