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.”
On the brink of Uber's Wall Street debut, drivers in Seattle joined protests across the country demanding that Uber & Lyft pay drivers a living wage.
Ride-hail companies Uber and Lyft are pocketing an increasing share from what passengers pay while drivers are earning less, according to a new report released today by the App-Based Drivers Association.
The study – based on analysis of company financial reports, combined with never before released trip-level data collected by local drivers in Seattle – was released at a Driver Speak Out event attended by drivers at the Sea-Tac Airport waiting lot.
“As drivers, we make sure our customers get to their destination safely, and we bear all the costs of car, gas, maintenance, repairs – everything,” said Don Creery, who has been driving for Uber for 5 years. “But over the years Uber has been taking more and more from what passengers pay, and now they’re telling investors they plan to reduce driver pay even further to satisfy shareholders. It’s just not right.”
The Speak Out event was one of more than a dozen driver-led actions in major metropolitan areas happening just ahead of Uber’s highly anticipated debut on Wall Street, which is expected to draw a valuation that could top $100 billion. But, while Uber’s IPO may be poised to mint a new generation of overnight tech millionaires, the data shows that drivers are being paid a declining share of what customers are charged.
When Uber and Lyft first came to Seattle, drivers were paid 80 percent of what riders were charged. Today, on the median trip in Seattle, drivers received just 69 percent, according to the ABDA report. And the more riders pay, the less drivers receive.
On a majority of trips analyzed, riders paid higher prices than advertised non-surge UberX rates. On these high-priced trips, drivers received just 62 percent of rider price – the company take was 38 percent. On some trips, driver pay fell to as little as 32 percent of what customers were charged.
Uber and Lyft’s take rates are high relative to other online marketplace platforms.
Paypal charges users 2.9% plus $0.30. Etsy charges merchants 5% plus a listing fee. Mercari charges sellers 10%. Ebay fees are between 2%-12% of sale price. AirBnB fees for hosts and guests combined range between 3%-23% of listing price.
“Consumers deserve price transparency to know that at least 80 percent of what they pay is shared with their driver, not kept by the company for overhead or profits,” said Peter Kuel of the App-Based Drivers Association, who has been an Uber and Lyft driver for 5 years. “Uber and Lyft should meet the same standards of every other business in town, ensuring that drivers can earn paid sick days and never receive less than a $15 minimum wage after expenses.”
See media coverage of the event:
- SEATTLE TIMES: As Uber and Lyft go public, Seattle drivers getting a smaller share of fares, union analysis says
- KING 5: Uber/Lyft drivers protest pay
- KNKX: Ride-share drivers rally at Sea-Tac over low pay before Uber IPO
- GEEKWIRE: Uber driver protests ahead of IPO spell uncertain future for gig economy
- KIRO 7: Local Uber, Lyft drivers protest low wages as others across country strike
- KOMO 4: Uber, Lyft drivers protest in Seattle, across the US
- KING 5: Seattle Uber, Lyft drivers to protest pay amid nationwide strike
- Q13: Uber, Lyft drivers go on strike to protest low pay, event planned at Sea-Tac Airport
- AL JAZEERA: Uber, Lyft drivers strike in cities worldwide ahead of Uber's IPO
- SEATTLE CHINESE TIMES: 隨著Uber和Lyft上市 司機的工資將會愈來愈少？