— Maggie Trowe
Washington, DC, taxi drivers: ‘City destroys our business’
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Hundreds of union taxi drivers circled Freedom Plaza here, then parked and protested in front of the Wilson Building, where the D.C. Council was meeting Oct. 28 to vote on an ordinance to allow rapidly growing web-based “ride-share” companies such as Uber and Lyft to operate under different regulations than traditional taxi companies, increasing competition among drivers and driving down their income. The move follows a trend in other major U.S. cities.
“If I have to be licensed, all other drivers should have to follow the same rules,” said Eartha Clark, a member of the Washington, D.C. Taxi Operators Association, an affiliate of Teamsters Local 922.
“We’re abused by the police because we’re Black, because we support the union, because we won’t bow down,” said Charlie Harrison, 79, waving a handful of tickets given by taxi inspectors.
“They have the machinery of the city and the cab industry to harass us, and they use it,” said Omoshola Kintunde of the Taxi Operators Association. “They destroy our business and treat us like cash cows.”
After the council passed the ordinance that night, Kintunde told fellow drivers they had to “come together, stay strong and be ready to fight.”
— Arlene Rubinstein
Lockout of bus drivers in
Saskatchewan ruled illegal
CALGARY, Alberta — Transit workers here returned to work Oct. 17 when the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board ruled the city’s 29-day lockout of the workers illegal.
“The public is very happy to have us back,” bus driver Daryl Strugnell said in a phone interview Oct. 28. “They were hugging us.”
Some 330 members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 615 were locked out Sept. 20 in a conflict over wages and pensions. “We’re solid on the need to bring wages to more Western Canadian standards,” said Jim Yakubowski, the local’s president. Saskatoon bus drivers’ top wage is $8 per hour less than what drivers in Edmonton, Alberta, earn.
“The lockout was a tough four weeks, but most of us feel very positive,” said apprentice mechanic Andrew Yuzwa. “My father was involved in the strike in 1994, and he says not even then were we so unified.”
The union is demanding compensation for wages lost during the lockout. Negotiations on the contract have not resumed.
— Katy LeRougetel
Washington farmworkers push back bosses’ union-busting rules
SEATTLE — Berry pickers in Burlington, Washington, pushed back an attack on freedom of speech and association. On Oct. 28 Skagit County Superior Court Judge Susan Cook ruled that Sakuma Brother Farms could not ban visitors from workers’ cabins nor prevent the distribution of literature in company-owned work camps. The court upheld the bosses’ requirement that visitors register with company guards.
Bosses pressed the new rules in the midst of an ongoing struggle by workers for better wages and conditions. Last year the pickers formed a union, Familias Unidas por la Justicia (United Families for Justice) and the ban on visitors, many of whom are part of the union struggle, is seen as an attempt to impede their organizing efforts.
Some 30 unionists and supporters picketed in front of the courthouse the day before the ruling.
Earlier this year when Sakuma Farms imposed the new rules, they set up a “visitors center” — a trailer controlled by company guards next to the guard shack. “They were treating the workers as prisoners,” union President Ramón Torres told the Militant.
“We want a contract. We want a health care plan. We want $15 an hour,” Torres told 60 University of Washington students forming a group called Boycott Sakuma UW here Oct. 30.
“Our goal is to win a contract at Sakuma Farms and then fight for farmworkers at other farms.”
For information on how to support and contribute to the farmworkers’ fight go to www.boycottsakumaberries.com.
— Clay Dennison
NJ casino workers fight attack by bosses, bankruptcy court
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — “This is union territory!” chanted some 800 casino workers, members of UNITE HERE Local 54, as passing drivers horns in support. The workers were picketing the Trump Taj Mahal casino Oct. 24 protesting union-busting moves by the bosses and bankruptcy court.
The unionists were responding to the ruling a week earlier by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross voiding the casino’s contract with 1,100 workers in favor of a takeover by billionaire finance capitalist Carl Icahn. The ruling gives casino owners $14.6 million in contract concessions, which include replacing pensions with a 401(k) pay-in program, ditching employer-provided health care insurance for a $2,000 per worker stipend to buy “Obamacare” insurance and eliminating paid lunch breaks.
“They want everything put on the workers. It’s like robbery,” said Kaushik Vashi, who makes $11.25 per hour as a housekeeper.
“They want to bust all unions,” said James Roberts, a 22-year cleaner. “We have to keep fighting.”
Four of 12 casinos here have closed since January, eliminating 8,000 jobs. If the Taj Mahal closes, it will put 3,000 out of work. The jobless rate in Atlantic County is 11.4 percent.
— Osborne Hart
NY academic union march: ‘CUNY needs a raise!’
NEW YORK — Hundreds of college professors and other members of the Professional Staff Congress-American Federation of Teachers Local 2334 held a rally here Oct. 21 to demand a salary increase, reduction of teaching load and job security for adjunct professors. Some 1,000 had demonstrated at the CUNY Board of Trustees meeting Sept. 30.
The union represents more than 25,000 professors, adjuncts, counselors, registrars and others at 24 campuses in New York City. The PSC-CUNY contract expired in 2010.
“We haven’t had a cost-of-living raise since 2010,” said Kris Burrell, assistant professor of history at Hostos Community College.
— Nancy Boyasko