During the final days of October, two groups of Northern California recycling workers decided that they would no longer tolerate indignities and discrimination from their employers. One group voted overwhelmingly to join the ILWU. Another group – already members of ILWU Local 6 – walked off their jobs for a week-long strike.
Striking for respect
“They think we’re insignificant people,” declared striker Dinora Jordan on the picket line. “They don’t think we count and don’t value our work. But we’re the ones who find dead animals on the conveyor belts. All the time we have to watch for hypodermic needles. If they don’t learn to respect us now, they never will.”
Big profits at WM
Jordan’s employer is Waste Management of Alameda County whose parent, Waste Management, Inc. (WM), is a giant corporation that handles garbage and recycling throughout North America. In just the second quarter of 2014, WM generated $3.56 billion in revenue and $210 million in profit, “an improvement in both our net cash provided by operations and our free cash flow,” according to CEO David P. Steiner.
Millions for the CEO
Shareholders received a 35 cent per share quarterly dividend, and the company used $600 million of its cash in a massive share buyback program. Two years ago, Steiner was given 135,509 shares (worth $6.5 million) for a performance bonus.
Years with no contract
But at WM’s facility in San Leandro, California, the company was unwilling to reach a fair contract with Local 6 for three years.
On October 23, members of the union Negotiating Committee returned to the facility after another fruitless session. They called workers, including Jordan, together to offer a report on the progress in bargaining, a standard practice for the recyclers at Local 6.
Sparking the strike
One supervisor agreed to the shop floor meeting, but another would not. The workers met anyway. Then the second supervisor told the vast majority of workers that they were being disciplined and to clockout, go home, and lose pay for the rest of the day. The same supervisor allowed a few hand-picked workers to remain on the job in order to run the facility.
“That’s when we finally said ‘Enough!’” Jordan explains. “As a union, we support each other. If some of us can’t work, then none of us will.”
Workers decided to walk out together, and immediately met at the union hall where 98% voted to strike WM in a spirited action that continued for a week.
“By standing together on the picket line, these courageous workers showed all of us how to win with solidarity– even when some officials from other unions seemed more comfortable standing with management. The kind of unity and determination shown by recyclers is exactly what it takes to win against powerful employers in Alameda County – and all along the West Coast.”
–ILWU International President Bob McEllrath
Another vote nearby
At another facility in the same city, workers at Alameda County Industries (ACI) were equally angry. At the end of a late night vote count in a cavernous sorting bay, surrounded by bales of recycled paper and plastic, agents of the National Labor Relations Board unfolded the ballots in a union representation election.
Workers want ILWU
When they announced that 83 percent had been cast for Local 6, workers began shouting “¡Viva La Union!” and dancing down along a row of lockers.
Dirty & dangerous
Sorting trash is dangerous and dirty work. In 2012, two East Bay workers were killed in recycling facilities. With some notable exceptions, putting your hands into fast moving conveyor belts filled with cardboard and cans does not pay well – much less, for instance, than the jobs of the drivers who pick up the containers at the curb. And in the Bay Area, sorting recyclables is done largely by workers of color – many of whom are women – mostly immigrants from Mexico and Central America and African Americans.
This spring, recycling workers at Alameda County Industries began challenging their second-class status, poor working conditions and “permatemp” status. Not only did they become activists in a growing movement throughout the East Bay, but their protests galvanized public action to stop the firings of undocumented workers.
Garbage trucks driven by Teamsters carrying recycled trash arrive every minute at the ACI facility, dumping their fragrant loads gathered on routes in Livermore, Alameda, Dublin and San Leandro. These cities contract with the private firm to process their recyclables. In the Bay Area, only one city, Berkeley, picks up its own garbage.
All the rest hold contracts with private companies; even Berkeley contracts recycling to an independent sorter.
But ACI went even further by using a temp agency, Select Staffing, to employ workers for their recycling operation. The outsourcing scheme left workers with fewer rights on the job, no health insurance, retirement, vacations or holidays. Wages are also very low. Even after a raise two years ago, sorters are paid only $9.00 per hour with no benefits except for a few days off each year.
Last year, workers discovered that their wages were illegally low. San Leandro passed a Living Wage Ordinance in 2007, mandating pay (in 2014) of $14.57 per hour or $13.07 with health benefits. Last fall, some of the workers on the lines received leaflets advertising a health and safety training for recycling workers put on by Local 6. They decided to attend in order to protect themselves from hazards at work.
The union’s organizing director Agustin Ramirez says, “When they told me what they were paid, I knew something was very wrong.”
Ramirez put them in touch with a lawyer, who sent ACI and Select a letter stating workers’ intention to file suit for back wages. In early February, 18 workers, including every person but one who’d signed, were told that Select had been audited by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) a year before. ICE, the company said, was questioning their immigration status.
Instead of quietly disappearing, though, about half the sorters walked off the lines on February 27, protesting the impending firings. They were joined by faith leaders, members of Alameda County United for Immigrant Rights, and workers from other recycling facilities, including WM. The next week, however, all eighteen accused of being undocumented were fired.
“Some of us have been there 14 years, so why now?” wondered sorter Ignacia Garcia. Despite fear ignited by the firings and the so-called “silent” immigration raid, workers began to join the union.
Within months, workers were wearing buttons and stickers up and down the sorting lines. At the same time, sorters went met with city council members, denouncing the raid and illegal wages, asking councilmembers to put pressure on the company processing their recyclables.
Organizing brings change
By the time Local 6 asked for the election, ACI had stopped campaigning against the union, likely out of a fear of alienating its city clients, and had ended its relationship with the temp agency. The class-action lawsuit filed by workers was also settled for $1.2 million.
When the Labor Board counted ballots from ACI workers on October 21, only one voted for no union while 49 cast ballots for the ILWU. A campaign by the Teamsters, who had secured a spot on the ballot, fell short with only 9 votes; probably because Teamsters Local 70 has represented ACI driver for decades, but was unable or unwilling to help recycling workers during that time.
Seeking help at city hall
Because cities award contracts for recycling services, they indirectly control how much money is available for workers’ wages. That’s taken the fight for more money and better conditions into city halls throughout the East Bay.
Waste Management has the Oakland city garbage contract, and garbage truck drivers have been Teamster members for decades. When WM took over Oakland’s recycling contract in 1991, however, it signed an agreement with ILWU Local 6. Workers had voted for Local 6 on the recycling lines, at the big garbage dump in the Altamont Pass and even among the clerical workers in the company office.
At WM, workers also faced immigration raids. In 1998, sorters at its San Leandro facility staged a wildcat work stoppage over safety issues, occupying the company’s lunchroom.
Three weeks later, immigration agents showed up, audited company records and eventually deported eight of them. And last year, three more workers were fired at WM, accused of not having legal immigration status.
When Teamster drivers were locked out of WM in 2007 for more than a month over company demands for concessions, Local 6 members respected their lines and didn’t work. That was not reciprocated, however, when recyclers staged their walkouts over firings last year. Last week the Teamsters told drivers to cross Local 6 lines again. One unidentified Teamster officer told journalist Darwin Bond-Graham that Local 6 had not asked for strike sanction.
“Our members can’t just stop working,” he said.
In fact, Local 6 officers immediately sought sanction from the Teamster Joint Council but the request was ignored during the week-long strike. And instead of solidarity, Teamster officials directed members to drive through the recyclers’ picket lines.
Despite the hostility and indifference from Teamster officials, most drivers expressed support for the recyclers – along with regrets that their union officials had failed to respond with solidarity.
A number of drivers said they were planning to call-in sick instead of breaking the strike, and another larger group of drivers took up a collection that bought lunch for all the strikers.
An impressive gesture of solidarity also came from officials at SEIU Local 1021, who arrived at the picket line, rallied with strikers, provided lunch for everyone and pledged to provide additional resources.
Under the contract that expired three years ago, WM sorters got $12.50—more than ACI, but a long way from San Francisco and San Jose, where Teamster recyclers get $21 an hour. To get wages up, recycling workers in the East Bay organized a coalition to establish a new standard; the Campaign for Sustainable Recycling.
Two dozen organizations have joined the campaign in addition to the ILWU, including the Sierra Club, the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Movement Generation, the Justice and Ecology Project, the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy and the Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy (FAME). FAME leaders visited picket lines and held prayer sessions with workers during the strike.
San Francisco, where recyclers earn $21 per hour, is charging customers $34 per month for garbage and recycling service. East Bay companies are paying recyclers half that wage – while East Bay ratepayers still pay almost as much each month for their services.
A new pattern & standard
Fremont became the first test for the campaign’s strategy of encouraging cities to mandate wage increases for recyclers. Last December, the Fremont City Council passed a rate increase of one penny per day per household – with the condition that its recycler, BLT, agree to raises for workers. The union contract with BLT now mandates a wage of $14.59 per hour, rising to $20.94 in 2019 – plus affordable family health benefits.
Oakland then followed suit, requiring wage increases for sorters as part of its new residential recycling and garbage franchise agreements.
Those 10-20 year agreements were both originally going entirely to California Waste Solutions, but after WM threatened a suit and a ballot initiative, it recovered the garbage contract, which also includes some commercial recycling services.
The new Local 6 contract for WM recyclers, which ended the strike yesterday, follows the same pattern and was approved last summer by the Oakland City Council which required the recycling wage and benefit standard to be included in the City’s 2015 franchise agreement. The new ILWU/WM contract will provide workers with a signing bonus of $500 to $1,500, depending on seniority, to provide some retroactive compensation for working three years under an old contract with no raises All workers will get an immediate raise of $1.48 per hour, and another 50 cents on New Year’s.
Starting next July, wages will rise $1.39 per year until 2019, when the minimum wage for sorters will be $20.94. The strikers at WM ratified their new agreement by a 95% margin.
But the strike was about much more than money and benefits. It was initiated and led by recycling workers determined to push back against what they felt was second-class treatment by an arrogant company that used to take them for granted. They gained new confidence, developed new leadership and made important solidarity connections during their week. Despite the hardships and challenges that began each morning at 3:30 a.m., workers from ‑Alameda County Industries would come by to join the picket lines after their shift ended, offering help and support for the Waste Management strikers.
ILWU International President Bob McEllrath praised the recycling workers for their leadership and determination.
“By standing together on the picket line, these courageous workers showed all of us how to win with solidarity– even when some officials from other unions seemed more comfortable standing with management. The kind of unity and determination shown by recyclers is exactly what it takes to win against powerful employers in Alameda County – and all along the West Coast.”
Next up: ACI workers
Now that three Alameda County companies have agreed to provide the better wages and affordable health benefits defined by the Alameda County Recycling Worker Standard, the torch is being passed to workers at ACI so they can enjoy the same improvements. After WM workers voted by 95% to end their strike on the evening of October 30, and before adjourning to celebrate, they pledged to support the upcoming struggle by ACI workers for a similar contract that will include the Alameda County Recycling Worker Standard.
“We won our fight for fair raises and benefits, and now it’s our turn to help the workers at ACI win their fight” said recycler Maria Sanchez.
For the fourth straight year, Local 502 members have raised funds for the British Columbia Children’s Hospital. Every year the fundraising effort has beaten previous records. This year the record was beaten by $9,000; Local 502 members raised $41,502 which brings the four-year total to $126,008.
“This is a collective effort in which everyone digs deep to help. From the newest casual recruit to the most senior member, everyone really puts their heart and soul into this fundraising drive,” said Bal Singh Sanghera.
“Our executive and officers worked hard to make it a success. The fundraising team is humbled by the support and commitment we received.”
A team of volunteers along with BA Rocky Thompson made an appearance on live TV to present the donation. The Telethon is broadcast throughout British Columbia and viewed by millions.
The generosity of ILWU members is greatly appreciated by the hospital. The annual Telethon helps to fund and provide medical aid that is not subsidized by the government.
Lauren Wagner from the Children’s Hospital stated, “The donations have helped in pediatric cancer research including the discovery of a new drug with no side effects that has improved the three-year survival rate from 20% to 75%, and enabled us to upgrade and purchase over 55 pieces of equipment including the EEG/ICU inpatient monitoring system in the Pediatric ICU. The time, energy and dedication that you put into organizing your team’s fundraising activities are not only inspiring but greatly appreciated. It’s my honor to recognize and thank you for your achievement and for making a difference.”
Hundreds of visitors attending the Port of Anacortes “Bier on the Pier” festival and “Floating Boat Show” in early October encountered a giant banner with a hard-hitting message: “Port of Anacortes: blowing your tax dollars, unfair to maintenance workers, accountability now!”
The banner and public outreach materials were distributed by a dozen Port workers, local community members, supporters from ILWU Local 25, the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU), Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 191, Carpenters Local 756, plus staff and volunteers from “We Do the Work” radio. Visitors attending the events showed concern about problems being raised by Port workers. Hundreds accepted leaflets explaining how maintenance workers at the Port are trying to keep things running safely and smoothly – while Port bureaucrats are breaking labor laws and wasting public funds.
Last November, the Port’s maintenance workers voted to join ILWU Local 25. They made their decision after facing years of mismanagement and abusive treatment from Port supervisors.
Instead of honoring the workers’ decision and cooperating with employees, managers ordered workers to attend mandatory meetings with Port executives who threatened union= supporters for wearing ILWU buttons. The Port workers held their ground.
“We refused to be intimidated, stood up together for respect, and voted to form our union after the managers illegally threatened us,” said Mike Wray, a Port maintenance employee.
The Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) ruled in September that Port management acted improperly and outside the law. “The State validated what workers and community members have been saying publicly for= months now,” said Dave Bost, one of several maintenance workers who was threatened by Port managers.
After winning their union election, maintenance workers began to seek afair contract – while management continued violating the law.
Port managers illegally changed the employees’ health plan; eliminated parking options for maintenance workers and obstructed union testimony before state investigators – by allowing a management witnesses to stay on the clock while Local 25 members were forced to use vacation, unpaid or comp time to testify in a PERC hearing over illegal management activity.
Port administrators recently admitted to a local newspaper that they’ve spent over $50,000 in public funds so far on private lawyers to negotiate a simple contract with employees. As of November, community members estimate that the Port’s legal fees are approaching $100,000.
During the summer and fall months, union and community members packed six separate Port Commission meetings to offer public support and solidarity for the Local 25 maintenance workers. Supporters criticized the anti-union tactics used by managers and demanded more accountability from the Commission. Speakers included members of the IBU, Pacific Coast Pensioners Association, Skagit Valley Labor Democrats, Carpenters Locals 70 and 756, Fire Fighters Local 1537, WA State Council of Fire Fighters, IBEW Local 191, Laborers Local 292, and SEIU Local 925. Letters of support for the maintenance workers were sent to the Commission by officials from ILWU Canada, Steel Workers 12-591 and WA State Representative Kristine Lytton.
Despite hearing strong support from the public, the Commissioners decided to played defense and do some damage control by inviting the Port’s Executive Director and lawyer to testify at length in late September. The duo downplayed management’s violations and offered misinformation about working conditions and the contract talks.
Union members and supporters decided it was time to take the fight outside the hearing room, launching public leaflet actions and banner displays at major Port events during the first week of October.
“Someone has to hold management accountable,” said Tyler Ashbach, a Business Agent for ILWU Local 25. “If the elected Port Commissioners won’t do it, then it’s up to Port workers and our Anacortes community.”
Community members set up a picket line on October 2nd at the Port’s main industrial loading operation. ILWU Local 25 Longshore members honored it, delaying the transfer of industrial coke onto a barge at the pier. This was the second time that Longshore members recognized a picket line, following a similar incident in July.
At the October 2 Port Commission meeting, Commissioner Keith Rubin stated, “I believe we have a problem here at the Port of Anacortes.” He noted that “workers who feel like they’re getting a fair deal don’t organize a new Port bargaining unit.”
Similar concerns were echoed by lifelong Anacortes resident Tom Montgomery, a retired 35-year Shell Oil refinery worker. “I’ve always been proud of the Port and always supported your mission of producing and supporting new and long-time family wage-jobs—that is, until now,” he told Commissioners. “I’m appalled at the actions of the Port Director and his assistant during the last several months, specifically where it concerns their handling of the so-called ‘ongoing negotiations.”
Local 19 member Rich Austin, Jr. also testified at the hearing, noting his experience as a volunteer who is helping the Port workers with their contract negotiations. “There’s been avoidance to bargain by the Port, based on the schedule of their attorney,” he said, explaining how workers have made many lengthy trips to accommodate the schedule of the Port’s expensive private attorney. “We’re serious about getting a contract and are willing to drive there,” adding that the Commission should get more involved to help reach a resolution.
Commissioner Rubin directed his final comments on the Port management. “We have a culture where we treat our local ILWU folks like a necessary evil rather than a partner, and I think that needs to change…I think that needs to change at the top,” he said.
Port worker Tyler Ashbach said he was pleased to hear productive comments coming from the Commissioners, and believes it indicates “we are on the right track” thanks to solidarity and community support.
PMA deceptively blames workers for port congestion caused by chassis mismanagement and other supply chain failures
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Over the past week, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents over 70 multinational ocean carriers and maritime companies in contract negotiations with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), issued news releases blaming labor for the congestion problem that is plaguing major West Coast ports. PMA’s press releases accused the ILWU of threatening “to stem the flow of cargo during the final holiday season push.” Obscuring months of data regarding the non-labor related causes of the current crisis-level congestion problem, PMA’s Texas-based public relations firm announced that the ILWU was the cause bringing “the port complex to the brink of gridlock.” The public relations firm also propagandized about the ILWU, its leadership, and false claims of safety issues.
The ILWU is not responsible for the current congestion crisis at West Coast ports. The documented causes of congestion at the ports include:
- Chassis shortage and dislocation;
- Rail service delays, including a shortage of rail cars nationwide;
- The exodus of truck drivers who cannot make a living wage;
- Long truck turn times;
- Record retail import volumes (increases of 5.3 percent over 2013);
- Larger vessels discharging massive amounts of cargo;
- Container terminals pushed to storage capacities; and
- The peak shipping season (i.e., the August through October pre-holiday surge)
Adding to this, on September 23, 2014, the Port of Los Angeles experienced its largest fire in decades, forcing the evacuation of 850 workers and resulting in the temporary closing of three of six cargo terminals, causing delays in the movement of cargo that reverberated down the supply chain.
The congestion problem is so acute that the Port of Long Beach recently convened “a high-level Congestion Relief Team to meet daily, seek solutions, and solicit feedback” (Port of Long Beach News Release, October 7, 2014). For months, the Federal Maritime Commission has been hosting public forums on U.S. port congestion to explore possible solutions. Dr. Noel Hacegaba, Chief Commercial Officer of the Port of Long Beach, recently explained that the shortage of chassis is the root of the congestion problem (Long Beach Post, “The Port of Long Beach Asserts Congestion Crisis is a Strategic Issue,” October 28, 2014). Lee Peterson, a spokesperson for the Port of Los Angeles, stated, “We don’t see the longshore contract negotiations as a factor in the congestion. The cause is due to the chassis situation and the high volume of cargo this peak season.” (Long Beach Post, October 28, 2014).
It is well known that “the chassis situation” was caused by the shippers themselves when they changed their chassis operations model early this year. “The chassis problem…is a direct result of shipping lines selling their chassis to equipment-leasing companies. This has created an environment in which chassis that are controlled by one pool operator are not being shared with other pool operators. This results in split-moves, where a trucker must drop a container off at one terminal and the chassis at another. It has also resulted in chassis hoarding by some terminals to ensure they have enough equipment for the next vessel call. Also, chassis are experiencing longer dwell times at distribution warehouses and off-dock rail yards than in the past, in effect reducing the number of chassis that are available to haul containers on any given day.” (Journal of Commerce, “Chassis Fingered as Biggest of Many Problems at LA-Long Beach,” September 27, 2014).
There is also a major shortage of longshore workers and marine clerks. “The extra demand on longshore labor has emerged as a real problem in Los Angeles-Long Beach. Terminals throughout the summer have been forced to increase their use of part-time longshoremen, known as casuals, who generally are not as productive as their veteran counterparts. On some nights, terminals exhaust their entire roster of registered and casual labor, and still can’t fill of the labor slots needed for that work shift.” (JOC quoting PierPass President and CEO Bruce Wargo, “Chassis Fingered as Biggest of Many Problems at LA-Long Beach,” September 27, 2014). Despite ILWU demands, PMA repeatedly refused to increase the size of the full-time workforce prior to the start of negotiations.
“The numerous, non-labor related causes of the congestion problem up and down the West Coast are well documented,” said ILWU spokesperson Craig Merrilees. “During negotiations last week, the Union addressed PMA directly to express concerns about its deceitful media tactics and the corrosive impact of such tactics on collective bargaining. It’s particularly inflammatory for workers to be told
that they’re using safety as a gimmick.”
West Coast longshore work is extremely hazardous, with higher fatality rates than the work of firefighters or police officers, according to U.S Department of Labor figures. The biggest factor causing accidents on the docks is the employers’ constant demand for increased production. In the face of this demand and the Union’s concern for the safety of its members, the ILWU has negotiated one of the best safety codes in the industry. The ILWU is committed to safety and will adhere to the ILWU-PMA Pacific Coast Marine Safety Code.
“The men and women of the ILWU will not make up for the current supply chain failures at the expense of life and limb,” said Merrilees.
Negotiations continued Monday after the parties worked through the weekend.
The Panama Canal Pilots’ Union, a part of the ILWU’s Panama Division, is an organization representing 256 professional pilots whose main responsibility is the safe transit of vessels through the Panama Canal.
Pilots’ Union recently released a video showing some of the many challenges they will face when the expanded Canal opens to commercial traffic in early 2016. The video also explains some of the meeting rules proposed by the Canal Authority in critical areas, like the Gaillard Cut, and which the pilots have regarded as “irresponsible.” The video features an interview with Captain Rainiero Salas, Secretary General of the Pilots’ Union.
The long-awaited expansion of the Panama Canal has taken a somewhat different course from that initially proposed, according to the Panama Canal Pilots’ Union, and as such, may pose significant threats to the safety of navigation in the Canal.
In 2006, the Canal Authority determined that, in order to continue providing a quality service and to remain competitive, a Canal expansion was needed. A Master Plan was designed, after spending millions of dollars in all sort of studies.
Many of those studies were used to determine the channel dimensions required for vessels of certain length and beam to safely navigate in the narrow channels of the Canal.
“Today, the Canal Authority has radically deviated from their own proposal, without making a single hydrodynamic study to back up such decision,” according to the Union.
Captain Rainiero Salas, Secretary General of the Pilots’ Union, in reference to the proposed lockage procedure that uses tugboats instead of towing locomotives to move vessels inside the locks, said that this system is not as safe and expeditious as the one with locomotives which has been used in the Panama Canal for 100 years.
Dishonest media offensive by PMA jeopardizes contract negotiations and deflects from a growing congestion problem
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Monday, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents over 70 multinational ocean carriers and maritime companies in contract negotiations with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), began a media offensive against the ILWU. PMA’s media offensive is designed to smear the union and to deflect responsibility from a growing congestion problem that is plaguing major West Coast ports.
PMA’s press statement dishonestly accuses the ILWU of breaking a supposed agreement “that normal operations at West Coast ports would continue until an agreement could be reached.” This is a bold-faced lie. No such agreement was ever made, nor could it be made given the parties’ historic disagreement regarding the definition of “normal operations” – a disagreement that has been the subject of arbitrations for decades. PMA also falsely states that agreement to temporary contract extensions is standard practice.
The ILWU-PMA contract expired on July 1, 2014. Since mid-May, the parties have met to negotiate a new agreement regularly. During this 6-month period, the union has consistently come to the table in good faith despite PMA’s early pressure tactics, which include, among other things, secretly trying to shift away thousands of ocean container chassis traditionally handled and maintained by longshore workers and refusing to bargain a training program that properly trains longshore workers and prevents non-qualified workers from operating dangerous equipment.
Today’s unilateral media blitz by PMA will only delay progress at a critical point in the contract negotiations. Delays at the negotiating table are also reflected in the growing congestion problem at major West Coast ports.
“Congestion at key ports is the result of three factors – some of which is from employer mismanagement, according to industry experts,” said ILWU spokesperson Craig Merrilees. The three factors are:
- A change in the business model used to maintain and allocate truck chassis. The employer’s decision to change their business model is preventing chassis systems from being delivered to the right place at the right time. The Journal of Commerce reported on Oct. 10, “Chassis shortages and dislocations are believed to be the single biggest contributor to marine terminal congestion in Los Angeles-Long Beach.”
- A shortage of truck drivers who are needed to move containers at ports has left shippers scrambling to fill vacant positions and haul containers to distribution facilities. On Oct. 13, the JOC quoted an industry insider who said, “Frustrated by port congestion, drayage drivers increasingly looking for other jobs – both in and out of trucking.”
- A shortage of rail car capacity has led to delays in moving containers from the docks to distant locations via rail. On October 31, Progressive Railroading outlined the issue in an article titled “Rail-car backlog reached record level in 3Q.” Rail capacity has been stretched to the limit by additional shipments of crude oil.
The ILWU has called for talks to resume on Wednesday.
SAN LEANDRO, CA—Within days of each other last week, two groups of Northern California recycling workers declared they’d had enough of what they see as regimes of indignity and discrimination. One group voted to unionize, and another, already union members, walked out on strike.
“They think we’re insignificant people,” declares striker Dinora Jordan. “They don’t think we count and don’t value our work. But we’re the ones who find dead animals on the conveyor belts. All the time we have to watch for hypodermic needles. If they don’t learn to respect us now, they never will.”
Jordan’s employer is Waste Management, Inc. (WMI), a giant corporation that handles garbage and recycling throughout North America. In just the second quarter of 2014 WMI generated $3.56 billion in revenue and $210 million in profit, “an improvement in both our net cash provided by operations and our free cash flow,” according to CEO David P. Steiner.
Shareholders received a 35 cent per share quarterly dividend, and the company used $600 million of its cash in a massive share buyback program. Two years ago Steiner himself was given 135,509 shares (worth $6.5 million) in a performance bonus, to add to the pile he already owns.
But at its San Leandro, California, facility, WMI had been unwilling to settle a new contract with Jordan’s union, Local 6 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, for three years.
Last week, she and members of the negotiating committee returned to the facility after another fruitless session. They called workers together to offer a report on the progress in bargaining—standard practice in Local 6.
One supervisor agreed to the shop floor meeting, but another would not. The workers met anyway. Then the second supervisor told the vast majority of the workers except a handful needed to continue running the facility to clock out and go home—a disciplinary measure that would at least dock the rest of the day’s pay.
Waste Management recycling workers end strike after winning living wages & affordable health benefits
OAKLAND, CA – A week-long strike by 130 low-wage recycling workers at Waste Management facilities in Oakland and San Leandro ended Thursday afternoon, October 30, after workers secured a contract guaranteeing living wages and affordable family health insurance.
The strike began on October 23 after a workplace incident, but quickly spread to involve nearly all 130 recycling workers.
Workers had been seeking a contract from Waste Management officials for more than three years, but the company refused to provide more than a meager raise of 40 cents an hour. At the time of last week’s strike, the typical Waste Management recycling worker was paid $12.50 an hour. Under the new agreement, workers will see significant increases each year, rising to an hourly rate of $20.94 in 2019 – along with affordable family health benefits.
This week’s victory at Waste Management marks the third successful effort in less than a year by East Bay recycling workers to secure dramatic wage improvements with affordable family health benefits. In December of 2013, workers at BLT in Fremont won a similar package. In July of 2014, recyclers employed by California Waste Solutions in Oakland did the same. Workers at all three facilities are members of the International Longshore and warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 6, headquartered in Oakland, CA.
In February 2013, hundreds of East Bay recycling workers and community supporters attended a historic “Recyclers Convention” where plans were laid to improve the industry’s poverty wages and poor benefits.
Workers scored an important victory this summer when the Oakland City Council voted to improve wages and benefits for recycling workers at the City’s two municipal franchisees: Waste Management and California Waste Solutions. California Waste Solutions quickly signed a contract confirming the new wages and benefits, but Waste Management resisted.
Waste Management is one of America’s largest waste and recycling companies, and has reported earning billions in profits during recent years. During Oakland’s recent franchise agreement hearings, City Council members accused Waste Management executives of being arrogant and heavy-handed.
In 2007, Waste Management locked-out over 600 employees from their East Bay facilities for over a month. The company directed their attack against members of the Teamsters and Machinists Union, but picket lines were immediately honored by the low-wage recycling workers who voluntarily remained off the job without pay until the dispute was settled. The company subsequently retaliated against ILWU members by outsourcing dozens of customer service jobs and initiating legal action against ILWU members. As part of Oakland’s 2014 franchise agreement, Waste Management has agreed to restore those customer service positions.
It’s 4 AM. The air is cold and damp on 98th Avenue in deep East Oakland, down along the San Francisco Bay’s industrial waterfront. This is a hard geography of concrete and dust and pot-hole riddled roads latticed by train tracks. Much of the earth is landfill, crowded for miles with scrap metal yards, bakeries, machine shops, and warehouses. Behind a chain link fence are about one hundred empty garbage trucks parked in long rows waiting for the next shift of drivers who will fill them with tons of refuse. By 5 AM the trucks are idling, and lining up to roll out. But since last Friday about 130 workers at the Waste Management garbage facility here have been on strike.
Dozens of strikers are picketing the gates where the trucks must exit. Some workers have been there since 3 AM. They come in shifts to pace the sidewalk, men and women, young and old, here to fight. A majority of these workers are immigrants. These are the recyclers, the workers who receive the garbage from the trucks, who pick through it and sort materials inside cavernous warehouses filled with rubbish-dust. It’s messy, dangerous, and hard work.
The strikers at the picket line today say they’re fighting to up their pay from around $12.80 an hour to $15 next year with the ultimate goal of $20 an hour by 2019. And they want safer workplaces. Waste Management, the giant of the global trash industry, agreed to improve the workers’ pay during recent franchise contract talks with the city of Oakland. The workers now fear the company is backpedaling.
But it’s hard to tell who the recyclers are actually fighting. Their picket is being driven through by other workers, Teamsters who drive the hulking green garbage trucks. The trucks queue up to exit the 98th Avenue yard in long lines. The recyclers block each truck for 30 seconds or a minute, but there are too few of them to sustain an unbreakable picket line.
Most of the drivers smile and nod to their fellow workers on the sidewalk. Some honk their horns and reach out of their windows to shake hands with the strikers. They don’t want to be put in the position of breaking through another union’s picket. They’re sympathetic. They want to help their fellow workers win.
But there’s the Teamster leadership standing by. The vice president of the Teamster’s chapter for the recycling facility stands just steps away from the picket, but inside Waste Management’s gates. An annoyed look wrinkles across his face. He directs his union’s members to break the picket line, waving them through. He asks them why they’re waiting if they linger before the line of strikers too long. The drivers creep through the chain of bodies carefully in their giant trucks and roar off into the dark pre-dawn hours. So much for solidarity?
OAKLAND, CA – A strike that began last Friday by 130 low-wage recycling workers at Waste Management’s East Bay facilities in Oakland and San Leandro is continuing this week with picketers marching as early as 3 a.m. this morning in front of the company’s headquarters at 172 98th Avenue in Oakland. Picketers will also be protesting this morning at the company’s recycling facility at 2615 Davis Street in San Leandro.
The worker action was sparked by an incident involving a company manager who retaliated against union members last Thursday, October 23. Federal charges have been filed by the union against the company.
The majority of recycling workers are immigrants who speak Spanish and are paid low wages.
Waste Management recycling workers in Oakland have been seeking better pay and benefits for three years. In
2013, they joined with hundreds of East Bay recycling workers and community supporters at a historic convention on February 2 where the group pledged to improve the industry’s poverty wages and poor benefits.
Workers scored an important victory this summer when the Oakland City Council voted to improve wages and benefits for recycling workers at both of their municipal franchisees: Waste Management and California Waste Solutions. Officials at California Waste Solutions quickly signed a contract agreement confirming the new wages and benefits, but Waste Management has stubbornly refused – despite winning an extension of a lucrative franchise agreement allowing the firm to operate in Oakland for the next 20 years.
Waste Management is one of America’s largest waste and recycling companies, with billions in reported profits during recent years. City Council members accused company executives of using arrogant and heavy-handed tactics during the recent franchise agreement decision.
In 2007, Waste Management locked-out over 600 employees from their East Bay facilities for a full month. While the company directed their attack against members of the Teamsters and Machinists Union, the lockout picket lines were honored by low-wage recycling workers who voluntarily remained off the job without pay until the dispute was settled. The company subsequently retaliated against recycling workers by outsourcing dozens of customer service jobs and initiating legal action against the workers.
A strike by 130 recycling workers will hit Waste Management’s East Bay facilities in Oakland and San Leandro beginning at 4am on Friday morning, October 24. Workers and community supporters will march in picket lines at the company’s headquarters at 172 98th Avenue in Oakland, and at 2615 Davis Street in San Leandro.
Workers say their action was sparked by a company manager who was disrespectful and discriminatory in his treatment of union workers at the facility. A majority of the workers are immigrants who speak Spanish.
Workers voted to strike on Thursday afternoon, October 23, following the incident with a company manager. Prior to the strike vote, the company was contacted in an effort to avert the conflict.
Waste Management recycling workers in Oakland have been seeking better pay and benefits for several years. Workers recently won approval from the City of Oakland to improve wages and benefits for workers at Waste Management and California Waste Solutions – both City franchisees. Workers say Waste Management is arrogant and heavy-handed toward the recycling employees. Similar complaints were voiced by Oakland City Council members during recent negotiations with Waste Management over an extension of the firm’s lucrative franchise agreement.
Waste Management locked-out employees from the East Bay facilities for a month in July, 2007. While directed at members of the Teamsters and Machinists Union, the lockout picket lines were honored by low-wage recycling workers who remained off the job without pay until the dispute was settled. The company subsequently retaliated against ILWU members by outsourcing dozens of customer service jobs and initiating legal action against ILWU members.
Former ILWU Research Director Barry Silverman died on August 18, 2014, at the age of 74 due to complications from a brain seizure. His wife, Carolyn his two children, Joshua Silverman and Kerry Fiero were by his side.
Silverman was hired by former Inter-national President Harry Bridges in 1965 to serve as the ILWU’s Research Director. He continued in that position under International President Jim Herman, also serving as chief of staff. He provided sup-port for longshore and warehouse negotiating committees on the West Coast and in Hawaii, with a particular expertise on health and welfare and pension issues. He assisted in many arbitrations and wrote the grant that established the longshore safety program. During the 1970’s and early 80’s, he taught collective bargaining courses at San Francisco City College, and enjoyed passing his skills to students.
Silverman’s career at the ILWU was cut short in 1988 following a cerebral hemorrhage, but he remained active after retirement – serving as an outspoken member of the Alameda County Grand Jury in 1995-1996, and traveling and camping with his wife. He was an avid walker, and was known as the “mayor of the track” at the Rev. Martin Luther King Intermediate School in Berkeley.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Silver-man attended Fairfax High School, then joined the Army Reserve, and headed to Berkeley where he graduated UC and earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration in 1965. He participated in the Free Speech Movement and stayed involved in political issues, participating in rallies and protests over three decades – spending a few days behind bars for his efforts. After graduating, he married Wende Shoemaker with whom he built a family and had two children, Joshua and Kerry. Later in life Silverman was re-married to Carolyn Corbelli, with whom he spent the last 26 years.
In addition to his love for politics and the union, Silverman was passion-ate about baseball, boxing, jazz, the out-doors, and horse racing. He sometimes joked that Harry Bridges – who was also passionate about horse racing – had hired Silverman more for his handicap-ping skills than expertise in labor relations. But above all he earned a solid reputation for his research and negotiating skills, and was admired for his straight-forward, direct and warm demeanor.
Silverman’s memorial was held on September 13, 2014 in Berkeley, attended by his family and friends, including many ILWU members and staff. He is survived by his wife, Carolyn Corbelli, former wife Wende Shoemaker, brother Richard Silverman, son Joshua Silverman, daughter Kerry Fiero, son-in-law Gian Fiero and grandson Gianardo Fiero.
ILWU International President Robert McEllrath and International Secretary Treasurer Willie Adams joined San Francisco Port Director Monique Moyer and a host of other officials on September 25 to dedicate the new James R. Herman Cruise Ship Terminal.
The $100 million state-of-the art facility has already hosted several Princess cruise ships this fall, with 80 vessels expected next year, carrying 300,000 passengers. The terminal was named for former ILWU International President and Port Commissioner, James R. “Jimmy” Herman.
McEllrath and Adams both praised Herman for his courage, commitment to working class values and advocacy for San Francisco’s maritime industry. A special interactive video sculpture was included inside the terminal to educate visitors about Jimmy Herman, the ILWU and working class struggles along San Francisco’s seven-mile waterfront. Donations to pay for the exhibit were led
by a $100,000 contribution from the Coast Longshore Caucus, accompanied by donations from various Locals, Pensioners, Auxiliaries, individuals and the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU).
A fundraising breakfast will be held on October 9th at the Delancey Street Restaurant – operated by the Delancey Street Foundation drug and alcohol recovery program which was supported by Herman. An event dedicating the interactive exhibit is tentatively scheduled for November. To contribute, call Local 34 President Sean Farley at 415-362-8852.
[This article originally appeared in the May 2006 edition of the Dispatcher. It was written by Arne Auvinen, President of the Pacific Coast Pensioners from 2003-2006. He passed away on July 31st of this year and was honored at 47th annual PCPA convention held this September in Vancouver, BC. We reprint this excellent article on the PCPA written by Arne to honor his legacy and dedication to the ILWU even in retirement and the important work he did for the PCPA.--Eds]
In a monumental negotiations breakthrough, the first ILWU pension checks were passed out to retiring ILWU longshoremen, clerks and foreman in July 1952 at special meetings held up and down the Coast.
Soon after retiring, these pensioners began to organize into clubs in the various areas of the West Coast. In the beginning a main purpose of the pension clubs was to provide a place and an opportunity for ILWU retirees and their wives to visit and keep alive the satisfying work and fraternal relationships going back many years. Before long most pension clubs to face up to and take action on senior and labor problems and issues of direct concern to their clubs and the locals from which they retired. They found out they needed their pension clubs to represent them in maintaining and improving their living standards under the contract and Social Security. Realizing that strength was in their numbers, in 1968 ILWU pensioners took the next step, forming the Pacific Coast Pensioners Association.
The original driving force in organizing the PCPA was Leo Miller, Local 63 Wilmington Marine Clerks. He received help from Locals 13 and 24 in raising money and encouragement. The criteria for a coastwise organizing meeting were: 1) find a location half the distance between Bellingham, Wash. And San Diego Calif.; 2) stay away from the seaports; 3) have parking for RVs and hotel accommodations.
After investigating various sites from Red Bluff, Calif. to Medfore, Ore., Miller recommended Anderson, Calif. The call was sent to all pension groups to hold an organizing convention Sept. 16, 17 and 18, 1968. The delegates assembled at the organizing convention and came without compensation, instruction, or constitution, but with enthusiasm and the will do something, not only for themselves, but for all pensioners.
Miller favored a loose organization, with just a coordinator and an Executive Board. The northern delegates wanted to elect a President, Vice President, Secretary and Executive Board, with a constitution to be written and presented to the 1969 convention.
They resolved their difference and Bill Lawrence, Local 13, was elected President; Mike Sickinger, Local 8, Treasurer; Rosco Craycraft, Local 19, Secretary of the Executive Board and Brother Leo Miller to serve as coordinator until the 1969 convention.
The purpose of all this was to have a fraternal organization of ILWU pensioners that would give them unity, direction and purpose. Through their association they would have a voice to speak for them at both the union and the national level. They believed that a fraternal adjunct to the ILWU would be of considerable value.
The pensioners and wives who gathered at the first convention were all veterans of the 1934 strike. They had all been together through the struggles of the 30s and 40s and knew there was no such thing as a free lunch. They understood that in order to maintain their benefits they had to support the ILWU as they did when they were working.
In the beginning most pensioners and their spouses believed in the PCPA, but attitudes changed in pensioners retiring after the 1960s. When they retired, they failed to participate or even join the PCPA. The ILWU still needs the support of all pensioners, spouses and widows. Out of 8,700 eligible retirees, only 2,700 are members of the PCPA. Our union and the labor movement as a whole are at a crossroads, and both need the support of all the ILWU pensioners.
Prosperity breeds greed, apathy and complacency. Workers and pensioners become self-serving during the good times. There is no one among us working or retired who should forget that what we have today is here because someone fought on our behalf long before we were part of the union movement. We “old timers,” pensioners or whatever we want to be called, should not sit back and collect our pensions and Social Security and ignore what has happened with the airline and automobile companies, where pensions and retiree health care have been slashed or eliminated altogether and think we are immune. Only be joining in the struggle can we be sure what we enjoy today is not lost.
We should not just think of ourselves, but of future generations of workers, including our children and grandchildren. We should remember the past and constantly remind the active workers how it was.
Many years ago, IWW leader Big Bill Haywood said, “You can put two bits in a working man’s pocket and do anything you want with him. If you try to take any part of it away, he becomes a fighting SOB.”
We have to be prepared for the worst, so join the struggle now. Join the PCPA.
[ILWU pensioner Arne Auvien passed away on July 31st. Arne was an active union member who dedicated his life to the ILWU. He was elected to numerous local union positions over his long career and was an active member of the Pacific Coast Pensioners Association in his retirement. Arne was first chosen to serve his local in 1957 when he was elected Secretary of Local 21. Over the years was elected by the membership to serve the union in several offices including caucus and convention delegate, dispatcher, trustee and in 1964, Local 21 President. In 1970 he was elected Vice President of Local 92 and Local 92 President in 1971.
In retirement Arne served as President of the PCPA from 2003-2006 and as the PCPA Secretary for 10 years. The 47th Annual PCPA Convention, held this September in British Columbia ,was dedicated to his memory. –Eds]
Arne Auvinen was my Pap and my hero. I was blessed to have him 65 years. He and my mother, Margie, who died in 1982, raised my sisters and me to believe that we could do anything we wanted if we worked for it, and work was paramount to achieving our dreams. They also taught us that people are people, regardless of our color or race.
My Pap was born into the labor movement in Southwest Montana on May 9, 1923, in the small mining town of Bear Creek. His father, Paul, was active in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), helping workers fight for humane working conditions against employers who viewed employees as expendable.
My granddad eventually ended up being black-balled from the mines, which happened to many union supporters & organizers. Their family moved to Washington where my granddad went to work on the waterfront in 1927. He settled in Longview, WA, where he became a member of Local 21 in 1933.
Granddad passed away in 1943 because of the lung disease he got from working in the mines. This left my grandmother destitute with a mortgage to pay on an unfinished house. Growing up in those circumstances deeply influenced my father’s commitment to improving conditions for working families.
I cannot remember a time when my dad wasn’t involved in what was happening at the union hall, which he believed was crucial to keeping our union healthy and strong because it made workers more informed and involved. He believed that the hiring hall was the single most important result of the 1934 strike and must never be surrendered. I can remember when the unity and strength of my father’s generation made the 8-hour day a reality, so he could get home at 5:30 instead of 6:30.
My Pap believed that you owed your employer a good day’s work for a good days pay. He never believed in working 2 hours on then taking 2 hours off, or working 4 on and 4 off, even though it became more common before he retired. His rule was this: if you were supposed to be working a job and weren’t there, you should be fired. It was totally against everything he believed for someone to be paid for not working. Pap believed that our jobs were secured through the strength and sacrifice of union members, and that union members had a responsibility to care for those jobs and not abuse them.
When I worked on the docks in 1966-1977, most cargo was still being moved by hand. It was hard work, but I never felt that I was worked too hard for the pay that I received. Workers who are fortunate enough to be part of the ILWU’s elite longshore workforce enjoy the best blue-collar working conditions and benefits in our country. My father believed that employers would always find ways to exploit unorganized workers – and he believed that it was the responsibility of union members with good jobs and benefits to help unorganized workers build unions. He thought this was the only way to preserve and improve the working class. He didn’t see it as a local issue, but a world issue. He didn’t think these were individual problems, but ones for union members to address together with the entire labor movement. He believed the ILWU’s Ten Guiding Principles should be respected and followed.
Arne didn’t quit when he retired in 1985. He and our stepmother, Esther, became active in the Pensioners. He advocated for widows to receive a larger portion of their husband’s pension benefit after their husbands died. He also pushed to bring the pensions of older retirees more in line with current pensions.
My Pap’s last hurrah was the Lower Columbia Longshore Federal Credit Union’s 60th Anniversary on April 26, 2014. He was instrumental in it getting it established, and I was glad to join him that day when he was still sharp and witty. Today he is gone, and I miss the conversations and his comments more than could ever have imagined.
I wish that those of you who follow in his footsteps will cherish and protect the work that he and others like him were able to do. I hope you realize how fortunate we are today because of the work that was done by our elders who were totally committed to the cause of the working man.
My dad and the others of his generation are mostly gone now – but there’s still plenty of work to be done – so the rest is up to us to carry it on.
– Michael Auvinen
The campaign by East Bay recycling workers for dramatic wage and benefit improvements continued to make progress in September.
Oakland Council OK’s raises
On September 22, the Oakland City Council adjusted their future franchise agreements so that two firms will share responsibility for collecting refuse and processing recycling from City residents – and both firms will provide workers with dramatic wage increases and good health benefits.
Because of the City’s decision, recycling workers at Waste Management (WM) and California Waste Solutions (CWS) who are members of ILWU Local 6, will see their wages increase from $13.22 at CWS and $12.50 at WM, rising steadily to $20.94 by the year 2019. Both companies will also provide workers with affordable family health insurance.
The victory resulted from two years of organizing and job actions – including numerous strikes. Local 6 recycling workers have led the fight for better pay, launching their effort in February of 2013, following the historic “Alameda County Recycler Workers Convention” attended by hundreds of workers and community supporters.
Waste Management contract needed
Now that the City Council has included the wage increases into Oakland’s franchise agreements, it’s up to Waste Management officials to sign a new union contract with the ILWU that locks-in the raises and benefits. CWS officials signed a contract with Local 6 at the end of July, but Waste Management officials have been avoiding a new contract with the ILWU for over three years. With the City’s action on
September 22, and the possibility of continued worker actions, pressure is building on the company to sign the contract and begin paying raises approved by the City Council.
Inspiring ACI workers
On September 9, recycling workers at Alameda County Industries (ACI) announced their decision to form a union and join the ILWU. With 85% of the 70 workers signing ILWU representation cards, their commitment was clear. ACI management was asked to immediately recognize the ILWU as the recycler’s union, but the company refused and is requiring workers to vote in an election.
Company officials made it clear that they would prefer to have recycling workers represented by the Teamsters Union, which has represented ACI drivers for over 20 years – but did nothing to help the 70 recyclers who have suffered as “perma-temps” and received only minimum wages with no benefits for at least 15 years. Recycling workers say that they became angry at the Teamsters eight years ago when Local 70 officials solicited representation cards from recycling workers, then ignored the recyclers after securing the contract for Teamster drivers.
Surveillance, not support
During a September 15 rally at ACI’s headquarters in San Leandro, Teamster Local 70 officials and company managers kept workers and community supporters under surveillance from the sidelines – while supervisors inside the plant threatened workers who supported the rally with retaliation.
ACI used an especially dirty trick to cheat recycling workers out of decent pay, benefits and a union – and the company did so with the knowledge and tacit approval of officials at Teamsters Union Local 70. For 15 years, ACI has pretended that the recyclers they employ aren’t actual employees – because the company obtained them through a temp agency. Some workers have been employed at ACI in this manner as “temps” for up to 15 years.
The phony “temp” gimmick is part of ACI’s “union avoidance” strategy, and the company is apparently willing to pay a high price – paying the temp agency over $19 an hour for permanent temporary workers who receive only the minimum wage of $9 an hour. Prior to July 1, 2014, ACI’s recycling workers were paid only $8.30 an hour.
Living wage violation
ACI’s decision to pay recycling workers just $9 an hour isn’t just shameful – it’s also illegal. ACI was supposed to pay workers much higher wages under the City of San Leandro’s “living wage ordinance” that became effective in 2007. The ordinance requires workers to earn $14.57 an hour without benefits or $13.07 with benefits. In a separate effort, not connected with the union organizing effort, ACI workers filed a class-action lawsuit against ACI for back-wages owed under the Living Wage ordinance. On September 24, ACI agreed to settle the lawsuit by paying the workers involved a total of $1.2 million – and confirming that ACI is the actual employer of recycling workers.
City Council support
Ironically, ACI’s questionable business practices have been unknowingly supported by ratepayers in four East Bay cities with franchise agreements obligating ACI to provide garbage and recycling services.
The largest customer is the City of San Leandro, followed by Livermore and the city of Alameda. On the evening of September 15, ACI workers attended the San Leandro City Council meeting where they announced their decision to join the ILWU and end ACI’s unethical behavior.
The following night, ACI workers went to the Alameda City Council with the same message. At both meetings, workers were well-received by City Council members who seemed shocked and surprised by ACI’s business practices.
“We’re making progress, and we saw what ILWU recycling workers have accomplished in Oakland and Fremont,” said ACI recycling worker Salvador Hernandez, “so we want to do the same thing here at ACI to help our families.”
This August “ILWU Walk the Coast” coordinated events in three ports and raised over $70,000 for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation with fundraisers sponsored by Locals 13, 63 and 94 in Los Angeles, Local 46 in Port Hueneme, and Local 10 in San Francisco. The Coast Longshore Division contributed $5,000. Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) was adopted by the ILWU Walk the Coast Committee as the charity of choice. ALSF raises funds for support, research and treatment of childhood cancers.
On August 9th, under direction of Jessie Ramirez and Rita Allison, Local 46 sponsored a three-kilometer fundraising walk and barbeque in Port Hueneme. The event honored a third-grader from Oxnard, Natalia Tanguma who, at the age of 4, was diagnosed with leukemia. Local 10’s event was organized by Frank Gaskin and “featured food and entertainment at the Dispatch Hall in San Francisco. Locals 13, 63 and 94 in Los Angeles, with support from the Southern California Pensioners, sponsored their very popular 3rd annual fundraising Texas Hold’em Poker Tournament.
Since its inception in 2012, ILWU Walk the Coast has raised over $221,000 for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, and an additional $46,000 to fight pancreatic cancer and $5,000 to fight ovarian cancer. This year’s fundraisers would not have been successful without a team effort. Key volunteers included Robert Maynez (Administrator, Local 63), Jessie Ramirez (Local 46), Rita Allison, (Local 46), Frank Gaskin (Local 10), Isidro Felix (Local 13) and Dan Imbagliazzo (Local 13). The Committee is hoping that next year all locals will join in the annual charity effort.
ILWU members working at Pacific Northwest grain terminals overwhelmingly voted in favor of ratifying a new contract in late August, ending an 18-month lockout imposed by Mitsui/United Grain in Vancouver, WA and a 15-month lockout by Marubeni/Columbia Grain in Portland.
Strong “yes” vote
The tentative agreement was reached just before midnight on August 11, followed by a ratification vote that yielded an 88.4% overall “yes” vote from members of Local 8 in Portland who voted 260 to 109 (70%) in favor; Local 4 members in Vancouver who voted 166 to13 (93%) in favor; Local 21 members in Longview who voted 142 to17 (89%) in favor; Local 19 members in Seattle who voted 498 to 38 (93%) in favor; and Local 23 members in Tacoma who voted 409 to 16 (96%) in favor. The total number of “yes” votes totaled 1,475 with “no” votes totaling 193.
The new pact with the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association covers Louis Dreyfus Commodities, United Grain and Columbia Grain until May 31, 2018. The same agreement was also signed by TEMCO, a large grain company that broke ranks with the Northwest Gain Handlers Association early in the dispute to sign a provisional ILWU agreement covering operations in Portland, Tacoma and Kalama.
Key contract provisions
The new contract provides annual wage increases with continuation of 100% employer contributions to the ILWU/PMA pension, health & welfare, vacation and holiday plans. The new agreement parallels prior ILWU Grain agreements which permit staffing to be extended up to 12 hours with overtime pay after 8 hours. The agreement affirms ILWU jurisdiction in the overall control room, but does allow management the option to operate the console. And the new agreement does not require the use of a “Supercargo” Clerk position when vessels are loaded. Both the overtime and control room policies have been in effect at Peavey Grain since 1990.
The grain companies are not members of the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and have never had a formal bargaining relationship with the Clerks. The “Supercargo” was historically employed by a PMA member stevedore who contracted to load the grain vessels. Under the new contract, the grain companies will stevedore the vessel themselves. ILWU Local 40 has filed a lawsuit against Columbia Grain claiming that their in-house and PMA stevedore, Willamette Grain, was for all intents and purposes, Columbia Grain, and therefore covered by the Clerks and Longshore Contract Documents. To that end, provisions in the Grain Agreement were reached that will require “Supercargos” to be added to the shipboard manning at Columbia Grain if Local 40 prevails in their lawsuit.
Negotiations for the new agreement began in August of 2012 and eventually involved more than 70 sessions before the settlement was reached. The lockouts by Columbia Grain and United Grain triggered round-the-clock picket lines that were staffed primarily by members from Locals 8 and 4, with important support from other locals and pensioners who pitched-in to help.
“We put together a plan that had everyone doing their share on a rotating basis,” explained Local 4’s Cager Clabaugh. “There were plenty of days when it was cold, dark, wet and a little miserable, but everyone stuck together and did what needed to be done.”
Pickets at home and beyond
Besides picketing in front of the plant gates, ILWU members followed grain shipments up the Columbia and Snake Rivers – where barges of grain were heading to locked-out terminals. “We had volunteers who camped-out along the river with roving picket lines that could spring-up on a moment’s notice,” said Local 4’s Brad Clark. Teams also traveled to Eastern Washington State and the Midwest to meet with farmers and explain the lockout’s impact on ILWU families downriver.
Members of the Inlandboatmen’s Union, the ILWU’s Marine Division, and the Masters, Mates & Pilots union (MMP) also did what they could to help, but their efforts were limited by a tangle of labor laws designed to impede union-to-union solidarity.
“IBU members refused to work scab cargo when we could,” said IBU President Alan Cote. He noted that the grain companies tried to create their own non-union tug and barge operations when faced with IBU resistance, but the employer strategy produced only mixed results and a few spectacular crashes.
Solidarity near and far
ILWU locals up and down the coast came to support the picket lines, including from Hawaii and Canada. Repeated trips were made by members in Southern California, from Locals 13, 63 and 94, who sent numerous caravans to Portland and Vancouver. Solidarity visits were also organized by Locals 10, 63 and 91 in the Bay Area, along with many locals in the Pacific Northwest contributing volunteers to the effort.
“In the end, we stuck together and stayed strong – but it took everyone’s help to pull it off,” said Local 8 President Mike Stanton, “and for that we thank all the officers and members of the ILWU.”
The 47th annual Pacific Coast Pensioners Association (PCPA) convention met in Vancouver, British Columbia, on September 15-17. Over 200 members and guests attended this year’s convention. Topics that were discussed included the ongoing Longshore contract negotiations, the Pacific Northwest Grain Agreement, health care and the importance of international solidarity.
The convention opened with a brief welcome by Mike Marino, President of the Vancouver Pensioners Organization. The convention was dedicated to the memory of Arne Auvinen, former PCPA President who passed away on July 31st of this year, and all of the other friends and comrades lost in the past year.
PCPA President’s report
PCPA President Rich Austin, who also serves as the pensioner representative on the Longshore Negotiating Committee, gave a brief report on the ongoing contract talks. He reported that the health of the pensioners clubs was good. “The PCPA is in good shape,” said Austin. “Our treasury has grown and so has our membership. The Tacoma Pensioners Club set about to increase its membership and they more than doubled in size in the last year. Good job Tacoma. Other Clubs have also added members.” He also reported on some of his activities over the last year, including his participation on a panel at the Labor Campaign for Single Payer conference held at ILWU Local 6 in Oakland.
Austin also said that he made a presentation at the Coast Longshore Division’s “History and Traditions” conference held in San Francisco in December of 2013. He described the event in the following way: “What I observed was an example of the union at its best. The assembly was full of young, engaged and attentive brother and sisters who were thirsting for knowledge about the history of our union and the working class. As Pensioners we can play important roles in helping them learn more. The agenda of the workshop was created by the rank and file members of the Education Committee. We need more education programs geared to working class values and ideology.”
International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams attended the conference representing the International officers who, along with the Coast Committeemen, could not attend because they were serving on the Longshore Negotiating Committee.
Adams outlined the many attacks by employers on the wages, benefits and jurisdiction of ILWU members in recent years. He acknowledged the resilience of ILWU rank and file and officers in withstanding these attacks. “Despite it all, this union still continues to grow, organize and thrive,” Adams said. He also acknowledged the new generation of ILWU leaders who are emerging up and down the coast, whose passion, energy and commitment will be vital to the future of the ILWU.
Other ILWU speakers included ILWU Canada President Mark Gordienko, Local 13 President Bobby Olvera Jr., and Local 8 President Mike Stanton.
Special guest speaker, President Jhon Jairo Castro Balanta of the Port Workers’ Union in Buenaventura, Colombia, was unable to attend because of visa problems, but the convention was still able to hear from two international speakers: Fred Krausert, National Secretary of Maritime Workers of Australia (MUA) Veterans and Jim Donavon also from the MUA Veterans. Both gave spirited talks about the common struggles that unite maritime workers all over the world. The PCPA and MUA Veterans groups enjoy strong fraternal ties. The same bonds of solidarity that link the active memberships of the ILWU and MUA survive even into retirement.
ILWU Coast Benefits Specialist John Castanho gave a brief history of the ILWU’s fight for health care and pension benefits. Area directors for the benefits plan, coordinators for the Alcohol and Drug Recovery Program (ADRP) and representatives from the Benefits Plan office spoke at the convention and were available to answer questions.
ADRP Coordinator Jackie Cummings noted that there are a growing number of retirees who are raising their grandchildren and an increase in the number of teenagers abusing prescription drugs nationwide. She said that ILWU pensioners who are raising their grandchildren can seek help from the ADRP if substance abuse problems are evident.
Preserving the past
Michael McCann, Director of the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies at the University of Washington was on hand to talk about the important academic programs that teach students about labor and working class history and foster important ties between students, researchers, activists and labor unions.
The Labor Studies program at the University of Washington is the only labor studies program funded entirely by workers. Conor Casey from the Labor Archives of the University of Washington spoke about the importance of preserving the history of working people in the Pacific Northwest. Casey explained the resources and assistance available to local unions and individuals to help them preserve union records, correspondence and other materials that will be valuable to historians and researchers trying to understand the history of the working class.
ILWU historians Harvey Schwartz and Ron Magden attended the event and conducted over a dozen oral histories, with assistance from Casey. The interviews were videotaped and are one important way in which the experience and voice of workers is being preserved.
Fight for $15
The convention passed a resolution sponsored by the Seattle Pensioners Club to support a nation-wide $15 an hour minimum wage in the United States in order to combat the alarming number of families who are falling below the poverty line.
Honoring Arne Auvinen
The convention unanimously passed a resolution honoring past PCPA President Arne Auvinen. The resolution renamed the PCPA archives, the “Pacific Coast Pensioners Association Arne Auvinen Memorial Archives” to honor his many years of service to the ILWU and pensioners.
Jesse and Lois Stranahan Award
This year’s recipient of the Jesse and Lois Stranahan Award went to Bill Duncan of the Van-Isle Pensioners. The award is given out every year to honor an outstanding labor activist. Also receiving recognition from the convention was John Horgan, leader of the “New Democratic Party” of British Columbia, who received the PCPA Friendly Politician Award.
Mike Marino, and the PCPA officers, all praised the host committee, and especially Barry Campbell of the Vancouver Pensioners, for a job well done.
The 2015 PCPA convention will be held September 7-9th in San Francisco.
Thousands of workers and their families turned out for this year’s Labor Day parade and picnic in Wilmington, CA. The annual tradition started with a burrito breakfast at the Longshoreman’s Memorial Hall where 1,500 burritos, courtesy of the Southern California Pensioners Group, were given to marchers to fuel them through the morning.
The march started at Broad and E Streets, just a few blocks from the Local 13 Hall and ended at Wilmington’s Banning Park for a full-day of music, food, and family. The march through downtown Wilmington was led by the Color Guard. Following behind the flags was the Southern California Pensioners group riding on a flatbed trailer. They tossed candy to children and others who gathered along Avalon Blvd to watch the parade of marching bands, classic cars, and hundreds of union members from all over Los Angeles county who were proudly marching in union t-shirts and behind their union banners. International Vice President Ray Familathe represented the ILWU officers at the event. Local 13 President Bobby Olvera Jr., spoke at the event. He acknowledged the hard work and sacrifices of the workers who fought for the right to form a union and won many of the rights that union members and their families benefit from today. “If you are a union member, thank the pensioners and retirees from every union.
It’s because of them that we have the benefits that we enjoy today.” Olvera also had a message for the scores of local, state and federal elected officials who were on hand at the event. “Tell your colleagues in the legislature, city councils and Congress to get up and do something for the workers of this country.” María Elena Durazo, who heads the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, also spoke at the event. She said that the labor movement must commit itself to pushing for a minimum wage of $15 an hour in Los Angeles. Currently, 46% of workers in LA earn poverty level wages and it ranks of one of the poorest major metropolitan areas in the country.