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International Longshore and Warehouse Union
Updated: 1 day 16 hours ago

Lewis “Lou” Loveridge: important So Cal union leader passes

Thu, 12/28/2017 - 11:32

Lou Loveridge was an active participant and shaper of history during his ninety years that included a deep commitment to the ILWU and lifelong devotion to trade unionism that ended peacefully on November 16, 2017.

He was born on November 13, 1923 in the tiny community of Jefferson, South Dakota, a farm town located near the Missouri River in the farthest southeast corner of the state. His parents, Paul and Magel, raised their family with Lou and seven other children during the difficult years of the Great Depression, finally moving west to California in search of a better life when Lou was 14. When the Second World War erupted, Lou and his three other brothers – Fuzz, Chick and Joe – all served in the military. Lou joined the Navy where he became a Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class, assigned to duty aboard the U.S.S. Moctobi, an ocean-going tug that remained afloat until she was finally scrapped in 2012 at Mare Island, Vallejo, CA.

Lou had many loves, beginning with his wife Dorothy who passed  in 2000, his daughter Cheryl, and another daughter Stephanie who preceded him in death. His six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren were his pride and joy.  Other loves included a large number of pet dogs that he adored over many years; trying his luck at Las Vegas, Laughlin and local race tracks; his beautifully-restored bright-red Mustang; the Rams and Angels; collecting coins and donating to charities; listening to music and enjoying a glass of good wine.

His love for the ILWU and union causes of all kinds was also a deep devotion. Lou and all three of his brothers became longshoremen and members of Local 13. His skills and commitment were recognized by co-workers, who elected him to serve as their Vice President from 1973-74. A few years later he was elected to the top post at Local 13, serving as President during 19781979, again in 1982-1983 and a final term in 1986-1987.

He attended Longshore Caucus meetings regularly, both as a member and later as a Pensioner. After retiring from the job but not the struggle, he was elected President of the Southern California Pensioners’ Group. Three days before his passing, Lou celebrated his 90 birthday surrounded by a group of active Pensioners who brought him a cake.

“It was the last thing he ate,” said his daughter Cheryl. While confined to bed for his birthday, Lou expressed “how lucky I am to have the ILWU in my life,” and told everyone that he owed “everything I attained in life to the ILWU Harry Bridges.” A memorial service was held on December 2 in Rancho Palos Verdes that drew a large number of family, friends, union and community members who came from throughout the region to pay their respects to Lou.

Categories: Unions

Volunteers help members change for better lives

Tue, 12/19/2017 - 15:22

Caring Community: Among those attending the Bay Area ADRP Annual Coordinators Training in November were (L-R) John Castanho, Northern CA Representative Hunny Powell, Eric Linker, Eric Bowden, Ernie Aguayo, Sally Bowden, Bill Aviles, Shirley Aviles, Eric Sanchez, James Curtis, Henry Pellom, Herbert Burnley, Benefits Plan Office Manager Mario Perez, Tyrice C. Powell, Geoffrey Simpson, and Norman McLeod, (not shown but participating were Timothy Hughes, Stanley Scott, Steve Antunez and Larry Thomas.)

Each year, volunteers from different West Coast regions gather and receive a “thank you” for donating their time and effort to help fellow union members who are struggling to be free from alcohol and drug abuse. The volunteers all participate in the Alcoholism and Drug Recovery Program (ADRP) supported by the ILWU and Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).

This year’s Bay Area event featured a wide range of guest speakers and discussions that covered addiction, medical research, treatment programs and more.

Most of the volunteers have firsthand experience with what it takes to kick a life-destroying habit, and they’re willing to talk openly about their struggles to stop using substances and behaving in ways that cause problems at home and work. They say it’s all part of being honest about who they are, and a good way to help connect with others who are suffering from the same problem they once had.

“I’ve been clean and sober for 29 years, but it was a struggle to quit then and it requires a constant effort to stay clean,” said Norman McLeod, who’s now retired but remains active in the Bay Area Pensioner’s Club in addition to his ADRP volunteering. “I want to help everyone, especially young people, avoid some of the mistakes we made by getting into drinking and drugs.”

Coast Benefits Specialist John Castanho offered some historical perspective that received nods of agreement from many in the room. “Earlier generations of longshore workers, including some in my family, thought that alcoholism was just a normal part of work.

That’s changing, thanks in large part to the work done by the ADRP Coordinators and volunteers like you.”

The ADRP program resulted from steady membership pressure that built over the years, beginning in 1956 when the issue was first debated openly at a Longshore Caucus meeting. The PMA and ILWU started a trial program in 1964 after arbitrator Sam Kagal asked the union and management what they were doing to help workers with addiction problems. Some locals, including 10, 13 and 21 had experimented with their own programs, but it wasn’t until 1980 that the ADRP was formally established to provide intensive help for all members.

“We’re the best place to get help and information without feeling judged or jeopardizing your job,” said Hunny Powell, who now coordinates the Bay Area ADRP and was once a substance user herself. “Back then I called George Cobbs for help and it changed my life,” she said, referring to the former ADRP leader who passed away in July, 2017.

Thanks to the pioneering efforts of Cobbs, Bill Ward, Ed Torres, Chick Loveridge and many others, the ADRP today helps hundreds of people get clean and sober each year up and down the coast. Mario Perez from the ILWU-PMA Benefit Plans Office reported that 247 claims for alcohol or drug treatment were processed by his office last year. Most of those involved first-time treatments, but members who need a second, third or even fourth chance to enroll in a high-quality residential treatment program are able to get help to recover.

In addition to the formal treatment programs, ADRP volunteers provide a daily lifeline of support and encouragement for dozens of co-workers who they contact each week.

“We have an impressive network of people who are trained and ready to help around the clock,” said Powell. “Our program is based on people who have been there, done that, and know what it takes to put the problem behind you – one day at a time. It starts with a phone call, and I look forward to hearing from more people who want help.”

Categories: Unions

ILWU disaster relief team provides solidarity and assistance to communities in Puerto Rico

Tue, 12/19/2017 - 12:25

Power to the people: ILWU mechanic Arch Chaney helped get the power
generator at the Mayaguez Zoo in Puerto Rico running. They then discovered the
control panel would need to be replaced. After returning to the mainland, the ILWU team worked to get a replacement part donated and shipped to the zoo. Photo by Benson MacForrest.

When Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico on September 20, it left millions of Americans on the island without access to clean water, food and electricity. After hearing news reports of the devastation and humanitarian crisis – and slow response by FEMA to provide emergency relief – ILWU Local 23 members were moved to action.

The ILWU is no stranger to disaster relief. In the past few months alone, ILWU members in the Pacific Northwest and California have donated money, supplies, and time to assist those impacted by wildfires in Oregon and California. The ILWU has always been quick to send financial assistance from the union’s disaster relief fund when tsunamis, earthquakes and other disasters harm working families and communities around the globe.

Local 23 President Dean McGrath reached out to Tote Marine to see if they would be willing help support a relief mission to aid Puerto Rican
families. McGrath was familiar with Tote’s regular service from Tacoma to Alaska – and he also knew they operated a run from Jacksonville to Puerto
Rico, and were familiar with servicing remote communities.

Tote immediately agreed to help. They covered most of the transportation costs for the relief crew and equipment.
Ports America donated four generators and four chainsaws; WCTS donated six cordless hand drills. Local 23 voted to provide financial assistance for the delegation. A total of 9 ILWU members went on the relief mission: six members from Local 23, two members from Local 21 and one member from Local 19. Each member of the delegation came prepared to camp for
the eight days during their relief effort and brought their own food, water and other supplies. The delegation members included Local 23 President Dean
McGrath, Local 23 members Arturo Guajardo, Arch Chaney, Benson Macforrest, Steven Conde and Derek Phill;
Local 22 members Craig Brix and Scott Hopson; and Local 19 member Jennifer Haynes-Borden.

“This was the most amazing experiences I’ve ever been a part of and also the most difficult thing logistically I’ve ever tried,” said McGrath. “Something like this helps build solidarity in the local. You get to work closely, side by side with your union brothers and sisters in a way that you don’t on the job. On the docks, we are all stuck in a piece of equipment. Here we are working
together, shoulder to shoulder, like the old days.”

McGrath said he tried reaching out to labor unions and aid groups that ILWU members could join to coordinate their efforts. He eventually found a group of military veterans called the Warfighter Disaster Response Team (WFDRT), who were already in Puerto Rico providing aid on the ground and welcomed the ILWU team to join them. The Afghanistan and Iraq combat veterans formed WFDRT after Hurricane Harvey struck Houston. Their mission was to utilize skills and training they had acquired while on active duty to help those affected by natural disasters or other emergencies. The ILWU relief delegation set up base at the Port of Mayaguez on the Northwest side of Puerto Rico. They worked with WFDRT to distribute
food and water to isolated villages and communities. They distributed as many as 8,000 meals a day.

“As longshoremen, we move cargo. We don’t own the cargo, nor do we own the businesses that ship the cargo,” said Local 23 member Benson MacForrest. “We are labor, and one thing Labor does well is take care of their people. That’s what we came to Puerto Rico to do.”

Another project that ILWU members took on was at the Dr. Juan A Rivera Mayaguez Zoo, where they cleared debris and fallen trees at the zoo. The three ILWU diesel mechanics that were a part of the delegation helped get the zoo’s Caterpillar generator running to restore power there. They discovered that after 15 years without being used, the generator’s control panel was not operating ILWU disaster relief team provides solidarity and assistance to communities in Puerto Rico properly and had to be replaced. After the ILWU team left Puerto Rico, they worked with Caterpillar to secure a replacement. Caterpillar donated the part and shipped it for free to Puerto Rico. The generator is now up and running.

ILWU ambassador: Arturo Guajardo’s Spanish speaking skills were invaluable
to the ILWU team. He helped to make contact with residents daily and explain what
they were doing. This helped make sure assistance got where it was needed. Photo by Benson MacForrest

“The Zoológico Dr. Juan A. Rivero recognizes the ILWU team for their selfless sacrifice in the recovery efforts,” said zoo officials in a recent statement. “This team was instrumental in the removal of trees that had fallen in difficult places and in difficult conditions that were extremely dangerous to remove. All of which the team did successfully, with no injuries because of a professional standard is rarely seen in the workforce.

“After the team had left the island, Arch Chaney and Dean McGrath, along with the team and their supporters continued to aid us in our mission. The team was instrumental in getting the Zoo a badly needed part for our Caterpillar Generator. This incredible fortitude by the union members reflects great credit upon themselves, their community, the International
Longshore Warehouse Union, our great nation and humanity in general.

“The situation of the zoo is the reflection of the island where communities had to empower themselves to be able to provide basic needs. There are volunteer heroes like you who do not shy away leave a legacy and make this a better world.”

Categories: Unions

ILWU Members from West Coast Ports Travel to Support KEX Grainhandlers

Tue, 12/19/2017 - 11:43

Top row, from left to right: Seth Barnhart, Lance Paul, Vince Meyer, Steve Utter Jr., Mark Boultinghouse, Ron Nelson, Alexis Nelson, Micah Brennan, Dustin Satcher, Tom Sager, Brandon Hendrick. Bottom row, from left to right: Mike Boyd, Larry Barnhart, Korbin Utter, Landon Utter, J.J. Burkey, Pat Brennan, Dave Thomas, Colton Aschoff. Present but not
pictured: Tim Hansen, Brian Grimes, Matt Aschoff, James Shimer, Chuck Knighten, Gary Gates.

More than 300 ILWU members from ports up and down the West Coast led a spirited march through a chilly Northwest rain on November 8 to make their voices loud and clear at the gate of Kalama Export Company (KEX).

They shouted their demand in unison:

What do we want?
Equal benefits!
When do we want them?
Now!

The “benefits” means the security of the ILWU-PMA pension and welfare plan. Ironically, the company that owns KEX already provides these benefits – but only to workers at one of the two grain export facilities that it owns on the Columbia River. Pacificor, a joint venture of some of the world’s most powerful companies, owns KEX at the Port of Kalama, Washington, and also owns Columbia Export Terminal (CET) 50 miles upriver at the Port of Portland, Oregon.Workers at the Portland terminal receive ILWU-PMA benefits, but workers at the Kalama terminal cope with an inferior health plan and a 401(k) account that offers no guarantees of long term retirement security.

“It’s not right that the same employer has one standard for its workers in Portland but another for its workers in Kalama,” said Local 21 President Billy Roberts. “The work is the same, the hazards are the same, and the need for family health benefits and retirement security are the same,” said Roberts. “But the employer has refused, for three years at the negotiating table, to meet the industry standard on benefits. KEX needs to meet the same standard for its grainhandlers in Kalama as it already does for its grainhandlers in Portland.”

Local 21’s support on Nov. 7 was unmistakable in a small town like Kalama: 300 Longshore workers chanted their message along the railroad tracks that led to KEX gates, and they gathered at KEX in bright orange shirts that read, “ILWU Grainhandlers United for Equal Benefits for KEX Workers.”

About 100 of those ILWU members traveled from as far away as Tacoma and Seattle to the north, and San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles and Long Beach to the south. Elected officers from the ILWU International Headquarters and other West Coast ports took to the mic to urge Pacificor to meet the industry standard at KEX. International Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe, International Secretary- Treasurer Willie Adams, and Coast Committeemen Cam Williams and Frank Ponce De Leon all boosted the crowd with powerful messages of solidarity from the Coast Longshore Division.

“Pacificor’s representatives have flat-out refused to consider the union’s demand that the employer provide the same benefits in Kalama as they do in Portland,” said Cam Williams, Coast Committeeman. “Our message to Pacificor’s executives at Gavilon, Marubeni and ADM is to return to the negotiating table and reach an agreement that meets the
very simple demand of providing equal benefits at both facilities.” Pacificor is a joint venture including:

• Japan-based Marubeni (doing business as Gavilon)

• Japan-based Mitsubishi

• US-based Archer Daniels Midland

Proud Local 4 family member:
Jameson McEllrath enthusiastically carried his own weight – perhaps literally – at the Nov. 8 rally to support Local 21 members at KEX. Introducing himself to many of his 300 fellow marchers, Jameson borrowed KEX worker Pat Brennan’s picket sign and made his
support clear.

The other Northwest grain elevators that provide ILWU-PMA pension and welfare benefits are Columbia Export Terminal (CET) in Portland, Export Grain Terminal (EGT) in Longview, Louis Dreyfus Commodities (LDC) in Portland, Louis Dreyfus Commodities (LDC) in Seattle, TEMCO in Portland, TEMCO in Kalama, TEMCO in Tacoma, and United Grain Company (UGC) in Vancouver, WA.

Ownership of what is now the KEX terminal has changed hands several times over its 3-decade history. The workers at the terminal originally entered the union with an affiliated agreement, and are fed up with the employers’ substandard benefits.

The local newspaper, The Daily News, wrote a lengthy article about the march and noted that “dockworkers overwhelmingly rejected a previous company offer.”

“The grainhandlers at KEX have the support they need to stand strong,” said Williams.

 

Categories: Unions

Solidarity on display at ILWU Canada’s Young Workers Conference

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 16:23

International solidarity: Young workers from around the globe gathered in Vancouver, BC for the third biennial Young Workers Convention. The 3-day conference focused on international solidarity, ILWU history, political action, and
other issues, such as workplace health and safety, port security, and social media.

ILWU Canada held its third biennial Young Workers Convention at the Maritime Labour Center in Vancouver, British Columbia on September 27-29. The theme for this year’s conference was “Internationalism: Solidarity Beyond Borders.”

Internationalism and solidarity were indeed in the air at the conference, beginning with the diverse delegates present, about 40 of whom were from outside Canada. Many of them were from U.S. ILWU locals, and others were from dockers’ unions across the globe in places as far away as Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Their presence set much of the tone for the week, in which young workers discussed ways to build solidarity and learn from one another at home and abroad.

The conference focused on international solidarity, and also covered ILWU history, political action, and other concerns, such as workplace health and safety, port security, and social media.

Conference day 1

The conference opened with ILWU pensioner John Cordecedo discussing the “Bow and Arrow Gangs”—longshore crews composed of primarily indigenous men on the Vancouver waterfront more than 100 years ago. Afterwards, ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton took the stage to introduce the ILWU Canada Executive Board, who were onsite for their meeting. Ashton spoke to pressing issues facing labor today: the fight for a $15 an hour wage, diversity in the workplace, and educating the next generation of union leaders. He said to the young workers present: “What is your job? It is to carry this union forward and never let our flag drop.”

Second Vice President Bill Hoadley, whose work is to implement ILWU Canada’s education programs, gave a warm welcome to the delegates and introduced the outgoing Young Workers Committee. Each person on the committee talked for a few minutes about the value of engaging young workers in the labor movement. Their work on the committee for the past two years included participation in charitable work and food drives and support to other young workers groups such as the Canadian Labour Council’s Young Workers Conference.

Two committee members, Stephanie Dobler and Danielle Burgess discussed international action and their work with ILWU Local 23 in Tacoma.

“Going abroad opened our eyes to issues we have at home.” said Dobler and Burgess in a joint statement. Brian Skiffington, the young workers committee representative from Local 23 proclaimed, “We are all leaders—not necessarily in union office, but on the job and in the community.”

March and rally for $15

From left to right: ILWU Canada 2nd Vice President, Bill Hoadley, Local 502 member Dan Kask, Phil Swanston from the Maritime Union of Australia and ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton.

Before lunch, Amandeep Nijjar, a representative from the Canadian Labour Congress Pacific Region, gave a talk on political action that helped set the stage for young workers looking at ways to get involved. The conference harnessed the young delegates’ energy by organizing a march and rally in support of Vancouver’s Fight for $15 campaign Irene Lanzinger, President of the BC Federation of Labour, gave some background on the struggle, and delegates were invited to make their own signs.

The young workers were joined by pensioners and others from the ILWU who took to the streets following a large truck emblazoned with banners and a loudspeaker to show their support for a higher minimum wage. The march echoed with chants of “Who are we? ILWU!” and “What’s outrageous? Sweatshop wages!”

Food drive

In addition to showing solidarity through the march and rally to support the Vancouver Fight for $15, delegates to the conference were encouraged to bring non-perishable food items to donate to the local food bank. Over the course of the conference, the food drive gained a competitive angle, and many local delegations pooled their money to shop for canned goods and sanitary items for local families. By the end of the week, one corner of the room was piled high with food and supplies to help those in need.

Conference day 2

Day two featured cautionary presentations on social media and transportation security by Victory Square Law attorneys Jeff Sanders and Allison Tremblay, a look at international dockers’ struggles by ITF Dockers’ Section members Nigel Venes and Enrico Tortolano, and lessons on ILWU history from pensioners.

ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams gave an impassioned speech to the conference. “Harry Bridges was a young worker in 1934,” Adams said, underscoring the important role young workers play in making the ILWU strong.

International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams gave an impassioned speech in the morning on the importance of cultivating young leaders within the ILWU. Adams recalled his early life and how he channeled some of his youthful anger into positive work within the union. He also commented on the need to both learn from the past and continue to make history.

 “What you do here has an impact on the world, he said. “Your voice and what you do here resonates all over the world and what you do here will only continue to grow.” Adams noted that young workers were crucial to the creation of the ILWU. “Harry Bridges was a young worker in 1934,” he said. Adams also said that education is the key to building a strong rank-and-file. “We need to continue to make sure that we are creating ways for new members to be active in the ILWU and to ensure their energy and ideas are harnessed to help build and strengthen our union.” Adams was inspired by the energy and enthusiasm the conference generated. Shortly after the conference, Adams received a personal note from one of the participants stating the conference had “lit a fire in him” that he had not expected.

The afternoon featured presentations on ILWU history by pensioners. Tom Dufresne, Barry Campbell, and Herb Howe spoke of the ILWU’s powerful legacy of rank-and-file democracy and urged that “understanding history is essential—let us never forget our roots.”

Campbell, a pensioner from Local 500, described the history and meaning of the phrase, “An injury to one is an injury to all.” He explained the slogan originated with the Industrial Workers of the World and that it shows the importance of unity in the labor movement, both historically and in the present.

Dufresne, retired President of ILWU Canada, discussed ILWU Canada’s early struggles and the “Battle of Ballantyne,” a fierce battle between police and longshore workers on June 18, 1935.

Much of the excitement on Day 2 centered on the nominations process for the next Young Workers Committee. The delegates were broken into groups based on local affiliation, with another group for the international delegates. They were tasked with putting forward names to run for the seven seats on the committee. The nominations process was lively, and several people put their names in for the running.

The third and final day of the conference was packed with information, including a talk on workplace health and safety by Brian Campbell of the BC Federation of Labour, a presentation on union leadership by Caitlin Davidson-King, the BC Federation of Labour Young Workers Representative, and a discussion on the ILWU’s Ten Guiding Principles. One of the first orders of business, however, was hearing the statements from the 12 candidates who put their names in to run for the Young Workers Committee.

Each candidate gave a brief statement, and the theme running through all of the comments was a commitment to growing the union. Tyler Gerard, one of the candidates from Local 502, said: “The union has done a lot for my family, and I would like to see more young people involved.”

Young Workers Committee: From left to right: Isaac Baidoo, Local 500; John Sullivan, Local 500; Viri Gomez, Local 519; Tyler Gerard, Local 502; Ashley Bordignon,
Local 502; Danielle Phelan, Local 500,; and Stefanie Flores, Local 54.

Another, candidate, Ashley Bordignon of Local 502 recalled her work before joining the ILWU when she had no voice to combat workplace problems. “Now that I have a voice, I want to speak loud and help as best I can. We need to feel valued.”

By midday, the delegates cast their votes for the next young workers committee members. The results were announced at the day’s end to much cheering and applause. Isaac Baidoo (500), Ashley Bordignon (502), Stefanie Flores (54), Tyler Gerard (502), Viri Gomez (519), Danielle Phelan (500), and John Sullivan (500), and won seats on the committee.

The afternoon program was led by Brian Skiffington and Zack Pattin, two of the founders of the Local 23 Young Workers Committee. They gave a presentation on the Ten Guiding Principles, lending a historical context to the talk. They tasked delegates to discuss which of the principles they have seen in action on the job and in the union.

This led to a rich dialog on topics such as diversity in the workplace. Conference organizers The conference was organized by the ILWU Canada officers, 2nd Vice President Bill Hoadley and outgoing 2nd Vice President Steve Nasby. The outgoing ILWU Canada Young Workers Committee—Hannah Aiello (500), Julian Demarco (500), Danielle Burgess (502), Stephanie Dobler (502), Andrew Gwartney (502), Richard Larsen (505), Kyle Knapton (400) and Brian Skiffington (23) were also a tremendous support in helping and volunteering their time over the days of the conference. Serving on the Election Committee were: Nae Nae Grant (10), Monique Anglada (13), Elric Sommers (333), Pritpaul Gill (502).

Much of the conference’s success was due to the support of the Locals and efforts of volunteers who contributed time and resources to help out.

More than a dozen other ILWU members—mostly young workers—provided onsite support and many also offered up space in their homes to host out-of-town delegates.

Looking to the future

The conference ended with a dance and dinner, solidifying new friendships and commitments to work together to continue to strengthen the ILWU.

– Robin Walker

Categories: Unions

Solidarity on display at ILWU Canada’s Young Workers Conference

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 16:23

International solidarity: Young workers from around the globe gathered in Vancouver, BC for the third biennial Young Workers Convention. The 3-day conference focused on international solidarity, ILWU history, political action, and
other issues, such as workplace health and safety, port security, and social media.

ILWU Canada held its third biennial Young Workers Convention at the Maritime Labour Center in Vancouver, British Columbia on September 27-29. The theme for this year’s conference was “Internationalism: Solidarity Beyond Borders.”

Internationalism and solidarity were indeed in the air at the conference, beginning with the diverse delegates present, about 40 of whom were from outside Canada. Many of them were from U.S. ILWU locals, and others were from dockers’ unions across the globe in places as far away as Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Their presence set much of the tone for the week, in which young workers discussed ways to build solidarity and learn from one another at home and abroad.

The conference focused on international solidarity, and also covered ILWU history, political action, and other concerns, such as workplace health and safety, port security, and social media.

Conference day 1

The conference opened with ILWU pensioner John Cordecedo discussing the “Bow and Arrow Gangs”—longshore crews composed of primarily indigenous men on the Vancouver waterfront more than 100 years ago. Afterwards, ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton took the stage to introduce the ILWU Canada Executive Board, who were onsite for their meeting. Ashton spoke to pressing issues facing labor today: the fight for a $15 an hour wage, diversity in the workplace, and educating the next generation of union leaders. He said to the young workers present: “What is your job? It is to carry this union forward and never let our flag drop.”

Second Vice President Bill Hoadley, whose work is to implement ILWU Canada’s education programs, gave a warm welcome to the delegates and introduced the outgoing Young Workers Committee. Each person on the committee talked for a few minutes about the value of engaging young workers in the labor movement. Their work on the committee for the past two years included participation in charitable work and food drives and support to other young workers groups such as the Canadian Labour Council’s Young Workers Conference.

Two committee members, Stephanie Dobler and Danielle Burgess discussed international action and their work with ILWU Local 23 in Tacoma.

“Going abroad opened our eyes to issues we have at home.” said Dobler and Burgess in a joint statement. Brian Skiffington, the young workers committee representative from Local 23 proclaimed, “We are all leaders—not necessarily in union office, but on the job and in the community.”

March and rally for $15

From left to right: ILWU Canada 2nd Vice President, Bill Hoadley, Local 502 member Dan Kask, Phil Swanston from the Maritime Union of Australia and ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton.

Before lunch, Amandeep Nijjar, a representative from the Canadian Labour Congress Pacific Region, gave a talk on political action that helped set the stage for young workers looking at ways to get involved. The conference harnessed the young delegates’ energy by organizing a march and rally in support of Vancouver’s Fight for $15 campaign Irene Lanzinger, President of the BC Federation of Labour, gave some background on the struggle, and delegates were invited to make their own signs.

The young workers were joined by pensioners and others from the ILWU who took to the streets following a large truck emblazoned with banners and a loudspeaker to show their support for a higher minimum wage. The march echoed with chants of “Who are we? ILWU!” and “What’s outrageous? Sweatshop wages!”

Food drive

In addition to showing solidarity through the march and rally to support the Vancouver Fight for $15, delegates to the conference were encouraged to bring non-perishable food items to donate to the local food bank. Over the course of the conference, the food drive gained a competitive angle, and many local delegations pooled their money to shop for canned goods and sanitary items for local families. By the end of the week, one corner of the room was piled high with food and supplies to help those in need.

Conference day 2

Day two featured cautionary presentations on social media and transportation security by Victory Square Law attorneys Jeff Sanders and Allison Tremblay, a look at international dockers’ struggles by ITF Dockers’ Section members Nigel Venes and Enrico Tortolano, and lessons on ILWU history from pensioners.

ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams gave an impassioned speech to the conference. “Harry Bridges was a young worker in 1934,” Adams said, underscoring the important role young workers play in making the ILWU strong.

International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams gave an impassioned speech in the morning on the importance of cultivating young leaders within the ILWU. Adams recalled his early life and how he channeled some of his youthful anger into positive work within the union. He also commented on the need to both learn from the past and continue to make history.

 “What you do here has an impact on the world, he said. “Your voice and what you do here resonates all over the world and what you do here will only continue to grow.” Adams noted that young workers were crucial to the creation of the ILWU. “Harry Bridges was a young worker in 1934,” he said. Adams also said that education is the key to building a strong rank-and-file. “We need to continue to make sure that we are creating ways for new members to be active in the ILWU and to ensure their energy and ideas are harnessed to help build and strengthen our union.” Adams was inspired by the energy and enthusiasm the conference generated. Shortly after the conference, Adams received a personal note from one of the participants stating the conference had “lit a fire in him” that he had not expected.

The afternoon featured presentations on ILWU history by pensioners. Tom Dufresne, Barry Campbell, and Herb Howe spoke of the ILWU’s powerful legacy of rank-and-file democracy and urged that “understanding history is essential—let us never forget our roots.”

Campbell, a pensioner from Local 500, described the history and meaning of the phrase, “An injury to one is an injury to all.” He explained the slogan originated with the Industrial Workers of the World and that it shows the importance of unity in the labor movement, both historically and in the present.

Dufresne, retired President of ILWU Canada, discussed ILWU Canada’s early struggles and the “Battle of Ballantyne,” a fierce battle between police and longshore workers on June 18, 1935.

Much of the excitement on Day 2 centered on the nominations process for the next Young Workers Committee. The delegates were broken into groups based on local affiliation, with another group for the international delegates. They were tasked with putting forward names to run for the seven seats on the committee. The nominations process was lively, and several people put their names in for the running.

The third and final day of the conference was packed with information, including a talk on workplace health and safety by Brian Campbell of the BC Federation of Labour, a presentation on union leadership by Caitlin Davidson-King, the BC Federation of Labour Young Workers Representative, and a discussion on the ILWU’s Ten Guiding Principles. One of the first orders of business, however, was hearing the statements from the 12 candidates who put their names in to run for the Young Workers Committee.

Each candidate gave a brief statement, and the theme running through all of the comments was a commitment to growing the union. Tyler Gerard, one of the candidates from Local 502, said: “The union has done a lot for my family, and I would like to see more young people involved.”

Young Workers Committee: From left to right: Isaac Baidoo, Local 500; John Sullivan, Local 500; Viri Gomez, Local 519; Tyler Gerard, Local 502; Ashley Bordignon,
Local 502; Danielle Phelan, Local 500,; and Stefanie Flores, Local 54.

Another, candidate, Ashley Bordignon of Local 502 recalled her work before joining the ILWU when she had no voice to combat workplace problems. “Now that I have a voice, I want to speak loud and help as best I can. We need to feel valued.”

By midday, the delegates cast their votes for the next young workers committee members. The results were announced at the day’s end to much cheering and applause. Isaac Baidoo (500), Ashley Bordignon (502), Stefanie Flores (54), Tyler Gerard (502), Viri Gomez (519), Danielle Phelan (500), and John Sullivan (500), and won seats on the committee.

The afternoon program was led by Brian Skiffington and Zack Pattin, two of the founders of the Local 23 Young Workers Committee. They gave a presentation on the Ten Guiding Principles, lending a historical context to the talk. They tasked delegates to discuss which of the principles they have seen in action on the job and in the union.

This led to a rich dialog on topics such as diversity in the workplace. Conference organizers The conference was organized by the ILWU Canada officers, 2nd Vice President Bill Hoadley and outgoing 2nd Vice President Steve Nasby. The outgoing ILWU Canada Young Workers Committee—Hannah Aiello (500), Julian Demarco (500), Danielle Burgess (502), Stephanie Dobler (502), Andrew Gwartney (502), Richard Larsen (505), Kyle Knapton (400) and Brian Skiffington (23) were also a tremendous support in helping and volunteering their time over the days of the conference. Serving on the Election Committee were: Nae Nae Grant (10), Monique Anglada (13), Elric Sommers (333), Pritpaul Gill (502).

Much of the conference’s success was due to the support of the Locals and efforts of volunteers who contributed time and resources to help out.

More than a dozen other ILWU members—mostly young workers—provided onsite support and many also offered up space in their homes to host out-of-town delegates.

Looking to the future

The conference ended with a dance and dinner, solidifying new friendships and commitments to work together to continue to strengthen the ILWU.

– Robin Walker

Categories: Unions

IBU blows whistle on big oil’s dangerous move in Alaska

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 11:01

The Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU), ILWU’s Marine Division, is blowing the whistle on a dangerous plan to replace experienced union mariners who have successfully protected Alaska’s pristine Prince William Sound for almost three decades – with a cut-rate, nonunion company that has a poor safety record.

 

The shocking decision was made by oil company executives who own the Alyeska pipeline that carries oil from Alaska’s North Slope oilfield – which is the size of Indiana – across mountains and tundra to Prince William Sound, where it is pumped into giant tankers that carry the crude south to refineries in the lower 48. Low oil prices and falling production have left the Alyeska pipeline operating at only 25% of capacity, and may have been a factor in the oil companies’ decision to take a chance on a low-cost, cut-rate contractor with a dismal safety record.

It was 27 years ago that the Exxon Valdez, filled with North Slope crude, ran aground and dumped millions of gallons into the Prince William Sound, an event that shocked the nation and resulted in massive fines, staggering clean-up costs, and damage to the environment that required a lengthy recovery.

It also demonstrated the need for highly-trained and experienced cleanup crews and safety personnel, including tug operators. Instead of learning from that disaster and the importance of maintaining the highest quality emergency response teams, Exxon and other oil companies have decided to roll the dice by hiring a non-union outfit with a history of mistakes and near-disasters.

Speaking at a press conference in August of last year, IBU President Alan Coté said that the Inlandboatmen’s Union along with the Masters, Mates and Pilot’s union were launching a campaign to warn the public and elected officials about the dangerous decision by oil companies to cut corners on contractors responsible for emergency spill and other services in Prince William Sound.

Both unions represent a total of roughly 230 workers in the region, ranging from cooks to captains on the tugboats that escort tankers in and out of the Sound, to the mariners who staff a fleet of emergency clean-up barges available 24-7 in case of a spill.

The skilled workers are employed by Crowley Marine Services, which has held part of the contract since the emergency response system was put in place after the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster in 1989.

Earlier this spring, Crowley announced that the oil companies had eliminated their firm from renewing the contract, immediately raising concern from workers and unions about the future. Everyone’s worst fears were confirmed when the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company announced that they had decided to dump Crowley and to do business with a company called Edison Chouest Offshore. The Louisiana-based outfit is nonunion, and they’re expected to bring many of their own non-union workers from the Gulf of Mexico up to Alaska in order to avoid hiring local residents and longtime union members with good jobs at Crowley Maritime.

Coté says the IBU warned residents about big oil’s plan to hurt local jobs by launching a public education campaign featuring radio advertisements in Anchorage and Juneau.

“Saving these jobs is critically important to the families and local communities in Alaska,” said Coté, but added that the issue involves more than protecting good jobs. Coté emphasizes that an Edison Chouest tugboat was involved in an infamous fiasco in 2012, when the firm was hired to move Shell’s massive drilling rig, the Kulluk, from frozen artic waters to warmer waters further south.

A series of bad decisions involving Edison Chouest and others resulted in Edison Chouest allowing Shell’s massive rig to crash into Kodiak Island where it was grounded and required a major Coast Guard rescue effort that endangered the lives of the crewmembers and Coast Guard responders.

“I was there in 1989 and saw what the Valdez oil spill did to Prince William Sound,” said Coté. “It was devastating and we never want to see anything like that happen again. No one would hire any person or company for a major project without a thorough criminal and performance background check. If one would have been done in this case, serious questions would have been raised about Edison Chouest’s dumping oil in the Antarctic. We have been demanding that hearings be held to determine the truth.”

Carl Jones is an IBU member who worked as an engineer on Crowley tugboats for 15 years. He said there’s no good reason to replace a system that’s working well with newcomers who are unfamiliar with the weather, tides, and geography of a notoriously difficult place to operate.

“Everyone up there has years of training and experience,” he said. “To think that a company from outside could come in and replace 25 years of experience in one day, or ten days or even a hundred days — happen.”

Edison Chouest refused to answer questions from reporters who called the company to account for its poor safety record, training and staffing plans. A spokesperson for the oil companies that own Alyeska, did issue a predictable statement claiming that their Louisiana contractor would meet safety and environmental standards – but her comment also included an admission that Edison Chouest may need more training before being ready for prime time in Prince William Sound.

“Any company that works with us has to meet the expectations of the response plan in Prince William Sound, which are very rigorous, and they have to be demonstrated repeatedly through drills and exercises,” said the spokesperson.

“So there are many opportunities for us to identify if there are gaps and then help bridge those gaps. But we expect them to be an outstanding contractor.”

The spokesperson also admitted that their contract with Edison Chouest includes no requirement for local Alaskans to be hired. She noted Alyeska has a separate policy requiring contractors to hire 20 percent Native Alaskans, but even meeting that goal provides no assurance that existing Native and other workers will be able to keep their jobs.

If Edison Chouest remains the choice of Alyeska to replace Crowley, the new company would take over operations in July of 2018, while hundreds of workers face the prospect of losing their jobs as Crowley is replaced.

“The oil companies are making a terrible decision that’s bad for Alaskan workers and the environment, said Coté. “Picking a cut-rate, nonunion outfit to bolster their bottom line is a penny-wise and pound-foolish proposition. The IBU is committed to helping these workers fight for their jobs, and that fight will continue.”

 

Categories: Unions

IBU blows whistle on big oil’s dangerous move in Alaska

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 11:01

The Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU), ILWU’s Marine Division, is blowing the whistle on a dangerous plan to replace experienced union mariners who have successfully protected Alaska’s pristine Prince William Sound for almost three decades – with a cut-rate, nonunion company that has a poor safety record.

 

The shocking decision was made by oil company executives who own the Alyeska pipeline that carries oil from Alaska’s North Slope oilfield – which is the size of Indiana – across mountains and tundra to Prince William Sound, where it is pumped into giant tankers that carry the crude south to refineries in the lower 48. Low oil prices and falling production have left the Alyeska pipeline operating at only 25% of capacity, and may have been a factor in the oil companies’ decision to take a chance on a low-cost, cut-rate contractor with a dismal safety record.

It was 27 years ago that the Exxon Valdez, filled with North Slope crude, ran aground and dumped millions of gallons into the Prince William Sound, an event that shocked the nation and resulted in massive fines, staggering clean-up costs, and damage to the environment that required a lengthy recovery.

It also demonstrated the need for highly-trained and experienced cleanup crews and safety personnel, including tug operators. Instead of learning from that disaster and the importance of maintaining the highest quality emergency response teams, Exxon and other oil companies have decided to roll the dice by hiring a non-union outfit with a history of mistakes and near-disasters.

Speaking at a press conference in August of last year, IBU President Alan Coté said that the Inlandboatmen’s Union along with the Masters, Mates and Pilot’s union were launching a campaign to warn the public and elected officials about the dangerous decision by oil companies to cut corners on contractors responsible for emergency spill and other services in Prince William Sound.

Both unions represent a total of roughly 230 workers in the region, ranging from cooks to captains on the tugboats that escort tankers in and out of the Sound, to the mariners who staff a fleet of emergency clean-up barges available 24-7 in case of a spill.

The skilled workers are employed by Crowley Marine Services, which has held part of the contract since the emergency response system was put in place after the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster in 1989.

Earlier this spring, Crowley announced that the oil companies had eliminated their firm from renewing the contract, immediately raising concern from workers and unions about the future. Everyone’s worst fears were confirmed when the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company announced that they had decided to dump Crowley and to do business with a company called Edison Chouest Offshore. The Louisiana-based outfit is nonunion, and they’re expected to bring many of their own non-union workers from the Gulf of Mexico up to Alaska in order to avoid hiring local residents and longtime union members with good jobs at Crowley Maritime.

Coté says the IBU warned residents about big oil’s plan to hurt local jobs by launching a public education campaign featuring radio advertisements in Anchorage and Juneau.

“Saving these jobs is critically important to the families and local communities in Alaska,” said Coté, but added that the issue involves more than protecting good jobs. Coté emphasizes that an Edison Chouest tugboat was involved in an infamous fiasco in 2012, when the firm was hired to move Shell’s massive drilling rig, the Kulluk, from frozen artic waters to warmer waters further south.

A series of bad decisions involving Edison Chouest and others resulted in Edison Chouest allowing Shell’s massive rig to crash into Kodiak Island where it was grounded and required a major Coast Guard rescue effort that endangered the lives of the crewmembers and Coast Guard responders.

“I was there in 1989 and saw what the Valdez oil spill did to Prince William Sound,” said Coté. “It was devastating and we never want to see anything like that happen again. No one would hire any person or company for a major project without a thorough criminal and performance background check. If one would have been done in this case, serious questions would have been raised about Edison Chouest’s dumping oil in the Antarctic. We have been demanding that hearings be held to determine the truth.”

Carl Jones is an IBU member who worked as an engineer on Crowley tugboats for 15 years. He said there’s no good reason to replace a system that’s working well with newcomers who are unfamiliar with the weather, tides, and geography of a notoriously difficult place to operate.

“Everyone up there has years of training and experience,” he said. “To think that a company from outside could come in and replace 25 years of experience in one day, or ten days or even a hundred days — happen.”

Edison Chouest refused to answer questions from reporters who called the company to account for its poor safety record, training and staffing plans. A spokesperson for the oil companies that own Alyeska, did issue a predictable statement claiming that their Louisiana contractor would meet safety and environmental standards – but her comment also included an admission that Edison Chouest may need more training before being ready for prime time in Prince William Sound.

“Any company that works with us has to meet the expectations of the response plan in Prince William Sound, which are very rigorous, and they have to be demonstrated repeatedly through drills and exercises,” said the spokesperson.

“So there are many opportunities for us to identify if there are gaps and then help bridge those gaps. But we expect them to be an outstanding contractor.”

The spokesperson also admitted that their contract with Edison Chouest includes no requirement for local Alaskans to be hired. She noted Alyeska has a separate policy requiring contractors to hire 20 percent Native Alaskans, but even meeting that goal provides no assurance that existing Native and other workers will be able to keep their jobs.

If Edison Chouest remains the choice of Alyeska to replace Crowley, the new company would take over operations in July of 2018, while hundreds of workers face the prospect of losing their jobs as Crowley is replaced.

“The oil companies are making a terrible decision that’s bad for Alaskan workers and the environment, said Coté. “Picking a cut-rate, nonunion outfit to bolster their bottom line is a penny-wise and pound-foolish proposition. The IBU is committed to helping these workers fight for their jobs, and that fight will continue.”

 

Categories: Unions

ILWU wins major organizing victory on the docks in Southern California

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 10:16

Welcome to the ILWU family: Local 63 President Paul Trani swore in newly organized superintendents from Pasha, Eagle Marine Services (Operations Control), California United Terminals and West Coast Terminal & Stevedore into Local 63 at a stopwork meeting on October 5th.

On October 5th, newly organized ILWU members were sworn into Local 63 as part of an on-going campaign to organize the superintendents in the ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach. Superintendents from Pasha, Eagle Marine Services (Operations Center), California United Terminals and West Coast Terminal & Stevedore were sworn in by Local 63 President Paul Trani. These members join Local 63 as part of the new Superintendents’ Unit. This was a historic victory for the ILWU.

These are the first marine terminal superintendents to be represented by any union on the West Coast. The ceremony took place at the local’s monthly “stopwork” meeting after several months of organizing and actions to help the superintendents unionize. Superintendents had become concerned as management increasingly treated them with little respect and required them to work long hours without any additional pay.

“The solution here was to help these workers organize and, at the same time, grow our union,” said International Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe, who assisted with the organizing and negotiation effort. Familathe oversees the ILWU organizing program on the Mainland.

NLRB elections

In order to unionize, the superintendents had to go through the traditional National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) process of signing cards and filing a petition with the Labor Board for a union election. This is a risky and intimidating process for any worker. It takes a lot of courage and grit to stand up to an employer and assert your right to have a union.

“These superintendents risked their livelihoods when they signed cards with the ILWU,” said Familathe. “These workers were at-will employees and had no dispatch hall to fall back on if they were fired. They took this risk because they wanted to make a better life for themselves and their families, and they’ve seen firsthand what having a strong union behind you can mean.”

The workers knew that the employers would vigorously oppose the organizing effort, which put them at greater risk. Familathe said that the employers threw everything they had at the superintendents to try to stop them from organizing. “They didn’t even want to let the superintendents vote on whether to become part of the ILWU,” Familathe said.

Employer opposition

The employers hired big management law firms to challenge the superintendents’ petitions. To even get the Board order allowing them to vote, the superintendents went through days of grueling hearings at the NLRB in downtown Los Angeles. One of the hearings lasted 8 days.

At the hearings, many of the superintendents had to listen to their managers testify and then had to stand up and testify against their managers, with their managers sitting in the room.

The company lawyers put the superintendents through hours of grilling on the witness stand in some cases. Some of the company lawyers even tried to make it seem like the superintendents were lying under oath, but the superintendents did not bend. In every case so far, the NLRB Regional office has ruled in favor of ILWU Local 63 and ordered that the superintendents should be able to vote on whether or not they want to join the union. In every vote so far, workers have voted in favor of union representation.

Contract negotiations

The superintendents at Eagle Marine and Pasha, with support from the International and Local 63, have bargained their first contracts. The West Coast Terminal & Stevedore superintendents are close behind. These are stand-alone agreements between the units and the individual companies. Although these superintendents are members of Local 63, they do not work under the marine clerks’ contract and they are not part of the ILWU-PMA registration or dispatch system.

Team effort

This organizing was the result of a team effort by the ILWU International Organizing Department, and the officers, staff and rank-and-file members of Local 63, said Familathe. Local 63 President Paul Trani, Local 63 Vice President Joe Gasperov, Local 63 Secretary Maureen Gutierrez, Local 63 Business Agent Cathy Familathe, Local 63 Business Agent Anthony Spanjol and rank-and-file members from Local 63 assisted in the campaign.

Categories: Unions

ILWU wins major organizing victory on the docks in Southern California

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 10:16

Welcome to the ILWU family: Local 63 President Paul Trani swore in newly organized superintendents from Pasha, Eagle Marine Services (Operations Control), California United Terminals and West Coast Terminal & Stevedore into Local 63 at a stopwork meeting on October 5th.

On October 5th, newly organized ILWU members were sworn into Local 63 as part of an on-going campaign to organize the superintendents in the ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach. Superintendents from Pasha, Eagle Marine Services (Operations Center), California United Terminals and West Coast Terminal & Stevedore were sworn in by Local 63 President Paul Trani. These members join Local 63 as part of the new Superintendents’ Unit. This was a historic victory for the ILWU.

These are the first marine terminal superintendents to be represented by any union on the West Coast. The ceremony took place at the local’s monthly “stopwork” meeting after several months of organizing and actions to help the superintendents unionize. Superintendents had become concerned as management increasingly treated them with little respect and required them to work long hours without any additional pay.

“The solution here was to help these workers organize and, at the same time, grow our union,” said International Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe, who assisted with the organizing and negotiation effort. Familathe oversees the ILWU organizing program on the Mainland.

NLRB elections

In order to unionize, the superintendents had to go through the traditional National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) process of signing cards and filing a petition with the Labor Board for a union election. This is a risky and intimidating process for any worker. It takes a lot of courage and grit to stand up to an employer and assert your right to have a union.

“These superintendents risked their livelihoods when they signed cards with the ILWU,” said Familathe. “These workers were at-will employees and had no dispatch hall to fall back on if they were fired. They took this risk because they wanted to make a better life for themselves and their families, and they’ve seen firsthand what having a strong union behind you can mean.”

The workers knew that the employers would vigorously oppose the organizing effort, which put them at greater risk. Familathe said that the employers threw everything they had at the superintendents to try to stop them from organizing. “They didn’t even want to let the superintendents vote on whether to become part of the ILWU,” Familathe said.

Employer opposition

The employers hired big management law firms to challenge the superintendents’ petitions. To even get the Board order allowing them to vote, the superintendents went through days of grueling hearings at the NLRB in downtown Los Angeles. One of the hearings lasted 8 days.

At the hearings, many of the superintendents had to listen to their managers testify and then had to stand up and testify against their managers, with their managers sitting in the room.

The company lawyers put the superintendents through hours of grilling on the witness stand in some cases. Some of the company lawyers even tried to make it seem like the superintendents were lying under oath, but the superintendents did not bend. In every case so far, the NLRB Regional office has ruled in favor of ILWU Local 63 and ordered that the superintendents should be able to vote on whether or not they want to join the union. In every vote so far, workers have voted in favor of union representation.

Contract negotiations

The superintendents at Eagle Marine and Pasha, with support from the International and Local 63, have bargained their first contracts. The West Coast Terminal & Stevedore superintendents are close behind. These are stand-alone agreements between the units and the individual companies. Although these superintendents are members of Local 63, they do not work under the marine clerks’ contract and they are not part of the ILWU-PMA registration or dispatch system.

Team effort

This organizing was the result of a team effort by the ILWU International Organizing Department, and the officers, staff and rank-and-file members of Local 63, said Familathe. Local 63 President Paul Trani, Local 63 Vice President Joe Gasperov, Local 63 Secretary Maureen Gutierrez, Local 63 Business Agent Cathy Familathe, Local 63 Business Agent Anthony Spanjol and rank-and-file members from Local 63 assisted in the campaign.

Categories: Unions

Commonwealth Club building preserves ILWU history

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 12:00

Honoring longshore history: Bay Area Pensioner President Lawrence Thibeaux (left) and ILWU International Secretary Treasurer Willie Adams in front of the plaque commemorating the 1934 Waterfront Strike outside of the Commonwealth Club’s new headquarters.

and turbulent origins.

1934 longshore strike headquarters

The story begins almost ten years ago when the Commonwealth Club – America’s oldest public affairs forum – began searching for a site to build their new headquarters in San Francisco. They discovered a long-abandoned property with an old collapsed office building facing the Embarcadero waterfront in front and Steuart Street in back. They soon realized this run-down property served as the office for longshore workers in Local 38-79 of the International Longshoremen’s Association between 1933-1935 when they struggled to build a union that eventually became today’s ILWU. 

Preserving worker history

“Other developers might have just demolished the old building and ignored the history, but the Commonwealth Club took it seriously and worked with us,” said ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams. He explained that ILWU officers were contacted early by the Commonwealth Club and were invited to help preserve the building’s unique history. The International officers assembled a committee to assist with historical documentation for the site, consisting of ILWU staffer Robin Walker, who serves as the ILWU’s Librarian, Archivist and Education Director; ILWU historian Harvey Schwartz; and Bay Area pensioner John Fisher. The effort resulted in a productive collaboration that lasted years as the project unfolded.

Hosting public forums

The cooperation yielded results beginning in 2014 when the Commonwealth Club hosted a public forum for ILWU leaders and allies to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the 1934 Maritime Strike. Local 10 President Melvin Mackay served as Program Chair and fellow Local 10 member/Coast Benefits Specialist John Castanho offered remarks, along with comments from historians Robert Cherny and Harvey Schwartz, Labor Council Director Tim Paulson and SF Chronicle reporter Carl Nolte. A recording of the sold-out event remains accessible on the Club’s website.

 Building’s exterior preserved

Another significant gesture made by the Club to honor the building’s history came when a decision was reached – at some expense – for architect Marsha Maytum to preserve and restore the building’s original crumbling exterior façade on Steuart Street.

Plaque to tell the story

In addition, the Commonwealth Club worked with the ILWU to design a plaque installed on the building’s Stueart Street entrance to honor the events in 1934 including the Waterfront Strike and San Francisco General Strike that gave rise to today’s ILWU.

Educational video inside

Inside the buildings entrance and reception area, the Club is developing an educational video that will further showcase the building’s history involving worker struggles.

ILWU in opening ceremony

And finally, on September 12, 2017, the grand opening ceremony for the Club’s new headquarters included remarks by ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer and Port Commission President Willie Adams – along with acknowledgement of the ILWU’s historic role made by Commonwealth CEO Gloria Duffy, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Jane Kim. Also recognized and participating was ILWU Bay Area Pensioner President Lawrence Thibeaux. Adams and Thibeaux unveiled the newly installed plaque to more than 100 guests and reporters who attended the event.  “This building is where Harry Bridges and other leaders planned the 1934 waterfront strike that changed history in San Francisco and other west coast ports – and sent out shock waves that inspired workers around the world,” said Adams. He also noted that the restored building is just a few doors down from the corner of Steuart and Mission where two strikers – Howard Sperry and Nick Bordoise – were killed by police on July 5, marking a date that became known as Bloody Thursday. Bodies of the slain martyrs were taken inside the old longshore offices where they laid in repose for several days, allowing thousands of mourners to visit and honor their sacrifice.

Lectures about ILWU & 1934

After guests passed by the newly installed plaque to enter the light-filled, energy-efficient building, they were treated to food, drink and brief lectures scheduled throughout the afternoon from local historian Rick Evans, Architect Marsha Maytum and Club CEO Gloria Duffy – all of whom acknowledged the ILWU’s role in the new headquarters building.

 A growing institution

The Commonwealth Club was founded more than a century ago and now has 20,000 members who attend hundreds of speeches and debates each year. Public radio broadcasts of keynote speakers reach an even larger mass audience.  “Everyone who visits the Club’s new headquarters will also learn something about the ILWU’s past and our work that continues to this day,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath.

Categories: Unions

Commonwealth Club building preserves ILWU history

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 12:00

Honoring longshore history: Bay Area Pensioner President Lawrence Thibeaux (left) and ILWU International Secretary Treasurer Willie Adams in front of the plaque commemorating the 1934 Waterfront Strike outside of the Commonwealth Club’s new headquarters.

and turbulent origins.

1934 longshore strike headquarters

The story begins almost ten years ago when the Commonwealth Club – America’s oldest public affairs forum – began searching for a site to build their new headquarters in San Francisco. They discovered a long-abandoned property with an old collapsed office building facing the Embarcadero waterfront in front and Steuart Street in back. They soon realized this run-down property served as the office for longshore workers in Local 38-79 of the International Longshoremen’s Association between 1933-1935 when they struggled to build a union that eventually became today’s ILWU. 

Preserving worker history

“Other developers might have just demolished the old building and ignored the history, but the Commonwealth Club took it seriously and worked with us,” said ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams. He explained that ILWU officers were contacted early by the Commonwealth Club and were invited to help preserve the building’s unique history. The International officers assembled a committee to assist with historical documentation for the site, consisting of ILWU staffer Robin Walker, who serves as the ILWU’s Librarian, Archivist and Education Director; ILWU historian Harvey Schwartz; and Bay Area pensioner John Fisher. The effort resulted in a productive collaboration that lasted years as the project unfolded.

Hosting public forums

The cooperation yielded results beginning in 2014 when the Commonwealth Club hosted a public forum for ILWU leaders and allies to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the 1934 Maritime Strike. Local 10 President Melvin Mackay served as Program Chair and fellow Local 10 member/Coast Benefits Specialist John Castanho offered remarks, along with comments from historians Robert Cherny and Harvey Schwartz, Labor Council Director Tim Paulson and SF Chronicle reporter Carl Nolte. A recording of the sold-out event remains accessible on the Club’s website.

 Building’s exterior preserved

Another significant gesture made by the Club to honor the building’s history came when a decision was reached – at some expense – for architect Marsha Maytum to preserve and restore the building’s original crumbling exterior façade on Steuart Street.

Plaque to tell the story

In addition, the Commonwealth Club worked with the ILWU to design a plaque installed on the building’s Stueart Street entrance to honor the events in 1934 including the Waterfront Strike and San Francisco General Strike that gave rise to today’s ILWU.

Educational video inside

Inside the buildings entrance and reception area, the Club is developing an educational video that will further showcase the building’s history involving worker struggles.

ILWU in opening ceremony

And finally, on September 12, 2017, the grand opening ceremony for the Club’s new headquarters included remarks by ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer and Port Commission President Willie Adams – along with acknowledgement of the ILWU’s historic role made by Commonwealth CEO Gloria Duffy, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Jane Kim. Also recognized and participating was ILWU Bay Area Pensioner President Lawrence Thibeaux. Adams and Thibeaux unveiled the newly installed plaque to more than 100 guests and reporters who attended the event.  “This building is where Harry Bridges and other leaders planned the 1934 waterfront strike that changed history in San Francisco and other west coast ports – and sent out shock waves that inspired workers around the world,” said Adams. He also noted that the restored building is just a few doors down from the corner of Steuart and Mission where two strikers – Howard Sperry and Nick Bordoise – were killed by police on July 5, marking a date that became known as Bloody Thursday. Bodies of the slain martyrs were taken inside the old longshore offices where they laid in repose for several days, allowing thousands of mourners to visit and honor their sacrifice.

Lectures about ILWU & 1934

After guests passed by the newly installed plaque to enter the light-filled, energy-efficient building, they were treated to food, drink and brief lectures scheduled throughout the afternoon from local historian Rick Evans, Architect Marsha Maytum and Club CEO Gloria Duffy – all of whom acknowledged the ILWU’s role in the new headquarters building.

 A growing institution

The Commonwealth Club was founded more than a century ago and now has 20,000 members who attend hundreds of speeches and debates each year. Public radio broadcasts of keynote speakers reach an even larger mass audience.  “Everyone who visits the Club’s new headquarters will also learn something about the ILWU’s past and our work that continues to this day,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath.

Categories: Unions

IBU breaks ground on new apprenticeship training center in San Pedro

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 10:41

The new training center is names after labor attorney Victor Kaplan in honor of longtime friendship and assistance to the IBU.

The Inlandboatmen’s Union, the marine division of the ILWU, held a groundbreaking ceremony for the training hall of their newly established apprenticeship program. The IBU apprenticeship is a two-year program that will provide mariners with the skills and knowledge to safely enter into a career in the marine industry. The training center will also provide classes for experienced mariners to renew their credentials in San Pedro. This will save them the added expense of having to travel to San Diego or to the Pacific Northwest. The program will consist of 3,000 hours of on the-job training and 420 hours of supplemental instruction and training.

It started on a napkin

Apprenticeship Director
Kenyata Whitworth

“It started on a paper napkin at a lunch meeting,” said IBU Southern California Regional Director John Skow. Kenyata Whitworth, who will serve as the programs first Apprenticeship Director first suggested the idea of an apprenticeship program. “At first I was hesitant because I thought apprenticeship programs were something for the Building Trades, but I eventually came around to the idea.”  Whitworth said he was inspired to start a local maritime apprenticeship program after talking with a friend who had recently joined the industry. “It’s very difficult to gain experience in the industry,” Whitworth said. “Employers are hesitant to hire people without sea time and sending people into the industry without training is not always the best thing for them.” Whitworth said his friend, who had three small children at the time, enrolled in the Tongue Point Seamanship Academy in Oregon in order to get the training and experience he needed. The Tongue Point Academy is a Job Corp program and requires that students be at the Academy for 20 months. “He had to sacrifice time away from his family to get the training he needed. I don’t want others to be forced to make that same choice.”  “This program will be great for the IBU,” said IBU Secretary-Treasurer Terri Mast. “There’s a great need because this is an industry that is growing.” Mast said that the Southern California program can serve as a model. “Once this program gets going, we can take it to other regions and hopefully more employers will see the value in supporting this type of training program.”

Important partnerships 

John Skow, SoCal Regional Director of the IBU

A key partner for the IBU in the process was the Division of Adult and Career Education (DACE) at the Los Angeles Unified School District. Skow said their assistance was instrumental. DACE helped the IBU apply for a grant from the State of California that provided the start-up funds for the program and DACE also helped to secure classroom space at Harbor Occupational Center and to develop the program’s curriculum.  Pacific Tugboat Services (PTS), an IBU signatory, has also been at crucial partner in setting up the program. Steve Frailey from PTS spoke at the ceremony. He said he was grateful to be a part of establishing the apprenticeship program, which he said would help bring qualified mariners into the industry.

Honoring Victor Kaplan

The training hall was named in honor of Victor Kaplan, a labor attorney and long-time friend of the IBU. Kaplan, who recently turned 103, is the oldest practicing member of the California State Bar. He began his law career in 1935. At one point, he even tried, unsuccessfully, to get a job with the ILWU. Kaplan said that he was inspired by the New Deal to “take up the cause of the working man.” His commitment to helping workers was solidified by his experience working on the frontlines of the Potash strikes in Trona, CA in 1941 where he provided free legal-aid for union members while also picketing in solidarity with the workers.  Throughout his eight-decade career, Kaplan has fought for agricultural workers, miners, atomic and chemical workers and the IBU. He can often still be found at the IBU hall in San Pedro on Fridays offering legal assistance.  “Victor has been coming here every Friday for the past 9 years or so, offering his knowledge without a price tag,” Skow said. “This is why we wanted to dedicate the training hall to him, because we want to take that same model and apply that here. We want to share our knowledge with our apprentices.”

Finishing touches

The program will train 50 new apprentices for the industry over two years once the program is up and running. The buildout on the Victor Kaplan training hall is underway. The facility will include Desktop Ship Simulators, computer-bases simulations to train students in marine radar. A date has not been set for the official start of classes but Skow said he is hopeful that instruction can begin by the end of the year.

 

Categories: Unions

IBU breaks ground on new apprenticeship training center in San Pedro

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 10:41

The new training center is names after labor attorney Victor Kaplan in honor of longtime friendship and assistance to the IBU.

The Inlandboatmen’s Union, the marine division of the ILWU, held a groundbreaking ceremony for the training hall of their newly established apprenticeship program. The IBU apprenticeship is a two-year program that will provide mariners with the skills and knowledge to safely enter into a career in the marine industry. The training center will also provide classes for experienced mariners to renew their credentials in San Pedro. This will save them the added expense of having to travel to San Diego or to the Pacific Northwest. The program will consist of 3,000 hours of on the-job training and 420 hours of supplemental instruction and training.

It started on a napkin

Apprenticeship Director
Kenyata Whitworth

“It started on a paper napkin at a lunch meeting,” said IBU Southern California Regional Director John Skow. Kenyata Whitworth, who will serve as the programs first Apprenticeship Director first suggested the idea of an apprenticeship program. “At first I was hesitant because I thought apprenticeship programs were something for the Building Trades, but I eventually came around to the idea.”  Whitworth said he was inspired to start a local maritime apprenticeship program after talking with a friend who had recently joined the industry. “It’s very difficult to gain experience in the industry,” Whitworth said. “Employers are hesitant to hire people without sea time and sending people into the industry without training is not always the best thing for them.” Whitworth said his friend, who had three small children at the time, enrolled in the Tongue Point Seamanship Academy in Oregon in order to get the training and experience he needed. The Tongue Point Academy is a Job Corp program and requires that students be at the Academy for 20 months. “He had to sacrifice time away from his family to get the training he needed. I don’t want others to be forced to make that same choice.”  “This program will be great for the IBU,” said IBU Secretary-Treasurer Terri Mast. “There’s a great need because this is an industry that is growing.” Mast said that the Southern California program can serve as a model. “Once this program gets going, we can take it to other regions and hopefully more employers will see the value in supporting this type of training program.”

Important partnerships 

John Skow, SoCal Regional Director of the IBU

A key partner for the IBU in the process was the Division of Adult and Career Education (DACE) at the Los Angeles Unified School District. Skow said their assistance was instrumental. DACE helped the IBU apply for a grant from the State of California that provided the start-up funds for the program and DACE also helped to secure classroom space at Harbor Occupational Center and to develop the program’s curriculum.  Pacific Tugboat Services (PTS), an IBU signatory, has also been at crucial partner in setting up the program. Steve Frailey from PTS spoke at the ceremony. He said he was grateful to be a part of establishing the apprenticeship program, which he said would help bring qualified mariners into the industry.

Honoring Victor Kaplan

The training hall was named in honor of Victor Kaplan, a labor attorney and long-time friend of the IBU. Kaplan, who recently turned 103, is the oldest practicing member of the California State Bar. He began his law career in 1935. At one point, he even tried, unsuccessfully, to get a job with the ILWU. Kaplan said that he was inspired by the New Deal to “take up the cause of the working man.” His commitment to helping workers was solidified by his experience working on the frontlines of the Potash strikes in Trona, CA in 1941 where he provided free legal-aid for union members while also picketing in solidarity with the workers.  Throughout his eight-decade career, Kaplan has fought for agricultural workers, miners, atomic and chemical workers and the IBU. He can often still be found at the IBU hall in San Pedro on Fridays offering legal assistance.  “Victor has been coming here every Friday for the past 9 years or so, offering his knowledge without a price tag,” Skow said. “This is why we wanted to dedicate the training hall to him, because we want to take that same model and apply that here. We want to share our knowledge with our apprentices.”

Finishing touches

The program will train 50 new apprentices for the industry over two years once the program is up and running. The buildout on the Victor Kaplan training hall is underway. The facility will include Desktop Ship Simulators, computer-bases simulations to train students in marine radar. A date has not been set for the official start of classes but Skow said he is hopeful that instruction can begin by the end of the year.

 

Categories: Unions

Pacific Coast Pensioners Celebrate 50th Anniversary

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 16:05

The 50th Annual Convention of the ILWU’s Pacific Coast Pensioners Association (PCPA) was held September 18-20 in Long Beach.

The 50th Annual Convention of the ILWU’s Pacific Coast Pensioners Association (PCPA) was held September 18-20 in Long Beach, California where delegates marked their important organizational milestone. The convention was hosted by the Southern California Pensioners.

Golden Anniversary

“This year’s event is extra-special because it marks our ‘Golden Anniversary’ in honor of the 1967 founding of our group with help from ILWU President Harry Bridges, who encouraged us to come together, grow and become a vital part of the ILWU, which we continue to do,” said PCPA President Greg Mitre.

Record Attendance

The Southern California Pensioners Group rolled out the red carpet for all the delegates, officials and special guests who attended the event. Record-breaking attendance of over 250 people were packed into 4 days of events that began with a spirited PCPA Executive Board meeting on Sunday where issues were discussed and debated in front of a large group of observers.

Bags full of history

Sunday was also check-in day when delegates and guests first met the large team of volunteers composed of Convention Committee members who helped everyone register and receive their official 50th Anniversary Convention bag filled full of goodies. Included were boxes of See’s candy (union-made), a book of remarkable poems written by Jerry Brady, the Poet Laureate of the ILWU Pensioners. Also included was a beautiful hardcover book: “The Port of Los Angeles, An Illustrated History from 1850 to 1945,” which was provided courtesy of the Port of Los Angeles.

Delegates and members meet

A reception was sponsored by Local 13 members on Sunday evening to welcome delegates, allow them to mingle with old friends and meet with active members and officers, including Local President Mark Mendoza and Vice President Gary Hererra. The event was held on the beautiful grounds of the Maya Hotel in Long Beach, which served as convention headquarters for the next four days. Drinks were served along with countless appetizers and a popular taco bar. Members of the ILWU Auxiliary hosted a Hospitality Room that became “the place to be and be seen” during the welcome reception and it remained open during the following four days, providing delegates and guests with complimentary beverages, fresh fruit, snacks and a place to meet, relax, and catch-up with old friends.

Opening with three anthems

Monday marked the official opening of the Convention, beginning with the National Anthems of the U.S., Canada and Panama. Words for each anthem were displayed on large screens which encouraged everyone to join in and sing words that were previously unknown to many in the audience.

Honoring the departed

A somber moment of silence followed the anthems, in honor of Pensioners who had passed-on since the last convention. Included was a special tribute to George Cobbs Jr., well-known and much-loved pensioner from the S.F. Bay area who helped countless ILWU members win the struggles against drug and alcohol addiction during his lifetime. A complete list of the dozens more pensioners who were honored by delegates after passing during the previous year are contained in the Convention’s official minutes and record.

 Officials in attendance

An introduction of ILWU officials and special guests who attended the convention was the next order of business. ILWU International President Bob McEllrath, Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams, Vice President Ray Familathe were all introduced, along with Coast Committeemen Cam Williams and Frank Ponce De Leon. Also attending were a dozen local union presidents from up and down the coast, each of whom was introduced, welcomed and invited to deliver brief remarks during the proceedings.

Overview of the Port

The Convention was held along the waterfront of America’s largest Port complex that encompasses both the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach, which are administered under separate political jurisdictions. Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka delivered the convention’s first major address with opening remarks and a power point presentation that emphasized growing consolidation within the global shipping industry that now has fewer but more powerful multinational players.

Time to learn and enjoy

Monday afternoon was dedicated to some fun and an educational tour. A fleet of modern buses took delegates on an informative Labor History tour with guides on each bus who noted points of interest, emphasizing dates of important longshore and other labor struggles. The final stop included a tour of Local 13’s new dispatch hall that is expected to open soon.

Catalina King tour

The highlight on Monday was a memorable cruise, dinner, and dance aboard the historic Catalina King vessel that accommodated 300 guests who were wined and dined while enjoying a fascinating narrated tour of both the ports of Los Angeles & Long Beach. Providing facts and details about the Port of Long Beach was PCPA’s own President, Greg Mitre, who at one time used to work as a Captain of the Catalina King. Details about the Port of Los Angeles were provided by Port Director Gene Seroka, who was onboard to give an impressive account of the Port’s operations. Dinner served onboard during the tour featured a fabulous BBQ selection of ribs, chicken and brisket, provided by retired ILWU crane operator Marvin Hardley & his amazing family. Live music and dancing moved many onto the floor thanks to the popular local band, “Time Machine,” that performed hits until the Catalina King returned to her berth in Long Beach.

International guests

Panama Solidarity: Panama Canal Pilots President Londor Rankin gave a
detailed update on the ILWU’s Panama Canal Division.

Tuesday provided delegates a chance to hear from distinguished guests who travelled thousands of miles to attend, beginning with Londor Rankin, President of the Panama Canal Pilots Union. Rankin was responsible for initiating contact many years ago with Vice President Familathe that eventually led to the formation of the ILWU’s Panama Canal Division. Captain Rankin, gave a detailed report regarding the newly-expanded canal that recently opened – along with some important labor and safety struggles between workers and their employers in the Panama Canal Authority (ACP). Rankin delivered good news about growth in the Panama Canal Division, thanks to a new group of stevedores who are ready to affiliate. Another very interesting report was presented by Raul Feuillet, who is also a Panama Canal pilot and President of the Panama Canal Pilots Credit Union. He explained how important the credit union has become to provide retirement savings to retirees there who would otherwise receive only modest Social Security payments. Following the Panama reports, brothers and  sisters from Canada and Alaska were welcomed and presented reports. Canadian pensioners continue to have a strong program and good participation. The Alaska report was focused on the dramatic growth and organizing that has taken place during the past year, making them now the fastest growing region of ILWU pensioners.

Overview from “down under”

Following lunch, President Barney Sanders of the Australian pensioners delivered a rousing speech that had many listening closely to better appreciate his sharp wit, charming accent and unusual Aussie expressions. As President of the Maritime Union of Australia Veterans (the Australian term for “Pensioners”), Sanders also travelled thousands of miles from his home in Brisbane to deliver a blistering account of labor struggles in Australian ports involving automation, mass lay-offs and firings, along with employer demands to “casualize” the maritime workforce. He noted that workers down under are facing the same ordeals as workers elsewhere, because the same global employers are increasingly controlling operations in ports around the world. He pointed to the current effort by big employers in Australia to eliminate local workers from staffing coastal vessels, similar to efforts underway in the U.S. to eliminate the Jones Act, which requires U.S. vessels serving domestic ports to hire U.S. crews.

Awards Tuesday

Stranahan Award: Southern California
Pensioner Herman Moreno was the recipient of this year’s Jesse and Lois Stranahan Award, which is given to an individual who represents the values of the ILWU and goes beyond the call of duty.

Tuesday night featured a big awards banquet. After a delicious dinner, several awards were presented, beginning with Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who received the “friendly politician” award. Hahn has been a great friend of the ILWU for many decades, beginning with her service as a Los Angeles City Council member, then U.S. Congresswoman, and now County Supervisor. George Cobbs Jr., was honored posthumously with a special award for his many decades of service to the ILWU, particularly his leadership in the Drug & Alcohol Recovery Program. Next up was the Jesse and Lois Stranahan Award, which is given to an individual who represents the values of the ILWU and goes beyond the call of duty. Southern California Pensioner Herman Moreno received this year’s award from PCPA President Greg Mitre who fought back tears as he explained how Herman has been a lifelong mentor to him and many others.

Special honors

Honoring the President: ILWU International President Robert McEllrath (right) was given a special award from the convention by PCPA President Greg Mitre (center). The award recognized McEllrath for his dedication and service to the ILWU. Southern California Pensioner and PCPA Poet Laureate, Jerry Brady, (left) composed an epic poem for McEllrath.

The last award of the evening was presented to International President Bob McEllrath, who was honored for his years of dedication and service to the ILWU. McEllrath was first presented with an epic poem composed by the ILWU Pensioner Poet Laureate, Jerry Brady, then thanked repeatedly for serving in so many different capacities over the years, including Coast Committeeman, International Vice President, and his current post as International President. At the previous ILWU Convention, McEllrath announced he would not seek another term and that he was looking forward to becoming a pensioner soon – reminding the Award Banquet audience that he will soon be joining their ranks. After receiving more thanks and praise from the pensioners for his  lifetimes of service and support,  McEllrath was presented with a special gift that he is expected to utilize during his upcoming retirement.

During his earlier speech, McEllrath said: “This is the last time I’ll be speaking to you as your International President – and the next time I’m here, it will be as Big Bob the pensioner.” McEllrath said the Pensioners remain a critical part of the union, and noted, “We’re all still in the struggle and when a union brother needs help, we’ll be there.” Conclusion, resolutions & Portland Wednesday marked the culmination of the Convention, including the election of PCPA officers. Elected to serve without objection by acclimation were President Greg Mitre, Vice President Lawrence Thibeaux, Recording Secretary Kenzie Mullen and Treasurer Christine Gordon.  Several resolutions were considered with all passing unanimously on Tuesday:

  • Support for new “Medicare for All” legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, California Senator Kamala Harris, and others;
  • Support for Alaska Pensioners including a visit by Vice President Lawrence Thibeaux to attend their upcoming convention on October 4;
  • A letter urging the Coast Committee to continue doing everything possible to implement improve-ments for pension benefits to surviving spouses;
  • Support for a documentary film effort to interview 50 waterfront families living and working in LA and Long Beach;
  • Opposition to President Trump’s racist remarks and hate groups he has encouraged;
  • Directing the PCPA to implement a 2009 resolution to create an Education Committee.

Prints of a group photo were distributed on Wednesday morning to each delegate, thanks to efforts on the previous day by Local 13 member Robin Doyno. President Mitre thanked all who attended the event and brought the entire committee of volunteers up on stage, and they received a rousing round of applause. After announcing the next ILWU-PCPA Convention will be held in Portland, Oregon in September of 2018, delegates adjourned and headed home.

Categories: Unions

Pacific Coast Pensioners Celebrate 50th Anniversary

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 16:05

The 50th Annual Convention of the ILWU’s Pacific Coast Pensioners Association (PCPA) was held September 18-20 in Long Beach.

The 50th Annual Convention of the ILWU’s Pacific Coast Pensioners Association (PCPA) was held September 18-20 in Long Beach, California where delegates marked their important organizational milestone. The convention was hosted by the Southern California Pensioners.

Golden Anniversary

“This year’s event is extra-special because it marks our ‘Golden Anniversary’ in honor of the 1967 founding of our group with help from ILWU President Harry Bridges, who encouraged us to come together, grow and become a vital part of the ILWU, which we continue to do,” said PCPA President Greg Mitre.

Record Attendance

The Southern California Pensioners Group rolled out the red carpet for all the delegates, officials and special guests who attended the event. Record-breaking attendance of over 250 people were packed into 4 days of events that began with a spirited PCPA Executive Board meeting on Sunday where issues were discussed and debated in front of a large group of observers.

Bags full of history

Sunday was also check-in day when delegates and guests first met the large team of volunteers composed of Convention Committee members who helped everyone register and receive their official 50th Anniversary Convention bag filled full of goodies. Included were boxes of See’s candy (union-made), a book of remarkable poems written by Jerry Brady, the Poet Laureate of the ILWU Pensioners. Also included was a beautiful hardcover book: “The Port of Los Angeles, An Illustrated History from 1850 to 1945,” which was provided courtesy of the Port of Los Angeles.

Delegates and members meet

A reception was sponsored by Local 13 members on Sunday evening to welcome delegates, allow them to mingle with old friends and meet with active members and officers, including Local President Mark Mendoza and Vice President Gary Hererra. The event was held on the beautiful grounds of the Maya Hotel in Long Beach, which served as convention headquarters for the next four days. Drinks were served along with countless appetizers and a popular taco bar. Members of the ILWU Auxiliary hosted a Hospitality Room that became “the place to be and be seen” during the welcome reception and it remained open during the following four days, providing delegates and guests with complimentary beverages, fresh fruit, snacks and a place to meet, relax, and catch-up with old friends.

Opening with three anthems

Monday marked the official opening of the Convention, beginning with the National Anthems of the U.S., Canada and Panama. Words for each anthem were displayed on large screens which encouraged everyone to join in and sing words that were previously unknown to many in the audience.

Honoring the departed

A somber moment of silence followed the anthems, in honor of Pensioners who had passed-on since the last convention. Included was a special tribute to George Cobbs Jr., well-known and much-loved pensioner from the S.F. Bay area who helped countless ILWU members win the struggles against drug and alcohol addiction during his lifetime. A complete list of the dozens more pensioners who were honored by delegates after passing during the previous year are contained in the Convention’s official minutes and record.

 Officials in attendance

An introduction of ILWU officials and special guests who attended the convention was the next order of business. ILWU International President Bob McEllrath, Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams, Vice President Ray Familathe were all introduced, along with Coast Committeemen Cam Williams and Frank Ponce De Leon. Also attending were a dozen local union presidents from up and down the coast, each of whom was introduced, welcomed and invited to deliver brief remarks during the proceedings.

Overview of the Port

The Convention was held along the waterfront of America’s largest Port complex that encompasses both the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach, which are administered under separate political jurisdictions. Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka delivered the convention’s first major address with opening remarks and a power point presentation that emphasized growing consolidation within the global shipping industry that now has fewer but more powerful multinational players.

Time to learn and enjoy

Monday afternoon was dedicated to some fun and an educational tour. A fleet of modern buses took delegates on an informative Labor History tour with guides on each bus who noted points of interest, emphasizing dates of important longshore and other labor struggles. The final stop included a tour of Local 13’s new dispatch hall that is expected to open soon.

Catalina King tour

The highlight on Monday was a memorable cruise, dinner, and dance aboard the historic Catalina King vessel that accommodated 300 guests who were wined and dined while enjoying a fascinating narrated tour of both the ports of Los Angeles & Long Beach. Providing facts and details about the Port of Long Beach was PCPA’s own President, Greg Mitre, who at one time used to work as a Captain of the Catalina King. Details about the Port of Los Angeles were provided by Port Director Gene Seroka, who was onboard to give an impressive account of the Port’s operations. Dinner served onboard during the tour featured a fabulous BBQ selection of ribs, chicken and brisket, provided by retired ILWU crane operator Marvin Hardley & his amazing family. Live music and dancing moved many onto the floor thanks to the popular local band, “Time Machine,” that performed hits until the Catalina King returned to her berth in Long Beach.

International guests

Panama Solidarity: Panama Canal Pilots President Londor Rankin gave a
detailed update on the ILWU’s Panama Canal Division.

Tuesday provided delegates a chance to hear from distinguished guests who travelled thousands of miles to attend, beginning with Londor Rankin, President of the Panama Canal Pilots Union. Rankin was responsible for initiating contact many years ago with Vice President Familathe that eventually led to the formation of the ILWU’s Panama Canal Division. Captain Rankin, gave a detailed report regarding the newly-expanded canal that recently opened – along with some important labor and safety struggles between workers and their employers in the Panama Canal Authority (ACP). Rankin delivered good news about growth in the Panama Canal Division, thanks to a new group of stevedores who are ready to affiliate. Another very interesting report was presented by Raul Feuillet, who is also a Panama Canal pilot and President of the Panama Canal Pilots Credit Union. He explained how important the credit union has become to provide retirement savings to retirees there who would otherwise receive only modest Social Security payments. Following the Panama reports, brothers and  sisters from Canada and Alaska were welcomed and presented reports. Canadian pensioners continue to have a strong program and good participation. The Alaska report was focused on the dramatic growth and organizing that has taken place during the past year, making them now the fastest growing region of ILWU pensioners.

Overview from “down under”

Following lunch, President Barney Sanders of the Australian pensioners delivered a rousing speech that had many listening closely to better appreciate his sharp wit, charming accent and unusual Aussie expressions. As President of the Maritime Union of Australia Veterans (the Australian term for “Pensioners”), Sanders also travelled thousands of miles from his home in Brisbane to deliver a blistering account of labor struggles in Australian ports involving automation, mass lay-offs and firings, along with employer demands to “casualize” the maritime workforce. He noted that workers down under are facing the same ordeals as workers elsewhere, because the same global employers are increasingly controlling operations in ports around the world. He pointed to the current effort by big employers in Australia to eliminate local workers from staffing coastal vessels, similar to efforts underway in the U.S. to eliminate the Jones Act, which requires U.S. vessels serving domestic ports to hire U.S. crews.

Awards Tuesday

Stranahan Award: Southern California
Pensioner Herman Moreno was the recipient of this year’s Jesse and Lois Stranahan Award, which is given to an individual who represents the values of the ILWU and goes beyond the call of duty.

Tuesday night featured a big awards banquet. After a delicious dinner, several awards were presented, beginning with Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who received the “friendly politician” award. Hahn has been a great friend of the ILWU for many decades, beginning with her service as a Los Angeles City Council member, then U.S. Congresswoman, and now County Supervisor. George Cobbs Jr., was honored posthumously with a special award for his many decades of service to the ILWU, particularly his leadership in the Drug & Alcohol Recovery Program. Next up was the Jesse and Lois Stranahan Award, which is given to an individual who represents the values of the ILWU and goes beyond the call of duty. Southern California Pensioner Herman Moreno received this year’s award from PCPA President Greg Mitre who fought back tears as he explained how Herman has been a lifelong mentor to him and many others.

Special honors

Honoring the President: ILWU International President Robert McEllrath (right) was given a special award from the convention by PCPA President Greg Mitre (center). The award recognized McEllrath for his dedication and service to the ILWU. Southern California Pensioner and PCPA Poet Laureate, Jerry Brady, (left) composed an epic poem for McEllrath.

The last award of the evening was presented to International President Bob McEllrath, who was honored for his years of dedication and service to the ILWU. McEllrath was first presented with an epic poem composed by the ILWU Pensioner Poet Laureate, Jerry Brady, then thanked repeatedly for serving in so many different capacities over the years, including Coast Committeeman, International Vice President, and his current post as International President. At the previous ILWU Convention, McEllrath announced he would not seek another term and that he was looking forward to becoming a pensioner soon – reminding the Award Banquet audience that he will soon be joining their ranks. After receiving more thanks and praise from the pensioners for his  lifetimes of service and support,  McEllrath was presented with a special gift that he is expected to utilize during his upcoming retirement.

During his earlier speech, McEllrath said: “This is the last time I’ll be speaking to you as your International President – and the next time I’m here, it will be as Big Bob the pensioner.” McEllrath said the Pensioners remain a critical part of the union, and noted, “We’re all still in the struggle and when a union brother needs help, we’ll be there.” Conclusion, resolutions & Portland Wednesday marked the culmination of the Convention, including the election of PCPA officers. Elected to serve without objection by acclimation were President Greg Mitre, Vice President Lawrence Thibeaux, Recording Secretary Kenzie Mullen and Treasurer Christine Gordon.  Several resolutions were considered with all passing unanimously on Tuesday:

  • Support for new “Medicare for All” legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, California Senator Kamala Harris, and others;
  • Support for Alaska Pensioners including a visit by Vice President Lawrence Thibeaux to attend their upcoming convention on October 4;
  • A letter urging the Coast Committee to continue doing everything possible to implement improve-ments for pension benefits to surviving spouses;
  • Support for a documentary film effort to interview 50 waterfront families living and working in LA and Long Beach;
  • Opposition to President Trump’s racist remarks and hate groups he has encouraged;
  • Directing the PCPA to implement a 2009 resolution to create an Education Committee.

Prints of a group photo were distributed on Wednesday morning to each delegate, thanks to efforts on the previous day by Local 13 member Robin Doyno. President Mitre thanked all who attended the event and brought the entire committee of volunteers up on stage, and they received a rousing round of applause. After announcing the next ILWU-PCPA Convention will be held in Portland, Oregon in September of 2018, delegates adjourned and headed home.

Categories: Unions

Bay Area ILWU locals help North Bay fire victims

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 10:02

In order to provide support and relief to the many fire victims in the North Bay, all ILWU Bay Area locals are collecting donations at the ILWU Dispatch hall at 400 North Point St in San Francisco. SSA Matson has generously donated a 40 ft. container for use in this relief project. It will be delivered the week of Oct 16th.

Please give what you can to help provide support and comfort to those who have lost so much. Essential supplies include clothes, blankets, new pillows, new underwear, packaged prepared foods, diapers, baby food and water.

Categories: Unions

Bay Area ILWU locals help North Bay fire victims

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 10:02

In order to provide support and relief to the many fire victims in the North Bay, all ILWU Bay Area locals are collecting donations at the ILWU Dispatch hall at 400 North Point St in San Francisco. SSA Matson has generously donated a 40 ft. container for use in this relief project. It will be delivered the week of Oct 16th.

Please give what you can to help provide support and comfort to those who have lost so much. Essential supplies include clothes, blankets, new pillows, new underwear, packaged prepared foods, diapers, baby food and water.

Categories: Unions

Unions cheer as Uber is kicked-out of London

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 09:38

Uber – the anti-union, “disruptive” high-tech darling of venture capitalists – got a bloody nose in London late September from public regulators who refused to issue the company a license and declared them “not fit and proper.”  This wasn’t the first time Uber has clashed with governments in cities including Austin, Texas, Paris and Rio de Janeiro where there have been bitter conflicts. But London is Western Europe’s largest city, the region’s techhub and the biggest body so far to “dis” the “disruptive” technology giant.

Unions speak out

London’s rejection followed militant protests by taxi drivers in Paris, Berlin and Madrid. The decision was celebrated by local and international labor unions because Uber has compiled such a long record of worker and public criticism in such a short period of time, including allegations that workers were cheated, passengers deceived and labor standards lowered for taxi drivers.

Plenty of problems

Uber has been accused and sued for lying and concealing details about accident insurance and driver background checks. Drivers say the company cheated them out of fair pay, tips, benefits and employee status. Pedestrians and bicycle riders have complained that city streets are much more dangerous. San Francisco now has 45,000 new “ride-sharing” drivers on city streets, and they account for a majority of some traffic violations, according to SF police testimony in late September. “Walking on workers for profit” Paddy Crumlin, head of the Maritime Union of Australia’s (MUA) and President of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), a global body that includes the ILWU, praised London’s decision for getting tougher with Uber.  “This is another nail in the coffin for a business model that walks all over the rights of workers and the safety of passengers in the name of profits. We are not opposed to new technology in transport, but we are opposed to a return to Victorian working conditions. Workers today need good jobs and strong regulation to keep corporate greed in check,” said Crumlin.

Business model based on subsidy

Crumlin’s critical stance is shared by business analysts who have questioned Uber’s behavior in the pages of Fortune, Forbes, the Washington Post and other outlets. They wonder about the company’s dependence on massive venture capital funding – $15 billion since 2010 – that sustains Uber’s massive losses in order to achieve their goal of dominating the marketplace for ridesharing today, and self-driving cars in the future. Critics say Uber has operated at a loss for eight years since it started, and may continue losing money for years to come. The company reported a loss of $708 million in the first quarter of 2016 and lost $991 the quarter before. But the losses are all part of a business model that subsidizes driver pay, lures riders with unsustainably low rates, and manipulates laws here and abroad to avoid regulations and taxes. Uber has ignored local ordinances in Virginia, Texas and other states where local governments tried to regulate Uber and other ride-sharing companies. Taxpayers foot the bill Uber’s funding doesn’t just come from private venture capital. Taxpayers in San Francisco and other locations are providing Uber and other hi-tech giants with big tax breaks. Two years ago in 2015, the city Controller estimated that Uber and other hi-tech companies had received $34 million in tax breaks that year, and the amount is probably higher today. Those tax breaks are going to companies that claim to be worth billions; Uber’s valuation alone is estimated at $68 billion, and some believe it will soon be $100 billion. Others say Uber is worth far less, but as a private company without public shares and public documents, an accurate valuation is hard to determine.

 Tax avoidance

To qualify for special tax breaks, Uber established their headquarters building on San Francisco’s Market Street, a few blocks from the ILWU International offices. Now the company has added a new headquarters building in the Netherlands, believed to be part of a massive tax-avoidance scheme, similar to ones used by Apple, General Electric and other corporations to avoid paying billions in U.S. taxes. Ironically, the Netherland is now in the process of banning Uber from operating their car-sharing platform there, one of a half-dozen nations that are taking similar action.

Prices too good to be true

A recent ten-mile trip in the Bay Area may illustrate why the economics of ride-sharing may be “too-good-to-be-true.” The rider paid Uber $12.00 for a trek from Marin County across the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco. The company took 20% of the total, leaving the driver with about $9.60. But that was before the driver had to pay a $6.00 bridge toll, leaving just $3.60 to cover his wage plus the cost of gas, oil, maintenance and depreciation on an expensive automobile. Other drivers in different circumstances may do better, but this example illustrates why the system’s “success” deserves closer scrutiny. In 2015, one transportation analyst used Uber’s own financial documents to conclude that the company was charging only 41% of what their ride service actually costs to operate.

Rates will eventually rise

Analysts and Uber officials admit the company will eventually be raising rates, but probably not until they eliminate the competition and achieve their goal of market domination. One estimate last year put Uber’s market share at 78%, which seems impressive, but the company appears determined to capture an even larger share by quashing Lyft and other competitors.

 Predatory behavior?

Similar business practices were once considered vile, predatory and sometimes illegal. During the turn of the 19th Century, workers and farmers organized against monopolies or “trusts” formed by oil, steel, railroad and grain companies that killed competitors and fixed prices. The result was social unrest, formation of worker political parties and anti-trust legislation. Anger against big banks and Wall Street rose again during the Great Depression in the 1930’s, sparking a new round of political action, mass organizing of workers by the ILWU and other unions, and more laws to control corporations and investors. Enforcement of these laws weakened after the crisis passed and corporate power grew in Washington. In recent decades, politicians have grown increasingly fond of Wall Street investors and high-tech companies in Silicon Valley. Trump’s new push to lower taxes for these and other corporations, along with super-rich individuals, is a new indicator of how far America has gone down that road.

Amazon’s similar strategy

Uber isn’t the only start-up that’s using massive funding from venture capitalists to incur losses while stomping out the competition. Amazon seeks to dominate retail and delivery markets. But unlike Uber, Amazon directly employs about 180,000 workers in the U.S. with many of them receiving benefits. Another 100,000 will be hired during the coming year, but even when that total hits 280,000 it will still be a small fraction of Walmart’s 1.5 million employees. Like Uber, Amazon also uses vast numbers of “independent contractors” to deliver products. In this way, both Uber and Amazon are cheating workers out of Social Security, disability, benefits or other payroll taxes for their allegedly “independent” workers. Both companies also share an appetite for soliciting hefty taxpayer subsidies as incentives to locate new facilities. Amazon is now soliciting bids to locate a new headquarters building somewhere in the U.S. that will employ thousands of workers; the highest bidder is expected to pay billions in public subsidies to win the contest.

Traditional organizing is tougher

Uber’s “independent contractor” model means organizing traditional unions is much more challenging. Ironically, taxi-drivers who face the same legal obstacles as independent contractors, were among the first to win improvements through organizing a “union” like New York City’s Taxi Workers Alliance. Uber workers have used a similar approach to successfully organize legal and political actions that have yielded some concessions and financial settlements. With anti-union courts now weakening labor laws covering traditional, organizing these “advocacy and action” groups may become more common and necessary. Unions that support and show solidarity to these non-traditional efforts may find themselves in good company with new friends, allies and some public support.

Privatization wedge

Another reason for all workers – not just taxi drivers – to be concerned about Uber, Lyft and similar examples of non-union “disruptive” hi-tech companies, is that they are now actively soliciting business from public transit systems, many operated by union members. The city of Altamonte Springs, Florida near Orlando recently decided to subsidize the cost of Uber rides for residents instead of offering public transit. Lyft says they’re already negotiating similar deals with unnamed “large city transit systems.” A city official at Altamonte Springs says his city allocated $500,000 in Uber ride subsidies for the coming year, that was motivated in part from the failure by local governments to provide decent public transit options for residents in the region. Before settling on Uber, the city considered operating a public van or small bus to shuttle residents, but the estimate of $1.5 million for that service made the $500,000 subsidy to Uber seem like a bargain. Gouged by the gig economy

“All union members, whether they’re in the public or private sector, need to be aware of these non-union ‘gig-economy’ companies who make claims that are “too-good-to-be-true,’” said the ILWU’s Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe. “At the same time, we have to help the workers at these new companies learn about their rights and support their efforts to organize for improvements. Our problem isn’t with the drivers; it’s with the owners and investors who are trying to profit on the backs of others.”

 

Categories: Unions

Unions cheer as Uber is kicked-out of London

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 09:38

Uber – the anti-union, “disruptive” high-tech darling of venture capitalists – got a bloody nose in London late September from public regulators who refused to issue the company a license and declared them “not fit and proper.”  This wasn’t the first time Uber has clashed with governments in cities including Austin, Texas, Paris and Rio de Janeiro where there have been bitter conflicts. But London is Western Europe’s largest city, the region’s techhub and the biggest body so far to “dis” the “disruptive” technology giant.

Unions speak out

London’s rejection followed militant protests by taxi drivers in Paris, Berlin and Madrid. The decision was celebrated by local and international labor unions because Uber has compiled such a long record of worker and public criticism in such a short period of time, including allegations that workers were cheated, passengers deceived and labor standards lowered for taxi drivers.

Plenty of problems

Uber has been accused and sued for lying and concealing details about accident insurance and driver background checks. Drivers say the company cheated them out of fair pay, tips, benefits and employee status. Pedestrians and bicycle riders have complained that city streets are much more dangerous. San Francisco now has 45,000 new “ride-sharing” drivers on city streets, and they account for a majority of some traffic violations, according to SF police testimony in late September. “Walking on workers for profit” Paddy Crumlin, head of the Maritime Union of Australia’s (MUA) and President of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), a global body that includes the ILWU, praised London’s decision for getting tougher with Uber.  “This is another nail in the coffin for a business model that walks all over the rights of workers and the safety of passengers in the name of profits. We are not opposed to new technology in transport, but we are opposed to a return to Victorian working conditions. Workers today need good jobs and strong regulation to keep corporate greed in check,” said Crumlin.

Business model based on subsidy

Crumlin’s critical stance is shared by business analysts who have questioned Uber’s behavior in the pages of Fortune, Forbes, the Washington Post and other outlets. They wonder about the company’s dependence on massive venture capital funding – $15 billion since 2010 – that sustains Uber’s massive losses in order to achieve their goal of dominating the marketplace for ridesharing today, and self-driving cars in the future. Critics say Uber has operated at a loss for eight years since it started, and may continue losing money for years to come. The company reported a loss of $708 million in the first quarter of 2016 and lost $991 the quarter before. But the losses are all part of a business model that subsidizes driver pay, lures riders with unsustainably low rates, and manipulates laws here and abroad to avoid regulations and taxes. Uber has ignored local ordinances in Virginia, Texas and other states where local governments tried to regulate Uber and other ride-sharing companies. Taxpayers foot the bill Uber’s funding doesn’t just come from private venture capital. Taxpayers in San Francisco and other locations are providing Uber and other hi-tech giants with big tax breaks. Two years ago in 2015, the city Controller estimated that Uber and other hi-tech companies had received $34 million in tax breaks that year, and the amount is probably higher today. Those tax breaks are going to companies that claim to be worth billions; Uber’s valuation alone is estimated at $68 billion, and some believe it will soon be $100 billion. Others say Uber is worth far less, but as a private company without public shares and public documents, an accurate valuation is hard to determine.

 Tax avoidance

To qualify for special tax breaks, Uber established their headquarters building on San Francisco’s Market Street, a few blocks from the ILWU International offices. Now the company has added a new headquarters building in the Netherlands, believed to be part of a massive tax-avoidance scheme, similar to ones used by Apple, General Electric and other corporations to avoid paying billions in U.S. taxes. Ironically, the Netherland is now in the process of banning Uber from operating their car-sharing platform there, one of a half-dozen nations that are taking similar action.

Prices too good to be true

A recent ten-mile trip in the Bay Area may illustrate why the economics of ride-sharing may be “too-good-to-be-true.” The rider paid Uber $12.00 for a trek from Marin County across the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco. The company took 20% of the total, leaving the driver with about $9.60. But that was before the driver had to pay a $6.00 bridge toll, leaving just $3.60 to cover his wage plus the cost of gas, oil, maintenance and depreciation on an expensive automobile. Other drivers in different circumstances may do better, but this example illustrates why the system’s “success” deserves closer scrutiny. In 2015, one transportation analyst used Uber’s own financial documents to conclude that the company was charging only 41% of what their ride service actually costs to operate.

Rates will eventually rise

Analysts and Uber officials admit the company will eventually be raising rates, but probably not until they eliminate the competition and achieve their goal of market domination. One estimate last year put Uber’s market share at 78%, which seems impressive, but the company appears determined to capture an even larger share by quashing Lyft and other competitors.

 Predatory behavior?

Similar business practices were once considered vile, predatory and sometimes illegal. During the turn of the 19th Century, workers and farmers organized against monopolies or “trusts” formed by oil, steel, railroad and grain companies that killed competitors and fixed prices. The result was social unrest, formation of worker political parties and anti-trust legislation. Anger against big banks and Wall Street rose again during the Great Depression in the 1930’s, sparking a new round of political action, mass organizing of workers by the ILWU and other unions, and more laws to control corporations and investors. Enforcement of these laws weakened after the crisis passed and corporate power grew in Washington. In recent decades, politicians have grown increasingly fond of Wall Street investors and high-tech companies in Silicon Valley. Trump’s new push to lower taxes for these and other corporations, along with super-rich individuals, is a new indicator of how far America has gone down that road.

Amazon’s similar strategy

Uber isn’t the only start-up that’s using massive funding from venture capitalists to incur losses while stomping out the competition. Amazon seeks to dominate retail and delivery markets. But unlike Uber, Amazon directly employs about 180,000 workers in the U.S. with many of them receiving benefits. Another 100,000 will be hired during the coming year, but even when that total hits 280,000 it will still be a small fraction of Walmart’s 1.5 million employees. Like Uber, Amazon also uses vast numbers of “independent contractors” to deliver products. In this way, both Uber and Amazon are cheating workers out of Social Security, disability, benefits or other payroll taxes for their allegedly “independent” workers. Both companies also share an appetite for soliciting hefty taxpayer subsidies as incentives to locate new facilities. Amazon is now soliciting bids to locate a new headquarters building somewhere in the U.S. that will employ thousands of workers; the highest bidder is expected to pay billions in public subsidies to win the contest.

Traditional organizing is tougher

Uber’s “independent contractor” model means organizing traditional unions is much more challenging. Ironically, taxi-drivers who face the same legal obstacles as independent contractors, were among the first to win improvements through organizing a “union” like New York City’s Taxi Workers Alliance. Uber workers have used a similar approach to successfully organize legal and political actions that have yielded some concessions and financial settlements. With anti-union courts now weakening labor laws covering traditional, organizing these “advocacy and action” groups may become more common and necessary. Unions that support and show solidarity to these non-traditional efforts may find themselves in good company with new friends, allies and some public support.

Privatization wedge

Another reason for all workers – not just taxi drivers – to be concerned about Uber, Lyft and similar examples of non-union “disruptive” hi-tech companies, is that they are now actively soliciting business from public transit systems, many operated by union members. The city of Altamonte Springs, Florida near Orlando recently decided to subsidize the cost of Uber rides for residents instead of offering public transit. Lyft says they’re already negotiating similar deals with unnamed “large city transit systems.” A city official at Altamonte Springs says his city allocated $500,000 in Uber ride subsidies for the coming year, that was motivated in part from the failure by local governments to provide decent public transit options for residents in the region. Before settling on Uber, the city considered operating a public van or small bus to shuttle residents, but the estimate of $1.5 million for that service made the $500,000 subsidy to Uber seem like a bargain. Gouged by the gig economy

“All union members, whether they’re in the public or private sector, need to be aware of these non-union ‘gig-economy’ companies who make claims that are “too-good-to-be-true,’” said the ILWU’s Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe. “At the same time, we have to help the workers at these new companies learn about their rights and support their efforts to organize for improvements. Our problem isn’t with the drivers; it’s with the owners and investors who are trying to profit on the backs of others.”

 

Categories: Unions