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