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International Longshore and Warehouse Union
Updated: 2 days 16 min ago

Seattle City Council rejects sports stadium plan that threatened waterfront jobs

Fri, 06/03/2016 - 11:43
  • ILWU activists convince City Council that port access is critical to the region’s jobs and economy


A controversial plan to build a sports stadium in Seattle’s “South of Downtown” (SoDo) industrial area next to the Port of Seattle was rejected by the City Council on May 2.

The 4 1/2-year struggle pitted a billionaire hedge fund tycoon and powerful developers against a community coalition of progressives, trade unions, the maritime business community, Port of Seattle, ILWU leaders and members from several locals. The coalition worked together to protect hundreds of good-paying waterfront jobs that would be threatened by the stadium’s inevitable traffic jams and gentrification.

More than 100 rank-and-file longshore workers spoke out and participated in public hearings. In addition to the community support, the ILWU’s lawmakers in Olympia – resulting from work by the Puget Sound District Council’s lobbyist.

The deciding vote involved whether to turn over a public street to the private developers. That proposal was defeated by the City Council in a dramatic 5-4 vote.

“This fight was always about finding the best location for a new stadium – which never should have been in SoDo,” said John Persak, President of the ILWU’s Puget Sound District Council, who helped coordinate the fight. He credited the victory to diverse community support that included ILWU members and pensioners who attended meetings and made phone calls to City Council members.

Former Local 19 President Cam Williams made the decision more than four years ago to challenge the SoDo location. Williams, who now serves as a Coast Committeman at the ILWU’s San Francisco headquarters, made the key decision with members in 2012 to challenge the stadium location and enlist expert legal help from the Washington Forest Law Center, a respected public-interest environmental group.

A slew of court hearings, mailings, news reports, editorials, and debates followed – sometimes generating intense pressure against the union from Seattle’s political establishment. Persak credits current Local 19 President Rich Austin, Jr. for continuing to support the fight after being elected President where he worked with other ILWU Locals and the District Council.

Persak is careful to note that the SoDo Stadium plan was wounded on May 2, but not killed. “We’ll have to remain vigilant to make sure our support from the Council remains solid because the pressure from the political establishment to build in SoDo is enormous.”


Categories: Unions

Drill Team Celebrates 50th Anniversary; founder Josh Williams honored at event

Fri, 06/03/2016 - 09:37

Top honors: Longtime Local 10 member and active pensioner Josh Williams was honored for founding and leading the famous ILWU Drill Team.

Local 10 Drill Team members rolled out the red carpet to honor their longtime leader, “Captain Josh,” with a surprise party on April 30th that celebrated the Team’s 50th Anniversary.

Captain Josh was completely surprised and nearly speechless when he entered the OVO Tavern and Eatery in Oakland to discover the secret celebration was being held in his honor.

“Drill Team members and their families just wanted to surround Captain Josh with all our love and appreciation for everything that he’s given to our union and the Drill Team,” said Local 10’s Sabrina Giles.

Giles co-hosted the event with Local 10’s Trevel Adanandus who owns the OVO Tavern and donated the cake, hired a photographer and produced the event’s backdrop. She thanked a hard-working team of volunteers including Dr. Drew, Lori Marchell, Marie Bacchus from the IBU, Local 10 Business Agent John Hughes, and all Local 10 members who helped pay part of the tab. A personalized cake with three “edible photos” honored the Drill Team’s 83-year-old leader.

Further honors came later in the evening when Drill Team members presented their leader with a certificate of appreciation, a large plaque and bestowed him with a new title – elevating the former “Captain” to “General” Josh Williams.

Williams, who rarely speaks at great length, said he was truly touched by all the honors and recognition. He thanked everyone

Party with a purpose: Local 10’s Drill Team and friends celebrated the group’s 50 years of solidarity and union culture.

for their generosity, then broke out with a special rendition of his “7th Street Song” that celebrates African American history in San Francisco; recalling life in the City’s Fillmore neighborhood, where barbeque and jazz joints flourished after the Second World War – along with a host of colorful street characters who are mostly now gone. When Williams finished his song, he was followed by more performers from the Drill Team ranks, including Janice Smith and Paul from ‘da Hall.

As the long night of celebrating drew to a close, Williams was treated to a complimentary night in a nearby hotel, which spared him a late night drive across the Bay Bridge to his San Francisco home.


“I’m ready to have one of these younger people take over at some point,” said the General, “but I’ve still

got more time until they’re ready to step up.

Categories: Unions

California & Oregon members join final push for Bernie in Presidential primaries

Thu, 06/02/2016 - 11:06

Portland Bernie rally caption Stumping for Sanders: (L to R) ILWU International President Robert McEllrath, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), ILWU International Vice President (Hawaii) Wesley Furtado, Local 8 member Jeff Smith, and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR). Photo by Dawn Des Brisay

Big rally in Portland

Bernie Sanders’ decisive May 17 primary victory in Oregon was preceded by a May 3rd rally in Portland’s Shemanski Park that attracted more than 750 union members and community supporters. The rally was initially planned by Local 8 member Jeff Smith to be held at the Local 8 hall but moved it to the park because of growing interest and the bigger crowd that came to the event.

ILWU officers attended the rally including ILWU International President Robert McEllrath, ILWU International Vice President (Hawaii) Wesley Furtado and President Alan Coté of the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU).

Union solidarity

Unions represented at the rally included, the ILWU, the IBU, Communications Workers of America, Amalgamated Transit Union, the National Nurses United and the Postal Workers Union.

Political leadership

Bernie Sanders was not able to appear at the rally, but Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, and Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) spoke at the event. They highlighted issues that have mobilized millions of Americans to support the Sanders campaign: opposition to so-called “free trade” deals like NAFTA, CAFTA and the TPP that have devastated workers, ending mass incarceration of poor people and people of color, climate change, the lack of Wall Street regulations and a campaign finance system that leaves working people virtually voiceless in the political process.

Vice President Furtado introduced Congresswoman Gabbard at the event. He thanked her for the strong support she has given the ILWU in Hawaii and for her commitment to the working men and women of Hawaii.

Smith said there was a strong turnout from ILWU members at the event, including people who traveled from Seattle and the Bay Area to attend.

Sanders’ overwhelming support in Oregon was confirmed when he scored a 12-point victory margin on Election Day – and set the stage for a showdown in California’s June 7 primary.

So Cal Organizes

Southern California ILWU Locals geared-up for their final month of outreach and educational work before the June 7 primary election with a campaign kickoff event for ILWU volunteers on May 5 that was attended by 100 volunteers, including members, pensioners, and family – plus community leaders and special guests from other unions.

Southern California Pensioners Group President Greg Mitre served as Master of Ceremonies. He was joined by SCDC President Cathy Familathe of Local 63, SCDC Legislative Representative Floyd Bryan of Local 13, and former ILWU International President David Arian, who now serves on the Port Commission.

“We have four weeks to contact and educate ILWU members about Bernie Sanders before the election,” said Greg Mitre on May 5. “We need to make sure everyone we know is informed and registered to vote.”

On May 17, Bernie came to the Stub Hub Center in Carson where an estimated 20,000 supporters filled the stadium for a supercharged evening rally. Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr., joined other ILWU officers and members who attended the big event.

“The diversity of the crowd showed his support crosses racial, gender and socioeconomic lines,” said Olvera, Jr. “He reminded us that a great country requires dignity and security for all our citizens – not just luxuries for the one percent and corporations.”

Nor Cal Outreach

ILWU Local 6 is serving as a hub for the Northern California District Council’s outreach effort. A mobilization on Saturday, May 21 sent volunteers out to Bay Area neighborhoods where they contacted ILWU members about Bernie Sanders.

Bernie’s CA buzz

On May 18, Bernie Sanders appeared at three Northern California locations, beginning in San Jose where he was met by a large crowd that included many union members. In the afternoon, he joined a rally in downtown San Francisco to support hundreds of hotel workers and custodians.

“We need to grow the unions in our country so that workers can negotiate fair contracts, fair wages, and fair working conditions,” Sanders told more than 1,000 supporters who jammed downtown streets in the financial district. Among those marching in San Francisco were members of Local 6 and Local 10.

The day concluded with an early evening rally at Waterfront Park in Vallejo, a working-class community that’s been hit hard by foreclosures and personal bankruptcies caused by the Wall Street financial crisis. Members of Local 6 and 10 attended the event that attracted more than 10,000 supporters who came on short notice.

“The crowd was impressive and peaceful,” said ILWU Coast Benefits Specialist= and Local 10 member John Castanho. “He hit all the issues that ILWU members care about.”

The June issue of The Dispatcher will include analysis of the California Primary and next steps in the Presidential campaign.

Categories: Unions

 Coast Longshore Division Caucus convenes for historic meeting in Panama

Wed, 06/01/2016 - 15:25

The Coast Longshore Division Caucus convened from April 18-22 in Panama City, Panama. This historic meeting was the first Longshore Caucus to meet outside of the United States or Canada. More than 100 caucus delegates, fraternal delegates, and pensioners attended the Caucus.

“The Panama Canal Division is an important part of the ILWU family. We are here to show our support for the workers in this new division,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath.

The Panama Canal Division was formed by a unanimous motion at the 2012 ILWU Convention. Discussions about the possible affiliation began in 2002 when International Vice President Ray Familathe explored the issue. In 2010, President McEllrath and Vice President Familathe began talking about formal affiliation with Londor Rankin, General-Secretary of the Panama Canal Pilots Union.

Today, the Panama Canal Division includes 250 members of the Panama Canal Pilots and 2,580 dock workers from SINTRAPORSPA, the Union of Dockworkers in the Ports of Balboa and Cristobal.

Warm welcome

On the first day of the Caucus, General-Secretary Rankin of the Panama Canal Division welcomed the delegates to Panama. Rankin introduced the vocal group “The Three Divas” who sang acapella versions of the Panamanian and American national anthems.

“We gather here to strengthen the strategic alliance between our unions and to send a loud and clear message to our counterparts that we continue to be united and grow stronger regardless of our nationality,” said Rankin. “We know we are not alone in the struggle to improve the wages and conditions for all of our members. We are proud to be among you, and we are honored that you have chosen Panama as the place for your Caucus.”

Several Panamanian media outlets published articles about the historical significance of the ILWU Coast Longshore Division’s first Caucus in Panama. The publication, Panama On reported in Spanish, and the translation is: “This meeting, which is the first to take place in Panama, aims to reaffirm the existing strategic alliance between these two unions, which is mainly based on the noble principle of international solidarity, which has come in handy in the struggles of workers around the world, in this case, in the maritime port sector.”

Later that night, the Panama Canal Pilots hosted a dinner for the delegates at their union hall, where caucus delegates had an opportunity to meet with members of the Panama Canal Division. Later in the week, the Panama Canal Pilots hosted a dinner at the Miraflores Locks, demonstrating the 103-yearold lock operations viewable from an outdoor deck reserved for ILWU Coast Longshore Division guests.

Caucus dedications

The Caucus was dedicated in the memory of a number of individuals who have recently passed including Ralph Rooker (Local 10-retired), Hugh Hunter (Local 13-retired), Jesus Puga (Local 13-retired), Gordon Neely (Local 19), Robert Stevens (Local 19), Dale Martinis (Local 19), Jarrett Van Curen (Local 19), Richard Cavalli (Local 34-retired), Emile Lewis (Local 34), Donja Grant (Local 34), Jim Crest (Local 40-retired), Bill Hallet (Local 63), Anthony Harris, Jr. (Local 63), Domenick Miretti (Local 63-retired), John Vlaic (Local 94-retired), William Kendall (Local 98), and Oliver Pickford (Local 98-retired).

Safety, technology, training, and political action

The Caucus dealt with a range of issues facing the industry and union members, including the impact of megaships on port congestion and port infrastructure, automation, registration, safety, training, contract administration and jurisdiction. As election season heats up for the US presidential and congressional races, political action was also a high priority for the Caucus. A resolution was passed to motivate members to contribute to the ILWU’s Political Action

Fund, and money was allocated for the 2016 Political Action Program. PMA’s contract extension request In March 2016, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) sent President McEllrath a request to discuss an extension of the 2014-2019 Longshore Contract. President McEllrath submitted this request to the ILWU Coast Longshore Division Caucus and the issue was discussed. In keeping with the ILWU Coast Longshore Division’s democratic process, the Caucus has submitted the matter to the membership for review and input before taking any official action.

ILWU send off

The Caucus honored ILWU Canada President Mark Gordienko, who is retiring at the end of his current term. The Caucus also paid tribute to Southern California Coast Director and ADRP Representative Jackie Cummings, who is also retiring.

SINTRAPORSPA members visit

Alberto Ochoa, Secretary General of SINTRAPORSPA, which represents more than 2,580 longshore workers in the Port of Balboa in Panama and is affiliated with the Panama Canal Division, spoke at the Caucus. “We are grateful to you because you played a key role in the organization of SINTRAPORSPA,” Ochoa said.

In keeping with the tradition of warm Latin American greetings, Ochoa said he brought a “fraternal hug” for all in attendance and said, “We are honored that you chose to have this meeting in Panama.”


Categories: Unions

Thousands show their support for Sanders in Pedro

Sun, 05/29/2016 - 09:02

From Random Length News

Photo by Michelle Meese

It had been much rumored for weeks that presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders would come to San Pedro. The question was always when?
Random Length News, with our close ties to the ILWU and the local Bernie campaign office, only found out about this event on May 25, the Wednesday before the Friday rally. I was surprised that it was as well organized as it was considering all of the logistics and security needed to put on this event.

Only about 1,800 to 2,000 people but they were solid Bernie supporters — the California Nurses Association, United Teacher Los Angeles, United Steelworkers and, of course, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. All of these unions gave rousing endorsements of Sanders. They also spoke about most of his campaign themes.

When Bobby Olvera Jr., the president of ILWU 13, who was only there as “one of the harbor workers,” asked the crowd what the motto of the ILWU was, the response was overwhelming, “An injury to one is an injury to all.”

And that, Olvera said, “was true for every American worker in the country!”

The spirits were high and the crowd was excited by the time Sanders took to the podium. He spoke about about universal healthcare, free college tuition to public universities and the rigged economy that Wall Street and the too-big-to-fail banks controlled.

With all of the excitement, it was difficult to read what this rally really meant except for who was missing from the political line up: Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilman Joe Buscaino and even Rep. Janice Hahn did not attend even though her district office is but a block away from the Harbor rally site. All three of these have endorsed Hillary Clinton and are pledged super delegates to the convention.

“How will they vote when their district go[es] for Bernie in the primary?” Olvera asked.

The only two candidates attending were Warren Furutani, who is running for the 35th State Senate District and long shot 44th Congressional candidate Marcus Musante, running against Isadore Hall. Hall also was absent from this rally.


Categories: Unions

34th ILWU Canada Convention

Mon, 05/02/2016 - 10:01

April 5-8th, 2016 ILWU Canada held their 34th convention at the Sheraton Guildford Hotel in Surrey, BC, Canada.

In attendance were 110 delegates joined by 12 international delegates including ILWU International President Robert McEllrath, ILWU International Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe, and ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams,

ILWU Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr, and four delegates from ILWU Alaska Longshore Division,

International Transport Workers Federation President Paddy Crumlin, and delegates from the Maritime Union of Australia, the Maritime Union of New Zealand, including MUNZ National Secretary Joe Fleetwood.

ILWU Canada President Mark Gordienko announced that he will be retiring at the end of his current term. Delegates applauded his service to the union and President McEllrath presented him with a gift on behalf of the ILWU International.

At the end of convention, nominations took place, and the results are as follows:

President: Robert Ashton by Acclamation.

1st Vice President: Shawn Nolan by Acclamation.

2nd Vice President: Steve Nasby by Acclamation.

3rd Vice President: Romeo Bordignon and Dale McEachern running for the position. Election Results to follow.

Secretary-Treasurer: Bob Dhaliwal by Acclamation

Categories: Unions

ILWU moves beyond endorsing Bernie Sanders

Mon, 05/02/2016 - 08:52

Puget Sound ILWU members met with Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at a massive rally that filled Seattle’s Safeco Field with more than 15,000 supporters on March 25.

Hours after the ILWU Executive Board’s endorsed Bernie Sanders for President on March 24, members were scrambling to help the union-friendly candidate who is who standing up for unions and the working class. During the next 48 hours, ILWU members heard union radio ads in Hawaii, joined massive rallies in Seattle and attended caucus meetings in Alaska.

Western winning streak

Support in those three states allowed Sanders to score decisive caucus victories on March 26 – taking 70% of the votes in Hawaii; 73% in Washington State and 80% in Alaska. A stunning upset victory came a week later in Wisconsin where Sanders defeated Clinton by 13 points. Another smaller victory came a few days later in Wyoming where Sanders won big again – giving him victories in 8 of the 9 most recent contests.

Challenges back east

The April 19 primary in New York is where pundits predicted Sanders would stumble. Clinton once held a massive 60-point lead in the Empire State that dwindled to just 6 points, making Sanders the eager underdog who chased Clinton during the final week with his message about fighting political corruption, Wall Street greed and empowering the 99 percent of Americans who work for a living.

Sanders faces another series of big East Coast primaries on April 26, including Pennsylvania and Maryland, before turning to Oregon on May 17 where Jeff Smith of ILWU Local 8 is helping members get informed, involved and organizing a rally at the union hall on May 3.

California showdown

After Oregon, the scene will shift to California where a fierce battle is expected over the nation’s largest pool of delegates that will be decided on June 7. Polls show that Clinton’s big early lead in the Golden State is withering to just a few points.

Showing his loyalties: On April 13th, Bernie Sanders spoke to a crowd of over 27,000 people in New York’s Washington Square Park. It was the largest presidential campaign rally in history, eclipsing Barack Obama’s record of 24,000. At the rally, Sanders wore an ILWU jacket given to him by Local 23 President Dean McGrath.
The ILWU logo on the jacket was visible on every news channel that broadcast the speech. “Bernie Sanders is the real deal. I was fortunate to meet him before the rally in Seattle.” McGrath said. “Everyone else in the room asked him what he would do
for them. I grabbed his hand looked him in the eye and said, ‘We are not here to say anything except….We got your back, keep fighting for the working class.’ When I handed the guy that jacket, you would have thought I handed him a $1,000 bucks. He thanked me profusely and carried it himself. He could have given it to one of his handlers, but he didn’t. We have his back and he has ours!”

Taking initiative

Longtime Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU) member Jeff Engels, is encouraging all ILWU members – especially those living in California – to “feel theBern.” On March 19 he helped form a group in Port Townsend, WA, that held a successful march of 200 Sanders supporters. The event was organized in just 12 days, working with local unions and native leaders. “If we can quickly pull something like this together in Port Townsend, I know members in California can do it,” said Engels. Keys to victory

Early voting by mail will account for nearly half of California’s ballots. Requests for a mail ballot can be made until May 30, and new voters can register until May 23. The same deadline applies for voters who wish to change their political party, which is important because only those who register as Democrats or choose “no party preference” will be allowed to vote for Bernie Sanders in the California primary.

ILWU International President Bob McEllrath is encouraging members to get registered and vote. “Bernie Sanders supports working class people, and he deserves our vote – whether we’re in a union or not. It’s not just for us, it’s about all of us.”

Categories: Unions

Election victory for Vivian Malauulu

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 09:01

Candidate support: Malauulu was determined to build a team of campaign volunteers and treat them as family. (L-R) Sal Pardo from the ILWU Southern California District Council; Vivian’s father George; newly-elected College Board Trustee Vivian Malauulu; her mother Gloria and Local 13 ILWU Political Action Committee member David Serrato.

ILWU Local 13 member Vivian Malauulu scored an impressive election victory on April 12, defeating a well-connected incumbent and winning a seat on the Long Beach Community College Board of Trustees.

Malauulu won nearly 60% of the tally – soundly defeating her establishment-backed rival who resorted to anti-union attacks that flopped with voters.

“I am very, very proud of the clean and well-organized campaign that we ran – and am exceptionally proud of our team of committed volunteers,” she said.  “Our campaign was fueled by a grassroots effort and propelled by good, old-fashioned hard work.”

Before the votes were counted, Malauulu shared some candid thoughts with supporters, acknowledging that she had never worked so hard for anything in her life – wearing out the soles on several pairs of shoes and carrying around piles of precinct folders.

“I spent every waking moment – and quite a few sleeping ones – trying hard to connect with the voters in our district.”

In addition to her work on the docks, Malauulu has been a teaching journalism classes on a part-time basis at Long Beach City College where she was active in the faculty union and the Trades Advisory Council.

Her formula for success was built on a winning strategy:

  • She built a team of dedicated volunteers by drawing on years of relationships built through work with unions, churches, sports clubs, charities, and community organizations.
  • She says support from the ILWU and her teacher’s union at Long Beach State were important – but worked hard to build a broad-based coalition.
  • She organized a network of volunteers and rallied supporters to walk every one of the 54 precincts in her district at least once – some twice, and a few were visited three times.
  • Thousands of calls were made to registered voters who also received mailings and email/text messages.
  • They kept careful track of each contact with a voter, and followed-up with those who had questions or wanted more information.
  • They attended numerous public events in order to contact voters and raise the campaign profile in the community.
  • She tried to make her team of volunteers and supporters feel like they were part of a big, loving family. Efforts were made to consistently thank and appreciate volunteers for their work.
  • She wasn’t afraid to ask for campaign donations. Like Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders, she built her campaign treasury on lots of small campaign contributions that added up to a powerful resource.
  • She sought endorsements from respected community and political leaders, including Congress member Janice Hahn.

Malauulu thanked her longshore brothers and sisters for their support.

“The ILWU was very supportive of my campaign and hosted three fundraisers on my behalf. One was in San Pedro for our LA ILWU, one was in Long Beach for our LB ILWU, and then again the week before Election Day to kick off our Get Out the Vote efforts, which Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr. spearheaded together with Latinas Lead California. Cathy Familethe, President of the Southern California District Council, distributed both an ILWU voter slate card and a personalized postcard mailer on my behalf that was sent throughout the college board district. The SCDC also hosted a member-to-member phone bank the day before Election Day where ILWU members who live in Long Beach were contacted by ILWU volunteers and reminded to vote.”

The victory on election night left her feeling grateful for everyone who made it possible.

“I want to express my deep, heartfelt gratitude to my tireless campaign team, my faithful supporters, my incomparable volunteers, my dedicated colleagues, my loyal friends, my ILWU brothers and sisters, my incredible students, my committed prayer warriors, my encouraging Mami, my loving husband, and my four precious children for running this campaign with me. I couldn’t have done this without you!”



Categories: Unions

Recycling is important – and recycling workers deserve better conditions

Tue, 03/29/2016 - 12:09

Working together: Relations between workers and ACI management have improved dramatically since recycling workers organized and took action with support from community leaders. (L-R) ACI supervisor Brenda Perez, ACI recycler Jose Degadillo, ACI general manager Chris Valbusa and ACI recycling worker Pedro Sanchez.

Americans are beginning to dump our throw-away economy. Curbside recycling is now available in most west coast communities and more than 9,000 cities across America. It’s helping to divert one-third of our waste that used to be burned or buried.

Recycling is also good because it conserves raw materials and saves money for local governments. And it reduces greenhouse gases that cause global climate change.

But recycling won’t succeed if recycling workers don’t have decent pay, good benefits and safe working conditions. Most full-time recycling workers are forced to live in poverty – and their “green jobs” are far too dangerous. Recycling workers are being killed and seriously injured every year.

On March 1, a 42-year old worker was killed at a Waste Management’s recycling plant in Philadelphia. He was crushed to death by a one-ton bale of paper.

Ironically – on same day – a Bay Area recycling firm was being honored by workers and community leaders for “dramatically improving working conditions” at a company which recently signed an ILWU Local 6 contract.  During an interfaith luncheon, the Sierra Club’s Ruth Abbe presented a plaque to Chris Valbusa, general manager of Alameda County Industries (ACI), recognizing the company’s effort to cooperate with workers and create safer jobs with good pay, benefits and the right to fair treatment.

ACI and Waste Management are both private companies. And like most large recycling firms, their workers are paid with public funds – from residents and ratepayers – through contracts awarded by local governments.

When we drop a newspaper, bottle, or food waste in our recycling bin, it’s good to know that it will be recycled – but most of us don’t know anything about the workers performing these dirty and dangerous jobs – often employed by companies who exploit labor and cut corners on safety.

Years before the worker was killed at Waste Management’s Philadelphia facility on March 1, reports of hazardous conditions were being received by the Philadelphia Project on Occupational Safety and Health (PhilaPOSH).  The complaints included workers getting sick on the job, suffering from poor ventilation, dust, dizziness, fainting – and even coughing up blood.

These conditions happen when employers cut corners on safety to deal with materials arriving in recycling bins that include syringes, toxic chemicals, animal carcasses, human waste and other filth.  A 2015 study by public health experts, “Sustainable and Safe Recycling,” found that recycling workers are injured more than twice as much as other industrial workers. The findings also noted that fifteen recycling workers were killed on the job between 2011 and 2013.

The only way for workers to protect themselves is through education and active health and safety programs that they can control.

At the Waste Management facility in Philadelphia, we learned that many workers were considered “temporary” and assigned by an agency called Centrix Staffing. To check the company’s approach to safety, we asked a Spanish-speaking colleague to apply for work there. He was shown a short training video – in English – then deemed ready for work, with no hands-on instruction and no evidence that he understood any of the material presented to him.

The incident was captured on film in the an excellent documentary, “A Day’s Work,” which details the hazards – including death – facing workers in America’s growing “temp” industry.

Something similar happened to ACI workers who were also being hired as temps by an outside agency until 16 months ago.  Things changed at ACI because workers asked the Longshore Union to help them organize a campaign to improve conditions. The effort included legal action to enforce living wage laws. Workers attended classes on their own time to learn about safety and rights on the job through trainings provided by the University of California’s Labor Occupational and Health Program. Help from the Coalition for Sustainable Recycling mobilized dozens of groups to support the effort, including Worksafe!  Local churches, immigrant rights organizations and environmental groups contacted elected officials in the communities where ACI had recycling contracts.

ACI responded in a positive way to this growing pressure. The company dropped the temp agency and made the workers real employees. In October of 2014, ACI’s recycling workers formally voted to join ILWU. Instead of fighting the outcome, ACI management negotiated a fair agreement with a committee elected by workers.

The results have transformed pay and working conditions at ACI and lifted families out of poverty. Previous wages of $8 an hour will reach over $20 an hour by July 2019. Workers now earn sick pay, vacations, holidays and health insurance for their families. And safety has improved dramatically, thanks to an active health and safety committee that meets every three months – and includes a strong voice from workers.

The remarkable story of progress at ACI proves there is a clear path to reduce injuries on the job and prevent future tragedies:  listen to workers; respect their right to organize; and support smart, effective labor-management cooperation.

The people who handle our recyclables ultimately work for us.  So let’s treat them with the dignity and respect that they deserve.

Gail Bateson & Barbara Rahke

Gail Bateson is executive director at WorkSafe, an Oakland-based group that supported ILWU recycling workers through the Sustainable Recycling Coalition.  Barbara Rahke is executive director of PhilaPOSH and board chair of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health.


Categories: Unions

Longshoreman & wife support their community, family – and son who played in the Super Bowl

Tue, 03/29/2016 - 11:38

Regan Keo is a respected member of Local 19 who has worked on Seattle’s waterfront for decades. But his profile increased dramatically earlier this year when word spread that his son, Shiloh, was playing for the Denver Broncos and heading for Super Bowl 50.

“There was a lot of buzz and excitement from so many of us who were proud of Regan, his family and his son,” said Local 19 President Rich Austin, Jr.

27 years of coaching

While he’s invested decades on the docks, Regan’s true passion revolves around his devotion to coaching and mentoring young athletes.

“We’ve been coaching for 27 years now,” said Regan, who uses the word “we” intentionally to acknowledge the important role played by his wife and partner, Diana, who is an integral part of their successful and unique coaching effort. “We’re a team that does it all together,” he says, “I’m the offensive coach, and she’s the defensive coach.” The couple coaches football and softball – both fast and slow-pitch.

Philosophy of fun

The young people they mentor range in age from 7 to 14 and all of them receive the same message from Regan and Diana who believe that strong teams are built on a coaching philosophy that boils down to three words: “firm but fun!” The couple says that approach is one reason they always have an after-game BBQs for the players and their families – whether the team wins or loses. “We always try to have fun out there, and think of ourselves more as teachers than coaches,” adds Diana. “These kids are young and so open to ideas – they just sponge-up new concepts.”

Respecting women

One of the concepts they try to get across is respect for girls and women. The young men being taught by this veteran female defensive expert are getting more than just a novel coaching experience and valuable field strategy. The couple hopes to provide an example with lifetime impact. “We hope it teaches them to respect women and understand they can go beyond what they think is ‘normal,’,” says Regan.

Big family at home

In addition to teaching and mentoring dozens of children on the field each season, the Keo’s have kept busy over the years raising their family of seven children. Their kids all played sports at a young age, and one – Shiloh – showed some special talent at a very early age. “We both saw that he had something special when he was just seven years old,” said Regan. “We could see that he had a chance to go very far.” But the couple remained sober about what the future might hold, providing sound advice to Shiloh, their other children – and every child they’ve coached during the past 27 years.

Realistic advice

“We’ve done this long enough to be able to tell kids that it will be hard, especially if you spend time away from your family – if you’re lucky enough to play at college,” says Regan. “We tell them to focus on their school work, and not just party – because very few of them will be able to make a living by being an athlete.”

Beating the odds

Because their son Shiloh showed remarkable speed and agility at a young age, his parents tried to prepare him for the trials and tribulations that face a promising pro athlete.

In Shilo’s case, his career began when his exceptional high school performance led to being recruited by the University of Idaho in 2006 where he made 72 tackles his freshman year and was voted MVP the next. After recovering from an injury in his junior year, he finished his senior year with another MVP award and set several college records.

Entering the NFL

Shiloh beat the odds facing most college players when he was drafted by the Houston Texans in 2011 where he made some key plays, became a team captain in 2012, and moved up to become starting safety in late 2013. Then an injury in 2014 caused him to be cut from the team. After recovering, he was signed by the Cincinnati Bengals in early 2015 – but then released later that same year.

Super Bowl bound

At the end of 2015, Denver signed Shiloh, who jumped into the last regular season game on January 3, making an interception that led to a winning touchdown. Then it was on to the AFC Championship against the Patriots on Jan 24 where he recovered an onside kick attempt by New England with 12 seconds remaining in the game, protecting Denver’s 20-18 win that sent the Broncos to Super Bowl 50.

Big challenges

Regan and Diana know that Shiloh still faces an uphill fight for job security in one of America’s most insecure and hazardous professions where the pay can be staggering, but most careers are shockingly brief – typically just over three years according to the Players Association union. And players also face the prospect of bankruptcy and financial ruin when they leave the game at a staggering rate of 78%, according to a recent Sports Illustrated study.

Dad remains his coach Shiloh ties to be reflective as he maneuvers his way through the obstacle course of professional sports. Many of the pros have to struggle on their own without support from two parents. Shiloh’s one of the lucky ones with a mother and father who continue to provide their son with rock solid support – something he recognizes and appreciates.

“He’s still my coach today,” says Shiloh about his father. “I come from a very big family. We have a lot of men in the family. We all grew up playing football. Everything I learned I started off learning from my family and learning from my dad.

“Once I was able to start playing, my dad was my coach until I got to high school, and it didn’t stop,” he said, explaining that the support continued when he moved away to college.

“I thought there would be no more dad coaching me. But it never stops. He’ll always be there for me, and he’ll always give me tips when he thinks I need some. He’s always there to support me. I can’t thank him enough.”

Life moves ahead

Regan Keo and his wife have no intention of ending the support for their son, the rest of their family – or the thousands of kids they’ve taught and mentored over nearly three decades.

“My longshore job was flexible enough to let us coach together all these years,” says Regan. “At some point, I’ll retire, but the coaching will continue, and we’ll keep helping these kids every second that they’re on the field, so we can help them go as far as possible in life.”

Categories: Unions

HC&S sugar plantation in Hawaii to close

Tue, 03/29/2016 - 11:00

Social Services Coordinator Joanne Kealoha (right) going over the packet and information
to be passed out at the open house meeting on January 15, 2016. This was the first of two meetings to meet the members and pass out information on the services
and programs that are available to help the workers in the transition and how to best
survive the layoff (l-r): Local Executive Board Member Ester Manibog, Gordon Martins,
Unit Chair Daniel Martinez, and Business Agent Joe Aquino.

PUUNENE, Maui – At its peak, sugar was the number one industry in Hawaii with hundreds of thousands of acres under cultivation on Kauai, Oahu, Maui and Hawaii island.

By 2015, only Maui’s Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company (HC&S) remained of the industry once called “king,” and by the end of 2016 that last plantation will grind to a halt, ending commercialized sugar in the state.

Shut-down announced affecting 650 ILWU members

“The day began like any other day,” recalled Charles Andrion, a third-generation sugar worker at HC&S. “It was the first week of the year and the beginning of the off season, when repairs and refitting of equipment are done. It was business as usual, and hopes were high that the harvest season would start soon.” Just after noon, a company town hall meeting at 1:00 p.m. was announced. Under overcast skies,

HC&S workers were given a packet with a letter stating that the company would be phasing out of sugar after the current crop is harvested at the end of the year. The shutdown will affect more than 650 ILWU members.

Citing operating losses of $30 million in 2015 and a forecast of continued losses in the future, the company said that it will stop planting in early March, and as many as 90 field workers will lose their jobs. The rest of the workers will lose their jobs throughout the year as their specific responsibilities are completed.

Workers and their families face uncertainty

Andrion has worked as an Instrument Technician since he was accepted into HC&S’s apprenticeship program after graduating from college nine years ago. His grandfather was one of the sakadas who were recruited from the Philippines to work on the plantation in 1946. His grandparents and parents were able to provide for their families with the wages and benefits they received, which were negotiated by the ILWU. Andrion was stunned by the unforeseen announcement by Alexander & Baldwin (A&B), the parent company of HC&S.

During a family discussion at the dinner table the day before the announcement, Andrion’s four-year-old pre-schooler asked if they could sign her up for gymnastic class. “I told her yes, but after the announcement was made, we are not sure if we can afford the tuition,” said Andrion.

Disappointment in the decision to close

Esther Manibog’s father was also a sakada. He met the woman of his dreams who was working in the power plant and married her and put down roots in Maui. In 1986, Esther began working in the field like her father. After several years, she was accepted into the apprenticeship program and earned certifications to be an electrician. Manibog considered applying for jobs outside of HC&S but didn’t because the ILWU negotiated wages and benefits provided her enough to pay the mortgage and Manibog expressed her disappointment regarding A&B’s decision to shut down the operation. She described how the union—Local, Maui Division, and HC&S unit officers—mobilized her fellow HC&S workers and their families and worked hard to educate the community on the economic benefits and the jobs that HC&S provided.

“We provided testimony in opposition to the proposed reductions of water from East Maui because of the concerns over the economic impacts that the reduced water would have on the plantation and jobs, Esther said.

A lawsuit seeking to end all agricultural burning was filed by the “Stop Cane Burning group” against HC&S last July. “Through a coordinated effort, by the union, we gathered more than 6,000 signatures on a petition supporting the current Agricultural Burning Permit and delivered it to the Department of Health.” Manibog said, “Despite all these efforts, A&B made the decision to close.”

An Injury to One is an Injury to All

With the first layoff period fast approaching, the union again mobilized— this time to help the affected workers in transitioning into new jobs and to deal with the hardships that they will face. A survey was sent out to the workers immediately after the announcement was made. The survey allows the union to gather information on the affected worker’s needs so that the appropriate resources are provided by the company as well as federal, state and county governments. The workers also updated their contact information to ensure that the union can provide additional information or assistance when needed.

Two open house meetings were held at the ILWU Hall in Wailuku on January 15-16, 2016, to meet the workers face-to-face and to answer any questions that they may have. Assistance in completing the survey was available. English and Ilocano speaking members were on hand to make certain that everyone understood what services and programs are available to help them with the transition and layoff. Help will also be provided to laid-off workers applying for unemployment benefits.

Effects bargaining to begin

Because HC&S workers are covered by an ILWU contract, the company has a duty to bargain with the ILWU over the effects of the closure on workers. This is called effects bargaining.

Some of the issues that will be discussed are severance pay, payout of unused vacation and sick leave, seniority, retirement benefits, and medical and dental insurance. The union has asked to begin effects bargaining with HC&S as quickly as possible. “We will be working hard to assure that the workers receive the full benefit of their contract and what they are entitled to by federal and state law,” said ILWU President and negotiating committee spokesperson Donna Domingo.

Severance pay and medical coverage

Severance pay is usually based on the length of employment with a company and is not required by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). However, the ILWU negotiated contract with HC&S includes severance as a benefit and specifies that it will be paid out on the basis of nine days’ pay for each year of service for all eligible workers. No union dues are deducted from severance pay.

The union negotiating committee’s goal is to increase the severance benefit to help laid-off workers pay for housing and other expenses—a concern for many HC&S ILWU members. Mariano Oliveros, who emigrated from the Philippines seven years ago, got his first full-time job as a drip irrigation hookup and repair worker. “My family is living comfortably because the plantation provided me with a stable income. I’m in my fifties, too old to find another job easily. How am I going to pay for my medical coverage and mortgage without a job?” said Oliveros. Another area that the union negotiating committee will be working on is the severance payout timeframe.

Workers at other companies have waited up to 14 months after the closure to receive their severance pay. The union negotiating committee will do its best to insure that the severance is paid out in a timely manner.

The union negotiating committee will also be fighting to extend the period during which laid-off workers receive medical coverage. “I’m having a hard time sleeping because I’m worried about how I’m going to pay for my daughter’s and my medical,” said Manibog, with tears in her eyes.

An era ends, but the impact of sugar workers remain

Sugar plantations once stretched the length of the island chain—from Kekaha to Kau. Hundreds of thousands of workers and even family were brought to Hawaii from as far away as the Azores and Puerto Rico and China, Korea, Japan and the Philippines to work the fields. Plantation communities were the foundation of Hawaii’s multi-ethic culture and values.

In 1946, 30,000 sugar workers plus their families went on strike to begin a long battle for a better life. Their struggle—along with their fellow workers in other industries in the ILWU—reshaped Hawaii, building power for workers and their families and achieving a large measure of economic, social and political justice.

The era in which ILWU sugar workers shaped the history of Hawaii has passed, but the impact of sugar, its workers, and the workers’ union remains. “The workers should take pride in the fact that they did everything they could to keep HC&S going, and that they were able to rally their community in support of Hawaii’s last sugar plantation,” said ILWU Secretary-Treasurer Guy Fujimura.

“I see them as heroes of the ILWU.” Charles Andrion summed up his feelings on the bittersweet ending of HC&S. “It feels like my grandparents put the first cane stalk into the ground and I will be taking the last cane stalk out of the ground,” he said. “But we’ll find a way to move forward.”

Categories: Unions

ILWU Canada leadership course trains new leaders

Tue, 03/29/2016 - 09:52

The ILWU Canada Leadership Course held on February 14-19 at Harrison Hot Springs in British Columbia, was a tremendous success. Our class was bursting at the seams with 26 participants who attended from ILWU Canada Locals 502, 505, 508, 514, 517, Grain Workers Union Local 333 and the Retail Wholesale Union of British Columbia.

Participants were taught skills that included: working together as a team, public speaking, how to run a meeting, political action, how to challenge bullying and harassment, arbitrations, ethics and the function of a union.

Joining our local participants were special guest speakers that included: ILWU International President Bob McEllrath, International Secretary Treasurer Willie Adams, ILWU Canada President Emeritus Tom Dufresne, and Jim Sinclair, our past President of the British Columbia Federation of Labour.

I was personally happy to see three members from Grain Workers Union Local 333, a new local to ILWU Canada, being welcomed by everyone in a great showing of solidarity.

The expressions of solidarity that took place during the meetings and throughout the entire Leadership Course by the Brothers and Sisters made me proud to be a part of this great union.

Given the number and size of our last two training conferences,

ILWU Canada will consider holding two of these events in 2017, in order to accommodate the education needs of our members. Giving these Brothers and Sisters the skills they need to stand up and help lead our great union will ensure that our future will be a positive one.

In Solidarity,
Steve Nasby
2nd Vice President, ILWU Canada

Categories: Unions

ILWU endorses Senator Bernie Sanders for President

Thu, 03/24/2016 - 11:20

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The ILWU’s International Executive Board voted today to endorse U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders for President.

“Bernie Sanders is the best candidate for America’s working families,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath. “Bernie is best on the issues that matter most to American workers:  better trade agreements, support for unions, fair wages, tuition for students and public colleges, Medicare for all, fighting a corrupt campaign finance system and confronting the power of Wall Street that’s making life harder for most Americans.”

Many longshore union members have expressed enthusiastic support for Sanders at the local level.

The ILWU represents approximately 50,000 women and men who work in California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii – in addition to ILWU Divisions representing workers in Canada and Panama.

Categories: Unions

Local 21 members honored for Columbia River rescue

Thu, 03/10/2016 - 15:16

Recognition: Longshoremen Mikel Ford (L) and Kelly Palmer were formally recognized by the Port of Longview on January 26 for helping rescue a merchant mariner who fell into the freezing Columbia River on Dec 31. Not pictured is Local 21 member Laik Kell who also assisted.

Three Local 21 members were honored last month by the Port of Longview for rescuing a mariner who fell overboard into the Columbia River on December 31.

The incident happened at 11 o’clock in the morning on New Year’s Eve day when it was still bitter cold at Berth 2 where the vessel “Sadlers Wells” was being loaded with soda ash.

Local 21 members Kelly Palmer and Laik Kell were about to check the choke feeder controlling the flow of soda ash filling the ship when they noticed panic spreading among the vessel crewmembers who were frantically pointing down into the water.

The loud noise of the loading machinery made it difficult to hear, but a co-worker told Palmer that somebody had apparently fallen into the river. Palmer and Kell raced down a ramp to the river’s edge where they met co-worker Mikel Ford.

The three began searching, but it was hard to see anyone floating among the mass of river debris that collected among the pilings in an area shaded by the ship. They spotted a hard hat but still couldn’t find anyone nearby. After more searching, they discovered a man who was soaking wet, shivering and clinging to one of the pilings. He wasn’t wearing a lifejacket, spoke little English and declined to provide his name, but the three longshoremen maneuvered over obstacles that helped him reach the shore.

They later learned that the man was the ship’s first officer who had been working on the vessel deck when he slipped on some ice that sent him falling 20 feet into the frigid river.

The ceremony to thank the three longshore workers at the Port Commission meeting took place on January 26. Kelly Palmer and Mikel Ford were able to attend while Laik Kell had to remain on the job. Commissioners presented the men with certificates and thanked them for their efforts.

Categories: Unions

Local 34’s first woman and African American officer

Thu, 03/10/2016 - 13:58

ILWU International President Bob McEllrath (left) with newly elected Local 34 Vice President
Jeanette Walker-Peoples .

The recent San Francisco Ship Clerk’s union election has resulted in a new generation of Local 34 officers, including their first Mexican-American President, David Gonzales – and Vice President Jeanette Walker-Peoples – who is the first woman and first African American to hold a top slot in the local union.

Together with longtime Secretary-Treasurer Allen Fung, the trio reflects the growing diversity in the ILWU’s membership.

ILWU International President Bob McEllrath attended the ceremony to install Local 34’s new officers on January 21. He administered the oath of office and congratulated the new team. Jeanette Walker-Peoples has been a Ship Clerk member for 7 years. Last year she served on the Labor Relations Committee, but already knew some of the ropes from her father, Andrew Walker Sr., who became a Local 34 member back in 1966.

Starting at Local 10

Mrs. Walker-Peoples arrived at Local 34 in 2009 after accumulating ten years of longshore experience at Local 10, which she joined in 1999.

“When I first came to Local 10, the job was such a blessing,” she said. “That’s where I learned the importance of listening, so I could see how things worked and learn from the other members.”

Mrs. Walker-Peoples said she received help and encouragement from the “old-timers,” including pensioner Ralph Rooker who recently passed.

After listening and learning during her first year at Local 10, Mrs. Walker-

People’s offered to step up and serve as a Relief Dispatcher. The following year she decided to take an even bigger step by running for a full-time Dispatcher position, which she won.

With encouragement and support  from her co-workers at Local 10, Mrs. Walker-Peoples says she was “never afraid to speak up, voice opinions or ask questions. From day one in the ILWU, I felt obligated to speak up for myself and other union members.”

Arriving at Local 34

“When I came to Local 34 in 2009, I gained experience the same way by attending union meetings and listening,” said Mrs. Walker-Peoples. After five years, she attended a meeting where she says then-President Sean Farley was trying to encourage members to run for the Vice-President position, “but nobody stepped up.” The following year, she decided to run for that position and was elected.

Changing color of Clerk’s membership Mrs. Walker-Peoples said she is “proud to be Local 34’s first African American and woman officer,” and would like to see more African Americans play leadership roles in the local.

The racial makeup of San Francisco’s Ship Clerks union is now changing quickly after decades when the membership was predominantly white. The difference now, says Mrs. Walker-Peoples, is the “one door” policy – that supplies new Clerks solely from the ranks of nearby longshore locals, which in the case of San Francisco, means Local 10.

“In the most recent group of new Local 34 transfers, all came from Local 10 – and 19 out of 21 were African American,” she noted. “We’re still not the majority, but it’s an important and welcome change to see the diversity within the rank and file of Local 34.”

Categories: Unions

Job Corps’ Tongue Point Seamanship Academy is training the next generation of maritime workers

Thu, 03/10/2016 - 13:36

Tongue Point cadets are seen on one of their training vessels, the Ironwood. It’s a former Coast Guard ‘C’ class buoy tender vessel, 743 gross ton seagoing training ship. Students receive extensive sea time on this and other training vessels. They rotate between various duties and responsibilities on the ships during their time at the Academy.

On January 28-29, a delegation of union officers from the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU) and ILWU toured the Job Corps Seamanship Academy at Tongue Point in Astoria, Oregon.

ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams, IBU President Alan Coté, IBU Secretary-Treasurer Teri Mast and Columbia River IBU Regional Director Brian Dodge met with students and instructors at the Academy. They spent a day on the training vessel ‘Ironwood,’ observing the drills and other hands-on training that form the backbone of the school’s curriculum. The Academy is administered and funded by the US Department of Labor’s Office of Job Corps and is operated by the IBU and the Management & Training Corporation.

Recipe for success

Captain Len R. Tumbarello, who retired from the US Coast Guard after 28 years of service, is the Director of Seamanship at Tongue Point. He talked about the values that the program teaches to produce quality, entry-level mariners for the industry.

“What we call for the Four P’s is the recipe for success in this industry: Proficiency in craft, taking care of people, professionalism at all times, and passion for the job. Tumbarello said. “People is a key one,” added Tumbarello, “because if you can’t get along with people you are not going to be a very successful person.”

The Academy’s recipe for success is paying off. The program currently places 95.5% of its graduates in the maritime industry, a significantly higher placement rate than most Job Corps programs. And the average pay for Seamanship Academy graduates is the second highest of the 1,200 Job Corps programs in the country.

Because of the program’s success, enrollment for the Seamanship Academy was recently doubled by Job Corps from 60 to 120 students.

Students graduate from the program with certifications and skills that are in high demand by employers including:

  • Able Bodied Seaman (AB)
  • Qualified Member of the Engine Department (QMED)
  • Proficiency in Survival Craft/ Lifeboat
  • Navigational Watch
  • Shipboard safety training (firefighting, first aid, personal safety, social responsibilities and personal survival skills)
  • Hazardous Waste Operations andEmergency Response
  • Steward (Galley)

From the Great Society to Tongue Point Job Corps

The Seamanship Program was started in 1980 by the IBU in conjunction with the Tongue Point Job Corp. The Job Corps was a one of many federal programs founded during President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” and was seen as an important part of Johnson’s domestic policy agenda known as the “Great Society.”

It created an array of important programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, financial aid for college, National Public Radio, food stamps for poor families, and Head Start.

Job Corps was modeled on the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which was a federal program established by President Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression as an emergency relief program to help unemployed workers. The CCC provided room, board, and jobs to millions of unemployed young people.

The Job Corps began with a similar idea—that the government can provide a “hand up” to working class youth by teaching them a trade to start them on their career. The program helps some get a second chance in life after starting down the wrong path. Job Corps provides vocational training that provides career opportunities for youth who are not able, or don’t want to go to college.

Looking out for everybody

Tumbarello applies that same principle—looking out for those who might take the wrong path—to his approach at the Seamanship academy.

He explained that in any given class, there will be 10% of students who struggle at the bottom. They could be struggling academically or having trouble adjusting to the new lifestyle.

“On the first day of class, I always ask students what they think we should do with these bottom 10%. And without fail, I always hear a chorus of, ‘Fire them, Captain.’ That would be the easy thing to do. Just get rid of them,” said Tumbarello. “But that’s not what a leader does. We have an obligation to those students to help them along, even if it means spending more time and more resources to help them succeed.”

The future of the industry

“I see before me the future of the maritime industry,” said IBU President Alan Coté, speaking to an assembly of Seamanship students. Tongue Point Academy is the only Job Corps program that trains youth for careers in the maritime industry. There are private maritime academies that cost tens of thousands of dollars a year to attend, and students often graduate from those academies with a student loan debt well over $100,000.

“This is a wonderful opportunity that cannot be duplicated,” said Coté. “There is nothing like it. When you get done with this school, you will have a brand new life, no matter where you came from, no matter what your life was like.”

Coté described his own experience working on a tugboat with without the benefit of attending a training academy like Tongue Point.

“You have a benefit I did not have when I got into this industry,” Coté said. “I went to the school of hard knocks. When you sail with a 40-year veteran Norwegian Captain, and you get on his boat, and you are greener than green, do you think it’s a pleasant experience?” He added that his ears are still ringing, and shoulder still hurts from the day when he got into the bite of a line. “In those days they taught you how not to be killed by almost killing you,” he joked.

Teri Mast also spoke at the assembly. She encouraged the students to take advantage of the many channels that exist for student feedback about the program including the shop steward system that was implemented several years ago.

Life lessons

ILWU Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams told the students some of his own story about growing up in Kansas City where he was running with the wrong crowd before becoming a part of the ILWU and turning his life around.

“Sometimes it’s hard to believe how far I’ve come. My life could have been very different. I just wish that my father could see where I am today,”Adams said, encouraging students to take full advantage of the program, calling it “a gift.”

The dangers of the industry were highlighted during a student assembly when Columbia River Regional IBU Director Brian Dodge introduced Curt Dawson, an IBU member who works as a deckhand for Foss Maritime. In December of 2005, Dawson jumped into the Columbia River to save Captain David Schmelzer from drowning.

Dodge said the heroism was even more spectacular because Dawson isn’t very a very strong swimmer. Dawson was awarded the US Coast Guard’s Silver Lifesaving Medal, one of the highest awards for civilian valor.

After the assembly Adams, Coté, Mast and Dodge stuck around to talk with students and get their feedback on the program.

“It was inspiring to hear the stories of these young men and women who have overcome so many obstacles in life just to get here,” Adams said. “It’s easy to take our opportunities in life for granted, but talking to these young people you can’t help but be inspired by their dedication and perseverance

From strangers to shipmates

The students at Tongue Point come from a variety of backgrounds, from small towns to big cities, and they arrive with a variety of life experiences. Some have gone to community college or four-year universities while others haven’t completed high school. Some have family in the maritime industry while others have never been on a boat their entire lives and grew up in a landlocked state in the Midwest. Some students come to Tongue Point with a longtime dream of pursuing work in the maritime industry, while other arrive unsure what they want to do with their lives.

The academy has to mold these students from diverse background and different life experience into shipmates.

The close quarters on the ship and living together on campus can cause to figure out how to work together as a team.

“We try very early on to break them up so that everybody can understand that it’s not about where you are from,” Tumbarello said. “We’re not putting all the Hawaiians on the port side and all the Virginians on the starboard side. Be proud of being from Virginia, that’s great, but you’re part of Seamanship, and we are all one team.”

Senior students also play a significant role by helping newer students enter the program; easing the transition to life at the academy and helping with an extra set of eyes as new students learn how to work on ships.

“We have people from all different backgrounds, and everyone understands that,” said Matthew Bosnich, a student at the Academy, who is preparing to graduate.

“When I first got here, I learned a lot of things from the senior students. The instructors can’t be there to work with everyone one-on-one, so the senior students help out the younger guys.”

The camaraderie that develops among the students is a central feature of their experience. Coté described it as being very much like the solidarity of the union. Many students described their shipmates as being “like family” and many were initially anxious about attending the Academy because they were worried about fitting in. Most quickly find themselves with a supportive network of new friends.

“On my way here I didn’t know what to expect— if I was going to get along with anybody,” said Aaron Stivason. “But I just stayed positive. As soon as I got here I made a gang of friends. We were all cool. The program is awesome. It’s turned out a lot better than I thought.”

“Everyone started off somewhere in their careers,” Tumbarello said. “Apprehension and anxiety is good, but once you walk through the door and start something, go back to that good attitude, hard work and persistence. That is going to pay off. As long as you do that you’ll be successful in this program.”

Haley Brady said that being one of only three women in the program hasn’t been a barrier to her success. She said that her shipmates have always been there when she has needed them.

“I look at it like this is our work, and there are things that we need to do. These guys are like my brothers. We are there to help each other and every time I’ve needed something, they’ve been there for me. I don’t look at it like, ‘I’m a girl.’ I look at it like we are shipmates,” Brady said.

“They call it the ‘Brotherhood of the Sea’ for a reason,” said Alan Coté. “These students will form friendships here that they’ll take with them through their entire careers.”

“I love being a sailor,” said cadet George Dick. “You really form a tight connection. I consider a lot of my coworkers family. It’s a bad ass feeling. You cross the Columbia River bar and knowing it’s one of the most dangerous bars in the world and you go through it every week.. It’s a sense of real pride. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”

Hands on training

“The majority of the work we do in this program is hands-on,” explained Matthew Bosnich. “We do classroom work, and take a lot of tests but the most of what we do here is working on and maintaining the vessels, so we have a lot of practical experience by the time we graduate.”

That hands-on experience includes extensive time at sea on any one of the school’s three training vessels. Students respond to simulated medical emergencies, fires, man-overboard and other drills during their time out on the water so they are prepared to respond during an actual emergency.

Students recently participated in a training drill with the US Coast Guard. The Ironwood was boarded by a Coast Guard teams repelling from helicopters and boarding from other vessels. The drill was a simulated response to a ship entering the Columbia River with an unusually high radiation signature.

Marine oil spill response

In June of 2015, five Tongue Point Seamanship Academy students traveled to Santa Barbara, CA to assist with the clean-up of an oil pipeline that ruptured near Refugio State Beach. Oil response is one of the many skills taught at Tongue Point Academy.

“We are producing mariners that help keep the navigable water ways of the United States safe, secure, and environmentally pristine – which is vital to keeping commerce going,” Tumbarello said.


“This program provides a valuable service to the industry,” said IBU Secretary- Treasurer Terri Mast. “The average age of the current workforce is 55 yearsold and employers need the qualified, entry-level mariners that this program


While the Academy provides extensive sea time to students on the school’s training vessels, Tumbarello said he is committed to expanding their internship program so every student will have an opportunity for job-based learning.

“We are blessed with three vessels and people who come here with missions for us to do, but the way that our students get the best exposure to the real world is through our internship program,” Tumbarello said. “When I got here three years ago, I set a goal of providing an internship opportunity for every student before they graduate.

Right now, we have ten internships for 128 students; which is a start, but we need more.” He says the program is already exceptional, but they intend to keep making it better.

Employers interested in setting up an internship opportunity for Tongue Point Seamanship students, please contact Len Tumbarello at 503-338-4977.

For more information applying to the Job Corp visit


Listen to extended interviews with Tongue Point cadets in the link below:


Categories: Unions