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Updated: 6 days 6 hours ago

ILWU President Robert McEllrath’s message to the membership (video)

Wed, 02/11/2015 - 17:36

February 11, 2015

ILWU International President Robert McEllrath has released the following update on the contract talks with the Pacific Maritime Association.

Categories: Unions

ILWU statement on port re-opening

Mon, 02/09/2015 - 10:12

ILWU statement from 2-19-15 on the  re-opening of West Coast ports:

“West Coast ports re-opened Monday morning after employers closed the docks for two days, increasing delays for customers needing containers.  The union remains focused on reaching a settlement as quickly as possible with employers.  Talks to resolve the few remaining issues between the Longshore Union and Pacific Maritime Association are ongoing.”

Categories: Unions

Aerial photos of ports show what the PMA doesn’t want the public to see

Mon, 02/09/2015 - 09:35

The following photographs show, as ILWU International President Bob McEllrath said in a recent news release, that there are acres of asphalt waiting for the containers that sit on dozens of ships waiting to be unloaded at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and sufficient space for thousands of containers on the docks.

The PMA has told the media that the ports are too full to receive cargo, but the photos tell another story. And though the docks are clear, the transportation chain (intermodal squeeze from export energy trains and chassis shortage) remains congested due to factors outside of the scope of the ILWU.

Photos taken Saturday, Feb. 6, 2015, at LB 94 and LBCT, by a team of longshore workers: Pilot Rollo Hartstrom from Local 13, and photographer Bill Kirk from Local 94.

In mid-January, PMA claimed that there was a lack of dock space for containers, and it eliminated night shifts at many ports.

“PMA is leaving ships at sea and claiming there’s no space on the docks, but there are acres of asphalt just waiting for the containers on those ships, and hundreds of longshore workers ready to unload them,” said McEllrath. “The employers are deliberately worsening the existing congestion crisis to gain the upper hand at the bargaining table.”

The union’s photos of marine terminals in Southern California that show large tracts of space that would easily fit thousands of containers.

The PMA is an employer association whose largest members include Denmark-based Maersk Line, Taiwan-based Evergreen Marine, Korean-based Hanjin Shipping, Philippines-based ICTSI, Japan-based NYK Line, Hong Kong-based OOCL, China-based COSCO, and other employers based in France, Norway and worldwide.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union is based in San Francisco, Calif., and is negotiating a contract that has covered longshore workers at 30 West Coast ports in California, Oregon and Washington since 1934.

Categories: Unions

ILWU President blasts PMA threat to shut down US ports

Thu, 02/05/2015 - 14:58


The ILWU has provided the media with several pictures disputing the PMA’s claims that West Coast ports are too congested to unload ships. In fact, they have acres of asphalt waiting for containers and hundreds of longshore workers willing to unload them.

Photos of empty docks show that PMA employers, based largely overseas, are worsening a congestion crisis at West Coast ports to pressure American workers

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (February 5, 2015) – ILWU International President Robert McEllrath today blasted the Pacific Maritime Association for threatening to shut down West Coast ports, bargaining in the media, and distorting the facts.

“What the ILWU heard yesterday is a man who makes about one million dollars a year telling the working class that we have more than our share,” said McEllrath. “Intensifying the rhetoric at this stage of bargaining, when we are just a few issues from reaching an agreement, is totally unnecessary and counterproductive.”

In mid-January, PMA claimed that there was a lack of dock space for containers, and it eliminated nightshifts at many ports. Today, the union provided photos disputing the employer group’s assertion that docks are too congested to unload ships.

“PMA is leaving ships at sea and claiming there’s no space on the docks, but there are acres of asphalt just waiting for the containers on those ships, and hundreds of longshore workers ready to unload them,” said McEllrath. “The employers are deliberately worsening the existing congestion crisis to gain the upper hand at the bargaining table.”

The union provided several photos of marine terminals in Southern California that show large tracts of space that would easily fit thousands of containers.

“The employers’ threat to shut down West Coast ports is a reckless and unnecessary move,” said

McEllrath. “What the employers need to do is stay at the negotiating table and work through a few remaining issues with the workers who have made them successful for the past 80 years. We are very close to reaching an agreement.”

The PMA is an employer association whose largest members include Denmark-based Maersk Line, Taiwan-based Evergreen Marine, Korean-based Hanjin Shipping, Philippines-based ICTSI, Japan-based NYK Line, Hong Kong-based OOCL, China-based COSCO, and other employers based in France, Norway and worldwide.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union is based in San Francisco, Calif., and is negotiating a contract that has covered longshore workers at 30 West Coast ports in California, Oregon and Washington since 1934.

Download the press release here. (PDF)

Categories: Unions

ILWU tells employers:  finish negotiations, don’t close ports over only a few remaining issues

Wed, 02/04/2015 - 16:44

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The ILWU is trying to keep dock employers at the negotiating table to finish an agreement that is “extremely close.”

“We’re this close,” said ILWU President Robert McEllrath, who held up two fingers in a gesture indicating how close the parties are to reaching an agreement.

“We’ve dropped almost all of our remaining issues to help get this settled – and the few issues that remain can be easily resolved.”

The ILWU pledged to keep the ports open and keep cargo flowing, despite the massive, employer-caused congestion crisis that has delayed shipping for most of 2014.

This is the second time in recent memory that the employers have threatened to close ports at the final stages of negotiations. The union has not engaged in a port strike over the coast longshore contract since 1971, 44 years ago.

“Closing the ports at this point would be reckless and irresponsible,” said McEllrath. The ILWU urged the Federal Mediator to keep both parties at the talks until the nearly-finished agreement is concluded.

If the PMA closes the ports, “the public will suffer and corporate greed will prevail,” said McEllrath, who noted that the major powers on the employer side are multi-national corporations who are foreign-owned.

“These foreign-owned companies make billions of dollars and pay their executives millions to do their bidding.”

The ILWU Longshore Division represents 20,000 dockworkers at 29 west coast ports.

Download the press release here. (PDF)

Categories: Unions

PMA officials admit today that West Coast congestion crisis has been caused by managerial mistakes and not primarily due to dockworkers

Tue, 01/13/2015 - 08:10

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – In contract negotiations this afternoon, officials from the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) told a federal mediator and longshore negotiators that West Coast ports have reached a point where there is little space available for additional import containers arriving on the docks – and no space for export and empty containers returning to the docks.

The PMA made it clear in the negotiating session that they were not blaming union workers for the primary causes of the congestion crisis, explaining that the lack of space for returning empty and export containers was exacerbating the existing chassis shortage – because the export-bound containers are a key source of desperately needed chassis that have become the #1 choke-point, ever since shipping lines recently stopped providing a chassis for each container arriving to West Coast ports.

After explaining how the lack of dock space for containers and shortages of chassis were crippling the ports, the PMA announced an illogical plan to eliminate night-shifts at many ports.  In addition to cutting shifts at major container ports, the PMA cutbacks would also apply to bulk and break-bulk operations – for no apparent reason other than as a cynical tactic to generate anxiety among workers.

The union has noted that cancelling night shifts and reducing bulk operations will do nothing to ease the congestion crisis. The PMA appears to be abusing public ports and putting the economy at risk in a self-serving attempt to gain the upper hand at the bargaining table, and create the appearance of a crisis in order to score points with politicians in Washington.

“Longshore workers are ready, willing and able to clear the backlog created by the industry’s poor decisions,” said ILWU President Bob McEllrath. “The employer is making nonsensical moves like cutting back on shifts at a critical time, creating gridlock in a cynical attempt to turn public opinion against workers. This creates an incendiary atmosphere during negotiations and does nothing to get us closer to an agreement.”

Download the press release here. (PDF)


Categories: Unions

The Legend of Carlos Bulosan

Fri, 01/02/2015 - 12:35

Brilliant writer and union activist: Filipino immigrant Carlos Bulosan, who grew up poor in his home country, came to the U.S. where he expressed passionate feelings for social justice through his writing and union organizing.

A growing number of social justice activists are coming to admire and respect the contributions made by Carlos Bulosan, despite the fact that many are still unaware of the contributions from this remarkable man and important union leader who excelled as a gifted writer, poet and activist.

America is in the heart

Carlos Sampayan Bulosan lived a brief but brilliant 45-year life. He was born in the Philippines and died in Seattle in 1956. His most renowned writing contribution is found in his book, “America is in the Heart.” Like Jack London and John Steinbeck, Bulosan’s writing and political views were based in working class struggles.

His writing focuses on events and characters located in Seattle and the Western United States where he worked and travelled. The issues he tackled include passionate portrayals of immigrants facing racial injustice – much like the poet Langston Hughes documented in the lives of African Americans in New York City about the same time.

Celebrated essay

A famous essay by Bulosan, titled “Freedom of Want,” brought him worthy acclaim when it was published in the Saturday Evening Post in March of 1943. His essay was accompanied by a painting from the famous illustrator Norman Rockwell, showing a family celebrating their bounty at a holiday dinner table. Written at the end of the Great Depression and dark days of WWII – the essay and painting inspired millions of Americans who were hoping and struggling for a better life. Bulosan’s essay also resonated widely with the public because it shared values outlined in a famous speech by President Franklin Roosevelt, called “Four Freedoms,” including the “freedom from want.”

Early years

Like many Filipinos of his generation, Bulosan emigrated from his homeland as a young man of 17 in 1930 when the islands were still a U.S. colony. During his childhood years in the Philippines, he and his farming family were cruelly exploited and abused by wealthy landowners – establishing a formative experience that was later  recounted in “America is in the heart.”

During the next two decades, Bulosan chronicled the experience of immigrant workers in the U.S., providing a rare voice for workers and families who enjoyed rich lives but were often ignored and marginalized by an America ripe with racism.

An inspiration

Being Filipino American myself, I was inspired by Bulosan’s writings because they helped me become more mindful and aware of my own experience. When I first read “America is in the Heart,” I was struck by his unique “Bulosan style” and masterful use of imagery to tell a story.

But I must admit that my respect for “Manong” Carlos (Manong is a Filipino term of respect, similar to the English term “brother”) was also strong because of our personal connection to the Alaska Cannery Workers Union ILWU/ IBU Local/Region 37 – where he served sixty years ago and I serve today. Back then, Bulosan was an elected official of Local 37; today I am currently the Executive officer of the same union. Naturally I take great pride in Bulosan’s association with our union – especially his priceless writings and passages that were penned during his tenure here at Region 37.

I still consider it the highest honor to work in a position that was once shared by such an important and brilliant icon. Some of my personal experiences with our union are similar to those described by Bulosan, although with less tension and hostility than he faced in the early days of Region 37.

Historical research

Thankfully, there has been ongoing research and debate concerning the life and contributions of Carlos Bulosan. On November 14, 2014, an academic conference was held at the University of Washington, titled: “Empire is in the Heart: A conference to mark the centennial birth of Carlos Bulosan.” This all-day conference examined the brief life of this gifted writer and poet in great detail. Presentations explored Bulosan’s political views as a left-wing sympathizer and union activist – considered a “subversive” by the FBI and cited in hearings of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) during the 1940’s. And like Harry Bridges – also an immigrant – Bulosan was able to survive these political attacks and avoid deportation efforts by the U.S. government.

Teaching tool

The Conference also discussed how “America is in the Heart” could be used as a teaching tool for students.

At the Conference conclusion, a reception was hosted by IBU Region 37 and the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies. The reception allowed us to update conference participants about the current state of Carlos Bulosan’s union, and share information about our union with local labor leaders who were invited to the reception.

Participants were also able to view the impressive Carlos Bulosan exhibit, featuring many documents and photos, which will remain on display at the University of Washington’s Allen Library Special Collections area until March, 15, 2015.

Courageous & selfless

Bulosan’s writing conveys the character of a compassionate man who was generous toward the nation’s immigrant workers, long abused by their employers. His determination to maintain a radical consciousness and strong ideological beliefs put him at odds with the literary and political establishment. Carlos spoke the truth and organized against the status quo which cost him dearly in personal and financial terms. He focused on helping workers organize, take collective action and unite to form their union.

But most important of all was Bulosan’s gift of providing workers and people of color with hope and direction – through his writing and deeds – helping workers to discover their power and leverage in the workplace.

David & Goliath

Bulosan’s stories were often based on a protagonist character, usually under duress and always out-matched, like the Bible story, David and Goliath.

While rooting for the underdog, Bulosan created complex and flawed human characters that make it easy for us understand and draw inspiration from this literary master and working class organizer.

-Richard Gurtiza, Regional Director Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU) Region 37

Categories: Unions

Solidarity visit from the International Dockworkers Council (IDC)

Fri, 01/02/2015 - 11:37

The ILWU Negotiating Committee was honored to receive a solidarity visit from leaders of the International Dockworkers Council (IDC) on December 17.

IDC General Coordinator Jordi Aragunde and Office Coordinator Susana Busquets addressed the ILWU Committee and pledged to “mobilize the IDC’s network of

support and organization to help the ILWU win this important contract struggle.” An IDC flag was presented to President McEllrath that was hung in the conference room where negotiations take place. Affiliates of the IDC met in Brussels on December 12 where they adopted a solidarity statement that concluded: “The

IDC will fully support the ILWU’s effort to negotiate a good contract for all West Coast dockworkers and will organize any actions deemed necessary to protect dockworkers’ rights on the West Coast.” ILA Vice-President Ken Riley, who serves as IDC’s East Coast Coordinator, was also part of the delegation that visited San Francisco to offer his support and solidarity.

Solidarity pledges and support have also been received from the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), another global union network. Vice-

President (Mainland) Ray Familathe serves as First Vice-Chair of the ITF Dockers Section and recently attended an ITF meeting in London where he provided an

update on the ILWU/PMA negotiations. ITF President Paddy Crumlin attended the ILWU longshore Caucus on February 24, 2014, as did IDC leader Antolín Goya.

Categories: Unions

Corporate subsidies for anti-union employers: are taxpayers are being hosed in Coos Bay?

Fri, 01/02/2015 - 10:18

Local 12 Southport boat pickets: Local 12 members Leonard Nelson, John Huber, Bob Palmer & Steve Maine

For the past several months, Local 12 members and supporters have been picketing whenever non-union barges arrive at the Southport Forest Products dock in North Bend, Oregon – a waterfront employer who’s trying to operate without the ILWU.

Machine guns

“The weather is sometimes nasty, but that doesn’t stop us,” said Local 12 Secretary-Treasurer Gene Sundet, who was soaked to the bone on December 4th but remained in good spirits with co-workers who picketed in front of the company gates and out in the bay, thanks to a flotilla of small fishing boats. Local law enforcement treated the protest as a major event; mobilizing seven officers and four squad cars – the better part of local law enforcement – while a Coast Guard vessel patrolled nearby with a .50 caliber machine gun. Sherriff’s deputies said they wanted to “practice dealing with protestors” who are expected to visit Coos Bay in the future if a controversial liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility goes forward.
Going non-union

Two years ago, Local 12 had an agreement with Southport to use ILWU workers for unloading log barges, through Ports America. Many logs were unloaded with ILWU help during the past two years – but the company refused to reach terms with Local 12 for shipping wood chips from their facility. Southport was soon searching for non-union tow and barge operators to help them move their chips – and recently started moving both logs and chips without ILWU labor.

“We’ve organized five picket lines at Southport since September,” said Jill Jacobson, who also serves as Local 12’s Secretary-Treasurer. “We’d like to settle this as soon as possible, because we can’t let Southport or anyone else drive down standards on the waterfront.”
Special favors


Southport has been getting special help and sweetheart deals from the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay, and their Chief Commercial Officer, Martin Callery. The first deal was reached in 2004 when Southport outgrew their original mill site. Eager to sell-off publicly held land on the Coos Bay North Spit, the Port offered Southport waterfront acreage that included a barge slip at a bargain-basement price. The Port also arranged for Southport to benefit from a $1.3 million federal grant from the Oregon Department of Commerce to build a rail spur connecting an existing rail line into Southport’s mill.
Lying about jobs

To secure the federal grant, Port officials and Southport claimed that the new mill would create 300 jobs. Southport has been quick to boast about that their new labor-saving, state-of-the-art sawmill, described as a “…highly efficient, high speed, high tech manufacturing operation which is one of the most efficient lumber and wood chip manufacturing operations in North America.” Their fully-operational mill now employs less than 75 workers – hundreds short of the numbers used to get the grant.

Anytime, day or night: Picketing at Southport lumber has taken place at night and in the pouring rain to protest the company’s refusal to recognize ILWU jurisdiction on their docks.

Public grant money

In 2005, the Port secured another grant for Southport worth $506,000 from the “Oregon Connect” program. The Port and Southport were supposed to provide additional funding of $140,000, bringing the total project cost to $646,000. The grant said the funding would be used to refurbish the barge slip that had filled with silt. A local newspaper reported: “The project is expected to increase employment in Southport’s local operations, and in maritime services and the longshore labor sectors.” But after Southport received the public grant money, the Port granted the company a waiver from the competitive bidding process – allowing the firm to pocket money by repairing the barge slip themselves without hiring local contractors to do the work.

Enterprise Zones

The term “enterprise zone” was created during the Reagan years to justify corporate tax subsidies. Several years ago, the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay took steps to create a “Bay Area Enterprise Zone.”

In theory, the tax subsidies provided through enterprise zones are supposed to spur job creation, which in turn is supposed to benefit the community – a form of trickle-down economics.

But most enterprise zone schemes take more from taxpayers than they deliver back to the community. Southport received their Enterprise Zone subsidy courtesy of the Port in 2011, which slashed the company’s property tax bill by more than 90%; from $69,656 in 2011 to $5,178 in 2012 and $5,215 in 2013. The number of jobs delivered by Southport remains a fraction of what was promised, and now the company has gone non-union – lowering the value of their jobs.
Promoting public good

“Southport has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in corporate welfare, but remains arrogant and disrespectful of our community,” said Local 12 Secretary-Treasurer Gene Sundet. “They need to be held accountable, and we intend to educate the community about their abuse of the public interest.”
Bottom line

Local 12 leaders say they’re committed to fighting the attack on longshore jurisdiction in their small port by privately owned mills and docks.

“Maintaining good jobs with high standards that support our community is what we’re about,” said Jill Jacobson. It may start in a small port, but eventually these non-union operators threaten everyone on the waterfront if they get a foothold.”

Categories: Unions

PMA member carriers needed at negotiating table

Mon, 12/29/2014 - 11:08
  • ILWU calls for the direct participation of key PMA decision makers in negotiations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 29, 2014                                              
CONTACT: Craig Merrilees 510-774-5325 ;  Jennifer Sargent 503-703-2933

SAN FRANCISCO (December 29, 2014) – The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) said today that the PMA member carriers sitting on PMA’s Board of Directors need to come to the negotiating table so that direct and constructive dialogue between key decision makers can take place. “Both sides need the right people in the room to get things finalized,” said Robert McEllrath, ILWU President and Chairman of the Union’s Negotiating Committee. “Sure, my counterpart, Jim McKenna, has been involved in negotiations from the start, but all the decisions are made by the carriers sitting on PMA’s Board of Directors.”

The 11 members of PMA’s Board of Directors are largely carriers but also are the chief officers of the largest terminals, none of whom have had any direct participation in negotiations since the parties began bargaining in May. PMA’s principal decision makers have not yet, in seven months of bargaining, had a single face to face meeting with union negotiators. In contrast, the Union has its principal decision makers, a member-elected Negotiating Committee comprised of local union representatives and International officers, at the bargaining table. “Indirect negotiations won’t get us over the finish line. The few issues that remain unresolved relate directly to the carriers and these key carriers need to come to the table,” said McEllrath.

West Coast ports have been plagued all year with a carrier-caused congestion crisis that has frustrated customers and made work on the docks much more dangerous and difficult. The congestion crisis began prior to the start of contract negotiations and well before PMA began using the ILWU slowdown allegations to deflect criticism from its member carriers. Despite efforts to blame the ILWU, industry experts agree that the West Coast port congestion problem resulted from a number of industry-based decisions and mistakes, including, but not limited to:

  • Carriers ceasing to provide chassis to move containers off the terminals.
  • Carriers outsourcing their chassis pools to remote locations causing bottlenecks.
  • Terminal operator’s hoarding limited chassis at the expense of competing terminal operators.
  •  Shippers and consignees using containers on chassis as mobile storage units – thus exasperating the chassis shortage.
  • Carriers building new “mega-ships” with 14,000 plus containers that overwhelm terminal capacity and capability.
  • Carriers increasingly entering noncompetitive alliances with each other and squeezing terminal operators and port authorities.
  • Terminal operators and stevedores squeezing labor on traditionally negotiated jurisdiction in response to pressure from carriers.
  • Truck driver shortages because the industry forces a piecemeal wage model.
  • Tight intermodal rail capacity brought about from the political push of “energy” trains into an already squeezed rail infrastructure.

Last week, PMA member employers in the ports of Seattle and Tacoma compounded congestion problems by refusing to use critical night shifts for import/export cargo in an apparent effort to provoke an even deeper congestion crisis that they hoped to blame on the ILWU. By refusing to order manpower for night shifts, PMA unilaterally and self-servingly restricted work to eight hours a day at the peril of both importers and local exporters. At the same time, PMA member terminal operators in the container ports of Portland, Oakland, Los Angeles and Long Beach continued to work night shifts.

PMA’s Texas based public relations firm ratcheted up a media campaign against the ILWU in late October, in hopes of pinning the congestion crisis on workers. The effort backfired given the numerous, non-labor related causes of the ongoing congestion at West Coast ports. “The men and women who work the docks up and down the West Coast can’t fix the current supply chain failures and industry experts know it,” said McEllrath. “The irony of PMA’s slowdown allegation is that, in addition to dishonestly blaming workers for current congestion problems, it obscures the fact that PMA member companies are working behind the scenes to trigger labor disputes in order to cut labor costs and consolidate more control over workers on the docks. We’ve seen all this before. Our singular focus at this moment is getting a good contract for the members of the ILWU. I think we’re almost there.”

Twenty-thousand West Coast port workers have been without an agreement since July 1, 2014.

Download a copy of the press release here. (PDF)

Categories: Unions

Longshore Caucus meets to review status of contract talks

Tue, 12/23/2014 - 12:00

Caucus delegates and longshore leaders: Ninety Longshore Caucus delegates who met in San Francisco on December 15-16 received an update on contract negotiations from ILWU International President Bob McEllrath (top left), Vice-President (Mainland) Ray Familathe (bottom left), Coast Committeeman Ray Ortiz, Jr., (bottom center) and Coast Committeeman Leal Sundet (bottom right).

When the Coast Longshore Caucus recessed last July, most delegates assumed the contract with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) would be put to bed before Christmas. Instead, delegates who gathered in San Francisco on December 15 heard a sobering report from ILWU International President Bob McEllrath.

“We’re now entering our 8th month of talks, which is completely new territory. This is the longest set of negotiations in recent history – at least since 1971, when there was a 134-day strike,” said McEllrath.

“I told our Negotiating Committee when we got started that these negotiations would be much more difficult, and now we can see that’s the case.”

In explaining some of the challenges, McEllrath pointed to industry restructuring schemes and new business models that have triggered massive industry-induced congestion at Pacific Coast ports. These include:

·         Outsourcing work on the docks that was previously done by longshore workers, including the management, maintenance and inspection of tens of thousands of container chassis units.

·         Creating new companies, twice removed from PMA-member employers, who are receiving subcontracted work that was formerly done by longshore workers.

·         Failing to provide sufficient training for current and future dockworkers to improve safety and protect ILWU jurisdiction.

Other factors contributing to massive congestion are increased container volumes, use of new “mega-ships” carrying up to 14,000 containers, shortages of port truckers, tighter railroad capacity and a host of other factors that have caused the crisis due to corporate greed and poor planning.

McEllrath declared that the ILWU would not be intimidated by industry efforts to blame workers and the union for company-caused port congestion problems. He thanked members for remaining strong and united.

“We’re not going to roll-over for the employers,” he said. “We’ve already reached terms on a tentative agreement that will maintain our health benefits – and we’ve made progress on some other important areas – but there’s still a lot more to do before this can be settled in a way that protects our jobs and jurisdiction down the road.”

In addition to reviewing the contract negotiations, other Caucus business included an update from the Longshore Legislative Committee, delivered by Local 52’s Max Vekich along with International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams, Local 34’s Sean Farley, Local 19’s Dan McKisson, Local 10’s Adam Mendez, Local 63’s Mike Podue and Local 8’s Jeff Smith.

Area reports were delivered by William “Baba” Haole of Hawaii’s Longshore Division, President Chuck Wendt of the Alaska Longshore Division, and Local 502 President Tim Farrell who represented the ILWU Canada delegation for ILWU Canada President Mark Gordienko who had to return early. Brief updates were provided by Coast Committee officers Ray Ortiz, Jr., Leal Sundet and International Vice- President (Mainland) Ray Familathe.

Ortiz noted that dialogue with employers has become much more difficult in recent years – making it harder to solve problems that arise on the job. Familathe reported about his experience at an industry conference on new technology where company officials spoke openly about their quest to eliminate longshore jobs.

Local 23’s Conrad Spell proposed a resolution supporting the ILWU’s Negotiating Committee, which read:

“The rank-and-file membership of the ILWU and this Caucus unequivocally support the Negotiating Committee and President McEllrath in the pursuit of our contract.”

The statement was unanimously approved by delegates who recessed on December 16, agreeing to reconvene when the Negotiating Committee has reached a tentative agreement that will be subject to a Caucus recommendation and membership vote.

Categories: Unions

November election results: mixed for working families

Tue, 11/25/2014 - 12:23

Grassroots support: East Bay recycling workers who recently voted to join ILWU Local 6 have been fighting for dignity, respect and better working conditions. They volunteered this fall to help San Leandro Mayoral candidate Pauline Cutter, who has supported their fight for justice.

Low voter turnout in the November 4 election allowed anti-union politicians to gain control of the U.S. Senate, and defeat many union friendly candidates across the country. Along the West Coast, ILWU members lost some friends – but also scored some gains that could bear fruit for union members in the coming years.

The tally of ILWU-friendly Senators in the West declined by one with the defeat of Alaska Senator Mark Begich, who supported efforts by Alaska Marine Highway ferry workers – members of the Inland Boatmen’s Union (IBU) – to secure a fair contract. Portland Local 8 member Jeff Smith and IBU Puget Sound Region member John Ross both volunteered on the Begich campaign for nearly a month and received important help from Alaska Longshore worker John Bush and IBU Alaska ferry worker Casey Calhoun. The team spent their time contacting ILWU members and pensioners in Juneau and Anchorage.

Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley – a friend of the ILWU and strong ally of working families – held onto his seat by a healthy margin, according to Matt Findley, President of the Oregon Area District Council. Support was provided for six state house candidates who were friendly to the ILWU, with only one candidate, Chuck Lee, losing his race.

There were no dramatic changes in Washington State’s election results, according to Dan McKisson, President of the Puget Sound District Council.

In California, several union-friendly members of Congress held onto their seats, despite massive campaign spending by anti-union corporate interests. Survivors included Ami Bera from Elk Grove, Mike Honda from San Jose, and Julia Brownley from Oxnard. Southern California members received a slate card with ILWU endorsed candidates, thanks to a joint effort coordinated by Southern California District Council President Cathy Familathe, Political Action Committees of Locals 13, 63 and 94, and SCDC delegates.

Most candidates on the ILWU slate were successful, including former State Senator and ILWU friend Ted Leiu who was elected to Congress, along with Pete Aguilar from the Inland Empire. Former Long Beach City Councilmember Patrick O’Donnell and Carson City Councilmember Mike Gibson – both ILWU allies – were elected to the State Assembly. Unfortunately, ILWU friend Al Muratsuchi lost his Assembly seat in a narrow race.

In Northern California, results were generally positive with San Franciscans voting to raise their minimum wage to $15 by 2018. Oakland voters chose pro-union City Council member Abel Guillen and raised their minimum wage to $12.25. San Leandro voters elected Mayor Pauline Cutter who supports improving conditions for low-wage recycling workers. Voters in the City of Richmond chose a slate of pro-union candidates despite a $3 million smear campaign by the Chevron Corporation, who failed to buy the election with their own slate of candidates. Local 10’s Richard Mead helped mobilize many volunteers who also came from Local 6.

International Vice President Wesley Furtado reported that ILWU-endorsed candidates were elected in Hawaii, including U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, U.S. House members Mark Takai and Tulsi Gabbard and a host of State Senators and Representatives.

Categories: Unions

SoCal ILWU members donate 15,000 Thanksgiving meals

Tue, 11/25/2014 - 11:46

On November 25th Southern California ILWU members and their families distributed 1,500 Thanksgiving baskets to families in need. With each basket filled enough food to feed 10 people, an estimated 15,000 people this year were fed as a result of the ILWU’s Feed the Community Day. The generosity of members from every ILWU local in Southern California, along with the Southern California Pensioners, Auxiliary 8, and the ILWU Federal Credit Union made the event possible. They donated their time and money to give something back to the community.

“There are a lot of families out there struggling to make ends meet,” said Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr. “Many of the jobs that were lost during the Great Recession have been replaced by low paying jobs with fewer benefits.The ILWU is an active part of this community and we are committed to helping to make sure that those who have fallen on hard times can still enjoy Thanksgiving with their families.”

Categories: Unions

Port congestion problem: experts see no quick solution

Sun, 11/23/2014 - 15:32

As this issue of The Dispatcher was going to press in late November, longshore contract talks continued to be productive through the Thanksgiving holiday and were scheduled to immediately resume an intensive schedule in December. One issue impacting the talks is port congestion.

Peddling fear

Despite the fact that progress is being made on key issues at the negotiating table, a coalition of antiunion employer groups including the National Retail Federation, Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers, have done their best to create a climate of fear by describing the negotiations as “toxic” and falsely claiming that “a shutdown of the ports is imminent.” Ironically, some of these same big retailers joined forces with employers in 2002 to shut the ports and lockout workers for 10 days – a fact conveniently omitted from their press releases.

False claims

Business groups are also blaming port congestion entirely on alleged worker slowdowns. And while some naive reporters have swallowed this misleading explanation, many longtime journalists and industry officials acknowledge that the congestion crisis has been brewing for years and stems from big industry changes involving new business models aimed at increasing efficiency and profits.

Chassis pool changes

Until recently, the big carriers maintained pools of their own chassis on the docks so they could easily be connected to containers, then hauled by port truckers to warehouses and distribution centers. Now the employers have changed their business model by assigning that chassis work to firms beyond the docks who are unable to deliver a safely maintained chassis to the right place at the right time – creating a major factor in the congestion crisis at many ports. But there are other problems as well, including unplanned increases in container volumes that are overwhelming many ports.

No speedy solution

“There will be no speedy solution to the congestion that is creating bottlenecks at ports around the world as terminals battle to cope with growing trade and surges in container volume,” declared Greg Knowler, Senior Asia Editor for the Journal of Commerce, the shipping industry’s “newspaper of record.” Knowler quoted a senior official at the Mitsui-Osaka Line (MOL) who cited larger ships and complicated new alliance structures as key factors in the congestion crisis. MOL is a member of the “G-6” alliance, one of several new efforts to combine formerly independent

carriers into mini-cartels.

More complexity

The Journal of Commerce noted that congestion increased this year because Asian exports have grown as the U.S. recession eased, sending greater volumes of containers on larger new ships that create surges when they’re unloaded. Also noted was the impact of new carrier alliances that seek to coordinate and consolidate cargo between different vessels.

“If you have six lines with six different services each connecting with other trades it just increases the complexity,” the MOL official told the Journal of Commerce, which concluded: “The big ship-alliance issue is creating havoc at ports across the world.”

Study points to volume

A separate Journal of Commerce report issued just before Thanksgiving, disclosed results from a detailed study of delays at the nation’s largest port complex in Los Angeles/Long Beach. “There have been no significant new congestion generators in six months,” according to Val Noronha, president of Digital Geographic Research Corporation, whose firm conducted the study.

“The research showed record delays are attributable to near-record volume.” Saturation capacity Senior Editor Bill Mongelluzzo concluded, “The troubling message to take away from Noronha’s research for the largest U.S. port complex, and for other large container gateways, is that growing container volumes carried by bigger ships that discharge their loads in a narrow window of time are forcing\ ports to their saturation capacity.”

More mega-ships coming

While Los Angeles and Long Beach are still reeling from new vessels carrying up to 14,000 TEU’s (twenty-foot equivalent container units), carriers are already launching their next generation of mega-ships, including a 19,000 TEU monster just built by Hyundai for China Shipping Container Lines (CSCL). The “Globe” is now the world’s largest, at over 400 yards long and 60 yards wide – but it’s just the first of five similar vessels that will initially serve Europe-Asia routes. The new super-ship carries 1,000 more containers than the previous record held by Maersk’s “Triple E” class. Just four years ago, Hyundai built the world’s first 10,000 TEU vessels, but has since built 82 larger ships – including the latest that are nearly double in size.


Categories: Unions

Recyclers score two victories with support from ILWU & community

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 11:34

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.

Workers rise-up

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.

Private contractors

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.

Illegal wages

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.

Fighting back

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.

ILWU solidarity

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.

Community support

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.

Categories: Unions

Local 502 four-year donation total to Vancouver Children’s Hospital tops $126,000

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 12:05

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.”

Categories: Unions

Port of Anacortes contract fight expands

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 11:09

Community members put up a picket line which shut down loading operations.

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.

Categories: Unions

PMA deceptively blames workers for port congestion caused by chassis mismanagement and other supply chain failures

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 15:41

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.

Download the press release here. (PDF)

Categories: Unions

Video: ILWU Panama Division Panama canal pilots voice safety concerns over new canal navigation

Wed, 11/05/2014 - 10:02

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.

From World Maritime News:

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.


Categories: Unions

 Dishonest media offensive by PMA jeopardizes contract negotiations and deflects from a growing congestion problem

Mon, 11/03/2014 - 16:24

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:


  1. 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.”


  1. 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.”


  1. 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.

Download a copy of the press release here. (PDF)

Categories: Unions