The ILWU has been advocating for a national, single-payer health plan since 1938, and remains active in that effort through a network of unions and community groups who met in New York City on January 13-15, to continue pushing for a quality, non-profit health system that would cover every American. ILWU International President Bob McEllrath assigned pensioner and longtime “single-payer” health advocate Rich Austin, Sr., to attend the meeting and represent the ILWU.
Protest to protect Medicare & jobs
Activists from around the country began their 3-day meeting with an early-evening protest against threatened Medicare and Medicaid cuts proposed by Republican leaders in the House of Representative and U.S. Senate. They convened outside Trump Tower, where the President-elect had been meeting with Congressional leaders. The Tower also hosts offices of a union-busting company, Momentive Chemical, which forced 700 workers out on strike last November by demanding huge concessions in health care benefits. Workers are resisting those take-aways despite bitter-cold days on the picket line.
Growing strength in numbers
More than 100 new participants were on hand for the opening session of the health care conference that began after the evening protest ended. The 500 attendees came from many different unions and groups including Physicians for a National Health Program and the Labor Campaign for Single Payer, which hosted the event.
Labor for Bernie continues
Invitations for a special meeting held during the conference went out to the six national unions, including the ILWU, who backed Senator Bernie Sanders for President: the Communication Workers of America, American Postal Workers Union, National Nurses United, United Electrical Workers, and the Amalgamated Transit Union. The representatives who attended felt that progressive unions should work to expand the “Labor for Bernie” network by including other national and local unions to promote “Medicare for All” and other issues raised by the Sanders campaign. A future meeting on this topic is being planned for February.
ILWU contribution noted
A contribution check from the ILWU to support the “Labor Campaign for Single Payer” effort was welcomed with applause when Rich Austin presented the donation on the second day of the conference. He noted the ILWU’s longtime support for a national healthcare system that should cover everyone, similar to the Medicare program that already covers older Americans without using expensive, profit-making insurance companies.
The conference ended with discussions about strategy, emphasizing the need to build grassroots support to protect and expand Medicare and Medicaid. After adjourning, Austin and others went to a rally at the “Wall Street Bull” statue in Bowling Green Park, an action inspired by Bernie Sanders to protect and improve America’s health care system. “Over 12 million Americans supported Bernie Sanders during the Presidential primary campaign because they liked what he said about ‘Medicare for All,’ good union jobs, and affordable college for everyone,” said Austin. “Those problems will remain front-and-center during the next four years, and we need to be involved in the process.”
Crews at Foss Tug in Long Beach escalated their fight to renew a fair contract during January. Dozens of workers represented by the Inlandboatmen’s Union, the ILWU’s Marine Division, attended a rally on January 6 in front of the Foss Long Beach headquarters on Berth 35.
Rally shows support
“The rally expressed our unity, determination to fight and willingness to win,” said John Skow, IBU Regional Director for Southern California. After a short march to the assembly area, workers heard from IBU President Alan Coté. “This is an important struggle for the entire maritime industry,” said Coté. “We’re up against a big corporation that seems more comfortable dictating than negotiating, but solidarity has always been a powerful weapon to level the playing field for workers.”
ILWU International Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe spoke on behalf of the International union. “You’ve got the entire ILWU family behind you in this struggle,” said Familathe, who noted that the union has never flinched from taking on tough fights and difficult employers. “There are a lot of people here today who are supporting this struggle,” as he recognized an impressive contingent of ILWU leaders present that included Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr., Local 63 President Paul Trani, Local 94 President Danny Miranda, Local 68 Port Pilots President Ed Royals and leaders from Ship Scalers Local 56. Representatives of the Masters, Mates and Pilots (MMP) union also attended as did members of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association (MEBA) union.
Disrespect & legal violations
The rally occurred because management at Foss Long Beach has been refusing to negotiate in good faith and continues to retaliate against 30 IBU members with lay-offs, leaving roughly 20 workers employed out of the 50-member workforce.
Implementing their ultimatum
On January 5, the company took the drastic step of implementing new schedules that eliminated the contract’s 8-hour day – requiring workers to instead remain on vessels for days at a time. They also implemented a new pay schedule without union approval. These unilateral, one-sided actions are only allowed by law if the company has engaged in good-faith negotiations, exhausted all efforts to settle, and reached an “impasse” in the contract talks – something the IBU is vigorously disputing in legal charges that have been filed against the company.
Strike in Long Beach
IBU members responded to the company’s unlawful change in contract conditions by declaring an unfair labor practices (ULP) strike on January 16. The picket lines began to form early and were humming by 6am. They continued until 6pm that evening. The next morning, company officials were notified that union members agreed to return to work, with everyone back on the job that evening. “We’ve been trying to negotiate with a company that doesn’t seem to respect the law,” said Skow. “The contract talks began more than six months ago, but we were far from an impasse and could easily reach a settlement if Foss would respect the law and show a willingness to compromise.”
Big company with deep pockets
Foss is owned by Salchuk, a wealthy conglomerate created in 1982 that has grown with both union and non-union operations. Salchuk has used this flexibility to benefit wealthy owners at the expense of workers. For example, after Foss retaliated against workers with layoffs, they were able to keep clients by re-shuffling their tug business to a Saltchuk subsidiary known as “AmNav, ”which operates at various west coast ports including LA/Long Beach – without IBU crew members.
Saltchuk workers are represented by several unions, including the Masters, Mates and Pilots (MMP), Marine Engineers Beneficial Association (MEBA) and the Seafarers International Union (SIU). The ILWU and IBU are coordinating information efforts with these unions. “In the end, the struggle here at Foss will come down to a combination of courage and solidarity, which is what it always takes to win on the waterfront,” said ILWU Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe. “Foss workers are showing that they’ve got what it takes to see this through to a just conclusion.”
ILWU members in Los Angeles, Seattle, and the Bay Area honored Martin Luther King Day by marching, protesting and meeting to promote social justice.
MLK breakfast in LA
“We can honor Dr. King’s legacy by continuing his struggle for justice, especially for the poor and oppressed in our society,” said ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams, who attended a breakfast on January 14 with other ILWU leaders organized by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. Adams noted that King was assassinated in Memphis while he was helping union sanitation workers win their courageous strike for respect and better pay.
California’s new Senator
Hundreds union members from throughout Southern California went to the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown LA where newly-elected U.S. Senator Kamala Harris was the featured speaker.“When our ideals and fundamental values are under attack, do we retreat or do we fight? I say we fight!” she said. “Whenever there’s been an assault on working families, we’ve never backed down. We ‘ve stood together. And that’s exactly what we’ll do now.”
Taking risks to win
Speakers at the LA event noted that King and other Civil Rights leaders of his generation were not afraid to take risks. King was arrested more than 30 times and suffered numerous beatings while advocating non-violent tactics in order to win public support.
King’s lessons for labor
“There’s still plenty we can learn from Dr. King’s leadership style and his approach to strategy,” said Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr. who attended the event. “There’s no progress without a struggle, and winning public support is as important today as it was then. King was challenged by how to win majority support for a “minority” cause, and that’s the same challenge labor unions face today with only 6% of private-sector workers in a union.”
The keynote speaker at the LA labor breakfast was Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, a leading human rights advocate who is challenging injustice in the courtroom and prison system. He has appeared before the Supreme Court and recently won a historic ruling that invalidated mandatory “lifewithout- parole” sentences for all children 17 or younger.
Seattle MLK march
ILWU members in the Puget Sound region joined a large event on Monday that began with workshops at a local high school, followed by a rally with speakers, and poetry and music in the gym. The main event was an afternoon march that drew an estimated 10,000 participants which ended at the federal building in downtown Seattle, where a final rally was held. This year’s event marked the 35th celebration held in Seattle to honor MLK’s legacy.
Bay Area breakfast
An early morning breakfast on January 16 brought ILWU members together with fellow unionists and civil rights activists at the Marriott Hotel San Francisco. The featured speaker was Dolores Huerta, a co-founder of the United Farmworkers Union, who helped lead a union drive five decades ago in California’s agricultural fields. The UFW played a central role in the continuing civil rights struggle by Latino immigrants.
The ILWU will be holding a Leadership Education and Development Institute (LEAD VII) in Seattle, Washington, May 7-11, 2017. The theme of this year’s training will be: Internal Unity and Mobilization: the ILWU in Action.
“Our union and its membership demands leadership education to survive and grow. LEAD helps develop activists, a strong rank and file—everyone has a niche and leadership training helps pave avenues for action on all levels,” commented ILWU Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams. “I look around and see that most of the leaders in this union have gone to LEAD. These programs help inspire and engage. Education will deliver us as we move forward.”
Topics at the training will include:
- Increasing strength and unity through member participation;
- Building union power in times of economic and political uncertainty;
- Improving communication— both within the union and with the general public;
- How to run effective union meetings;
- Bridging the generational gap; and inspiring young worker involvement;
- Lessons from the ILWU’s history, its diverse membership and divisions;
Instructors include active and retired ILWU members, labor activists, and staff from the International, university labor centers, and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Local unions and affiliates may nominate participants, who are each required to fill out an application and hotel reservation form. Priority consideration will be given to new officers and rank and file activists who have not yet participated in any previous LEAD programs. For reasons of space and diversity, each affiliate should expect to send no more than two participants, but a waiting list will be taken in case of cancellations or non-participation by some locals.
The LEAD budget will cover participants’ hotel stay, breakfast, lunch, training materials, facilities, and instructors. Participants will be housed together in double rooms but may upgrade to a single room at their own expense. Any reimbursement for expenses such as lost wages, or travel will have to be covered by the participant or his or her local or IBU region, or by area fundraising activities.
Financial hardship applications will be considered on an individual basis. In cases where financial hardship is an obstacle to participation, a written request for assistance, including a statement about the circumstances involved and the amount of assistance requested, must be submitted to the International Secretary-Treasurer. Interested members should complete and return the application and reservation forms, which are available from your local or through the ILWU website: www.ilwu.org/training. Educational Services Director Robin Walker is also available to help answer questions.
Please return the completed forms by fax or mail no later than March 10,
2017 to: ILWU LEAD VII Applications
c/o International Secretary
Treasurer William Adams
1188 Franklin St., 4th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94109
As the Dispatcher was going to press in Late December, tugboat crews at Foss Maritime Long Beach were trying to renew a contract that expired six months ago on June 30, 2016.
“It’s not unusual for negotiations to continue after a contract expires, but the refusal by Foss to bargain in good faith is what’s different here,” said IBU Regional Director John Skow.
He says there were roughly 30 negotiating sessions since May of 2016, but most involved company demands for unilateral concessions from the union, instead of good-faith bargaining to reach a settlement.
Retaliation against IBU members
Foss tug crews belong to the ILWU’s Marine Division, known as the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU). Until recently, about 50 IBU crewmembers were working on Foss tugs at the Ports of LA and Long Beach – the nation’s largest port complex. But when Foss officials didn’t get their way at the negotiating table, they retaliated with layoffs that targeted over 30 IBU members. Retaliation against union members is illegal and the IBU quickly filed federal charges against Foss, but the legal process still favors companies with deep pockets – and the new administration in Washington is making it clear that they intend to be friendly with corporations, not union members.
Foss wants to break with CA law
Foss has dug their heels behind a company demand that union members must waive their right to 8-hour shifts with overtime pay after a full day’s work. Those terms are also part of California’s labor code. It is technically possible to bend that law – but only if workers voluntarily agree to give up that right to overtime after am 8-hour shift in a new contract, which Foss has been demanding from the beginning.
Weeks on duty, smaller crews
Foss has taken their demand to waive overtime to the extreme, by insisting that tug crews remain on company vessels for up to two weeks before going home. Besides getting no overtime, the company would force crewmembers to work “mini-shifts” of 6 hours, with just 6 hours of downtime between shifts. The company is also proposing to reduce crew sizes from the current 3 to just 2, posing another safety hazard.
Dangers of sleep deprivation
Numerous scientific studies have proven the need for extended sleep periods to ensure safety and top performance, a fact that the company has apparently overlooked or ignored.
“These change would make Foss a lot of money, but it would also be incredibly dangerous for crewmembers to perform hazardous tasks while sleep deprived,” said IBU President Alan Coté.
Tugs crews know that their work can be extremely dangerous, and can describe some incredibly horrible incidents – including serious injuries and deaths – that have occurred at LA/ Long Beach.
“The 8-hour-day is a right that workers all over America fought and died to win,” said Adam Petty, a member of the IBU Bargaining Committee. “Longer duty periods would be hard on our families and pose a real threat to our safety, so we can’t ignore that reality when the company talks about increasing efficiency and making more profit.”
Big company with deep pockets
Foss is owned by a wealthy conglomerate called Salchuk that formed in 1982 and has been growing ever since with both union and non-union operations. Salchuk has used their flexibility to benefit wealthy owners at the expense of workers. For example, after Foss retaliated against workers with layoffs, they were able to keep clients by reshuffling tug business to a Saltchuk subsidiary known as “AmNav,” which operates at various west coast ports including LA/Long Beach – without IBU crewmembers.
Saltchuk workers are represented by a number of different unions, and the IBU is coordinating information with them, including the Masters, Mates and Pilots (MMP), Marine Engineers Beneficial Association (MEBA) and the Seafarers International Union (SIU) which has contracts with Crowley Maritime at the Ports of LA and Long Beach. Crowley crews remain onboard their tugs for days at a time, but the work they do – moving vessels in and out of the harbor complex – involves frequent downtime between the busy mornings and evenings, so they can’t be directly compared with Foss tugs that do different types of work without long breaks in their schedules.
Threat prompts strike vote
Foss escalated, first by retaliating with layoffs and again on December 9 when they announced the company’s “last, best and final” contract offer, declaring they intended to implement terms unilaterally in late December and early January – unless the union agreed to the company’s contract terms before then. The IBU’s negotiating committee responded by issuing a possible strike notice to Foss officials, and sending the company’s “last, best and final offer” to workers for a vote. Ballots from union members concerning the company’s final offer were scheduled to be counted on January 3.
“We’ve had a long relationship with Foss, and understand that changes are sometimes required in every industry, but we also need Foss to respect workers by negotiating over changes, instead of issuing demands, imposing ultimatums or breaking the law, which always rubs people the wrong way,” said IBU President Alan Coté.
Members of ILWU Canada are continuing to help other workers – and themselves – by fighting to save good jobs in the maritime industry through an ongoing series of protests and public actions. Another “free trade” deal Last November, they joined a coalition that organized a march and rally with ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton, Vancouver Labour Council President Joey Hartman, and SIU Canada President Jim Given (see last month’s Dispatcher). That protest targeted attacks on maritime jobs being threatened by a new free trade agreement negotiated on behalf of corporations in Europe and Canada, called the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA).
Helping Hanjin seafarers
In December, Locals 400, 500, 502, and 514 continued their support for seafarers who have been stranded for months aboard Hanjin vessels around the Port of Vancouver, while the company’s bankruptcy moves slowly through the courts.
Hanjin seafarers are being paid and receiving good meals, thanks to political pressure from the ILWU, with support from International Transport Workers Federation that is working with Korean unions to help Hanjin crews.
On December 15, an informative and sympathetic news story about the Hanjin workers and the union solidarity support effort was produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation – known as the “CBC.”
That report provided background about the plight of Hanjin workers, which ILWU Canada and the ITF have been supporting, along with efforts in the U.S. by the ILWU and ITF that helped win shore leave for Hanjin seafarers, as reported in last month’s Dispatcher.
Solidarity on the water
The latest Hanjin solidarity action in Canada came on December 20 when Local 400 joined with Locals 500, 502, and 514 as well as the British Columbia’s Ferry and Marine Workers Union, and Victoria Filipino Canadian Association, to visit seafarers aboard the Hanjin container vessel, Scarlet, who have been anchored off British Columbia’s Southern Gulf Islands since late summer.
A ton of Christmas provisions
Volunteers brought one ton of Christmas provisions – including a 90-pound pig and plenty of charcoal to roast it. Most of the goods delivered to seafarers on Dec. 20 were donated by workers at four collection sites: the Bayanihan Community Centre in Victoria, the B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union office in Nanaimo, the Maritime Labour Centre in Vancouver, and Local 502’s dispatch hall.
“We asked for support, and the community really came through for these workers,” said Jason Woods, Secretary- Treasurer of ILWU Local 400. The Filipino Canadian Association of Victoria was involved because most of the seafarers come from the Philippines or Korea.
In addition to delivering warm clothing, entertainment items, including DVD’s, video games and board games were provided. Supporters also brought some Filipino food specialties. Several days earlier, a group of Christmas carolers from Pender Island visited the Scarlet and sang songs for the crew.
“It’s lonely,” said sailor Romeo Cabacang from the Philippines. “But all the crew, we are very happy for the early Christmas gift.”
Good media coverage
News of the solidarity action was conveyed to the general public via reports in Canada’s national newspaper, the National Post. Additional stories were carried by the CBC and Vancouver Island’s Chek 6 Television News. Another story about the event was broadcast nationwide on December 22 by CBC radio, including a live interview with Local 400’s Jason Woods, who was encouraged to do the program by ILWU President Rob Ashton.
South Korean support on Nov 29
ILWU Canada members supported a separate solidarity action in November that was organized after the ITF contacted President Rob Ashton of ILWU Canada to help South Korean unions seeking to oust President Park Geun-hye because of her corruption and anti-worker policies.
Maritime Council acts
President Ashton approached members of the Pacific Coast Maritime Council while he was attending the British Columbia Federation of Labour convention. Together they developed a plan to march on the South Korea’s Consulate in Vancouver, as a way to protest the Park government’s corruption and abuse of worker rights.
Marching to the Consulate
On November 29, Rob Ashton – who serves as President of both the ILWU Canada and Pacific Coast Maritime Council – invited Labour Federation delegates to join the march during the Convention lunch break. He also announced that South Korean workers had simultaneously organized a general strike and were protesting in the streets. Many different unions supported the march from Vancouver’s Canada Place to the South Korean Consulate. A group of 50 workers demonstrated in front of the Consulate while a delegation went inside to read and deliver a letter from Maritime Council President Ashton, Vice Presidents Gerry Gault and Tom Doran, and Secretary-Treasurer Graeme Johnston.
New action planned January 12
ILWU Canada locals are coordinating a solidarity action on January 12 with the Seafarer’s International Union (SIU) Canada and Canadian ILA leaders.
They plan to begin the New Year with a “National Day of Action” in Canada that involves union members and supporters from Newfoundland in the east to Victoria in the west – with activities also planned at the big ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert. All events are scheduled to begin at 10am pacific time. The goal is to protect maritime jobs that are being threatened by corporate greed.
Foreign flags, lower pay
The planned national action is a response to moves made by vessel owners in Newfoundland who changed the flags on ships being crewed by SIU members. By “re-flagging” these vessels to operate under a Marshall Islands flag, ship owners hope to dodge labor, environmental and tax laws that apply to vessels flying Canadian and U.S. flags.
ILWU Local 400 is fighting a similar struggle in Victoria against a foreign flagged vessel operating with poorly paid, predominantly Filipino seafarers who earn less than the region’s minimum wage and far less than the $30 per hour that Local 400 crewmembers typically receive. The foreign-flagged vessel operates from port-to-port within Canada, something known in maritime law as “cabotage.” Canada and the U.S. both have laws requiring all cabotage work to be performed by vessels flying domestic flags and following domestic labor laws, including the Jones Act in the U.S. and a similar law in Canada. But Canada’s Trudeau government recently issued a waiver allowing a foreign-flagged ship to be based in Victoria and operate between Canadian ports. In the U.S., attacks against the Jones Act are increasingly common and could escalate under President Trump.
“This is part of the corporate greed ethic that can also lead to public ports being privatized,” said ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton. “Free trade agreements are part of the same disease that destroys workers and communities in order to enrich corporations and CEO’s.”
On December 6, the ILWU International Executive Board voted unanimously to adopt a statement of policy opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The controversial project is opposed by Native Americans across the continent because it threatens Native lands and water.
The pipeline’s original route would have crossed the Missouri River upstream from Bismarck, North Dakota, but was rerouted because of concerns that an oil leak would contaminate the City’s water supply.Pipeline proponents want the oil to cross just a half-mile upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, buried underneath the tribe’s water supply.
The ongoing protest by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on their North Dakota reservation began in April, 2016. The effort has drawn world-wide attention and attracted thousands of Native American supporters and allies. It has become the largest protest gathering of Native Tribes in recent history.
International Executive Board Statement of Policy
“The Tribal Nations of the Great Plains rely on the waters of the life-giving Missouri River for present and future existence, and the Dakota Access Pipeline construction poses a very serious risk to that continued existence. The Dakota Access Pipeline threatens the safety of the areas of fish and wildlife, sacred sites and historical archeological resources that lie within and around the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and associated lands,” declares the ILWU Statement of Policy.
The International Executive Board also approved a $10,000 donation to the Standing Rock Sioux from the solidarity fund. The Coast Longshore Committee added an additional $5,000 donation.
“The ILWU has never been afraid to take a stand on important political issues,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath
Support for the Standing Rock Sioux was first expressed by the ILWU’s Pacific Coast Pensioners Association that adopted a resolution in September of 2016.
Local 10’s Executive Board then passed a resolution on November 8 against the pipeline project and in support of increased funding for workers affected by any jobs lost on the pipeline. The resolution called on the labor movement to support a “just transition” for workers into renewable energy jobs, to help working families, combat climate change and promote investment in renewable energy.
Labor unions divided
The ILWU is among a number of unions that have pledged support for protests led by the Standing Rock Sioux. The Amalgamated Transit Union, American Postal Workers Union, Communications Workers of America, National Nurses United, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the United Electrical Workers have all issued statements supporting the protest. Support has also come from six AFL-CIO constituent groups, including the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.
However, last September, the AFL-CIO issued a statement supporting the pipeline project, thought to be the result of pressure from the Building Trades Department. The Building Trades issued a letter to their membership that sharply criticized unions who have opposed the pipeline project.
ILWU delegations lend a hand Local 4 members Steve Hunt, Jamison Roberts and Josh Goodwin were the first ILWU members on the ground in Standing Rock in November of 2016. They drove 3,000 miles round trip to deliver over $7,000 worth of supplies to the camp. Hunt said he decided to go after seeing media video of protesters being attacked by private security guards and he wanted to see first-hand what was happening.
“I wanted to know the truth,” Hunt said. “When we were locked out of the grain elevators in Washington, I saw the tactics used by private security, police, and the military. I know they aren’t there to protect the green grass. They have the backs of the oil companies. It reminded me of the grain lockout when the Coast Guard would just push us out of the way when they wanted to bring a ship in.”
When word got out that Hunt was planning a trip to Standing Rock, donations from Local 4 members started rolling in. Hunt said he had to take a larger truck and rent a trailer to fit all of the donated gear, food and toiletries. Hunt financed the trip out of his own pocket, but at a recent meeting, Local 4 members voted to reimburse him for expenses.
A delegation from ILWU Local 23 went to Standing Rock just after the Thanksgiving holiday to deliver $6,000 in donated supplies. The delegation included Local 23 President Dean McGrath, Local 23 members Theresa Sammalisto and Brendan Winders and Local 23 casual Brian Skiffington.
McGrath said that “solidarity was the one word that sums up the vibe at the Standing Rock encampment.”
He met people there from all over the world who came together to brave the harsh North Dakota winter to provide support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who are fighting to protect their land and way of life.
“The conflict at standing rock has been a great example of the battle between the one percent and everyone else,” McGrath said. “The concern of the Standing Rock Sioux for the water on their land has been met with violent attacks by private security and police. Hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars are being spent to protect the interests of the pipeline company. Many of us are realizing that the cards are stacked against us by the elite, and that the only way we can survive is through working-class solidarity.”
Delegations from Locals 10 and 13 arrived in the beginning of December, just after the International Executive Board passed its Statement of Policy.
“Despite enduring long periods of sub-zero weather and violence at the hands of law enforcement, the brothers and sisters at ‘Oceti Oyate’ (the People’s Camp) are all in. They are firmly resolved in effort and purpose to protect their land and their water supply,” said Local 10 President Ed Ferris.
“I was inspired by the courage, kindness, and solidarity that I witnessed at Oceti Oyate. It was an experience that I will never forget.” Ferris added, “I am very proud of our union for putting significant resources and boots on the ground to support this struggle. By doing so, we have honored the ILWU’s rich tradition of fighting for social justice. We have honored our slogan ‘An injury to one, is an injury to all.’”
“It was an extremely humbling experience,” said ILWU Local 13 President Bobby Olvera Jr. Olvera was inspired by the teamwork by all ILWU members from different locals who stepped-up to do whatever jobs were needed to assist the Sioux. “Everyone pulled their weight. There were no titles there. We were all lending our hands to build structures or whatever tasks were needed. The ILWU has always taken stands on social issues going back to Harry’s day. With Trump coming into office, we are going to need even more of this.” Olvera said.
Tim Hernandez is a registered Class B longshore worker from Local 13 who was a part of the Local 13 delegation to Standing Rock. Hernandez, who is Lakota, was an important part of the ILWU team. His knowledge of the culture and language helped to strengthen the ties between the ILWU delegations and the Standing Rock Sioux and to help teach the ILWU delegations the proper protocols of being on sacred lands, Hernandez said.
“It was a blessing to be able to return home for the first time,” Hernandez said. “I’m not from Standing Rock, I’m from Pine Ridge, but we are a part of the Lakota Nation, and we are relatives. I knew it would be a life changing experience and that the ancestors would be present. The Seventh Generation—my generation—is experiencing an awakening. We need to take care of the earth and fight for all life.”
End game unclear
President Obama’s administration reviewed the pipeline project and determined that the company should re-route the project in order to protect the tribe’s water supply and sacred sites. And on December 6, Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault asked supporters to leave the encampment due to dangerous blizzards that would continue to pose a hazard throughout the winter.
The direction of the pipeline project could take another turn when President-elect Donald Trump takes office on January 20. His appointment of oil company executives and lobbyists to key cabinet positions could re-start a struggle in the Spring if the pipeline returns to its original routing through the Sioux’s water supply.
ILWU pensioners are beginning to get organized in Alaska. It started this past September at the Pacific Coast Pensioners Association Convention where ILWU President Bob McEllrath and Pacific Coast Pensioners President Greg Mitre presented a new charter authorizing the formation of the All Alaska Pensioners Group. Coordinating the effort is W.C. “Pee Wee” Smith of Ketchikan, shown in the lower photo, receiving the official charter document. He’s counting on help from many pensioners to overcome the large distances and travel expenses
involved with organizing a network in Alaska. Important help was recently provided with a donation from active members of the Alaska Longshore Division who donated $5000 to help jump start the Pensioner’s treasury plus a $5000 annual donation to the group’s travel fund. Smith says the contributions are a big help and much appreciated. Appearing in the top photo are (L-R) former Local 200 President John Bush from Juneau, Ardith and husband W.C. “Pee Wee” Smith of Ketchikan who is President of the All Alaska Pensioners Group, Past President of Kodiak Unit John Kennedy who also served as past Secretary-Treasurer of the Alaska Longshore Division, Gene and Maggie Fennimore of Wrangell, Alaska.
Radio station KUCB is a relatively small operation compared to her big-city sisters in the Lower 48, but she provides a vital lifeline of news and information for thousands of residents living around the small town of Unalaska and the Port of Dutch Harbor, located in the Aleutian Islands, hundreds miles from Alaska’s mainland on the edge of the fish-rich but notoriously deadly Bering Sea.
Falling oil prices have been hard on Alaska’s state and local budgets – resulting in 50 percent less state funding for KUCB. “We were really concerned about our budget this year because of the funding cuts, but the ILWU and other groups really came through for us,” said station manager Lauren Adams. The station held a one-day pledge drive on October 14 with a $20,000 goal – but ended up raising a record-breaking $30,000.
Over $3,000 of those dollars came from ILWU members who responded to a challenge from longshore worker Juliet Vries, who volunteers each year during the pledge drive. A total of 25 ILWU members stepped forward to help the cause.
“The ILWU is strongly invested in our community here and they showed that during our pledge drive. We can’t thank them enough for contributing when our station needed it most,” said Adams who has managed the station for 12 years
Crewmembers on foreign flagged vessels arriving at West Coast ports have frequently sought help from ILWU members and International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) inspectors.
“Sometimes we discover that crew members haven’t been paid correctly, or other times they report abusive working conditions, but sometimes it comes down to respecting their right to shore leave after working weeks or months at sea,” said ITF Coordinator Jeff Engels in Seattle.
This history of helping seafarers explains how a brief, spontaneous solidarity action by ILWU members at the Port of Seattle on the evening of September 26, helped crewmembers aboard the Hanjin vessel Marine who were denied shore leave by officials at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
“The solidarity action on September 26 was a spontaneous response by ILWU members who saw the frustration of those crew members who were locked aboard their ship for several weeks,” said Local 19 President Rich Austin, Jr.
ILWU members responded quickly to the sight of crewmembers aboard the Marine who dangled a homemade banner emblazoned with the words, “We deserve shore leave” and “Thank you ILWU.” Dozens of ILWU members who were working on the Seattle dock briefly cheered for the crew and blew horns on vehicles that were operating alongside the container vessel around 6pm.
Support from ITF officials
The solidarity action won praise from leaders of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), who said the refusal to grant shore leave to seafarers on Hanjin ships calling at U.S. ports amounted to a denial of human rights.
ITF First Vice Chair and ILWU Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe said, “Preventing these seafarers from going ashore denies them a basic right, especially after they’ve been on a ship for weeks or months.” Familathe said the ILWU urged the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to review decisions made by some regional officials who enacted the lockdown against seafarers.
Familathe, who previously served as an Inspector/Coordinator for the ITF, added, “members of Congress asked CBP for an explanation and change of policy,”
Customs officials said the shore leave was denied because of fears that Hanjin’s recent bankruptcy might encourage some seafarers to jump ship.
Those fears haven’t been realized and the ILWU solidarity action and follow-up work appears to have encouraged CBP officials to reconsider their blanket prohibition against shore leave – confirmed when crewmembers on the next Hanjin vessel that docked in Seattle on October 14 were allowed shore leave.
ITF West Coast Coordinator Jeff Engels and ITF Inspector Stefan Mueller closely monitored working conditions aboard Hanjin vessels after the company declared bankruptcy on August 31. ITF officials also worked closely with the Federation of Korean Seafarers’ Unions and Korean Shipowners’ Association, who formed a joint taskforce to ensure that food, water and other provisions were put aboard, along with special insurance coverage to see that wages and pension benefits would be guaranteed for seafarers.
Weeks without shore leave
“We want to ensure that crewmembers are being paid fairly and served good food, which has been the case on every Hanjin vessel we’ve inspected so far,” Engels said. He was, however, concerned about conditions aboard the Hanjin Marine in September, because that vessel had been waiting offshore for several weeks before it docked in Seattle. To make matters worse, crewmembers aboard the Marine and other Hanjin vessels had been previously stranded offshore in Southern California and denied shore leave there.
Change for the better
“When Customs officials changed course by allowing crewmembers aboard the Hanjin Vessel Seattle to go ashore on October 14, it signaled that the agency was open to a more flexible and compassionate approach,” said Engels, who believes that ILWU solidarity and support from lawmakers in Washington played an important role in encouraging the change in shore leave. But he wanted to make sure that Hanjin crewmembers would get shore leave at other ports, so after the vessel Seattle departed the Puget Sound and traveled south to the Port of Long Beach in late October, Inspector Stefan Mueller was ready and waiting to help.
“When I came up the gangway to do my inspection, five crewmembers were already heading down with their shore leave,” he said. Mueller completed a thorough inspection and interviewed the Captain and crew, which allowed him to verify that all hands were paid up and fresh provisions had recently been put aboard.
Both Engels and Mueller agree that it’s too early to know if the CBP policy on shore leave for Hanjin crewmembers will continue, so both plan to monitor the issue.
Tradition of solidarity
The ILWU was founded on a tradition of solidarity for all workers, especially those in the maritime industry.
Sailors had already organized unions aboard vessels long before dockworkers succeeded in doing so. In 1934, longshore workers were day-laborers without rights and subject to terrible abuse.
The West Coast Waterfront Strike in the summer of 1934 sought to improve conditions for all maritime workers, including seafarers as well and longshore workers.
“The ILWU’s history is based on solidarity and when we say an injury to one is an injury to all, we mean it,” said ILWU International President Bob McEllrath who added, “all of us have a responsibility to keep that tradition alive.”
Donald Trump stunned the political establishment on November 8 with a knockout blow to conventional wisdom and corporate liberalism, delivered by angry working-class voters.
“America’s working class has been frozen out or falling behind for three decades while the upper crust has been partying with Washington insiders and Wall Streeters from both parties,” said ILWU International President Bob McEllrath. “Trump tapped into that anger while his opponent stood for the establishment.”
Would Bernie have done better?
The ILWU backed Bernie Sanders during the primaries because he spoke honestly about working class anger, the loss of good jobs and corruption of the political process. And unlike Trump, Sanders also offered specific proposals to make things better, including Medicare for All, free tuition at public colleges, and ending the corrupt campaign finance system. He made his appeals without the scapegoating, racism and threats of violence that Trump used to manipulate media coverage and tap into dangerous hate politics. Nobody can say for sure whether Sanders would have prevailed over Trump if he were running instead of Clinton, but he did prove it was possible to win big support from working class and independent voters in Michigan and Wisconsin who embraced Sanders over Clinton in both primary elections.
The only vote that counts
The final results show that Clinton won the overall “popular” vote, but she failed to win according to America’s peculiar Electoral College system that gave Donald Trump the White House after winning the decisive “rust-belt battleground” states where working class voters, including current and former union members, chose Trump as their change agent in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Voters were hurting
“I kept meeting people at their homes around Cleveland who told me about the good jobs they used to have that were gone now because of NAFTA,” said Local 6 member Victor Pamiroyan who travelled to Ohio with Erik Ferrel of the IBU and Local 5’s Mark Sailor and Ron Solomon. The quartet hoped to win support for pro-union Senate candidate Ted Strickland, but quickly came to realize how hard their task was to reach voters who had been hammered by decades of job losses. “Seeing all those empty factories as I drove into town from the airport was really shocking,” said Pamiroyan.
ILWU helps in six states
The ILWU sent small teams of union members to six key states during the final two weeks of the election: Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Missouri.
After arriving, each team connected with other union members who were part of a coordinated campaign effort to contact union households and encourage them to vote for pro-union candidates. Each of the six states had a competitive U.S. Senate race where union-friendly candidates were hoping to defeat anti-union incumbents or challengers.
Hoping to tip the balance
The hope was that winning U.S. Senate races in four or five states could change the balance of power in the Senate, to prevent Congress from passing more anti-union legislation.
That effort to elect four new pro-union senators failed, giving Trump a better chance to pass anti-union laws that will hurt working families and union members.
Trump managed to win most of the working class votes – estimated to be 40% of the total – despite his clear record of anti-union behavior.
“Trump’s view about unions is pretty clear,” said President McEllrath. “There were picket lines in front of Trump’s hotel in Las Vegas because workers inside couldn’t get him to negotiate and the National Labor Relations Board just filed charges ordering him to recognize and negotiate a contract. He also exploited immigrant workers on his construction jobs, sent jobs overseas for his clothing line, and told workers here in the U.S. to cut pay and benefits if they want jobs – while promising bigger tax breaks for corporations and the super-rich.”
Turning workers against each other
Trump wasn’t the first anti-union candidate to win working class votes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio. All three states were once full of union members, and politicians were dependably pro-union until factories started closing and moving overseas in the 1970’s. The families who remained after losing their jobs and benefits became fertile ground for anti-union politicians who constantly blamed unions for “driving away jobs” while promising to put more money in people’s pockets by cutting taxes, and talking tough on crime with racial undertones.
After years of this scapegoating, it became easier to attack public unions for being “greedy” when they sought pay raises and pensions.
Fertile ground for Trump
By the time Trump arrived in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio, each state had been pounded for decades by runaway shops and anti-union politicians, including Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Governor John Kasich in Ohio and Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan. Walker and Snyder both advocated “right-to-work” legislation and Walker was able to strip public employees of most union rights – and won public support from many current and former union members for those policies. The final ingredient that secured anti-union political support from working-class voters in the Rust Belt were “wedge issues” including abortion, gay rights, gun control and school prayer. Trump arrived in the Rust Belt prepared with talking points that fit neatly into a narrative provided by anti-union politicians who are skilled at winning working-class votes. Polling by the AFL-CIO found over 40% of union members in these states were willing to vote for anti-union candidates, and claim that number fell to 30 percent after education and outreach work. Bernie Sanders proved that he could win back most of those voters with a positive, pro-union message, but the AFL-CIO and most large unions refused to support him. Hillary Clinton struggled to win working class voters and was easily dismissed as dishonest, entitled and more in touch with Wall Street than Main Street. The Clinton’s history of supporting free trade agreements like NAFTA and hob-knobbing with elites made her damaged goods on November 8.
Fighting the good fight
Despite these challenges, ILWU members went into battle against antiunion politicians and came away with their heads held high.
Florida is a long way from Alaska
“I’m an Alaska native from the Tlingit nation, so traveling to Florida was a long way from home and it was so much hotter there,” said James “Andy” Jackson. “We knocked on doors and talked with people about voting. I didn’t realize we’d be doing that when I signed up, but it was fun and worthwhile.” Pensioner W.C. “Pee Wee” Smith was also from Ketchikan, Alaska, and had a twisted ankle, so he navigated and drove Local 19 team leader Todd Weeks and Andy Jackson to each house on their route. They were warmly welcomed by most residents in the predominantly immigrant neighborhoods of Kendall near Miami.
“Many didn’t speak much English, but their faces really lit up when they saw who we were supporting,” said Jackson.
On a quick road trip they took further south of Miami, they noticed a lot more Trump signs. Senate challenger Patrick Murphy was soundly defeated by anti-union incumbent Marco Rubio, who won by almost 8% and 700,000 votes. “It was amazing to meet all the immigrants from so many different countries, and most of them were supportive,” said Todd Weeks. “It was a good experience and I would definitely do it again.”
Getting out the vote in Ohio
Ohio team leader Erik Ferrel’s group included Mark Sailor from Local 5 and Victor Pamiroyan from Local 6. He said their group was warmly greeted by other union members when they arrived at the North Shore AFL-CIO office in Cleveland. “They were excited to see us and said they had missed our help during the past few years,” he said. “We spent our days knocking on doors and getting commitments to vote early.” Despite the hard work by ILWU members and other union volunteers, pro-union Senate candidate and former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland was crushed by anti-union incumbent Rob Portman, who won by 21 percent and over a million votes.
Wondering about Wisconsin
ILWU Legislative Assistant Bianca Bloomquist and Local 13’s Christine Aguirre both went to Wisconsin feeling hopeful because polls showed pro-union candidate Russ Feingold was expected to win his race against antiunion incumbent Senator Ron Johnson.
When it was over, Johnson, who defeated Feingold six years earlier, was able to keep his seat, winning by 3 percent and almost 100,000 votes. “After our visit, we could see there was lots of work ahead if we want to win back working class voters in Wisconsin, and now after the election results are in, it’s even more true,” said Bloomquist.
Pushing hard in Pennsylvania
“After we were welcomed into the union campaign headquarters in Philadelphia by a big group of our union brothers and sisters, we got right into the door-to-door fight in the neighborhoods,” said team leader Dane Fredericks of Local 5. The PA team included IBU member Gary Bucknum and Local 19 member Alexandra Vekich. The Senate race pitted anti-union incumbent Senator Pat Toomey against union supporter Katie McGinty, who was up in the polls at one point, but lost on election day by 2 percent and 100,000 votes. “We spent our days talking to union members, their families and neighbors. The reception was mixed, as we expected, but it was heartening to be out there trying to make a difference in this important election,” said Fredericks.
Moving votes in Missouri
Missouri team leader Brent Bissett of Local 8 went to the “Show Me” state with Local 5 member Ron Solomon, and Local 10’s Melvin Mackay. Bissett said he was excited to see a new city and immediately went to see the giant arch that spans the mighty Mississippi River. Initial impressions suggested that things might be slightly unorganized and the mood a bit ho-hum, but everything improved as the team got to work and started visiting union households in the surrounding suburbs.
“I’m happy we were able to work with the public, talk about labor issues and promote good people for office,” said Bissett. At one point as he was walking in a neighborhood, Melvyn Mackay encountered a home displaying a prominent Confederate Flag and some anti-union lawn signs. “I avoided that one,” said Mackay. Pro-union candidate Eric Kandor was unable to unseat anti-union incumbent Senator Roy Blunt who won by 3 percent and less than 100,000 votes.
Door-knocking in Nevada
Team leader Regina Shore from Local 19 was joined in the Silver State by co-workers Steve Labbe and Kevin Baldado plus Keith Madding from IBU San Francisco. The Las Vegas operation was large, with many union volunteers coming daily from Southern California to assist the effort. “We saw 40 to 100 electricians from the IBEW arriving each day to help from California,” said Shore. When the team visited voters at their homes, it appeared other volunteers had already been there. “It was almost overkill,” said Shore who added that 20-25% the voters she met had already cast early ballots, and others were being visited by the campaign every day. “We did find one neighborhood full of Trump signs, and an angry supporter followed us around for three hours, tearing up the literature we were leaving at the doors, but we just ignored him.” Nevada was the only U.S. Senate victory among the six states visited by ILWU teams across the country: pro-union candidate Catherine Cortez Masto won over anti-union challenger Joe Heck by less than 3 percent and 3500 votes.”e walked our butts off, are in better shape now, and we’d do it again in a heartbeat,” said Shore. “It was a great experience, and especially nice to see that our efforts paid off with a Senate victory.”
Other election news:
Unlike the rest of the country, elections in California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii yielded few changes on November 8.
In California, Senator Boxer’s seat was filled by Kamala Harris who easily defeated Loretta Sanchez, despite backing from ILWU Local 13 and District Councils. The Northern California District
Council (NCDC) made a dual endorsement that included Harris.
Both candidates were pro-union. Corporate-friendly “moderate” Ro Khanna defeated prounion
House member Mike Honda in Silicon Valley’s 17th Congressional District. Efforts to unseat four anti-union House members fell short when Darrell Issa, Jeff Denham, David Valadao and Steve Knight were all re-elected. Janice Hahn’s former House seat was won by Nanette Diaz Barragán over Isadore Hall III who was endorsed by Local 13 and the SCDC. Barragán was endorsed by Senator Bernie Sanders.
Janice Hahn won a seat on the LA County Board of Supervisors. State Assembly and Senate races yielded few major changes.
Among the 17 ballot propositions, voters extended an income tax boost for the richest residents, legalized marijuana, made it easier to get parole, continued the death penalty and speeded up the appeal process, required background checks for ammunition purchases and prohibited high-capacity magazines, modified bi-lingual education, expressed opposition to the Citizens United case allowing unlimited political spending by corporations, and rejected a plan to lower prescription drug prices that big pharma spent an estimated $100 million to defeat.
In Washington State, Seattle voters elected strongly prounion advocate Pramila Jayapal to fill the Congressional seat held for 26 years by longtime union advocate Jim McDermott who is retiring. She easily defeated her corporate-friendly challenger. Other House seats remained relatively unchanged, as
did the state house and senate. Voters approved several ballot initiatives, including ones to raise the minimum wage, express opposition to Citizens United, build 62 miles of light-rail, oppose a state carbon tax and temporarily limit guns for those who pose an immediate danger to themselves or others.
Oregon voters saw few changes in their election, with one exception: an open seat for Secretary of State was won by conservative Dennis Richardson who defeated pro-labor candidate Brad Avakian. Despite the loss, Avakian will continue serving in another post as State Labor Commissioner. Progressive Portland City Council candidate Chloe Eudaly won a seat on the City Council. Local 8 Secretary-Treasurer Shanti Lewallen ran for U.S. Senate as a member of the Working Families Party and won 59,000 votes (3 percent) – but he also secured future ballot status rights for the pro-labor WFP. Statewide ballot measures included more funding for affordable housing and defeat of a corporate tax increase.
Hawaii is one of the most pro-worker states in the nation, and that remained unchanged after the 2016 general election. U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, and Congresswoman-elect Colleen Hanabusa all won their races with larger than two-to-one margins over anti-union opposition. Hanabusa also won the special election to fill the remaining portion of the late Congressman Mark Takai’s term. Including Senator Mazie Hirono, Hawaii has an entirely labor-friendly congressional delegation. The Hawaii State Senate became the only all-Democrat legislative body in the nation when Honolulu City Councilman Stanley Chang defeated twenty-year incumbent
Sam Slom. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell kept his seat, prevailing over conservative Republican former Congressman Charles Djou in the non-partisan race. Hawaii voters also approved a Constitutional Amendment that gives the state legislature the option to, under certain conditions, appropriate excess general fund revenues for pre-payment of general obligation bond debt service or pension/post-employment benefit liabilities for public workers.
The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) met on November 1st in San Francisco, where discussions were held on the concept of a contract extension.
Both parties agreed to resume talks at a future date to be mutually agreed upon.
The current collective bargaining agreement covering 29 West Coast ports expires on July 1, 2019.
No additional comments from either party will be made prior to the next meeting date.