Saturday, October 25, 2014

Local 6 strike: Waste Management bosses made $165 million between them.

Between them all, Waste management's bosses made $165 million in 6 years.


by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

Waste Management is a huge corporation. It is North America’s leading provider of waste and environmental services.  According to PR Watch, “In 2012, Waste Management generated $13.65 billion in total operating revenue. Approximately 50 percent of this revenue comes from taxpayers in thousands of municipalities across the country, according to Goldman Sachs.”

We can see what it’s primary goals are when we go to its website.  Its Primary objective, Waste Management says of itself, is to, “Maximize stockholder value”. Of course it says it does that within the law. But that doesn’t mean much does it.  Laws are written for corporations and laws are violated all the time.  After all, racial discrimination is against the law in the US. So it doesn’t happen here. Does it? So all this talk of Green Business and all that is just nonsense.

Let’s look who are on the board of this huge corporation.

Robert Reum.  Robert we are told is the “non-executive” chairman of Waste Management and is also the President and CEO of Amstead Industries a huge manufacturer involved with steel production among other things. It is #129 on Forbes list of America’s largest private companies.

Then there’s David Steiner.  Steiner is also director of Tyco Electronics Corporation and FedEx Corporation. Fed-Ex, is the company that has been at war with its workers, claiming they are individual entrepreneurs as opposed to employees so they would be denied the rights workers have won over the years. Steiner says Waste Management’s model is to save the planet while generating profit. “Extracting Value from Waste.” is a term he uses.  He does not mention that value, or surplus value to be more precise, comes from the worker.  And he has 45,000 of them.  “U.S. taxpayer dollars contribute to making Steiner ‘America's Highest Paid Sanitation Worker.’ According to PR Watch “Steiner made an eye-popping $45,581,052 in compensation from 2006 to 2012. Waste Management's top executives combined made $119,201,381 from 2006 to 2012. So

Patrick Gross. Patrick is another private investor, moneylender and chairman of the Lovell Group, Capital One and other entities.

Bradbury H. Anderson Brad is the CEO of Best Buy and earned a meager $10 million over a 5 year period.  Not bad.

Frank M. Clark, Jr.  Frank has held a few CEO and Executive VP positions for energy outfits, notably ComEd and Exelon a “utility Holding Company” according to Forbes.  He is hard up I’m sure only earning a little over $2.6 million in 2011.

Vicki Holt is the CEO of Proto Labs with six factories in the US, Europe and Japan.  As a woman among a milieu that contains some of the most ruthless characters around, you know she’ll have to be competitive and tough when Maximizing shareholder value.

Thomas H. Weidemeyer is the former Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of United Parcel Service, Inc. and President of UPS Airlines. He also sits on the board of Amstead industries with his buddy Robert. He is also sits on the board of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. He owns 21,030 of Waste Management’s shares according to Forbes.

John C “Jack” Pope. According to the WM website, Jack Pope has served as chairman of the board of PFI Group, a private investment firm since July 1994. Mr. Pope is currently a director of Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group, Inc., R.R. Donnelley & Sons, Co., Kraft Foods, Inc. and Con-way, Inc.”

These are the people that sit atop a corporation, Waste Management, that has some of its most exploited workers out on strike. These workers are on about $12 an hour.  We should note that all these types are interlinked.  They all sit on each others boards making the rounds.  They belong to the same clubs and frequent the same circles.  They went to the same schools and marry each others sons and daughters.  They are the modern equivalent of the feudal aristocracy.  We know them as capitalists. They do not earn their money as they do no work.  They live off the profit of capital, off the backs of the workers like those in the video above.

These are the people the brothers and sisters (and all of us as customers and workers) are up against.  Some are Democrats, some are Republicans but they are all big capitalists and function only to make profit whether it is through throwing capital in to kraft cheeses or disposing of society’s waste. They all have one other thing in common; they hate unions and want to keep wages low. They want to shift the burden of benefits on to the taxpayer and pay as little tax as possible.The love America as long as this exploitative set up can be made here. They love the gravy train.

The truck drivers at waste Management are in the Teamsters union.  Yesterday Teamster officials were there to ensure their members drove through the picket lines.  In other words, took action that helped undermine the strike, increased the suffering of the workers on the lines and increased the chance of a victory for the multi-millionaires mentioned above.

As one can see from the video, the strikers are still fairly upbeat but one wonders how
Underpaid, overworked and disrespected
long this will last.  As most of us know, strikes these days are not so much about shutting down production but are more like 24 hour protests. There is no effort in this strike or most others to actually prevent scabs from entering, to shut down production.  If we don’t shut down production, we can’t win. We can't stay on lines forever, especially as our medical benefits are taken from us if we do. Another reason for a national health system.

I recall the San Francisco hotel strike ten years ago when the bosses’ locked out thousands of workers. if I recall correctly the union leadership took the members out for a short period as means of intimidating the boss.  Then they decided it was time to go back to work but the hotel bosses wouldn’t let them and locked them out.  Outside the hotels the union leadership had put tape to mark the area where pickets could walk up and down. The tape ended at the hotel entrance and continued past it so that the scabs were not impeded in any way.  The union leadership, the hotel and the police had agreed to this a cop told me.  In other words, the constitutional right to picket was voluntarily given up.  Many of the workers were new immigrants and I recall telling them that they have a constitutional right to walk back and forth in front of the door; they thought it was illegal.

Initially the hotel workers were upbeat. It’s a natural high to be with hundreds or thousands of co-workers engaged in struggle against the bosses for a decent life, even just to defend what we have.  Class unity is a good thing, it places front and center the real as opposed to the imagined enemies, fosters those moments when the dog-eat-dog world of the market and competition is put on the back burner, at least temporarily. But workers can’t stay on picket lines forever. Inspiration and solidarity can turn to its opposite if we do not emerge victorious even small gains through struggle and unity.

In the Waste Management dispute above, if the Teamsters were to pull their members off the job, and the Machinists walked out as well, as workers told me they were crossing, the bosses would not feel so confident. It would galvanize the Local 6 members and increase solidarity and unity on the job. It would strengthen unionism.

The average worker knows better, knows that crossing each others lines at times like these is tantamount to heresy, weakens us all and aids the boss. I asked a number of workers on the picket line if they knew why the Teamster drivers were not honoring the lines.  They didn’t know.  So I told them with the aide of a translator.

Like most workers, not just recent immigrants, they were not familiar with the AFL-CIO or its state and county bodies.  They were not aware that their union, the ILWU was no longer affiliated to it.  It was this bureaucratic maze that was preventing Teamster drivers from honoring their lines. I could see in the faces of the drivers, that they were going against their gut feelings; they didn't like crossing.

As I told one AFL-CIO representative yesterday who said the Labor Council hoped the strikers were successful, “Hope doesn’t pay the rent”.  And it’s common sense that to win the hearts and minds of the workers on strike at Waste Management, pulling the Teamsters off the job would do it.  Helping these workers win would do it.

While I have explained my views on why the labor leadership takes the disastrous road that they do (It’s not simply corruption as many argue) and that leadership is ultimately responsible, even when they apply stupid bureaucratic measures like affiliation to one body or another, we rank and file members of unions have a responsibility to involve ourselves in the struggle to change the course of our organizations. We cannot afford the luxury of not being involved in our unions and we must openly challenge the present leadership’s concessionary policies. We must wage a struggle for the consciousness of our own co-workers and for the consciousness of the working class as a whole.

The present leadership’s strategy is concessions and the idea that workers and bosses’ have the same economic interests (known as the Team Concept). Rank and file members must build opposition caucuses around an opposite approach.  An offensive of our own must be built based on opposition to all cuts and for increased wages, benefits holidays etc.  We must reject the idea that society cannot afford decent wages or a decent life for all.  Jobs must be high on the agenda, something that can be helped by implementing a shorter workweek with no loss in pay.  We must draw the rank and file member in to activity based on demands that meet our real needs and a direct action strategy for winning them. And that would include not allowing bureaucratic red tape within the unions or the bosses anti-union laws  preventing unity between workers at all times whether union or non-union.

In this instance, when we tally up the combined wealth of the folks who sit on the board of Waste Management it’s pretty obvious the company can afford to pay these brothers and sisters more money.  But there is another important issue here  and that is an important social service like waste management should not be in private hands.  Should not be based on maximizing shareholder value.  A first step to actually improving how we handle our waste would be taking the management of it under public ownership.

An appeal to Teamsters at waste Management.  Demand your leaders pull you off the job or organize to walk off collectively together.  The paid officials don’t have to deal with the animosity and tension that exists in a workplace due to policies they are applying here. 

East Bay Unions and the Teamsters.

Defend Local 6 members at Waste Management
Teamsters/Mechanics don’t cross.
Alameda Central Labor Council  and all East Bay unions, organize mass pickets to shut Waste Management down.
No to for-profit waste management make it a public service publicly owned

No comments: