Seattle Uber and Lyft drivers responded favorably to a proposal put forth by Mayor Jenny Durkan today to raise driver pay and allow drivers to appeal unwarranted deactivations. The Mayor’s plan would engage the driver community in developing a fair pay standard. It would also give drivers who have been terminated from a TNC platform access to a hearing with representation before an appeals panel.
“Drivers should not be fired by an algorithm without recourse,” said Mohamed Aria, who was one of the first Uber drivers in the Seattle market. “I helped Uber build their business, even referring my own customers. But after 6 years of high ratings and maximum customer satisfaction, I was deactivated without reason. It has been a year now since I lost the ability to work and support my family. The Uber staff at the local office have no answers. I applaud the Mayor for putting labor standards for drivers – including accountability and the right to appeal unfair deactivations – back on the city’s agenda.”
Mayor Durkan announced the proposal at a press conference at the Yesler Community Center on Thursday along with a plan to implement a fee on all TNC trips in the city. Revenue from the proposed fee would fund investments in driver support services, and community investments in affordable housing and transit improvements.
"We’re not going to stop organizing until we earn a living wage."
“All Uber and Lyft drivers in Seattle: we are here today, seeing progress, because drivers have been organizing and fighting back,” said Peter Kuel, a Lyft driver for over 5 years and steering committee member of the App-Based Drivers Association, which is affiliated with Teamsters 117. “As drivers, we bear all of the expenses of operation and all of the risks on the road, and we’re not going to stop organizing until we earn a living wage.”
According to the Federal Reserve, 58% of gig economy workers cannot afford a $400 emergency expense. This means that thousands of drivers in Seattle are one vehicle repair away from an economic crisis. Seattle’s more than 30,000 Uber and Lyft drivers – many of whom are immigrants and people of color for whom driving is their only source of income – lack minimum wage protections or paid sick leave and other worker benefits.
“Uber and Lyft drivers in Seattle provide important transportation services to our community and should earn a living wage,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117. “Drivers are looking forward to participating in a wage study to provide real data to study leaders so that drivers are compensated for their expenses, can afford benefits, and are paid fairly.”
Praxair Teamsters in Tacoma are ready to fight to defend their livelihoods.
The streets of Tacoma were a little louder early this morning. Starting at 3 a.m., a few dozen Teamsters, drivers and production workers employed at Praxair, took their fight for a fair contract to their employer's front door.
"Praxair, Praxair you can't hide - we can see your greedy side!" the group chanted as they circled outside the two entrances of the company's gated distribution facility. With Just Practicing signs slung across their shoulders, members are gearing up for a possible strike at the company. Many expressed frustration at their employer's substandard proposals in negotiations.
"We're ready to strike if necessary."
"The company is stalling and trying to take things away from us that they should be paying for - good medical, holiday pay, and a secure retirement," said Ric Shuttleworth, a 29-year production filler and shop steward on our union negotiations committee. "We're ready to strike if necessary."
Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy gathers up signs after "Just Practicing" picketing action.
Shuttleworth's counterpart on our union team is Brian Bruton. Bruton spends his day hauling heavy containers of industrial gasses to Seattle-area hospitals. For Bruton, one of the company's most insulting proposals is their attempt to use Washington State's new sick leave law as an excuse to strip away his co-workers' holiday pay.
"I think it's completely unfair," he says. "We're not asking for the moon - we just want fair wages, good union medical, and we're not going to give up our holiday."
After several rounds of negotiations and a unanimous strike authorization vote, the group will be heading into federal mediation tomorrow looking to secure just that.
UNFI TEAMSTERS STAND IN SOLIDARITY
Joining in solidarity with the Praxair picketers were several Local 117 members from UNFI's Supervalu warehouse just a stone's throw away. With UNFI implementing layoffs and relocating its Tacoma and Auburn facilities, members there know firsthand the challenges of working for an employer that puts shareholder profits above their workforce.
"We're coming out here to support our brothers and sisters," said UNFI steward Darren Sorrell. Fellow steward Greg Wiest added, "We're going through a labor dispute too, so we know what they're feeling like."
The two pledged to bring reinforcements if mediation fails. "Our members - both at Praxair and UNFI - know what it takes to win back respect from an employer intent on maximizing profits at all costs," said Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy, who led the group in chants this morning. "We're prepared to fight, and the great thing about our union is that we have each others' backs."
UNFI stewards Greg Wiest and Darren Sorrell rise early to support their fellow Teamsters.
Margarita Martinez fought to win a massive settlement for her co-workers at Leadpoint/Republic.
At the Republic Services recycling depot in downtown Seattle, members of Teamsters 117 process thousands of tons of paper, metals, and plastics daily. Trucks snake into the 3rd and Lander facility to dump their loads, which our members bulldoze and bundle for rail transport to locations across the West.
An essential part of the work requires careful sorting of the materials. Republic subcontractor, Leadpoint, employs hundreds at the Seattle facility to perform this work. This painstaking, dirty, and dangerous job has resulted in serious industrial accidents. In 2015, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries fined Leadpoint $77,600 for serious safety violations at its Material Recovery Center in Vancouver, WA.
In 2016, our union discovered something else: Leadpoint was treating its Seattle employees like garbage, and Republic Services was complicit in the abuse. Workers were locked out of bathrooms, forced to change into their gear in the parking lot, and paid below Seattle’s minimum wage standards. Leadpoint employees who tried to organize a union were subjected to harassment and intimidation.
Margarita Martinez was one of those workers. An ardent union supporter, Martinez was sent home by company management without pay on several occasions. Neither Leadpoint nor Republic could offer a good explanation for the discipline.
Monty Johnson has worked his forklift for twenty-four years at the SUPERVALU warehouse, later purchased by UNFI.
In the dim interior of the UNFI warehouse in Tacoma, you have to be quick on your feet. With short beeps, forklifts and pellet jacks zooming by, there is no time to waste. Teamsters who work here know their jobs well and do them efficiently.
Perhaps no one is better at it than Monty Johnson. Monty has never missed a day of work in all combined twenty-four years of working at the SUPERVALU warehouse which was recently purchased by the food giant UNFI. Not a sick day and rarely any vacation days, even when it meant losing the accumulated hours, the warehouse is his bread and air.
When the company went through layoffs and he had to submit for his severance, he did so with a heavy heart. Soon they remembered his tireless work ethic and asked him to come back. He did so in a heartbeat. The warehouse was his home – the place he knew inside and out. He came back to his old forklift, and it was like he never left. Dashing between rows of shelves stacked up to the ceiling, Monty doesn’t need a chart to decipher the numbers indicating which products go on which shelves. He knows them by heart. Hundreds upon hundreds of slots, this maze to an external observer is a familiar tune to him.
Teamsters at the warehouse waste no time. They are quick, efficient and ready to flash a smile.
One day the company president got a hold of him and asked: “Are you the guy who never missed a day in this place? Why did you do that?” What he didn’t understand was that when Monty came to Washington State in the 90s looking for a stable job to care for his young family, this union job offered back then by SUPERVALU gave him a jump-start to a secure life, and for that Monty is eternally grateful. You can’t tell by his energetic smile, but his kids are all grown up now, and he has welcomed grandchildren to his family.
When Monty shows up to work every single day and pours his heart out, he doesn’t do it to compound profits for shareholders who wouldn’t step into his warehouse for an hour. The product of his daily work is getting food from the warehouse to the supermarket shelves on time so that thousands of people in Pierce County can buy food that was kept cool, fresh, and undamaged.
For Monty, it is the Teamster sisters and brothers who work at warehouse that make the place like home.
It wasn’t Monty’s or any of his co-workers’ decision to sell the warehouse to UNFI, relocate it to Centralia, or try to fight the union workers and squeeze their livelihood in an attempt to eke out a slightly fatter margin of profit. Neither will they succumb to company pressure after dedicating a lifetime to this work.
Monty sees his workplace pulled apart to be relocated and shakes his head. “The new company is doing things to accommodate themselves and are not respecting the workers who do the daily grinding work of making the company successful. They don’t understand that if they take care of us, we take care of them.”
Today, Uber drivers leafleted outside of Uber’s Seattle office, and at more than a dozen other driver gathering spots, to generate calls to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan calling on her office to immediately introduce legislation to raise driver pay and establish labor protections.
The leafleting actions come on the heels of Uber releasing a proposal to impose a $3.80 congestion toll on all Seattle commuters. Drivers say the company’s $3.80 congestion toll plan is nothing more than an attempt to cause delay and avoid regulations that would raise driver pay and fund benefits.
"Instead of focusing on congestion tolls, Uber needs to do right by their drivers first..."
“Instead of focusing on congestion tolls, Uber needs to do right by their drivers first,” said Peter Kuel, an Uber and Lyft driver for more than 5 years and a leadership council member of the App-Based Drivers Association. “Uber and Lyft should do today what every other business in Seattle already does – ensure drivers earn benefits like paid sick days and are never paid less than minimum wage after expenses.”
Good news came in yesterday from our International Union on the issue of pension reform:
Teamsters Mari Jane Friel (l) and Anthony McKinney (r) take their talents out to the broader membership.
Mari Jane Friel and Anthony McKinney are a couple of stand-out union activists. Both have excelled at building a strong union in their respective workplaces.
Mari Jane is a roads utility worker at King County. She ramped up her union involvement when the Janus court case loomed with its threat of open shop. Anthony comes out of the grocery industry, where he and a fellow shop steward orchestrated a powerful workplace action to stop their employer from skimming their work.
Both Anthony and Mari Jane recently had a chance to come on board at Local 117 as lost-timers. Our union negotiated a leave of absence with their employers and picked up their wages and benefits while they were away from their jobs.
Nurto Abdi directing traffic at the rental car parking building of Sea-Tac Airport.
At Sea-Tac Airport, Fleetlogix unjustly terminated Nurto Abdi, and it was subsequently overturned during the grievance process. The day the disputed incident took place, Abdi was driving the rental car a customer had just dropped off. She stopped at the gate and the light flashed green, swinging the gate arm open. Abdi drove forward but immediately felt a jolt. When she got out, she saw that the lower part of the gate had malfunctioned and hit the car.
Abdi’s employer, Fleetlogix, didn’t hear her out and quickly fired her. English not being her first language, she wrote a statement in her native language and with the help of her co-worker Burhan Farah, a union leader at her workplace and her union representative Takele Gobena filed a grievance. Soon after she had to leave the country responding to a family emergency.
Meanwhile, the company pushed to process the grievance in her absence without giving her the chance to be heard. Fleetlogix has already been sanctioned by the NLRB in the past for intimidating workers who were wearing buttons supporting their union. Working together, union leader Farah and union representative Gobena did not let the employer proceed without Abdi’s presence.
Abdi worked at Sea-Tac Airport for nearly 15 years.
When she was back in the United States, the Board of Adjustment meeting lasted four long hours. Abdi and Farah had to face Fleetlogix VP, CEO and CFO who specifically flew in to challenge Abdi’s rights. Still, this list of company executives did not help their case -- Abdi got her job back and her seniority was restored.
“I felt appreciated in so many ways,” reflected Farah. “As immigrants and women of color, we are vulnerable in this and most jobs we might take. It is being part of the union that protects us. It was empowering for our entire team to see someone like us standing up to men in power. The company needs us, and we need a union. It was a battle, but in the end the victory was sweet.”
“This is not just my victory, but also one for all the people who work at Fleetlogix,” Abdi concluded. “I am grateful for the energy and time my union representative and my coworker put in to work on my case.”
ICS Teamsters showed unwavering unity and resolve in their fight for a fair contract.
After months of struggle, Teamsters who work at Industrial Container Services (ICS) have achieved a monumental win. Yesterday the group voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new three-year contract.
The contract contains a 5.2% wage increase in the first year for the majority of the group, paid union orientation for new hires, and healthcare protections for the workers' families, among other improvements.
"We're happy with our new contract," said Abel Garibay Flores. "All of us struggled together for better pay and benefits and it made a difference."
Getting to this point took tremendous courage. With ICS intent on exacting bitter takeaways in bargaining, the group of mostly immigrant workers voted unanimously to authorize a strike and engaged in multiple solidarity actions, including a “just practicing” picket in front of the facility on February 20.
The workers also benefited from an outpouring of community support. Seattle City Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez marched with a member delegation to deliver a letter to company management demanding fair treatment.
Seattle City Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez standing together with Teamsters at ICS at a solidarity action on March 7.
Uber and Lyft drivers speak out for fair pay and a voice before their caravan embarks for City Hall.
Ride hail drivers took their vehicles on a slow procession through Seattle neighborhoods today to call for better working conditions at Uber and Lyft. Drivers ended their caravan at Seattle City Hall where they delivered their demands to City officials for fair pay, a due process to appeal deactivations, and a voice.
“We are tired of seeing Uber and Lyft siphon off bigger and bigger percentages of what riders pay,” said Fasil Teka, an Uber driver of 7 years. “It’s time for the City to ensure that drivers have the same rights as all workers in Seattle.”
"It’s time for the City to ensure that drivers have the same rights as all workers in Seattle."
Embarking from the Masjid al-Taqwa mosque in Seattle’s Central District, drivers honked their horns and displayed signs on their vehicles that read, “Share the fare!” and “Uber and Lyft: Listen to your drivers!” The caravan wove through the heart of the city, from the Central District to Capitol Hill and downtown Seattle, neighborhoods with some of the greatest concentrations of ride hail customers.
“We are asking our customers to stand with us in our effort to win fair pay and a voice,” said Lyft driver, Mohamed Sharif. “When drivers are paid a living wage and can stand together to improve driver and passenger safety, our local economy and the entire community benefits.”