Subscribe to ILWU feed
International Longshore and Warehouse Union
Updated: 1 day 20 hours ago

Australia meeting celebrates union merger

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 16:39

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

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

Two unions

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

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

Both ILWU allies

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

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


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

International support

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

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

Safer workplaces

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

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

Street protest

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

Political upheaval

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

Hard work & winning formula

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

More work ahead

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

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

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

Categories: Unions

Alaska Secretary-Treasurer training

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 16:04

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Unions

Longshore Caucus delegates meet; proposed contract  extension goes to membership

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 11:48

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Unions

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

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 16:35

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Unions

New Ferry service with union workers

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 15:16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commuter service from Richmond is set to begin next year.

Categories: Unions

Local 63’s Netra Brown: woman of distinction

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 12:35

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Vivian J. Malauulu

Categories: Unions

ILWU members train to resist immigration raids

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 10:54

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

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

Previous success

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

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

Mass deportations?

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

The immigrant Harry Bridges

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

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

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

Day without immigrants

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

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

Word spread quickly

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

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

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

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

Retaliation & rehiring

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

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

A big step forward

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

Categories: Unions