The Panama Canal Pilot’s union [which is an affiliate of the ILWU] says that it will defend the institutions of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) against any “external or internal” attack.
The decision of the canal guild comes following recent statements by Lourdes Castillo, about an ongoing investigation of Canal executive Rodolfo Sabonge by the Inspector General of the ACP.
“Despite our differences with management in labor-management issues, we defend the institutional and legal independence of the ACP as collateral to keep the Canal for the benefit of the Panamanian people,” said Rainiero Salas, secretary general of the Union.
The spokesman for the union, which represents about 250 Canal pilots, have the perception that “there are external forces that want to somehow have interfere in the institution of the Panama Canal, and that is very dangerous.”
The Union called for respect of the regulations of the Canal and the confidentiality of the process of any ongoing investigation.
Our condolences go out to Mr. López’ family, friends and colleagues. Nuestras condolencias a los familiares, compañeros de trabajo y amigos del señor López.
Oscar López Triviño was murdered on November 9 in the Colombian city of Bugalagrande a day after he and other members of his union, SINALTRAINAL, received death threats from paramilitaries.
The union had been on hunger strike at Nestlé since November 5. The IUF — the global union federation for food workers — has joined with the national center CUT and unions around the world in condemning this assassination of yet another Colombian trade unionist.
They have called on the government to swiftly bring the perpetrators and organizers of this crime to justice through a full and transparent investigation, and to provide all necessary security for other union members at high risk.
The death threats against longhsore union leader Victor Crespo started soon after he began organizing workers at Puerto Cortez in Honduras where International Container Terminal Services Incorporated (ICTSI) was awarded a lucrative 30-year contract last February to operate in Central America’s only deepwater port.
The death threats were honored during the early morning hours of September 14 when armed thugs broke into Crespo’s home to attack him, but left when neighbors awakened, saw what was happening, and caused the attackers to flee. As the thugs departed, they warned him to stop organizing dockworkers – and vowed to return in a few hours if he was still there to carry out their death threats.
Crespo, who serves as General Secretary of the Sindicato Gremial de Trabajadores del Muelle (SGTM), is being temporarily sheltered in another country until the Honduran Government guarantees his safety and honors the union’s application to represent dockworkers at ICTSI’s new operation. Crespo and his union are being assisted by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), a global federation of unions including the ILWU.
“Maritime unions around the world are learning about the threat that privatization and corporate greed pose to human rights,” said ILWU International Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe who also serves as Second Vice Chair of the ITF Dockers Section.
“Victor Crespo is one of many courageous union leaders on the front lines who deserve our support.” ICTSI won a controversial “public-private partnership” with the Honduran government and a wealthy private bank (Ficohsa). The deal anticipates ICTSI will spend $624 million over the next ten years for new terminal facilities, including 12 cranes that are expected to move 600,000 containers a year – each generating a royalty of $20. ICTSI operates internationally at 27 ports, including the Port of Portland where it has blatantly violated terms of the ILWU-PMA contract and has been the target of legal action by both the ILWU and Pacific Maritime Association.
ILWU Locals 4, 8, 19, 21, and 23 are entering the 14th month of a protracted struggle to get a contract with the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers’ Association (PNGHA). The companies that make up the PNGHA include Japanese-owned Mitsui/United Grain Corporation (UGC), Japanese-owned Marubeni/ Columbia Grain (CGI), French-owned and Netherlands-based Louis Dreyfus Commodities (LDC), and United States-based grain company TEMCO, a joint venture of Cargill and CHS.
The ILWU and TEMCO reached an interim agreement (subject to the outcome of the negotiations with the larger multi-employer association) in February, and work at TEMCO grain elevators in Tacoma, Portland, and Kalama is proceeding without incident.
The three holdout companies, UGC, CGI, and LDC, continue to demand concessions – despite their healthy profits and near monopoly control over a large portion of the global grain market.
Recent legal developments
The ILWU got a boost recently when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) indicated that it had found merit in the union’s March 4, 2013 unfair labor practice (ULP) charge that UGC unlawfully locked out the workforce at its Vancouver, Washington facility on February 27, 2013 and was preparing to issue a complaint against UGC. The NLRB also indicated that it is considering filing a petition for an injunction against UGC pending the outcome of the ULP complaint.
Before the complaint was issued, however, the government shut down and the NLRB employees handling the complaint were furloughed. “This could be an important step toward holding Mitsui-United Grain accountable for breaking U.S. labor laws and violating the rights of American workers,” said ILWU President Bob McEllrath. “We will see if the NLRB takes the additional step of returning people to work by enjoining Mitsui- United Grain while they process our ULP charge to trial. The Board has this power under Section 10(j) of the NLRA, and we think the conduct of Mitsui- United Grain warrants the Board’s use of this power.”
This is the first potential breakthrough that the ILWU has had in the NLRB legal process in a long while. Typically, the ILWU is the target of NLRB intervention – especially on behalf of rogue PMA member companies (ICTSI and Kinder Morgan, for example). In fact, though the government is shut down and the NLRB complaint against UGC is being held in abeyance in the interim, the NLRB (Region 19) has “authorized” two staff members to continue processing an injunction against the ILWU with the intent of prohibiting the union from picketing CGI and UGC controlled assets.
Strong picket lines
ILWU members have maintained strong, round-the-clock picket lines for months since UGC locked out members of ILWU Local 4 in Vancouver in February and CGI locked out ILWU Local 8 members in Portland in May.
LDC, which owns elevators in Seattle and Portland, kept its Seattle and Portland facilities closed until last week when the company opened its Seattle facility and ordered longshoremen to work under the multi-employer “last and final” offer.
Large inflatable rats are visible at picket lines in Vancouver, Washington, and Portland, Oregon. The rats remind UGC, CGI, and LDC of their low standing in the community because of the lockout. These rats also serve to remind International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) representing electricians and the Columbia River pilots that they have abandoned union solidarity by crossing the picket lines. In addition to land pickets at UGC and CGI facilities in Vancouver and Portland, ILWU Local 4 and ILWU Local 8 are picketing primary targets on the Columbia and Snake Rivers and doing so despite robust Coast Guard vigilance.
The cargo moved by the towboat workforce on the Columbia and Snake Rivers is 100 percent union and is represented by either the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU) or the Masters, Mates, & Pilots (MM&P). Both unions, where tow boaters are represented, are aggressively respecting ILWU picket lines on the entire river system.
To circumvent the strong support of IBU and MM&P represented tow boaters, the grain companies have pooled their resources and bareboat leased two vessel assist tugs and one specialized tug to push grain barges. The companies are manning the tugs with scabs. The Columbia River pilots, which are union, are crossing ILWU primary picket lines and the ships are being docked and loaded at UGC and CGI facilities on a regular basis. CGI and UGC even formed a new boat operator called Kadoke Marine, which uses scab labor, to circumvent Jones Act requirements that would otherwise restrict foreign companies from moving cargo from one U.S. port to another.
Tidewater Barge (whose boats are operated by IBU) then organized a scam to circumvent the effectiveness of the IBU’s support for ILWU pickets. Tidewater Barge and Kadoke/CGI/UGC signed a commercial deal whereby Kadoke’s scab tugs would move grain in and out of picketed facilities. The way the deal works is that at the point that the scab tug touches the Tidewater barge, the barge is leased to Kadoke/CGI/UGC. The barge does not come off lease until a Tidewater tug picks it up after its discharge.
This scam has backfired. At the point that the barge assets are leased to and under the control of Kadoke/CGI/UGC, they become a primary target and the legal object of ILWU pickets. Thus, Tidewater Barge cannot pick the empty barges up as planned because its IBU workforce refuses to cross ILWU picket lines.
Forwarding in case you missed it. This barge had brought grain down from upriver and was waiting its turn to transfer the grain at one of the terminals involved in the current dispute about which you have written. I have nothing to add to what’s in the press release, but the Tidewater staff may be willing to talk to you about it.
CAPT Bruce C Jones, USCG
Commander, Sector Columbia River/Air Station Astoria
Captain of the Port
During harvest, 50 percent of the wheat is transported by barge to down river export facilities. The total fleet operated by Tidewater Barge (IBU) and Shaver Transportation Company (MM&P) is approximately 88 barges. As of the publication of this article, approximately one third of the total fleet leased to Kadoke/CGI/UGC is stuck behind ILWU picket lines because IBU-represented tow boaters employed by Tidewater and MM&P represented tow boaters employed by Shaver refuse to cross ILWU pickets.
In response, Tidewater Barge filed ULP charges with the NLRB, claiming that the ILWU picketing is secondary and therefore unlawful. The NLRB (Region 19) issued a complaint on Tidewater’s charges. The NLRB immediately sought 10(l) injunctive relief to prohibit picketing that in any manner impacts Tidewater Barge pending the processing of Tidewater’s charges, which could take years.
The hearing on the NLRB’s request for an injunction is scheduled for October 10, 2013 and will be reported on in the next issue of the Dispatcher.
Coast Guard Collusion
Coast Committeeman Sundet describes a “war on many fronts” that includes government agencies and public officials who collude with the foreign-owned grain corporations. From the beginning of the recent struggle with grain companies – starting with the 2011 battle at EGT’s new terminal in Longview – the U.S. Coast Guard has consistently favored employers, says Sundet, who points to the agency’s preoccupation with “protecting property and promoting commerce” during a major labor struggle.
“The Coast Guard isn’t a neutral player in this fight,” says Sundet. “They consistently use public tax dollars to protect corporations who are screwing American workers.” Sundet points to the Coast Guard’s created “safety zones” that restrict union members from approaching company vessels and organizing pickets on the water. “It’s yet another way to shift the balance of power in favor of capital and curtail the already limited free speech rights of workers,” adds Sundet.
One Coast Guard official responsible for the lower Columbia River was recently caught favoring grain companies against the union. In early September, Coast Guard Captain Bruce Jones sent an email message to a reporter at the Oregonian who has a history of anti-ILWU bias. The Captain’s email message contained false and misleading information about a grain barge drifting and suggested that the union was responsible.
He stated that the barge was originally destined for one of the locked out facilities. In fact, the barge in question was not “waiting its turn to transfer the grain at one of the terminals involved in the current dispute…”
At the conclusion of his message, Jones encouraged the reporter to contact an employer involved in the dispute in order to provide additional comment about his erroneous report.
Besides providing armed escort services at taxpayer expense to the grain merchants and preventing American union members and community supporters from exercising their constitutional right to protest on the water, the Coast Guard has also turned a blind eye to alleged maritime violations committed by the companies’ non-union vessel operators.
Ignoring company violations
Unqualified, non-union workers hired to operate tow boats for UGC crashed into dock pilings at the company’s Vancouver, Washington facility. Although Coast Guard rules require vessel operators to immediately report such incidents, neither the company nor their non-union operators filed a timely report with the Coast Guard. Following the incident, the IBU notified the Coast Guard. Coast Guard officials do not appear to have conducted an investigation nor did they take any enforcement action against the company or crew.
On September 9, 2013, IBU President Alan Cote and MM&P President Don Marcus issued a joint press release to warn the public and Coast Guard that CGI and UGC “have called in a fly-by-night tug and towboat operator using questionable equipment and unqualified tugboat personnel with no prior experience on the Columbia and Willamette Rivers.” Cote and Marcus warned that these unqualified personnel could cause “an environmental catastrophe at any time.”
Their prediction came true less than two weeks later when a scab tug working for the locked out companies ran aground in the river, damaging the vessel and releasing oil into the river. As The Dispatcher was going to press, it was unclear whether the Coast Guard had properly investigated the incident, tested the nonunion and poorly-trained vessel operators for alcohol or drug use, or reacted quickly to protect the environment from the spill.
Harassment by courts and police
The Coast Guard is not the only law enforcement agency taking sides against workers in the grain struggle, says Sundet. He points to a decision by the Vancouver, Washington Police Department that has been providing security services at public taxpayer expense to CGI to ensure that State Grain Inspectors cross the ILWU lockout picket line at their facility in Vancouver.
The State Grain Inspectors, represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFCSME), refused to cross the pickets citing unsafe conditions associated with the volatility created by the company and their private security company. “The tax payers should not pay for the company to keep its doors open” said Sundet.
Another example of local police playing favorites came in late September when ILWU members in Vancouver, Washington received court summons in their mailboxes for alleged picket line misdemeanors.
Before workers could respond by appearing in court for their arraignments – and in some cases before the summons had even been received – bench warrants were issued for “failing to appear” which subjected members to the possibility of immediate arrest and detention. To date, 30 ILWU Local 4 and 8 members have been charged with misdemeanors for picket line associated incidents.
“It feels like the local police and government are running a kangaroo court system against union members,” said Brad Clark. “Foreign companies refuse to negotiate and take aggressive action to eliminate the union and are supported by the NLRB, the Coast Guard, the Port Authorities, and the local police.”
Corporate law-breaking called out CGI in Portland was successfully challenged after they attempted to illegally restrict picketing at their Port of Portland facility with the full cooperation and collusion by the Port. The union was successful in reestablishing a public right of-way in late September. City of Portland officials told the company to end their illegal obstruction.
Criminal charges dropped
A push by UGC to have criminal charges filed against an ILWU member accused of sabotage fell flat in September when Clark County’s Prosecuting Attorney declined to prosecute the case. The company had accused a Local 4 member of sabotaging operations last December under orders from the ILWU. UGC used the alleged incident as a pretext for the lockout. A lengthy investigation concluded that there was insufficient evidence to file criminal charges. Nonetheless, the company continues to litigate its civil charges against the Local 4 member.
Reaching out along the supply chain
In an effort to spread the ILWU’s message about a fair contract, Grain Negotiating Committee Co-Chair Rich Austin, Jr. and ILWU Local 23 President Scott Mason have traveled hundreds of miles upriver along the Columbia and Snake Rivers and into Montana and North Dakota with teams of longshoremen from various Pacific Northwest locals. “Our goal has been to meet with farmers and community leaders upriver, where the grain is grown and shipped,” explained Austin, Jr. “We followed the grain supply chain, talked with locals, and came back with some interesting information about operations at both Mitsui-United and Columbia-Marubeni.”
ILWU outreach materials have also been prepared, explaining why members are locked out by CGI and UGC and how the union is taking steps to reach a fair contract. The materials were distributed at local stores, coffee shops, community bulletin boards and other places where locals gather and get their news.
Six members of Washington State’s Congressional delegation have expressed their concern with the conduct of CGI and UGC in a September 30, 2013 letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. They urged Froman to raise concerns about the lockout while he meets with Japan and other nations to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement in early October.
The letter from Congress members Jim McDermott, Adam Smith, Rick Larsen, Suzan DelBene, Denny Heck and Derek Kilmer stated, “The continued intransigence by Marubeni and Mitsui is placing great stress on workers dependent on these facilities for their livelihoods. The lockout is negatively affecting wheat and grain farmers in the Pacific Northwest and other states that depend on grain export terminals.”
The letter continued: “Mitsui and Marubeni forced workers to work under a concessionary contract that had been rejected by a 94% union membership vote, and locked out hundreds of American workers beginning in February and May at their two U.S. facilities. Cargill/CHS continued to negotiate with the ILWU and reached a fair contract with the union that was ratified in February that protects good American jobs.”
Injustice sparks resistance
As The Dispatcher was going to press, ILWU members were participating in more trips to rural wheat-growing communities in Washington, Montana, Oregon, and North Dakota to explain the contract struggle to farmers and establish picket lines in front of grain elevators owned by Marubeni-Columbia Grain, Mitsui-United Grain and Louis Dreyfus.
Defending the union’s right to picket resulted in ILWU Local 23 President Scott Mason being cited for criminal trespass at a facility in Harlem, Montana on September 18. Mason said he and other ILWU members will continue fighting for their right to establish “primary pickets” at those sites. Mason is pleading “not guilty” and is seeking a jury trial to contest the trespass charges.
“We don’t plan on giving up this fight,” he said. “We have the right to use legal, economic pressure on these big companies so we can get both sides back to the table and reach a fair settlement.” Picketing continues on and off the river system as far east as Montana.
The slogan of the Pacific Coast Pensioners Association (PCPA) is “Retired from the job, not from the struggle.” And based on the enthusiasm and energy on display at the 46th PCPA convention, those are more than just words on a banner. Over 200 PCPA members and guests attended this year’s convention which was held in Portland, from Sept. 16-18. The topics debated and discussed by PCPA members included the upcoming 2014 Longshore contract negotiations, the fight to protect ILWU medical benefits and the recent disaffiliation of the ILWU from the national AFL-CIO. Linda Kuhn, retired Executive Assistant to the President at the ILWU attended the convention. She was honored with a lifetime membership to the PCPA by the delegates.
The convention was dedicated to the memory of James Trevor Tannock, retired Deputy National Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia, who passed away on September 13, and Southern California pensioner Jack Dillon a former member of Locals 13 and 63, who passed away on September 17.
PCPA President’s report
In his report, PCPA President Rich Austin outlined the past year of activism by ILWU pensioners. PCPA members picketed at terminal’s up and down the coast and the offices of the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) in Oakland and San Francisco to protest PMA attacks on ILWU health benefits, Austin said. Pensioners also supported locked out ILWU grain handlers in the Pacific Northwest, and participated in the ILWU International/Longshore Division Joint Legislative Conference.
They have also been participating on the ILWU Education Committee and Benefits Committee. “Pensioners can play important and necessary roles, and the ILWU recognizes that,” Austin said.
He also said PCPA members are getting ready for 2014. “Next year, the Longshore Division will enter bargaining with the PMA. When, however, we adjourn on Wednesday we’ll do so with a resolve and a pledge to the active workforce and the entire ILWU family that we’ll do all we can to help win a good contract,” said Austin. “And leading up to 2014, we can remind the active workforce that it would be wise to prepare for any eventualities. Tell them to hold on to their vacation checks and income tax refunds until the contract is settled. Tell them to salt a few bucks away. The better prepared we are for a struggle, the less likely one will occur. “
The convention was well attended by ILWU officers. International President Bob McEllrath, Vice President Wesley Furtado, (Hawaii), Secretary Treasurer Willie Adams, Coast Committeemen Leal Sundet and Ray Ortiz, Jr., were all in attendance and spoke at the convention. Vice President Ray Familathe was ill and was not able to attend. Also in attendance were Local 13 President Chris Viramontes, Local 63 President Mike Podue and Local 8 President Jeff Smith.
President McEllrath addressed the convention on the first day. He spoke about the attacks on the health care benefits of active members and pensioners by the employers and explained the decision to leave the national AFL-CIO. President McEllrath cited the attacks by AFL-CIO affiliates and frustrations with the AFL-CIO’s conservative position on immigration and health care reform. “At a certain point you have to start asking yourself, what is the benefit of being in the AFLCIO,”
McEllrath said. “We are getting attacked on our health care and we are getting attacked on our jurisdiction. But we are going to fight. You are the ones who taught me how to fight as a union man since I got on the docks in 1969,” McEllrath said, thanking the pensioners for their leadership.
Unanimous support for disaffiliation
On the second day of the convention the PCPA by passing a resolution to support the decision by the ILWU to disaffiliate from the national AFL-CIO:
Solidarity with Our Officers
Whereas: The ILWU has always been a leader of labor and labor unions and is recognized around the world as being a leader, and
Whereas: The ILWU Convention in San Diego gave our President Bob McEllrath overwhelming support to withdraw from the AFL-CIO if he established that our participation was not beneficial to the ILWU and did not follow our Guiding Principles, therefore
Be It Resolved: The Pacific Coast Pensioners Association in solidarity support International President Robert McEllrath in his principled stand by withdrawing the ILWU from the AFL-CIO, and
Be It Further Resolved: We the pensioners of the ILWU will continue to be staunch supporters of all workers and organizations that uphold the principles of labor and labor unions.
Passed by delegates to the 46th
Annual Convention of the Pacific
Coast Pensioners Association
September 17, 2013
Report from Canada
Len Meneghello from the Vancouver Pensioners Club gave the report from Canada. He gave an update on the political situation in British Columbia and said that environmental concerns need to be balanced with the need to maintain a strong industrial base that can provide good paying jobs. Meneghello also outlined the charitable activities of the Vancouver pensioners including support for students in underprivileged schools.
ILWU Coast Benefits Specialist John Castanho along with the Area Directors for the benefits plan, coordinators for the Alcohol and Drug Recover Program, and representatives of the Benefits Plans Office also spoke at the convention and were available to answer questions. They discussed the efforts to resolve the payment delays caused by PMA’s handpicked claims processing company, Zenith America and other issues related to the health and pension plans.
Progressive economist and author Dean Baker spoke at the convention again this year. Baker criticized the administration’s inadequate response to the 2008 financial crisis. He said the priorities in Washington, D.C. were backwards. The government gave a massive handout to the financial industry that caused the crisis but the stimulus to provide jobs to the millions of Americans who lost their jobs was far too small to be effective. “Don’t be fooled by the deficit hawks on Wall Street,” he said. They are not opposed to the government handing out money, they are only opposed to it when they aren’t the recipients.”
Also speaking at the event was Conor Casey from the Labor Archives of the University of Washington. Casey gave an update on the ongoing project that plays a vital role in preserving the history of working people in the Pacific Northwest. Joining Conor was Ross Rieder, President of the Pacific Northwest Labor History Association, who also spoke about the importance of preserving the history of working class heroes and heroines.
Jesse and Lois Stranahan Award Verna Porter of the Columbia Rivers Pensioners received this year’s Jesse and Lois Stranahan Award. The award is given every year to honor an outstanding labor activist. It was another successful PCPA convention and planning is already underway for next year’s convention which will be held from September 15-17 in Vancouver, Canada.
Hundreds of Southern California ILWU members joined with thousands Southern California workers and their families to celebrate Labor Day at the 34th annual Labor Solidarity March and Picnic in the working class city of Wilmington, CA. Over three dozen unions from all over Los Angeles County were represented.
Labor Day Breakfast
The celebration began at the Local 13 Dispatch Hall where a team of ILWU volunteers served up a hearty breakfast of pancakes, eggs, sausage, and breakfast burritos. This harbor-area Labor Day tradition began 13 years ago as a way to encourage participation in the march and served approximately 30 people a breakfast of tamales and bagels. Now the breakfast serves over 1,500 people and is as much a part of Labor Day as the parade and picnic.
The people’s parade
The parade started at 10 a.m. at Broad and E Streets. Workers walked proudly behind union banners and flags with their families, accompanied by area high school marching bands, motorcycle clubs, and classic cars. They were led by a flatbed trailer of ILWU pensioners as the march made its way up Avalon Blvd towards Banning Park for a noon rally and picnic.
Workers and their families were treated to hot dogs, hamburgers and plenty of cold water to help beat the heat that approached triple digits.
‘The labor movement is alive and well’
ILWU International Vice President Ray Familathe was one of the featured speakers at the rally. He said that the labor movement was alive and well and would continue the fight for all working people.
“A strong labor movement means strong communities,” Familathe said. “Joining a union shouldn’t continue to be as difficult as it is—the Port Truck drivers are fighting this week, fast food workers across the country work hard and only make minimum wage. Look at the balance sheets of corporations.
They are making record profits but all they do is cry poverty as they push wages down on workers who are struggling to make ends meet. The ILWU is going to continue to work with unions everywhere to make sure that workers get a better deal.”
Japanese grain lockout in Pacific Northwest: Members of Congress ask U.S. Trade Representative to help resolve dispute during TPP negotiations
VANCOUVER, WA (October 1, 2013) – Several members of Congress have asked U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman to use the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement talks to help resolve the months-long lockout of ILWU grain workers in the Pacific Northwest by two Japanese grain conglomerates. The U.S. government is one of 12 member nations meeting this week in Bali, Indonesia, to negotiate a free trade agreement that the Obama Administration hopes will be finalized by the end of the year.
In a letter dated September 30, 2013, the Congressional delegates wrote, “The continued intransigence by Marubeni and Mitsui is placing great stress on workers dependent on these facilities for their livelihoods. The lockout is negatively affecting wheat and grain farmers in the Pacific Northwest and other states that depend on grain export terminals.”
The letter is signed by six members of Congress, all from Washington State: Jim McDermott, Adam Smith, Rick Larsen, Suzan DelBene, Denny Heck and Derek Kilmer.
The current round of TPP negotiations began today in Bali, Indonesia, and ends on Oct. 8. Chief negotiators, ministers and leaders from the 12 member nations aim to reach a basic agreement and pave the way for concluding a deal by the end of the year. The 12 countries involved in TPP negotiations are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.
Both grain corporations involved in the Northwest grain lockout are based in Japan. Mitsui owns United Grain in Vancouver, Wash., which locked out members of ILWU Local 4 on February 27, and Marubeni owns Columbia Grain in Portland, which locked out members of ILWU Local 8 on May 4. Netherlands-based Louis Dreyfus Commodities owns additional elevators in the Northwest which are under refurbishment and not currently operating, and U.S.-based TEMCO, a joint venture of Cargill and CHS, reached an agreement with ILWU workers in February.
“Mitsui and Marubeni forced workers to work under a concessionary contract that had been rejected by a 94% union membership vote, and locked out hundreds of American workers beginning in February and May at their two U.S. facilities,” the letter states. “Cargill/CHS continued to negotiate with the ILWU and reached a fair contract with the union that was ratified in February that protects good American jobs.”
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union has represented workers in all Northwest grain export terminals since 1934.
In late August, I sent a letter to President Richard Trumka that explained why we were discontinuing our membership in the national AFL-CIO. I encourage you to read my letter so you can understand why I made this difficult decision. We took this action after delegates to the 2012 ILWU International Convention authorized us to leave the AFL-CIO – if and when the ILWU International President felt it was in the best interest of the union to do so. Our longstanding commitment to solidarity- helping workers who need a hand. “An injury to one is an injury to all.”
August 29, 2013
President Richard Trumka
815 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006
Re: ILWU Disaffiliation
It is with regret but resolve that we have come to the point where the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) must cut formal ties with the AFL-CIO.
As you know, the ILWU has a long and proud history of militant independence inside and outside the House of Labor. With roots from the old Wobblies (IWW), our Union arose from industrial-based organizing, against the tradition of craft-based unionism, to become a founding member of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). This affiliation itself, however, did not last long. During the anti-labor, McCarthy period, the ILWU was kicked out of the CIO for being “too red” and too independent, and we did not join the merged AFL-CIO until 1988. In short, the ILWU has been independent and unaffiliated for most of its history. Today, the ILWU returns to that tradition.
I do wish to note that during our affiliation, the Federation’s national office did, on occasion, provide some support to the ILWU. One particular high mark was your personal involvement in longshore contract negotiations in 2002, which we gratefully acknowledge. But even in those negotiations, we had to fend off attacks from other national affiliates, who actively tried to undermine our contract struggle by filing legal claims and walking through our picket lines protesting the ten-day employer lockout. And this was at a time when the Bush Administration had openly threatened to militarize the ports and even shoot some of us to secure the ports for the coming war in Iraq. Even after this passed, six years later, when the longshore contract reopened in 2008, one of these national affiliates filed ULP charges against the ILWU to try again to sabotage our bargaining.
Since then, we have seen a growing surge of attacks from various affiliates. A particularly outrageous raid occurred in 2011, when one affiliate slipped in to longshore jobs at the new EGT grain facility in the Port of Longview, Washington, and then walked through ILWU picket lines for six months until we were able to secure this critical longshore jurisdiction. Your office added insult to injury by issuing a directive to the Oregon State Federation to rescind its support of the ILWU fight at EGT, which threatened to be the first marine terminal on the West Coast to go non-ILWU.
The attacks by affiliates against the ILWU have only increased. One affiliate has filed a string of ULP charges as well as an Article XX charge that not only interfere with ILWU contractual rights at specific ports; the ULP charges also are attempting to dismantle core jurisdictional provisions in our Longshore Contract for the entire West Coast. In Los Angeles and Oakland, another affiliate is imposing internal union fines against dual union members for the “crime” of taking a job as a longshoreman — the stated purpose of the fines being to prevent the ILWU from filling new waterfront jobs that replace traditional longshore work due to new technologies. In Oakland and Tacoma, another affiliate is trying to use a recent NLRB ruling against one of our employers to take over ILWU jobs with some of our other employers. Throughout the Pacific Northwest, we are daily seeing still other affiliates blatantly cross the picket lines of ILWU members who have been locked out for months by the regional grain industry. And just this week, some of the Building Trades affiliates have displaced ILWU workers in the loading of barges at Terminal 46 in Seattle where longshoremen have done this work for generations. They also had the gall to file several ULP charges against us for picketing at our own marine terminal. These multi-state attacks against the ILWU are being coordinated in large part by a law firm with close ties to the Federation.
We see this situation only getting worse as the ILWU is about to start West Coast longshore negotiations and face the challenge of the ports soon being run by robotics and computer-operated machinery over the next five to ten years. The survival of the ILWU and the job security of our members depend on our having these remaining jobs, which will mostly involve the servicing and maintenance of the robotics and other machinery. These are jobs that directly replace longshoremen, jobs that ILWU employers control and jobs that fall under jurisdictional provisions of our Contract. We will not let other affiliates jeopardize our survival and block our future as the primary waterfront workforce.
The ILWU has also become increasingly frustrated with the Federation’s moderate, overly compromising policy positions on such important matters as immigration, labor law reform, health care reform, and international labor issues. We feel the Federation has done a great disservice to the labor movement and all working people by going along to get along. The Federation has not stood its ground on issues that are most important to our members. President Obama ran on a platform that he would not tax medical plans and at the 2009 AFL-CIO Convention, you stated that labor would not stand for a tax on our benefits. Yet the Federation later lobbied affiliates to support a bill that taxed our health care plans. Similarly, the AFL-CIO and the ILWU have historically supported comprehensive immigration reform with a clear path to citizenship that protects undocumented workers from firings, deportations, and the denial of their rights. However, the immigration bill you recently asked us to support imposes extremely long waiting periods on the path to citizenship and favors workers with higher education and profitability to corporations, as opposed to the undocumented workers such as janitors and farm workers who would greatly benefit from the protections granted by legalization. As a labor movement, we need to stand up and be the voice for our members and working people. We cannot continue to compromise on the issues that benefit and protect the working men and women of America.
Disaffiliation does not mean that the ILWU intends to go it alone. Not by a long shot. The ILWU has and will continue to provide whatever aid and support we can for our fellow trade unionists and workers everywhere. We are committed to working in solidarity with all unions and labor groups, including the Federation and its affiliates, for the advancement of workers, worker rights, and progressive issues everywhere.
cc: ILWU Titled Officers
ILWU International Executive Board
ILWU Longshore Division Coast Committee
AFL-CIO Executive Council
ILWU Walk the Coast organizers had two goals for this year’s event: get more locals to participate and raise more money than last year. Both of those goals were achieved. Walk the Coast is an ILWU, coastwise event dedicated to three principles – to raise awareness and funds for cancer charities, unite the union and work with the community.
This year over $100,000 was raised by ILWU members in Los Angeles, Seattle/Tacoma, San Francisco/Oakland, Port Hueneme, Vancouver and San Diego. The Los Angeles, San Francisco/ Oakland, Port Hueneme, and San Diego locals raised money for Alex’s Lemonade Stand, which fights childhood cancers; the Seattle/Tacoma events raised money for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) and Vancouver Walk the Coast, chaired by Rod O’Hearn raised money for the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. The Coast Longshore Division donated a total of $7,500 to ILWU Walk the Coast–$2,500 to each of the charities.
“This was another fantastic event with the ILWU working with the community for a great cause. What was great about this year’s event was that we had more locals organizing events in their community,” said Coast Event Chairman Dan Imbagliazzo. “What is important is not how big or small the events are but that our union—up and down the coast—is working together to do something good for people in our community.”
The Los Angeles event was held on August 10th at Outer Harbor 54/55 in San Pedro. The event affair featured a full day of entertainment. The program started with a performance by the San Pedro High School Marching Band and the “Walk a Mile for Alex” tribute. Family entertainment included games, face painting, a fire department hook and ladder, a fire boat water show, six fighter plane flyover, a special op helicopter and police patrol car on exhibition, live bands, a magician and juggler. The Master of Ceremonies this year was local NBC weathercaster Fritz Coleman and the event was opened up by LA City Councilman Joe Buscaino.
A silent auction featured a hot air balloon ride at the 2013 Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta and hotel stays in San Francisco. Also helpful to fundraising efforts this year were the funds raised by Los Angeles/Long Beach Casuals who raised $3,000 and a Tri- Local Poker Tournament organized by members Sidro Felix (13) and Richard Harriet (94) with 108 players from Locals 13, 63, 94, and the community that raised $5,660.
Port Hueneme and San Francisco/Oakland organized fundraising walks. The Bay Area event was hosted at Local 34 and also featured a car show and raffle. The Seattle/Tacoma’s fundraiser was held at the Foss Waterway Seaport. The day-long event featured carnival games, great food, a silent auction, a bouncy house and live music from the band Stay Grounded. The Tacoma Fire department and Foss Tugs—which is staffed with deck hands from the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU) entertained the crowd with a water show.
“Longshoremen are very generous people,” said Local 23 President Scott Mason. “This is a great event because it gives ILWU members the opportunity to embrace their own cause, coast wide. We need to get the younger people used to giving back to the community through charitable contributions— that’s a part of our culture and we need to pass that tradition along.”
The ILWU volunteers who have been organizing these events the past two years have faced a sharp learning curve in running a coastwise fundraising event, however, Walk the Coast has been a great success. Walk the Coast has raised tens of thousands of dollars for PanCAN and thousands for the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.
“The ILWU joined the $100,000-plus level sponsorship club for Alex’s Lemonade Stand which places the ILWU logo next to the logo of Fortune 500 companies like Kohl’s, Omni Hotels, and Walgreen’s on the charity’s website” said Coast Event Coordinator Robert Maynez. “That is pretty impressive for a labor union. That is in addition to last year’s accomplishment of reaching the ‘Top 100 fundraisers list’ nationwide for all fundraising efforts for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.”
In just two years, ILWU Walk the Coast has raised over $200,000 for cancer charities. Imbagliazzo said that the ILWU Walk the Coast event will continue to gather momentum and build on the experience and success. “This is just the beginning,” he said.
Over 200 Oakland recycling workers staged a powerful show of unity and action by striking on Tuesday, July 30. Employees from the City’s two recycling contractors – Waste Management and California Waste Solutions (CWS) – walked off their jobs midway through the morning shift.
Strike ’n roll
Instead of picketing in remote industrial areas where the recycling plants are located, workers formed caravans that converged downtown at Oakland’s City Hall. The result was a full day of political action and solidarity that included marches, “human billboards” along Broadway and 14th Streets, visits with local and state elected officials, and a spirited rally. The day ended when rally participants – including many community allies – filled the upper seats of the City Council chambers and addressed the City Council that evening.
Dirty dangerous work
Recycling worker Emanuel San Gabriel is one of CWS workers who left his dusty and noisy workplace behind to join the protest. He wasn’t alone, with 100% of his CWS co-workers joining the effort. San Gabriel spoke at the rally, explaining that the work they do is valuable for the community and environment –but not respected because of low pay and a lack of benefits.
Death caused by company negligence
Last year, Waste Management was charged by Cal-OSHA with violating safety rules that led to the death of a landfill worker, employed at the Davis Street facility in San Leandro where recycling also takes place. Waste Management refused to pay any fines and continues to deny responsibility for causing the worker’s death.
Dramatic display of hazards
Other workers, including many from Waste Management, used the strike as an opportunity to detail the hazards that they face each day. The dangers were made obvious with a 30’ display of typical items found on a recycling line. Mixed with the paper, plastic and glass were used hypodermic syringes, animal feces, hazardous wastes and solvents, and building materials that often contain asbestos and lead.
Strong message & media coverage
The hazard display was one of many ways that workers used to send a strong message that resonated with the public. Interviews, in most cases, were done by workers – not union officials. Signs were clear with simple messages calling for “justice” and “respect.” Workers felt comfortable talking about “corporate greed.” The result was good coverage from television, radio and newspapers – all featuring workers speaking in their own voices.
The job action was triggered by labor law violations committed by Waste Management and CWS, resulting in an “unfair labor practices strike.” But the concerns raised by workers went beyond the unlawful retaliation, bad faith bargaining and other violations by the companies. Nearly everyone raised the problem of disrespect – which became the common rallying cry among the predominantly immigrant workforce.
Among the many signs of disrespect, they say, are the low wages, which amount to just $12.67 and less per hour – while recycling workers in San Jose and San Francisco are paid $20. While the low paychecks are issued by private companies (Waste Management and CWS) the City of Oakland sets the terms and conditions for lucrative contracts – which both companies are now lobbying to extend for another 10-20 years.
“We want a better life for our families,” said recycling worker Alejandra León. “We do important work for the environment and this community, and these companies can afford to treat us better,” she said.
Every worker wore the same button: “$20 by 2016!” – referring to their goal of parity with other Bay Area cities who already pay recycling workers more fairly.
In the weeks leading up to the strike, workers organized weekly protests in front of the Waste Management’s corporate headquarters on 98th Street in Oakland, near the airport. The effort – planned by workers themselves – attracted impressive support from co-workers who volunteered hundreds of hours of time to the cause. Good media coverage at those actions allowed workers to practice talking about Waste Management’s $800 million dollar profit last year, and the $7 million compensation awarded to their CEO. The theme of “corporate greed” used by workers at these “practice protests” became a key theme in the public messaging for the strike.
While workers and organizing in the workplace remains the heart of the campaign, important support from allies in the community was evident at the action. The East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE) that includes the Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy (FAME), the Sierra Club, Center for Environmental Health Coalition, Worksafe!, and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Mujeres Unidas y Activas, and many others. The recycling workers at Waste Management and CWS belong to ILWU Local 6 which is helping the workers organize their campaign.
Bi-lingual is better
While most recycling workers speak Spanish, the strike events and materials were bi-lingual, to make sure everyone understood and felt included. This became an advantage with media coverage, that attracted Spanish-language stations to both “practice protests” that led up to the strike. Translation and a mix of languages were noticeable throughout the day – building unity by reducing differences.
On July 30th recycling workers at the Waste Management’s recycling facility in San Leandro held a rally and demonstration. They were joined by the Steelworker’s Summer of Solidarity (SoS) caravan—a 17-day, 13-city coast-to- coast tour of Steelworker union activists and allies from across the country. The SoS caravan has been supporting local labor struggles along its tour and participating in street actions, workshops and concerts.
The Waste Management demonstration was attended by over 60 people including recycling workers, community allies, and a delegation of fast food workers from the Oakland airport who were on a one-day strike.
Legendary labor singer/songwriter Anne Feeney and Canadian hip-hop artist and union activist Michael O’Brien who were travelling with the SoS tour performed at the event. After the rally, the SoS caravan and a delegation of recycling workers went to the Oakland airport to support the striking airport workers.
Good green jobs or more junk jobs?
Oakland’s City Council will ultimately decide whether their recycling workers join the better-pay that San Jose and other cities provide, or continue to stagnate with low-wage “junk jobs” instead of the good green jobs that Oakland and other cities so desperately need.
Filmmaker Nate Sacharow produced this short video on the history of the ILWU Local 56 “shipscalers” who work in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
PORTLAND, OR (AUGUST 29, 2013) – An Administrative Law Judge for the National Labor Relations Board issued a preliminary decision and recommended order on August 28 that the ILWU is not legally entitled to perform disputed work that is covered by the ILWU’s 80-year-old collective bargaining agreement with the union’s West Coast employers. The work was awarded to IBEW-represented electricians last year in an NLRB ruling that has since been vacated by a federal judge who found that the Board acted outside the clear legal mandates of the National Labor Relations Act when it issued a decision awarding work to the Port’s electricians because the Port’s public employees are excluded from the Board’s jurisdiction.
The ALJ’s preliminary decision and recommended order is based on a grossly flawed assumption that the Port controls the disputed work of monitoring refrigerated containers at Terminal 6 in the Port of Portland. However, the evidence and the law make clear that the work is under the ultimate control, not of the Port, but of the employers of International Longshore and Warehouse Union members, including the steamship carriers.
“The ALJ’s error about who controls the work, and his reliance on a now-vacated Board decision, will ultimately lead to a court reversal in this case and the ILWU securing the work we’re entitled to under the collective bargaining agreement that ICTSI agreed to follow when it took over operations at Terminal 6,” said Leal Sundet, a longshoreman from Portland who serves as ILWU Coast Committeeman in San Francisco. “His decision and recommended order is contrary to decisions of industry arbitrators who understand the work at issue here as well as ICTSI’s obligations to both Pacific Maritime Association internal labor standards and to the collective agreement that PMA has with the ILWU.”
The ALJ’s decision is not a surprise to the ILWU, given that the Board has been on a campaign to weaken it ever since the Union defied the Board’s orders in the widely reported fight to protect longshore jobs at the EGT grain terminal in the port of Longview, Washington, in 2011. The ILWU’s plan has always been to find justice in the appeals court. Yesterday’s ALJ decision and recommended order is not binding legal precedent unless and until it is enforced pursuant to a judgment of a federal court.
ICTSI is a voluntary member of the Pacific Maritime Association, the employer association that employs ILWU members on the West Coast. The entire longshore industry, consisting of more than 70 employers, agrees with ILWU’s position on this matter.
Sundet said, “ICTSI is a rogue foreign company that wants the protection of a multi-employer contract but refuses to accept the collective obligations of such a contract. We believe a neutral appellate court will hold this company accountable where the Labor Board has been unwilling to do so.”