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Updated: 2 days 13 hours ago

Pres. McEllrath: ILWU will fight all attacks on safety, collective bargaining rights

Fri, 11/06/2015 - 16:28

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Nov. 6, 2015ILWU Brothers and Sisters:

As you know, politicians have been publicly and inaccurately blaming congestion at the ports on those of us who work on the docks. They are opportunistically using industry-caused congestion as an excuse to introduce legislation that attacks workers’ collective bargaining rights, threatens our safety, wastes taxpayer dollars — and fails to address the actual root causes of congestion.

On November 4, two U.S. Representatives proposed misguided and dangerous amendments that would have forced unsafe speeds on the docks and hijacked the transportation bill to reexamine past labor talks.

Fortunately, with hard work from our Longshore representatives in D.C., our Legislative Action Committee, and a unified voice from longshore workers and our friends and allies, both amendments were defeated. The amendment proposed by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) was withdrawn for lack of votes, and the amendment proposed by Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) was defeated in a House floor vote.

While we prevailed in this round of attacks on our workplace safety and collective bargaining rights, politicians have already fired another round. Just hours after the Newhouse and Reichert amendments were defeated, two anti-union Congressmen from Washington and Oregon held a news conference and introduced another misguided bill called the “Economics Act.” At first glance, this bill seems to be a rehash of already rejected ideas. More details on the act will be forthcoming.

The ILWU will be educating members of Congress on the dangers of this bill and any others that arise. We need your support to defeat them. Listen to your local officers’ updates, and if you use social media, stay tuned to the ILWU Coast Longshore Division’s page on Facebook. If we issue an action alert, it’s important to respond immediately by contacting your elected officials in Congress and respectfully urging them to vote according to the action alert.

It will take continued hard work and vigilance to ensure that opportunistic politicians do not erode our rights. We have been fighting this fight since 1934, and we must continue to beat back these attacks. Thank you for your support to defeat the amendments, and stay tuned to make your voice heard again.


Robert McEllrath
International President

Categories: Unions

ILWU member leads effort to help others left behind on harbor area streets

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 12:17

Local 23 member David Gonzalez. Photo by Slobodan Dimitriov

Local 26 member David Gonzales is leading an impressive but quiet effort with other volunteers in Wilmington who serve hundreds of meals each week to homeless and hungry people in the harbor area.

“I know what it’s like to be on the streets because I was there once myself,” says Gonzales, tracing his ordeal that began when he was physically and mentally abused almost daily by a stepfather “from the time I was 3 until I was 13.” When he was able to fight back, his mother said he’d have to leave the house, so he ended up in Banning Park. Gonzales tried to continue at school while he was living on the streets, but eventually dropped out and became involved with drugs and gangs.

“I can see now that the gang was important to me because I didn’t have a father, and it filled a need for a while,” he says. “Gang life gave me some security, but also filled my mind with distrust of anyone who wasn’t exactly like us. After years of “gangbanging” and coloring much of his skin with tattoos, he began to look for a way out of his dependency on drugs and the street life, but getting out was difficult. That’s where the union came in.

“I’m from a 4th generation Wilmington family here, so I knew how important the union was to the community, but I never realized that it would be the thing that helped me turn my life around.”

Gonzales found work as a guard with ILWU Local 26, providing security on the docks at the ports of LA and Long Beach. What he found was a surprising degree of support from co-workers who made a difference in his life.

“When my baby girl was just 9 months old, she had a life-threatening heart defect that required a dangerous surgery.” Gonzales said Local 26 union steward Mark Reyes offered to become her godfather, something “nobody had ever done for me and my family before.”

A similar act of kindness and compassion happened several years ago when he ended a difficult personal relationship and took full responsibility for his 7 children.

“It was holiday time and one of the union sisters at work, Christina Le Blanc who’s the Lead Sargent at Hanjin, asked me how I was planning to celebrate Christmas. I told her that it was going to be a little rough that year but that we’d be fine. She went out on her own and asked the other guards to pitch-in, and they made it possible for my kids to have something special during that difficult time.”

As the life of gang-banging and drug addiction was left behind, Gonzales says he now lives his life in recovery following a simple philosophy of what he calls “paying it forward.”

It started with an inspiration to buy boxes of frozen hamburger patties that he could grill for hungry people still stuck on the street. He quickly found others willing to help and says many of those volunteers were once living on the streets themselves during a difficult stretch. “We know what it’s like to be out there.”

Using Facebook, Gonzales has mustered a volunteer crew that prepares hundreds of sack lunches every Thursday, then distributes the meals to people living in the margins from Wilmington to LA’s Skid Row.

“We made 490 sack lunches last week and could have done a lot more but we just ran out of time,” he says, noting that groups and individuals are donating everything from bread and lunch meat, to their own labor. “We don’t have a formal non-profit group, but we do get the job done because everyone pitches-in to help the group that we call: ‘Heart of the Harbor/Helping Those in Need.’”

The group also helps with special needs or particular requests, such as one for diapers and wipes that was recently fulfilled with an online request to volunteers.

The biggest feeding effort so far took place on Saturday, October 3rd at Wilmington’s “Greenbelt Park,” between Watson and “L” Street. Volunteers began arriving at 7am to cook and prepare a hot lunch for hundreds from 12 noon onward. Among the many helpers were several of Gonzales’ seven children who are regular volunteers.

The first volunteer to join Gonzales was Nikki Fabela, Wilmington resident and daughter of Local 13’s Paul Fabel. “She was the first person who said she’d help me,” said Gonzales, “and her gesture of kindness is something I’ll never forget.”

“We know there are at least 8 people who have gotten off the streets and turned their lives around because of our help,” says Gonzales, who points to the turnaround in his own life as proof that dramatic changes are possible.

Gonzales says that their project is open to everyone and is not part of a church, but he says they do try to pause at some point during the busy volunteer times to give thanks and reflect on the pain and suffering faced by so many in the world – and how volunteers can make a difference with love and action.

Gonzales emphasizes that their group is eager to partner with individuals and like-minded organizations who can provide resources such as transitional housing, mental health services and recovery/rehabilitation support.

“My 17 years in the union have provided me with so much support that made my turnaround and recovery possible,” he says, adding that it has also expanded his perspectives, noting that he’s been able to meet people from all over the world and get beyond the small-minded thinking and bigotry that came with life in a gang. “I now see that all of us have so much in common, instead of focusing on difference like I used to, about how people looked or talked. I am truly grateful to all of my union brothers and sisters who have shown me so much solidarity and positivity during my years on the waterfront.”

Categories: Unions

ILWU members tell Oakland City Council to kill coal terminal plan

Wed, 10/21/2015 - 15:16

An overflow crowd at the Oakland City Council meeting on September 15 heard ILWU leaders taking passionate positions against a controversial coal export terminal that developers and coal industry lobbyists want to build on a private dock with public subsidies. Six hundred citizens submitted requests to speak at the hearing which began at 4pm and went late into the night.

Developer hiding

Master developer Phil Tagami was noticeably absent from the public hearing on the coal export terminal which has become a centerpiece of his redevelopment scheme that promised to transform Oakland’s former Oakland Army base into a mix of modern warehouses, intermodal hub and a “state of the art” privately-owned break-bulk dock.

Jobs Promised

To win crucial political support, Tagami claimed his project would create thousands of good-paying jobs, and told community and labor groups that most of those jobs would be union. But many of the groups negotiating with Tagami were unfamiliar with industry employment practices, which may have allowed the developer to use inflated and unrealistic numbers. Now Tagami has hitched his project’s to a controversial coal export terminal, and suggested that the entire project and thousands of jobs depend on the coal deal.

Coal lobbyists & lawyers

Instead of appearing in person at the September hearing, Tagami hired a slew of well-dressed lawyers, lobbyists, businessmen and preachers to make his case for the coal terminal. Lawyers made thinly-veiled threats that lawsuits would be filed if the developers didn’t get their way. One Washington D.C. lawyer declared that the city had no authority to regulate or limit railroads shipping coal to the export terminal.

Buying turnout

But despite hiring big guns, Tagami’s team had a hard time finding actual “concerned citizens” who supported the coal terminal, so they resorted to paying people to fill seats and wear t-shirts. The plan backfired when news reporters interviewed apparent “coal supporters” in the audience who quickly admitted they only came because they were paid. Some even expressed confusion about which side they were supposed to support.

Buying loyalty

The pay-to-play tactics included generous “offers” from the coal lobbyists to local churches and environmental groups – in exchange for backing the coal terminal. A team of former executives from the Port of Oakland reportedly offered church leaders 7 cents for every ton of coal that would be exported; environmental groups were offered a more generous 12 cents per ton. The environmental groups declined the offer; while some church leaders apparently accepted and attended the hearing to praise the proposal.

Labor unity & exceptions

The Alameda County Central Labor Council told City officials that unions had just passed a strong resolution opposing the coal export terminal, because it would provide few jobs, threaten nearby residents and harm efforts to control climate change. Two unions, the Teamsters and Laborers, tried but failed to stop the labor body from adopting the coal terminal resolution.

Both were told by the developer that the good union jobs being promised could not be delivered without the coal terminal. Teamster officials joined developer Phil Tagami in avoiding the public hearing, but lobbied for the coal project behind the scenes.

Broken promises

Developer Phil Tagami was singing a different tune several years ago when he was desperate to secure political support from labor unions, community and environmental groups for his development plan. He promised groups that coal would not be part of his project, then used their support to win approval from the Oakland City Council and $400-500 million in public subsidies. After winning political approval, it was revealed that developers were working closely with anti-union coal companies in Utah who desperately want a private dock to export their fuel abroad, and offered developers $53 million to make it happen.

Exporting coal abroad

Exports are crucial to North America’s coal industry because domestic consumption and prices are falling as the dirty fuel is replaced with cleaner and cheaper natural gas and alternatives such as solar. This reality has forced the coal industry – now almost entirely non-union – to sell their product abroad to countries with minimal environmental and worker safety protections, such as China, Vietnam, and India. These countries have historically resisted global agreements to limit greenhouse gas emissions that cause global climate change. China recently declared a willingness to adopt a market- based “cap-and-trade” system like America’s, which allows companies to “buy” their right to pollute.

Explaining ILWU views

The ILWU approached the coal hearing with a unified voice. Local 10, Local 34 and the Northern California District Council have all taken positions opposing the coal terminal. Local= 10 Business Agent Derrick Muhammad was the first ILWU member to speak at the public hearing on September 15. Muhammad immediately assailed the simplistic job arguments used by coal terminal supporters.

“Prostitution and drug dealing both create lots of jobs in Oakland, but they aren’t the kind of jobs we need,” said Muhammad, who declared that coal terminal jobs should be similarly unwelcome.

Chris Christensen, President of the Bay Area Longshoremen’s Memorial Association, also testified about the downside of coal jobs for the community and longshore workers and urged the City Council to oppose the coal export terminal.

Local 6 Secretary-Treasurer Fred Pecker represented the ILWU’s Northern California District Council, arguing that West Oakland residents have long suffered from heavy pollution in their neighborhood, and deserve better options than a coal terminal.

Expert testimony

A team of experts, including several current and former government officials, testified about the dangers of transporting and burning coal. They included the State of California’s former top environmental health official, a current EPA official and Alameda County’s public health officer.

The health officials joined engineering experts who said the coal terminal involved unnecessary health, environmental and economic risks. One expert noted that a similar expensive coal terminal investment by the Port of Los Angeles had failed to generate the jobs and business that were promised] by the coal industry.

Company threats

In addition to threatening lawsuits at the public hearing, coal interests have been quietly investigating several Oakland City Council members who expressed concern about the coal terminal.

A Denver-based law firm that represents the nation’s largest coal companies and Wall Street firms who finance them, is seeking emails, voice mails, texting and other communication records from Council members.

Media coverage

Media coverage of the September City Council hearing on the coal terminal was extensive, and some outlets have devoted resources to investigating the project in greater detail. Investigative reporter Darwin BondGraham of the East Bay Express has led the way by exposing the coal industry’s financial and lobbying networks that usually operate in the shadows.

“The bottom line,” says Local 10 President Melvin Mackay, “is that this coal terminal is not something members support because it’s bad for the community, bad for the union and bad for the environment.”

Categories: Unions

ILWU and community coalition challenge dangerous crude oil terminal in Vancouver, WA

Wed, 10/21/2015 - 14:10

Police were on hand to keep an eye on a group of protesters outside Port of Vancouver’s Terminal 5 on Thursday afternoon, Sept. 17, 2015. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian)

Members of ILWU Local 4 have joined forces with community and environmental allies to stop a scheme by big oil that could ruin their port, close the Columbia River and turn their city into a disaster area.

Power play

Documents show that officials from the Port of Vancouver reached a deal in secret with oil companies to build the nation’s largest oil-to-marine export terminal without first holding public hearings on the controversial and dangerous proposal.

Four trains a day

Big oil wants to bring four “unit trains” a day to the Port of Vancouver. Each of the mile-long trains would carry 100 or more tank cars filled with highly volatile and explosive crude from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota. Each of the cars carry 30,000 gallons of highly flammable crude as the trains travel through dozens of towns before reaching the west coast.

Possible disaster

The possibility of a catastrophic disaster that could wipeout parts of Vancouver and other town became more real on July 6, 2013. That’s when a train carrying Bakken crude oil derailed and exploded in a cataclysmic firestorm that destroyed much of Lac-Megantic, a town in Quebec, Canada. The disaster killed 47 residents and injured many others.

“Bringing this stuff into our town is just irresponsible and too dangerous,” says Local 4’s Cager Clabaugh  who has told Port Commissioners that “the risk isn’t worth the reward.”

He notes that Local 4 members opposed plans for an oil export terminal in their town before the 2013 disaster in Quebec, and have strengthened their resolve since.

“Before that disaster, oil industry lobbyists were assuring our Port Commissioners that this stuff was safe and there was nothing to worry about,” said Clabaugh. “They changed their tune after the Lac-Megantic disaster, but are still saying it’s safe enough and refuse to drop their dangerous plan.”

Many other incidents

A parade of crude-by rail calamities has hit communities in North America. Six months after the Lac- Megantic inferno, another fiery rail crash occurred in Casselton, North Dakota where a Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) train carrying Bakken crude exploded after a collision.

That North Dakota accident was the fourth major North American derailment of crude-carrying trains during a six-month period in 2013. A total of 24 serious oil train crashes have occurred in the U.S. since 2006, with five crashes so far in 2015, according to the Associated Press.

Fracking fuels oil boom

Record volumes of oil are moving by rail because oil production in North Dakota and Texas have shot to levels not seen in 30 years. The boom is based on “fracking,” a drilling technique that injects high-pressure chemicals underground to loosen oil and gas deposits.

The process allowed the U.S. to become the world’s largest oil producer in 2015–eclipsing Russia, and thus achieving a quiet but critical U.S. foreign policy goal of limiting Russia’s ability to gain influence through energy exports.

Financial pressure

The Port of Vancouver became entangled in the crude oil export scheme after incurring debts on a $275 million infrastructure improvement project, called the West Vancouver Freight Access. It aimed to expand rail capacity and hopefully attract new clients and jobs to the port. In 2012, Port officials thought they had a deal with BHP Billiton – one of the world’s largest mining companies – to export potash fertilizer from a new mine in Canada.

But that deal died and left the Port with no client, excess capacity and mounting debt payments on their new infrastructure project. That’s when officials began promoting the crude oil export terminal as the Port’s potential savior.

Secret deals

Wheels were greased for the oil export terminal in 2013 through a series of secret meetings with officials at the Port of Vancouver. The closed door meetings were recently analyzed in a series of reports published by the Columbian newspaper that examined 1600 pages of documents. The reports raised serious questions about possible violations of state laws and an erosion of the Port’s commitment to an open and democratic decision-making process.

Official amnesia

By early 2013, Port staff picked two powerful petroleum industry players – Tesoro and Savage – to operate the proposed oil terminal. One port commissioner admitted that decision “probably” took place in a closed-door executive session. Other commissioners say they can’t remember or agree on exactly what happened in the private meetings, but records show that oil executives met in private with Port officials in at least one closed-door session.

By April 18, Tesoro was moving forward with the project, and the next day, both companies received an exclusive negotiating agreement from the Port. On April 22, 2013, the companies formally announced plans for the oil export terminal.

Lawsuit filed

In a backwards decision-making process, the Port announced a series of hearings on safety and environmental concerns after – not before – making their secret deal with Tesoro and Savage.

Those hearings in the spring and summer of 2013 seemed like “window dressing” and a “rubber stamp to many citizens who responded by filing a lawsuit in October, 2013. The suit was backed by the Columbia Riverkeeper, Sierra Club and Northwest Environmental Defense Center.

“It may be hard for some to believe, but environmental groups have been our most dependable allies in the fights we’ve had for good jobs in this community,” said Cager Clabaugh.

Secret meetings & finger-pointing

The lawsuit exposed thousands of pages of Port documents that appear to confirm violations of state laws prohibiting public agencies from conducting their business in secret. Documents show the Port held at least nine private meetings involving the oil export terminal.

After those meetings were exposed, the Port admitted holding at least seven secret meetings, but officials continue to insist that no laws were violated.

The lawsuit has led to the deposition under oath of three Port Commissioners about their role in the oil terminal deal. Two of the three commissioners have offered conflicting statements about whether they approved the secret development deal, or if it was approved by the Port’s CEO, Todd Coleman. In the midst of the controversy, Port Commissioner Nancy Baker announced she was stepping down and would not seek re-election.

“Managing” public concern

In one of their secret meetings held in April of 2013, oil and rail executives met privately with port commissioners Baker, Jerry Oliver and Brian Wolfe to strategize how to manage and neutralize concern and criticism from local citizens.

ILWU joins protests

ILWU Local 4 members and leaders have become part of the informal network of Vancouver citizen groups who are opposing the crude-oil export terminal. In addition to labor and environmental organizations, the diverse group of opponents includes local business owners and land developers who worry that the export terminal is a threat to property values and future development options.

Political showdown

An election to fill the open seat on Vancouver’s Port Commission this November is turning into a referendum on the crude oil export terminal.

In the August primary election, a field of seven candidates was whittled down to a showdown between Eric LaBrant who opposes the crude export terminal, and Lisa Ross, who strongly backs the project. The candidates also disagree on the Commission’s history of secret meetings, with LaBrant calling for a more open process and Ross defending deals that were reached in private. And if the crude oil terminal deal falls apart, Ross is open to replacing it with a coal export facility while LeBrant favors exporting hi-value manufactured goods made in the USA. As of September, the Ross campaign had raised $25,000, including money from oil interests, while LaBrant collected $15,000 – including a $1500 donation from the ILWU.

Governor’s decision

The lawsuit and Port Commission election remain a critically important part of the campaign. Washington State Governor Jay Inslee retains final authority to approve or reject the oil plan that will be reviewed by the state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council.

“We intend to keep up the pressure and keep working with our allies in the community to dump this dangerous crude oil terminal plan and get the Port Commission back on the right track,” said Local 4’s President Jared Smith.

Categories: Unions

Pensioners Convention meets and takes action in San Francisco

Tue, 10/20/2015 - 10:57

Over 200 ILWU pensioners, spouses and guests gathered in San Francisco for the 48th Annual Pacific Coast Pensioners Association (PCPA) convention on September 6-9. This year’s convention looked ahead to the upcoming Presidential election, discussed the need for single payer health care in the United States and learned about long-term care insurance. Delegates heard about the struggle by dock workers in Colombia for fair wages and safe working conditions.

On the convention’s second day, delegates demonstrated at a local Whole Foods store in solidarity with Sakuma Farms workers in Washington State who are fighting for union recognition and a fair contract.

President’s report

In his PCPA President’s report, Rich Austin announced that he would not be running for re-election. Austin recapped his last year of activity – highlighted by 10 months serving as the pensioner representative on the Longshore contract negotiating committee. Austin said that

in 2013, the PCPA passed two resolutions that eventually made it to the negotiating table. The first was to increase benefits for people who retired prior to 2002. The other was to restore the Survivors’ Pension Benefit for survivors of pensioners if their marriage took place after retirement.

“We did pretty good on raising pre-2002 pensioner and surviving spouse benefits, but we need to do more work if we hope to achieve the restoration of benefits provision for post-retirement marriage survivors,” Austin said.

Austin also threw his support behind presidential candidate Bernie Sanders who is running for the Democratic Party nomination. “If for some reason he is not on the ballot next year, I will write him in. I will never again waste my vote on a free market, corporate-controlled neoliberal just because he or she claims to be a Democrat.”

ILWU speakers

Austin conveyed a central tenet of the PCPA; maintaining a productive relationship with the active\ ILWU members, the ILWU leadership, and providing assistance and support when called upon. Many active members of the ILWU know that pensioners are a valuable asset to the organization and provide consistent support through the PCPA.

The convention heard from several ILWU speakers, starting with ILWU International President Bob McEllrath on the convention’s first day. International Vice Presidents Ray Familathe and Wesley Furtado and International Secretary Treasurer Willie Adams also addressed the convention. Local 13 President Bobby Olvera Jr. and Local 94 President Danny Miranda also spoke and Local 63 President Joe Gasperov was in attendance.

Preserving labor history

Connor Casey, Labor Archivist from the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies at the University of Washington, spoke about the importance of preserving the history of working people for current and future workers, historians and students. Casey told the delegates about the various resources available to individuals and locals to help them preserve important union records, correspondence and other materials that will be an invaluable resource in preserving the experience and voice of the working class.

Labor historian Ron Magden also spoke at the convention. He talked about his ongoing oral history project with historian Harvey Schwartz to record video interviews with ILWU pensioners. They conducted several oral histories during the convention. ILWU Archivist and Librarian Robin Walker and Schwartz led delegates on a Monday afternoon labor history tour of San Francisco. They visited important historical sites from the 1934 strike along the Embarcadero, toured the Jimmy Herman Cruise terminal and toured the ILWU International offices on Franklin Street.

Time out for activism

On Tuesday morning, PCPA delegated showed that their slogan, “Retired from the job, not the struggle,” is more than just words on a banner. Scores of delegates marched two blocks up to the local Whole Foods market for a solidarity demonstration in support of workers at Sakuma Farms in Washington State who are fighting for union recognition.

Farmworkers are promoting a boycott of Driscoll’s Berries, the label that distributes fruit harvested at Sakuma Farms. Over 40 pensioners along with ILWU International and Local union officers, including ILWU International President Bob McEllrath, International Vice President Ray Familathe and Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr, marched into the produce section of Whole Foods for a spirited rally. The demonstration was well received by shoppers who asked questions about the boycott. Rich Austin spoke with the Whole Foods manager who said she would raise the issue with her regional manager.

Featured speaker

Jhon Jairo Castro, president of the Buenaventura chapter of the Portworkers Union in Colombia was the convention’s featured speaker. Castro has worked as a longshoreman and labor rights organizer for more than 11 years. He discussed his experience as an Afro-Colombian labor leader in one of the deadliest countries in the world for trade union activists.

Sixty percent of Colombia’s imports and exports pass through the port of Buenaventura. Castro told of the negative impact that port privatization and the US-Columbia free trade agreement have had on his nation’s workers, especially the Afro-Colombian community. Castro said Afro-Colombians make up nearly 90 percent of Buenaventura’s population who suffer from high poverty rates, unemployment and a lack basic services such as hospitals.

Honoring Rich Austin

The convention took time out to honor the service of outgoing PCPA President Rich Austin. ILWU International President McEllrath thanked Austin for his leadership and support for active and retired members. McEllrath presented Austin with a bronze hook sculpture crafted by Local 19 pensioner and artist Ron Gustin. After a motion by Local 13 pensioner Tony Salcido, the convention voted unanimously to bestow Austin with the title of PCPA President Emeritus.

Jesse and Lois Stranahan Award

Local 10 pensioner Cleophas Williams received this year’s Jesse and Lois Stranahan Award, an annual honor bestowed to an outstanding labor activist. Williams was the first African American president of Local 10 who served three terms in that position. Williams thanked the PCPA for honoring him and said he intended to remain active in the PCPA.

New leadership

The transition to a new PCPA leadership team was reached smoothly on the final day of the convention. The new PCPA President will be Greg Mitre who has been heading the Southern California Pensioner’s Group. PCPA’s new Vice President will be Lawrence Thibeaux from the Bay Area Pensioners. John Munson from Bellingham will continue to serve as Recording Secretary and Christine Gordon from Southern California will serve as the new Treasurer.

The Executive Board will include Herman Moreno, Cleophas Williams, Jerry Bitz, Mike Mullen, Jim Davison, Maynard Brent, Michelle Drayton, Rich Austin and Tom Deusfrene with other Canadian delegates yet to be elected representing Canadian pensioners.

Adjournment until 2016 in Tacoma

Newly elected President Greg Mitre took the gavel and praised Rich Austin’s dedication, saying it would be hard to fill those shoes. He noted that next year’s convention will be held in Tacoma,WA from September 12th, – 14th and said he was looking forward to seeing everyone there in 2016.

Categories: Unions

Union members test new Panama Canal

Sun, 09/20/2015 - 14:34

Editors note: The following report submitted by the ILWU’s Panama Canal Division explains how members of the Panama Canal Pilots Union have been testing new equipment and procedures at the expanded canal which is expected to become operational soon.

A total of 52 lockages without the use of locomotives were conducted during a five-week period between June 26 and July 29 of 2011. This took place at the locks of Miraflores, Pedro Miguel and Gatun. Different types of vessels were used (except naval and passenger vessels) in tests to prepare for the opening of a third set of locks scheduled to be inaugurated in October 2015.

The parameters of the test were previously established in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the administration of the Panama Canal Authority (PCA) and the Panama Canal Pilots Union (PCPU). A group of 8 test pilots and 2 coordinators equally represented both parties.

The test group was tasked with simulating, as closely as possible, the conditions that could be encountered at the third set of locks, as well as preparing a Pilot Training Program for the pilot force. This consisted of:

  1. A team of two test pilots who boarded the participating vessel prior to its arrival at the locks. They fastened the two “lockage” tugboats, forward and aft of the other vessel, while approaching the designated locks wall.
  2. With additional help from the “assisting” tugboats, they entered the chamber of the locks where the vessel was stopped.
  3. The vessel was made fast to the lock wall, after which it is raised or lowered by the water in the locks. The vessel was then moved from this chamber to the following one(s), then finally exited the locks.

Currently, tugs in the canal are mainly used to assist different type of vessels depending on their size and handling characteristics, while approaching the locks wall and then entering the locks chamber. After this, they are normally released and cast-off. Below are some of the conclusions and recommendations we reached during the test:


Assuming that twelve panamax-plus or post-panamax vessels will transit through the third set of locks, on a typical day, and considering the amount of time required by these vessels to lock through, the test group concluded that the PCA’s fleet of 32 tugs when the test took place, will have to be increased to 100 tugs. These tugs are replacing electric locomotives and should be classified as “lockage tugs” or “assisting tugs,” and their usages shall not be interchangeable.

It was concluded that the lockage tugs should be used in the third set of locks to help the pilot position the vessel as they enter the chamber, stop the vessel, remain in the chamber with the vessel as the water is levelled, proceed to the next chamber. This process is repeated until the vessel exits or clears the third set of locks.

The test group estimated the lockage time for this type of vessel, using “lockage” tugs instead of electric locomotives, will require 3.5 to 4 hours, from the time the vessel enters the first lock and departs the third set of locks.

Consequently, an estimate increase of one and a half to 2 hours will be added to the actual standard lockage time of two hours, for scheduling purposes.

In addition, it is important to know that “the lockage tugs used for the test cannot be compared with the effectiveness, positive control of the vessel and safety, that is provided by the use of locomotives,” which have been proven for over 100 years in the Panama Canal.

It should be further noted that on August 29, 2006, the Panama Canal Pilots Union (PCPU) made public a report prepared by a technical committee appointed for that purpose, which, among other issues, the PCPU strongly recommended the PCA administration utilize electric locomotives in the design for the third set of locks. This recommendation, along with others, has not been considered by the PCA administration.

Canal Standard Times

The test group estimated that an additional 1.5 to 2 hours will be needed to schedule a Panamax-plus or a Pospanamax vessel to transit through the third set of locks in the Canal. Actually, it takes two hours for a loaded Panamax to go through Gatun locks, the only one with three chambers until the third set of locks is completed.

In addition to the test of lockages without the use of locomotives per formed on site at the locks, a number of maneuvering exercises executed at the simulator in the Canal installations provided information that allowed the test group to preliminarily conclude:

The standard running time for Panamax-plus and Postpanamax vessels to go across Gatun lake will also be increased by:

  1. a) a timeframe figure which is directly proportional to their handling characteristic, especially when navigating with a reduced amount of water below their keels (known as under keel clearance (UKC). This increment in the amount of time to navigate Gatun Lake and through Gaillard Cut (the narrowest part of the lake) may suffer an additional
  2. b) increase in timeframe which has not been estimated as yet due to meeting restrictions that will be necessary to imposed for safety purposes. These type of vessels will be transiting the waterway as part of one of the two semi convoys that travel each day through the Canal in opposite directions (north and south), and which at some point must encounter traffic coming through the canal in the opposite direction. For example, at present with the system that is in place for scheduling vessels, when a Panamax vessel is transiting in the northern semi-convoy direction, it is scheduled for safety reasons to not meet another similar size or a smaller vessel that is navigating in the opposite direction in Gaillard Cut. They normally meet in Gamboa after the vessels exit Gaillard Cut.

However, whenever the third set of locks finally opens to the international shipping industry, transit of Panamaxplus and Pospanamax vessels, may have to be scheduled to meet 2 to 4 nautical miles (3.7 to 7.4 kilometers) further north of Gamboa for safety purposes when they are navigating in the same northern direction. Consequently, the standard running time of two hours for a Panamax vessel will also increase under the same structure for scheduling vessels.


The replacement of the electric locomotives at the present locks by “lockage” tugs will be tasked not only with assisting the transiting vessels to make their approach and safely enter the third set of locks, as they currently do, but in the future they will also be tasked with positioning the vessel’s extremities (bow and stern), as it moves along the lock chamber and is taken to a stop, and moored (or made fast) to the lock wall. This entails a completely new paradigm for the pilots, the tugboat captains and mates, and to a lesser degree, the line handlers of the locks walls and those aboard the transiting vessels. The complete team assigned to the transit of a vessel will be facing this new challenge.

The test group concluded that “expediency in the placement and handling of lines to the lock walls is of the utmost importance.”

This fact is known to the ACP administration, as it came to their attention during the two first weeks of the test. A comprehensive training program should be implemented for all players, including the pilots, captains, and line handlers, in order to deal with this potential problem.

Other concerns

According to the ACP Administrator, the third set of locks will soon be open to transit. When that happens, vessels proceeding to or from the new third set of locks may face delays when the wind increases to 25 knots (46km/ hr.), which happens on a daily basis for approximately three months each year during the dry season. Another potentially serious concern for both the Canal officials and ship owners is the possible damage to a vessel’s hull each time it bumps either wall of the locks when entering or exiting the locks chamber, or when moving from one chamber to the next. This raises the following questions:

  1. Will insurance companies raise their premiums for vessels that transits the Panama Canal?
  2. Will the PCA administration reduce their liability limits for accidents or incidents in canal waters?
  3. Will the PCA administration maintain the pilot’s unique status of “being in charge” of vessel navigation while transiting the canal, or will they take away full control of the vessel’s navigation from the canal pilot?

Our final question is whether these issues will affect the toll paid by vessels to transit the Panama Canal, and how expeditious and safe will this transit be?

Categories: Unions

SoCal unions celebrate Labor Day in the Harbor

Sun, 09/20/2015 - 11:49

The Los Angeles Harbor Coalition’s Labor Day Parade attracted several thousand union workers, family members and community supporters. The annual parade and picnic started just a few blocks from the Local 13 dispatch hall and ended at Banning Park in= Wilmington for an all-day barbeque and picnic. It is the largest Labor Day celebration on the West Coast.

The parade was led by the Southern California Pensioners who rode on a flat-bed trailer and tossed candy to children who lined the streets to watch the march. Hundreds of union members marched together with their local union.

ILWU members, nurses, teachers, Teamsters, Building Trades and other workers marched together and were joined by local high school marching bands, cheer squads, color guards, classic cars and motorcycle clubs to celebrate the working men and women who built this country and keep it running.

The day began with a free breakfast of burritos, coffee and juice at the Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Memorial Hall sponsored by the So Cal Pensioners Club. Over 1,500 breakfast burritos were distributed. The ILWU welcomed elected officials and candidates currently running for local, state and national office in the upcoming election. Candidates were each given a few minutes on the mic at the Memorial Hall to address the crowd as they enjoyed their breakfast.

Local 13 President Bobby Olvera Jr. spoke at the picnic about the importance of rank and file democracy to the strength a vitality of unions and the labor movement. “Leadership comes from the body of your union, not from someone who has been in office for 30 years and has never broken a sweat” he said. “Take control of your future. The strength of labor comes from us, the workers.”

Categories: Unions

Longshore Workers Vote to Oppose Coal Exports in Oakland

Fri, 09/18/2015 - 15:18

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (September 18, 2015) – Longshore workers and marine clerks who have moved cargo at the Ports of Oakland and San Francisco since 1934 have rejected a developer’s plan to export coal through former Oakland Army Base. International Longshore and Warehouse Union elected officials say coal is an undesirable, low-value cargo and a broken promise on the part of the developer, and longshore workers are standing by community members who do not want the worry and risks of nine million tons of coal passing through their neighborhoods on trains each year. After much research and discussion, the rank and file members of ILWU Local 10 and ILWU Local 34 have voted to oppose the handling of coal at the site.

“When the developers of the project were seeking tax money and public support to develop the Oakland Army Base, they talked about exporting cargoes like grain and potash,” said Sean Farley, President of ILWU Local 34. “They made a ‘no coal’ promise to workers, the community and elected officials, and they need to make good on that promise. Waterfront space is in short supply on the West Coast, and it would be a mistake to lock Oakland into a decades-long lease with a coal industry that many say is dying. Coal proposals have failed up and down the West Coast, and Oakland shouldn’t become the dumping ground for dirty, low value cargoes that no one else wants.”

After the Oakland City Council granted the California Capital and Investment Group (CCIG) the right to develop the former army base adjacent to the Port of Oakland, CCIG planned to build the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT) on the site. CCIG has since turned its “no coal” promise into a “coal or nothing” threat, claiming no other cargo will pay the bills. Meanwhile, other West Coast ports are thriving while exporting products like grain, potash, soda ash, salt, and other commodities and bulk products.

“Coal is not the right way to bring jobs to Oakland,” said ILWU Local 10 Business Agent Derrick Muhammad. “Oakland families are already worried about asthma and other sickness because of highways and port activities. It’s not right to ask them to take on the worry and risk of nine million tons of coal passing through their neighborhoods on trains each year. If the developers haven’t found a cleaner, safer product yet, they owe it to the City of Oakland to make good on their promise and keep looking. They’ll find better cargoes if they are truly committed to bringing good, safe jobs to our community.”

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s Coast Longshore Division represents approximately 25,000 longshore men and women in 30 West Coast ports from San Diego, CA, to Bellingham, WA.

Categories: Unions

In memory of longshore workers killed in 1886 at the port of Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 15:50

In the late 1800s, when a cargo vessel entered the Puget Sound, it would take on longshoremen at its first port of call, then those men would remain on the ship to work the vessel at all ports in the area.

In mid-June of 1886, the “Queen of the Pacific” put into Seattle where she took on six longshoremen. The longshoremen were charter members of the newly established Seattle Stevedores, Longshoremen and Riggers Union (SL&RU), predecessor of ILWU Local 19. During June and July, the= vessel discharged and loaded cargo at docks in the Puget Sound, working its way up to British Columbia.

On June 9, 1886, the Queen was docked in Nanaimo, British Columbia, where a powerful blast ripped through the ship’s hold, taking the lives of the six charter members of the SL&RU: Hans Hanson, August Johnson, William Kade, William McDonald, Patrick Priestly and William Robee. For 59 years, the tragedy was the worst waterfront accident in the history of the West Coast.

The explosion occurred at five minutes before noon on July 29, 1886, at the Nanaimo coal dock where Seattle coal passers were winging coal into the corners of the ship’s hold. Suddenly, a ton of coal hit the center of the lower deck; a clap shook the ship from aft to stern anda sheet of flame flashed upward from the hold to the upper deck.

The SL&RU coal gang was engulfed by flames. As they were carried out of the lower hold, eyewitnesses saw that hair had been burned from their heads and faces; flesh hung in shreds and their “cries were most heart-rending.”

The severely burned men also included eight seamen. Horse-drawn wagons carried the injured to the Nanaimo Hospital where three doctors worked around the clock for two weeks to save lives. One by one, all of the longshore workers and two sailors died from seared lungs and skin burns A court of inquiry later determined that coal dust had ignited from spontaneous combustion. They ruled that the explosion was an accident that could not have been prevented. Ten months later, an explosion killed 155 miners at the same mine that provided coal for the “Queen of the Pacific.” Another court of inquiry found the second explosion also an “unavoidable accident.”

During the century that followed, coal miners in North America fought to end coal dust and methane explosions that were claimed by employers and their experts to be “unavoidable.”

Union members in the United States finally succeeded in passing the Mine Safety and Health Act in 1977 that led to significant safety and health improvements.

Seattle longshore workers installed a plaque at the Nanaimo gravesite in 1886 to commemorate the deaths of their union brothers and to thank the people of Nanaimo for caring for them. But after 128 years, the plaque had disintegrated. Seattle Pensioners commissioned Local 19 member and artist Ron Gustin to replicate the original plaque.

The new monument is a bronze relief mounted on charcoal black granite that measures 20 x 6 x 28, and weighs 575 pounds. Father Piotr Lapinski, who was in charge of St. Peter’s Cemetery, graciously agreed to the re-installation.

At the 2015 rededication Lapinski’s successor Father Krzysztofy (Chris) Pastuszka delivered the benediction for the fallen six.

Seattle Pension President Carl Woeck read the original SL&RU message that was dedicated in 1886:

“We wish to express our heartfelt thanks and appreciation of the services rendered our six comrades by the citizens of Nanaimo and missionary Charles Seghers following the recent accident on the Queen of the Pacific. Our fallen union brothers Hans Hanson, August Johnson, William Kade, William McDonald, Patrick Priestley and William Robee rest in peace in your care. Should the opportunity ever present itself, the people of Nanaimo may rest assured that the longshoremen of Seattle will endeavor to repay the debt that they so justly owe them.”

Stevedores, Longshoremen and Riggers Union of Washington Territory
Frederick D. Sprague, President
Henry Storey, Secretary
August 7, 1886

After the graveyard ceremony, Americans and Canadians met at the Bastion Hotel in Nanaimo for lunch. Seattle Pensioner Vice President Ian Kennedy was the banquet emcee.

Speakers included ILWU Canada President Mark Gordienko, Local 19 President Jason Gross, Seattle Pensioner President Carl Woeck and ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams. Comradeship between Canadian and American longshoremen was the theme of the remarks. All stressed that remembrance of the terrible tragedy had strengthened the bonds of friendship, and that we are part of a worldwide family who will always be considered brothers and sisters.

At the luncheon, it was noted that another longshore tragedy happened in Vancouver, British Columbia, on March 6, 1945. The steamship Green Hill Park blew up and killed six longshoremen and two seamen. Somehow, whisky, flares and sodium chlorate had been stored together in ‘tween decks in Hold 3. The flammable cargo exploded and blew out a steel bulkhead that killed Donald G. Bell, Joseph A. Brooks, William T. Lewis, Morton McGrath, Montague E. Munn and Walter Peterson. Seamen Julius Kern and Donald Munn, who were in a room directly above the exploding cargo, also perished from asphyxiation.

Ronald Magden, historian; with Mark Gordienko, President ILWU and Charles Zuckerman, Local 500

Categories: Unions

Legislative attack targets ILWU longshore workers

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 11:29

Photo by Robin Doyno

Elections have serious consequences for ILWU members and their families – especially for ILWU longshore workers who recently found themselves being targeted by Republican members in Congress. Here’s how it happened.

In 2014, Republicans took over the United States Senate and increased their majority in the House of Representatives. The Democratic Party played it safe and failed to outline a progressive agenda for working families. In the absence of a Democratic agenda to vote for, voters found something to vote against, registering their anger against growing unfairness in the economy.

Attitudes measured by exit polls were negative in the extreme, with 8 in 10 saying they were dissatisfied by the performance of Congress, and 54 percent giving the thumbs down to Obama. A majority of voters were unhappy with the U.S. economic system itself, with nearly two thirds saying it’s unfair and favors the wealthy – and only 32 percent saying it’s fair to most people.

Instead of changing the economy to work for the majority of Americans, the newly elected Republican Congress decided to throw their weight behind the rich and powerful, trampling the working class.

One unifying belief held by the Republican leadership is that they do not like strong unions, so they have focused their efforts against a strong union – the ILWU – that fights without apology for good wages, health and pension benefits, and safe workplaces.

In the last month, U.S. Senators, Senator Cory Gardner (Republican from Colorado) and Senator John Thune (Republican from South Dakota) made speeches on the floor of the U.S. Senate, asking other Senators to support their efforts to punish the ILWU for standing up to employers. Senator Gardner proposed legislation to extend powers to Governors to meddle in the collective bargaining process between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association.

Senator Thune introduced legislation (The Port Performance Act) which mandates that the federal government monitor productivity and gather statistics on longshore workers.

Unfortunately, a part of the Port Performance Act (S. 1298) was included in a comprehensive transportation bill that passed the Senate.

Senator Mazie Hirono (Democrat- Hawaii) prepared an amendment to the bill that would have struck the port metrics section from the bill, but Senate Republicans refused to allow her to offer the amendment on the floor. The Senate Republican leadership also slipped in a provision that would allow automation costs to be funded through federal government grants to ports.

The ILWU Washington office and the ILWU grassroots legislation action committee are working long hours to stop the Port Performance Act and government-funded automation from being considered in the House of Representatives. We are engaged in meetings with House members who serve on the Transportation Committee including moderate Republicans.

We are broadening our coalition to include port managers and some terminal operators who may want to work with the ILWU rather than work against us.

If the Port Performance Act passes both Houses and is signed by President Obama, it would cause many negative – and some unexpected consequences.

It would impose a top-down system of federal productivity measurements on port workers. The bill calls on the federal government to collect metrics from ports, including a count of the number of crane moves made by operators at each of our nation’s largest ports. If the legislation becomes law, some unscrupulous terminal operators will try to speed up operations on the docks in order to appear more appealing to shippers, endangering worker health and safety. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the number of accident reports in the longshore industry at 6.6 accidents per 100 workers. This is twice the rate of accidents in the coal mining industry. If the proposed legislation becomes law, accidents are likely to increase, with more worker deaths and permanently disabilities.

A provision added to the Senate Transportation bill lists electronic roads and driverless trucks within ports as a project that could be funded through federal freight transportation grants. If this federal subsidy is implemented at maritime facilities, funding for automation projects will expand because of federal tax dollars, not market demands, and the number of workers employed at our nation’s ports could be significantly reduced. Driverless trucks and electronic roads will not increase overall port productivity – but they will destroy thousands of jobs and harm local communities, while the federal subsidies create a windfall for terminal operators – most of whom are foreign-owned.

ILWU members can play an important role in stopping ant-union legislation from becoming law. Your member of Congress can be reached at 202-225-3121. Tell your Representative the following:

  • You are concerned the Senate Transportation bill has been combined with the Port Performance Act and a government subsidy for automation on the docks.
  • The Senate Transportation bill would kill jobs by funding driverless trucks.
  • The Port Performance Act will lead to increased accidents, fatalities and injuries.
  • The Act will harm communities who depend on good jobs at our nation’s ports.
  • Ask that your member of Congress vote against any bill that includes these measures.

This report was prepared by the ILWU’s Legislative Director, Lindsay McLaughlin.

Categories: Unions

Solidarity message from MUA Queensland branch

Thu, 08/20/2015 - 10:52

Members of the Maritime Union Australia, Queensland Branch in Brisbane recently  recorded a solidarity message to the ILWU while on the picket line.

Categories: Unions