Members of the Maritime Union Australia, Queensland Branch in Brisbane recently recorded a solidarity message to the ILWU while on the picket line.
Thirty-five years ago, the brutal murder of ILWU Local 37 officials Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes sent shock waves through Seattle and the international labor movement. Supporters spent decades gathering evidence of a high-level conspiracy that involved former dictator Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines – and exposed complicity by U.S. officials who backed his bloody regime.
Family members, friends and community supporters gathered in San Francisco on July 17 at ILWU Local 34 to screen a new documentary film about the slain ILWU leaders who led a reform campaign against corruption in Local 37 that represented a predominantly Filipino immigrant workforce employed in Alaskan salmon canneries.
The film, “One Generation’s Time: The Legacy of Silme Domingo & Gene Viernes,” was produced by Shannon Gee. The 1-hour documentary explains how the pair of union activists were also active in the Union of Democratic Filipinos, known as the “KDP,” a left-wing political organization that supported improvements for immigrant Filipino workers and the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship. The KDP’s goals spurred hostility from the Marcos regime and from thugs who preyed on union members in ILWU Local 37.
When Viernes and Domingo were gunned down in the union hall on June 1, 1981, the murders were initially reported as isolated acts of violence, and two shooters with gang connections were convicted. But friends and family were convinced there was more to the story, and organized the Committee for Justice for Domingo and Viernes (CJDV) which eventually confirmed that Philippine
President Ferdinand Marcos had ordered the murders. A civil lawsuit eventually returned a $15 million jury verdict against Marcos.
In 1989, a federal jury agreed with the CJDV, and found Marcos guilty of the murders in 1989. Two years later, former Local 37 president and Marcos supporter Constantine “Tony” Baruso, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Viernes.
In 2011, the Inlandboatmen’s Union, Region 37, created an annual scholarship to honor the memory of Domingo and Viernes by assisting students at the University of Washington’s Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies Following the film, a discussion was led by Terri Mast, Silme Domingo’s widow and Secretary-Treasurer of the Inlandboatmen’s Union. Joining her was Domingo’s sister, Cindy, who serves as Chief of Staff to Seattle Councilmember Larry Gossett.
“The film has been shown many times on Seattle public television,” said Mast, “and soon copies of the DVD will be more available for the public.”
Anyone wishing to see the film online can do so at www.seattlechannel.org/CommunityStories?videoid=x21162
A diverse delegation of ILWU leaders joined hundreds of community supporters who marched to support workers at the Sakuma Brothers berry farm on July 11.
The effort was organized to help a two-year struggle by Sakuma farmworkers against one of Washington State’s largest berry growers who is refusing to recognize the workers’ independent union: Familias Unidas por la Justicia (Families United for Justice).
Walking for justice ILWU leaders from Locals 9 and 19 in Seattle, and Local 25 in Anacortes, joined forces with ILWU Pensioners, Puget Sound District Council members, and members of the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU). They met in the morning near Interstate 5 in the Skagit Valley then marched along a side road that passed through miles of lush berry fields, before arriving at Sakuma’s processing facility and labor camp.
Signs of struggle
As marchers arrived at the complex, they could see that Sakuma’s retail “farm stand” and “u-pick” operation were both closed because of growing community opposition to the company’s anti-worker stance. Sakuma even tried giving away their berries for free at one point, but local opposition has made the company’s PR gimmicks ineffective.
Skagit Valley is ground zero
Sakuma’s operation in the beautiful Skagit Valley is located just an hour north of Seattle. The valley’s mild temperatures are perfect for growing strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. An astonishing 3 million pounds of raspberries are grown there annually and each berry must be carefully harvested by skilled hands.
Berry farming is big business
During the past 85 years, Sakuma has grown from a small family farm to a large corporate enterprise that includes a processing plant, controlled storage, commercial nursery and retail operation. The corporation is no longer being managed by the family, confirmed by the hiring of a new CEO last March. Sakuma sells fresh berries to supermarkets and warehouse stores like Costco through the giant Driscoll brand. They also provide berries used in Häagen-Dazs ice cream and other high-profile products.
Strikes past and present
Sakuma workers are all immigrants from southern Mexico, most of whom speak indigenous languages like Mixteco and Triqui. Two years ago they organized a strike against Sakuma over poor pay and working conditions.
Another strike occurred this June when Sakuma berry pickers walked off the job during the first two days of the blueberry harvest. A factor in the recent strike was management’s scheme to isolate union supporters by dividing the workforce into small groups with different start times. Despite the company’s divide-and-conquer tactics, nearly 200 workers expressed support for last month’s work stoppage.
“This was a reprisal action against the union,” said Benito Lopez a member of the executive committee of Familias Unidas por la Justicia. “They wanted to separate us into groups of 10 people, and have each group begin at different times, 15 minutes apart, but we stuck together and walked out of the field in unity against another unjust labor practice. On top of the low wages, now we have to put up with these practices.”
Breaking laws, paying fines
Despite Sakuma’s insistence that they are an exceptional employer, the company has been caught red-handed cheating workers. In 2013, Sakuma agreed to pay an $850,000 settlement for cheating workers out of pay by denying breaks and refusing to pay for hours worked. The cheated an estimated 1,200 farmworkers who will benefit from a lawsuit that the company agreed to settle instead of facing a judge or jury.
Using visas to bust unions
One tactic used by Sakuma and other growers to keep labor costs low and unions out of the fields is the recruitment of guest workers from Mexico. In 2013, Sakuma hired 70 temporary workers from Mexico using the Federal H2A guest worker visa program –claiming that they faced a “labor shortage.”
“Free market” farce
Employers who claim they’re suffering from labor shortages can use the H2-A visa program to avoid raising wages to attract local workers – a flagrant violation of “free market” principles that politicians often adore and companies frequently employ to argue against unions.
Immigrant workers with H2-A visas are easily exploited because employers can quickly return a complaining worker back to Mexico. Even workers who don’t complain can only stay in the U.S. for less than a year, must remain at the same employer, and must immediately return home after their work is finished.
Ski resorts & call centers
Employer abuse of the guest worker visa system is widespread in the agriculture industry but not limited to field work. The hospitality industry is increasing using a similar visa program to hire poor eastern Europeans for “temporary” work in ski resorts and summer lodges. Abuse of guest worker visas has been sanctioned by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and the White House, and a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center called it “Close to Slavery.”
The hi-tech industry has successfully used a similar visa scam, known as the H1-B program, to secure scientists, engineers and programmers at low-wages ,= displacing domestic workers. Employers justify their use of the program by making false claims of an alleged “shortage” of high-tech workers. Employers have even used temporary immigrants to replace domestic workers at call centers and customer service operations – all to avoid raising wages or improving conditions.
Public pressure helps
In 2014, Sakuma Farms requested 438 new visas for the year, alleging that it faced a labor shortage. At the same time, it sent strikers letters saying they’d been fired. After workers signed letters saying they were available to work, exposing Sakuma’s lies, the company withdrew its application as pressure mounted on the U.S. Department of Labor to turn down Sakuma’s request.
Trending in wrong direction Photojournalist David Bacon has spent time meeting and interviewing workers, and notes that a decade ago, there were few H-2A workers in Washington State. But by 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor had certified 6,251 applications – a number he says doubled since 2011.
“The irony is that one group of immigrant workers, recruited by growers using the H2-A visa program, are being pitted against another group of recent immigrants from Mexico who have been hired by Sakuma for years,” said Bacon.
Rosalinda Guillén, who directs a local group called “Community2Community” in Bellingham, agrees. “The H-2A program limits what’s possible for all workers,” she says. The community- based group is advocating for farm worker rights as part of a just, sustainable food system.
Boycott Driscoll & Häagen-Dazs
Supporters are now calling for a boycott of all berries marketed under the Driscoll’s label. Driscoll’s is the largest berry marketing operation in the world, that sells to thousands of supermarkets and warehouse stores, including Costco.
Driscoll’s markets Sakuma’s blueberries, and Familias Unidas por la Justicia charges that it is equally responsible with Sakuma for denying workers fair wages and the right to negotiate a union contract. Sakuma also sells strawberries used in Häagen-Dazs ice cream.
The struggle by Sukuma farm workers was discussed at the ILWU’s 36th International Convention in June. The issue was explained by Rich Austin, President of the Pacific Coast Pensioners Association. Delegates learned of Sakuma’s many abuses, and they took action by unanimously adopting a resolution to support workers and a boycott:
“RESOLVED: that the ILWU calls upon other labor organizations and legislators and congressional delegations to support a boycott of Sakuma Brothers Farms, Haagen-Dazs, and Driscoll’s Berries until the demands of Familias Unidas Por La Justicia are met.”
The day before the march, ILWU leaders joined other supporters for strategy discussions with union leaders from Familias Unidas por la Justicia.
Other union leaders from Washington State, California and Mexico also attended the meeting. Washington State Labor Council President Jeff Johnson marched with workers and supporters the following day.
“This is an important campaign that crosses borders to unite the common concerns of workers,” said Austin, noting that berry workers in Mexico’s Baja California have also been striking– and that those berries are also sold by Driscoll. “It’s not an easy fight, but the important fights are never easy,” he said. “Solidarity and unity are the best weapons we have to fight injustice and capitalist greed.”
Thousands of ILWU members, their families, community supporters and elected officials gathered at parks, cemeteries and union halls up and down the West Coast to mark the 81st anniversary of Bloody Thursday and pay respects to those who sacrificed their lives in 1934 in order to build the ILWU.
Southern California’s Bloody Thursday tradition in the Harbor Area involved up to 2,000 ILWU members, friends and family.
Morning for martyrs
The first – and some say most important part of the day – began with a morning assembly at Gardena’s Roosevelt Memorial Park where ILWU members gathered to honor the first two martyrs killed in the bloody 1934 struggles that gave birth to the union.
First Blood of 1934
Dickie Parker and John Knudsen were both buried at Roosevelt Park after being shot, along with five other union members, by company-employed goons shortly after midnight on May 15, 1934 at Berth 145 in Wilmington. The first deadly confrontation on the docks that year between strikers and strike-breakers involved the employer’s use of armed private guards. Dickie Parker died on the way to the hospital while John Knudsen lingered for weeks before dying of his wounds. Public response to the killing of both men was impressive, with an estimated 8,000 lining the streets from San Pedro to Gardena to witness the procession of cars that stretched six miles. Law enforcement warned of a riot following the funeral, but because both events were peaceful, public support increased for the union cause.
Eighty-one years later at a few minutes after 10am, Local 13’s Angel Blanco called together 50 participants – most of whom arrived in dozens of tricked-out classic cars and scores of motorcycles from the Longshoremen’s Motorcycle Club. They gathered quietly at the graveside of Dickie Parker, offering prayers and reflections.
“The picnic later this afternoon is great, but this event is the most important part of the day for me and everyone here,” said Blanco. The service started with a beautiful solo rendition of the national anthem following a soulful benediction and prayer.
Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr., noted that the remains of more than100 charter longshore union members are found in the surrounding graves at Roosevelt Memorial Park, making it “hallowed ground.” He thanked Local 65 brothers from the Port Police for attending and providing their motorcycle escort for the car caravan that followed the service.
He concluded by reminding everyone that sacrifices made this year by longshore workers struggling for a new contract cannot be forgotten – because they are part of a larger struggle by one generation after another – beginning with the ultimate sacrifice made by Dickie Parker and John Knudsen in 1934.
Pensioner Jerry Brady read his Bloody Thursday poem that brought tears to the eyes of some, followed by Pensioner and former International President Dave Arian who reminded the group that today’s ceremony had been dropped for decades before being restored during the 1980’s.
At 10:30, engines roared to life in the classics, cruisers, hot-rods and Harleys that slowly pulled out of the Memorial Park behind a symbolic hearse provided by All Soul’s Mortuary in Long Beach. The mock funeral procession made its way through a ten-mile trek south to San Pedro, passing along the waterfront and going up 7th Street through downtown before arriving at Peck Park where hundreds of family members were already gathered for the Bloody Thursday picnic.
Local 13 member Bobby Rodriguez and his wife Liz brought up the rear of the caravan, So Cal style, in their tastefully lowered, very cherry 1937 Chevy Master Deluxe, part of the Solo Riders Car Club.
“We come every year!” they said.
Picnic with a purpose
Union members arriving at the park could hear it was happening from blocks away, thanks to the excellent live music provided by three local bands that are connected through The band “Jamin’ Mood” opened the event, followed by a mid-day performance from the group “Low-Key,” and ended with DW-3 who closed out the event before heading to Miami for a big gig there. Dancing increased during the afternoon as the crowd increased.
A wide-range and food and drinks were available at no cost to members and families that included hot dogs, hamburgers, tacos and burritos. But the BBQ pits seemed to generate the most heat between cooks and patrons, with notable contributions from the Longshoremen’s Motorcycle Club and Heavy-Hitters softball team, with Nacho Sanchez and Shakey Namahoe from the Hitters especially proud of their tri-tip. Local 13’s team of Johnny and Manuel Amaro grilled hundreds of jalapeno peppers that went into their burritos and were cooled with icy agua frescas.
Kids had a blast
Much of the picnic festivities focused on entertainment for kids – which gave grown-ups a chance to relax and socialize while their children played safely on a dizzying assortment of activities that included several bounce houses, slides, basketball, two video-game arcade trucks and face painting.
Pensioner & Auxiliary presence
The Southern California Pensioners Group had a booth with tables, chairs, food and goodies available for dozens who dropped-by. The always active ILWU Federated Auxiliary Local 8 ladies worked the crowd, selling raffle tickets for a local benefit.
Just a dash of politics
An impressive roster of politicians attended the picnic to mingle, shake hands and provide mercifully short greetings. Introduced by Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr., the elected officials paid their respects to the union’s bloody beginnings and expressed support for the union’s recent battle for the new longshore contract. Attendees included Congress members Janice Hahn and Alan Lowenthal, State Treasurer John Chiang, State Senator Isadore Hall, ILWU-endorsed State Senate candidate Warren Furutani, State Senator Ricardo Lara (represented by staffer Cory Allen), Los Angeles City Councilmember Joe Buscaino (represented by staffer Gabby Medina), Long Beach City Councilmember Roberto Uranga, Long Beach City Prosecutor Doug Haubert, Assemblymember Mike Gipson (represented by staffer Chris Wilson) and Long Beach School Board member Felton Williams.
Olvera also introduced several ILWU union officials who attended the event from out of state, including Local 8 member Jim Daw from Portland who serves on the ILWU International Executive Board, Local 23 President Dean McGrath from Tacoma, Local 8 member and Coast Committeeman Leal Sundet and Local 19 President Cameron Williams from Seattle. Longtime Local 13 member and retiring Coast Committeeman Ray Ortiz Jr., was also recognized and thanked for his many years of service.
Planning for success
“We planned to handle up to 2,000 guests and came pretty close,” said Jose Olivaras who chaired the Bloody Thursday Committee that included Steve Linares, Melon Cesar, Nacho Enriques and Paul Zuanich – plus a team of 120 volunteers that included more than a dozen volunteers from the Beacon House Association of San Pedro.
“We started putting this together three months ago, and it all came together in a good way, thanks to everyone’s hard work,” said Olivaras.
Scores of ILWU members, pensioners and their families gathered at the Local 10 hall in San Francisco for the traditional Bloody Thursday memorial serviced sponsored by the Bay Area Longshoremen’s Memorial Association (BALMA) and Locals 10, 34, 75 and 91.
ILWU member Scott Barton performed taps once again to honor the waterfront strikers who were killed in 1934. Talented singer Aaliyah Washington-Purry, who has also performed at previous Bloody Thursday memorials, sang the National Anthem again this year. Local 10 President Melvin Mackay welcomed everyone to the Local 10 hall and reminded them that the wages and working conditions enjoyed by ILWU members today were built on the sacrifices of those who fought and died in 1934 – and the generations of longshore workers who continued that struggle.
Local 10 pensioner Lawrence Thibeaux served as the master of ceremonies for the event. Following Melvin Mackay’s speech, ILWU historian Harvey Schwartz recounted the failed strikes at West Coast ports in 1916 and 1919 that faltered because of the disunity that prevailed until 1934.
ILWU pensioner and former ILWU
Librarian Gene Vrana gave a concise history of the 1934 strike, its impact and legacy. Other speakers at the event included BALMA Treasurer Mike Villeggiante, Local 34 President Sean Farley, former Local 10 Presidents Cleophas Williams and Joe Lucas, and ILWU Pensioner George Romero.
Farley’s address highlighted recent legislation being pushed by Republican Senator John Thune that would greatly expand the Taft-Hartley provision of the National Labor Relations Act by empowering state governors to intervene in strikes or worker “slow downs” at the nations ports.
Farley said this was a serious and historic threat to the ILWU’s strength and would weaken the ability of port workers to fight for fair wages and safe working conditions.
After the memorial, Local 10 hosted a full day of activities in their hall including a catered lunch of pizza and pasta, live music and dancing, and plenty of activities for kids that included a magic show, face painting, balloon art and caricature drawings.
Puget Sound picnic with a purpose
Puget Sound ILWU families celebrated Bloody Thursday on July 5th at the Vasa Park & Resort along the shores of beautiful Lake Sammamish.
The all-day gathering at was located just 8 miles away from Seattle, but the cool waters and beautiful forest seemed a world apart from the hustle and bustle of the city and docks.
An estimated 700 union members and family participated in the July 5 event that combined an important ceremony that remembered the union’s past – while providing some serious entertainment and relaxation opportunities for hard-working family members and kids.
The food was plentiful and delicious, with barbequed ribs, brisket, chicken, hot dogs and hamburgers – along with grilled tofu that was said to be surprisingly tasty.
To honor Bloody Thursday, Local 19 pensioners John Fisher and Carl Woeck led a ceremony recognizing each of the seven union martyrs who were killed during the 1934 west coast maritime strike that established the foundation for today’s ILWU. After Fisher and Woeck struck the bell 7 times to honor the 1934 martyrs, they struck the bell again for each ILWU member and pensioner who had passed during the previous year.
Awesome fun and games
A nearby boat ramp allowed some members to bring their own boats, but most of the action focused on shore side activities. A waterslide was provided especially for the picnic and proved to be among the most popular amusements, but there was stiff competition from the bouncy house and airbrush face and arm-painting booth. Some drove their classic cars to the event and= put them proudly on display. There were no speeches from politicians – although Local 19’s own John Persak, who’s running for Seattle City Council, was welcomed and made the rounds.
A local sound ordinance ruled-out a live band, but Local 19 member Leith Jasinowski-Kahl brought his banjo and played some classic union songs.
The successful event required many volunteers who generously gave their time to help 700 participants enjoy a special day. The volunteer team included: Mike Callahan, Dusty Crabtree, Sarah Esch, Warren Fairbanks with kids Jeremy & Anna, John Fisher, Mary Fuller, Cosette Hill, Mike Hurlock, Leith Jasinowski-Kahl, Scott Martinez, Dan Philo, Max Proctor, Alice Thacker, Randy Wilber, Charlie Wilbert and Carl Woeck.
“The volunteers were fantastic and made a great day possible for hundreds of hard-working families to relax and celebrate a important date in union history,” said Local 19 Executive Board member and Trustee Justin Hirsch who helped coordinate the event.
Tacoma picnics at the lake
Local 23 members in Tacoma honored Bloody Thursday with their traditional picnic held at beautiful Spanaway Lake Park, located 15 miles south of Tacoma on 135 acres of forested shoreline.
An estimated 600 family members participated at this year’s event that featured a barbeque lunch where hundreds and dogs and burgers were served. Special attractions provided for children were a big hit, especially the inflatable bounce toys that included a pirate ship. Pony rides were popular with the younger ones, and a local artist painted dozens of faces and arms for both children and adults.
The event was planned and executed by a hard-working team that included Trustees Eric Sowers, Art Jackson, Kyle Copeland, Perry Smith and Dan Witker. Volunteers included Jeff Clowers and Dave Barker who headedthe kids’ games with help from many others. As usual, Local 23 Pensioners were generous about volunteering their time to make the event a success.
Delegates to the ILWU’s 36th convention in Hawaii debated union policy and made plans for the future during five days of meetings that emphasized unity over differences.
History & tradition
The group of 360 delegates joined together with 35 ILWU Pensioner and Auxiliary “fraternal” delegates, along with a host of invited guests. On the opening day, delegates met in the Sheraton Waikiki hotel in Honolulu, Oahu, where ceremonies began with ILWU International President Robert McEllrath inviting Local 142 President Donna Domingo to the podium, thanking her and the host committee for their two years of hard work preparing for the convention.
Domingo explained that they wanted delegates to experience some of Hawaii’s culture and traditions then introduced artist Aaron Sala and Local 142 member Kumu Hula Keola Kapu. The pair offered a traditional Hawaiian blessing for the convention, with Sala recounting an island legend about service, commitment and community that inspired the blessing.
Dozens of musicians from Hawaii’s Royal Band were on hand at the opening ceremony to play the national anthems of the United States, Canada and Panama. The Royal Band is a unique public treasure in Hawaii that was founded 175 years ago by King Kamehameha III, and performs 300 times a year.
ILWU International Vice President (Hawaii) Wesley Furtado introduced another special guest, Hawaii Governor David Ige. The Governor welcomed delegates, acknowledged the importance of labor unions, and concluded by recalling the summers he spent working as a young man in a pineapple processing plant where the ILWU contract meant he and other workers were paid fairly.
ILWU International President Robert McEllrath returned to the podium – after receiving a gracious introduction by International Secretary- Treasurer Willie Adams – to deliver a speech outlining his views on the critical issues facing ILWU members.
McEllrath began by thanking his wife and family members who were asked to stand and received a long round of applause, then acknowledged the contributions of his fellow officers: Vice Presidents Ray Familathe and Wesley Furtado, Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams, and Coast Committeemen Ray Ortiz, Jr., and Leal Sundet. He then invited delegates to view a short video featuring dramatic highlights from ILWU struggles during the previous eight years. After the video, he noted that the union could not have endured so many challenges without strong support from rank-and-file members and dedicated local officers.
“If it’s true that fighting in these struggles makes us stronger, then we must be Hercules by now!” said McEllrath. He recalled the frustration of dealing with other unions when ILWU members were locked-out by big grain companies in the Pacific Northwest.
“It’s pretty hard to get a contract when other unions are walking through your picket lines,” he noted. McEllrath said the decision to leave the AFL-CIO, initiated by delegates at the previous 2012 convention, was correct, but said ILWU locals should remain active with other unions in their communities. “We are out of the AFL-CIO, but not out of the labor movement,” he reminded delegates.
McEllrath then addressed the recently concluded longshore contract, noting that employers had fired many workers and curtailed operations during the conflict – then blamed workers for the resulting congestion.
The contract settlement doesn’t mean the struggle is over, he said, pointing to new legislation being introduced in Congress that aims to weaken longshore union bargaining power in future contracts.
McEllrath said the proposed legislation would re-write federal labor laws by requiring regular monitoring of production levels at West Coast ports – and give state governors new power to threaten union members with court injunctions in order to maintain productions levels during a contract dispute.
“They’re coming after us, saying ‘you can’t stop work at the ports.’ They want to take away your power on the docks. This is one of the most draconian things that we’ve seen in the labor movement, and we’re going to fight it as long as we can.”
The way forward, said McEllrath, is both simple and challenging because it requires unity and support from all union members: “We’ve all got to do our jobs, maintain our jurisdiction, fight the employers and outsmart them.”
After the President’s speech, convention delegates adjourned to begin working on a committee of their own choosing. Unlike many unions, the ILWU’s democratic tradition allows individual delegates to choose which committee they will serve on. The most popular committees were Resolutions and Constitution & Programs.
Both committees heard a wide variety of proposals for new policies and procedures. In order to be considered for a vote by delegates on the convention floor, proposed resolutions were first required to win support from a majority of local union members or a majority of local union delegates attending the convention. Then each resolution was thoroughly explained, debated, amended and subject to an up or down vote in one of the committees before finally reaching the convention floor.
This requirement meant some committee meetings went late into the night to consider all of the proposed resolutions. A total of 46 proposed resolutions were heard by the Committees and most – but not all – of the proposals went on to the convention floor for further consideration by delegates.
Trade unionists from around the world attended the ILWU convention in Hawaii – part of the union’s long tradition of international solidarity – which included the following special guests:
Chris Cain, Secretary of the Western Branch, Maritime Union of Australia, explained how their union has experienced dynamic growth and involved young members into their leadership. Growing recently from 1,000 to 5,000 members, the Western Branch is being challenged by powerful employers, including Chevron. He noted the need to be politically involved and constantly organizing new members.
Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), a global network of 700 unions in 150 different countries. Cotton has served as an ITF staffer for 22 years and was recently elected to the top position. Paddy Crumlin, National Secretary for the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) also serves as President of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF). In Australia, the MUA is facing an anti-union government that has been waging war against workers.
Rogue operators, including ICTSI, are investing in Australian ports. In the country’s Northwest, giant corporations including Chevron are exploiting the country’s resources, threatening to undermine worker standards, and suing MUA members for over $20 million dollars because of a safety dispute. Crumlin’s leadership at the ITF has helped to coordinate actions on behalf of 4 million workers around the globe.
Joe Fleetwood, General Secretary of the Maritime Union of New Zealand, recently helped the MUNZ membership conclude a bitter anti-union campaign in which the Ports of Auckland, Limited, sought to “casualize” dockworkers by turning good union jobs into junk jobs. The ILWU and other unions mobilized quickly for solidarity rallies and marches, but the dispute required a three-year battle before an agreement was reached.
Marc Loridan, Federal Secretary for the Ports of Belgium Transport Workers Union, known as the BTB, is a frequent participant in global solidarity efforts but their union faces challenges at home from anti-union politicians who have been pushing a big business agenda to weaken unions, lower labor standards, and give more power to management. In 2013, BTB workers went on strike for 6 days after employers tried to conceal the hiring of nonunion, low-wage workers who were secretly performing union warehouse work near the docks.
Kozo Matsumoto, President of Zenkowan, the All-Japan Dockworkers Union, leads a militant, democratic, and progressive union that recently engaged in a series of one-day port strikes and provided critical support for ILWU Pacific Beach Hotel workers to reach their first contract settlement.
In a gesture that has become an important tradition, President Matsumoto brought a “Friendship and Solidarity Statement” from Zenkowan that was signed by him and ILWU President Robert McEllrath in front of delegates.
Niek Stam, General Secretary of the Dutch dockworkers union (FVN) led a successful 7-year battle to recover pension funds that were stolen from workers through an insurance swindle. With help from the ILWU and other unions, the FVN was able to eventually recover $260 million that helped restore retirement plansfor workers. Stam is also an expert about the impact of new technology on dockworkers because the ports in Holland employ some of the world’s most automated systems Steve Todd, National Secretary of Britain’s Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers’ Union (RMT), assumed his post last year, following the untimely death of Bob Crow, the dynamic militant leader who died suddenly at the age of 52. Now Todd is leading efforts to help British union members in a challenging environment where anti-union politicians are increasingly common.
Each of the special guests was presented with a bronze sculpture of an ILWU cargo hook, hand-crafted by the talented artist and Local 19 pensioner Ron Gustin. He has exhibited work ingalleries up and down the coast, and Produced 16 sculptures that were presented at the convention, each requiring more than a dozen steps to complete the unique works of art.
Global solidarity within the ILWU’s own ranks was demonstrated with exciting growth in the new Panama Division. International Vice President Ray Familathe explained how the connections between the ILWU and Panama Canal Pilots Union were first established during the 2002 lockout, when the ILWU longshore negotiating committee was seeking international support and met Londor Rankin of the Panama Canal Pilots Union. During the years that followed, Familathe and President McEllrath encouraged discussions of a possible alliance, and in September of 2011 the Panama Canal Pilots voted to affiliate with the ILWU and the new Panama Division was established.
The Pilots are now trying to negotiate a new contract with the Panama Canal Authority, which has been resisting a fair settlement. Members of the Pilots Union, including Secretary-General Raniero Salas, explained their contract struggle to convention delegates who responded with a strong showing of support by unanimously adopting a solidarity resolution.
The Panama Division has also been busy building solidarity at home by assisting dockworkers employed by Panama Ports. These dockworkers finally succeeded in forming their own independent union after rejecting a “yellow union” imposed by their employer. Dockworkers had to first win a long fight to hold an election, then found the voting process was rigged in favor of the company’s yellow union. That’s when ILWU leaders joined with the Panama Division to support an honest and open election process. When that finally happened, dockworkers at Panama Ports voted for their own independent SINTRAPORSPA union led by Secretary-General Alberto Ochoa. On December 30, 2014, SINTRAPORSPA and the ILWU signed an affiliation agreement welcoming 2850 dockworkers into the Panama Division.
After explaining this background, Vice President Familathe provided a warm introduction for SINTRAPOR who delivered his remarks in Spanish that were translated by Secretary-General Raniero Salas of the Pilots Union.
Ochoa said he brought greetings from his fellow dockworkers in Panama who just won their first independent union contract that will raise pay by 35% over the next four years, crediting the ILWU Panama Division for helping to make it possible. He noted that Panama Ports, owned by Hong Kong based Hutchinson Port Holdings, had been trying to outsource jobs which will require continued vigilance and support in order to maintain the new union’s jurisdiction.
“The ILWU has been instrumental in growing our union in Panama. We are grateful for the support you have provided us and hope to continue receiving your help which has given us great results,” said Ochoa.
During a break in the convention schedule, a good-natured surfing contest was held between MUA President Paddy Crumlin and ILWU President Bob McEllrath, who both waded into the water at beautiful Waikiki and paddled out to the surf line. They returned after both caught waves and each incurred minor foot injuries from the sharp coral that makes Waikiki waves break so smoothly over the reef. After some debate, Crumlin was declared the contest winner but immediately donated his board to ILWU Local 142 members.
New organizing challenges Convention delegates heard two detailed organizing reports, one for Hawaii and the other covering the mainland, with both emphasizing the challenges involved with organizing new workers.
International Vice President (Hawaii) Wesley Furtado delivered the Hawaii organizing report, explaining that 85% of their union campaigns have resulted in a first contract. He also noted that employers are changing tactics to make organizing more difficult by hiring workers online instead of conducting open interviews for new hotels. In the past, union organizers could go to interview sites with clipboards where “one-on-one,” and had union authorization cards ready for workers to sign. Now the union must rely more on family and friends to contact hotel workers who are hired online. Furtado said organizers try to sign up at least 70-80% of the workers in a new shop, to ensure a safe margin and overcome the employer’s anti-union campaigning.
He concluded by recognizing the staff and member organizers of Local 142 who he said have been doing an excellent job. International Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe also praised his International organizing team for their hard work and dedication. He noted several recent campaigns that illustrate the challenges and opportunities facing ILWU organizing efforts on the mainland, beginning with a strategic campaign to help recycling industry workers in Alameda County win industry-leading wages and benefits.
He said the effort began with a campaign to improve existing contracts covering more than 200 Local 6 workers, and has now expanded to help non-union workers at Alameda County Industries organize and join the union.
All the campaigns required lengthy, difficult fights with multiple strikes and dozens of job actions, but workers have now secured wages that will soon pay almost $21 an hour with excellent benefits.
Familathe also pointed to joint organizing projects with the Inlandboatmen’s Union, involving strategic targets such as the first successful tugboat organizing campaign on the West Coast in 20 years, and an ongoing campaign to help fuel dock workers organize in Dutch Harbor Alaska. Even campaigns to help small units, such as the Port of Anacortes or workers at Harbor Dental, frequently involve lengthy, complex campaigns to win recognition and first contracts. He noted the recent effort to help workers organize at Catalina Express, where a strong union campaign effort was overwhelmed by aggressive anti-union consultants, concluding that these efforts frequently require multiple campaigns over many years to succeed.
Convention delegates continued debating policy resolutions throughout the remaining hours, but one of the more poignant proposals to reach the floor celebrated seven decades of union service by ILWU member LeRoy King. This was the first convention since the 1940’s that King was unable to attend, so many speakers noted his exceptional absence and praised his lifelong commitment to the union. The resolution honoring King passed unanimously after many heartfelt testimonials, including one from San Francisco IBU Regional Director Marina Secchitano who was unable to hold back tears as she described King’s role as her mentor who taught her about the union that he loved so much. After the resolution passed, King was informed by telephone of the resolution honoring his lifetime of service, while resting in his San Francisco home. The news gave him great comfort and joy, according to Local 6 Secretary-Treasurer Fred Pecker, who placed the call just one day before King passed peacefully in his sleep.
Pensioners & Auxiliary
After all the resolutions had been heard, Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams called Pacific Coast Pensioner President Rich Austin, Jr. to the podium, followed by Auxiliary President Ida Taylor. Adams praised both for their leadership and important organizational roles.
Austin, Jr. invited everyone to the upcoming Pensioners Convention in San Francisco on September 7-9, and finished his remarks with a reminder.
“There are a whole lot of people in this world who work hard, but don’t have the ILWU to support them. And that’s our challenge. We’re supposed to organize the unorganized. That’s what we do with our good fortune. We pensioners stand ready, to be of service whenever called upon. Pupukahi holomua – united we progress!”
Ida Taylor thanked the officers and delegates for hosting the convention, and conveyed warm regards from past Auxiliary President Carolyn Williams who was unable to attend this year’s convention. She also thanked everyone who purchased raffle tickets for the beautiful ILWU quilt assembled by Auxiliary volunteers up and down the coast that was raffled on July 5 in Coos Bay Oregon. Taylor said that Auxiliary members will be organizing and educating in the months and years ahead, and encouraged all delegates to “bring your families and have them join our Auxiliary!”
The process of nominating candidates for International office was next on the agenda, with President Robert McEllrath, Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams, Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe and Vice President (Hawaii) Wesley Furtado, all being nominated without opposition. Candidates were also nominated for the International Executive Board and Trustee positions. All candidates will appear on a ballot being mailed to members on July 27.
The final round of comments from the floor included words of appreciation from ILWU Canada President Mark Gordienko. He noted that ILWU Canada members will be celebrating their 80th anniversary of the 1935 strike at Ballantyne Pier on June 18. He reminded delegates that the strike itself was broken, but workers went on to form their union and join the ILWU 12 years later. He also said it had been a pleasure to work with the International officers during his term on the Executive Board. He concluded by thanking Local 142 President Donna Domingo and all Local 142 members on behalf of the entire Canadian delegation, saying, “thank you very much for how well you treated us here. It’s been a great= Convention!”
Domingo responded by recognizing John Bush from Local 200 in Alaska, who with members of Local 514 in British Columbia, donated salmon that fed almost 1000 delegates and guests at a BBQ dinner earlier in the week. “With all people coming together, Local 142 was very happy with how the convention turned out,” she said.
As President McEllrath rose to the podium for the last time, he thanked the Hawaii delegation once more for doing such a fine job of planning all the details that made the convention enjoyable, including a memorable banquet, BBQ dinner and cultural evening – plus sightseeing events for spouses. He also called up the staff and volunteers from Local 142 and the International Union to the front of the room where they were recognized for making the convention run smoothly.
“Staying here in Hawaii has been gorgeous,” said McEllrath, “and I’d like to leave you with a couple of thoughts. It’s the ILWU way that we sometimes get upset at each other. If anybody’s feelings were hurt, I apologize.
But, this is why we’re tough, why we’re the ILWU. We fight it out here, then we go home. And when we go home, we’re united. We’re united right now. We’re going to stay united. So thank you brothers and sisters. This has been a hell of a week. The next convention will be in Portland, Oregon in 2018.”
The ILWU Library and Archives website is a digital collection of the some the materials in the ILWU library. The website allows you to browse through digital version of the ILWU Dispatcher newspaper, Voice of the Federation, and the Waterfont Worker.
Don Watson was a quiet and determined ILWU activist who spent his life gently but effectively leading progressive organizing efforts in the union he loved. Watson died peacefully at his home in Oakland, CA on March 25. “He was content in the knowledge that he had a long and good life, had touched the lives of many people, and had contributed to making the world a better place,” said his wife Jane Colman.
A childhood in New York City during the Great Depression allowed him to witness struggles by labor organizers, including those by his father, Morris Watson, a respected writer for the Associated Press who organized newspaper workers and helped found the American Newspaper Guild before being fired. Watson’s termination became a high-profile test-case that helped establish the constitutionality of the National Labor Relations Act.
Like millions of Americans during the Depression, Morris Watson was attracted to left-wing political movements, and met Harry Bridges in 1942, who persuaded the family to relocate to San Francisco where Morris became founding editor of the new ILWU Dispatcher newspaper.
At sea with left-wing politics
As a teenager, Don recalled hearing Harry Bridges tell stories about his exciting times on the high seas, which encouraged Watson to join the merchant marine when he was still in high school. He traveled the world and met many trade unionists, including some who belonged to the Communist Party, whom he found to be especially impressive.
They encouraged him to join their ranks and get involved in the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union in 1948. That was a tumultuous year, with his union joining ILWU members in a waterfront strike challenged by the Taft- Hartley Act which had had just been enacted to limit union power. Also that year, third-party candidate Henry Wallace ran against Democrat Harry Truman and Republican Thomas Dewey, in an effort backed passionately by Don Watson, other Communist Party members and some liberals that received only a handful of votes on election day.
The late 1940’s and early 50’s were hard times for Watson and other leftwing activists, with the U.S. government waging a Cold War with the Soviet Union, fighting the Chinese in Korea, while anti-Communist hysteria became a national preoccupation. Watson was eventually barred from working at sea because of his political views, a process known as “screening” that was administered
by the U.S. Coast Guard. The practice was eventually ruled unconstitutional, but back then he and his supporters did their best to resist by organizing daily protests at the Coast Guard headquarters. Watson was drafted to fight in the Korean War but the Army first ordered him to admit that his father had been a member of the Communist Party – which Don refused to do – resulting in a questionable discharge
that was finally classified as “Honorable” years later.
At home in the ILWU
While still a members of the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union (MCS), Watson supported an ILWU organizing effort in 1955 to help his fellow MCS members find a safe haven in the Longshore union. That effort was blocked by government officials who were fearful and hostile toward left-wing members and leaders at both the MSC and ILWU.
Watson and many other U.S. seafarers soon found themselves “screened out” of work by the Coast Guard. Watson found temporary work as a rivet-catcher in a metal shop. It was during this period of upheaval that Watson was treated kindly by an Assistant Dispatcher at Local 34 who got him a permit card that allowed him to work on the docks. Within a year he became a member of the Marine Clerks Union – the same year that he quit the Communist Party after learning of mass killings in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin’s brutal regime that crushed democratic dissent inside the USSR and surrounding nations, including Hungary.
Retaining his left-wing values of social justice and worker rights, Watson operated with a persistent but low-key approach that won respect from his co-workers. He was elected to serve on the Local 34 Executive Board for 24 years and served as Chairman for 19.
Having experienced harsh treatment from reactionary politicians during the 1950’s, Watson understood the importance of supporting progressive political leaders. He became active in the ILWU’s Northern California District Council and served as the ILWU’s lobbyist in Sacramento. He joined the Young Democrats and the California Democratic Council – voice of the Democratic= Party’s liberal wing that supported civil and labor rights. In 1962 he was elected Vice Chair of the ILWU’s West Bay Legislative Committee. Within Local 34, he joined a group of reform activists who backed Jim Herman to replace a leader who resisted admitting African Americans and left-wing seamen to the Local, according to Watson.
Farm worker organizing
In the 1960’s, Watson began volunteering to help the United Farm Workers union (UFW), and encouraged the ILWU to support the UFW in every way possible, including actions on the docks and conducting research to help UFW lawyers in Salinas. With help from Herb Mills and Whitey Kelm of Local 10, he created a “$5-a-month club” to generate donations for the UFW. Watson also organized annual holiday drives, and during the 1970’s organized a monthly labor caravan that travelled from the
Bay Area to the UFW headquarters in Delano. By this time, Watson was volunteering most of his time to help the UFW and working only 800 hours a year on the waterfront.
UFW solidarity repaid
When longshore workers and clerks went on strike in 1971 for 134 days, Bay Area ILWU leaders chose Don Watson to serve as Secretary of the Joint Longshore Strike Assistance Committee. Watson was able to secure help from the United Farmworkers Union which organized massive food caravans to help striking longshore families the Bay Area.
Documenting labor history
Beginning in 1975, Watson began documenting the history of agricultural workers in California, going back to the 1930’s. In 1980 he co-founded the Bay Area Labor History Workshop to get feedback and support for himself and others who were documenting labor history without formal academic training. He ended up writing many papers and made presentations at meetings of historians, including the Southwest Labor History Association. He also supported the Labor Archives and Research Center at San Francisco State University and served on their Advisory Board. During his final years, Watson struggled to collect his own papers and write his own personal history, making frequent trips to the ILWU International offices in San Francisco where he spent time in the Library, Archives and Communications Department.
Fortunately, Watson’s experiences and views were captured in detail thanks to an oral interview he conducted with historian Harvey Schwartz that was published in the 2009 book, Solidarity Stories. In that interview, Watson said he was thankful for the excellent health and pension benefits enjoyed by Longshore workers and Marine Clerks – but noted other workers haven’t been so lucky:
“We’re all facing ongoing privatization, deregulation, huge tax cuts for the wealthy along with growing state and national deficits – all of which hurts working people,” said Watson, who remained committed to reaching out to non-union workers and helping them organize – because he believed it would benefit both the “unorganized” and ILWU members alike.
During the mid-1990’s, Watson became interested in a San Francisco labor history project that aimed to honor waterfront workers by preserving a vintage crane on the City’s waterfront. Watson served Secretary for many years on the Copra Crane Labor Landmark Association (CCLLA), an effort now being overseen by the Port of San Francisco.
As a pensioner, Watson remained active in his union through the Bay Area Pensioners club and continued to be active in community politics, including a feisty campaign that pushed for labor and environmental standards in the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico (NAFTA). In that struggle against powerful corporate interests backing NAFTA, Watson joined with labor and community activists who challenged local politicians, including Congress member Nancy Pelosi, who ended up voting for the controversial corporate trade pact.
Running and romance
In the late 1970’s, Watson resumed an interest in long-distance running that started on his high school track team. He joined several Bay Area running clubs, including the Berkeley Running Club after moving to Oakland in 1982, where he met his wife Jane Colman, with whom he shared the love of running. They ran many races together, including 5 kilometers, half-marathons and the Pikes Peak Ascent. He told ILWU Librarian Robin Walker that one of his greatest experiences involved visiting South Africa for the Comrades Marathon. After he stopped running in 2005, Watson remained active by walking in races, taking photographs and encouraging the runners. A serious bout with scoliosis left him hunched over with limited mobility, but he never complained and remained active until his final days.
Watson leaves behind his wife Jane Colman, sisters Priscilla Laws and Wendy Watson, stepchildren Caitlin and Roland McGrath, nieces, nephews and many friends who will miss his sweet smile and gentle manner. A celebration of his life will be held at 1pm on Saturday, May 23 at the Local 34 Hall in San Francisco. Donations in Don Watson’s memory can be made to the Labor Archives and Research Center, J. Paul Leonard Library, Room 460, San Francisco State University, 1630 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132.
Docker union leaders from around the world – including ILWU officers – met in Perth, Australia for a strategy meeting in May that included a protest against Chevron for failing to respect workers’ rights in Western Australia.
“Chevron is based in California, but communities back home and around the world are having the same kinds of problems from this company,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath, who spoke at a rally in front of the New Zealand Embassy in Perth. McEllrath joined Vice-Presidents Ray Familathe and Wesley Furtado, and Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams who attended the protest organized by the Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF). The protest took place on May 12 during a meeting of the ITF Dockers Section in Perth.
Chevron is deeply involved with natural gas projects in both Australia and New Zealand. Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) members say they’ve been treated unfairly at Chevron’s massive “Gorgon” project, located off the country’s northwest shore. Chevron intends to collect gas from offshore wells then liquefy the product on Barrow’s Island for export using giant LNG tankers. The effort was first estimated to cost $37 billion but exploded to $54 billion because of cost overruns. Instead of cooperating with the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), Chevron has refused to respect longstanding union contract standards
and filed a $20 million lawsuit against MUA members over a health and safety dispute.
In New Zealand, Chevron and a partner company were recently awarded lucrative offshore exploration permits. Concerns among members from the Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) are running high that Chevron may try to use similar tactics against them.
National Secretary Joe Fleetwood said New Zealand maritime workers are not welcoming Chevron, based on the company’s track record in Australia. He presented a letter to New Zealand consulate officials on May 12 that explained worker concerns about Chevron.
“We support responsible drilling with high safety standards, but we don’t support companies that have an antiworker agenda and bad environmental record.”
Problems in the U.S.
At Chevron’s massive U.S. refinery complex in Richmond, CA, the company hasgained notoriety for endangering workers, surrounding residents and the environment. A huge explosion and fire engulfed the refinery in August of 2012, nearly killing 10 refinery workers and sending over 10,000 residents to local hospitals with concerns about respiratory problems. Federal and state investigators found Chevron was at fault for the explosion because the company had been cutting corners on safety. After Richmond City Council members expressed similar concerns and asked the company to pay their fair share of local taxes, Chevron launched a $3 million political campaign to replace independent City Councilmembers with the company’s hand-picked candidates. The takeover attempt failed after voters rejected all of Chevron’s candidates.
On May 27, Bay Area ILWU members protested on the morning of Chevron’s annual shareholder meeting at company’s corporate headquarters in San Ramon, CA. ITF President Paddy Crumlin,
who also heads the Maritime Union of Australia, conveyed his thanks to ILWU members for their solidarity – and displeasure at Chevron for failing to reach terms with Australian workers;
a struggle he vowed to continue.
“We will keep seeking a settlement with Chevron – while we continue organizing workers at home and abroad to mount a fight – if that’s what the company wants.”
Longshore workers voted overwhelmingly to ratify the tentative contract agreement reached in February with the Pacific Maritime Association.
Members voted by 82 % to approve the new 5-year pact that will expire in 2019. The vote totals were 7,673 “YES” and 1699 “NO.”
Voting results were certified on May 22 by the Coast Balloting Committee, which is chosen by Coast Longshore Caucus delegates.
“The negotiations for this contract were some of the longest and most difficult in our recent history,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath. “Membership unity and hard work by the Negotiating Committe made the outcome possible.”
The new agreement provides approximately 20,000 good-paying jobs for workers living in 29 West Coast port communities. The contract maintains excellent health benefits, improved wages, pensions
and job safety protections. It also limits outsourcing of jobs and provides an improved system for
resolving job disputes.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – West Coast Longshore workers have overwhelmingly voted to ratify a tentative contract agreement reached in February with employers represented by the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).
Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) voted 82% in favor of approving the new 5-year agreement that will expire on July 1, 2019. The previous contract was ratified in 2008 with a vote of 75% in favor.
Voting results were certified today by the ILWU’s Coast Balloting Committee, which was chosen by Coast Longshore Caucus delegates elected from each of the 29 West Coast ports.
“The negotiations for this contract were some of the longest and most difficult in our recent history,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath. “Membership unity and hard work by the Negotiating Committee made this fair outcome possible.”
The new agreement provides approximately 20,000 good-paying jobs in 29 West Coast port communities. The contract will maintain excellent health benefits, improve wages, pensions and job safety protections; limit outsourcing of jobs and provide an improved system for resolving job disputes.
On May 1, 200 ILWU members from Locals 10, 34, 61, 6 and the Inlandboatmen’s Union joined with hundreds of community members to march from the Port of Oakland to Oakland’s City Hall. Their purpose was to protest violent and racist actions by abusive police officers.
The protest was sparked by a series of high profile killings of unarmed Black men by police in cities across the country, some of which were caught on video. Estimates on the size of the march ranged from 800 to 2,000. Local 10’s membership and Executive
Board initiated the action by voting to move their regular “stopwork” union meeting from Thursday evening to the following Friday morning on May 1. The contract requires such changes to be approved by PMA employers, which they agreed to do.
The show of solidarity was prompted by the shocking murder of Walter Scott, an unarmed African American man who was shot eight times in the back by a police officer in North Charleston, South Carolina. Dramatic video of the event went viral and sparked conversations and consciousness- raising across the country.
Walter Scott had several relatives who were members of the International Longshoreman’s Association (ILA) Local 1422, based in Charleston, South Carolina. Local 10’s decision to march and protest were praised by leaders of ILA 1422 and officials from the South Carolina AFL-CIO.
Local 10 Executive Board member Stacey Rodgers helped initiate the protest, explaining that “Local 10 members had been talking about the murder of Walter Scott, and about other people getting shot by the police. I felt that we needed to do something.”
Some Local 10 members have been directly affected by police violence, with two relatives killed by law enforcement in recent years. Jeremiah Moore was killed by Vallejo police who responded to a domestic disturbance call at his home in 2012. One of the police officers involved had already killed two suspects in less than 6 months, was named as a defendant in two “excessive force” lawsuits – yet received a promotion by the Department who cleared him of any wrongdoing, along with the County District Attorney.
Richard “Pedie” Perez was killed by a Richmond, CA police officer who stopped the 24-year-old man in 2014 for allegedly being intoxicated and resisting arrest. Both cases are the subjects of lawsuits that dispute police accounts of the shootings.
ILWU Local 10 President Melvin Mackay said the march was peaceful, orderly and praised members for initiating the action and showing their concern. Mackay handled over a dozen inquiries from the news media, most calling to ask why workers organized the action and whether circumstances justified protesting instead of working the day shift on May 1.
“I told them that longshore workers have a long tradition of protesting injustice in the community, and that recent events deserve a strong response from all Americans.”
On the day of the event, Local 10 President Melvin Mackay said, “We aren’t out here saying all cops are bad. We respect the hard job that they have. But at the same time we are here to say that police misconduct and the improper use of deadly force by the police cannot go unpunished. The public shouldn’t be afraid of the people who are supposed to protect them.”
Hundreds of union members, elected officials and supporters gathered at San Francisco’s Pier 27 on March 26 to celebrate the unveiling of an interactive, multimedia sculpture honoring the legacy of former ILWU International President Jimmy Herman.
Speakers at the event included former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos, Delancey Street Foundation President, Dr. Mimi Silbert, ILWU International President Robert McEllrath, ILWU International Secretary Treasurer and San Francisco Port Commissioner Willie Adams and Local 34 President Sean Farley.
The sculpture is a wall-mounted, interactive audio-visual installation measuring 10-feet high by 15-feet long. The sculpture resembles the waves of the bay. It contains touch screen display that will allow visitors to scroll through biographical information about Herman and to learn about the issues causes that defined Jimmy’s life and career. The sculpture also includes a directional sound system that will allow visitors to hear highlights from Herman’s speeches. It was crafted by the New York based art collective, Floating Point.
The Pier 27 cruise terminal is named in honor of Jimmy Herman and is the only cruise ship terminal in the world named after a labor leader. The cruise terminal is 91,000 square feet in a two-story building with views to the Bay Bridge and the San Francisco skyline. The terminal is will be able to accommodate ships with up to 4,000 passengers. Hundreds of thousands of cruise ship passengers each year are
expected to pass through the terminal every year.
ILWU members along with other members of the local community including former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi formed the James R. Herman Memorial Committee to raise money for the creation of the sculpture and its maintenance for the next 20 years.
Sean Farley, ILWU Local 34 President and Chair of the James R. Herman Memorial Committee, said
that the purpose of the sculpture is to commemorate Jimmy Herman’s contribution
to the labor movement and to the San Francisco waterfront.
“We wanted to reflect what Jimmy was about—his history, his legacy, his commitment to social justice movements and his contributions as a Port Commissioner—all the facets of who he was in his life. We also had to take into account what Pier 27 is—a world-class cruise terminal facility. We wanted a tribute that is commensurate with that facility and we think we’ve done that.”
This Mother’s Day, an international coalition of unions is calling on the world’s largest jewelry retailer to clean up its supplier of diamonds. We are urging Signet to demand that multinational mining and metals company Rio Tinto improve its practices so that they respect workers’ rights, indigenous peoples and the environment.
With global sales of US $6 billion annually, Signet’s Kay, Jared and Zales jewelry shops are in every U.S. state, Peoples and Mappins stores are throughout Canada, and H. Samuel and Ernest Jones shops are visible on U.K. high streets.
The unions USW, ILWU and Unifor are organizing demonstrations in the lead-up to Mother’s Day at Signet stores in the U.S. and Canada, which is celebrated on 10 May. This follows recent demonstrations at Signet stores in the U.K. by unions and civil society organizations from a dozen countries.
The coalition is calling on Signet to abide by its own Responsible Sourcing Policy. This policy declares the company “committed to the responsible sourcing of our products and the respect of human rights, and we expect the same from our suppliers around the world.”
But Rio Tinto is a notorious violator of labour rights, communities and the environment, as has recently been documented in a report, Rio Tinto: The way it really works.Report: Rio Tinto: The way it really works:
- Thirty-nine workers killed on the job since 2013 at the Grasberg copper and gold mine, Indonesia, where Rio Tinto has a joint venture
- Planning to develop a copper mine on land considered sacred to Native Americans despite their opposition
- Over 2,300 grievances unresolved by management at Rio Tinto iron ore operation in Labrador, Canada
- Destruction of indigenous sacred sites and vital natural water supply by Rio Tinto in Mongolia
Although the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) has certified Rio Tinto, unfortunately the RJC is highly flawed. It is neither independent – it is governed by industry, excluding labour, civil society and impacted communities. Nor is it transparent – it is impossible for the public to determine whether an RJC-certified company complies with RJC’s own certification requirements, let alone international human rights and environmental standards.
“We’ve raised on multiple occasions concerns with Signet about its supplier Rio Tinto’s practices that are bad for workers, communities and the environment. So far Signet has remained mostly silent while Rio Tinto has responded with threats. We’ll continue to raise our concerns until Rio Tinto changes its practices and behaves like the responsible company it claims to be,” says IndustriALL Global Union general secretary Jyrki Raina.IndustriALL – Mom Deserves Better than Diamonds from Rio Tinto Campaign