Time for Congress to Deliver for Workers

From Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa; cross posted from TheHill.com:

As the new 110th Congress begins its work, the Teamsters Union is making sure that workers are the focus. In November, working families demonstrated our strength. Our votes and voices changed the nation's priorities. Americans decidedly rejected six years of failed policies from the Bush administration.

This is an important year for working Americans. The challenges we face include the lack of affordable health care, growing retirement insecurity, dwindling workplace rights, job-killing trade agreements, unsafe highways and concerns about our national security.

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Allied Waste Trashes Christmas

Who will Fort Worth blame when no one picks up their trash before or after the holidays? Not the drivers, helpers or mechanics. They're not the ones who left the bargaining table to take a vacation through New Years Day and leave trash piling up in residential neighborhoods.

It was Allied's lead negotiator who has stalled talks and walked away from negotiations.

But what could you expect from a company that is trying to bust the union and deny its workers their right to collective bargaining? Allied workers have been under a Teamster contract since 1998, but in the months leading up to the Dec. 10 contract deadline, the company has done everything it can to stall the talks while pressuring workers to leave the union.

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When Rail CEOs Write a Safety Plan

It's no wonder that the TSA's recommendations for rail security fall short.

"I am not convinced that all of the security gaps plaguing our current hazmat transport system will be filled by this proposal," said Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.

Its chief, Kip Hawley, was a senior executive with Union Pacific.

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Don't Sell Our Roads

Selling roads and unionized infrastructure is a horrible idea. It destroys progressive institutions (unions) and creates a new funding stream for reactionary corporate power. That's a violation of rules 7 and 8 in building a progressive America. - Matt

Does anybody really think this is a good idea? More and more states are selling off or leasing toll roads to corporations. A plan is already on the table in Pennsylvania, and according to a Boston Globe editorial, Gov.-elect Deval Patrick will likely face a similar decision in Massachusetts.

The Globe is against the idea, as we all should be. It's bad for safety, it's bad for states and it's bad for workers.

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Take Action: Don't Let Lame-Duck Congress Scrooge Drivers

Cross posted from Daily Kos

Workers are not safe yet. The Republican-controlled Congress is back for a brief lame-duck session. And they have their sites set on denying delivery drivers overtime pay just before the holidays.

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Let's Work Together for Change

By Mike Mathis, Teamsters Director of Government Affairs.

When Matt and Chris invited us to join the MyDD community, they warned us about you. They said MyDD readers are a smart and cantankerous bunch who wouldn't pull any punches. They told us to be prepared for anything.

Teamsters are old hands at confrontation - taking on bastard employers or anti-union propagandists - but we are novices at online discussions. Nevertheless, we welcomed the opportunity because we recognize that bloggers and unions are natural allies - we share common goals and derive our strength from the power of many.

For us it was an opportunity to introduce ourselves, to educate and to build relationships. You know, it's not just the number of union members that is shrinking. So is the number of labor reporters. Unless there is a big strike, you never hear about unions in your local media. The national press is not much better, with several news organizations recently axing their labor beats.

Perhaps it's because most media owners - large national corporations or hometown power barons - share the same anti-union views as the owners of the Santa Barbara News-Press. I'm not one to believe in media conspiracies, but this is just one example of how management still controls the message. Fortunately for Santa Barbara citizens the reporters fought back.

Many media outlets even refuse to run union ads. Consolidation of the press and of our airwaves further squeezes out organized labor's message.

And it's a message that is rarely taught in schools. Think back to your high school history course, how much did you learn about the Knights of Labor, Eugene V. Debs, the Haymarket Riot, or the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory?

If you welcome our message, we welcome your scrutiny.

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For Unions, It's All About the Members

This week's post is by Teamsters Organizing Director Jeff Farmer.

Unions are about members helping members, unlike advocacy groups such as the AARP, or professional organizations like the American Medical Association.

Yes, there are similarities -- such as national lobbying efforts, member publications and affinity credit card offers -- but for unions, these are ancillary, not primary functions.

I've never had someone come up to me when I'm wearing my Nature Conservancy T-shirt and say "Hey, I give to the Nature Conservancy too!" But when I'm traveling and people see my Teamster lapel pin, they will often comment that they are Teamsters too, or that their father was a Teamster or that they belong to some other union. That's because, as Mike said last week, unions are personal.

Our strength comes from our members, not how much money we raise or how many lobbyists we can field. It's about Teamsters standing with Teamsters, whether we're going up against an employer for better pay and working conditions or chipping in to help another member when times are tough.  

But you don't need to hear me preach about solidarity. I'll let our members tell you themselves. The following comments are from real Teamsters in their own words.

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Unions: Mobilizing Voters for Nearly a Century

This week's post is by Mike Mathis, director of government affairs for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters

So how exactly did Karl Rove mastermind Republican victories in 2002 and 2004? By stealing a page out of organized labor's playbook.

Rove's 72-Hour Task Force, using professional and volunteer operatives to organize and lead a get-out-the-vote push in the final 72 hours before Election Day, was formed in 2001. Unions have been doing this for most of the past century.

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Labor Built this Country - It's Time to Take it Back

Well this seems like something we could get done next cycle. Jeff Farmer is the director of organizing for the Teamsters. I'm going to thank them preemptively for our new servers, since that's what's going to keep this site running on election day. -Matt

Organized Labor was dealt another damaging blow last week by President Bush's cronies on the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB ruled 3-2, along party lines, that millions of nurses and other workers are "supervisors," and therefore excluded from collective bargaining rights.

The so-called "Kentucky River decision" was pretty much expected from the Big Business shills who sit on the NLRB. Not only will 8 million workers lose their labor law protections, including their right to form unions, but companies will be even more emboldened under the new expansive definition of "supervisor" to reclassify workers in their effort to dismantle organizing drives.

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Unions: More Relevant than Ever

I'm pleased to announce that a representative from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters will be posting every Monday on MyDD until the election. We've noted on MyDD that on a practical level, unions are possibly the most critical piece of the progressive movement, and we're hoping that over the next few years the netroots and the union movement can work together to learn from each other and become stronger. The Teamsters will also be sponsoring Breaking Blue until the election, which will help keep MyDD running as traffic goes up. The Teamsters are going to try to give you a sense of the basics of unions and their political activity, which is something I wasn't aware of until a few years ago. This is a great opportunity to learn more about this critical piece of the Democratic party. Welcome, and enjoy. -- Matt

When FDR launched the New Deal and pulled millions of families out of poverty, labor unions were there to aid his cause.

When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led the fight for Civil Rights, union men and women were by his side.

When Robert F. Kennedy went on his crusade to help the plight of migrant farm workers in the Central California valley, he found inspiration in a union man: Cesar Chavez.

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