SAN FRANCISCO (July 18, 2014) – The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) today issued the following statement:
After several days of ongoing talks, both parties will break from negotiations next Monday and Tuesday in order for the ILWU to convene its previously scheduled Longshore Division Caucus in San Francisco. Negotiations are scheduled to resume Wednesday.
No talks will take place July 28 to Aug. 1 so the ILWU can resume unrelated contract negotiations in the Pacific Northwest.
The previous labor contract covering nearly 20,000 longshore workers at 29 West Coast ports expired July 1. While there is no contract extension in place, both parties have pledged to keep cargo moving.
The coast-wide labor contract is between employers who operate port terminals and shipping lines represented by the PMA and dockworkers represented by the ILWU. The parties have negotiated a West Coast collective bargaining agreement since the 1930s.
Ship’s seafaring crew in Long Beach, CA organize picket line to protest outlaw employer; request support from the ITF and ILWU
Twenty-one crewmembers serving on the Liberian-flagged vessel Vega-Reederei have organized a picket line at the Port of Long Beach, CA, to protest their employer’s failure to pay workers for up to four months of back wages. Abuses of seafaring crew are common in the global shipping industry, and workers often hail from low-wage counties with few rights.
The crew of mostly Filipino nationals is seeking assistance from the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and support from dockworkers belonging to the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU).
A German company, Arend Bruegge, is listed as the ship’s operator, and is said to owe workers more than $150,000 in unpaid wages. The company has a history of failing to pay crewmembers on other vessels operated by the Hamburg-based firm.
Earlier today, desperate crewmembers contacted Stefan Mueller-Dombois, an Inspector for the International Transport Workers’ Federation in Southern California. The crew pleaded for the ITF to help because workers’ families living in the Philippines haven’t received any wages in months and are going hungry.
The ITF has been working with ship operator to reach a settlement, but as of 2:30pm Pacific Time, company officials were refusing to negotiate with Mueller-Dumbois, and threatened to leave the berth without paying crewmembers.
The ship is carrying a cargo of wind turbines. At the ship’s previous port of call in Korea, the company made promises to pay but failed to do so. Workers were told that complaints about the failure to pay would cause the company to replace them with a Chinese crew.
Eleven of the ship’s seafaring crew say the company has kept them on board the ship beyond the original commitment, and are demanding to be repatriated and flown home to the Philippines immediately.
“It appears that this company has done this before by refusing to pay crewmembers on the ships they operate, “ said ITF West Coast Coordinator Jeff Engels. “The crew are seeking justice and support from other maritime workers in the area.” Engels said that ITF Inspector Stefan Mueller-Dumbois is contacting the ship’s owners to seek immediate payment for the crewmembers – and a written agreement that will prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.
“Our job is to help crewmembers from being exploited by powerful, international corporations that own and operate these vessels,” said Engels.
July 5, 2014 marks the 80th anniversary of “Bloody Thursday”, July 5, 1934, a day that shook San Francisco. The events that day inflamed the working people of San Francisco and the Bay Area. They made the great General Strike of 1934 inevitable and they set in motion a movement that would transform the western waterfronts.
On May 9, 1934 West Coast longshoremen struck, shutting down docks along 2000 miles of coastline, including all its major ports: Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, San Francisco, San Pedro, San Diego. The issues included wages and hours: the longshoremen wanted $1 an hour, the six hour day and the thirty hour week. They wanted union representation. But above all they demanded the abolition of the hated shape-up and its replacement with a union hiring hall. The strike would last 83 days.
The San Francisco longshoremen called the Embarcadero “the slave market” – there, each morning at 8 am, workers would gather, as often as not desperate for any opportunity to work. Many more would gather than were needed, some would be skilled, “regular men”, others transients, then all grades in between. The hiring boss, the petty dictator on the dock, would stand before them; he could take any man he wanted, reject anyone he pleased. This was an ancient system. Henry Mayhew, the well-known Victorian investigator, wrote this of hiring at the gates to the London docks in1861: it was “a sight to sadden the most callous, to see thousands of men struggling for only a day’s hire; the scuffle being made the fiercer by the knowledge that hundreds out of the number there assembled left to idle the day in want.” The shape-up was abolished in London in 1891, in the aftermath of the great 1889 dockers’ strike there, but was still in place in 1934 in New York, also San Francisco, where the shippers insisted conditions demanded it. Profits depended, they explained, on the fast turn-around, but the sea, the tides, and traffic limited planning. Still, “the ship must sail on time”; they clung tenaciously to the system, casual labor and the shape-up. The leaders of the dockers’ union, the racket-ridden International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), in 1934 very much in the doldrums, agreed. Joe Ryan, ILA “President for Life” supported it, even after World War II. The men despised it, a precarious, cruel system that placed them at the bottom of the hierarchy of industrial work.
SAN FRANCISCO (July 11, 2014) – The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) today issued the following statement:
The parties have resumed negotiations following a three-day break during which the ILWU was engaged in an unrelated negotiation in the Pacific Northwest. We plan on negotiating into the weekend. Although there is currently no contract in place, both parties have pledged to keep cargo moving.
The PMA and ILWU are negotiating a new contract covering nearly 20,000 longshore workers at 29 West Coast ports.
“Two maritime unions said Monday they’ve launched a radio ad campaign to focus attention on what they say are safety and environmental risks to the Columbia and Willamette rivers brought on by a lockout of union dockworkers by two grain companies.
The ads, paid for by the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots and the Inlandboatmen’s Union, say United Grain Corp. at the Port of Vancouver and Columbia Grain in Portland are “using inexperienced crews to move cargo” on the Columbia and Willamette rivers.
United Grain and Columbia Grain “have called in a fly-by-night tug and towboat operator using questionable equipment and tugboat personnel with no prior experience on the Columbia and Willamette rivers,” Alan Cote, president of the Inlandboatmen’s Union, said in a news release. “Unqualified boat operators jeopardize the safety of commerce on our rivers and invite an environmental disaster.”
The maritime unions say they’re joined by environmentalists in running the ad campaign, which also urges listeners to sign an online petition, www.SaveNWrivers.com.”
SAN FRANCISCO (July 7, 2014) – The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) today issued the following statement:
The parties have agreed to take a 72-hour break from negotiations on a new coast-wide contract while the ILWU attends to an unrelated negotiation taking place in the Pacific Northwest. During this break, starting at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, July 8, through 8 a.m. on Friday, July 11, the parties have agreed to extend the previous six-year contract, which expired last week. The PMA and ILWU are negotiating a new contract covering nearly 20,000 longshore workers at 29 West Coast ports.
SAN FRANCISCO (July 1, 2014) – Negotiations for a new labor contract covering nearly 20,000 dockworkers at 29 West Coast ports will continue to move forward as the existing, six-year coast-wide labor agreement expires today at 5 p.m. PST.
While there will be no contract extension, cargo will keep moving, and normal operations will continue at the ports until an agreement can be reached between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU).
Both sides understand the strategic importance of the ports to the local, regional and US economies, and are mindful of the need to finalize a new coast-wide contract as soon as possible to ensure continuing confidence in the West Coast ports and avoid any disruption to the jobs and commerce they support.
The coast-wide labor contract is between employers who operate port terminals and shipping lines represented by the PMA and dockworkers represented by the ILWU. The parties have negotiated a West Coast collective bargaining agreement since the 1930s.
Less than one month before Bonilla’s passing, another union brother, Yuti Tuvalu, passed on April 21 due to natural causes. Yuti was a member of the unofficial “Gang Uso” which is comprised of longies of Polynesian descent working on the docks. “Uso” is the Samoan word for brother.
While he never held union office, Tuvalu often helped the leadership with security or chauffeuring for union events. Tuvalu was also one of the Gang Uso brothers who most often provided the volunteer “muscle” behind operations such as HelpSamoa.com, which provided containers filled with relief goods for the tsunami-stricken islands in 2009, as well as other events like “Bloody Thursday” that honor our union’s fallen martyrs from the 1934 strike.
“Yuti paved the way for many of us Usos to get involved serving the local,” said Tony Luafalemana, fellow Gang Uso member. “He wouldn’t think twice about calling a “reap” (replacement worker) if one of the officers asked him for any kind of help. Luafalemana added that many of the gains won by lashers on the southern California waterfront are due to the solid reputation Tuvalu helped to establish for workers.
“This is really hard for us because we lost two good union brothers back to back,” said Sam Moega, Executive Board member and former Chief Dispatcher of Local 13. “Berto was my best friend and Yuti was my uso. I consider both of them my brothers and we could always count on them to do anything for our union. Berto was on the frontline and Yuti was the quiet guy in the back. We are really going to miss them.”
Written by Local 13 member Vivian J. Malauulu
The ILWU lost a kind and energetic young leader on May 17 when Alberto Bonilla passed with his family by his side, following a cardiac arrest that left him in a coma for almost a week. Bonilla was 43 years-old.
“Berto,” as he was affectionately known, was very active within the union as both a rank-and-file member and officer. He held numerous leadership positions at Local 13 including Dispatcher, Business Agent, Caucus Delegate, Executive Board member, and Coast Education Committee member. He became known to many beyond Local 13 because he served as Sergeant-At-Arms at many sessions of the Coast Longshore Caucus and was often involved in solidarity efforts to help others. He shared his love for the union with his twin brother Alonzo, and other brothers Nickolas and Jose Luis Rigo.
“Alberto Bonilla was truly a member who embodied everything we aspire to be in this union,” said Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr. “His spirit was bound in brotherhood and his contribution of countless hours towards the benefit of the union and his community is unparalleled. As a member he was exemplary, and as an individual he was a humanitarian. He will be missed by all of us at Local 13.”
Berto was extremely well-liked and respected, qualities that drew hundreds to his funeral. Among those attending were International President Bob McEllrath, International Vice Presidents Ray Familathe and Wesley Furtado, and International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams. ILWU members attended from locals in Canada, the Pacific Northwest, and Hawaii.
“Alberto was a great friend of mine and he was always willing to volunteer and step-up for his union,” said President McEllrath. “We need more young leaders like him, and his loss was felt far and wide.”
“Berto will be missed as a friend and as a union brother,” said Vice President Furtado. “He embodied so much of what the ILWU is about. He fought to keep this union strong and was always there to lend a hand to those in need.”
“I think my husband always had a premonition that something was going to happen to him,” said Marla Piceno Bonilla, Berto’s widow and high-school sweetheart. “He would always tell our son that ‘someday this will be yours’ and he often took Junior with him to union activities.”
“My father named me after him for a reason,” said Alberto Bonilla, Jr., “I will keep his name going and his legacy continuing down on the docks. When I work there someday, I hope to be as good as my dad was because I have big shoes to fill.”
Written by Local 13 member Vivian J. Malauulu
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) is working closely with the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the ILWU and other allies on a global education campaign to show why Chevron – not workers – is responsible for bloated budgets and growing delays on a massive natural gas project in northwestern Australia.
Chevron triggered the campaign by blaming members of the Maritime Union of Australia for self-inflicted problems with the company’s “Gorgon” project that intends to develop, produce and ship natural gas in liquefied form (LNG) from offshore locations. The project’s initial price tag of $37 billion has since swollen to $54 billion.
Lawsuit and threats
When the MUA tried to negotiate an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement for maritime workers in the offshore oil and gas sector, Chevron rejected the union’s proposals and dug in their heels. Despite repeated efforts by the union, Chevron stopped talking. Following a legitimate health & safety dispute that briefly delayed the departure of a barge, Chevron declared war on union members by filing a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against the MUA. Chevron then upped the ante with an expensive and deceptive public relations campaign to smear the union by claiming that workers were making unreasonable demands for hundreds of dollars an hour, thus jeopardizing the project and causing cost-overruns.
Exploiting foreign workers
Chevron and other corporate investors in Australia have been testing the waters with a strategy to lower labor costs and destroy unions. The scheme involves importing contract laborers from low-wage countries to work on projects in Australia – paying the immigrants half or less of the Australian union rate – with no worries about unions, safety complaints or other problems.
Dave Noonan of Australia’s Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) says his union has filed complaints about foreign worker abuse since 2010, but little has been done by the Australia’s anti-union government.
“Australian workers are telling us they are applying for jobs on these projects and don’t even get a call back,’’ he said. Mega-profits & dangerous blunders Chevron, like other oil companies, has enjoyed massive windfall profits in recent years with earnings further enhanced by huge taxpayer subsidies.
The Northern California-based corporation reported profits of $21.4 billion in 2013 and $26.2 billion in 2012. Once seen by investors as the hottest growth prospect among major oil companies, Chevron has stumbled recently in the wake of a refinery explosion and fire in Richmond, CA that nearly killed a dozen Chevron workers and sent over 10,000 residents to local hospitals with concerns about respiratory problems.
Support to set the record straight
In early May, 2014, Will Tracey, MUA’s Assistant Secretary for the Western Australia Branch and ITF Australia Campaign Director Shannon O’Keeffe arrived in California to conduct research and establish new contacts. They were assisted by the ILWU and the United Steelworkers Union, which represents refinery workers in many Northern and Southern California sites – including Chevron’s refinery in Richmond, CA where the 2012 explosion nearly killed a dozen of their members.
After meeting with the ILWU International Executive Board, who pledged their solidarity and support, Tracey and O’Keeffe met with other unions, community and environmental organizations that monitor Chevron’s behavior in Richmond and around the world.
The whirlwind tour included interviews on a local radio station, briefings with Richmond City officials who are trying to hold the company more accountable, and discussions with key environmental leaders from Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), Movement Generation, Amazon Watch, and others.
“We learned a lot from our visit, including the fact that Chevron’s disrespectful behavior in Australia is similar to how they seem to operate in Richmond and around the world,” said O’Keefe, who ventured with Will Tracey to Chevron’s headquarters in the pristine suburb of San Ramon, CA to inspect the corporate campus.
Lessons learned from the MUA’s California visit include:
• Chevron has cut corners on safety by avoiding preventive
• Chevron has been charged with serious violations by state a federal safety inspectors;
• Chevron had 5 significant accidents at their Richmond refinery in the past 10 years;
• Chevron admitted committing six criminal charges at their Richmond refinery in 2013;
• Chevron received Cal/OSHA’s highest safety-related fines in history in 2013;
• Chevron has committed 169 air quality violations during the past six years; and,
• Chevron plans to increase cancer causing chemicals and greenhouse gas released in Richmond;
Meeting with Wall St. analysts Armed with new information and contacts from their California visit in early May, the MUA team returned to Australia for some catch-up and preparations. But within two weeks, O’Keefe and the campaign were back in the United States in late May. Their first stop was a New York City meeting with Wall Street analysts who closely follow Chevron’s operation in order to alert investors of potential problems ahead.
Analysts were interested in hearing more about the Gorgon gas project, especially details about the delayed timelines, budget problems and company’s provocative labor posture that includes growing litigation expenses.
Texas shareholder meeting
The next stop on the campaign trail was Chevron’s annual shareholder meeting on May 28, where investors are allowed to ask top management questions about company policies. Previous
Chevron shareholder meetings have taken place in the San Francisco Bay area, near the company’s headquarters. But this year, Chevron tried to hide from critics and the media by moving the shareholder meeting to Midland, Texas. The MUA team and their allies weren’t subdued by Chevron’s last-minute
switch and came prepared with proof of their shareholder status. The campaign delegation included MUA National Secretary and ITF President Paddy Crumlin, Western Australian Branch Assistant Secretary Will Tracey and ITF Australia Campaigns Director Shannon O’Keeffe. The trio listened patiently until the floor was opened for questions.
Then they set the record straight about the real reasons why Chevron’s massive Gorgon project had gone off the rails in Australia. They explained how the company wasted money on expensive public-relations and lobbying consultants who unfairly blamed the Gorgon’s bloated budget and tardy timelines on the MUA.
“Gorgon is an important project for both Chevron and the Australian national interest in the development of our nationally-owned resources,” said MUA National Secretary and ITF President Paddy Crumlin. “We’ve been trying to reach a reasonable agreement with Chevron for years, but each approach has been firmly rebuffed by the company. Chevron should sit down with the unions to develop a sustainable and functional relationship with its workforce.”
Crumlin noted that the Gorgon is one of the largest LNG (liquefied natural gas) projects in the world – and that those energy resources belong to the Australian people. He said Chevron should develop a good relationship with workers on the project and maintain community support. So far, he said, it has been a dismal failure. Crumlin concluded with some colorful Aussie language that may have baffled Chevron’s top brass: “The company needs to get a grip, cop its stuffups on the chin and return to a mature and balanced industrial relations model, more suited to Australian values underpinning economic and commercial success.”
Chevron CEO backtracks
Crumlin’s comments drew a response from Chevron’s top dog, CEO John Watson. Their exchange was covered in a Reuters news report about the shareholder meeting. Unlike Chevron’s strategy in Australia that scapegoated the union, Watson was careful to avoid any suggestion that labor costs had contributed to the Gorgon’s busted budget. Instead, the CEO mentioned bad weather, a rise in the valuation of Australia’s currency, and increasing material prices. He added that Chevron is committed to using union labor in Australia and closed with a clear statement that amounted to a welcome and refreshing flip-flop: “We have no intention of blaming organized labor for cost overruns or delays at Gorgon.”
Business school exposé
In addition to verbal sparring with company officials, the MUA team used the shareholder meeting to release a research port about the Gorgon project conducted by the University of Sydney Business School, which offered a thorough analysis of the project’s problems.
Authored by Professor Bradon Ellem, the report titled, “What is Happening on Chevron’s Gorgon Project?” concluded that delays and cost problems were due to logistical challenges and poor management decisions – not unions and labor issues which played a negligible role.
The report noted that wages are only a small part of the project’s overall cost, with maritime labor estimated to be only 1%. He also found that most of the financial figures used in public debates were misleading, and suggested that Chevron should engage workers in a more cooperative approach to increase efficiency.
‘Wealth of untapped worker experience’
The report suggested Chevron should utilize workers’ “untapped wealth of experience and ideas about how to deliver the project on-time and on-budget,” and encouraged Chevron to rethink the issues and stop blaming workers. The report also chided management for shifting responsibility from themselves to workers, noting that “neither Chevron nor the partners and contractors appear to see themselves as in any way accountable for the failings on their project. In short, both the evidence presented here and the pattern of blame-shifting raise questions about management practice and management accountability.”
MUA WA Branch Secretary Christy Cain welcomed the report as a “wake-up call” and hoped it would influence much of the Australian media that has blamed workers for the Gorgon’s problems.
Western Australian Branch Assistant Secretary Will Tracey praised the report for showing how time and money could be saved through closer engagement with union workers who want the Gorgon project to succeed.
“There’s a lesson in this report – not just for Chevron, but for the media commentators pushing for lower labor standards as some sort of economic panacea. The real key to unlocking Australian workplace productivity is through better engagement and cooperation between management and workers – not screwing down wages and eroding conditions in an adversarial environment.”
The Seattle City Council voted unanimously on June 2 to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 hour. The minimum wage ordinance, which more than doubles the current federal minimum wage, was an important victory for labor activists and puts Seattle in the forefront of national efforts to address income inequality by raising the wage floor for the city’s lowest paid workers.
The “Fight for 15” was a major campaign platform for both Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Council member, Kshama Sawant. Sawant’s election received national attention because she ran her campaign as an openly socialist candidate.
The ordinance was passed with several concessions to businesses that have been criticized by labor activists. The wage increase will be phased in over seven years, with different schedules for small and big businesses (defined as more than 500 employees) and for
business that provide health care coverage or where workers receive tips.
In another concession to business, upon the approval of the state Department of Labor and Industries, employers will be allowed to pay a wage lower than the city minimum—but higher than the state minimum—for the employment of “learners, of apprentices, and of messengers employed primarily in delivery of letters and messages,” and “individuals whose earning capacity is impaired by age or physical or mental deficiency or
The ordinance also contains a provision for a sub-minimum wage-rate for teenagers. Employers will be allowed to pay 85% of the minimum wage to workers under the age of 18. Despite these compromises, Seattle’s minimum wage ordinance is a historic victory for activists. At their May membership meeting, ILWU Local 19 members
voted in favor of a resolution supporting the minimum wage increase.
Even though longshore workers will not be directly affected by the ordinance, Local 19 President Cameron Williams said that it is important to help the City’s lowest paid workers.
“The seventh guiding principle of the ILWU reminds us that unless workers organize, wages, like water, will flow to the lowest level,” Williams said. “Wages in the country have been a downward slide for decades for most workers. It’s time to turn the tide on that trend.”
Local 19 Executive Board member Justin Hirsh said the final ordinance was not perfect and he acknowledged the leadership of Councilmember Sawant. “Kshama and her team fought up to the last minute to make this ordinance the best it could be. This is a
precedent-setting victory and we move forward from here,” Hirsh said.
On June 10th the Port of San Francisco was presented with a gift agreement for the James R. Herman Tribute Sculpture that will be placed at the Pier 27 cruise ship terminal. The terminal is named in honor of former ILWU International President and former San Francisco Port Commissioner, Jimmy Herman. The gift proposal, valued at $250,000, must now be approved by the Board of Supervisors.
The sculpture will be a wall-mounted, interactive audio-visual installation measuring 10-feet high by 15-feet long. The sculpture will resemble the waves of the bay. Housed within it will be a touch screen that will allow visitors to scroll through biographical information about Herman and will also include a directional sound system that will allow visitors to hear highlights from Herman’s speeches.
The installation is expected to be completed by the end of October. Sean Farley, ILWU Local 34 President and Chair of the James R. Herman Memorial Committee, said that the purpose of the sculpture is to commemorate Jimmy Herman’s contribution to the labor movement and to the San Francisco waterfront.
“We wanted to reflect what Jimmy was about—his history, his legacy, his commitment to social justice movements and his contributions as a Port Commissioner—all the facets of who he was in his life. We also had to take into account what Pier 27 is—a world-class cruise terminal facility. We wanted a tribute that is commensurate with that facility and we think we’ve done that.”
“Jimmy was a true working class hero. He tried to make everyone around him better,” said ILWU International Secretary Treasurer Willie Adams. Adams also serves as a Port Commissioner and Vice President of the San Francisco Port Commission. “The cruise ship terminal and this sculpture will be a great tribute to his legacy.”
ILWU members along with other members of the local community including former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi formed the James R. Herman Memorial Committee to raise money for the creation of the sculpture and its maintenance for the next 20 years.
The Committee is still $120,000 short of its goal. If you would like to contribute, please contact Sean Farley or Allen Fung at ILWU Local 34: (415) 362-8852. The committee has applied for non-profit status and is awaiting final approval from the IRS.
While the ILWU’s Longshore Negotiating Committee continues meeting with Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) officials to reach terms on a new Longshore & Clerks Contract that will replace the one expiring at midnight on June 30th, eight members of the ILWU’s Safety Sub-Committee are also trying to negotiate new ways to protect workers from dangerous hazards and deadly injuries.
“We opened our safety negotiations by telling employers that we need a stronger Safety Code to protect everyone on the docks,” said Local 10 member Ed Ferris, Chair of the Safety Sub-Committee. “Our goal is to improve safety on the waterfront.”
The “Safety Code” is a 168-page document formally known as the ILWU-PMA Pacific Coast Marine Safety Code.
“It’s our bible,” says Local 98 member Paul Weiser, a veteran dockworker with over five decades of experience who knows the risks involved. “This job can kill you in a second – before you even know what hit you.”
Weiser serves on the Safety Committee with seven co-workers: Ray Benavente of Local 13 representing Maintenance and Repair; Tracy Burchett of Local 53 representing Small Ports; Committee Secretary Luke Hollingsworth from Local 13 representing the Southern California Region; Committee Vice-Chair Mike Podue of Local 63 representing Marine Clerks; Adam Wetzell of Local 8 representing the Oregon/Columbia River region; and Ryan Whitman of Local 23 representing the Washington/Puget Sound Region.
Local 63’s Mike Podue agrees the work is dangerous. “The last time we crunched the fatality numbers, it showed West Coast longshore workers had higher fatality rates than police officers and fire fighters,” he said. “That leaves a lot of room for improvement.”
Local 8’s Adam Wetzell says he’s seen what can go wrong when companies cut corners on safety and maintenance. “Our container terminal operator in Portland is ICTSI, and they’ve been cited by OSHA for putting workers at risk. Our jobs are already dangerous enough without employers who make it worse.”
The Safety Committee has been meeting steadily since May 12 and aims to make improvements in the Safety Code. “We’ve got work to do that can save lives, but every bit of progress requires a real struggle with the companies,” said Ray Local 13 member Ray Benavente.
“I’ve been through this before and know how hard it is to strengthen the safety rules,” said Tracy Burchett of Local 53. “The employers always have some reason why they resist improving the Safety Code – but it usually comes down to saving time and money.”
Ryan Whitman of Local 23 says the Safety Committee’s work is important, “but it’s only half the battle, because we need every longshore worker to respect and understand the rules – and feel comfortable pushing back when corners get cut.”
Safety Committee members intend to keep working down to the June 30th wire – and beyond if necessary – to reach agreement on a revised and improved Safety Code.
“Almost all injuries are preventable,” said Local 13’s Luke Hollingsworth, “and we shouldn’t have to wait for the next tragedy to make things safer.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contacts: Wade Gates, PMA, (415) 591-4080, email@example.com
Craig Merrilees, ILWU, (415) 775-0533, ext. 113 (o), (510) 774-5325 (c)
SAN FRANCISCO (June 4, 2014) – Negotiations for a new labor contract covering nearly 20,000 dockworkers at 29 West Coast ports are continuing. The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) have been engaged in talks since May 12. A media report suggesting a suspension in those talks was inaccurate. Both parties remain at the table and are working to reach agreement on a new coast-wide contract. The current six-year contract expires on June 30, 2014.
# # #
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 1, 2014
CONTACT: Jennifer Sargent, 503-703-2933
SAN FRANCISCO, CA (June 1, 2014)
An Administrative Law Judge for the National Labor Relations Board issued a preliminary decision and recommended order on May 30, 2014 that for the period of September 2012 to June 2013 longshore workers employed at Terminal 6 in Portland engaged in unfair labor practices by driving trucks slowly, refusing to hoist cranes in bypass mode, and refusing to move more than one 20-foot container at a time on older trailers in an effort to force ICTSI and carriers who call at Terminal 6 to cease doing business with the Port of Portland. He incorporated the findings made earlier by a different ALJ that the alleged slowdowns were designed to pressure “neutral” ICTSI to force the Port of Portland to assign work that it controlled – work on containers owned and controlled by steamship companies that have a collective bargaining agreement with the ILWU. That decision is currently under appeal. This latest preliminary decision, which is not binding until it, too, is finally adopted by the NLRB, simply extends the potential damage period another nine months and will be resolved on the legal argument of “control.” Still, the findings relative to a concerted slowdown are absurd and wrong.
“The ruling, either by ignorance or by total indifference to safety on the docks, puts longshore workers in the position of having to either perform work in a manner that puts lives at risk or be accused of hard timing ICTSI; it’s an absurd outcome,” stated ILWU Local 8 Secretary-Treasurer Troy Mosteller.
On the issue of operating equipment in bypass mode, for example, an industry arbitrator ruled last week, on May 25, that ICTSI’s effort to force crane operators to operate in bypass mode or “above the drive limit switch” (this allows the operator to lift the crane higher than the maximum manufacturer’s set lift capacity) was inconsistent with the design and approved use of the cranes and, thus, inconsistent with industry safety standards. The Arbitrator concluded: “This was an immediate danger to health and safety.”
ICTSI’s effort to force equipment operators to operate equipment in a manner that conflicts with safety standards is also currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which issued a Notice of Alleged Safety or Health Hazards against ICTSI and held an initial hearing last week. If the ALJ recommendation is adopted by the NLRB and then enforced in court, Friday’s ALJ decision would force longshore workers to operate cranes in a manner that is in direct conflict with industry and OSHA safety standards.
“Basically, ICTSI has successfully duped the Board into employing its Administrative Law Judges for the purposes of sanctioning ICTSI’s abuse of the safety standards that have been developed over decades and are designed to protect the men and women who risk their lives daily in this dangerous occupation,” stated ILWU’s Coast Committeeman Leal Sundet. “ICTSI arbitrated complaints of slowdowns ten times during the nine months that this latest ALJ decision covers and ILWU Local 8 won eight times. This ALJ ignored it. Last week, an industry arbitrator told ICTSI that their position on operating in bypass mode was a threat to safety and a violation of our collective bargaining agreement. The ALJ’s preliminary decision says we should operate in bypass mode, risk our lives and the lives of others, lifting cargo with a crane higher than the cranes established maximum lift capacity. I have to hand it to ICTSI, it’s a pretty clever use of the Board as a hammer on working people here in the U.S.”
The ILWU filed exceptions to the first ALJ decision, which remains pending and non binding. The ILWU will file exceptions to Friday’s ALJ decision, which is also non binding. It will be years until there is a final outcome in this matter.
Save Our Unions: Dispatches from a Movement in Distress
By Steve Early
Monthly Review Press, 2013)
Veteran labor journalist and rank-and-file union activist, Steve Early, brings over 40 years of experience and insights to his new collection of essays, Save Our Unions: Dispatches from a Movement in Distress. Early’s collection of short articles provides us with snapshots of the challenges that face workers in today’s era of growing employer hostility and governmental indifference.
He brings together the stories of past and present labor activists who have been helping workers organize new unions, fighting for more union democracy, fighting to retain union jobs in the face new technology, reaching across borders to build solidarity with workers around the world, and developing more effective strategies for political action.
Many of Early’s essays have previ- ously appeared in Labor Notes, In These Times, and other pro-union publications. All are based on his first-hand reporting which is combined with excellent reviews of important books on labor history and memoirs from labor activists. These stories are told through the voices of rank-and-file activists, union officials, academics, and labor journalists. He combines all these per- spectives into a book that highlights the biggest issues confronting Ameri- can workers during the last 40 years: declining union membership and power, decreased worker militancy, problematic ties to the Democratic Party, the lack of rank-and-file democracy within many unions, and a troubling shortage of solidarity between unions.
Early tells the heroic and some- times tragic stories of labor activists who must battle hostile employers along with conservative, complacent and sometimes corrupt forces within their own unions. He begins the book with a look at past reform efforts, pro- viding details and inside information about courageous reform movements that were waged within the United Mine Workers (UMW), Teamsters, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), United Autoworkers (UAW), and the International Asso- ciation of Machinists (IAM). While all these efforts have fallen short of their goals, they have also scored some important gains in the process.
Early’s sympathies for “bottom up” unionism are clear, and his accounts of reform struggles and the sacrifices made by reformers are both heroic and deflating. He shows that building and sustaining reform efforts over many years takes hard work. He describes reformers who sometimes put their jobs and safety on the line with no guarantee of success. Because Early does not avoid talking about failures, younger activists will have learned many valuable lessons after finishing this book.
Early also looks at strategies for increasing union membership in the private sector. He profiles several innovative organizing campaigns that used “salts,” including an ILWU campaign in the late 1990’s to organize San Francisco bike messengers. Early details the “salting” strategy by explaining how union activists take jobs in shops where they slowly help co-workers learn how to organize and build union power.
Early also looks at the importance of “cross border” organizing campaigns by describing an effort by the Communication Workers of America (CWA) to organize T-Mobile call cen- ter workers with help from a German labor union.
Another section of his book is devoted to what Early calls “labor’s health muddle.” He covers the fight for a single-payer health care sys- tem in Vermont – the type supported by the ILWU – that could serve as an alternative model to our current Obamacare system that was designed by and for health insurance compa- nies. He explains how the Affordable Care Act was designed to hurt many union health plans, including the ILWU Longshore plan. In 2018, all high-quality plans must begin paying a federal tax that will punish union members who struggled for many years to win good health benefits. By one estimate, the tax on the ILWU Longshore health plan could cost $150 million in 2018.
Besides hurting patients, Early explains how many health care workers face poor wages and miserable working conditions in our profit-oriented health care system. He reports on campaigns to organize hospital and home health care workers, and the “civil war” that erupted within the Service Employees Union (SEIU) over a dispute whether to organize from the top-down or bottom-up. Early ends his coverage of health care by examining employer-promoted “wellness programs” that sometimes punish workers for smoking or being overweight.
Early’s essays are not for the faint of heart and it’s hard to be hopeful about labor’s future after finishing his book. But he does suggest a way forward, without pretending to have all the answers. It begins with a clear under- standing of past errors, so the next generation doesn’t have to repeat our same mistakes. And Early is convinced that the best ideas will come from rank- and-file members and their elected leaders who belong to democratic unions. In this sense, his book affirms the ILWU’s “Ten Guiding Principles” – and encourages all union members to put them into practice.
A solidarity delegation of members from ILWU Locals 10 and 13 joined the ILWU Longshore Locals from the Pacific Northwest in Portland and Vancouver, WA the weekend of May 3rd to walk the picket line with locked-out members of Locals 4 and 8 who are in a protracted struggle to get a contract with the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers’ Association (PNGHA).
A delegation of ILWU members from Hawaii Longshore visited the lock-out lines a few weeks before and Locals 94 and 63 have also been sending delegations to stand with their locked-out brothers and sisters on the picket lines.
“It’s been really energizing for us to have these solidarity visits from our brothers and sisters in the ILWU. It shows us that our struggle here has not been forgotten and that we are not alone,” said Cager Clabough, President of Local 4.
ILWU members have maintained strong, round-the-clock picket lines since Japanese-owned Mitsui/United Grain Corporation (UGC) locked-out members of ILWU Local 4 in Vancouver in February 2013 and Japanese-owned Marubeni/Columbia Grain (CGI) locked-out ILWU Local 8 members in Portland in May of 2013.
“It’s important for rank-file-members to see firsthand what is happening to our brothers and sisters in the Northwest. They are bringing their stories back to the local to help everyone understand that the ILWU is under attack from the North to the South,” said Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr., who was a part of the Local 13 delegation to the Northwest.
He added that a solidarity delegation of rank-and-file Local 13 members will be visiting the Portland and Vancouver every two weeks.
With almost 70 years of experience in the ILWU and Bay Area politics, pensioner LeRoy King has built a substantial reputation. On May 17, 2014, he received permanent recognition when the City dedicated their 108 year-old carousel in his honor at a ceremony held in the Yerba Buena Gardens, a location shaped by King who served on San Francisco’s Redevelopment Commission (now the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure) for 34 years – making him the City’s longest-serving commissioner. King says he plans to stay active in his Pensioners group and city politics, with no plans to slow down or change priorities.
“I’m not as old as that merry-go-round,” said King, who turns 91 this September – making him 17 years younger than the antique carousel which carries dozens of children on the backs of 60 hard-carved animals. The ride was recently overhauled to the tune of $300,000, which should allow it thrill a new generation of children.
King credits his success to the first generation of ILWU activists who welcomed him into the union during the mid-1940’s and provided him with training – including classes at the California Labor School which was run by ILWU members. “Not many blacks were active in Local 6 then,” said King, who helped build a community coalition with black churches that changed San Francisco’s political makeup.
In King’s oral history, collected by historian Harvey Schwartz and published in the book, “Solidarity Stories,” he told of the repression that followed him and other ILWU activists in the 1950’s when leftists were attacked both by their government and by other unions who led “raids” against the ILWU. King recalls the FBI agents who used to park in front of his house and follow him around town. He also recalls working for a year and a half to defeat a Teamster raiding campaign – which he won by educating ILWU members to resist raids with community support that included churches. He also recalls helping Paul Robeson in 1947 after the great singer and left-wing activist was banned from performing in San Francisco’s opera house. That insult spurred King and others to organize performances in local Black churches.
King’s bitter experiences with racism included his service in a segregated Army unit during WWII and being unable to rent a home in San Francisco because he was black and his wife, Judy Paton, was white. Their interracial marriage forced them to move nine times during one year in the early 1950’s. King also battled racial injustice within the ILWU which he helped overcome by forming a coalition of Local 6 members that included Curtis McClain, who helped pass reforms that made it possible for black members to win elections and appointments in their union.
“I still get up every day and think about the union,” says King, who still makes a daily habit of calling his list of union contacts to ask “what’s new?”
“My hearing isn’t as good, and my legs get sore, but I’m still an ILWU man and always will be.”
Residents of Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood woke up Saturday morning, May 3rd, to find dozens of ILWU volunteers busy cleaning their streets, hauling away trash and planting new trees and flowers.
Helping those who help us
The May 3rd effort was jointly organized by Oakland City Council member Noel Gallo and the ILWU. Gallo has won respect in his working class council district by spending most weekends dressed in work clothes, helping residents haul-away huge piles of illegally-dumped trash. Besides fighting for more city services and stable funding for municipal employees to do those jobs, Gallo is a strong advocate for workers’ rights and has taken a personal interest in helping Oakland’s low-wage recycling workers win better pay and more respect.
Previous successful effort
Six weeks earlier, ILWU members pitched-in to assist another “friend-of-working families” who serves on the Oakland City Council: Lynette Gibson McElhaney. She organized an impressive community clean-up in her Council District on March 22 that included trash collection and tree trimming. Like Gallo and Council member Dan Kalb, McElhaney has been helping Oakland’s low-wage recycling workers by backing a Council resolution that calls on City recycling contractors to dramatically improve pay for recycling workers.
Building public support
Local 10 Business Agent Richard Mead encouraged Longshore volunteers to join the clean-up because so many members live in Oakland and work at the Port. Mead thanked Local 10 volunteers for participating and explained how supporting community clean-up campaigns can help build public support for union causes – including the Longshore contract that is now being negotiated.
Recycling worker power
Oakland’s low-wage recycling workers have been volunteering at several community clean-ups during the past year. “We’re working with the City Council to try and improve our wages, so it makes sense to help with these community projects,” said Mirella Jauregui, a recycler who works for Waste Management and encouraged her coworkers to participate.
ACI workers mobilize
An even larger contingent of volunteers came from Alameda County Industries (ACI), where employees are organizing with the ILWU to build a union and stop the company from cheating them out of pay and benefits.
ACI has been violating the City of San Leandro’s “living wage” ordinance for years by paying a few pennies over minimum wage – $8.30 an hour – and providing no health benefits. Marlene Guzman was one of sixteen current and former ACI workers who attended the event Children and family members were encouraged to attend the May 3rd clean-up that honored two important dates: May Day that honors working families and Cinco de Mayo, that honors the popular Mexican holiday.
After the clean-up, food and drinks were served, everyone was thanked, and important relationships were built between workers, neighbors and elected officials.
International President Bob McEllrath led the ILWU’s 16-member Longshore & Clerks Contract Negotiating Committee who sat down with their employer counterparts from the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) on May 12 to negotiate a new pact. The talks are expected to last many weeks, with the first sessions taking place at the ILWU headquarters in San Francisco then alternating weekly between the ILWU and PMA offices.
“We’ve got an excellent negotiating team and solid support from longshore and clerk members who mapped out their priorities and gave us their marching orders to secure a good contract,” said McEllrath.
Among the key issues conveyed by workers through their elected Caucus delegates to the Negotiating Committee are:
• maintenance of health care and retirement benefits;
• respect for ILWU jurisdiction;
• fair raises; and
• improved safety provisions.
The current contract dates from July 1, 2008 and covers a workforce of nearly 20,000 registered and casual workers at 29 west coast ports. It will expire at midnight on June 30, 2014.
In 2002, employers united with shippers and giant retailers to support a ten-day lockout that shut west coast ports for ten days until the White House sought a federal court order to end the employer lockout. The Dispatcher will follow developments in the negotiations and provide updates as they become available.