GM Strike Ends

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After a 40-day strike, a new four-year deal between the United Auto Workers and General Motors was approved.  The contract was supported by 57% of the labor union. It includes an $11,000 bonus per member, annual raises and more affordable healthcare. General Motors still plans to close three factories in the United States.

The United Auto Workers union emerged with substantial wage increases of 3 percent in the second and fourth years and 4 percent lump sum payments in the first and third years, similar to what the union obtained in 2015.  Even larger gains are in store for those in a category called “in progression,” the lower scale of a two-tier wage system negotiated in 2007 when the Detroit automakers were financially reeling.

Workers hired after that date, about a third of the overall work force, started at about half the pay of veteran employees and had no prospect of reaching the top wage, currently $31 an hour. Over the course of the new contract, the disparity will be phased out, and those with four years’ experience will rise along with more senior workers to the new top level of $32 an hour.  In addition to pay increases, G.M. workers will get bonuses of $11,000 for ratifying the contract. They will continue to pay 3 percent of their cost of health care, well below the percentage that G.M.’s salaried workers contribute.

There were also rewards for temporary workers, about 7 percent of G.M.’s union work force, who will have a path to permanent employment after three years. About 900 of them will become full employees in January, the union said, and 2,000 more by 2021.

It also won commitments to new G.M. investments in United States factories.  As part of the new contract, the company pledged to invest $7.7 billion in its United States plants, and another $1.3 billion in ventures with partners, providing a measure of job security. G.M. will put $3 billion toward overhauling the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, which had been scheduled to close in January. Three-quarters of the 700 workers there voted in favor of the contract.

At the same time, the agreement allows G.M. to close three idled factories permanently, including one in Lordstown, Ohio, eliminating excess manufacturing capacity at a time when auto sales are slowing. It also puts the company in a more stable position if the economy goes into a recession.  The closing of the Lordstown plant was one of the main sticking points for some workers voting against the contract. “We did everything that G.M. ever asked of us at times of concessions,” said Bill Goodchild, a member of Local 1112 in Lordstown. “We feel we deserve a product.”

About 48,000 United Auto workers walked off the job over one month ago, making it the longest national strike at GM by United Auto Workers in nearly 50 years.  The contract finally ends a strike that many estimate has cost GM $1.75 billion in losses.  “We delivered a contract that recognizes our employees for the important contributions they make to the overall success of the company,” G.M.’s chief executive, Mary T. Barra, said in a statement.

 

 

Bodies of 39 People Found in Tractor Trailer in England

 

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Britain police launched one of the largest murder investigations in decades after the bodies of 39 people were discovered in the back of a tractor-trailer at an industrial park east of London.  Emergency services were called to an industrial park in the town of Grays in Essex, 20 miles east of London, at around 1:40 a.m. local time when the vehicle was discovered to have people inside. Thirty-nine people were pronounced dead at the scene.

The victims were found in the refrigerator unit inside the truck.  Police confirmed that there were 8 women and 31 men inside the truck.  The Essex police department said it was not immediately clear if the victims froze to death or suffocated.  A police spokesperson said the truck had a Bulgarian license plate and entered the U.K. in Holyhead, Wales on October 19th.  Holyhead is one of the busiest ferry ports in the area with primary service to Ireland. Authorities called such a route into the U.K. “unusual.”

Investigators believe the refrigerated trailer started its deadly journey in Zeebrugge, Belgium to Purfleet, England, where it arrived early Wednesday. Police believe it the tractor traveled from Northern Ireland to Dublin, where it took a ferry to Holyhead in Wales before picking up the trailer at the dockside in England.  They have also suggested that two different trucks pulled the semitrailer at different times though it is not clear when the 39 people entered the refrigerated trailer.

Soon after, UK police have charged a 25 year old truck driver with 39 counts of manslaughter and conspiracy to traffic people in connection with 39 deaths in the back of the truck he was driving in southeastern England.  Police say Maurice Robinson, 25, of Craigavon, Northern Ireland.  He was the first of five people arrested in what is seen as one of the U.K.’s biggest cases of human trafficking.

U.K. police are struggling to identify the victims and said that very few documents were found inside the truck.  Authorities said the task is likely to be difficult since human traffickers normally take the passports of their passengers to obscure their identities, stripping them of their names and giving them new documents when they arrive at their destinations.  The victims are believed to have come from Asia and autopsies are being performed.

U.K. police say they’ve been in contact with Vietnamese authorities, even though they are not yet certain of the identities of those found dead in the refrigerated truck. The Vietnamese Embassy in London has set up a hotline for families to call about missing family members.  The Vietnamese government has also announced its own investigation into the deaths.  “The Embassy has sent a team led by the minister-counsellor in charge of consular affairs to Essex, England. They have met with the local police in an effort to verify the identity of the deceased, whose nationality still cannot be confirmed,” according to a statement from an embassy spokesperson.

Each year thousands of migrants die attempting to cross into Europe. Many sink to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea without a trace. Others die on land and mountain routes. The International Organization for Migration estimates that 4,503 people are known to have died worldwide in 2018, with the highest number perishing in the Mediterranean Sea.

 

 

 

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UAW Striker Killed in Tennessee

 

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As the GM strike continues, picketers received some bad news from Tennessee.  A striking United Auto Worker union member was hit by a car and killed outside the General Motors plant in Spring Hill where workers were maintaining an active picket line. The UAW said in a statement that 55-year-old union member Roy McCombs “tragically lost his life today on a picket line standing up for a better life for himself and his coworkers.”

McCombs was hit on a bridge outside the GM plant as he was crossing the road to get to the picket line around 6 am.  McCombs was transported to a hospital and pronounced dead in the emergency room, said Lt. Jeremy Haywood of the Columbia police department in Columbia, Tennessee.  The driver who hit McCombs was cooperating with investigators.

Local 1853 Chairman Mike Herron said, “Sergeant Orlando Cox from the Columbia Police Dept. will be releasing a statement shortly that will describe this event as an innocent tragic accident. He has asked that everyone refrain from going to the South Gate for safety reasons. He requested that any vigils be held at our union hall and not in the vicinity of this accident — to ensure the safety of the participants.”

Herron said the UAW local sends thoughts and prayers to McCombs’ family as well as the driver, “who was on her way to drop off her kids at the day care center located at the south exit when this tragic accident occurred.”  All strike activity has ended at the South Gate of the plant and no pickets will be set up there in the future, Herron said. Also, the UAW crisis team has been called in and will meet personally with UAW members that were on the South Gate at the time of the accident as well as McCombs’ coworkers on the third shift.

UAW members at Spring Hill have taken part in picketing as part of the union’s nationwide strike against GM since Sept. 16 though it’s been contentious from the start.  Maury County sheriff’s deputies in Tennessee had arrested nine protesters on Sept. 18 when they refused to stop blocking the south entrance to the plant. A 10th arrest came when someone drove recklessly through plant’s entrance, sheriff’s officials said.

A court in Tennessee granted GM’s request to prevent UAW picketers from blocking the entrance to the factory.  The order was in effect until Oct. 8. It followed several arrests at the plant since GM’s 46,000 UAW workers went on strike.  “After dialogue failed to stop the incidents of harassment, violence and vandalism by a few people, we had to take necessary actions to protect everyone involved,” GM said at the time.  The order barred the UAW and its members from blocking entrances, detaining vehicles, creating obstructions on roadways or “assaulting, intimidating, falsely imprisoning, harassing or destroying the property of GM employees” and others at the plant.

 

 

 

Fort Worth Officer Charged With Murder

 

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Fort Worth, Texas Police Officer Aaron Dean, 34, has been arrested and charged with murder after he shot and killed a 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson inside her own home.  Aaron Dean was booked into the Tarrant County Corrections Center and later released on a $200,000 bond, according to jail officials.  The arrest came just hours after Dean’s resignation from the police force. Dean, who joined the department in April 2018, still faces possible civil rights violations, Kraus said.

Interim police Chief Ed Kraus said during a press conference earlier that he intended to end Officer Aaron Dean’s employment, but that Dean tendered his resignation first.  Had the officer not resigned, I would have fired him for violations for several policies, including our use of force policy, our de-escalation policy and unprofessional conduct.  Dean was initially placed on administrative leave after he shot Jefferson to death but he has not been cooperating with investigators in the case, Kraus said.

Officer Dean was responding to a non-emergency call from a neighbor for a wellness check after the neighbor saw Jefferson’s front door was open.  Jefferson was playing video games with her 8 year old nephew early Saturday morning just minutes before she was killed.  Body camera shows that when police arrived, Dean shined a flashlight through Jefferson’s window and yelled, “Put your hands up — show me your hands,” before firing a single shot at Jefferson seconds later.  He never identified himself as a police officer.

Police Chief Kraus said he doesn’t know what, exactly, led Dean to open fire.  “I cannot make sense of why she had to lose her life.” The chief said Dean resigned without talking to internal affairs investigators.  The video included images of a gun inside a bedroom. Kraus said he did not know whether Jefferson was holding the weapon. But he said the mere fact she had a gun shouldn’t be considered unusual in Texas.  “We’re homeowners in Texas,” the police chief said. “Most of us, if we thought we had somebody outside our house that shouldn’t be and we had access to a firearm, we would be acting very similarly to how she was acting.” Kraus said that, in hindsight, releasing the images of the weapon was “a bad thing to do.”

Jefferson was staying at her mother’s house in Fort Worth to help her recover from an injury when the shooting happened at about 2:25 a.m.   A lawyer for Jefferson’s family, Lee Merritt, said her relatives were “relieved” over the arrest.  Merritt said that on the night of the shooting she had been playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew and lost track of time. Earlier that night, he said, the family had opened the front door to allow crisp fall air inside to cool down the house.  “We need to see this through to a vigorous prosecution & appropriate sentencing,” he tweeted. “The City of Fort Worth has much work to do to reform a brutal culture of policing.”

In a separate news conference earlier Monday, Jefferson’s family demanded an outside investigation into her death.  “This man murdered someone,” Darius Carr, Jefferson’s brother, told reporters.  Jefferson was “simply going on along with her life, living a law-abiding citizen’s peaceful life, and she was killed by a reckless act of a Fort Worth police officer,” an older sister, Ashley Carr, said. “There is simply no justification for his actions.”  Police Chief Kraus brought the case to the Texas Rangers, who he said were not inclined to take it up at that point, and to the FBI, which did not immediately say whether it would review it.

 

 

Man Charged With Murder of 4 Homeless Men

 

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A suspect has been arrested after four homeless men were killed and one was critically injured when they were attacked in New York City early Saturday morning.  Police said Randy Rodriguez-Santos, 24, who is homeless, wielded a 15-pound metal pipe and apparently attacked the men randomly as they slept on the sidewalks of Lower Manhattan’s Chinatown.  Santos is reportedly also homeless and has struggled with addiction.  He is charged with four counts of murder, one count of attempted murder and unlawful possession of marijuana.

Police responded to reports of an assault in progress at Doyers Street and Bowery around 2:10 a.m. and found two men with head wounds. One victim was pronounced dead at the scene and another was taken to the hospital in critical condition.  Over the next hour, police discovered additional victims in the area, two men were found outside of 2 East Broadway and another was found outside of 17 East Broadway.

Two witnesses told responding officers that the suspect was wearing a black jacket and black pants, which helped police find him quickly just a few streets away.  Rodriguez-Santos was apprehended a few blocks from the scene of the attacks and the weapon was recovered nearby.  The attacks left blood splattered on the doorways and sidewalks where the men had been sleeping.

The victims, whose ages range from 48 to 83, were bludgeoned as they slept on the street.  Three of the four men killed were identified Monday, as lawmakers and mourners gathered at an emotional memorial for the men at Chatham Square.  Several sidewalk tributes of flowers, candles and food were placed for the men who were allegedly killed by another homeless man as they slept.  One of the mourners cried as she recalled the oldest victim, 83-year-old Chuen Kwok, always being grateful for the food she gave him.  New York State assembly woman Yuh-Line Niou choked back tears as she spoke on the mens’ deaths. “If the change isn’t now, after this, I don’t know when it is.”

The medical examiner’s office later confirmed his identity and those of two other victims: 55-year-old Nazario Vazquez Villegas and 49-year-old Anthony Manson.  Santos was arraigned on charges of murder and attempted murder for the bloody rampage. He did not enter a plea and was ordered held without bail.  Police officials said Santos has been arrested 14 times, some of those for assault, including one in May for an alleged assault at a Brooklyn homeless shelter.

The suspect’s mother, Fioraliza Rodriguez, 55, told news outlets she had kicked him out about three years ago. He struggled with drugs, assaulted her and his grandfather, and stole from the family, she said.  “I never thought he would kill someone,” she said. “I was afraid of him, though, because he punched me. That’s when I told him to get out of my house.”

New Book Reveals Details of Incident That Got Matt Lauer Fired

 

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A new book offers chilling details about an incident that led NBC to fire “Today Show” host Matt Lauer in 2017. Journalist Ronan Farrow wrote in his new book, “Catch and Kill,” that Lauer raped NBC producer Brooke Nevils in a hotel room in Sochi, Russia, in 2014, as they covered the Winter Olympics.  Nevils called the incident “excruciatingly painful”.  We now know it was Nevils’ detailed complaint that led to Lauer’s firing a mere 24 hours of it being filed.  She also described inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace occurring throughout 2014.  News of his firing led to multiple other women coming forward with accusations against Lauer.

Farrow says that he spent years reporting and fact-checking the claims made in his book.  What he found goes against NBC’s statement of not having prior knowledge of Lauer’s behavior before the complaint that led to his firing.   He said years before Lauer’s 2017 firing, over a six to seven year period, there were seven non-disclosure agreements at the network, multiple of which involved Lauer.  Farrow said there were multiple secret settlements and non-disclosures being struck with women at NBC News.

In a letter provided by his lawyer, Lauer denied Nevils’ allegation and painted the picture of an accusation full of contradictions. He said he has shied away until now from speaking out on the “false and salacious allegations” against him to protect his children.  “I have never assaulted anyone or forced anyone to have sex. Period,” Lauer wrote. “My silence has been a mistake. Old stories are being recycled, titillating details are being added, and a dangerous and defamatory new allegation is being made. All are being spread as part of a promotional effort to sell a book. It’s outrageous. So, after not speaking out to protect my children, it is now with their full support I say ‘enough.”

NBC News Chairman Andy Lack reiterated the findings of the company’s investigation, which found that the company’s leadership and management were not aware of Lauer conduct prior to Nevils’ meeting with human resources.  “Any suggestion that we knew prior to that evening or tried to cover up any aspect of Lauer’s conduct is absolutely false and offensive,” Lack wrote.

After Lauer’s 2017 termination, it was reported that there were multiple incidents of alleged sexual harassment, including that Lauer allegedly gave a colleague a sex toy as a gift and told her he wanted to use it on her. Another woman alleged that Lauer once dropped his pants in front of her in his office and “reprimanded her for not engaging in a sexual act.” Lauer reportedly had a “button under his desk that allowed him to lock his door from the inside without getting up,” two accusers told the outlet.  Lauer also sent “lewd messages and revealing pictures” to multiple women, including Nevils.  The messages showed proof of inappropriate sexual behavior on his part.  NBC also received multiple complaints against Lauer after his firing, including one from an ex-employee who alleges that the former anchor summoned her to his office in 2001 and then had sex with her.

Lauer has maintained that while he had extramarital affairs, all the encounters were consensual.  Farrow’s book also says Nevils went on medical leave in 2018 before being paid seven figures and that NBC “proposed a script she would have to read, suggesting that she had left to pursue other endeavors, that she was treated well, and that NBC News was a positive example of sexual harassment.”

 

 

Coast Guard Lieutenant Pleads Guilty To Drug & Weapons Charges

 

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In Maryland, a self-described white nationalist Coast Guard lieutenant pleaded guilty to four federal weapons and drugs charges, after investigators uncovered his plot to kill high-profile liberal figures, including Democratic lawmakers, media personalities and judges. Fifty-year-old Christopher Hasson was arrested with a stockpile of 15 guns and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition, after he used his work computer at the Coast Guard to read the manifestos of mass killers and to research sniper attacks.

Hasson worked as an acquisitions officer and was arrested at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington in February. Investigators said they found 15 firearms, two homemade silencers and more 1,000 rounds of ammunition in his Maryland home, as well as at least 100 pills of the painkiller Tramadol and more than 30 bottles of purported human growth hormone.  Two of the four counts in Hasson’s indictment charged him with illegally possessing unregistered and unserialized silencers. He also was charged with possession of a firearm by an unlawful user or addict of a controlled substance, and illegal possession of tramadol, an opioid painkiller.

Inspired by the manifesto of Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, Hasson spent hours researching the tactics of domestic terrorists, prosecutors said. “I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on earth,” he wrote on his computer, saying he would “have to take serious look at appropriate individual targets, to bring the greatest impact.”  Among the targets on a list found on Hasson’s computer were Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes and Democratic Senator Kamala Harris.  Hasson also targeted two Supreme Court justices and two social media company executives and searched online for their home addresses in March 2018, within minutes of searching firearm sales websites, according to prosecutors.  Prosecutors wrote that the former Marine considered them “traitors.”

In a 2017 letter he sent to himself as a draft and apparently wrote to a neo-Nazi leader, Hasson identified himself as a white nationalist for over 30 years and “advocated for ‘focused violence’ in order to establish a white homeland,” prosecutors said.  He researched how to make homemade bombs and mortars, studied sniper training and used his government computer to search for information about Nazis and Adolf Hitler, prosecutors said.

Federal prosecutors did not file terrorism charges against Hasson.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Windom indicated the government may seek the maximum sentence of up to 31 years in prison at the sentencing hearing scheduled for January 31, 2020.  Hasson’s attorney, Elizabeth Oyer, said she intends to seek a 3.5-year sentence for her client.  Oyer said Hasson “was not plotting a terrorist attack or any of the abhorrent acts that the prosecution has repeatedly speculated about but never actually charged.  Mr. Hasson never meant any harm to anyone. He deeply regrets the pain and embarrassment that he has caused his family and the U.S. Coast Guard”.   Oyer has said prosecutors found no evidence to back up terrorism allegations. She accused them of seeking to punish Hasson for “private thoughts” he never shared.