Unions

Fleet Memo for April 13 2018

IBU - Mon, 04/16/2018 - 14:16
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Categories: Unions

Fleet Memo for April 5 2018

IBU - Mon, 04/09/2018 - 08:36
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Categories: Unions

PSR Fleet Memo - March 30 2018

IBU - Mon, 04/02/2018 - 16:24
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Categories: Unions

Fleet Memo for March 23 2018

IBU - Mon, 03/26/2018 - 09:51
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Categories: Unions

Local 19 hosts discussion on the ILWU’s Civil Rights History

ILWU - Thu, 03/22/2018 - 16:58

Sharing history: ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams spoke at Local 19’s Education Committee in February.

On February 22, Local 19’s Education Committee hosted a talk on by ILWU International Secretary Treasurer Willie Adams who discussed the ILWU’s Civil Rights history. Approximately 55 people attended the talk at the Local 19 hall.

Adams highlighted the history of the ILWU’s support for Civil Rights in the US and around the world. He also discussed the commitment made to integrate the union by ILWU cofounder Harry Bridges in 1934 to illustrate the historical roots of the ILWU’s commitment to racial equality. He spoke about the ILWU’s support for the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and the refusal by ILWU members to handle South African cargo. He also highlighted the important role of African-Americans within the ILWU,including Local 19’s Frank Jenkins, Local 23’s Ernie Tanner and Local 10’s Cleophas Williams. These men held leadership positions in their locals at a time when many other unions excluded Black workers from union membership. Adams also spoke about the ILWU’s relationship with honorary ILWU member, Dr. Martin Luther King. King who spoke at Local 10 just a few months prior to his assassination in 1968. After his murder, Local 10 members shut down the port to honor his life and protest his death.

Adams said he was excited to present on this topic and that organizing Black History events was one of the first union activities he became involved in when he started working on the waterfront in Tacoma.

“The ILWU continues to support important struggles for racial and\ social justice,” Adams said, noting the union’s recent support for the indigenous struggle at Standing Rock. He also recognized the leadership of emerging young workers in the ILWU. “This generation continues to be the driving force for change,” he said. Adams will be joining in the March 24th “March for Our Lives” event in Washington, DC organized by high school students in the aftermath of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The talk was part of Local 19’s education program. Other recent events have included a presentation by IBU Secretary Treasurer Terri Mast who spoke on the threat posed by anti-union polices, including so called Right-to-Work rules on all of organized labor and steps that could be taken to address that threat.

“These workshops are important because this gives us an opportunity to pass down our rich history and traditions, and make our union stronger by educating the membership,” said Local 19’s Education Committee Chair, Jodi Itman. She said that the events wouldn’t happen without the generous support from the Local 19 membership and the many volunteers on the Education Committee. Future workshops being planned include an introduction to Robert’s Rules of Order, Women on the Waterfront, and a discussion on the beginnings and evolution of the ILWU.

Categories: Unions

ILWU & affiliates support fight by Panama Canal tug captains for jobs, safety & security

ILWU - Thu, 03/22/2018 - 10:29

Outsourcing is not the answer: The Panama Canal Authority wants to outsource tugboat jobs, one of many flawed ideas proposed in recent years.

Union officials in Panama and the United States joined together in early March to criticize plans by the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) that call for outsourcing tugboat operations.

The ILWU International Union and its affiliate, the Panama Canal Pilots Union, joined with the Masters, Mates and Pilots union (MM&P) and their affiliate UCOC, and the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (MEBA) with their Panamanian affiliate UIM – in a show of solidarity for the Panamanian union of tugboat captains (UCOC).

The Tugboat Captains have been waging a battle for at least three years against the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) which is pushing plans to outsource tugboat jobs to an Venezuelan outfit, the Meyers Group. ILWU International Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe attended the meeting along with Alvaro Moreno, General Secretary of the Panama Canal Pilots Union. After union leaders finished their discussions, they issued a joint statement condemning the Canal’s outsourcing plan, noting that it jeopardizes good local jobs, worker safety and security for one of the world’s most strategic waterways.

Canal management has been under pressure to increase the number of large “neo-Panamax” vessels transiting the newly expanded canal from the current 7 per day to 8, because they charge roughly $800,000 for each vessel that transits the canal. Problems with the newly expanded canal have plagued the project from beginning and continue to the present. The winning bid came from a consortium led by a nearly bankrupt Spanish firm that collaborated with a Panamanian company having close ties to former

Canal officials. After winning the construction contract with a low bid of $3.1 billion that was one billion under the competition, the project generated more than $3 billion in disputed charges. The design itself was flawed due to insufficient room for tugs to operate in the narrow locks, a situation that demands the highest-skilled, professional operators.

“The Canal Authority excluded unions from participating in the planning and design process, which led to many bad decisions that continue to this day,” said the pilots’ General Secretary Alvaro Moreno. “The proposal to outsource the tug operation is an example of that approach which will cause even more problems,” he said. International Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe said,” Our International Union stands in solidarity with all these unions that have come together in Panama. Outsourcing has failed in so many places around the world – and usually ends up enriching company officials and private investors at the expense of the public. We’ll continue to watch this issue and offer our solidarity.”

Categories: Unions

Global union campaign wins agreement to help seafarers and dockworkers

ILWU - Thu, 03/22/2018 - 09:59

The ILWU joined a successful effort by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) to win better working conditions for seafarers in an industry that traditionally shunned unions and abused maritime workers. The agreement also protects dockworkers by recognizing their right to perform lashing and other cargo handling duties at ports around the world.

The ITF’s global consortium of unions, including the ILWU, were able to square-off with employers represented by the International Bargaining Forum (IBF) – the shipping industry’s largest employer group. The result is a four-year agreement covering seafarers that provides a 2.5% salary increases beginning January 2019, with a review of wages after two years and the opportunity to negotiate further increases.

Other improvements include better retirement and health provisions. The agreement covers an immense global workforce of 200,000 seafarers employed on more than 8,000 vessels flying “flags of convenience” that traditionally face little oversight. The ITF began negotiating contracts with the IBF multi-employer group beginning in 2003.

To help protect seafarers and win jurisdictional protection for dockworkers, the ITF launched a global campaign in May of 2015, called “Reclaim Lashing.” The effort exposed dangerous work practices that threatened the health and safety of seafarers who were ordered to perform lashing and other duties that were outsides of their training, skills, and scope of work. A series of actions in European and Canadian ports helped focus pressure on the industry to adopt reforms. ITF President Paddy Crumlin said, “Seafarers face serious economic and safety challenges on a daily bases, so negotiating this new agreement was absolutely essential.”

ILWU International Vice President Ray Familathe participated in the effort through his capacity as First Vice Chair of the ITF’s Dockers Section. Familathe praised efforts by European and Canadian leaders who helped secure the agreement, including ITF Dockers Section Second Vice-Chair Torben Seebold, for coordinating the campaign in European ports. ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton, who also serves as Executive Vice President of the Canadian Maritime Workers Council, said: “Our Council members all worked hard and were able to restore lashing jobs for dockers in Montreal.”

The agreement to have lashing work performed exclusively by dockers is expected to have the greatestimpact at ports located on the Baltic Sea, Northern and Western Europe, and Canada’s St. Lawrence Seaway. Implementation of the agreement is required by January of 2020.

“Everyone deserves credit for working together on this campaign to secure longshore jurisdiction and prevent further exploitation of seafarers,” said Familathe.

Categories: Unions

Supreme Court hears key anti-union case

ILWU - Wed, 03/21/2018 - 14:58

A showdown took place at the U.S. Supreme Court on February 26 where union advocates squared-off against anti-union lawyers funded by big business.

 Anti-union argument

 The fight involved a controversial case called “Janus versus AFSCME,” so named because it was filed by Mark Janus, a public employee who sued his AFSCME labor union that represents him and roughly 100,000 active and retired members in Illinois. Janus admits he and other public workers were “underpaid” and received better pay and benefits because of their union – but he also thinks he is entitled to get the union’s services and representation for free, instead of paying his fair share of union costs, which amount to about $45 a month.

 Funded by big business

Anti-union groups have spent more than a half century and millions of dollars searching for workers like Janus who hate unions and will lend their names to anti-union efforts. Janus’ claims were rejected by lower federal courts because of a landmark precedent-setting, unanimous Supreme Court decision in 1977.That decision, known as the “Abood” case, was unusual because all Supreme Court justices – both liberal and conservative – agreed that public sector union workers were obligated to pay their “fair share” of union representation costs in more than 20 states where that responsibility is recognized Supreme Court hears key anti-union caseby law, including California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii.

Business targets state laws

 Because the Supreme Court respected the “Abood” precedent for the past 40 years, business groups focused their anti-union campaigns at the state level, passing what they cleverly called “right-to-work” laws. Union members jokingly refer to them as “right to work for less” laws because studies show union members consistently earn higher wages and have better benefits. But aggressive and expensive campaigns by big business against unions managed to pass laws in 27 states that now have some sort of “right to work for less laws” on the books.

 Shifting to the Supreme Court

In recent years, big business revived their Supreme Court strategy against union. First they blocked President Obama from filling a vacancy on the Supreme Court by enlisting Senators to block his moderate nominee. After Donald Trump was elected, business interests rallied to appoint a new Supreme Court justice who would cater to Wall Street and not workers. They suggested a man named Neil Gorsuch; Donald Trump made the appointment and the Senate quickly confirmed him.

Split among justices

At the February 26 hearing, both sides presented their arguments to the nine justices, most of whom peppered attorneys with questions and comments. During that process, four justices made it clear they supported the union side – while four others made it obvious that they would side against workers in favor of big business. The newest justice, Neil Gorsuch, will break the tie and cast the critical deciding vote in the Janus case.

Trump’s judge will decide

Gorsuch has a long history of siding with big business over workers and consumers, so there’s little doubt where he will come down on the Janus case. Unlike the other justices, Gorsuch was silent during the oral arguments last month. The only other justice who said nothing was Clarence Thomas, who has become famous for never asking any questions. But Thomas previously made his views clear by voting against union members in a nearly identical case that tied in a 4 to 4 decision after Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly in 2016. 

When will they announce?

Justices typically take a secret vote soon after hearing oral arguments, then decide who will write the opinions for the majority and minority. The Court could announce their decision in a few weeks from now or they could delay a few months, but it is certain to come before their summer recess.

Impact on all union members

 Assuming the court rules against workers and unions as expected, business interests hope to quickly exploit opportunities created by the ruling. Anti-union campaign committees have already experimented with obtaining names and addresses of public employees, then barraging them with mailings, text and phone calls that urge everyone to quit paying union dues. Some of those experimental campaigns could soon become standard operating procedure. While the case before the court applies only to public-sector workers, the impact is likely to be broader.

“If part of America’s union movement gets weaker, the entire working class suffers,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath. He noted that the ILWU already represents thousands of public employees who may feel pressured to abandon the union and stop paying dues after the Supreme Court announcement. McEllrath has directed staff and leaders to develop education and outreach efforts to alert workers about the need to stay united and continue supporting the union.“Nobody who works for a living has ever gotten ahead by going it alone against powerful employers,” said McEllrath.

Categories: Unions

Four new cranes arrive at the Port of Tacoma

ILWU - Wed, 03/21/2018 - 10:52

Special delivery: It normally takes about two weeks for a container ship to cross the Pacific to dock in the Pacific Northwest. The Zen Hua 28 carried four cranes and took six weeks, traveling along the equator to avoid storms that could threaten the ship. It then moved up along the American West Coast, staying close to protected harbors in case of high winds
and rough seas.

The Zhen Hua 28 left Shanghai in January with four new cranes welded to its frame. On Friday, February 23, it finally reached Commencement Bay as the Port of Tacoma got closer to finishing the $141 million pier remodel that will enable the terminal to berth two 18,000 TEU vessels simultaneously.

The new ZPMC cranes can reach across 24 containers and lift 165 feet above the ground. With the booms up, they stand 434 feet high. The Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA), a partnership between the ports of Tacoma and Seattle, voted to approve the $50 million cost for the cranes in 2016. They are the first of eight new cranes for Pier 4. The other four will arrive in early 2019. The Port started planning to acquire the cranes a decade ago.

Renovation of the pier began in 2016 to create one contiguous berth that will accommodate the largest container ships in the world. These massive ships, known as “super post-Panamax vessels,” are longer than the Empire State Building is tall, and wider than the length of a football field. When complete, the pier will be 2,960 feet long. This is the first major project authorized by the NWSA, which signed a 20-year lease extension with Husky Stevedoring that will operate the terminal through 2046.

Prior to the construction, the Port of Tacoma had estimated there were 1,519 jobs connected to Pier 4 in the State of Washington. The construction project itself was a boon to local companies, with lead company Manson Construction employing 50 to 60 people every day on the project. Concrete Tech hired an additional 30 people for the custom made piles to support the dock.

“It’s hard to predict with the alliances how much more cargo we will see come to Pier 4, but it looks

Signals: Local 23 member Jeff Clowers gives a hand signal to the boom operator to “take it up a little.”

like this has the opportunity to be one busy dock,” said Local 23 president Dean McGrath. With much anticipation and media attention, the Zheng Hua 28 came around Browns Point in a rare February snowstorm carrying the four largest cranes to appear on the West Coast.

The ship anchored in Commencement Bay for the weekend allowing boaters and even a paddle boarder to get an up-close look at the new cranes, but not until they tied up to the Pier 4 dock at noon on Monday, February 26, was their increased size so noticeable.

The cranes were welded to the ship and much of the gear needed to unload them was taken off with a temporary boom crane that was brought in for the work. The cranes themselves were sitting on temporary sideways wheel sets, called “trucks”, that are sitting on movable tracks athwartship.

 More temporary tracks were set on the dock, and when ready, with the ships deck level with the dock, the cranes rolled off the ship on those rails to where the existing crane tracks have been laid into the dock. Once there, the trucks are removed and the cranes rolled down tracked ramps onto the dock tracks.

The first crane rolled off the ship with the appropriate tide four days after the ship hit the dock and the second came off two days later. A winch system was used to roll the new cranes off the ship. The cranes could become operational by mid-June

– Photos sand story by Benson MacForrest, Local 23

Categories: Unions

PSR Fleet Memo for March 7 2018

IBU - Thu, 03/08/2018 - 13:18
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Categories: Unions

Burning Bridges: America’s 20-Year Crusade to Deport Labor Leader Harry Bridges

ILWU - Wed, 02/28/2018 - 11:38

In his new book, Burning Bridges, attorney Peter Afrasiabi introduces us to the relentless, decades-long crusade to discredit and deport ILWU leader Harry Bridges. The book transports readers back to the tumultuous height of the red scare during the 1940’s and 50’s and provides a sense of how doggedly the government and employers tried to rid the country of a man because of his labor activism and political ideas. It also gives the reader a sense of how immigration law has been historically used to attack workers’ rights and their ability to organize.

Afrasiabi opens the book with details about Bridges’ early life and the events of the 1934 coastwise waterfront strike. But it’s not until he delves into the deportation attempts against Bridges and the legal drama that unfolded in court that Afrasiabi’s writing truly shines.

Afrasiabi quickly examines how the case against Bridges formed. Early in his role as the leader of the newly-organized longshoremen, Bridges came under the watchful eye of a loose-knit group of anti-union players—employers, American Legionnaires, and police officials. Bridges collaborated with a diverse array of people supporting longshore workers’ efforts to improve their conditions, including some Communist Party members. He himself believed passionately in fighting racial discrimination and granting rank-and-file workers a say in how they were treated on the job—ideas that were considered radical at the time. These beliefs, associations, and Bridges’ overall effectiveness as a leader put him in the crosshairs of anti-unionists who were collecting information on him by 1935, with a goal of removing him from the waterfront. They even discussed assassination. As a safer alternative, deportation offered a promising opportunity dispose of Bridges.

Bridges proved vulnerable to this strategy. Australian by birth, he had never gotten naturalized after relocating to the U.S. as a young man in 1922. Employers seized upon a 1918 law that allowed for the deportation of noncitizens who belonged to subversive organizations advocating overthrow of the government. If they could link Bridges to the Communist Party, they could have him legally deported. They demanded action from Congress and the Department of Labor, which then oversaw immigration matters.

Initial government investigations failed to link Bridges to the Communist Party, but private interests conducted their own independent but biased investigations, including the American Legion’s Subversive Activities Commission in San Francisco. Its Chair, Harper Knowles, conspired with John Keegan, Chief of Detectives in the Portland Police Department, and Stanley Doyle, an undercover prosecutor in Oregon.

Afrasiabi calls the three the “Knowles- Keegan-Doyle Axis.” This “Axis” coordinated an interstate effort to collect evidence and witnesses against Bridges. It met secretly with several of his associates and used bribes and blackmail to extract testimony. Some of the money and resources for this nefarious endeavor came from the State of Oregon and the City of Portland, even though the investigation was outside of Oregon’s jurisdiction.

Knowles and the American Legion had friends in Congress who pressured Francis Perkins, President Franklin Roosevelt’s Labor Secretary, to push for Bridges’ deportation. Several of these Congressmen were members of the Dies Committee, an anti-Communist body that was a precursor to the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Because Secretary Perkins did not direct the Department of Labor to take swift action to have Bridges tried and deported, some Congressmen called for her impeachment. This was rejected, but its threat irreparably damaged Perkins’ credibility in immigration matters.

Perkins and the Department of Labor eventually capitulated and agreed to hear the case against Bridges. Public hearings began on Angel Island, the San Francisco headquarters of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), in July 1939. The government chose the remote island to avoid publicity and protests. John Landis, the highly respected Dean of Harvard Law School, conducted the hearings.

Afrasiabi describes the hearing room scene like a movie screenplay for a tragi-comedy. Government witnesses contradicted themselves. The prosecution’s key evidence, Bridges’ supposed Communist Party membership card, was a forgery. A star witness had been indicted for racketeering in another case. Keegan and Doyle used bribery and threats to extract testimony.

Bridges, on the other hand, freely acknowledged that he knew and worked with people who were Communists, but convincingly denied membership in the Party. He pointed out that the Party’s political theories were of little practical use to him because “there is no one, when it comes to the best policy of the longshoremen on the waterfront, that knows more about what is best for us than we ourselves.”

Landis ruled in Bridges favor, saying “that Bridges’ aims are energetically radical may be admitted, but the proof fails to establish that the methods he seeks to employ to realize them are other than those that the framework of democratic and constitutional government permits.” Bridges filed an application for naturalization. Meanwhile, the anti-Bridges forces prepared for another attack. The Bridges case was only beginning. The new onslaught featured rewriting immigration laws, reducing the influence of the Department of Labor over immigration matters, and expanding government surveillance against alleged subversives.

Within months of Landis’ decision, Congress passed a resolution directly targeting Bridges. H.R. 9766 authorized the U.S. Attorney General to deport the ILWU leader, “whose presence in this country the Congress deems hurtful.” The bill was illegal because the U.S. Constitution prohibits bills of attainder—laws that target a specific person or group. Knowing that the popular bill would pass in the Senate, Roosevelt feared vetoing it.

Not wanting to seem “soft on Communism,” he directed Attorney General Robert Jackson to work with Congress to find a political compromise. The compromise came in the form of another bill, the Smith Act, which Roosevelt signed into law on June 28, 1940. It didn’t mention Bridges directly, but opened the door to another deportation attempt by expanding anti-sedition language and allowing the government to deport any noncitizen who “at the time of entering the United States… or any time thereafter” was a member of or affiliated with the Communist Party. Legislators hoped this language would make Bridges a vulnerable target.

Attorneys: Carol King, Richard Gladstein,
and Aubrey Grossman, strategize with Harry Bridges during the hearings on Angel Island.

More than legislation was needed to activate Bridges’ deportation. But when criticism intensified against Perkins and the Department of Labor for their handling of immigration cases, Roosevelt caved to the pressure and transferred INS oversight from the Department of Labor to the Department of Justice. This removed Secretary

Perkins’ influence over immigration matters and placed the INS under the control of the U.S. Attorney General— and the investigative arm of the FBI. Attorney General Jackson quickly ordered FBI head J. Edgar Hoover to investigate Bridges. Hoover requested and received extended wiretapping powers over “aliens” and “subversives,” and put Bridges’ under constant surveillance.

Hoover was a fanatical anti- Communist who declared the press that “beyond a doubt, Bridges is a Red.” Based on the new law and FBI investigation, the Bridges case went to trial again in 1941. Bridges lost this second trial, but appealed the decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which overturned the verdict. U.S. Attorney General Francis Biddle subsequently overturned the appeal. A lengthy appeals process eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1945.

Justice Frank Murphy wrote the high court’s majority decision, which favored Bridges, saying that “seldom if ever in the history of this nation has there been such a concentrated and relentless crusade to deport an individual because he dared exercise that freedom which belongs to him as a human being and is guaranteed him by the Constitution…. Freedom of speech and of press is accorded aliens residing in this country. So far as this record shows, the literature published by Harry Bridges, the utterances made by him were entitled to that protection. They revealed a militant advocacy of the cause of trade unionism. But they did not teach or advocate or advise the subversive conduct condemned by the statute.”

With that victory, Bridges then filed for citizenship. As part of the naturalization process, two of Bridges’ close colleagues, ILWU International Vice President J. R. Robertson and Henry Schmidt, a 1934 strike veteran from Local 10, signed an affidavit stating that Bridges was not a Communist Party member. Bridges testified to the same. The Judge granted Bridges’ citizenship petition. Bridges was finally a U.S. Citizen.

But, the attacks against Bridges and the ILWU continued. In 1948, ILWU longshoremen struck for 90 days against an employer attempt to use the newly passed Taft-Hartley Act to red-bait Bridges and other ILWU leadership and to destroy the union’s hiring hall. The strike was won, but the following year Bridges and the two witnesses to his naturalization hearing were indicted on three counts of criminal perjury and conspiracy because both claimed in their testimony that Bridges was not a Communist. At the same time, the Department of Justice filed a civil suit to cancel Bridges’ U.S. citizenship and have him deported to Australia.

The three unionists were tried and found guilty. Robertson and Schmidt were given two-year prison terms. Bridges was sentenced to five. Even their lawyers, San Francisco attorneys Vincent Hallinan and James McGinnis, were sentenced to criminal contempt of court and served prison sentences.

Bridges got out on bail, which the government revoked, and he served 21 days in jail. The case went through another appeals process and again landed before the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1953, the high court ruled in Bridges’ favor a second time, setting aside Bridges’, Robertson’s, and Schmidt’s sentences and restoring Bridges’ U.S. Citizenship. The civil suit against Bridges was dropped at the federal court level in 1955. By then Bridges had endured nearly 20 years of trials and appeals.

Afrasiabi summarizes Bridges ordeal as “persecution by prosecution, the heart of the use and abuse of the legal system by those in power against those who challenge the status quo.” Concluding his book with a thoughtful legal analysis of the case, Afrasiabi examines oversteps by the government’s executive branch and its influence on the lower courts throughout the 20 years Bridges fought for his right to remain in the United States.

Because Afrasiabi focuses primarily on legal arguments and courtroom transcripts, rather than the trial’s broad, lasting, social impact, he leaves out some historical information that should interest ILWU members. For example, the Smith Act, the law passed to invite a second set of trials against Bridges, eventually resulted in indictments of 215 U.S. citizens and noncitizen immigrants before it was rendered unconstitutional by a Supreme Court Decision in 1957. Among those indicted were socialists, Communist Party members, ILWU labor activists in Hawaii, and a founding member of the ACLU. The expansion of the FBI’s surveillance activities continued beyond the Bridges case and later included secret investigations into nonviolent movements, including civil rights and anti-war groups.

Finally, the INS transfer from the Department of Labor to the Department of Justice—and more recently, to the Department of Homeland Security— permanently refocused the lens from which the government views immigration matters. Although he lightly touches on some of these topics, examining these points in depth is not the point of Afrasiabi’s book.

Although other historians have written about the case against Harry Bridges, Afrasiabi’s is the first full-length book on the trials. Afrasiabi undertook an extensive study of the Bridges case, including its thousands of pages of transcripts, and wrote an admirable book that is accessible to readers. The result is required reading for anyone with an interest in the ILWU and the life of Harry Bridges.

-Robin Walker

Categories: Unions

Norm Parks: Lifetime of leadership & service to the ILWU

ILWU - Tue, 02/27/2018 - 16:59

Norman “Norm” S. Parks was born on March 7, 1943, into a strong union family with a long legacy in longshoring. His father, Ezra, was a skilled grain “boardman” at Local 8 in Portland who knew how to load grain that arrived onto ships from shoreside elevators that sent torrents rushing down long tubes that roared at the open end below where men used heavy wooden boards to deflect the cargo into nooks and crannies of the ship compartments, so vessels could be “filled to the gills” and properly balanced.

After high school, Parks served in the military where he learned how to load vessels, experience that came in handy after he was discharged in 1962 and began working jobs on the Portland docks with his father and other Local 8 members. At that time, roughly 1 in 3 jobs on the Portland docks involved handling grain. Like his father, Parks worked a wide variety of jobs, but chose to spend much of his time on grain vessels where he worked as a deck man, spout trimmer, winch driver, boss boardman and safety spotter. Working shoreside, he spent time working in and around the elevators, gaining experience and knowledge that would help him in future years when he served on union negotiating committees.

In 1966, Parks married his high school sweetheart Diana, who became his wife, life partner and a Local 8 member for over 40 years. Parks encouraged them to set their wedding date on July 5, so they could always have plenty of company by celebrating their anniversary on Bloody Thursday – the ILWU longshore holiday that honors 7 martyrs who were killed in 1934 when the union was established.

Norm and Diana’s love for each other and for their union formed a strong bond that endured for the next 51 years. They had two children, Sheri and Michael, and eventually grandchildren David, Larry and Preston.

Despite their growing family, Parks became increasingly involved in union leadership posts and was elected by his co-workers to serve as Business Agent and Dispatcher, Trustee, Labor Relations Committee member, plus three terms as Local 8’s Secretary-Treasurer.

He was chosen to serve outside of Portland including frequent service as a delegate to the Longshore Caucus and International Union Conventions. Parks also became a regular face on the International Union Executive Board, where he served for a remarkable 28 years and travelled to meetings every three months.

“He was on the IEB for over half the time we were married,” said Diana Parks, who travelled frequently with Norm to meetings. Parks was deeply involved with grain contract negotiations and had a consistent presence on Longshore Negotiating Committees, participating in eight different contracts.

During the negotiations, Diana pitched in to help find housing for Committee members and remained in San Francisco for the duration of the contract talks. In addition to his role in longshore negotiations, Parks participated in a host of union committees that included Grain, Barge, Logs, Technology and Education. Parks travelled far and wide, including a union delegation that met with Mexican port workers in 1993 to discuss the ILWU’s opposition to NAFTA. Two years later, he travelled with his father, Ezra, to Liverpool, England, where the sacked dockers repaid the gesture of solidarity by honoring the visit with a brass plaque at their union headquarters. Norman Parks passed on January 8, 2017, while living in Goodyear, Arizona.

“Norm had the wisdom over the last decade to step back from front line leadership and let us young upstarts find our way,” said Local 8’s Stephen Hanson, who is now a pensioner himself. “He let us make the mistakes that were necessary for us to become capable leaders. Norm’s philosophy of work, be it the double-back or question of steadies, is marked on our local.”

Categories: Unions

Young dockworkers in London

ILWU - Tue, 02/27/2018 - 12:32

The Antwerp Dockers’ BTB Youth Movement with ILWU International Vice President Ray Familathe & ILWU Young Workers from the United States and Canada.

“Good people share and aren’t scared about letting other people have a go,” Paddy Crumlin told a room full of International delegates in London this November. Crumlin is President of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), and he welcomed dozens of youth delegates to participate in the ITF Dockers Section meetings in London on November 14th-17th.

A day earlier, I joined 30 young dockworkers from 16 countries who attended the ITF Youth Dockers Section meeting, which helped us prepare for the following days when youth delegates observed and sat with representatives from many of the world’s dockworker unions as they conducted business.

I had the honor of representing the Local 23 Young Workers Committee and was part of an ILWU delegation that included International Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe, ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton, Local 502 youth delegates Ashley Bordignon and Dan Kask, Local 400 member and Canadian area ITF Coordinator Peter Lahay, Local 63 members Joe Gasperov, and Robert Abordo, and Kelly Dondero from the brand new Local 63 Superintendents Unit.

The ITF leadership understands that the new generation of workers have to participate in decisions because we will be most affected by automation and other changes in our workplaces. Dan Kask and I were invited to give a presentation about the work we have been doing to build a young workers movement in our union. We shared successes and lessons learned from ILWU Canada and Local 23. We discussed ideas and showed pictures of young workers volunteering in local communities, participating in conferences, leading peer-to-peer education events, marching in the streets and standing with other workers on their picket lines. We provided examples of how to use social media effectively and how to take stock of our individual skills and put them to work building the union.

The ITF leadership tasked the youth delegates with building a global framework for the ITF’s Youth Movement. We elected chairs, set up a strategy for navigating languages and regions using email and social media, and gave ourselves six months for each of our affiliated unions to start a Young Workers Committee with an internet presence. The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), the ILWU and now the Antwerp Dockers (Belgische Transport Bond – BTB) have all developed strong local young workers committees. In the coming months will help dockers from Spain, Colombia, Nicaragua, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Senegal and other countries develop their own committees. If we can build local capacity for action and participation in our affiliated unions, it helps build the capacity of the ITF to carry out global campaigns.

The ITF targets major port terminal operators with global campaigns

We learned about the United Nations “Global Compact” – a list of 10 principles that have been voluntarily adopted by 10,000 corporations around the world. The principles include the abolition of child labor, slavery, discrimination in the workplace and the right to free association and collective bargaining for workers.

We noted that only one global terminal operator has signed: APMT. I was moved by the words of ITF Dockers Assistant Secretary Nigel Venes, who said, “Employers have two faces and behave one way in the developed world and another in the developing world. We have to move through our industry and change these bandit employers.”

ILWU Local 502 Casual, Ashley Bordignon, gives a presentation to the ITF Young Dockers meeting in London. In September she was elected by her peers to ILWU Canada’s Young Workers Committee.

Strong women’s agenda

The ITF Women’s Conference took place in Marrakesh, Morocco, a week before our Dockers Section meeting. The Dockers Section approved a request to formalize a Women’s Working Group. This group will monitor women’s membership in the ITF, build networks to exchange experiences and best practices, and continue supporting ITF campaigns – including global initiatives to end workplace violence.

Other issues of concern on the ITF Women’s agenda include recruitment, safety, political action, equal pay, training, promotion and equal facilities.

November 19th was “World Toilet Day.” The ITF took the opportunity to launch a campaign, demanding separate and secure women’s facilities at port terminals around the world. I had to admit that this was a problem I had never considered and understood until now. Ports remain male-dominated workplaces. Part of normalizing women in our workplace is fighting for equal treatment and equal conditions.

Key issues remain

Health and safety, automation and respect for collective bargaining rights remain the most pressing issues across our industry. Too many terminal operators gallivant across North America, Western Europe and Australia, masquerading as safety conscious, ethical employers, when the reality is far different. Consider the example of DP

World’s terminal in Constanta, Romania, which has not reported a single injury in three years. We know that injuries and near-misses are not always properly handled and recorded in our own workplaces, and the situation is much worse outside of the developed world – and made worse everywhere due to poor terminal management.

In locations where “de-reguulation” or non-enforcement are the norm, employers have no reason to comply with any rules. In places like Africa, India and the Arab World, workplace monitoring is a preposterous farce. Lashing remains the most dangerous job, often performed by temporary workers who face death and serious injuries – along with constant threats to keep quiet. In Latin America, trade unionists are regularly assassinated, “disappeared.”

They and their families live under constant threats of violence and terrorism. Many of us know the story of Guatemalan trade union leader Pedro Zamora, who was gunned down in 2007 in front of his two children for resisting the privatization of a port in the Central American country. He was a leader of the Sindicato de Trabajadores Empresa Portuaria Quetzal (STEPQ), the Guatemalan dockers union. Three months ago, the current president of STEPQ received a message that if the union didn’t back off, they would mail him the ear of his 13-yearold daughter.

Where conditions are the worst, it is not just the lack of strong trade unions, but specifically what those unions represent, workers having a voice in their workplace. Having a voice on the job about safety and health is paramount to raising standards. To do that, workers must have laws that are enforced guaranteeing the right to form unions and to associate freely without threats and violence. Every gain that has been made in this arena has been won through workers struggle.

Conclusions

The ITF is changing by involving more women and young workers into the organization. The organization recognizes that young people have the least security, lowest wages and greatest vulnerability to layoffs and automation. It recognizes that women are the most vulnerable to workplace violence, discrimination and inequality.

And they understand that women and young people will bring vital new energy, new solutions, vision and creativity to our movement. Paddy Crumlin told the youth delegates that we have a responsibility to get involved with the ITF, just as the organization has a responsibility to include us.

If we can involve more young people and instill them with a sense of purpose, and possibility, then we will ensure that future generations will be in a better position to hold employers accountable and support struggles to raise standards for workers across our industry and around the world.

Brian Skiffington

Categories: Unions

Help Kill Right To Work

IBU - Fri, 02/09/2018 - 09:18
Categories: Unions

Call to the 37th Convention

ILWU - Wed, 02/07/2018 - 15:45
Categories: Unions

PSR Fleet Memo for January 26 2018

IBU - Mon, 01/29/2018 - 09:02
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Categories: Unions

fleet memo for January 19 2018

IBU - Mon, 01/29/2018 - 09:01
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Categories: Unions

The history of “right-to-work”

ILWU - Fri, 01/26/2018 - 16:24

King knew it was wrong: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. pulled no punches about “right-to-work” being racist and immoral.  The honorary member of ILWU Local 10, spoke out in 1961:  “In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone. Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.” King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis while supporting a strike by public sanitation workers.

In 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) that legalized the right of workers to form unions, negotiate contracts and conduct job actions. It also recognized the importance of “union shops” where all workers shared the cost of maintaining their union. The President made a point of signing the NLRA (also known as the Wagner Act) in the port city of Tacoma, on July 5. That date, recognized then and now as “Bloody Thursday,” honored waterfront workers killed during the West Coast waterfront strike that gave rise to today’s ILWU.

Some workers were excluded

The new law helped millions join unions and improve working conditions during the next three decades – and created a more secure working class that was eventually called “middle class” by those who were uncomfortable talking about working class power. But the NLRA also excluded large numbers of workers in order to win enough votes to pass Congress where racist Southern legislators demanded the exclusion of farm workers, domestic workers and public employees. To this day, those three classes of workers lack the same federal protections that once protected most private-sector workers. Today those protections have been greatly weakened by big business, but until recently, they allowed millions of workers to join unions

Business lost the first 4 rounds

Business owners who hated labor unions and President Roosevelt were furious when the NLRA passed in 1935. They sued to overturn the law in federal court and tried to block unions from collecting dues from everyone in union shops. In 1937, the Supreme Court sided with workers by allowing the NLRA to remain in place and confirmed the right of unions to collect fees from everyone in a union shop. In just two years following major strikes in 1934 and organizing by longshore, auto, steel and other workers, at least four dramatic victories had been secured: passage of the NLRA plus two victories in the Supreme Court, and passage of the Social Security Act that passed in 1935.

Excluded, but they organized

While private-sector workers were organizing during the 1930’s and three decades that followed, workers on farms, government jobs and private households continued to struggle on their own, forming unions occasionally when they could, but receiving little or no protection from the federal government.

Farm workers

In Hawaii, the ILWU made history with successful campaigns beginning in the early 1940’s that eventually organized the island’s sugar and pineapple workers on a mass scale, enabling them to become the highest-paid agricultural workers in America.

Labor activists helped farm workers organize powerful strikes and some unions during the 1930’s in California’s Central Valley, Salinas Valley, Imperial Valley and in eastern Washington State. Workers there continued organizing job actions throughout the 1960’s and beyond when the United Farmworkers Union passed the first farm labor law in the country in 1975 that allowed farm workers to organize unions in California.

In Southern states, activists helped tenant farmers and sharecroppers build unions during the 1930’s, helping both African-American and white farm workers to loosen the grip of debt and abuse that forced many families to live in virtual slavery since the Civil War.

Domestic workers

Domestic workers, including many African American women, also organized in the 1930’s with assistance from activists including Ella Baker, who described street corners in Manhattan and the Bronx as modern day “slave markets,” where women gathered each morning for a daily “shape-up.” Like longshore workers, they organized, and eventually forced New York’s Mayor La Guardia to create hiring halls with regulations that improved conditions for many.

In recent times, new organizing efforts by domestic workers have passed new domestic labor laws in eight states, including California, Oregon and Hawaii.

Public workers form unions

Public employees were inspired during the 1930’s by gains made by private sector workers inside factories and warehouses. Some of the first public workers to form unions were postal workers and teachers concerned about pay, benefits and working conditions – but also about abusive politicians who encouraged bribery to determine pay and job assignments instead of civil service.

Public unions grow in 1960’s

Public sector unions saw relatively little growth until the 1960’s when large numbers began joining unions and demanding the right to become legal and bargain contracts. During the next 30 years, organizing continued on a large scale as teachers, firemen, ferry workers, police, security and prison guards, road repair, water and sewer workers, planners, librarians and others joined public unions. By the year 2000 the number of public sector union members equaled private sector union members – while private-sector union members declined to today’s level – just 6% of the workforce.

Good news and bad news

As pubic unions successfully organized for better wages and benefits in the 1960’s and beyond, they first tried to catch-up with better paying jobs in the private sector that had risen because of union pressure. Workers also correctly noted that most public employees received no Social Security (another exclusion granted to conservatives in 1935 when the Social Security Act was passed by Congress), so demands for a secure retirement were addressed with defined-benefit pensions approved by politicians in charge of school districts, cities, counties and state governments. Within a decade or so, public wage increases and benefits began to surpass what private sector workers were able to bargain because their unions were growing weaker.

Anti-union reaction

At the same time, capitalists were shifting investment to the nonunion south and overseas, part of the “de-industrialization” and offshoring that still haunts much of middle America. Inflation also increased during the 1970’s because of massive spending for the war in Vietnam, along with funding for healthcare, education Medicare and other important programs.

Fear increased among workers and pensioners that they were falling behind and might lose their homes – especially in California where property taxes kept rising to pay for the growing public sector, which accounted for one in six jobs in the Golden State.

These factors – including the different fortunes of public and private sector union members – created dangerous divisions within the working class that were ripe for exploitation by right-wing politicians who used the opportunity to harvest votes by turning public and private sector union members – and the large non-union working class – against each other.

Division & conquest

One of the first high-profile battles for the heart and soul of America’s divided working class was fought and lost in California over Proposition 13. The property tax cap was the brainchild of two rightwing extremists; Howard Jarvis and Paul Gann, who called their plan to freeze property taxes, “the People’s Initiative.” The measure passed by almost 2-1 despite strong opposition from public sector unions and most politicians. The following year, Paul Gann passed another initiative to severely limit government spending and punish public union members. Politicians were terrified by the popular support for both initiatives, and some, including Jerry Brown, reversed course to support Paul Gann and become a self-proclaimed “fiscal conservative.”

Union-friendly politicians, meanwhile, tried to maintain loyalty to both private and public sector union members. But private sector members were increasingly anxious about their falling wages, rising taxes and dim prospects – while public sector members continued to push for as much as they could win at the bargaining table – not always appreciating that their “employers” included many increasingly anxious members of the working class who were being lured with appeals to “cut taxes” and vote against “greedy unions.”

As this conflict brewed, the fiscal crisis grew worse because the public sector kept growing in response to demands for education, health care and services to help more families living in poverty.

Wisconsin and beyond

The culmination of these forces were on full view in Wisconsin during 2010, when voters transformed the state from a union and Democratic Party stronghold, to a state that elected anti-union Governor Scott Walker. After winning, Walker stripped collective bargaining rights from public employees, triggering massive protests and support from ILWU members who travelled there to show their solidarity. But Walker defeated a recall election in 2012 and was reelected in 2014. Similarly, House Speaker Paul Ryan has consistently won his swing district that once included many industrial union members before the jobs left when capitalists closed plants in search of cheaper labor. Similar changes have taken place recently in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and other states where current and former union members were once a powerful progressive block, but now increasingly vote for anti-union politicians who support tax cuts, de-regulation, low wages, “right-to-work” and other antiunion laws. The final insult to union solidarity came with the election of Donald Trump who had a long record of anti-union behavior that many current and former union members overlooked while accepting his promises to restore jobs and power for the working class – then flipping to embrace Wall Street and the one-percent after winning the election.

Business dream of “right to work”

The Supreme Court is now poised to outlaw the right of public unions to collect representation fees in “union shops,” and impose “right-to-work” laws on all public union members.

This reversal marks the fulfillment of a dream going back to the 1930’s when Southern segregationists first peddled the idea of “right-to-work” as part of a strategy to thwart unions, stop “race-mixing” in workplaces, and block racial minorities from gaining their fair share of power and respect in society.

Trump backs anti-union case

On December 6, Trump administration lawyers in the Justice Department filed a “friend of the court” brief backing the Janus case against union members.

Categories: Unions

Supreme Court’s “Janus” case will impact members

ILWU - Fri, 01/26/2018 - 15:24

Providing public service: Washington State ferry workers who belong to the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU) are among millions of public employees who are likely to be impacted by a pending Supreme Court decision that aims to weaken unions, known as the “Janus” case. Shown on deck are (L-R): Matt Williams, Antonia Sullivan, Scott Johnson,
Kimberly Berry, and Drew Botti. Photo by Julianne Duncan.

The better pay, benefits and rights on the job that ILWU members and other union workers have enjoyed for decades are being challenged this year by a clever plan to weaken unions, called “right to work.”

Supreme Court’s “Janus” case

The U.S. Supreme Court recently announced they will hear a case in 2018 called “Janus versus AFSCME” that seeks to strip public unions of their right to collect dues from everyone covered by a union contract, and impose “right-to-work” rules on all public-sector union members in the United States. A decision harming public employee union members is virtually certain because President Trump recently filled a vacancy on the Supreme Court with Neil Gorsuch, who holds anti-union views and favors big business.

Details about Janus

Mark Janus is a public employee in Illinois who sued his AFSCME union because he objected to paying his small share of fees needed to cover the union’s representation costs that protect his contract, pay, benefits and rights on the job. Janus says he opposes unions so strongly that paying any fees would violate his First Amendment rights. The Janus case has massive support from anti-union business groups.

Key court cases

In 1977, public unions won a Supreme Court decision called “Abood” that affirmed their right to collect dues or “fair share fees” from all workers covered by a union contract. Since that decision, antiunion Presidents – especially Reagan and both Bush’s – appointed more anti-union justices to the court.

Two years ago, the Supreme Court heard a similar case – also backed by big business – on behalf of a California school teacher named Rebecca Friedrichs, who also held strong anti-union views. The court deadlocked on whether she was obligated to pay fees to the teacher’s union by a vote of 4 to 4, because Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly.

Anti-union politicians then blocked President Obama from filling the Scalia vacancy with someone who would respect workers and unions. When President Trump filled the vacancy with Justice Gorsuch, he sent a green light to corporate America that “right-to-work” would soon become the law of the land for public workers, and eventually all union members.

What is “right-to-work”?

“Right-to-work” is a clever scheme designed in the 1930’s by big business to keep unions weak and wages low. It essentially outlaws “union shops” – workplaces covered by a union contract where everyone pays either dues or their “fair share” of fees to cover the cost of representing workers and protecting good pay, benefits and work rules.

Encouraging “freeloaders”

Under “right-to-work” rules, union members can no longer vote to require everyone in their workplace to support the union by paying either dues or fair-share fees. Only voluntary contributions are allowed by “right-to-work laws” – and only if each worker provides specific, written authorization. Some “right-to- work” laws already in place in many states require unions to collect separate, signed authorization forms each year from individual workers in order to collect any dues money.

From South to North

For decades, right-to-work laws existed only in Southern States where business owners used them to keep unions weak, wages low and workplaces segregated. Now there are 28 states, including Wisconsin and Michigan, with these laws. If the Supreme Court rules as expected by June, “right-to-work-for-less” will become the law of the land for every public-sector union member.

Designed to frustrate & fail

When the Supreme Court rules on Janus, it won’t just restrict the ability of unions to collect dues or representation fees – it’s likely to also maintain the legal obligation for unions to represent all workers covered by union contracts– even those who don’t pay any dues or “fair share” fees to cover enormous costs of representation and arbitration. This “double-bind” is exactly how corporations behind the Janus case and “right to work” laws hope to frustrate, weaken and bankrupt unions.

Public workers first

The Janus decision will immediately affect public sector union members, but most observers believe corporations behind right-to-work will eventually ask the court to apply the same restrictive principle to all union members, including those with private-sector employers, including longshore, warehouse, industrial and service workers.

Impact on the IBU and beyond

The ILWU represents thousands of public-sector employees, the largest number being public ferry workers in Washington and Alaska who are represented by the ILWU’s Marine Division, the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU). Hundreds more work for the Golden Gate Ferry District and other public employers including Port Police at Locals 65 and 22; Security personnel at Locals 9 and 28; Port pilots at Local 68, and more.

“Public employees are almost half of the IBU membership, so dealing with “right-to-work” is a top priority for our union now,” said newly-elected IBU President Marina Secchitano.

IBU Secretary-Treasurer Terri Mast prepared a memo suggesting a strategy for right-to-work that was distributed to the ILWU International Executive Board meeting that met in San Francisco on December 14-15.

“It’s important that we start to build an internal campaign now to educate all our members,” said Mast, who outlined a member-to-member outreach effort that envisions trainings to conduct “one-on-one” conversations which explain the need to stay strong and sign dues authorization cards.

ILWU strategy

“The success or failure of this anti-union attack will be determined by what we do this year,” said ILWU International President Bob McEllrath, “They picked this fight with public workers for 2018, so we have to start educating and training members now in order to come out on top when the court ruling comes down later this year.” McEllrath says it’s too late to stop the Supreme Court from ruling against workers in favor of the right-to-work laws long sought by big business. “That train left the station when Trump was elected President and he appointed Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.”

The best move now for the ILWU and other unions, McEllrath says, is the approach advocated by the IBU’s Terri Mast: a bottom-up, rank-and-file campaign to educate members by conducting thousands of ‘one-on-one’ conversations

“Our goal should be to convince 100% of union members that the only way to protect good contracts and power on the job is by voluntarily paying our union dues each month,” he says.

First steps

In December, McEllrath told the International Executive Board that he was directing the ILWU’s Organizing, Education and Communications Departments to help the IBU and other public workers in the ILWU by gearing-up for an educational campaign.

This article in The Dispatcher marks the beginning of a union-wide effort to inform members about the ILWU’s strategy for staying strong despite the “right-to-work” attack. Recent issues of The Dispatcher have also carried information about the looming threat posed by “right-to-work” (see articles in the sidebar) and future issues of The Dispatcher will devote coverage to the ongoing educational campaign.

Education through conversations

The centerpiece of the outreach effort envisioned by the IBU is a rank-and-file educational campaign, based around “one-on-one” conversations between members.

Training volunteer trainers

The IBU is planning to begin with a series of training workshops for rank-and- file leaders who commit to serve as volunteer trainers in their workplaces.

The International Union intends to prioritize the IBU’s large public employee membership in the Washing ton and Alaska ferry systems, plus other ILWU locals with large numbers of public employees.

The IBU training sessions for rank-and-file volunteer trainers would include time for them to work with organization’s elected leaders on a customized outreach plan. The goal is to identify and train enough volunteers to conduct one-on-one conversations with every public worker.

What works – and doesn’t

A review of what other unions have been doing – or not doing – to maintain a high percentage of voluntary dues paying members despite right-to-work laws, shows that programs are succeeding because of three factors:

Keys to success

First, unions have to commit time and resources to support an intensive, member-driven educational campaign. Just passing out flyers or mailing newsletters without personal conversations won’t work. It takes time and effort to talk with each member, but it has proven to be the most effective approach and there are no shortcuts.

Second, unions need to train volunteers how to engage in two-way conversations. The key is to have a real conversation that begins by asking questions, then listening carefully and making workers feel comfortable about sharing their true feelings. Members who want to share criticism or feedback about the union must feel heard and acknowledged – not dismissed or ignored.

Finally, a successful outreach campaign requires local unions to keep careful records that track who has been contacted in what areas, and who has signed a dues pledge card – along with notes of particular concerns that might make a worker hesitate to voluntarily pay dues.

Unions can get stronger

Unions that followed these steps are reporting that most of their co-workers are voluntarily paying dues and keeping their unions strong. Many also say the member-to-member approach has made their locals much stronger because workers are more involved.

High price of failure

On the other hand, there are examples where right-to-work has destroyed unions that failed to involve members, including some in Wisconsin that started too late and didn’t engage honestly and personally with co-workers. Those unions have now collapsed with only a small minority who are voluntarily paying dues to unions that have little or no power.

“Unions that don’t have strong membership support can quickly lose their dues base because of right-to-work laws, which triggers a financial crisis with staff layoffs and fewer financial resources to help members protect the contract – all of which makes joining the union less attractive,” says Mast, who describes that scenario as a “death spiral” that unions must avoid at all cost.

Unions across the country that are successfully using the member-to- member approach to overcome “right-to-work” laws will meet April 6-8 in Chicago at the Labor Notes conference where 2,000 participants will share lessons and experiences. The ILWU will participate in the event and prepare an article on “lessons learned” – along with a report on the ILWU’s own education campaign – that will be published in May issue of The Dispatcher.

Now’s the time to begin

Given what’s at stake, McEllrath says he wants to start the membership education campaign immediately.

“If we want to stay strong and united enough to deal with powerful employers, then we can’t afford any delays in engaging the rank-and-file.”

Categories: Unions

PSR Fleet Memo for January 12 2018

IBU - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 08:59
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Categories: Unions

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