Richmond Bus Drivers Stage Unsanctioned Slowdown

2221164537_5d2466a4afBus drivers for the Greater Richmond Transit Company in Virginia reportedly carried out an unsanctioned work action earlier this week. Drivers are angry that they aren’t seeing the raises they were promised.

Drivers are refusing to work overtime and calling in sick. Earlier this week, the runs from Church Hill to Downtown were delayed by three hours.

GRTC and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1220 reached a contract on July 31st, but workers still aren’t seeing the benefits. The contract calls for a pay increase of $1.10 an hour for drivers over the next three years. This pittance can hardly be called a raise and doesn’t keep up with the cost of living. GRTC hasn’t told their employees exactly when they will implement the pay raise.

Union President Frank Tunstall III has acknowledged that some drivers were upset about the slow implementation of the raise. While GRTC is denying that a work slowdown by the drivers took place, Tunstall has admitted that the protests are happening. The slowdown isn’t sanctioned by the union.

Tunstall, like a typical union bureaucrat, has been trying to convince the drivers to end their slowdown because it is against the agreement of their new contract. However, one driver told the Richmond Free Press that the actions will continue “until we get our money.”

The entire local media, with the exception of the Richmond Free Press, ignored the action. The media is probably working with the local government to prevent a wave of wildcat strikes and unsanctioned actions by city workers. The GRTC slowdown comes on the heels of the wildcat strike by city sanitation workers last month. It is clear that officials from the city and surrounding counties are intentionally mismanaging public services so they can privatize them or hire workers from an employment agency to work for less money.

Even police officers, firefighters, and teachers have complained about their pay to the media and Richmond City Council throughout the course of the past year. Those who can get job offers in other areas aren’t hesitating to pack up their bags and leave town. Last year, a firefighter told City Council that one of his friends was offered a better position in Detroit and he took it! It should speak volumes that a broken, decaying city like Detroit is making better offers to its employees than Richmond.

Spread the news of the slowdown as widely as possible, especially among employees of the Richmond government. The workers don’t need the union, the bosses, or the politicians to tell them what is in their best interests. The future salvation of the working-class will come from their own actions and their own, independent committees, and not the bureaucratic or political class.

Editorial: Norfolk’s corporate-welfare outrage – Richmond Times-Dispatch: OUR OPINION

Some Richmond residents have questioned the wisdom of the city’s public subsidies for private enterprises, from the Washington Redskins to Stone Brewing Company. They might break their jaws on the floor if they lived in Norfolk.

We’ve already noted the city’s outlays for its light-rail project, The Tide, which has the dubious distinction of spending more tax dollars per passenger trip — more than $6.50 — than any comparable transit system in the country.

Yet at least that money is being spent for a public purpose. Not so for the hefty sums the city is shelling out for a new hotel and conference center.

How hefty? Try more than $100 million.

Click here to read the rest of this article on its original website.

Corrupt Politician Wants Pay Raise

Council President Mosby’s official photo from city website

Richmond, Virginia City Council President Michelle Mosby introduced legislation this week that calls for $5,000 of the taxpayers’ money to investigate whether or not city council members are paid enough.

An investigative committee would be appointed by city council to ascertain whether members are paid enough “in light of the amount of time they spend attending meetings and otherwise representing their constituents.”

Virginia state law caps the amount of money council members can make based on a city’s population. The largest city, Virginia Beach, pays its council members $28,000. Richmond councilmen make $25,000, the maximum allowed for a city of its size. Mosby, as council president, makes $27,000.

There are no regulations on how much elected officials from a county can be paid. In Fairfax County, members of the county board of supervisors make $75,000.

Mosby wants the committee to have a report by November 2nd so that Richmond City Council can suggest new legislation to the Virginia General Assembly that would allow for a pay raise.

Mosby is hoping to form a a committee that consists of two members of the “business community,” four voters, and three representatives from local colleges.

Councilman Jonathan Baliles has publicly expressed his reluctance towards the proposed study.

“I am hesitant to support this review commission for increasing compensation,” said Baliles of the 1st District. “I don’t think any recommendations should take effect until the November 2020 elections.”

Then again, Baliles doesn’t need a pay raise because, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, he received significantly more campaign donations from wealthy people in the area than Mosby. Baliles has over $30,000 cash on hand, while Mosby only has a little more than $2,000. If you think Baliles is somehow a good guy representing the interests of regular people, then follow the money and think again.

Why Mosby desires input from the business community is unclear considering most of the council members also run their own businesses. Mosby owns a hair salon, former council president Charles Samuels has his law firm, and councilwoman Reva Trammel owns her own business as well. Clearly this legislation already has input from the business community, and was drawn up by and for the business community!

Every member of city council is either retired or has another job. Given that Richmond has the same poverty rate as Detroit, council members are clearly making significantly more than the average person in this city. Whenever working-class people want a raise, or better safety nets so they don’t end up in severe financial strife, the politicians insult us and make it clear they don’t care. So why should we care about them?

That $5,000 would be better spent investigating whether or not working-class people in this city need a raise! Perhaps city council should launch a crusade to increase the pay of the city sanitation workers that went on strike earlier this month.

At a time when schools in Richmond are in desperate need of money and the homeless shelter system is inadequate, spending $5,000 on a frivolous study is just irresponsible, if not outright corrupt. Elected officials ought to make the same as the average working-class person in their area, and they should be directly recallable by their constituents at any minute.

Highway Robbery in Northern Virginia as Tolls Rise

I-95-signCommuters in northern Virginia are expressing outrage over road tolls as high as $6.65 for the new 95 Express lanes.  Although their website mentions fares up to 80 cents per mile, operating company Transurban has confirmed that they have charged commuters over $6 just to drive for one mile on the new Express lanes.

“There’s no reason I should have to pay that when they advertise between 20 cents a mile and 80 cents a mile approximately,” commuter Daniel Seymour told CBS. Seymour travels from Spotsylvania to northern Virginia for work every day.

Traffic on I-95 has become unbearable. It isn’t uncommon for commuters to be stuck in traffic that takes a half hour just to get five miles up the road.

Transurban’s contract with Virginia states that they must keep traffic at a constant 55 miles per hour on their toll roads in order to relieve the congestion that has plagued the Washington DC metro area for a very long time. The company attempts to keep traffic moving at a steady speed by increasing or decreasing the toll depending on the volume of traffic. However, there is no cap on how high they can raise the toll.

Working-class people suffer the most from the privatization of roads and the tolls that come along with it. This is just another regressive tax that workers have to pay, another tithe they have no choice but to give to big business.

VDOT says it needs $12.1 billion to maintain I-95 over the next 25 years, but corporate tax loopholes cause Virginia to lose $12.5 billion in tax revenue every year. 60% of corporations don’t pay taxes in Virginia because of these loopholes, but they are more than happy to impose taxes and fees on regular people through road tolls.

JCPenney Employee Sent Home for ‘Revealing’ Shorts, Quits

Stoel’s outfit, taken from Twitter

The story of a JCPenney employee from Sioux Falls, S.D. has been making rounds in the media lately. Sylva Stoel, 17, was sent home from work for reportedly wearing shorts that were “too revealing.”

“Boss sent me home for wearing ‘too revealing’ shorts that I bought from the store I work at in the career section,” Stoel said on Twitter.

She was at work for all of ten minutes before her manager approached her and asked if nobody had discussed the dress code with her during orientation. She was given the option to go home and change, but she decided to quit instead.

“They never said ‘no shorts’ at orientation. I never even got a handbook or anything,” Stoel told People Magazine.

While writing this, I called one of the JCPenney locations here in Richmond and asked if new employees are generally given an employee handbook. The answer was no.

Stoel says male employees would constantly violate the dress code without any consequences, and is shedding light on this policy as part of a wider criticism of sexist dress code practices.

While highlighting and working to combat sexism in the workplace, school, and anywhere else is important, we often overlook other factors at play. Young workers often have targets placed on their back by older colleagues or managers, and have to deal with everything from bullying to lopsided enforcement of the rules. Ageism is just as common as sexism, yet we refuse to talk about it.

The fact that JCPenney doesn’t give its employees a handbook is itself telling. Often management will try to keep workers in the dark about company policy by not issuing handbooks to certain individuals. In this case, they’re trying to keep everyone unaware of the policies. This makes it easier to fire or discipline employees in order to keep their workers docile and submissive, and to ensure a high turnover rate so that their employees won’t start demanding better pay or promotions. That is how the corporate world works.

My advice to young workers, or anyone else wanting to save their skin, is to request a copy of the company policies when you start working.

Capital One to Layoff Thousands of Workers

Capital One recently announced their plans for massive layoffs throughout the country. Workers in Virginia, Oregon, and South Dakota will be losing their jobs within two to three months.

The company hasn’t said how many people would lose their jobs, only that they will be closing down their offices in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Tigard, Oregon. Local news stations are reporting that 750 people in Sioux Falls and 900 people in Tigard will lose their jobs as a result. Reports suggest that their Richmond, Virginia office will remain open for business, but with less employees.

It is important to note that Tigard is in the Portland metro area and Capital One is one of its biggest employers. It is also the largest private sector employer in Richmond.

“We are transforming our Tech organization with a focus on engineering and simplifying the way we work,” the company said in a statement explaining the layoffs. What, exactly, this business-speak means is unclear, but our experts believe it translates to, “Although it isn’t necessarily an easier way to run our operations, it is cheaper and means bigger profits for our executives, so we’ll be doing it.”

Company officials are citing the inability to fill their positions as one of the reasons they’re leaving Sioux Falls, as if we haven’t heard such lies before.

“We’re obviously very disappointed but in a healthy economy these things happen,” said Pat Costello of the South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development. He is right, in a healthy economy workers will lose their jobs and see their pay decrease because that is how capitalists make their profits. To the rich and powerful who run the businesses that is healthy.

Capital One workers would do well to realize that they don’t share any interests in common with their employer. Their idea of a “recovery” and a “healthy” economy is clearly one where regular people struggle to meet their basic needs while the rich get richer at our expense.

Capital One workers should form committees and engage in a prolonged wildcat strike until the bosses agree to end the layoffs. Workers in places where the offices have been closed permanently should occupy them and either demand collective ownership of the building and equipment so they can keep working, or obstruct the removal of company equipment and supplies from the office in order to win their jobs back. What do they have to lose?

Child Poverty Rate Higher than Height of Recession

The child poverty rate is higher now than it was during the height of the “Great Recession” according to a report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Around 22% of American children live below the poverty line as of 2013, an increase from 18% in 2008. One in four children, or 18.7 million kids, are a part of families that live below the poverty line.

“It’s a much bigger issue that’s happening relating to residential segregation, the cost of housing and other factors,” said a spokeswoman for the nonprofit.

Child poverty plagues the African-American and Native American communities the most, according to the report’s findings.

It’s important to remember that the rich people who run the country were claiming there was a recovery in 2013 as well, and yet more children lived in poverty in a “recovery” year. This is what their idea of a “recovery” looks like. The poorer the working-class is, the easier it will be to make us work for lower wages, make us fall victim to loan sharks, or put us in jail. The problem isn’t a recession or poverty, the problem is capitalism.