On the 60th anniversary of the patent of the shipping container, the website, Tomorrow, collects seven stories with different perspectives on shipping containers and how they have changed the world. One of those perspectives is ILWU pensioner and former ILWU Education Director, Gene Vrana:
My generation, the guys that came in in the mid to late ’60s, just saw it change right before our eyes. Not only was the technology changing but the relationships on the job changed because you were no longer working in a gang of eight to 12 guys. You were working maybe two together, or even solitary, dealing with different aspects of either machinery or gear associated with machinery for moving the containers on and off the ship.
With the change in the social aspect, along with the technology, it just felt that the work experience within any day was just not the same.
I worked in a gang that only worked the old general break, bulk cargo up until ’82. Those of us that were in a gang and working with 12 other guys and talking politics and talking family and whatever, had a very different work life than guys who were driving cranes or other container moving technology where they were isolated during the work shift.
A more unpredictable schedule was more common with the container ships. The ships would come in and turn around – and we’re talking now about the ’70s and ’80s – in between 32 and 36 hours, max. The overtime shift occurs on the last shift in order to finish working the ship, getting it ready to sail.
So if they’re sailing with more frequency, the frequency of working late is greater. That kind of thing had more of an effect than on the old fashioned ship that would be in port for 7-8 days and you would go to the same ship and even the same hold of the ship day after day working from 8 ’til 5.
PMA and ILWU Update on Contract Talks: Tentative Agreement Reached on Health Benefits, Negotiations Continue on Other Issues
SAN FRANCISCO, CA (August 26, 2014) – The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) announced today that they have reached a tentative agreement on terms for health benefits, subject to agreement on the other issues in the negotiations. The parties have agreed not to discuss the terms of this tentative agreement as negotiations continue.
Maintenance of health benefits (MOB) is an important part of the contract being negotiated between employers represented by the PMA and workers represented by the ILWU.
The contract being negotiated covers nearly 20,000 longshore workers at 29 West Coast ports. The previous agreement expired at 5 p.m. on July 1, 2014. Talks began on May 12 and are continuing
Longshore Workers’ Vote Ratifies Northwest Grain Agreement; Union Workers to Return to Jobs on Wednesday
SAN FRANCISCO, CA (August 26, 2014) – Longshore workers who load grain in Pacific Northwest export terminals have voted to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement with several multinational grain companies. The vote included members of ILWU Local 8 in Portland, Ore., and Local 4 in Vancouver, Local 21 in Longview, Local 19 in Seattle, and Local 23 in Tacoma, Wash., who collectively voted 88.4% in favor of a tentative agreement with Louis Dreyfus Commodities, United Grain Corporation and Columbia Grain Inc. that will be in effect until May 31, 2018. Members voting in favor totaled 1,475; those voting against numbered 193.
Negotiations for the new agreement began in August of 2012, involved 70 separate sessions, and included lockouts at Portland’s Columbia Grain and Vancouver’s United Grain facilities. Terms of the agreement include work rule changes and wage increases over the life of the agreement.
ILWU members will resume their jobs at the locked-out facilities on Wednesday. All picketing has ceased, and the parties have agreed to drop all pending NLRB and other legal actions associated with the dispute.
Bargaining was difficult, but in the end, both sides compromised significantly from their original positions, resulting in a workable collective bargaining agreement that preserves the work of the ILWU-represented workforce and fosters stability for the export grain industry.
The men and women of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union have loaded grain for export in the Pacific Northwest since 1934.
A Vancouver, WA police officer is alive today thanks to the medical training and quick-thinking of ILWU Local 4 longshoreman James Bridger Jr. On June 30th Bridger was leaving his neighborhood when he saw Earlene Anderson holding a police officer in her arms as he slumped to the ground. Bridger knew something was wrong and immediately stopped to help.
Officer Dustin Goudschaal had been shot several times while making a traffic stop. Anderson was driving in the opposite direction when the shooting occurred. She ran over to help after the suspect driving a black truck sped off just before Bridger came on the scene. Goudschaal had been struck several times in his bullet proof vest and once in the neck which was bleeding profusely. He was unable to speak because of his wounds.
After helping apply pressure to the bandage, he reached across Goudschaal’s chest, grabbed his radio, and yelled: “Code 33!” He said that an officer was shot and that they needed help immediately.
Bridger had worked as reserve officer with the Battle Ground Police Department and as a volunteer with Fire District 3. “Even though it’s been a few years, my training just sort of kicked in,” said Bridger. Goudschaal thanked Bridger when he visited him in the hospital the next day. “He told me, ‘It’s because of you that I’m here,’” Bridger said.
A few months earlier, Bridger’s relationship with the Vancouver police was not as friendly. Bridger had been arrested for “malicious mischief” after he was struck by a van while walking the picket line outside of the United Grain terminal. The van driver was not arrested.
Both Bridger and Anderson were honored by the Vancouver City Council on July 7 for their role in helping to save the life of Officer Goudschaal. Vancouver police officers lined the walls of the council chambers during the meeting.
Goudschaal was still recovering from the shooting and was unable to attend. A friend read a statement from Goudschaal and his wife Kate: “I choose to believe, that for whatever reason, those two good Samaritans were meant to be there in that moment to help Dustin, and for this, we are eternally grateful.”
“I was just in the right place at the right time,” Bridger said. “This was just one union brother helping another union brother. That’s the way I see it.”
The 47th Annual Convention of the Pacific Coast Pensioners Association will convene at 9:00 AM on Monday, September 15, and adjourn at about Noon on September 17, 2014.
Place: Holiday Inn – Vancouver Centre
711 West Broadway
Vancouver, British Columbia
Contact your local Pensioners Club to get a registration form and lodging information.
• Labor leaders and lawmakers from Canada will address the Convention
• ILWU Officers, the Coast Committee, and Local Officers will be join us.
• Help welcome our guests from Australia, Colombia, and perhaps other nations.
• You will hear a report on 2014 U.S. Longshore Division Negotiations.
• Information about health care and pensions will be provided.
The Vancouver Host Committee has scheduled a number of fun and exciting activities and side trips. A Banquet will be held Tuesday night. Join the fun. Enjoy a fine meal. Dance your socks off. Meet and greet old friends and new.
For more information contact your local Pensioners Club.
See you there!
In unity, Rich Austin – President, PCPA
An 18-month campaign by Bay Area recycling workers to improve pay and benefits hit a new milestone on July 30 when the Oakland City Council voted unanimously to raise recycler wages in the city’s new 10-year residential waste and recycling service franchise agreements.
“This victory means that ILWU recycling workers have successfully implemented their higher wage and benefit standards at two of the largest city franchises in Alameda County,” said ILWU Vice President Ray Familathe. “This is an impressive demonstration of the recyclers’ persistence and courage.”
Recyclers launched their campaign on February 2, 2013, when hundreds gathered for a historic “Convention of Recycling Workers,” at the Local 6 union hall in Oakland.
Workers employed by four different recycling firms in Alameda County attended the event. They were joined by religious, labor, immigrant rights, environmental and political allies who all pledged to support the effort for better wages and improved safety through the “Campaign for Sustainable Recycling.” At the Convention, workers voted to adopt a new wage standard that would raise hourly pay to $20 – almost double what many recycling workers were being paid – and include affordable family health benefits.
Action at Waste Management
Recycling workers employed by Waste Management in Oakland and San Leandro led the way early in the campaign by demanding raises, even before last February’s Convention of Recycling Workers. Rank-and-file union leaders met on weekends in the Local 6 union hall to make plans for involving co-workers in the campaign to win a raise. They circulated petitions and held meetings with management.
When the company refused to support a request for real raises, workers protested in front of the company’s headquarters in Oakland. Then the company retaliated against immigrant workers, so an “unfair labor practices” strike was organized on March 15. The protest shut down the company’s East Bay operation beginning at 2am. Teamster and Machinist Union officials agreed to support the strike for several hours. Within months, the company agreed to settle separate ILWU contracts covering ILWU workers at the landfill and clerical/customer service units – but not recyclers.
Victory in Fremont
The first success in adopting the new wage standard was achieved last December by 65 recycling workers employed by the BLT recycling company in Fremont. Like the Waste Management workers, recyclers in Fremont also organized actions on the job to demand raises. They circulated petitions and presented them to management as a group to demonstrate unity.
When the company agreed to work together with the union, they jointly approached Fremont City Council members about passing a modest residential rate increase of just one penny per day from each ratepayer so recyclers could earn a living wage of $20.94 by 2019. The Council adopted the small rate increase and the company agreed to begin paying the scheduled pay raises.
Management sparks big strike
Unlike the experience with BLT in Fremont, officials at Waste Management and California Waste Solutions continued opposing real raises for recycling workers during 2013. Both companies offered recyclers only meager raises and refused to cooperate with workers by approaching the City Council about including the new wage standard in the city’s pending franchise agreement. Frustrations reached a boiling point on July 30 when workers from both companies united in a joint strike action. Two hundred recycling workers converged on the Oakland City Hall where their noisy picket lines and rally received major media attention – and plenty of notice from elected officials.
Groups of workers met during the day with City Council members and state legislators. They gathered in the late afternoon for a rally on the City Hall steps, then went inside to speak at the City Council meeting. Dozens of workers spoke at the rally and meeting, explaining why their families needed the raises to survive, and urged the Council to include a recycling wage standard in the new franchise agreement.
The efforts by workers in Fremont and Oakland were supported by allies in the Campaign for Sustainable Recycling (CSR) who attended Council meetings, sent letters of support, and joined workers to meet with individual Council members. Organizations participating in the CSR include the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Worksafe, Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy, East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project, Center for Environmental Health, Northern California Recycling Association, California Immigrants Policy Center, Mujeres Unidas & Activas, Clean Energy Alliance, Communities for a Better Environment, and SEIU 1021.
Disappointment with WM
After 18 months of worker and community action, the Oakland City Council voted unanimously on July 30, 2014 to include the new recycler wage standard in their franchise agreement. This marked an important victory – but it also disappointed 130 recycling workers employed by Waste Management (WM) because that firm’s bid to continue providing those services for another 10 years was unanimously rejected by the City Council.
Waste Management has been collecting all of Oakland’s residential waste and processing half the City’s recycling for decades, but that work will now end on July 1, 2015 when California Waste Solutions assumes all those responsibilities.
Without the new Oakland franchise agreement and revenue stream it provides for worker wage increases, Waste Management is less likely to provide recyclers the same pay raises that are now part of Oakland’s new franchise agreement with California Waste Solutions (CWS).
The City Council’s vote surprised observers who thought Waste Management was likely to continue sharing the franchise agreement with CWS, a much smaller, locally-owned competitor who employs unionized mechanics and drivers.
Labor relations factor
But the bid submitted by Waste Management was more expensive for ratepayers than the one submitted by CWS. And CWS included some extra services in their bid which appealed to Council members. Officials at both Waste Management and California Waste Solutions initially resisted supporting the pay raises sought by recycling workers that became part of the new franchise agreement. A few days before the final City Council hearing on July 30, California Waste Solutions signed a new contract with Local 6 members that guaranteed a schedule of pay raises and family health benefits with no monthly premium cost share.
On the day of the City Council decision, Waste Management officials met with the Local 6 Negotiating Committee and made significant movement, but failed to reach agreement. As The Dispatcher was going to press, a follow-up meeting had been scheduled for August 12.
ILWU leaders and staff refused to take sides or play favorites with either company during the franchise selection process, because ILWU members were employed by both firms.
Rubbed the wrong way
At the City Council meeting on July 30, it was clear that Waste Management had rubbed City Council members the wrong way. During the meeting, one Council member recalled how the company had angered many by locking-out Teamster and Machinist union members during a month-long contract dispute in 2007 that brought the city’s garbage collection to a halt and triggered a public health crisis.
During that dispute, ILWU recycling workers courageously honored the Teamster and Machinist union picket lines, despite threats and retaliation from Waste Management. The company’s decision to outsource dozens of Oakland-based customer service jobs done by ILWU members after the lockout was cited as a sore point by several City Council members. City Council members also complained that top Waste Management officials showed a lack of “flexibility” and were “unwilling to compromise.” When the meeting was over and the vote was taken, not a single member of the City Council supported Waste Management.
Some layoffs possible When Waste Management’s franchise agreement with Oakland expires next July, there will be some layoffs at Waste Management, but it is not clear how many. The city’s new franchise agreement includes a provision – supported by the union – allowing workers to transfer from Waste Management to new positions at California Waste Solutions. There may be waiting lists for some jobs.
Another route to raises
Fortunately, Waste Management has franchise agreements with other cities besides Oakland that provide the company with a steady revenue stream and secure employment for recycling workers, even after the July 2015 franchise agreement expires with Oakland. The other franchise agreements are with the cities of Emeryville, Albany, and Hayward plus the Castro Valley and Ora Loma Sanitation Districts.
Elected officials in those cities can authorize tiny rate increases that will provide enough revenue for Waste Management to pay better wages and good benefits for recycling workers.
“We’ve learned from the Oakland experience and can apply those lessons as we approach other cities for their support to help us – and it will only cost those residents a few pennies a month to provide us with living wages and decent benefits,” said Waste Management recycling worker Xiomara Martinez.
Extending a hand
Local 6 will continue extending a hand to Waste Management officials in an effort to achieve the same labor management cooperation that helped recycling workers in Fremont.
“We’re hoping that officials from the company and other unions will work with us this time, because all of us should be working together to solve this problem,” said recycling worker Mirella Jauregui.
Too often, the zero waste workers in our community get zero respect. Check out this great video of Alejandra Leon – recycling sorter at Waste Management and worker leader of ILWU Local 6 – Sustainable Recycling • Justicia Para Recicladores campaign speaking at the “Race, Class & Ecology” series. sponsored by the group, Movement Generation. Alejandra tells her story of struggling to survive on poverty wages paid to recycling workers, yet “The work that my coworkers and I do gives us great pride because we are among the few people doing something for our planet.”
ILWU Longshore Caucus delegates reconvened in San Francisco on July 21 and 22 to review the status of ongoing Longshore contract negotiations.
Caucus Chair Joe Cortez quickly brought the session to order, then turned over the podium to International President Bob McEllrath who asked delegates to dedicate their meeting in memory of former Local 13 member and Caucus delegate Alberto Bonilla, who died unexpectedly on May 17 at the age of 43. His son, Albert Bonilla, Jr., attended the Caucus and was recognized by delegates with a warm and sustained standing ovation.
Other dedications for fallen members included Armando Castro and Dwayne Washington from Local 10 in the Bay Area; former Local 12 President Wally Robbins of Coos Bay, Oregon; Night Business Agent and Executive Committee member John “Johnny Canuck” Collins from Local 502 of Surrey, British Columbia, Canada; Gerald Pirtilla of Local 52 in Seattle and Jeffrey Jewell of Local 24 in Aberdeen.
The 88 Caucus delegates were joined by dozens of fraternal representatives from Hawaii, Alaska and Canada who came to express their solidarity, along with many Pensioners who attended from the Bay Area and beyond.
McEllrath recognized International Vice President-Hawaii, Wesley Furtado who attended with Hawaii Longshore Division Negotiating Chairman Elgin Calles, Co-Chairman Dustin Dawson, Spokesman William Haole and Business Agent Dennis Morton. Chairman Elgin Calles provided a brief overview of the Hawaii Longshore Division’s contract negotiation effort, noting that they have been in talks with their employers for about two months.
Also recognized was ILWU Canada President Mark Gordienko who attended the Caucus with Business Agent Reno Voci. “I’ve made it clear to our employers that we won’t be touching any U.S.-bound cargo if there’s trouble,” said Gordienko. He also described how ILWU Canada members have been conducting outreach efforts to educate crewmembers on grain ships involved in the lockout by Mitsui-United and Columbia-Marubeni Grain companies. “When those ships come north, we’re talking with crewmembers and educating them about the ILWU struggle.”
Delegates thanked outgoing Puget Sound and Washington Area Benefits Director Nick Buckles, who is retiring at the end of July. His replacement, Andrea Stevenson, was recently appointed by the Plan Trustees. The former Local 52 President and 3rd generation longshore worker from Seattle thanked Nick Buckles, saying she had “big shoes to fill.”
McEllrath outlined the status of the negotiations, emphasizing the Committee’s efforts to maintain good health and pension benefits. He said the ILWU has consistently worked to see that the health plans operate properly, and has long urged employers to come forward with any evidence of waste or abuse so it can be addressed without harming beneficiaries. McEllrath noted a July 16 announcement by federal prosecutors that three individuals associated with a private surgical center in Southern California have been charged with defrauding several insurance plans, including the ILWU/ PMA Coastwise Indemnity Plan.
McEllrath minced no words, saying: “I’m glad to see that the government’s doing their job. Crooks who break the law and take advantage of our health care plans belong in jail.”
Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr. was equally passionate about protecting the health plan from fraud. “I was born into this plan and our families depend on it. Anyone who defrauds us is harming our families – and all the members who came before us who sacrificed so we can enjoy these benefits today. The people who perpetrate fraud against our plan deserve no mercy as far as I’m concerned.”
The Caucus did not set a time to reconvene, but President McEllrath said delegates should be ready to meet quickly at a future date that will be dictated by the progress – or lack of progress – at negotiations.
“We’ve got a plan to get things done that meets the goals adopted by the Caucus, but I can’t tell you how soon we will finish. Just keep pumpin’ and don’t listen to any rumors,” he said.
A tentative agreement for a new contract covering grain terminals in the Pacific Northwest was reached on August 11, by a negotiating committee representing five ILWU local unions: Local 4 in Vancouver, Local 8 in Portland, Local 19 in Seattle, and Local 21 in Longview and Local 92 in Portland. The membership of each local will review the tentative agreement and vote according to their internal rules, with results to be announced August 25. Terms of the agreement will not be made public until members have a chance to review and vote on the tentative agreement which covers Mitsui-United Grain (UGC) in Vancouver, Marubeni-Columbia Grain in Portland, and Louis Dreyfus in Portland and Seattle. Reduced picket lines will remain at Mitsui-UGC and at Marubeni-Columbia Grain while members vote on the agreement.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Scot L. Beckenbaugh, Acting Director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS), issued the following statement today on a tentative agreement reached just prior to midnight (PST) last evening between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and Pacific Northwest Grain Companies.
“After engaging in difficult and contentious bargaining for over two years, including multiple marathon mediation sessions held under the auspices of the FMCS, the announcement of the tentative agreement, subject to the ratification of ILWU membership, represents an amazing achievement of a potentially positive outcome in a labor dispute that has gained national attention.
“The ILWU, with its recommendation, will submit the tentative agreement to its members for ratification.
“The FMCS commends both labor and management representatives for their successful negotiation and for their commitment and dedication to the process of collective bargaining. Clearly the parties maintained strongly held competing views on the many issues that divided them during this process. In the end they found a way, in the time-honored tradition of the collective bargaining process, to reach mutually agreeable solutions that will allow the employees and the employers to move forward in their relationship. Equally important to our nation, is the knowledge that this tentative agreement, subject to the approval of affected ILWU membership, represents the opportunity to ensure that grain exports important to the U.S. economy and the world will proceed without disruption for years to come.
“These were difficult and contentious negotiations to be certain. I am grateful for the professionalism and cooperation the parties exhibited in mediation process during which they were able to reach what they believe will be acceptable and mutually beneficial solutions to the issues which have separated them for so long. I especially commend the leadership demonstrated by the representatives of ILWU and the representatives of the Grain Handlers. Though fierce in their representation of their respective positions, they never lost sight of their responsibility to reach a mutually acceptable solution.
“On a personal note, I want to commend the extraordinary efforts of FMCS Director of Mediation Services, Beth Schindler and FMCS Commissioner Gary Hattal who provided mediation assistance to the parties during some of the most difficult times in the negotiations process.”
Out of respect for the ratification process and consistent with the Agency’s longstanding policy on confidentiality, FMCS will neither comment on nor disclose the terms of the agreement.
# # #
The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, created in 1947, is an independent U.S. government agency whose mission is to preserve and promote labor-management peace and cooperation. Headquartered in Washington, DC, with 10 district offices and 67 field offices, the agency provides mediation and conflict resolution services to industry, government agencies and communities.
For Immediate Release: Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Contact: John Arnold, Director, Office of Public Affairs
Web site: www.fmcs.gov
Phone: (202) 606-8100
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SAN FRANCISCO (July 25, 2014) – The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) today issued the following statement:
After several days of productive contract talks, both parties concluded negotiations on Friday afternoon. No talks will take place from July 28 to Aug. 1 so that the ILWU can resume unrelated contract negotiations in the Pacific Northwest.
The PMA and ILWU will resume their contract negotiations on Monday, August 4, in San Francisco.
The previous labor contract covering nearly 20,000 longshore workers at 29 West Coast ports expired
July 1. While there is no contract extension in place, both parties have pledged to keep cargo moving.
The coast-wide labor contract is between employers who operate port terminals and shipping lines
represented by the PMA and dockworkers represented by the ILWU. The parties have negotiated a West
Coast collective bargaining agreement since the 1930s.
SAN FRANCISCO (July 18, 2014) – The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) today issued the following statement:
After several days of ongoing talks, both parties will break from negotiations next Monday and Tuesday in order for the ILWU to convene its previously scheduled Longshore Division Caucus in San Francisco. Negotiations are scheduled to resume Wednesday.
No talks will take place July 28 to Aug. 1 so the ILWU can resume unrelated contract negotiations in the Pacific Northwest.
The previous labor contract covering nearly 20,000 longshore workers at 29 West Coast ports expired July 1. While there is no contract extension in place, both parties have pledged to keep cargo moving.
The coast-wide labor contract is between employers who operate port terminals and shipping lines represented by the PMA and dockworkers represented by the ILWU. The parties have negotiated a West Coast collective bargaining agreement since the 1930s.
Ship’s seafaring crew in Long Beach, CA organize picket line to protest outlaw employer; request support from the ITF and ILWU
Twenty-one crewmembers serving on the Liberian-flagged vessel Vega-Reederei have organized a picket line at the Port of Long Beach, CA, to protest their employer’s failure to pay workers for up to four months of back wages. Abuses of seafaring crew are common in the global shipping industry, and workers often hail from low-wage counties with few rights.
The crew of mostly Filipino nationals is seeking assistance from the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and support from dockworkers belonging to the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU).
A German company, Arend Bruegge, is listed as the ship’s operator, and is said to owe workers more than $150,000 in unpaid wages. The company has a history of failing to pay crewmembers on other vessels operated by the Hamburg-based firm.
Earlier today, desperate crewmembers contacted Stefan Mueller-Dombois, an Inspector for the International Transport Workers’ Federation in Southern California. The crew pleaded for the ITF to help because workers’ families living in the Philippines haven’t received any wages in months and are going hungry.
The ITF has been working with ship operator to reach a settlement, but as of 2:30pm Pacific Time, company officials were refusing to negotiate with Mueller-Dumbois, and threatened to leave the berth without paying crewmembers.
The ship is carrying a cargo of wind turbines. At the ship’s previous port of call in Korea, the company made promises to pay but failed to do so. Workers were told that complaints about the failure to pay would cause the company to replace them with a Chinese crew.
Eleven of the ship’s seafaring crew say the company has kept them on board the ship beyond the original commitment, and are demanding to be repatriated and flown home to the Philippines immediately.
“It appears that this company has done this before by refusing to pay crewmembers on the ships they operate, “ said ITF West Coast Coordinator Jeff Engels. “The crew are seeking justice and support from other maritime workers in the area.” Engels said that ITF Inspector Stefan Mueller-Dumbois is contacting the ship’s owners to seek immediate payment for the crewmembers – and a written agreement that will prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.
“Our job is to help crewmembers from being exploited by powerful, international corporations that own and operate these vessels,” said Engels.
July 5, 2014 marks the 80th anniversary of “Bloody Thursday”, July 5, 1934, a day that shook San Francisco. The events that day inflamed the working people of San Francisco and the Bay Area. They made the great General Strike of 1934 inevitable and they set in motion a movement that would transform the western waterfronts.
On May 9, 1934 West Coast longshoremen struck, shutting down docks along 2000 miles of coastline, including all its major ports: Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, San Francisco, San Pedro, San Diego. The issues included wages and hours: the longshoremen wanted $1 an hour, the six hour day and the thirty hour week. They wanted union representation. But above all they demanded the abolition of the hated shape-up and its replacement with a union hiring hall. The strike would last 83 days.
The San Francisco longshoremen called the Embarcadero “the slave market” – there, each morning at 8 am, workers would gather, as often as not desperate for any opportunity to work. Many more would gather than were needed, some would be skilled, “regular men”, others transients, then all grades in between. The hiring boss, the petty dictator on the dock, would stand before them; he could take any man he wanted, reject anyone he pleased. This was an ancient system. Henry Mayhew, the well-known Victorian investigator, wrote this of hiring at the gates to the London docks in1861: it was “a sight to sadden the most callous, to see thousands of men struggling for only a day’s hire; the scuffle being made the fiercer by the knowledge that hundreds out of the number there assembled left to idle the day in want.” The shape-up was abolished in London in 1891, in the aftermath of the great 1889 dockers’ strike there, but was still in place in 1934 in New York, also San Francisco, where the shippers insisted conditions demanded it. Profits depended, they explained, on the fast turn-around, but the sea, the tides, and traffic limited planning. Still, “the ship must sail on time”; they clung tenaciously to the system, casual labor and the shape-up. The leaders of the dockers’ union, the racket-ridden International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), in 1934 very much in the doldrums, agreed. Joe Ryan, ILA “President for Life” supported it, even after World War II. The men despised it, a precarious, cruel system that placed them at the bottom of the hierarchy of industrial work.
SAN FRANCISCO (July 11, 2014) – The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) today issued the following statement:
The parties have resumed negotiations following a three-day break during which the ILWU was engaged in an unrelated negotiation in the Pacific Northwest. We plan on negotiating into the weekend. Although there is currently no contract in place, both parties have pledged to keep cargo moving.
The PMA and ILWU are negotiating a new contract covering nearly 20,000 longshore workers at 29 West Coast ports.
“Two maritime unions said Monday they’ve launched a radio ad campaign to focus attention on what they say are safety and environmental risks to the Columbia and Willamette rivers brought on by a lockout of union dockworkers by two grain companies.
The ads, paid for by the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots and the Inlandboatmen’s Union, say United Grain Corp. at the Port of Vancouver and Columbia Grain in Portland are “using inexperienced crews to move cargo” on the Columbia and Willamette rivers.
United Grain and Columbia Grain “have called in a fly-by-night tug and towboat operator using questionable equipment and tugboat personnel with no prior experience on the Columbia and Willamette rivers,” Alan Cote, president of the Inlandboatmen’s Union, said in a news release. “Unqualified boat operators jeopardize the safety of commerce on our rivers and invite an environmental disaster.”
The maritime unions say they’re joined by environmentalists in running the ad campaign, which also urges listeners to sign an online petition, www.SaveNWrivers.com.”
SAN FRANCISCO (July 7, 2014) – The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) today issued the following statement:
The parties have agreed to take a 72-hour break from negotiations on a new coast-wide contract while the ILWU attends to an unrelated negotiation taking place in the Pacific Northwest. During this break, starting at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, July 8, through 8 a.m. on Friday, July 11, the parties have agreed to extend the previous six-year contract, which expired last week. The PMA and ILWU are negotiating a new contract covering nearly 20,000 longshore workers at 29 West Coast ports.
SAN FRANCISCO (July 1, 2014) – Negotiations for a new labor contract covering nearly 20,000 dockworkers at 29 West Coast ports will continue to move forward as the existing, six-year coast-wide labor agreement expires today at 5 p.m. PST.
While there will be no contract extension, cargo will keep moving, and normal operations will continue at the ports until an agreement can be reached between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU).
Both sides understand the strategic importance of the ports to the local, regional and US economies, and are mindful of the need to finalize a new coast-wide contract as soon as possible to ensure continuing confidence in the West Coast ports and avoid any disruption to the jobs and commerce they support.
The coast-wide labor contract is between employers who operate port terminals and shipping lines represented by the PMA and dockworkers represented by the ILWU. The parties have negotiated a West Coast collective bargaining agreement since the 1930s.
Less than one month before Bonilla’s passing, another union brother, Yuti Tuvalu, passed on April 21 due to natural causes. Yuti was a member of the unofficial “Gang Uso” which is comprised of longies of Polynesian descent working on the docks. “Uso” is the Samoan word for brother.
While he never held union office, Tuvalu often helped the leadership with security or chauffeuring for union events. Tuvalu was also one of the Gang Uso brothers who most often provided the volunteer “muscle” behind operations such as HelpSamoa.com, which provided containers filled with relief goods for the tsunami-stricken islands in 2009, as well as other events like “Bloody Thursday” that honor our union’s fallen martyrs from the 1934 strike.
“Yuti paved the way for many of us Usos to get involved serving the local,” said Tony Luafalemana, fellow Gang Uso member. “He wouldn’t think twice about calling a “reap” (replacement worker) if one of the officers asked him for any kind of help. Luafalemana added that many of the gains won by lashers on the southern California waterfront are due to the solid reputation Tuvalu helped to establish for workers.
“This is really hard for us because we lost two good union brothers back to back,” said Sam Moega, Executive Board member and former Chief Dispatcher of Local 13. “Berto was my best friend and Yuti was my uso. I consider both of them my brothers and we could always count on them to do anything for our union. Berto was on the frontline and Yuti was the quiet guy in the back. We are really going to miss them.”
Written by Local 13 member Vivian J. Malauulu
The ILWU lost a kind and energetic young leader on May 17 when Alberto Bonilla passed with his family by his side, following a cardiac arrest that left him in a coma for almost a week. Bonilla was 43 years-old.
“Berto,” as he was affectionately known, was very active within the union as both a rank-and-file member and officer. He held numerous leadership positions at Local 13 including Dispatcher, Business Agent, Caucus Delegate, Executive Board member, and Coast Education Committee member. He became known to many beyond Local 13 because he served as Sergeant-At-Arms at many sessions of the Coast Longshore Caucus and was often involved in solidarity efforts to help others. He shared his love for the union with his twin brother Alonzo, and other brothers Nickolas and Jose Luis Rigo.
“Alberto Bonilla was truly a member who embodied everything we aspire to be in this union,” said Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr. “His spirit was bound in brotherhood and his contribution of countless hours towards the benefit of the union and his community is unparalleled. As a member he was exemplary, and as an individual he was a humanitarian. He will be missed by all of us at Local 13.”
Berto was extremely well-liked and respected, qualities that drew hundreds to his funeral. Among those attending were International President Bob McEllrath, International Vice Presidents Ray Familathe and Wesley Furtado, and International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams. ILWU members attended from locals in Canada, the Pacific Northwest, and Hawaii.
“Alberto was a great friend of mine and he was always willing to volunteer and step-up for his union,” said President McEllrath. “We need more young leaders like him, and his loss was felt far and wide.”
“Berto will be missed as a friend and as a union brother,” said Vice President Furtado. “He embodied so much of what the ILWU is about. He fought to keep this union strong and was always there to lend a hand to those in need.”
“I think my husband always had a premonition that something was going to happen to him,” said Marla Piceno Bonilla, Berto’s widow and high-school sweetheart. “He would always tell our son that ‘someday this will be yours’ and he often took Junior with him to union activities.”
“My father named me after him for a reason,” said Alberto Bonilla, Jr., “I will keep his name going and his legacy continuing down on the docks. When I work there someday, I hope to be as good as my dad was because I have big shoes to fill.”
Written by Local 13 member Vivian J. Malauulu