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International Longshore and Warehouse Union
Updated: 4 days 16 hours ago

Australia meeting celebrates union merger

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 16:39

ILWU solidarity: International President Robert McEllrath addressed the meeting with a message of solidarity.

ILWU officials travelled to Australia in early April to witness the historic merger of two militant labor unions – both longtime allies of the ILWU –who joined forces at a weeklong conference held in Fremantle, Western Australia.

Two unions

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has deep roots dating to the late 1800’s – once claiming a union member named Harry Bridges who went to sea before settling in the U.S. where he helped organize the ILWU.

Australia’s Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) brought together a wide range of building trades, mining, timber and paper unions into a single group in 1998 that recently decided to join forces with the MUA.

Both ILWU allies

“We’ve been allies with both these union for many years,” said ILWU International President Bob McEllrath, “Seeing them come together makes an important contribution to the cause of labor unity – while also sending a powerful message to employers.”

McEllrath led an ILWU delegation that included Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams, Vice Presidents Ray Familathe (Mainland) and Wesley Furtado (Hawaii). Others attending at the invitation of the Aussie unions included Local 23 President Dean McGrath and members Brian Skiffington, Theresa Samalisto and Todd Iverson; Local 13 members Mike Dimon, Sunshine Garcia and Vivian Malauulu; ILWU Canada’s 3rd Vice President Romeo Bordignon and Local 502’s Dan Kask.


Both unions chose the first day of the conference to explain their respective histories; each noting that they share a common “fighting culture” when it comes to worker advocacy. They also agreed to open their conference with a special emphasis on youth, women and aboriginal members – all of whom who are important to both unions.

International support

A panel of speakers on International Solidarity featured keynote talks by ILWU President McEllrath, Joe Fleetwood of New Zealand’s Maritime Union (MUNZ) and MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin who also serves as President of the International Transport Workers Federation. They joined Joe McDonald of the CFMEU to explain how the merger will benefit workers in Australia and abroad.

A second keynote panel included ILWU Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams and Steve Todd who serves as National Secretary for Britain’s Rail, Maritime and Transport workers union (RMT). Local 23 President Dean McGrath served on a third panel, delivering a speech with other international guests.

Safer workplaces

Speakers opened the third day of the conference with an impassioned call to improve safety standards in the extremely hazardous occupations of construction mining, forestry, and maritime.

“We have the right to go home the same way we go to work,” said the Conference’s official bulletin. “Too many workers are being lost, and one death is too many. What we see in construction and maritime is hundreds of deaths and thousands of serious injuries every year that destroy families and livelihoods.”

Street protest

Before the day was done, delegates left the speeches behind and marched into the streets of Fremantle to protest in front of the governments “Worksafe” office – the nation’s health and safety agency that has grown weak and ineffective under years of Conservative, anti-worker control that favor business interests.

Political upheaval

The tone of the Conference was energized by a recent, dramatic political upheaval in Western Australia last month. The MUA, CFMEU, other unions and their allies ousted anti-worker Conservative politicians – and replaced them with pro-union legislators and a new political network called “Progressive Labor.”

Hard work & winning formula

“It’s taken years of working within the Labor Party processes, engaging with other unions, workers and community groups to deliver the winning election platform,” declared the MUA’s official newspaper. “Labor has finally rediscovered the winning formula – put people before profit of greedy multi-national corporations. It’s clear that working people have woken up and will punish politicians who look after their corporate masters and ignore the interests of the people.”

More work ahead

Despite the recent election victory in the state of Western Australia, workers throughout the nation are still suffering from years of Conservative, anti-union politicians who control the national government.

True to their roots, both unions were undertaking protests and acts of resistance across Australia while the conference in Fremantle was underway, and both plan to keep protesting in the future.

“These unions understand that the working class has to fight in order to make progress,” said ILWU President McEllrath. “The election victory in Western Australia is a good example of what it takes for working people to win.”

Categories: Unions

Alaska Secretary-Treasurer training

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 16:04

Hard work for an important purpose: Participants at the Secretary-Treasurer’s Training in Alaska hit the books hard to learn skills for safeguarding members’ dues money. (L-R) Jesse Groom from Local 60 in Seward, Jeff Hancock from Unit 223 in Dutch Harbor, Sonya Travis from Unit 60 in Seward, and Mitch Miller from Unit 223 in Dutch Harbor.

When International President Bob McEllrath attended the All-Alaska Longshore Division Caucus meeting last January in Anchorage, he offered to assist the Division in educating their unit officers to help streamline reporting responsibilities and other fiduciary duties throughout the units.

McEllrath volunteered International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams, along with veteran ILWU staffers, Russ Bargmann and Robin Walker and ILWU attorney Rob Remar to work with Division officers to plan a Secretary-Treasurers workshop, held April 19-20 in Anchorage.

The workshop focused on providing training and resources to union officers who are responsible for overseeing the financial health of local unions and complying with state and federal labor reporting and disclosure laws.

“A Secretary-Treasurer’s job is two-fold, and both parts are very important,” said Adams. “First we have to make sure that the books are honest, accurate and up to date. We serve as the financial watchdogs for the membership and follow all sorts of procedures to protect the membership dues dollars that we are responsible for safeguarding.” The second part of the job involves complying with state and federal laws – especially regular reports that must be made to the U.S. Department of Labor. “These regulations must \ be followed and deadlines have to be met,” he said. International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams was first elected to his current post in 2003, and says he’s still grateful to those who taught him the ropes and helped him along the way. Helping the brothers and sisters in Alaska and beyond has been rewarding, he says.

A group of close to 20 participants took the 2-day training seriously, studying the law, listening to speakers, and completing a mock local audit procedure.

“When President McEllrath heard that our Division could use some help with a training about union financial responsibilities and record keeping, he quickly suggested we consider having the International assist our effort; it was an offer we could not refuse,” said Alaska Longshore Division Secretary-Treasurer Darryl Tesu. “We can’t thank brother Willie Adams, and the ILWU International staff enough for taking time out of their busy schedules to spend time working with us here. Every oneof our participating Port Secretary-Treasurers and Officers left Anchoragewith a wealth of information and knowledge packed into 4-inch binders that we all took home.

“Understanding the responsibilities of keeping our financial house in order is imperative to our future as an organization and an integral part of our internal organizing efforts,” said Tesu.

Categories: Unions

Longshore Caucus delegates meet; proposed contract  extension goes to membership

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 11:48

ILWU International President Robert McEllrath addresses the Longshore caucus. At the dais with President McEllrath (left to right) are Coast Committeemen Cameron Williams, Frank Ponce De Leon and ILWU International Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe.

Eighty-eight delegates elected by rank-and-file Longshore Division members at 29 West Coast ports met April 24-28 at the Coast Longshore Caucus in San Francisco to review a range of issues, including an employer-initiated proposal to extend the 20142019 collective bargaining agreement between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).

A majority of Longshore Caucus delegates voted on April 28 to refer the employer’s proposed extension to a ratification vote by the membership. The current contract expires on July 1, 2019.

“One of the ILWU’s Guiding Principles is that the rank-and-file members will make the best decision when they have the facts and an opportunity to decide for themselves, and that’s how this will be decided,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath.  The vote will occur on a schedule according to the union’s internal rules, which provide time for local members to discuss, debate and ask questions about any proposed agreement before voting.  McEllrath added, “More information will be sent to rank-and-file Longhore members in the coming weeks so everyone has the facts they need to make an informed decision.”

 At a previous Longshore Division Caucus held in August of 2016, delegates voted to explore the concept of a contract extension that was first proposed last spring by employers. Several meetings were then held between the Longshore Negotiating Committee and PMA employer representatives. “The rank-and-file membership always has the final say on any contract – including this non-precedent-setting proposed extension,” McEllrath said.

Categories: Unions

ILWU Longshore Caucus delegates meet in San Francisco; Proposed contract extension goes to membership vote

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 16:35

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (April 28, 2017) – Nearly 90 delegates from 29 West Coast ports from San Diego, CA, to Bellingham, WA, who were elected by rank and file members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s Longshore Division (ILWU), convened this week in San Francisco to review a wide range of issues, including an employer-initiated proposal to extend the 2014-2019 collective bargaining agreement between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).

The current contract will expire on July 1, 2019. A majority of Longshore Caucus delegates voted on April 28 to refer the employer’s proposed extension to a ratification vote by the membership.

“One of the ILWU’s Guiding Principles is that the rank-and-file members will make the best decision when they have the facts and an opportunity to decide for themselves, and that’s how this will be decided,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath.

“The rank-and-file membership always have the final say on any contract – including this non-precedent-setting proposed extension,” McEllrath said.

The vote will occur on a schedule according to the union’s internal rules.

Categories: Unions

New Ferry service with union workers

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 15:16

Union service to San Francisco: Pictured (L-R) are IBU members Oliver Albert, Imani Treas, IBU Director Marina Secchitano, Steve Ongerth, and a commuter who arrived at the gate just in time to deposit his ticket for a prompt 7:55am departure

Members of the Inlandbaotmen’s Union (IBU) helped ensure a smooth transition on March 6 when commuter ferry service from Tiburon to San Francisco was transferred from the Blue & Gold Fleet to Golden Gate Transit District.

The seamless transfer provided peace of mind for over 200,000 commuters who depend on the Tiburon ferry to get them to work in the city each year – while reducing car traffic on congested highways.

The privately-owned Blue & Gold Fleet had provided commuter ferry service for the past 50 years, but lacked enough fast, modern and expensive vessels, like the ones operated by GG Transit that can now make the trip in just 20 minutes.

“Having Golden Gate take over this service was a win for commuters, the environment and workers,” said IBU San Francisco Regional Director Marina Secchitano.

A non-union ferry operator threatened to block the transfer in January, but that effort failed when Golden Gate’s Board of Directors unanimously approved the new service in late February.

IBU members will continue working on Blue & Gold vessels that provide tourists with ferry service during non-commute hours at Tiburon while providing commuters with ferry service from Vallejo, Harbor Bay, South San Francisco, Oakland, and Alameda.

Commuter service from Richmond is set to begin next year.

Categories: Unions

Local 63’s Netra Brown: woman of distinction

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 12:35

“Woman of Distinction” honors for Local 63’s Neta Brown: Participating in the event on March 23 were Local 63 President Paul Trani, Silver Vaifanua (son), Local 63 member and honoree Netra Brown, Brooklyn Vaifanua (daughter), and State Assembly member Patrick O’Donnell. Surviving spouse Regina “Gina” Vaifanua, wife of deceased Local 63 member Sil Vaifanua, attended the event but was standing behind her daughter and is not visible in this photo. The group honored Netra Brown who was among those who tried to save Sil Vaifanua’s life on February 18.

March is Women’s History Month when women everywhere are recognized in a variety of ways for the many contributions they make to society. In the California State Legislature, women across the state are honored by members of the state Senate and Assembly.

More than 100 women who live, work, or volunteer in California Assembly District 70 (which covers Long Beach, San Pedro, and Catalina Island) were nominated in March by their peers to receive special recognition from Assembly member Patrick O’Donnell. One of those 100 exemplary women is honored as the district’s “Woman of the Year” and rewarded with a special trip to the State Capitol where she is introduced on the floor of the house in early March. Later in the month, a smaller, more personal reception is hosted to celebrate the 20 finalists in AD 70. Those women are recipients of the Harbor Area’s prestigious “Woman of Distinction” award.

That event was held on Thursday, March 23, and included one of our own ILWU sisters among the chosen. High atop downtown Long Beach in a penthouse professional suite that overlooks the twin ports complex that is the mecca of West Coast goods movement, ILWU Local 63 Sister Netra Brown stood shyly as Assemblyman O’Donnell shared with an audience of almost 150 guests why she was chosen as a finalist.

“Strong, selfless and heroic women like Netra have made deeply meaningful contributions to our community that deserve our recognition and thanks,” said Assemblyman O’Donnell.Among the many reasons why Netra was nominated for this honor was her recent heroic attempt to save the life of a fellow union member.

On the night of Friday, February 18, ILWU Local 63 Brother Sil Vaifanua had just ended his shift as a floor runner at LB 245 and was turning in his paperwork for the night when he suffered a heart attack on the second floor of the marine tower. Netra, her work partner Sidra Mendoza, and another Local 13 member, Kenneth Jackson, rushed to Sil’s aid. Netra was the first to administer CPR and attempt resuscitative efforts until the paramedics arrived. Unfortunately, brother Sil did not make it, passing later that night at a nearby hospital. Sil’s wife, Local 13 member Regina Vaifanua, was aware of the efforts by Netra and others to save her husband.

During Sil’s funeral service, “Gina” as she is known on the waterfront, publicly acknowledged them with a heartfelt thank you. However, the two union sisters did not actually meet in person until the Women of Distinction (WOD) Reception.

Embracing solidarity and loss: Local 13 member Gina Vaifanua (L) and
Local 63’s Netra Brown share an emotional moment together at a ceremony held in Long Beach on March 23.

“The room just filled with emotion as these two union sisters met for the first time in a tearful embrace. It was a very genuine moment of gratitude that drove home the message of the evening,” said Assemblymember O’Donnell.

Sil was a longtime member of Local 13 before he transferred to Local 63 in 2006. Gina is a current member of Local 13. They were both casuals together in the mid-1990s. The couple was married for 26 years and together had 6 children and 7 grandchildren. Gina attended the WOD event with two of her children who presented Netra with a bright bouquet of spring flowers.

“I am so happy that Sister Netra is being recognized,” said Gina. “She has a great reputation on the waterfront for being a good person and a good worker. What she and her coworkers did that night to try to save my husband’s life was so selfless.”

Sister Netra held several steady posts at Local 13 before transferring to Local 63 some 15 years ago. She has been a steady Super Cargo for SSA Marine vessel operations in Long Beach for the past 7 years. Netra has a degree in Finance Management from Cal State Long Beach and credits that business school training for helping her to be awesome at her job. She is a busy family woman with three adult children who enjoys traveling, reading, playing tennis, who also finds time to give back to her community.

“Receiving the award was very surprising,” said Netra. “Having Sil’s family there was completely shocking but very special. Meeting his beautiful wife and sweet children was very emotional for me. Gina held me so tight and his children cried in my arms.”

Netra added that she only did what she hopes other union members would do in the same situation.

–Vivian J. Malauulu

Categories: Unions

ILWU members train to resist immigration raids

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 10:54

Training for Trump immigration raids: Local 6 members (L-R) Alejandra León, Mirella Jauregui, Delfina Casillas and Fernando Garcia of the Molders Union, demonstrated how workers can project themselves by knowing their rights and taking action together on the job at a training held in February. Photo by David Bacon.

ILWU members joined with other workers, community organizations and church groups on Saturday, February 25th at a union hall in Hayward, CA, where a training was held to prepare for immigration raids supported by President Trump. Those attending from Local 6 included Alejandra León, Mirella Jauregui, Pedro Sánchez, Delfina Casillas and Secretary-Treasurer Chris Castaing.

Previous success

ILWU members and other union activists described how they have successfully fought raids and firings that targeted immigrants in the past. Workers used these experiences to enact dramatic “role plays” that illustrated how workers can defend themselves – in conjunction with legal advice and community support.

Following the dramatic “teatro” performance that featured four Local 6 recycling workers, everyone joined small groups that brainstormed various strategies for coordinating efforts between unions, churches and community groups.

Mass deportations?

Workplace raids and deportations are expected to increase under President Trump, who made immigrants a target of his presidential campaign and described them as “rapists and criminals who bring drugs and crime into America.” Scientific studies prove immigrants are less likely to be involved in those activities. “It’s important to remember the important role that immigrants have played by building unions in our country,” said Secretary-Treasurer Chris Castaing, who attended the training.

The immigrant Harry Bridges

Agustin Ramirez, Lead Organizer for Northern California, noted that ILWU co-founder Harry Bridges was accused of being an ‘illegal immigrant’ because he organized waterfront workers in the 1930’s – and was harassed for decades afterward due to his immigration status and advocacy for unions and working-class causes.

“Bridges successfully fought back with help from his co-workers and community groups, and we have to do the same today to protect our brothers and sisters on the shop floor and in their homes,” said Ramirez.

Recycling worker Mirella Jauregui said the time she spent at the workshop was worthwhile. “We got information that will be useful to help friends and families in our community,” she said.

Day without immigrants

Ten days before the training, on February 16, thousands of immigrants stayed home from work and many joined actions across the U.S.

Participants in the “Day Without Immigrants” included poultry workers in Arkansas, warehouse workers in Brooklyn, roofers in Minneapolis and students in dozens of cities including many on the West Coast.

Word spread quickly

The actions were organized quickly through social media, radio and television reports, the week after President Trump announced a new wave of immigration raids.

In Portland, Oregon, local Latino radio stations announced the strike and encouraged listeners to participate.

Several rallies resulted and some businesses closed, according to Romeo Sosa of the VOZ Workers Education Project, a Portland day laborer organization.

Showing how they won: At the February training, Local 6 workers re-created scenes from their successful struggle to improve wages and working conditions for East Bay recycling workers. Photo by David Bacon.

Retaliation & rehiring

Among the many thousands who stayed home, at least 100 workers were fired for participating in the strike, including 30 bricklayers in Colorado, 21 workers at a boat building company in Lexington, South Carolina, and 12 line cooks at a restaurant in Catoosa, Oklahoma. In some cases, worker centers and immigrant rights organizations were able to pressure employers into re-hiring workers who faced retaliation.

Actions everywhere With immigrants now working throughout the country, actions in some regions seemed to take residents by surprise. That may have been the case in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where so many students joined the strike that school district officials had to officially cancel the school day – in a city long considered a home of the Republican Party and conservatism. It is also the hometown of Amway heiress Betsy DeVos who now serves as Trump’s Secretary of Education.

A big step forward

Housekeeper Isabel Castillo who lives in the Grand Rapids area and belongs to the Worker Justice Center there kept her son home from school on February 16. When she brought him back the next day, she said “people were very emotional. We felt like human beings. We lost a day of work, but we took a big step forward.”

Categories: Unions

Bob White: militant, progressive Canadian

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 15:48

Known for his independent views, militant tactics and progressive outlook that favored social justice for all workers, Bob White died on February 20 at the age of 81. White was mourned by union members across Canada and hailed as a “giant of the Canadian labor movement.”

White emigrated with his family from Ireland to Canada at the age of 13 and went to work in a factory at the age of 15 where he quickly experienced his first strike. Two years later he was elected a Steward, and led a strike of 500 workers at the age of 22.

Elected to leadership positions within the U.S. – based United Auto Workers, he led a successful break-away effort that created the Canadian Auto Workers union (CAW) in 1985. White was elected President for three terms before becoming President of the Canadian Labour Congress. White was a bitter foe of contract concessions, the NAFTA Free Trade Agreement and U.S. military expansion.

He pushed hard for social service funding, while also backing organizing campaigns and affiliations that helped the CAW expand, eventually merging with Canada’s Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union in 2013 to form a new union called Unifor which describes itself as “a new kind of union that advocates on behalf of all working people – employed or unemployed – across the country.”

“Bob was a true unionist who spoke what he believed,” said ILWU Canada President Rob Ashcroft, “including the principle that workers should belong to the union of their choice. White honored his word by seeing that Local 400 members joined the ILWU’s ranks after a merger could have put them into the Canadian Auto Workers. This was just one example of Brother White’s integrity that made him such an exceptional leader.”

Categories: Unions

Three ILWU-endorsed candidates win SoCal Democratic Party delegate seats  

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 15:14

Three ILWU-endorsed candidates in Southern California have won Delegate seats in the California Democratic Party. Two other ILWU-supported candidates narrowly lost elections that took place on January 7.

Among the winners were Local 63 Business Agent Cathy Familathe who also serves as President of the Southern California District Council, Irene Huerta who serves as Secretary to ILWU Local 13 President and is member of OPEIU Local 537, and Shannon Ross, wife of ILWU Local 94 member Marcel Ross.

Local 13 members Jerry Avila and Vivian Malauulu both narrowly lost their bids.  All candidates were endorsed by ILWU Locals 13, 63, 94 and the Southern California District Council. Malauulu was elected to the Long Beach Community College District Board of Trustees in 2016.

“This is historic, because it may be the first time that the ILWU has endorsed candidates and friends of our union to become delegates in the California Democratic Party,” said Cathy Familathe. She added that candidates on the ILWU-supported slate were “pro-Bernie” and will use their delegate positions to press for a pro-worker platform.

The Assembly District Election Meetings are held every two years. Each District elects seven women and seven men to serve as delegates from their Assembly District to the state Party.  Delegates are responsible for planning and attending informational meetings throughout the region and working with other delegates to represent their community. They vote at regional meetings and the California Democratic Party Convention.

“I think it’s important for union members to get involved in politics,” Huerta said. “Especially with all that is going on right now, it is important that workers have a voice in shaping the agenda for the Democratic Party.” Huerta was first elected as an Assembly Delegate in 2015 and has been encouraging other union members to do same.


Categories: Unions

Trump backs attack on union members

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 14:50

Women’s March: ILWU and IBU members from Seattle and Tacoma marched in the January 21st Women’s March to protest the inauguration of Donald Trump. Protests occurred in every major city in the country. Approximately 4 million people attended the demonstrations nationwide. From left to right are Chuck Alexander
(Local 52), Dan McKisson (Local 19), Kesa Mueller (Local 19), Scotty Martinez (Local 19), Leith Jasinowski-Kahl (Local 19), Kathy Dvorak (Local 52), Zachary Pattin (Local 23), Carla de Leon (Local 19, Aux), Teresa Lewis (Local 52), Cosette Hill (Local 19),  Brian Skiffington (Local 23). Not pictured: Terri Mast, IBU Secretary-Treasurer.

The new Trump administration announced some disturbing news in February that signaled a growing threat to union members.

Support for anti-union law

On February 1, “right-to-work” legislation (H.R. 785) was proposed in Congress by anti-union Representatives Joe Wilson of South Carolina and Steve King of Iowa. The term “right-to-work” was coined decades ago by anti-union business owners.

Union members are more likely to describe it as “right-to-freeload,” the “right-to-work-for-less” or “right-to-wreck- the-union.”

Trump quickly supports

Trump quickly announced his support for the new legislation through Presidential Spokesman Sean Spicer, who said: “The President believes in ‘right to work.’ He wants…to do what’s in the best interest for job creators.”

To further emphasize strong support from the White House, Spicer added: “Obviously the Vice President has been a champion of this as well.”

 Pence’s involvement

The White House didn’t mention that Vice President Pence has been quietly working with a team of Trump advisors who are gathering strategy ideas to weaken unions, based on “right-to-work” laws and similar policies already enacted in many states.

On February 1, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker revealed he attended a January 28 meeting with V.P. Pence and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in Washington, D.C. Walker said he advised Pence and Gingrich “how they may take bits and pieces of what we did” with the union law and civil service reform to “apply it at the national level.” Gov. Walker and other anti-union leaders are advising Trump to begin his attacks by going after workers in public unions, something the new President already pledged to do during his campaign.

Divide and conquer

If Trump keeps his promise to attack public union members, it may explain why the President was also holding high-profile meetings with building trade leaders on January 23, and why he met earlier with Teamster President James Hoffa. Those unions have sometimes supported anti-union candidates who cater to narrow interests while ignoring attacks by the same politicians on the broader working class and other union members.

How law hurts workers

“Right to work” laws are designed and funded by big business to weaken unions. They force unions into an impossible position by making them legally responsible for representing all workers in a shop, while stripping the union’s ability to collect enough fees to cover those representation costs. Strong union shops where everyone is a paying member would be outlawed under the proposed law – and replaced with “open shops” where division, disunity and financial hardship weaken the union and leave workers with lower pay, meager benefits and little say over working conditions.

Ugly origins of “right-to-work”

“Right to work” laws were pioneered in 1936 by the Texas-based “Christian American Association,” a racist outfit funded by Southern oilmen and Northern industrialists.

A top associate of the group once explained her hostility toward workers by criticizing what President Roosevelt’s wife, Eleanor, had done to help workers, especially African- Americans, because Roosevelt stood for a “$15 a week salary for all n***** house help, Sundays off, no washing, and no cleaning upstairs,” adding, “My n***** maid wouldn’t dare sit down in the same room with me unless she sat on the floor at my feet!”

Start in segregated South

Arkansas and Florida were the first to pass “right to work” laws in 1944, followed quickly by Texas and other Southern states that totaled 14 by 1947 when a Republican majority in Congress passed the notorious “Taft-Hartley” law that stripped unions of powers gained under President Roosevelt, including the right to conduct effective pickets and boycotts. The anti-union law became popular in the South where segregationists warned that union shops and civil rights would lead to “race-mixing and communism.”

Criticized by MLK

The Rev. Martin Luther King warned about the danger of “right-to- work” laws, saying in 1961: “we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone. Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights.”

The “Southern strategy”

Passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965 re-shuffled America’s political deck, with Southern whites switching their political loyalty from the Democratic to Republican Party, while African Americans abandoned the Republican Party of Lincoln and Reconstruction to vote predominantly Democratic. Segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina was one of the first to change his political affiliation in 1964 – the same year that Republican

Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act and lost the 1964 election, boldly campaigning for “states’ rights” to the delight of Southern segregationists.

Racist code words

Richard Nixon won in 1968 with a “Southern strategy” that used racist code language, including talk about “welfare, less government, violent criminals and “states’ rights” to win white votes in the South – plus blue collar votes from whites in the Midwest and Northern industrial cities.

Nixon’s Chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman explained: “you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the Blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognized this while not appearing to.” Ronald Reagan’s campaign strategist, Lee Atwater, explained how racist appeals had helped conservatives win white votes: “You start out in 1954 by saying, “N*****, n*****, n*****.” By 1968 you can’t say “n*****” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff…”

This is how the term “right-to-work” became one of the many racist code words that white politicians used to communicate bigotry and win elections; beginning in the South, and now throughout much of the country.

Behind the campaigns

Big business is still financing today’s campaigns to pass “right-to-work” laws, just as they have since 1936. Some of the work is being done by the National Right To Work Committee and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), both of which have been passing laws in state legislatures with help from the Koch brothers – using the same oil fortune that funded the racist John Birch Society and other anti-union groups more than a half century ago.

Majority of states

Corporate lobbyists and antiunion politicians have now succeeded in passing “right-to-work” laws in a majority of state legislatures. Kentucky joined the list in early January and Missouri become the 28th “right-to-work” state on February 6. Similar laws have been enacted in the former industrial union strongholds of Wisconsin and Michigan – states which also account for Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory. Efforts to pass similar laws in California, Oregon and Washington have failed – but a federal law or court decision could supersede pro-union laws at the state and local level.

Supreme Court decisions

The Supreme Court has the power to change federal labor laws. With one unfilled vacancy that President Obama was prevented from filling, the Supreme Court deadlocked with 4-4 votes on several cases involving issues related to “right-to-work,” including the ability of unions to collect representation fees. If Trump nominates a conservative anti-union member to the Supreme Court, the new anti-union majority could change national labor laws without passing any legislation.

Promises or betrayal?

Many promises were made by politicians during the election, claiming they wanted to help America’s working class. The coming months will reveal how sincere those promises were, and whether the ones made to the working class will be honored over the demands of big business, billionaires and Wall Street executives. Those forces have already taken control of the government’s most powerful jobs where they will make decisions felt by every worker and family in America.

Only way for workers

“Workers and unions have never gotten anything handed to them on a silver platter because progress only gets made by pushing the powerful to do what’s right,” said ILWU President Robert McEllrath. “That’s the way it’s always been, and that’s what we need to be doing now and in the future.”

Categories: Unions

Longshore division holds grievance and arbitration training

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 10:31

Team work: Local 10 member Vanetta Hamlin with Local 34 President David Gonzalez working on a group project together at the GAP workshop held in San Francisco in February.

The Coast Longshore Division held a Grievance and Arbitration Procedures (GAP) workshop from February 5-10 in San Francisco. The five-day workshop provided extensive training for 70 ILWU members and local union officials.

The goal was to prepare teams with expertise and skills that will enable them to represent members during grievances, arbitrations and appearances before regional Labor Relations Committees (LRCs).


The workshop began with presentations by experienced ILWU officers, attorneys and staff that covered a range of topics including research and investigative tools, an overview of key provisions of the Coast Longshore Division Contract, plus important issues relating to health and safety and technology.


The week culminated in a mock arbitration exercise that allowed participants to apply their new skills and knowledge in a group exercise that closely mimicked a real arbitration from beginning to end. Participants were placed in groups and randomly assigned roles as either employers or union members and then presented with a fictional scenario involving a jurisdictional issue. Each team had to prepare their case including researching past arbitrations, interviewing witnesses and identifying key issues in the dispute. Teams then engaged in a mock LRC meeting, followed by a mock arbitration in front of a panel of three arbitrators.

Education Committee

Coast Committeemen Cameron Williams (left) and Frank Ponce De Leon served as arbitrators during the mock arbitration exercise and gave feedback to the participants on the last day of the GAP workshop.

The workshop was put together by the Coast Longshore Division’s Education Committee. “GAP helps give local officers the information and tools to do their jobs more effectively and more efficiently, said Education Committee and Local 13 member Sunshine Garcia. “GAP also educates emerging leaders who will be stepping into those positions later on, so they’re better prepared to represent members, protect ILWU jurisdiction and defend our rights on the job.”

Positive feedback

Local 63 member Calvin Wade said the GAP training was a great experience. “This was an opportunity for me to gain knowledge about how to access a vast amount of information that I can use to help many members in Los Angeles,” Wade said. “This is invaluable and by far the best experience I’ve had being a part of the ILWU.”

Local 18 member Rene Way also reported a positive experience: “GAP gave me tools that I can take back to help me serve my union better and help protect our work,” she said.

Planning and follow-up

The Education Committee planned the workshop for months. And after the workshop concluded, they met to evaluate the training sessions, using feedback from participants and presenters The constructive feedback allows the program to be constantly improved and updated.

Future Investment

“Education is an investment in the union and our membership,” said Local 19 President Rich Austin, Jr., who has been a member of the Education Committee since 2005. “Hopefully some of the attendees will emerge as future leaders in this union, as has happened with past workshops and trainings.”

President McEllrath and other titled officers were present for much of the training. “We need a lot more members with leadership skills to keep the ILWU strong,” said McEllrath. “This training is a great way to help people get some of those skills to assume leadership roles in our union.”

Categories: Unions

Strategy questions at union health care meeting

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 11:53

The ILWU has been advocating for a national, single-payer health plan since 1938, and remains active in that effort through a network of unions and community groups who met in New York City on January 13-15, to continue pushing for a quality, non-profit health system that would cover every American. ILWU International President Bob McEllrath assigned pensioner and longtime “single-payer” health advocate Rich Austin, Sr., to attend the meeting and represent the ILWU.
Protest to protect Medicare & jobs

Activists from around the country began their 3-day meeting with an early-evening protest against threatened Medicare and Medicaid cuts proposed by Republican leaders in the House of Representative and U.S. Senate. They convened outside Trump Tower, where the President-elect had been meeting with Congressional leaders. The Tower also hosts offices of a union-busting company, Momentive Chemical, which forced 700 workers out on strike last November by demanding huge concessions in health care benefits. Workers are resisting those take-aways despite bitter-cold days on the picket line.

Growing strength in numbers

More than 100 new participants were on hand for the opening session of the health care conference that began after the evening protest ended. The 500 attendees came from many different unions and groups including Physicians for a National Health Program and the Labor Campaign for Single Payer, which hosted the event.

Labor for Bernie continues

Invitations for a special meeting held during the conference went out to the six national unions, including the ILWU, who backed Senator Bernie Sanders for President: the Communication Workers of America, American Postal Workers Union, National Nurses United, United Electrical Workers, and the Amalgamated Transit Union. The representatives who attended felt that progressive unions should work to expand the “Labor for Bernie” network by including other national and local unions to promote “Medicare for All” and other issues raised by the Sanders campaign. A future meeting on this topic is being planned for February.

ILWU contribution noted

A contribution check from the ILWU to support the “Labor Campaign for Single Payer” effort was welcomed with applause when Rich Austin presented the donation on the second day of the conference. He noted the ILWU’s longtime support for a national healthcare system that should cover everyone, similar to the Medicare program that already covers older Americans without using expensive, profit-making insurance companies.

Grassroots pressure

The conference ended with discussions about strategy, emphasizing the need to build grassroots support to protect and expand Medicare and Medicaid. After adjourning, Austin and others went to a rally at the “Wall Street Bull” statue in Bowling Green Park, an action inspired by Bernie Sanders to protect and improve America’s health care system. “Over 12 million Americans supported Bernie Sanders during the Presidential primary campaign because they liked what he said about ‘Medicare for All,’ good union jobs, and affordable college for everyone,” said Austin. “Those problems will remain front-and-center during the next four years, and we need to be involved in the process.”

Categories: Unions

Foss tug crews continue fight for fair contract

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 11:17


ILWU support: ILWU locals from throughout the harbor area came to support
Foss Tug workers at their rally on January 6. International Vice President (Mainland)
Ray Familathe spearheaded a delegation of local leaders.

Crews at Foss Tug in Long Beach escalated their fight to renew a fair contract during January. Dozens of workers represented by the Inlandboatmen’s Union, the ILWU’s Marine Division, attended a rally on January 6 in front of the Foss Long Beach headquarters on Berth 35.

Rally shows support
“The rally expressed our unity, determination to fight and willingness to win,” said John Skow, IBU Regional Director for Southern California. After a short march to the assembly area, workers heard from IBU President Alan Coté. “This is an important struggle for the entire maritime industry,” said Coté. “We’re up against a big corporation that seems more comfortable dictating than negotiating, but solidarity has always been a powerful weapon to level the playing field for workers.”
ILWU International Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe spoke on behalf of the International union. “You’ve got the entire ILWU family behind you in this struggle,” said Familathe, who noted that the union has never flinched from taking on tough fights and difficult employers. “There are a lot of people here today who are supporting this struggle,” as he recognized an impressive contingent of ILWU leaders present that included Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr., Local 63 President Paul Trani, Local 94 President Danny Miranda, Local 68 Port Pilots President Ed Royals and leaders from Ship Scalers Local 56. Representatives of the Masters, Mates and Pilots (MMP) union also attended as did members of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association (MEBA) union.

Disrespect & legal violations
The rally occurred because management at Foss Long Beach has been refusing to negotiate in good faith and continues to retaliate against 30 IBU members with lay-offs, leaving roughly 20 workers employed out of the 50-member workforce.

Implementing their ultimatum
On January 5, the company took the drastic step of implementing new schedules that eliminated the contract’s 8-hour day – requiring workers to instead remain on vessels for days at a time. They also implemented a new pay schedule without union approval. These unilateral, one-sided actions are only allowed by law if the company has engaged in good-faith negotiations, exhausted all efforts to settle, and reached an “impasse” in the contract talks – something the IBU is vigorously disputing in legal charges that have been filed against the company.

Strike in Long Beach
IBU members responded to the company’s unlawful change in contract conditions by declaring an unfair labor practices (ULP) strike on January 16. The picket lines began to form early and were humming by 6am. They continued until 6pm that evening. The next morning, company officials were notified that union members agreed to return to work, with everyone back on the job that evening. “We’ve been trying to negotiate with a company that doesn’t seem to respect the law,” said Skow. “The contract talks began more than six months ago, but we were far from an impasse and could easily reach a settlement if Foss would respect the law and show a willingness to compromise.”
Big company with deep pockets

Foss is owned by Salchuk, a wealthy conglomerate created in 1982 that has grown with both union and non-union operations. Salchuk has used this flexibility to benefit wealthy owners at the expense of workers. For example, after Foss retaliated against workers with layoffs, they were able to keep clients by re-shuffling their tug business to a Saltchuk subsidiary known as “AmNav, ”which operates at various west coast ports including LA/Long Beach – without IBU crew members.
Union cooperation
Saltchuk workers are represented by several unions, including the Masters, Mates and Pilots (MMP), Marine Engineers Beneficial Association (MEBA) and the Seafarers International Union (SIU). The ILWU and IBU are coordinating information efforts with these unions. “In the end, the struggle here at Foss will come down to a combination of courage and solidarity, which is what it always takes to win on the waterfront,” said ILWU Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe. “Foss workers are showing that they’ve got what it takes to see this through to a just conclusion.”

Categories: Unions

Honoring King Day with action

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 10:13

ILWU members in Los Angeles, Seattle, and the Bay Area honored Martin Luther King Day by marching, protesting and meeting to promote social justice.

Continuing the struggle: ILWU members joined an estimated 10,000 people who packed Seattle streets on January 16 to support racial justice, workers’ rights and resistance to President Trump’s anti-union agenda. Marchers included (L-R): ILWU Local 19 member John Krasucki, Labor Relations Committee member Justin Hirsch, and Local 19 Vice-President John Persak.

MLK breakfast in LA
“We can honor Dr. King’s legacy by continuing his struggle for justice, especially for the poor and oppressed in our society,” said ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams, who attended a breakfast on January 14 with other ILWU leaders organized by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. Adams noted that King was assassinated in Memphis while he was helping union sanitation workers win their courageous strike for respect and better pay.

California’s new Senator
Hundreds union members from throughout Southern California went to the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown LA where newly-elected U.S. Senator Kamala Harris was the featured speaker.“When our ideals and fundamental values are under attack, do we retreat or do we fight? I say we fight!” she said. “Whenever there’s been an assault on working families, we’ve never backed down. We ‘ve stood together. And that’s exactly what we’ll do now.”

Taking risks to win
Speakers at the LA event noted that King and other Civil Rights leaders of his generation were not afraid to take risks. King was arrested more than 30 times and suffered numerous beatings while advocating non-violent tactics in order to win public support.

King’s lessons for labor

“There’s still plenty we can learn from Dr. King’s leadership style and his approach to strategy,” said Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr. who attended the event. “There’s no progress without a struggle, and winning public support is as important today as it was then. King was challenged by how to win majority support for a “minority” cause, and that’s the same challenge labor unions face today with only 6% of private-sector workers in a union.”

Paying respect: ILWU leaders were among hundreds of union members who gathered in Los Angeles on the morning of January 16 for a breakfast honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. Pictured are (L-R): Local 13 Vice President Mondo Porras, International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams, Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr., and Local 63 Business Agent and District Council President Cathy Familathe.

Keynote speaker

The keynote speaker at the LA labor breakfast was Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, a leading human rights advocate who is challenging injustice in the courtroom and prison system. He has appeared before the Supreme Court and recently won a historic ruling that invalidated mandatory “lifewithout- parole” sentences for all children 17 or younger.
Seattle MLK march

ILWU members in the Puget Sound region joined a large event on Monday that began with workshops at a local high school, followed by a rally with speakers, and poetry and music in the gym. The main event was an afternoon march that drew an estimated 10,000 participants which ended at the federal building in downtown Seattle, where a final rally was held. This year’s event marked the 35th celebration held in Seattle to honor MLK’s legacy.
Bay Area breakfast

An early morning breakfast on January 16 brought ILWU members together with fellow unionists and civil rights activists at the Marriott Hotel San Francisco. The featured speaker was Dolores Huerta, a co-founder of the United Farmworkers Union, who helped lead a union drive five decades ago in California’s agricultural fields. The UFW played a central role in the continuing civil rights struggle by Latino immigrants.

Categories: Unions

ILWU to Host Leadership Education Conference in May

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 11:49


The ILWU will be holding a Leadership Education and Development Institute (LEAD VII) in Seattle, Washington, May 7-11, 2017. The theme of this year’s training will be: Internal Unity and Mobilization: the ILWU in Action.

“Our union and its membership demands leadership education to survive and grow. LEAD helps develop activists, a strong rank and file—everyone has a niche and leadership training helps pave avenues for action on all levels,” commented ILWU Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams. “I look around and see that most of the leaders in this union have gone to LEAD. These programs help inspire and engage. Education will deliver us as we move forward.”
Topics at the training will include:

  • Increasing strength and unity through member participation;
  • Building union power in times of economic and political uncertainty;
  • Improving communication— both within the union and with the general public;
  • How to run effective union meetings;
  • Bridging the generational gap; and inspiring young worker involvement;
  • Lessons from the ILWU’s history, its diverse membership and divisions;

Instructors include active and retired ILWU members, labor activists, and staff from the International, university labor centers, and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Local unions and affiliates may nominate participants, who are each required to fill out an application and hotel reservation form. Priority consideration will be given to new officers and rank and file activists who have not yet participated in any previous LEAD programs. For reasons of space and diversity, each affiliate should expect to send no more than two participants, but a waiting list will be taken in case of cancellations or non-participation by some locals.

The LEAD budget will cover participants’ hotel stay, breakfast, lunch, training materials, facilities, and instructors. Participants will be housed together in double rooms but may upgrade to a single room at their own expense. Any reimbursement for expenses such as lost wages, or travel will have to be covered by the participant or his or her local or IBU region, or by area fundraising activities.

Financial hardship applications will be considered on an individual basis. In cases where financial hardship is an obstacle to participation, a written request for assistance, including a statement about the circumstances involved and the amount of assistance requested, must be submitted to the International Secretary-Treasurer. Interested members should complete and return the application and reservation forms, which are available from your local or through the ILWU website: Educational Services Director Robin Walker is also available to help answer questions.
Please return the completed forms by fax or mail no later than March 10,

2017 to: ILWU LEAD VII Applications
c/o International Secretary
Treasurer William Adams
1188 Franklin St., 4th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94109
Fax: 415-775-1302


Categories: Unions