- Harvard Workers Got The Cold Shoulder This Winter
- NYC IWW: Beverage Plus, Pay Up!
- Strikes, Worker Revolts Worldwide
- May Day: Remembering Our Past, Looking Toward The Future
- How To Be A Life-Long Wobbly: Six Tips
- Review: Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Modern Revolutionary
Download a Free PDF of this issue.
Challenging the Industrial Narrative Railroad workers are increasingly rejecting the old “jobs versus environment” story.
Challenging the Industrial Narrative
Railroad workers are increasingly rejecting the old “jobs versus environment” story.
by Trish Kahle
Railroad workers in Decatur, AL circa 1915.
On July 6, 2013, the air brakes failed on an unmanned, seventy-four-car train carrying Bakken crude oil, sending the train cascading into the Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic, where it derailed and exploded. Forty-seven people were killed, and nearly half of the downtown was destroyed in the initial blast. In total, twenty-six thousand gallons of oil spilled into the nearby Chaudière River, and soil around the town was toxic to depths of several feet.
The catastrophe in Lac-Mégantic proved to be only the first in a series of high-profile explosions. Last year, there were thirty-eight derailments across the United States and Canada that caused blasts or tank ruptures. With scenes of toxic black smoke billowing above the nation’s grasslands and residents fleeing in terror, the vehicles at the center of the lethal phenomenon were given a new name: “bomb trains.”
Yet rarely did the workers conducting and maintaining the North American rail system enter the conversation. Railroad Workers United (RWU) — a solidarity organization for railroaders across the industry’s dozen or so unions — saw an opportunity to fight for safer working conditions and build alliances with a public that fears further derailments, deaths, and ecological devastation.
One early result of that effort came last month, when the RWU brought railroad workers, environmentalists, and other labor and community activists together for two conferences — one in Richmond, California, the other in Olympia, Washington — to discuss the intersection of labor and environmental justice issues.
The conferences, as organizers readily noted, weren’t necessarily breaking new ground. They drew inspiration from earlier labor-environmental coalitions, which have a rich if overlooked history, particularly in heavy industry.
But even with the guidance the past can provide, workers and environmentalists must live in the present, where a ravaged labor movement has struggled even to win defensive battles and the environmental movement debates its strategy and future. Forging solidarity across traditional divides will be crucial in revivifying the labor movement and fighting climate change.
To that end, I recently interviewed three conference participants — RWU General Secretary Ron Kaminkow; Sierra Club community organizer Ratha Lai; and Ross Grooters, an Iowa-based locomotive engineer, environmentalist, and RWU member — about the state of the labor-environmental alliance, the working conditions on the nation’s railroads, and their vision for the future. The interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Why organize this conference now?
The driving motivation is because railroad worker issues are something that need to come before the general public, and there are numerous environmental organizations, citizens groups around the country, that are up in arms about the situation with oil trains’ derailments and explosions.
And so our idea is to build a labor-community alliance around the issues of rail safety. Because our issues transcend oil trains. We have issues that transcend toxic chemicals and hazardous materials that we haul. For example, chronic crew fatigue is a fact of life for most trainmen and engineers who work on the railroad in the United States and Canada. This leads to accidents and train wrecks. The rail carriers of course will never admit that crew fatigue is a problem, but we know it is.
In the interest of their stockholders and Wall Street, the rail carriers keep it trimmed to the bare bone. They don’t want to have any more trainmen or engineers on the payroll — or for that matter, track workers on the payroll — than they absolutely have to at minimum. And so all of this contributes to overwork, lack of time off, harsh attendance policies, and so forth, all of which leads to chronic crew fatigue.
In the face of this, the rail carriers are intent on running all these trains, including oil trains and other hazardous materials trains, with a single employee. This is a fight that Railroad Workers United has been engaged in for almost a decade: to stop them and maintain a minimum of two employees on every job.
And meanwhile, it gives us the opportunity to offer our members the opportunity to be educated about the environmental movement, about environmental issues, and to come to the understanding that while we may not agree with the Sierra Club or Greenpeace or Forest Ethics on every single issue, there is definitely common ground, from which we can form this alliance.
Let’s face it: it’s large corporations, big business, that are largely running this country, and the rest of us are all too often fighting each other. The slogan “jobs or the environment” is one that we hear all too often. Well, we would like to rearrange that slogan and say “jobs and the environment.”
In a sane economy, one that’s based on human needs rather than private profit, we would be able to have both a safe and healthy environment and good-paying, union jobs for all. So that’s basically where we’re coming from at this point in time in trying to build this labor-community alliance.
What was accomplished at the conference in terms of alliance building, debate, and organizing? What were your biggest takeaways?
My takeaway is that the industry is coming down on everybody. The oil industry is — the way I see it — they’re in a transition. They’re dying, and they’re squeezing the last profits they hope to get out. They don’t care if that comes at the cost of their own workers, or the community, or whoever. They’re willing to do whatever it takes to get their profits.
As for the railroad workers, their issues were that they don’t want single-operator trains. The railroad industry was willing to cut in half their number of employees in order to make a profit, and I heard from a lot of the railroad workers how dangerous that was. Some of them also talked about how often trains collide with cars, and there’s a lot of accidents.
Now that the trains are carrying much more volatile crude oil that we have been seeing catching fire and exploding, there’s a lot to be concerned about, and that concern was shared among all the groups present.
I think these railroaders were ecstatic and excited by the prospect that finally we had some attention and people acknowledged our issues.
Most workers are very isolated. We’re isolated on the railroad for all kinds of reasons: geographically, obviously, our workplace is kinda spread out. It’s linear. It transcends hundreds of miles. It’s often in remote and rural areas. Many railroad workers actually work out of small towns, scattered across the country. Railroad workers, used to have two million of us, and now we’re down to under two hundred thousand, so we represent a much smaller percentage of the workforce than we did.
Just for railroaders to understand that we don’t have to be isolated, that we do have potential allies in the community and amongst other workers. We had a dozen oil refinery workers. Four of them traveled all the way from Los Angeles. At the Olympia conference, we had eight or nine longshoremen. And many of them were very excited to be there, and they spoke about their own situation of being under attack by the maritime operators on the West Coast.
And so for rail workers, many of whom were in attendance, this was an eye-opening experience. That not only is there a need for internal solidarity amongst engineers, conductors, track workers, and so forth — which is what RWU has been attempting to build the last ten years — but we need, and potentially can obtain, this sort of solidarity with other workers. For example the longshoremen and the [United] Steel Workers, who are representing the refinery workers.
And last but not least, there’s all these environmental organizations — and this is the real eye-opener I think for many of us — that they’re ready, willing, and able to come to our assistance, and support our issues.
So that’s from the railroad workers’ side. I think from everyone else who was in the room and particularly the representatives of the thirty-five or forty organizations, many of them environmentally oriented, that endorsed the conference . . . these people were blown away by what they heard, in terms of the chronic crew fatigue, improper track maintenance, the harsh attendance policy, and that the whistleblower law as it currently is structured does not protect railroad workers very well for reporting a workplace injury or reporting a safety hazard at work.
So I think it was an eye-opening experience for the community as well as for railroad workers.
One of the things that excited me was that it wasn’t just railroaders or RWU folks. It was really inspirational to hear the oil workers at the conference talk about their strike. It was really pretty amazing, realizing that they might not be mobile like we are, but the issues are basically the same ones that are affecting us.
It’s about safety in the workplace, it’s about how they’re pushing workers to the breaking point mentally and physically with the scheduling they do and the safety measures they don’t take. It’s pushing workers to the brink where accidents are going to happen. It might be worker fatigue. It might be equipment fatigue. Either way, it’s not good for the workers or for the community members.
Just as an environmentalist, it was great to have both parties in the room, and to see how there was a lot of common ground. And that for me was the most successful part that I brought away: that these two parties can work together on issues that benefit both mutually. It can be a win-win for both labor and environmentalists to work together.
But you also noted that you’re both an environmentalist and a railworker. So what are the conversations like outside of the conference, in your workplace or in your union?
That’s an excellent question. It varies from coworker to coworker. I’m probably on one extreme, in that I’m pretty dedicated to environmental issues and I’m pretty anti–fossil fuel extraction, whereas a lot of my coworkers might not be. But the issues that do concern them involve safety when we’re moving these hazardous materials. So it’s a good conversation to have when we’re talking about how these materials affect the safety of our work and our job, and in our communities.
A fair number — a growing number — of coworkers who can see, or at least understand, the perspective that these companies aren’t necessarily good neighbors and don’t necessarily have the interests of these communities and the state of Iowa at heart.
I think it’s easier for some coworkers to see that because the bottom line is, “How can we maximize our profits?” And if that means cutting corners on safety, we know that both railroads and fossil fuel companies are both going to be implementing as low a level of safety as possible to ensure that they can maximize profit.
So it’s a conversation that does occur in my workplace. I wouldn’t say that everyone’s on board with that point of view but I would say a growing number of people are, and it’s always a good conversation to have with coworkers.
Going back to the point Ratha brought up about collisions, how often do collisions happen?
Around one thousand motorists and pedestrians are killed every year by trains, and thousands more vehicle-train collisions take place where people potentially are injured or killed. So this isn’t an extremely rare occurrence. It happens, if you do the math, about two or three times a day on average, two or three lives are lost on average at grate crossings or hitting a vehicle or pedestrian.
Let’s take a scenario with a single-employee train crew. So as the operator, I would throw the train into emergency, contact the dispatcher. While I’m waiting to hear from the dispatcher and relay that information, the train is stopped, and I’m wasting valuable time because I can’t go back there until I finish talking to the dispatcher.
Now once I’m done telling the dispatcher the location and various details, I’m going to dismount and go back to the rear of the train to find out the damage. I may or may not have a handheld radio, but it may or may not be able to put me in contact with the dispatcher. So he cannot give me valuable information, and I cannot relay to him valuable information that I was to find — for example, a train car of chlorine gas that’s leaking.
Now I get to the scene of the accident and sure enough, emergency services needs to get across the tracks, but the track is blocked. So now I have to go back to the locomotive, which could be a half a mile or more away before I can even move that train, because there’s nobody up there to move it for me.
And one thing I forgot, to secure my train, by the current rules, I have to put handbrakes on the cars at the head of the train. If it’s a heavy train, and it’s on a grade, I may have to put handbrakes on all of the locomotives as well as five, ten, even fifteen of the cars, if it’s a long heavy train on a heavy grade! This could take up to a half an hour before I’m literally allowed to leave the confines of the locomotive, the area of the locomotive, to proceed back to find out the extent of the damage.
Anyway, this is just one example of how difficult and dangerous it is, not just for rail workers, but for the general public. And like I say, this isn’t just an oddball case. Last year — and I don’t know the exact numbers — thousands of train-vehicle collisions took place, so the scenario I just played out takes place on average, every day, two, three, four, five times.
What are some of the challenges facing the building of a labor-environmental alliance today?
Well from the history I know, we’re not inventing the wheel here. It’s been tried and developed with some degree of success in the Pacific Northwest, in the old-growth forest, I believe back in the ’80s and ’90s. That one basically ended up falling apart ultimately, as many of them do. Part of the problem is that if you’re dealing with natural resources, like coal or timber or any kind of basic extraction, that could put all sort of stretches and strains on the relationship between labor and the environment.
In the case of the railroad, I don’t see the railroad going away anytime soon. If the railroad goes away it basically means that industrial society is going away, and I just don’t see that as being on the agenda. And so railroad workers are relatively secure.
I would like to think that railroad workers can feel more of a sense of security in hanging around with environmentalists. Environmentalists can be seen, and are sure to be played up by the media and the corporations as being our enemy: “They don’t like coal! They don’t like oil! They don’t like chemicals! They don’t like basic extraction!” And what does the railroad haul? Well, it hauls a hell of a lot of all those things. And so on the surface, there’s always the potential for us to be divided, and this whole attempt we’re making can potentially go up in smoke.
I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think especially if environmental organizations stick to their guns and stand by us, I think in the upcoming fights on single-employee crews, crew fatigue, excessively long and heavy trains, poor track maintenance, and all the rest, if and when environmental organizations and community groups come to our aid and assistance — like they did in certain places during this last fight on single-employee crews last summer — railroad workers are going to be encouraged and inspired by their presence.
Because no one cares about us, right? The idea that we’re isolated and we’re fighting these Fortune 500 companies on our own, well, let the environmental groups prove their merit in practice, prove their salt, and stand in solidarity with us. And as a result of that, railroaders, I would like to believe, will understand — will start to understand — who their real friends and allies are. And who their enemies are.
The real challenge is challenging the industrial narrative, the propaganda that drives a wedge between workers and the community.
Something we were able to see is that when you actually bring people together, they will find common ground, and as long as [workers and community members] don’t come together, there will be this open space for industrial propaganda, false assumptions, and fears — like “hey, the environmentalists are not on our side. They want to put us out of a job.”
Something that environmentalists have been thinking critically about is with climate change impacting us already, how do we find a transition out of it that is a just transition, one that includes everybody and doesn’t exclude one segment or other of the population, that doesn’t pit workers who have to try and keep their jobs and pay the bills, against community members, who fear for their lives with these trains moving through their towns.
How do we move past the “jobs versus environment” setup? What would the industry look like if workers and the environment came first?
Right now it’s really about trying to build community awareness as much as possible and to let folks know that there is a possibility. Because we’re in a real crisis, and we really do have to act — we have to act now with love for everyone else who is here, who is on this planet. And the hard part of this is the beginning part, where we’re trying to build community awareness.
Luckily for me I’m able to live in Richmond, California, and the community here is extremely aware of the environmental impact. There’s a very progressive community, and they’re doing everything they can to mobilize on these issues.
This summer there’s going to be a bunch of workshops around building a just transition, what that looks like in Richmond: how do we engage democracy in a better way so that more of the community voices are being heard, so that their concerns are being addressed? How do we have green and decent jobs? And how do we provide a meaningful standard of living for the community?
So I guess I tend to think that the more environmental protections we have, actually the better the job situation will be. Some of the best protections we can have in the particular issue of what they’re calling “bomb trains,” or oil trains, is better track maintenance. Well, that requires more people on the job. Shorter trains is another way to prevent these trains from derailing. Well, that requires more crews to transport the crude oil.
So there are things that can be done, steps that can be taken, safety-wise, that actually put more people to work. And ultimately, my preference, as both a railroad worker and an environmentalist, is I’d prefer we not transport fossil fuels at all. I’d like to see us transition to a renewable energy economy, and I think there’s a huge amount of jobs in that. We don’t have to be transporting oil. We could be transporting solar panels, or blades for wind turbines, and turning the corner so we’re not destroying our environment for future generations.
Part of it is, as a laborer, we need to educate our coworkers and make them understand that just because there’s not oil trains doesn’t mean we won’t have jobs. And on the other side, I think when environmentalists hear about the work schedules and the kinds of things that affect our safety, it’s eye-opening for them and it makes them realize that to make these things safer for their communities, there’s common ground to fight both government and railroads to make these things much, much safer.
When it comes to advice for environmentalists: be empathetic. Most workers are simply trying to earn a living and survive. They’ll work to protect their way of living if they feel it is threatened. So take workers into account when thinking about and planning your actions. If possible, find people in labor you trust to help inform your decisions. Both labor and environmentalist could use more empathy to help find common ground.
But again, hopefully, we’re turning the corner and leaving fossil fuels in the ground, and doing that sooner rather than later. These conferences are a good start to that conversation, and we might not be where we need to be yet, but it’s a step in the right direction.
So the future of railroads. Railroads are more efficient than trucks. They take trucks off the road. Eventually, I’d like to see trains that aren’t run on fossil fuels. I don’t know what that technology is or what that looks like, but I think that can be done and needs to be done.
I can see railroads being the mechanism to deliver the energy economy of the future. To transport all of these things that are going to have to be installed for us to be able to continue to produce energy. We want that to be renewable, I hope, and railroads can play a huge part in that. And eventually, I’d love to see passenger rail in this country return. I hope that it can be made efficient, and make sense for people to move from place to place by train.
So there’s a lot of ways that railroads and railroad workers can play a huge role in the future of energy production. And I’d like to see that nationalized at some point in the future so that people in communities have some control over how that works. So we can make the railroads work for all of us instead of just a few people who are making profits — board of directors, CEOs.Tags: Rail safetysafety regulation
Hong Kong: May Day 2015 - Hong Kong unions demand an end to violence against Chinese labour activists
LA Port truck drivers strike against four companies
Independent truck drivers participated in a port-focused strike in November. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
By ANDREW KHOURI
Truck driver strike begins, might affect L.A. and Long Beach ports still rebounding from dockworker dispute
Pickets set up outside four trucking firms that serve ports; line could move to ports, cause sympathy strike
Some truck drivers who haul goods from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach walked off the job Monday, launching a protest against four trucking firms they accuse of wage theft.
Clearing cargo backlog at Southland ports may take three months
Picket lines went up outside the trucking yards of Pacific 9 Transportation, Intermodal Bridge Transport, Pacer Cartage and Harbor Rail Transport, said Barb Maynard, a spokeswoman for the Teamsters union, which is supporting the truckers.
Southern California port truck drivers loading up on wage-theft cases
Maynard estimated the number of drivers striking at several hundred. Nearly 14,000 drivers serve both ports, and about 1,000 trucking companies are registered to do so, a Long Beach port spokesman said.
In Monday's job action, picket lines will move to port terminals if trucks from the struck firms enter those facilities, potentially hurting the flow of goods if dockworkers choose to honor the pickets.
The protest is the latest in a series of job actions against harbor-area trucking firms. The drivers argue that they are improperly classified as independent contractors, leaving them with fewer workplace protections and lower pay than if they were company employees.
They've won several rulings lately in the courts and by government agencies agreeing they had been misclassified.
Last fall a federal court ruled that drivers from Shippers Transport Express were actually employees, a distinction that allowed them to unionize and join the Teamsters.
On Monday, the Teamsters said they reached a “labor peace” agreement with Green Fleet Systems, which had been targeted in previous job actions.
A spokesman for Pacific 9 said the company “has met and will continue to meet with the Teamsters and drivers to discuss these issues.” A spokesman for Pacer and Harbor Rail said “the vast majority” of the companies’ independent contractors “value the significant benefits of operating independently.”
Intermodal Bridge Transport could not be reached for comment.
The strike comes as the ports work to recover from a prolonged labor dispute between dockworkers and shipping companies that clogged the twin trade gateways.
Previous trucker strikes have had little effect on port operations. Spokesmen for both ports said all terminals remained Monday afternoon and cargo was flowing smoothly.
Follow me on Twitter: @khouriandrewTags: LA Port TruckersIWLU
May Day march at Port of Oakland to protest police killings
By Jack HeymanApril 29, 2015 Updated: April 29, 2015 10:15am
Photo: Lacy Atkins, The ChronicleProtests over police killings of African Americans have spread to many cities as more news reports of killings surface.
Black communities are seething over the epidemic of police killings of unarmed black men — in Baltimore, Charleston, Ferguson, Los Angeles, New York, Tulsa and elsewhere. Every day the newspapers, TV and Internet show appalling images of police brutality. The mass incarceration and high unemployment of blacks and the sharp disparity of wealth throughout society are intensified by the militarization of the police. Policies such as “zero tolerance” and “stop and frisk” have spiked an increase in the killing of blacks and Latinos.
The San Francisco longshore union, ILWU Local 10, has announced that its members will stop work in Bay Area ports on May 1, International Workers Day, to protest police killings. It also has called for a march Friday from the Port of Oakland to Oakland City Hall to protest “the recent escalation in police brutality throughout the U.S. that has resulted in the needless killing of innocent and unarmed minorities.”
There is a palpable feeling of outrage, but also a feeling of powerlessness to stop these killings. If labor brought its power into play, then this could enable African Americans, Latinos and immigrants to more effectively defend themselves against this police onslaught. It also could be the necessary impetus to rebuild an atrophied labor movement. ILWU is calling on other unions to join the protest.
• Riots in Baltimore, Ferguson could happen in other U.S. cities
• African Americans cited for resisting arrest at high rate in S.F.
• Bay Area protesters denounce police killings, try to block
• From Rodney King to Walter Scott, video doesn’t lie
• South Carolina video may have huge impact on debate over police
The union has a long history in taking a stand on social justice. It was police killings of maritime strikers in 1934 that provoked the militant San Francisco general strike. In 2010, Bay Area ports were shut down to demand justice for the family of Oscar Grant, a young black man killed by BART police. More recently, those killed by police include young Raheim Brown, 20, killed in 2011, Jeremiah Moore, an autistic young man killed in 2012, and Richard “Pedie” Perez III, 24, killed in 2014. Both Moore and Perez have close family members in Local 10.
When police in North Charleston, S.C., killed Walter Scott, a black worker, the longshore union members there organized protests. ILWU Local 10, which has close relations with the Charleston union, responded with its call to stop work and march on May Day. The South Carolina AFL-CIO commended the ILWU local for its “courageous actions of solidarity with the families” and also is calling for May 1 “actions to protest the continuing unjustifiable killings.”
Fifty years ago, the black ghettos of America imploded in flames. Police and the National Guard responded like an occupying force. While the civil rights movement formally ended Jim Crow racial discrimination, it failed to resolve the problem of mass unemployment in the inner cities. As Michelle Alexander pointed out in her book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” there are today more black men shackled in the labyrinth of the criminal justice system than were in bondage under slavery. After the Civil War, two blacks were lynched a week in the South. Today, nearly daily news reports of police killings stand in shocking comparison to those lynchings.
Protesters are calling the plethora of killings “police terror.” It’s not just local police, however. President Obama’s Department of Justice has backed police in every excessive-force case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Police killings are a systemic problem, and the unions must be in the forefront of fighting it.
On May Day in 2008, the ILWU shut down every port on the West Coast to oppose the war on Iraq and Afghanistan. Today we must act to stop the plague of police violence at home. Join us.
Jack Heyman, a retired Oakland longshoreman, writes on labor and other social issues at www.transportworkers.org.
May 1 protest
9 a.m.: Rally, Port of Oakland at the foot of Adeline Street.
10 a.m.: March, from the Port of Oakland to City Hall.
Noon: Rally, at Oakland City Hall, Frank H. Ogawa Plaza.Tags: ILWU 10Racist Police terrorStop Work
April 29, 2015: Today the Pension Rights Center presented a call for action to the US House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions, calling for hearings on the devastating impact of pension cutbacks authorized by December 2014 changes in pension law.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union and the pension protection movement support this call, and will work to advance legislation to correct the injustices of the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MPRA) passed in December.
The Subcommittee held a hearing on other aspects of pension law.
The Pension Rights statement concludes with a call for action: “We urge the Subcommittee to hold another hearing in the near future to listen to the concerns of the retirees and widows whose retirement security will be devastated by the cutbacks authorized by MPRA, to address their concerns, and to examine other ways of addressing the long-term financial problems of multiemployer plans and the PBGC.”
Vote No On the Pro-PMA Contract
After more than 10 months of negotiations that were kept secret from the ILWU longshore rank and file as well as the Coast Caucus until the last, best and final offer by PMA, the McEllrath team has recommended a contract that will change our union from ILWU to ILW“Me”. PMA companies have made super profits off our blood and sweat. They'll gladly trade paltry wage increases in exchange for eliminating our jobs, limiting our power, weakening our solidarity, reducing our jurisdiction. That’s what is at stake here. Take a close look before you vote.
1. Most importantly, it easily allows picket lines of ILWU affiliate unions to be made illegal under the contract if either the PMA or the union does not attend a joint labor relations meeting. This will be used to cross ILWU members’ picket lines from our OCU affiliate in LA/LB’s Local 63 clerks. lt has already shamefully happened. Picket lines of IBU and Local 30 Boron miners and other unions are in jeopardy. In ILWU’s March Inland we organized warehouses by honoring picket lines and extending longshore solidarity. This runs against our proud history and the ILWU’s 10 Guiding Principles. The longshore contract has had strong picket line language since ’34. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It’ll destroy the ILWU.
2. There’s no language protecting against massive jobs losses from automation including a shorter workweek at no loss in pay and adding four 6 hour shifts.
3. Any “side deals” negotiated for special payments to steady crane operators or walking bosses, all Letters of Understanding and Port Supplements must be published in The Dispatcher before the contract is ratified.
4. The contract does not set labor manning standards coastwide. We need 4 dockmen under the hook and signalmen for transtainers. A skilled operator can not do unskilled work like turning pins. Enforce the contract. Instead this TA companies can whiplash one port against another using manning differences.
5. It creates a wider gap in wages between highest tiered Skill III workers and “B” and casual workers. Casuals are still left without any benefits. It is a basic union principle that workers who do the same work should have equal pay and benefits. This TA increases the bosses’ profits and divides the highest paid members and the majority of members further weakening union solidarity. This is a recipe for speed-up, corruption, favoritism and company unionism.
6. It does not increase the pension of senior retirees and pensioners’ wives sufficiently to keep up with the cost of living. They helped build this union’s benefits by picketing in the ’71 strike. We need to take care of them now.
7. It continues with Zenith as administrator for our medical plan although this is the same company that denied coverage for longshore members and their families. Why do we have to fight collection agencies and Zenith when we already have union-negotiated insurance coverage?
8. It removed a letter that Harry Bridges had put in our contract that specifically defines what is longshore work and what is Teamsters work. This contract will be used to pit Teamsters against longshoremen, in a jurisdictional battle that will only help the bosses. The ILWU International has shown it’s against real labor solidarity. They’ve ordered longshore workers to cross port truckers picket lines which were being supported by the Teamsters in LA. Port truckers who organize a union could decide to choose any union to affiliate to including ILWU. While talking "tough" ILWU tops refused to coordinate coastwise actions during contract negotiations just like in the defeats in the EGT and Boron miners’ struggles. Worse yet, they feared mobilizing the ranks to drive off scabs in the Vancouver and Portland grain terminals, disregarding our militant history! Then, after pulling out of the AFL-CIO, McEllrath tells us we are all alone and have no power.
9. For mechanics one of the biggest dangers we face is job loss from automation and new technology. This contract doesn't deal with it. The lack of training given by PMA is their main strategy for replacing us with machines. Training is one of the major issues in negotiations and one of the hottest issues for mechanics coastwise. This contract has basically nothing on it. This is unacceptable!
Coming out of the 2008 longshore contract the core of our Union's strategy on automation was if machines do our work/take our jobs, the ILWU will work on the machines/new technologies as mechanics. PMA has been slashing our jobs and mechanic jurisdiction by not training us, especially in the new technologies. They have non-ILWU do our work. Here’s a recent history of PMA's scam:
. 1999 MOU-- established a mechanics training program- never implemented.
. 2002 MOU--admitted training wasn’t implemented but promised in this contract.
. 2008 MOU—again admitted training wasn’t implemented but swore it’d be done
“no later than July 1 2009”.
. 2014 MOU--No training in last 3 contracts! Same B.S. on implementing training
The “New Technology” OCR (Optical Character Recognition) has replaced hundreds of clerk jobs. Mechanics know nothing about the new OCR computer or software on cranes (i.e. no training or even access to information). With the “older computer”technology, implemented starting in the 1970s-80s, mechanics know all of it, even down to programing/modifying software.
But with the “new OCR technology” our “work” is limited to cleaning camera lenses and pushing the computer off/on switch. Meanwhile, non-union contractors do all the rest of the work often remotely online. This is our future. Yet, all we get for the 4th time in this TA is “Have faith in PMA there will be training this time.”
10. No to the 3-man arbitrator panel- one arbitrator picked by the union, one by PMA and one from the government (FMCS or AAA). The FMCS was created in 1947 under the Taft-Hartley Act known by trade unions as the Slave Labor Bill, an act designed to stifle and destroy unions. The government has shown its hand in the NW grain negotiations clearly. The ILWU initially opposed government participation in bargaining. They used the Coast Guard to protect a scab grain ship in Longview. Why would we have a government/professional arbitrator decide longshore disputes? The union-picked arbitrator will be outvoted 2 to 1.
Our forefathers that built this union didn’t see fit to bring in the government to “solve” the problem. Our power is in rank and file job action not arbitration.
11. The length of the contract is too long. Like a fighter who doesn't fight for years, a longer contract makes us soft- not as able to fight when the time comes. More time for the employers to nibble away at us through arbitration, automation, superintendents doing our work, and more speeding up to chase the shorty.
During these contract negotiations, union tops have resorted to intimidation and even physically assaulting some members who dare to criticize them. That runs against the grain of ILWU principles. They want to shut members up so they are afraid to even ask questions at union meetings. This heavy-handed “top down” unionism is similar to the many business unions like Operating Engineers and Teamsters that sign concession deals their employers. It’s time to speak out! Vote no! Renegotiate the contract! Organize to fight for a decent contract!
An Injury To One Is An Injury To All!
Dan Coffman #92556, Anthony Leviege #9576, Howard Keylor # 20447 (ret.),
Victor Gallardo #08666, Norm Parks #81082 (ret.), Garret Hilbert #37927
Marcus Holder#101355, Jack Heyman #8780 (ret.), James Curtis #9639,
Stacey Rodgers #101236, Jack Mulcahy #82013, Byron Jacobs #92733,
Phyliss Mandel Survivor Pension #6382, Jahn Overstreet #9189,
Ricky Voto #9710, Doug Coffman #92647, Chris Colie #80869 (ret.)
Robert Roden #92720,
Port of Oakland prepares for planned closure
Exclusive: Port of Oakland prepares for planned closure
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) has revealed that the Port of Oakland is braced ahead of a planned closure on 1 May, as part of a social justice protest.
The ILWU local union 10 has submitted a request to employers, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) to temporarily halt labour at the port in public demonstration against police brutality in the United States.
Mike Zampa, commercial director at the Port of Oakland, explained: “The longshore agreement has a monthly stop work meeting, which means for one shift each month labour doesn’t report to the docks and conducts a union meeting. That meeting is normally on the second or evening shift, however our understanding is that labour has requested that the meeting is conducted in the day shift or first shift. The Port is awaiting confirmation of an agreement of this from the Pacific Maritime Association.”
“The Port of Oakland is notifying customers that this agreement is in the works as a precaution, it is up to shipping lines and terminals to make arrangements to address the suspension of operations of 1 May. The request is for the day shift, as a result, operations could resume for the second shift depending on how the request is handled by the PMA. It is in the port’s best interests for work to continue safely and without interruption at all times,” he added.
The labour force has played an integral part in social justice movements in the past including the Big Strike in 1934 as well as the anti-Apartheid movement in 1984.
A spokesperson for the ILWU told CM: “The decision was reached by the local 10 union and not by the ILWU as a whole. A request has been submitted to the employers at the specific maritime association and is expected to be mutually agreed by both parties.”
The protest is expected to cause minor disruption and affect congestion at the port, just two months after labour disputes left a backlog of ships at West Coast ports. It has been confirmed that the Port of Oakland has now cleared the backlog of ships and almost all cargo backlogs since February’s closures.
The protest is being supported by a number of community organisations including the Transport Workers Solidarity, Love Not Blood Campaign, the Anti-Police-Terror project and many more.