Stakes high as ILWU caucus meets to discuss contract deal
Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor | Mar 28, 2015 6:46PM EDT
Ninety International Longshore and Warehouse Union delegates on Monday will open meetings in San Francisco that will determine the fate of U.S. West Coast ports for the next five years.
The ILWU’s coastwide caucus could last all week. Delegates will vote whether to recommend rank-and-file approval or rejection of the five-year contract the union and the Pacific Maritime Association tentatively agreed upon Feb. 20 after nine months of negotiations.
This year’s caucus is crucial for West Coast ports and customers as well as for the ILWU and PMA. If caucus delegates recommend approval, the union leadership will hold meetings in April with each port’s membership to explain details of the tentative agreement. If caucus delegates vote against approval, the ILWU and PMA must return to the bargaining table.
Reopening negotiations would stoke new fears among cargo interests at a time when the West Coast ports is starting to recover from its worst congestion since 2002, when the ports were closed for 10 days by a lockout during contract negotiations.
West Coast ports since late 2014 have been bleeding cargo, while ports on the East and Gulf coasts and in Canada have enjoyed a bonanza of shipments rerouted to avoid unrest on the West Coast.
The current diversions continue more than a decade of lost cargo opportunities at West Coast ports. The West Coast’s market share of U.S. containerized imports last year fell to 52.3 percent from 56.8 percent in 2000, according to PIERS, a JOC.com sister company now owned by IHS.
If the caucus fails to recommend approval of the tentative contract, the resulting uncertainty will undoubtedly lead to more diversion.
The proposed contract is not revolutionary. The ILWU will get pretty much everything it demanded during the protracted negotiations -- generous wage increases; continued employer-paid medical benefits, including the Cadillac tax in the Affordable Health Care Act that will take effect in 2018, and ILWU jurisdiction over chassis inspections, maintenance and repair.
A change in the contract’s arbitration system however, could result in significant changes in how day-to-day health, safety and work-rule disputes are handled at the local ports.
Grievance procedures called for a single arbitrator in each of the four port ranges -- Seattle-Tacoma, Oregon, Northern California and Southern California. The arbitrators in the Puget Sound and Los Angeles-Long Beach are nominated by the ILWU and approved by the PMA. The arbitrators in Oregon and Northern California are nominated by the PMA and approved by the ILW
This arrangement assumed that that the ILWU-nominated arbitrators would rule in favor of the union and the PMA-nominated arbitrators would rule in favor of the employers in the day-to-day disputes, and that the issues then would be appealed to a single, neutral coast arbitrator for final resolution, if necessary.
Wags on the employer side joked that having an ILWU-nominated arbitrators would hear the disputes was tantamount to walking into divorce court where the judge is your soon-to-be ex-father-in-law. In practice, it didn’t always happen that way.
During the recent negotiations, it came to light that the ILWU in Southern California wanted longtime arbitrator David Miller, a longshoreman who comes from a lineage of dockworkers, to be fired because he sometimes ruled against the union.
The tentative contract agreement calls for disputes to be settled by a three-person local arbitration panel. One member will be nominated by the ILWU, one by the PMA and one by a neutral arbitrator. The neutral arbitrator on each local panel must be a member of either the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service or the American Arbitration Association, but cannot be a lawyer.
Some opposition has arisen to the proposed new contract. Local 10 in Oakland, one of the most militant locals on the coast, appears likely to vote against approval. Local 10 frequently votes against proposed contract. After the Feb. 20 agreement was announced, the local called work stoppages to protest negotiators’ failure to win extra staffing requirements in the new agreement.
An organization called Transport Workers Solidarity Committee will hold an informational forum on Tuesday at a church across the street from the ILWU international headquarters to discuss the tentative contract. Four of the speakers are Local 10 members or retirees.
The group has been distributing flyers entitled, “Which Way for the ILWU -- Militant Unionism or Business Unionism?” The flyer includes pictures of ILWU international President Bob McEllrath and PMA President Jim McKenna with the caption, “PMA head McKenna and ILWU Pres. McElrath both get Shippers’ Award.”
Steve Zeltzer, publicity chair for the solidarity committee, on Friday accused the ILWU leadership of refusing to provide members with contract details. He also claimed that twice in recent years, ILWU leaders had attempted to suppress free speech by union critics of proposed contracts.
“We are concerned about disruption at the meeting,” he said. “We need more discussion, not less discussion.” The ILWU international headquarters did not return a JOC.com phone call.
The militancy expressed by the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee illustrates the fine line that ILWU leaders must walk. They must negotiate a contract that does not stifle trade at West Coast ports while winning support from affiliated groups and individual members who claim ILWU leadership consistently sells out to employers.
The key to eventual approval of the contract resides in Southern California, home of the largest ILWU local on the coast. Local 13 likely can determine by itself whether the tentative agreement is ratified or sent back for renegotiation. More clarity on Local 13's leanings should develop during the caucus.
Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: @billmongelluzzoTags: IWLUTWSC
Angry at Givebacks, Teamsters Unite to Challenge Hoffa
March 26, 2015 / Alexandra Bradburyenlarge or shrink textlogin or register to comment
Are the chickens finally coming home to roost for Teamsters brass? After the Hoffa administration forced concessions onto unwilling members, opponents are teaming up in the 2016 race. Photo: Alexandra Bradbury.
Are the chickens finally coming home to roost for Teamsters brass?
After a wave of anger at concessions the union forced onto unwilling members in its national contracts, some of President James Hoffa’s biggest opponents are teaming up to challenge him in the 2016 race.
Running on a slate called Teamsters United, Tim Sylvester and Fred Zuckerman kicked off their campaign March 14-15 with packed rallies in Queens, New York, and Worcester, Massachusetts.
“I feel good about it,” says Abel Garcia, a UPS feeder driver and second-generation Teamster in Oxnard, California. “There’s a new movement, a fresh breath of air across the country.”
Sylvester tops the ticket. He’s president of Local 804, based in Queens, which drew national attention for its militancy last year when 250 package car drivers were fired after a wildcat walkout to protest an unjust firing. The local ran a public campaign that got all the firings reversed.
To compete with the coalition’s Queens kickoff, the international sponsored an event the same morning, a few blocks away, to thank Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall for supporting the wildcatters—though in truth, Hall didn’t do much but claim credit.
Hear Tim Sylvester Speak
at the New York City Troublemakers School, a day of skill-building workshops, education, and strategy discussions to put some movement back in the labor movement.
March 28, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., The James Baldwin School, 351 W 18th St, Manhattan, $25. More details here.
Zuckerman is president of Local 89 in Louisville, Kentucky, the biggest UPS local and a center of resistance to the latest concessionary contract. He ran for vice president last time around on a rival ticket led by International Vice President Fred Gegare, a former Hoffa ally.
Package car driver Joan Elaine Miller traveled up from Philadelphia for the standing-room-only New York rally. “Our current elected officials have sadly—and we have no one but ourselves to blame—run unchecked for 17 years,” she said.
“I basically got off my butt and decided to get involved.”
WAVE OF ANGER
The opposition slate is backed by the union’s longtime reform caucus, Teamsters for a Democratic Union, which has run vigorous challenges every five years but so far hasn’t been able to topple Hoffa.
TDU-backed Tom Leedham scored at least 35 percent three elections in a row (1998, 2001, 2006). In 2011 Hoffa’s opponents scored 41 percent—split between Gegare and TDU-backed Sandy Pope.
What’s different this time: members are angrier, after having giveback contracts shoved down their throats.
“There’s no way in the world we should be giving concessions to a company that’s making $4 billion in profits annually,” Miller says. “What kind of statement is that about our union?”
Under the Teamster constitution, a national contract can only be approved once all its local supplements are ratified. In 2013, rank-and-file UPSers voted to reject 18 of 28 local supplements, covering 63 percent of members—holding up the whole national pact.
Members were angry at the deal’s givebacks, especially an increase in out-of-pocket health care costs, and its failure to address the proliferation of part-time work, coerced overtime, technological surveillance, and supervisory harassment.
The union went back to the table and improved the health care a bit—but focused greater energy on pushing members to vote yes. When Teamsters continued to hold out in some locals, international officers simply declared they had the right to impose the contract unilaterally.
Activists like Garcia took heat for having backed the vote-no effort. “I worked with the shop stewards and we put together a Central Coast stewards’ steering committee,” he said. “From Newbury Park, California, all the way to Paso Robles, we did a no vote twice. Then the contract was imposed on us and I was removed as steward.”
Teamsters outside UPS are fed up too. “Morale is terrible here,” says Jimi Richards, a road driver for YRC Freight in Atlanta.
Since 2010, members working for YRC Worldwide have endured a 15 percent wage cut and a 75 percent reduction in the company’s contribution to their pensions—while executives continue to rake in the stock options and bonuses.
“Members were duped,” Richards says. “They lied and threatened, said ‘If we don’t get this passed, we’ll close the doors.’ Come to find out they made a profit in the fourth quarter.”
Rank and filers’ right to vote for their national officers is now a permanent feature of the Teamster constitution. TDU’s advocacy notched that win in a January settlement agreement that replaced the 1989 consent decree as a way to monitor for corruption and enforce member control of the union.
But getting onto the October 2016 ballot won’t be easy. The coalition slate’s first hurdle is a petition drive this summer. It takes 50,000 Teamster signatures to become an accredited candidate.
Then in early 2016, each local will elect delegates to the June convention, where a candidate must win 5 percent of delegate votes to be nominated.
That threshold is tougher than it sounds. Local officers beholden to top leaders often run unopposed for delegate. When they do face opposition, they have the edge financially and strategically. And at the convention, delegates are pressured to back incumbents.
Even so, to avoid competition, the current administration has been keen to raise the nomination threshold to 10 percent of delegates. The settlement agreement delayed the pain, keeping it at 5 percent through the 2016 and 2021 elections. But after that, delegates may vote to raise the bar.
The impending change ramps up the urgency. “It just makes it all the more important that we win this time around,” says Frank Halstead, a Los Angeles grocery warehouse worker and TDU member, “because if we don’t take advantage of this opportunity, Hoffa’s going to do everything he can to make sure we never have this chance again.”
AT THE GRASSROOTS
“I’m going to try like hell to get these people through,” says Garcia. He plans to run for delegate supporting Teamsters United, and also run again this year for principal officer of his local; last time he lost narrowly in a three-way race.
Richards says the Teamsters United campaign’s biggest obstacle will be “obviously money, at a time when a lot of us, with the pay cuts that we got, are living paycheck to paycheck.”
But challengers will get a boost from at least one improvement to the rules: a week before the 2016 election, each candidate gets a free mailing to members. In the past the cost has deterred TDU-backed candidates from mailing at all, while Hoffa has sent out multiple glossies.
And unlike the incumbents, the opposition has an activist culture. Members meet regionally and keep in touch online so they can mobilize on a dime when issues flare up.
For instance, the Cromnibus spending bill that was pushed through Congress in December contained a sneaky provision allowing cuts to the benefits of retirees in multi-employer pensions. “We found out through AARP and TDU that they were slipping that part in,” Richards says.
“We used social media to round everyone up and raise hell. Members were out on their own for six days before the [Teamsters international] came out with a statement… Congress voted it in that night.”
For Miller the challenge will be getting her co-workers in motion. “They’re all very supportive: ‘Yeah, you’re right Joan, you’re right,’” she says.
“I’m hoping to motivate them. An active union is a healthy union. A busy union is a good union.”
A version of this article appeared in Labor Notes #433, April 2015. Don't miss an issue, subscribe today.
Alexandra Bradbury is editor of Labor Notes.
- See more at: http://labornotes.org/2015/03/angry-givebacks-teamsters-unite-challenge-...
From the ILWU Oral History Project, Volume IX, Part III
Introduction by Harvey Schwartz
This is the third article in a series featuring ILWU veterans of the “Old Left” who were once active in the American Communist Party (CP). While historians have argued for years about whether Harry Bridges was ever a Communist, not many writers have seriously explored the contributions of ILWU members who actually were in the CP. The present series addresses this oversight.
Don Watson, the focus of this month’s oral history, was a CP member between 1948 and 1956. One would be hard pressed to find a more dedicated adherent to the cause of labor. Watson retired from ship clerks Local 34 in 1993 after years of activist work for the ILWU and other unions, including the Marine Cooks and Stewards (MCS) in the early 1950s and the United Farm Workers (UFW) in the 1960s and 1970s. Today he is still helping the ILWU by assisting with the union’s lobbying program at the California state capitol.
Watson chaired the Local 34 executive board for 19 of the 24 years he served on that body. He told me he usually became chair or secretary of any labor committee he joined. Given his integrity and resolve, it is easy to understand why. In 1996 he helped set up the Copra Crane Labor Landmark Association (CCLLA) in San Francisco to preserve an outmoded waterfront device as a monument to the city’s work heritage. True to form, Watson has been the CCLLA secretary-treasurer ever since.
Don Watson has also long been an officer of the Southwest Labor Studies Association. Fittingly, this month he was given that organization’s Award for Distinguished Service to the Labor Movement for his outstanding record of combining union activism with the promotion of working class history.
I interviewed Watson in 1994 and 2004 for the Labor Archives and Research Center (LARC) at San Francisco State University. Thanks to LARC Director Susan Sherwood for releasing that oral history for use here.
Edited by Harvey Schwartz, Curator, ILWU Oral History Collection
My father, Morris Watson, was a newspaper man. In the 1920s he worked for the Omaha World Herald and the Denver Post. I was born in 1929 in Evanston, Illinois. My father had a newspaper job there with the Associated Press (AP). Soon after I was born the AP sent my father to New York, where I grew up. In New York my father was considered one of the AP’s best reporters. He covered major stories for the AP like the 1932 kidnapping of Charles A. Lindbergh’s son.
In 1933 my father read an article by the famous columnist Haywood Broun, who said he wanted to organize a newspaper reporters union. My father heeded Broun’s call and became one of the American Newspaper Guild (ANG) founders. He was also an ANG International vice-president.
During 1933 my father became the lead ANG organizer at the AP’s New York office. In retaliation the AP put him on the “lobster shift” in the middle of the night. They fired him in 1935. So the ANG filed an unfair labor practice charge under the new National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). This became one of a group of cases that went to the Supreme Court and resulted in the NLRA being declared constitutional in 1937.
My father also became involved in the New Deal’s Federal Theater Project. He directed “The Living Newspaper,” a theater group that dramatized headlines as plays. This was quite an enterprise in the mid-1930s. Late in the decade my father became active in New York’s left-wing American Labor Party. Consequently I got interested in politics and it became part of my development.
In 1942 Harry Bridges visited New York. He persuaded my father to move out to San Francisco that fall to become the founding editor of the new ILWU newspaper, The Dispatcher. I was 13 years old and Bridges was fascinating. He had this supercharged, forceful personality, was very political and liked to talk about going to sea.
I went to sea myself in the summer of 1946, the year before I graduated from high school in San Francisco. World War II had just ended and the whole world was moving on ships. The first trip I made was on a troop transport, the Marine Jumper. I was a “utility man”—a pot washer and potato peeler. That first trip I sailed as a permit man. I joined the National Union of Marine Cooks and Stewards (MCS), CIO in 1948. The AFL and the CIO were still separate rival organizations then.
I really got involved in political activity around ’48. I met people in the MCS who were Communists. I’d read the famous Communist William Z. Foster’s big book on labor, including the 1919 steel strike he’d been in. I thought Communists were good trade unionists and felt that I’d like to work along with them.
In 1948 Henry Wallace ran for president on the Progressive Party ticket. Wallace campaigned for peace with Russia and got enthusiastic support from the Left. I handed out Progressive Party leaflets, went to meetings, signed people up on petitions and did anything needed to help Wallace.
The MCS officially endorsed Wallace, but late in the campaign I noticed all these MCS members wearing Truman buttons. That didn’t seem good. On election day Harry Truman, the Democratic president, upset Thomas Dewey, the favored Republican. Unfortunately for the Left, Wallace did poorly.
I was also involved with the MCS Pre-Strike Committee in 1948. The MCS was allied with the ILWU and struck along with the longshoremen that year. President Truman slapped on an 80-day injunction to stop the strike under the new Taft-Hartley Act. I went to sea on the General Gordon during the injunction. When I got back, the strike was on. I sold the CP newspaper, The People’s World, at all the picket lines that dotted the San Francisco waterfront.
In 1950 I was at sea on the President Cleveland when the Korean War broke out. This right-wing guy named Randall called a special stewards meeting. He attacked the MCS leaders because they questioned the war, as did Bridges. I got up at the meeting and defended the MCS officers by saying they had done a lot for the people and we should listen to them.
I made two trips to the Pacific on the President Cleveland. The second time I was “screened” off the ship when the Cleveland returned to San Francisco. Screening was part of the government’s McCarthy era program of denying employment to leftist seamen and even politically moderate maritime union activists. The program was administered by the U.S. Coast Guard.
While I was disappointed, I knew that the Coast Guard had extended its screening to the Far East, but not to the area between San Francisco and Hawaii. So I got a job on the Lurline run to the Islands. After the third trip about 15 of us were screened at once. We came down the gangplank and had our pictures taken.
The Coast Guard held hearings on Sansome Street in San Francisco to review screenings. I gathered six to eight stewards to come to my hearing. Some of them vouched for me. But the Coast Guard hearing officer just went through the motions.
I got involved with the Committee Against Waterfront Screening. Even though I was young, about 21, I was elected secretary. The committee chair was Albert James, a Black longshore leader from ILWU Local 10. We held our meetings at the MCS hall in San Francisco. People from the ILWU and other maritime unions came.
I did the day-to-day work for the committee. I’ve found through the years that whenever I got on a committee I usually became chair or secretary very rapidly. Generally this happened because nobody else wanted to do the work with as much devotion as me.
The big activity we had was a daily picket line at the Coast Guard headquarters. Every day I supplied the leaflet. One I wrote in early 1951 says, “Screening since July 1950 has denied thousands of maritime workers on both coasts the right to work.” Sometimes I’d have a whole leaflet on some individual case. I also wrote about various ships cracking in two to show that the Coast Guard was spending more time screening seamen than working for safety.
We kept up our daily picketing for months. Some of the screened seamen got longshore work. The dispatchers at ILWU Local 10 would call the MCS hall when they had extra jobs. For a while we even got dispatched out of the ILWU Local 2 ship scalers hall.
In 1951 I was drafted into the Army. I was sent to Fort Ord, California, for basic training. They had these “Information and Education” sessions, really political talks. This one guy described what he called the Communist conspiracy. He had a chart of this Communist octopus that was going after our country and Harry Bridges was a major portion of his talk. And I’m just sitting there.
I didn’t discuss politics and I did all the marches and all the basic training. But that October I got a letter from the Department of Defense that contained what they called “derogatory information” about me and my parents. One charge said, “Your father is a Communist who has been active in Communist affairs since 1935.” They gave me 30 days to make a rebuttal in writing.
I went with my father to the attorneys for the ILWU and we did make a response. Part of it said, “If it is the policy of the U.S. Army to set sons against their parents, I do not intend to follow that policy.” Finally I was given a questionable “General Discharge under Honorable Conditions,” although I had done every assignment the Army gave me. Some years later, after a class-action suit, they sent me a revised “Honorable Discharge” and told me to destroy the other form.
After the Army I came back to the Bay Area and started doing the same things I was doing before I went in. Over the next two years I worked for the Independent Ironworks in Oakland, but as soon as the day was over I’d go down to the MCS hall to see what was happening. I still went to meetings and volunteered to help the seamen.
In 1950 the MCS had been expelled from the CIO for its left politics. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) called a bargaining election in 1954, but removed the MCS from the ballot because the top MCS officers didn’t comply with the non-Communist affidavits then called for under the Taft-Hartley Act. To support their officers the members voted “no union.”
A new NLRB election was called the next year and this time the ILWU stepped in to appear on the ballot. The stewards voted ILWU. However, the NLRB allowed other West Coast unlicensed seamen to vote in the same election, burying the ILWU vote. During the campaign Bob Robertson, the ILWU vice-president, asked me to help with a stewards’ edition of The Dispatcher. I put a lot of effort into it, but all was lost due to the politics of the time.
In 1955 I decided I would like to be an ILWU ship clerk. I didn’t have a strong upper body, so clerking seemed better than longshoring for me. Emmett Gilmartin, the clerks’ assistant dispatcher, gave me a permit card. This saved me because the dispatcher, Jim Roche, did not like screened seamen. But Roche was on vacation. When he returned Roche dispatched me anyway, although I was not his favorite.
There were many types of clerk jobs in the mid-1950s. Every ship had a different amount and kind of cargo. Today most of the work involves containers. But the time I’m talking about was even before the extensive use of palletized loads and lift trucks, which became the dominant features on the waterfront in the 1960s.
In unloading 1955-style the clerk told the longshoremen where to put the cargo. A ship’s crane would unload sling loads of cargo from the hatch to the dock where they would be placed on a series of four-wheel trucks. These four-wheelers were attached to a vehicle called a “bull.” The bull driver would haul the four-wheelers inside the dock where longshoremen would grab cases and put them where the clerk instructed.
At times there would be a cornucopia of goods for us to sort. We used to have piles of boxes all over Pier 29 of various sizes and types. The dock would end up looking like a Woolworth store. We had to build aisles or put small lots of cargo back-to-back or put large lots in piles. You had to figure out how much space was needed and where to put things. If you did it wrong, everybody would come down on you.
A major part of the job was receiving and delivery of cargo on and off trucks and rail cars. A clerk supervisor at the front of the dock would assign an arriving Teamster to drive to a section where he loaded or unloaded. When a clerk received cargo he counted it carefully. Then he would chalk mark the pile, including his count and the name of the loading ship.
In 1955 Jim Roche was the power in Local 34. He was the clerks’ dispatcher who did not like screened seamen. Roche didn’t like Black people either and wouldn’t dispatch them. He was a baseball fan. He was known for bringing in White ex-ballplayers and dispatching them to jobs.
An opposition faction arose around Jim Herman when Roche got sick about 1960. This was when Herman emerged into leadership. He was very articulate, lined up a following and got elected local vice-president and then president. He made some dramatic changes, like seeing that a good amount of Blacks came into the local. I was in a lunch group that supported Herman in the early 1960s.
About this time I got active politically in the California Democratic Council (CDC). I’d left the Communist Party in 1956 after Khrushchev’s famous speech criticizing Stalin was followed by the Russian invasion of Hungary. That told me the Party was not going to change. I felt relieved by my decision, which actually came when the CP wanted to advance me toward leadership. Instead I joined the Young Democrats and then the CDC. In both organizations we backed the election to public office of up and coming candidates like Phil and John Burton and Willie Brown.
Around ’62 the ILWU set up its own political group, the West Bay Legislative Committee. Bill Chester was the chair. I was elected vice-chair because they wanted a clerk in the post. In the late 1960s I ran for election to the Local 34 executive board. I made it on the second try and served for 24 years, including 19 as chair.
Jim Herman and I were both from the MCS and had fought the screening program. We also both actively supported the farm worker union movement in the 1960s and that became the basis of our relationship. In the mid-1960s Whitey Kelm and Herb Mills of Local 10 started a five-dollar-a-month club in support of the farm workers organizing drive. I’d met Dolores Huerta, the vice-president of the United Farm Workers (UFW), and had been impressed. I joined the club. It lapsed and I started it up again. Herman was very helpful and the local gave me sort of an official status.
Starting in 1967 or ’68 Local 34 had yearly Christmas collections for the UFW. As the head of this effort I’d go around to every pier on the waterfront and collect money from the clerks and longshoremen. The overwhelming majority gave. This continued into the mid-1970s. We also had a monthly labor caravan that brought food and money to the UFW headquarters in Delano, California.
I was so involved with the UFW that I became kind of an honorary farm worker. During the 1970 lettuce strike in Salinas I walked the UFW picket lines. In the early 1970s I started putting in only 800 hours a year on the waterfront. I spent most of my time helping the farm workers. I was very close to the UFW’s San Francisco boycott house and volunteered many hours there. Often I would care for Dolores Huerta’s children while she led UFW demonstrations or spoke publicly.
During the 1971 coast longshore strike Herman called for a Local 10/Local 34 Joint Longshore Strike Assistance Committee (JLSAC). He said, “I want Watson to be the secretary.” That was it. Everybody agreed and I became the secretary. While the strike was on I went to a UFW rally in Sacramento. I asked Marshall Ganz and Jim Drake, two farm worker leaders, if there was a little something they could do for our strikers. They said, “I think so.”
The next thing I knew they put together this huge caravan, which was really a payback. This long grape truck came to the San Francisco waterfront from the Central Valley. There were several trucks from Salinas. They had all this produce. Maybe 150 farm workers arrived too. They visited the Local 34 hall and then went down to Local 10. It became a giant event.
This more than anything else made my waterfront reputation. I was the secretary of the JLSAC, and all of a sudden this help came, and it was on such a vast scale. It took hours just to unload those trucks. While I got the credit within the ILWU, the farm workers really outdid themselves. I was amazed.
Around 1975 I started doing a lot of volunteer research for the UFW legal office in Salinas. This returned me to an interest in labor history. I did research papers on fruit tramp shed workers from the 1930s to 1970 and on lettuce mechanization. I interviewed farm workers, union activists and growers and made presentations to meetings of the Southwest Labor Studies Association.
My interest in farm worker history led me to co-found the Bay Area Labor History Workshop (BALHW) in 1980 with a scholar and UFW volunteer named Margo McBane. I had little academic training and was working in isolation without much feedback. If you don’t have that, you need some kind of a forum for discussion. If you want something and there’s no organization, you go ahead and organize it yourself. That’s what I did, and the BALHW is still going strong today.
In 1978 I became the Local 34 delegate to the ILWU’s regional political arm, the Northern California District Council (NCDC). Four years later NCDC President LeRoy King asked me to take on the job of NCDC secretary-treasurer and this broadened to include legislative lobbying at the state capitol in Sacramento. I remained with these duties until I retired in 1993.
Although I’m thankful that ILWU longshore members and retirees have good medical and pension plans, others are not so lucky. We are all facing ongoing privatization, deregulation and tax cuts, along with growing state and national deficits, all of which hurt working people. That’s why I’ve decided to continue to offer my lobbying skills to help the ILWU program in Sacramento.
By the London IWW
3 of us – hospitality workers employed on zero-hour contracts – have lost our jobs. This is at Friends House London, the head office of British Quakers where – despite the organisation’s reputation as a ‘good employer’ – senior managers responded to objections to the use of zero-hour contracts by getting rid of the three remaining workers employed on them!
Two of us were elected Unite the Union workplace representatives, and a third is a Quaker. One worker has been subject to intimidatory disciplinary processes; we all feel we’ve been targeted for being principled and outspoken at work; and our health has suffered. With the support of the London IWW union, we are calling for:
IWW Greece: International Call for Revolutionary Solidarity with the Political Prisoners on Hunger Strike
By IWW Greece
At the present moment, the imprisoned anarchists, members of DAK (Network of imprisoned social fighters), A. Stampoulos, A. Theofilou, G. Karagianidis, D. Politis, F. Charisis, A. Dalios, D. Mpourzoukos, G. Sarafoudis, G. Michailidis, the members of the “Revolutionary Struggle” N. Maziotis and K. Gournas, the member of “17th of November” D. Koufontinas, a number of Turkish political prisoners and the prisoners G. Sofianidis and M. S. Eltsibach, are on a hunger strike, fighting against the repressive legal state of exception which has been established by the Greek state since the beginning of 2000.
Starting on March 2nd, along with the comrades outside the prison walls, we commenced a struggle for the abolition of type C high security prisons, the abolition of “antiterrorist” law, the abolition of the “hoodlaw”, the radical change in the process of taking and identification of DNA samples, the release of the seriously sick member of 17N S. Ksiros.
ILA Longshoremen approve local contract, ending 18-month labor standoff at Baltimore port
By Kevin Rector
The Baltimore Sun
Longshoremen in Baltimore have voted in a new local labor contract
The 18-month labor standoff at Baltimore's port is over. Local 333
Members of Baltimore's largest dockworkers union agreed Wednesday to a new local labor contract, ending a nearly 18-month standoff that both sides said threatened the long-term viability of the port.
Members of the International Longshoremen's Association Local 333 voted by a thin margin to approve the contract negotiated by national ILA officials and the Steamship Trade Association of Baltimore, which represents shippers.
The vote was met with relief by shipping representatives and port officials, who have worked to allay shippers' concerns about labor stability throughout the long negotiations.
Michael Angelos, president of the Steamship Trade Association, said the "contract ratification provides security for the membership and to port of Baltimore customers."
Helen Delich Bentley, a former congresswoman and current adviser to the Maryland Port Administration, said the "18 months of uncertainty have not helped the port's image." She said she was glad Local 333 members voted to put the dispute behind them.
"The passage of the contract tonight should provide the solid foundation that we need for the port of Baltimore to move ahead," Bentley said.
A vote tally was not released, but Bentley said the contract passed by just a few votes.
Wilbert Rowell, the ILA trustee put in charge of Local 333 in November amid allegations of improprieties by the chapter's elected local officials, said "no comment" when reached by phone late Wednesday. Before the vote, he had praised the proposed contract as a "positive step in the right direction" that included several "significant gains" for Local 333.
Jim McNamara, a national spokesman for the ILA, did not respond to requests for comment.
The agreement, which covers the handling of automobiles and other noncontainer cargo, complements a broader master contract that governs container cargo handled by ILA labor at ports from Maine to Texas.
The local contract is valid through Sept. 30, 2018, when the master contract also expires, and includes guaranteed wage increases, ensures that all jobs will be filled with ILA labor and ends the hiring of nonunion workers off the pier.
It also forgives a $3.8 million damages award assessed against Local 333 by a federal arbitrator last year after the local's members went on strike for three days in October 2013, shutting down operations at Baltimore's public terminals and spurring fears of labor instability.
The arbitrator ruled that the work stoppage violated a no-strike provision in the master contract and ordered Local 333 to pay damages to shippers. The ruling prompted litigation — which will now be jointly dismissed under the new contract's terms — and complicated the contract negotiations.
Rowell was put in charge of Local 333 in November after accusations that the chapter's elected leaders had been stacking union rolls improperly ahead of a local election. Rowell purged the rolls of about 500 recently admitted members.
Last week, the former president of Local 333, Riker "Rocky" McKenzie, former recording secretary Ezekiel Givens and 86 purged members filed a lawsuit against both the national ILA and the STA, alleging that they had been removed from leadership and membership positions in the union as part of an effort by the national ILA and the Steamship Trade Association to gain a local contract to their liking.
An attorney for McKenzie and the other plaintiffs said this week that they would challenge any vote taken by the Local 333 membership Wednesday because the contract terms should be negotiated by the chapter's locally elected leaders and not by Rowell and other outside ILA officials.
However, an emergency motion filed by the attorney Tuesday seeking a temporary injunction to prevent Wednesday's vote pending an outcome in the case was denied.
Are the chickens finally coming home to roost for Teamsters brass?
After a wave of anger at concessions the union forced onto unwilling members in its national contracts, some of President James Hoffa’s biggest opponents are teaming up to challenge him in the 2016 race.
Click here to read more at Labor Notes.
London Bus Strike 5/2/2015 On the Picket Line - Why is there a strike?
Pregnant Workers Backed by US Supreme Court in UPS Case
By Greg Stohr, Bloomberg
25 March 15
he US Supreme Court backed the rights of pregnant workers, reviving a lawsuit by a former United Parcel Service Inc. driver who left her job when the company wouldn’t provide the less strenuous work recommended by her doctor.
The justices, voting 6-3, sent the case back for a possible trial, which would center on UPS’s reasons for refusing to accommodate Peggy Young’s needs while giving temporary assignments to workers recovering from on-the-job injuries.
The ruling is the Supreme Court’s first since 1991 on employers’ duties toward their pregnant workers. Although it may have limited significance going forward because of legal changes at the state and federal level, the case touched on issues that have driven a wedge through the court and American society.
The justices divided to some degree along ideological lines. The court’s three women -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan -- joined Justice Stephen Breyer in the majority, as did two Republican appointees, Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts.
Writing for the court, Breyer said the lower court that threw out the suit should have scrutinized UPS’s justification for accommodating other workers.
“Why, when the employer accommodated so many, could it not accommodate pregnant workers as well?” Breyer wrote.
The opinion adopted what Kagan characterized during arguments in December as a “middle ground” approach, rejecting more sweeping contentions from both sides. Because lower courts had generally backed employers on the issue, it gives some pregnant workers a new avenue to win cases.
UPS contended that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act leaves room for companies to have neutral policies like seniority systems and special preferences for workers who are injured on the job.
“UPS is pleased that the Supreme Court rejected the argument that UPS’s pregnancy-neutral policy was inherently discriminatory,” the company said in a statement. The company said it was confident the lower courts “will find that UPS did not discriminate against Ms. Young under this newly announced standard.”
Young worked at a UPS facility in Landover, Maryland. Her job required her to load packages onto vehicles and deliver them to their destination. Although she says the vast majority of those packages were envelope-size, her job description required her to lift parcels of up to 70 pounds.
In 2006, Young became pregnant after in vitro fertilization. Her doctor and midwife said she shouldn’t lift objects weighing more than 20 pounds during the first half of the pregnancy or more than 10 pounds for the rest.
She says UPS refused to accommodate her needs either by adjusting her job responsibilities or by temporarily assigning her to a position that didn’t require heavy lifting.
She went on an unpaid leave of absence and returned to work after her baby was born. Young later left UPS and sued the company for compensation.
UPS says it was simply abiding by its seniority system and union contract, which makes no provision for pregnant employees with physical limitations. The union agreement called for reassignments to be available to workers with job-related injuries and those considered permanently disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The accord also made provisions for people who lost their federal driver’s certification, letting them temporarily take jobs that don’t involve operating a vehicle.
The Atlanta-based delivery company shifted its policy after the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. UPS says it now treats pregnant employees in need of special accommodations the same as workers with on-the-job injuries, giving them light-duty assignments if available. Young, now 43, continued to press her case in an effort to win damages.
UPS said one reason for the change was the increasing number of states that require accommodations for pregnant workers. At least nine states will have those requirements, up from one at the time of Young’s pregnancy.
Rights for pregnant workers may be broader under federal law in the future as well. The Obama administration says a 2008 amendment to the federal disabilities law may give additional protections to women whose pregnancies limit their activities.
The amendment provides protections for workers with temporary disabilities that aren’t connected to on-the-job injuries. The change also expands the definition of disability to make clear that an inability to lift, stand or bend is covered.
Because the UPS dispute predated that amendment, Young wasn’t able to invoke it in her case, and the Supreme Court didn’t consider it.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act says employers must treat pregnant workers the same as other employees “not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.”
Breyer said each of the litigants -- UPS, Young and the Obama administration -- had misinterpreted that clause. His opinion instead adopted what he said was a familiar approach used by courts with other types of job-discrimination lawsuits.
Breyer said judges should assess an employer’s explanation for treating workers differently and determine whether those reasons were a pretext for discrimination. Breyer said plaintiffs can use “circumstantial proof to rebut an employer’s apparently legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons.”
He told the appeals court to determine whether Young had shown enough evidence of pretext to warrant taking the case to trial.
Alito didn’t join Breyer’s reasoning, writing separately to explain his views.
In dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia said the majority departed from the Pregnancy Discrimination Act’s text.
“The court seems to think our task is to craft a policy-driven compromise between the possible readings of the law, like a congressional conference committee reconciling House and Senate versions of a bill,” Scalia wrote.
The case is Young v. UPS, 12-1226.Tags: upsdiscrimination
The U.S. Supreme Court sided with a woman who was faced with the choice to either work her labor-intensive job during pregnancy at the United Parcel Service or go on unpaid leave without benefits. In an opinion issued Wednesday morning, the justices ruled 6-3 that Young should at least be given a full opportunity to make her case in court that she was not given the same accommodation as other employees considered injured or disabled.
Young was tasked with lifting boxes as heavy as 70 pounds in her job as a UPS worker. When she got pregnant, her midwife recommended that she not lift more than 20 pounds, and wrote a note asking her employer to put her on light duty. Had Young been written a similar note because Young broke her arm carrying boxes, or suffered from a disability, UPS would have put her on what is known as “light duty.” But UPS wouldn’t do it for Young on account of her pregnancy. The alternative was to take unpaid leave without medical benefits.
Click here to read more at Think Progress.Issues: UPS
Hundreds of Alameda County recycling workers filled the Local 6 union hall on March 1 to celebrate two years of hard work that yielded dramatic improvements in wages, benefits and working conditions –and opened the door to helping new workers organize and join the ILWU.
Like the historic “Alameda County Recycling Workers Convention” held in the same location two years ago, the room was filled again with family members, community supporters and political allies who came to celebrate the string of remarkable organizing victories by workers at the largest recycling operators in Alameda County.
Recycling worker Alejandra León co-chaired the event with fellow recycling worker Pedro Sanchez. Both did an excellent job and conducted most of the event in Spanish – the language preferred by a majority of recycling workers – but simultaneous professional translation services were offered with headphones to everyone attending.
Monsignor Antonio Valdivia provided an inspirational blessing to begin the event. He started by recalling that his own father had been a longtime member of Local 6, and used to bring home copies of the ILWU’s Dispatcher newspaper, which little Antonio would read out loud for his father who was unable to read. Monsignor Valdivia concluded by speaking to all the children in the room, asking them to respect how hard their parents are working at difficult jobs in order to provide bread for their families.
Local 6 Secretary-Treasurer Fred Pecker added his welcome, thanking workers and special guests. He recounted the many accomplishments made during the past two years, explaining, “you’ve done so much good work to make life better for hundreds of workers employed in this industry – but many more recyclers are still suffering, and we’re now in a better position to help them.
A surprise visit was paid by the superhero, “Recycle Woman,” who appeared at the event in brightly-colored tights and a cape, played by Jessica Robinson. After greeting the audience, she led the children into a back room where she shared games that taught “zero waste” recycling skills for the children to use at home and school.
Solidarity from Brazil & Colombia
Environmental organizer Christie Keith of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) brought a message of solidarity and support from recycling workers in Colombia, Brazil and other members of the Latin America Recyclers Network. She noted that all recycling workers share a common bond for the important environmental work that they perform – and the struggle for justice required to gain recognition and respect. GAIA organizer Monica Wilson, who serves on the Campaign for Sustainable Recycling Steering Committee, also attended.
ILWU International Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe and Secretary- Treasurer Willie Adams were both on hand to lend support and encouragement. Familathe, who oversees the union’s organizing efforts, said the
International union has supported the recycler organizing project for years because it has been a good way to help workers in a partnership with Local 6. He offered his continued support and encouraged workers to maintain their organizing efforts.
Alejandra León thanked Willie Adams for appearing two years ago at the first Recyclers Convention, where he predicted: “This campaign that we’re taking on, won’t be won by speeches – it will be won by working with allies, partners and a strong commitment.”
León thanked him for supporting the project and said his words two years ago had been “prophetic.” Adams spoke briefly, thanking workers for keeping faith in themselves and their union.
Key role by workers
The heart of the event was led by workers who shared short stories about the struggles they have endured during the past two years, fighting for better wages and benefits.
“Two years ago, we came here to make a plan for improving our recycling jobs. We set a goal for better pay that some people – including some officials from the Teamster and Machinists union – told us was ‘too much, too soon.’ But we didn’t back down, and today are celebrating the many victories that came from everyone’s hard work,” said León, as she and Pedro Sanchez began introducing workers who briefly shared their stories. Josefa Solano from BLT in Fremont explained how they became the first group of recycling workers to win raises and benefits that meet the new standard. Dinora Jordan from Waste Management told of a long, difficult but ultimately successful struggle by workers against one of the largest waste companies in the world.
Jose Gomez from ACI explained how workers overcame minimum wages, no benefits, no union and disrespect for immigrant workers to join Local 6. He reported that co-workers are now negotiating an ILWU contract that meets the “Alameda County Recycling Worker Standard” calling for “sorters” to earn $20.94 by 2019 along with affordable family health benefits.
“We couldn’t do all this by ourselves,” said Pedro Sanchez, who said the room was full of “compañeros” who supported the “causa” of improving conditions for recyclers. A group of special guests was then recognized and thanked – each receiving the gift of a commemorative framed poster signed by recycling workers.
Attorney Emily Maglio from the Leonard Carder law firm was recognized for helping ACI workers prevail in a class-action lawsuit that was recently settled for $1.1 million and will provide many workers with significant back-pay awards. Workers Ignacia Garcia, Maria Granados Flores and Griselda Mora were named on the lawsuit were recognized and thanked for their courage.
Alameda Mayor Trish Spencer was congratulated for hearing the concerns of recycling workers who have appeared before the City Council several times to provide updates and seek support for improvements at ACI, which provides recycling services for Alameda residents.
Recycler Ruben Ramos introduced Fremont City Councilmember Vinnie Bacon and thanked him for taking leadership to protect the environment and promote worker justice. Fremont was the first city in Alameda County to help workers reach the new pay and benefit standard. Oakland City Council member Dan Kalb was congratulated for supporting the fight to improve recycling services for Oakland residents and help workers win better working conditions.
Recycling and waste expert Ruth Abbe was honored for her service to the campaign, including her continuing role on the Steering Committee of the Campaign for Sustainable Recycling.Abbe also plays a leadership role in the Sierra Club’s Zero Waste Committee and has been providing workers with invaluable advice. Other environmental support for the campaign has been offered by the Center for Environmental Health.
Community organizer Brooke Anderson, affiliated with the Movement Generation network, ran to the podium to accept her award for supporting the recycling worker campaign. She has organized workshops to train workers about the economics of the recycling industry, and serves on the Steering Committee of the Campaign for Sustainable Recycling. Other community support has been provided by Oakland’s East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE). Recycler Mirella Jauragui congratulated staff from the University of California’s Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP) for providing excellent health and safety training sessions to hundreds of recycling workers. LOHP staffers Suzanne Teran, Dinorah Barton-Antonio and Valeria Velasquez were recognized for their important work. Additional workplace safety advocacy and support has been provided by the Worksafe! organization.
The final honors were reserved for Pastor Pablo Morataya of the Primera Inglesia Prebisteriana Hispana in Oakland. A key ally in the campaign to help workers, Pastor Morataya hosted the campaign’s first major community outreach event in November, 2013, where political leaders from Oakland agreed to pledge their support for improving conditions for recycling workers. He has also been a strong advocate for immigrant workers at ACI who were threatened with discrimination and firings.
Other important support for ACI workers from the faith community has been provided by Rev. Deborah Lee of the Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights. Other faith community leadership for the recycler’s campaign has been provided by Rev. Kurt Kuhwald, Kristi Laughlin and Servant B.K. Woodson of the Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy (FAME).
The afternoon event concluded with music – featuring the beautiful voices of Pedro Sanchez and Gustavo Nuñez, who also played keyboard. Family members of Rosa Delia Pérez provided the “DJ” service and more music. A buffet dinner was provided for all family members and guests.
ACI worker José Delgadillo probably summed up the feelings of many in the room, when he said: “All of us who work at ACI have seen how much Local 6 and the ILWU have done to help us. We can now see that a better life is possible – not just for us, but for other recyclers who can win if we help them.”