Teamster-company deal rejected
In the same vote, workers soundly rejected a representation bid from the Teamsters Union that managed to win only 2 votes from the 23 JBA employees, despite aggressive campaigning that came with obvious management support.
“We wanted a strong, independent union that would give us a voice – not a union that was already in bed with the company,” said longtime JBA driver Humberto Alvarez.
Nearly all the drivers work out of JBA’s headquarters in Wilmington, CA. Two drivers who service Bay Area refineries are based in Pittsburgh, CA.
Performing a vital task
The JBA workers perform a vital task by removing petroleum coke – a by-product of the oil-refining process that constantly accumulates inside refineries when crude oil is “cracked” into a wide range of products, from gasoline and other fuels to tar for paving roads.
A different kind of Coke
Petroleum coke is a hard, grey material that contains much more carbon than coal. JBA drivers haul away this “pet coke” using a fleet of 29 tractors and 75 double-trailers that deliver the material to different facilities – including the massive Oxbow terminal on Pier G at the Port of Long Beach which is staffed by ILWU members. The Oxbow workers store and manage millions of tons of coke each year that is eventually loaded by longshore workers onto bulk carrier vessels heading for Asia where most of the carbon-rich material is burned to fuel power plants and cement kilns, or used as a critical additive for making iron and steel.
Supply chain support
A group of 58 Oxbow workers went through their own struggle to join the ILWU back in 2005 when they voted to join Local 13’s Allied Division. Since then they have successfully negotiated contracts with Oxbow – privately owned by billionaire William Koch who controls much of America’s pet coke industry.
Solidarity makes a difference
“We already knew the guys at JBA because they come here all the time,” said Steve Cannon who’s worked at Oxbow for more than a decade. “It was natural for us to help them out because we were once in their shoes, before we organized to join the ILWU.”
JBA workers responded positively to advice from Oxbow workers. “They told us what to expect from management when it was crunch time just before the vote, and their predictions were 100% accurate,” said JBA driver Humberto Alvarez.
Begging for one more chance
One of the predictions was an 11th hour appeal by management for “just one more chance to make things right.” Such pleas are common anti-union tactics that management uses to sway workers in the final days on a union organizing campaign – usually with an emotional appeal, often include “tears” shed by sobbing executives who appears sincere, full of remorse for past “mistakes,” willing to “listen” and offering heartfelt promises to “make things right” – if the union isn’t involved.
Not fooled by tears
With workers primed to expect just such a performance, few were fooled when JBA official met with workers to beg for “one more chance” without the ILWU. Instead of falling for the tearful routine, JBA workers stuck with their plan and voted overwhelmingly to join the ILWU.
No to the company union
A simultaneous bid by the Teamsters Union to win the union election fizzled badly despite a show featuring big Teamster trucks with giant billboards, lots of Teamster jackets and dozens of flyers. The cozy relationship between company managers who invited the Teamsters to get involved after workers expressed support for the ILWU, doomed that effort in the eyes of most workers.
“It was obvious to everyone that the Teamsters were the company’s union, and we didn’t want that,” said JBA driver John Soto.
Getting a good contract
“Now it’s all about helping these workers get a good first contract,” said ILWU Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe, who oversees the ILWU’s organizing campaigns. Familathe complimented the workers for their unity and determination to join the ILWU, despite many obstacles that were thrown into their path.
“It’s always a struggle to get this far, but these guys pulled together and got it done,” he said. Familathe noted that JBA has provided transportation services to the petroleum industry for over 30 years, and said their parent company, Bragg, is a successful operation with union contracts that cover many employees.
“Everyone at our end is prepared and ready to do their part, so we’re looking forward to negotiating a faircontract with JBA,” said Familathe.
Issues of concern
Some of the concerns that led JBA drivers to join the ILWU include a lack of respect, scheduling problems, unfair work distribution, long and sometime unpaid wait times, and the use of independent subcontractors.
“There are problems at JBA that need to be fixed, but all of us feel better now that we have a union,” said Angel Jauregui. “Having support from ILWU union brothers at Oxbow and others around the harbor area is really important to us. We’re glad to be part of the ILWU.”
The 49th annual Pacific Coast Pensioners Association (PCPA) convention met in Tacoma, WA from Sept 12-14. The convention coincided with several events in Tacoma that recognized the important contribution of the longshore labor struggles to the city’s working class history.
The convention’s theme emphasized the need to honor the history and sacrifice of previous generations, to protect the benefits won by past generations and to pass along knowledge and traditions to future generations.
Two events were scheduled on Sunday before the Convention to honor the union’s history— an afternoon ceremony dedicated a plaque on the Murray Morgan Bridge to commemorate the 1916 longshore strike.
Later that evening a bronze statue of Harry Bridges was unveiled at the Local 23 hall. On the first evening of the Convention, Local 23 members hosted a celebration of the new Philip Martin Lelli Memorial Highway, dedicated in honor of Local 23’s former longtime President.
“Fate and history smiled on Tacoma during the PCPA convention,” said Mike Jagielski, President of the Local 23 Pensioners Club and Chair of the convention’s 2016 planning committee, who was pleased that so many special events were held during the Convention week.
A total of 207 registered attendees came to this year’s convention—making it one of the largest PCPA events in recent years. Fraternal guests included the ILWU International titled officers: International President Robert McEllrath, Vice President Ray Familathe, and Secretary Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams. Coast Committeemen Frank Ponce De Leon and Cam Williams also attended as did the local union President’s from Longshore locals up and down the coast. Like previous Conventions, this one was dedicated to the memory of ILWU pensioners who have passed during the previous year.
Remembering the 1916 Strike
On September 11, several hundred ILWU members and pensioners marched across the Eleventh Street Bridge (now known as the Murray Morgan Bridge) to the spot where striker Alexander Laidlaw was fatally shot 100 years before. The bridge was the main conduit between downtown Tacoma and the Port; it became the focus of many confrontations between striking longshoremen and scabs during the late 1800’s into the 1930’s. One-hundred years later, marchers sang union songs and carried signs bearing slogans from the 1916 struggle to re-create the spirit of that strike.
A brief street theater performance helped to re-create Tacoma’s labor history, thanks to current members and pensioners who portrayed key figures in Local 23’s early struggles. Mike Jagielski portrayed Charles Trench, founder of the Tacoma longshore local; International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams portrayed Alexander Laidlaw, a striker in the 1916 battle; Local 23 pensioner Eddie McGrath played Martin Fredrickson, a striker from the 1934 west coast waterfront strike; and Local 23 member Brian Skiffington represented “Everyman” of the current workforce. Each actor told about their struggles and sacrifices, hopes and dreams that built the union during more than a century of conflict.
Plaque honors ILWU martyr
A special memorial honoring the 1916 strikers began with the laying of a flower wreath in the Thea Foss Waterway, where special recognition was given to Alexander Laidlaw. Then a plaque was dedicated on the 11th Street Bridge to honor his death during 1916 strike. It was noted that today’s
Tacoma City Council had recently passed a resolution recognizing the 1916 strike and authorizing the permanent placement of the plaque.
Credit to young workers
Pensioners also credited members of Local 23’s Young Workers Committee, who came up with the idea for a plaque on the bridge to honor the 1916 strikers, while attending joint meetings with the Tacoma pensioners.
“Tacoma is a gritty, working-class city and it’s appropriate that we have this tribute to these workers. It’s an important part of the history of the city,” said Jagielski, one of the event organizers and chair of the Convention Host Committee.
Local 23 President Dean McGrath said the bridge remains an important symbol. “You will always have a conflict between capital and labor. This a reminder of what can happen when we don’t work out our differences.”
Harry Bridges statue
On the evening of September 11, a bronze statue of Harry Bridges was unveiled at the Local 23 Hall, honoring one of the ILWU’s most celebrated founders.
Contribution from a quiet member
The idea for a statue was a final wish of Local 23 pensioner Emil Korjan who passed away in 2015 at the age of 92 and left $25,000 to help fund the statue. Korjan was a Local 23 member who played an important role in the Local’s history by introducing the motion in 1958 that led to the local union leaving the ILA and affiliating instead with the ILWU.
“Korjan never ran for office and wasn’t the kind of person who wanted to be in the limelight, but he was active in the union and proud to have introduced the motion that brought this local into the ILWU,” Jagielski said.
Fundraising to finish the job
Local 23’s Pensioner Club raised the remaining funds for the statue with generous contributions from Local 23 active members and pensioners. A critical donation of $35,000 from the Coast Longshore Division at the recent longshore caucus in San Francisco plus a donation from the Southern California Pensioners Group put the fundraising effort over the top.
The unveiling ceremony drew a packed house at the hall from Local 23 members, pensioners, International officers and community members.
Local President Dean McGrath welcomed guests and introduced International President Bob McEllrath who spoke about Bridges’ central role in the formation of the ILWU, his lifelong commitment to Civil Rights, and dedication to fighting for the working class. When McEllrath finished, he signaled to McGrath who unveiled the sculpture that triggered an enthusiastic round of applause. Bridges’ daughter, Cathy, also spoke at the event and thanked the union for continuing her father’s effort to build a union by and for labor and the working class.
The statue portrays Bridges larger at 6’-4” than he was, at about 5’-6,” but sculptor Paul Michaels said he deliberately took artistic license with Bridges’ height to capture the labor leader’s oversized role in America’s working class history. The efforts of artist Paul Michaels were recognized during the ceremony and received a standing ovation. The sculpture is based on film footage of Bridges, captured during a 1986 visit to Tacoma when he commemorated the Local’s 100th anniversary.
Finding a permanent home
The sculpture will be displayed temporarily at the Local 23 hall until a permanent home for the statue is secured. Emil Korjan had wanted it displayed at a place of learning where students would see it. Possible permanent locations for the statue include the University of Washington Tacoma campus or Bates Technical College.
Last minute details
Jagielski, who spearheaded the effort to make Korjan’s dream a reality, said he wasn’t sure the statue unveiling could actually happen until just days before the event. He said that spot welding and grinding work on the statue went late in the night before it was transported to the hall on Friday.
A whole team of volunteers from Local 23, the Federated Auxiliary, pensioners and family members all chipped-in to make the Sunday night unveiling a success.
Welcome from Tacoma’s Mayor
Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland welcomed the PCPA Convention attendees on the first day. She highlighted the importance of the longshore industry and the ILWU to Tacoma’s economy, history and culture. She also cited the many events during the PCPA Convention that memorialize and celebrate that history.
“It really speaks to who we are as a city,” said Strickland. “The City of Tacoma is an international waterfront city and blue collar work is a part of our DNA. We have to remember where we came from. And while we are here to celebrate and thank you for the work that you’ve done in the past, understand that what we are talking about is not just about history, it’s about the future. What future opportunities will young people have to make family wage jobs?”
New PCPA charter
The convention welcomed the Alaska Pensioners Club with a new charter from the PCPA. President McEllrath presented the charter to Alaska pensioner Pee Wee Smith.
“The PCPA is growing and will continue to grow,” said PCPA President Greg Mitre. He noted that representatives from the Panama Pensioners had planned to attend, but were unable to because of pressing issues at home that required attention. “I can guarantee you that next year there will be representatives from Panama at our convention in Southern California,” Mitre said.
Mitre updated the convention including his attendance at the recent Longshore Caucuses in Panama and San Francisco. He also attended a meeting to discuss proposals for long term care insurance that might cover longshore members and possibly pensioners.
Automation & bankruptcy
Mitre touched on some new challenges that longshore workers are now facing, including automated terminals in Southern California and the recent bankruptcy of South Korean shipping company, Hanjin. He said the bankruptcy is the first fallout caused by dramatic decline in prices carriers can charge for transporting containers, due to the surplus capacity in the world shipping fleet.
“Hanjin is the first domino to fall and experts are saying they may not be last. There is going to be a ripple effect through the entire industry,” Mitre said.
“Where this goes is yet to be seen.” Mitre concluded his report by emphasizing the role of the PCPA in supporting the ILWU’s active membership.
“I think the role of the PCPA is to support the officers, to be there for them and ask them what they need. We are fortunate to be included. In most industries, pensioners don’t get to play the role that we do. The PCPA’s role is to do whatever we can to ensure that the ILWU continues to prosper,” Mitre said.
Phil Lelli Highway
On the evening of September 12, the Local 23 hall was filled to capacity again, this time to celebrate the dedication of the Philip Martin Lelli Memorial Highway. The Washington State Transportation Commission adopted Resolution 728 that named a section of State Route 509 in Tacoma after Lelli to honor the man’s contribution to the Port and City of Tacoma.
Lelli was elected President of ILWU Local 23 multiple times for nearly two decades, serving from 1966 and 1985. He is credited with bringing greater efficiency to the Port of Tacoma that significantly increased container volumes. He was also recognized for his community service to help those in need at Tacoma’s Hospitality Kitchen and various food banks in the South Sound.
Young Worker’s Committee
The convention took time to hear from members of Young Workers Committees at ILWU locals in Canada and the Pacific Northwest – plus special guests from the Young Workers Committee at the Maritime Union of Australia whose example inspired similar Committees to form in the US and Canada
The presentation began with a short video from the recent Young Workers Conference held in Canada. Attendees from the conference were interviewed about what “solidarity” meant to them.
Following the video, young workers from the Maritime Union of Australia, ILWU Canada and ILWU Locals in the Pacific Northwest, talked about their efforts to organize educational forums and communication programs to help inform new workers about the labor movement and their role in developing a strong, democratic labor movement.
After their presentation, the young workers received a standing ovation from pensioners. “This is the future of the ILWU right here,” said Mitre.
Youth video artists
Following the Young Workers Committee presentation, the convention screened a video about the 1934 West Coast Waterfront Strike made by three high school juniors from Redmond Middle School in Redmond, WA. Their film features newly-discovered archival footage and won first= place in their state competition (See their “Letter to the Editor” in the July/ August 2016 issue of The Dispatcher).
Solidarity agreement with MUA Veterans
Local 23 Pensioner Jim Norton and MUA veteran Jim Donovan made the official presentation of a signed solidarity agreement between the PCPA and the MUA pensioners. The MUA and ILWU pensioners maintain a close relationship, as do the active memberships of both unions.
Reports from Local Union Presidents
The convention heard from several ILWU local Presidents, including Local 19’s Rich Austin Jr, and Local 13’s President Bobby Olvera, Jr. Austin talked about the important role that pensioners play at Local 19 for active members, where they are a valuable source of experience and information.
He then presented Greg Mitre with a check for $5,000 from Local 19’s membership to the PCPA.
So Cal automation impact
Local 13 President Bobby Olvera Jr., talked about the new automated terminal in the Port of Long Beach.
“Every piece of equipment they are purchasing for these automated facilities is not to become more efficient but to get rid of workers. This will impact not only the ILWU, but the whole community,” Olvera said. “Robots don’t give back to the community; they don’t buy houses or pay taxes.” Olvera said that Long Beach Container Terminal’s automated facility will replace 600 jobs in a 24-hour period when the terminal is operating at full capacity. He noted the irony of seeing the company’s robots painted red, white and blue.
Subsidies for robots
“We have to develop an outside game. We are working to make it clear to politicians that you can’t provide tax breaks, grants or other public monies from the federal, state or local government to foreign companies that replace American jobs with robots.” He said that Local 13, 63 94 and the Coast Longshore Division recently killed= legislation that would have given a tax rebate to companies that buy automated equipment.
Olvera also talked about the new dispatch hall in Southern California which is sitting empty because of ongoing traffic and access issues. “We’re not going to move 7,000 men and women into a hiring hall that causes discontent because they have difficulty getting in and out.”
The convention also heard from Local 10 President Ed Ferris, Local 5 President Mike Stanton, Local 63 President Paul Trani, Local 91 President Fred Gilliam and Local 94 President Danny Miranda.
Coast Committee Report
Coast Committeemen Frank Ponce De Leon and Cam Williams addressed the delegates. Williams delivered the bulk of the report and gave a detailed update on grain negotiations in the Northwest.
ILWU Coast Benefits Specialist John Castanho joined Benefit Plan Area Directors and coordinators for the Alcohol and Drug Recovery Program who provided information to Convention delegates. Also present were representatives of the Benefit Plans Office (BPO).
All of these experts made themselves available to answer questions and provide updates about health and pension plans. They reminded pensioners to update their address with the benefits plan office whenever they move in order to prevent any delays in getting checks – and encouraged everyone to sign up for direct deposit at their ILWU Credit Union or other institution. The new ADRP representative for Southern California, Tamiko Love, was introduced and will replace Jackie Cummings who retired earlier this year.
Victory for farmworkers
Pensioner Rich Austin Sr. announced that workers who organized their independent union called “Familias Unidas por la Justicia” (FUJ) won an overwhelming victory in their recent union election at Sakuma Farms. He noted that the ILWU’s 2015 International Convention passed a resolution supporting FUJ, said the Washington Area Pensioners and Local 19 have been actively supporting the workers’ campaign. At last year’s PCPA convention in San Francisco, he recalled that pensioners and active members held a demonstration to support the farmworkers at a nearby Whole Foods market.
ILWU International President Robert McEllrath spoke on the second day of the convention. He summarized debate at the recent longshore caucus in San Francisco where delegates voted to explore the concept of discussions with the Pacific Maritime Association about early contract talks. McEllrath also noted the importance of the ILWU hiring halls, and warned that employers are attempting to undermine this important source of strength for longshore workers.
He said the PMA had approached him with an idea of using automated dispatch through cell phones to replace the hiring halls. “I told them—‘don’t ever bring that up to me again.’” McEllrath said that working out of the hall is a privilege. “Harry Bridges and 1934 strikers fought for that hiring hall and I’ll be damned if I’m going to give that up!” he said.
Vice President & Sec. Treasurer
ILWU International Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe spoke about his early years in the ILWU and being locked-out by rail yard employers when he was a member of the Local 13’s Allied Division. “We had guns pointed at us while scabs were escorted across our picket line,” Familathe recalled, and warned that employers may try similar tactics in the future. He updated Convention delegates about the ILWU’s ongoing contract campaigns and organizing efforts, including a recent organizing victory by JBA truck drivers in California (see article on page 2 in this issue).
ILWU Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams, who also serves as President of the San Francisco Port Commission, attended the first days of the Convention but was unable to speak because of a Port Commission meeting in San Francisco.
A host of important speakers
Other speakers at the convention included Northwest Seaport Alliance CEO John Wolfe; Tacoma Mayor Emeritus Bill Baarsma who now serves as President of the Tacoma Historical Society; Washington State Labor Council President Jeff Johnson; Washington State Senator and candidate for the 7th Congressional District, Pramila Jayapal.
PCPA Poet Laureate Jerry Brady read his poem, “The First Tacoma Longshore,” and received a warm welcome\ for his work. Also speaking at the event was Conor Casey from the University of Washington’s Labor Archives. Casey gave an update about the Archives’ effort to preserve the history of working people in the Pacific Northwest.
The PCPA Convention delegates passed several resolutions
- Supporting the ILWU Longshore Division;
- Asking the International Union to clarify rights of pensioners as fraternal delegates to submit resolutions and/or make motion sat ILWU conventions;
- Allowing the Local 23 Pensioners Club major ports status;
- Creating a Long Term Care committee;
- Reverting back to previous language stating that the PCPA convention will be held “the first Monday after the second Wednesday in September.”
- Adding one Executive Board seat for Alaska and Tacoma.
- Supporting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all nations opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline;
- Supporting efforts by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, an organization of incarcerated workers, to end the system of unpaid and underpaid prison labor. PCPA elections & next Convention PCPA President Greg Mitre, Vice President Lawrence Thibeaux, Recording Secretary Kenzie Mullen and Treasurer Chris Gordon, were elected by acclimation. The next PCPA convention will be held in Long Beach, CA from September 18-20, 2017, at the Maya Hotel.
Longshore Elected Delegates Vote to Meet with West Coast Employers To Discuss Their Request for a Contract Extension
SAN FRANCISCO, CA (August 11, 2016) – More than 100 delegates from 30 West Coast ports from San Diego, CA to Bellingham, WA, who were elected by rank and file members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), convened this week to consider an employer request to discuss the possibility of an extension to the 2014-2019 collective bargaining agreement between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).
By majority vote on Thursday, delegates voted to enter into discussions with representatives of PMA regarding the concept of a contract extension and report back to the membership.
“The caucus made a tough decision under current circumstances amid a wide range of concerns and opposing views on how to respond to PMA’s request,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath. “This is a directive to go and have discussions with the PMA and report back to the membership, and we’ll do just that, with the wellbeing of the rank and file, our communities, and the nation in mind.”
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s Coast Longshore Division represents approximately 20,000 longshore workers on the West Coast of the United States.
# # #
West Coast dockworkers will honor an international “day of action” on Thursday, July 7th , by observing an “hour of silence” from 11am to 12 noon, in honor of workers who have died on the docks here and abroad.
The International Day of Action is being organized by the International Dockworkers Council (IDC) and the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF). The groups represent thousands of dockworkers at ports throughout the world.
The union provided the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) employer group with advanced notice of the observance. The PMA has acknowledged and recognized the union’s request.
“We stand in solidarity with dockworkers in America and around the world who are calling attention to dangerous working conditions and the need to respect the rights of all workers,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath.
ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams led an ILWU delegation to Brisbane, Australia in early May that included Local 20 President Rudy Dorame and Local 30 member Darrell Nichols.
The ILWU leaders joined nearly 50 of their counterparts from 11 countries who comprise the Rio Tinto Global Union Network, which represents thousands of workers employed by Rio Tinto, one of the world’s largest mining companies.
ILWU’s Rio Tinto contracts
The global group heard a report from Darrell Nichols who explained the story behind a renewed 5-year contract that was ratified last December by Local 30 members at Rio Tinto’s mine in Boron, CA. In 2010, workers waged an impressive fight when the company initiated a 15-week lockout.
“It was incredible to see some of the same Australian workers who came over to support our lockout fight back in 2010,” said Nichols. “I’ve worked at Rio Tinto for 40 years, and seen plenty of things in Boron, including their use of outside contractors at our mine, but I was shocked at the way the company has been treating workers in other countries.”
Local 20 President Rudy Dorame explained that his 67 members who load and store Rio Tinto products at a private dock in Los Angeles Harbor are gearing up to win a new contract in June of 2017.
“The comradery and support we felt from all the different unions was awesome,” said Dorame, “We have to be prepared for a big fight back home in Wilmington – if that’s what it takes to win a fair contract.”
Strikes and contingent workers
Union representatives from France and Iceland reported on their recent strikes at Rio and thanked the network for supporting those struggles.
Unions from every country reported that Rio Tinto has been increasing the number of temporary workers at their facilities. Representatives from Canada, Iceland, Madagascar and Namibia discussed their recent campaigns to address this problem. A hard-hitting video was shown that exposed workers being abused at Rio Tinto’s Madagascar operation, where the company has invested billions but failed to address poor living and working conditions there.
Domrame said he was particularly impressed by what workers in Madagascar, South Africa and Indonesia were doing to organize for better pay. Rio Tinto has been paying some workers as low as $167 per month.
The network agreed to tackle an ambitious solidarity agenda that will help union members challenge Rio Tinto on a global scale. A resolution was unanimously passed to support the Maritime Union of Australia which is pressing Rio Tinto to reverse their decision that replaced Australian seafarers with exploited foreign workers who are paid as little as $ 2 an hour.
Following the network meeting, participants went to Rio Tinto’s annual shareholder meeting in Brisbane. Network participants questioned Rio Tinto board members about the company’s global labor problems.
Andrew Vickers, who chairs the Rio Tinto Global Union Network and serves as General Secretary of Australia’s Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), reported that officials from Rio Tinto recently inquired about the possibility of establishing better labor relations around the world. Discussions to explore exactly what that might mean are continuing.
“We’re interested to see if Rio Tinto is just using new rhetoric – or willing to get serious about improving their treatment of workers and unions,” said International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams. He noted that the upcoming contract negotiations with Local 20 members will be one way to evaluate Rio Tinto’s claims.
Like many African-Americans of his generation, Williams’ family was based in the south. His father was a sharecropper and Josh remembered working in the fields with him to pick cotton when he was seven years old.
Williams excelled as an athlete in high school before joining the Army which allowed him to escape from the Jim Crow laws of the South. After basic training in Southern California where he learned to march and drill, Williams applied to be a paratrooper but was barred because he was African- American. After serving in the Korean War, he enrolled at City College in San Francisco where he joined a fraternity and experimented with modifying the drills that he learned in the military. The college Dean told him to stop drilling and study more.
When Williams joined the ILWU in 1959 at the age of 26, union members were in the middle of a difficult struggle – transitioning away from the labor-intensive “break-bulk” loading process involving “gangs” of men who sometimes labored together for weeks on a vessel – and moved towards the new container technology that raised productivity and profits, while cutting turn times and the size of the workforce.
Williams and his co-workers who survived this transition found themselves able to win new contracts with dramatically better pay and benefits, but he and others were also inspired by the Civil Rights Movement that was sweeping the country.
In 1965, Williams invented a new kind of “drill team” that would blend union solidarity themes with military drills and some slick dance moves. The following year they showcased the Local 10 Drill Team’s unique style at a mass march down Market Street to honor Cesar Chavez and his newly organized farmworker campaign. In 1967, they performed when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., visited Local 10, and continued performing at social justice events both large and small – in the Bay Area and across the country – including massive anti-war protests, May Day demonstrations, parades, receptions and ceremonies of all kinds.
A memorial service was held for Williams on June 15th at Duggan’s Serra Mortuary in Daily City. It was attended by approximately 100 family, friends and union brothers and sisters whose lives Josh has touched. The Local 10 Drill Team gave their general a final send off. Former drill team members from as far away as Los Angeles made the trip to say their final good byes to Josh. Following the service, a repast was hosted at the Local 10 Hall.
The ILWU International officers approved a $1,500 donation for the reception. Josh’s internment was held on June 22 at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery.
An estimated 100 ILWU volunteers provided most of the labor and resources for a successful community clean-up effort in partnership with Oakland District 5 Councilmembers Noel Gallo on Saturday, May 14. The impressive turnout topped results from the previous clean-up efforts held last October.
“ILWU volunteers are such a welcome and important part of our community,” said City Councilmember Noel Gallo who represents a working-class district in East Oakland where illegal dumping has left residents with more than their share of discarded waste.
In addition to contributing their labor, the ILWU contributed a total of 9 pickup trucks that were used to haul waste to a city collection site. The ILWU also contributed funds to help pay for food, drinks and t-shirts, courtesy of Locals 6, 10, 34, 91 and the Inland Boatmen’s Union (IBU).
A team 18 volunteers from Local 10 were assigned to clean-up Oakland’s Animal Services facility that had become overgrown with weeds, foliage and refuse.
Another group of volunteers from Local 6 and 10 went to the Peralta Hacienda Historical Park where they painted a small bridge and cleaned-up a creek that was clogged with illegally-dumped waste.
“I came with my family because all of us wanted to contribute,” said Maria Vilma Reyes, a member of Local 6 who works at Recycle America/Waste Management.
Yet another team spread out on city streets to collect piles of old mattresses, abandoned furniture and waste of all kinds from sidewalks, street corners, and vacant lots.
A crew of 36 divided into 12 “pick-up” teams that loaded the refuse into their trucks and hauled to the collection center.
As in previous efforts, recycling workers who belong to Local 6 have been a key part of the effort. A big turnout from members employed by Alameda County Industries joined with other recyclers who work for Waste Management, California Waste Solutions and BLT in Fremont.
The City was able to provide a few staff to help with the effort but far less than the number needed by residents to stay ahead of the illegal dumping. In an ideal world, the City of Oakland would be paying crews of municipal workers to get the job done, but Councilmember Gallo says that the City’s budget hasn’t allowed for enough staffing.
“This is a stop-gap measure until we can find a better solution that provides enough funding for all sorts of urgently-needed city services, including better enforcement and collection of illegal dumping in working-class neighborhoods,” said Gallo, who spends most of his weekends helping with clean-up drives. “Until we win that fight, the ILWU and other community groups are helping residents in a direct way and winning some well-deserved appreciation from all of us.”
Bernie Sanders’ Presidential campaign shocked the political establishment by morphing into a movement with clear working- class politics that inspired a new generation of young people and working families.
Sanders won 12 million votes and scored victories in 22 states, but his campaign came to a bittersweet conclusion on June 7 when the final major primary in California was lost by 13 points.
Turnout was short
The California primary election involved 3.5 million voters – an impressive number that dwarfed other states – but fell short of the 5 million who voted in the state’s 2008 primary when Clinton faced Obama. Turnout wasn’t helped by an announcement just before election day that Clinton had won enough delegates to secure the nomination.
Young & indies register
Sanders’ powerful appeal to younger and independent voters motivated record numbers to register before the election. But many who took that step checked a “no party preference” box instead of registering as “Democrats” – then found it nearly impossible to actually cast a vote for Sanders due to cumbersome election rules. California’s steady growth of “NPP” voters, now totaling 4 million, amounts to 24% of the electorate and will soon surpass the number of registered Republicans, so winning independent voters is increasingly important to candidates and a source of anxiety for both establishment parties.
Days after the election, California’s Secretary of State reported that 2.6 million ballots had yet to be counted. Roughly 1.8 million of them were “mail-in” ballots with 705,000 classified as “provisional.”
While it’s virtually impossible that the remaining ballots would reverse the outcome, the results could narrow somewhat by the July 15 deadline when the final results must be certified.
The Bernie alternative
“The Bernie Sanders movement presented us with a rare opportunity to support a candidate who was willing to stand with the working class,” said Cathy Familathe, President of the ILWU’s Southern California District Council that helped coordinate member outreach and education efforts. “Bernie showed us that it’s possible to be a viable candidate who can challenge the growing influence of business-as-usual, corporate- backed candidates in both parties,” she said. “ILWU members seemed to respond to what he was saying.”
Sanders in San Pedro
Sanders warmly embraced endorsements from more progressive unions, including the ILWU, Communications Workers, Nurses, Transit and other local unions during his campaign, including Steelworkers Local 675 in Carson, CA. Sanders’ May 27 visit to San Pedro was extra special because of the significant ILWU presence.
Thousands came with only 48-hours’ notice to attend a spirited and photogenic waterfront rally with cranes and container ships in the background.
Longshore leaders who spoke at the rally – as individuals, not union officials – included Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr., ILWU Pacific Coast Pensioners President Greg Mitre and International Vice President Ray Familathe who introduced Sanders by declaring: “Bernie doesn’t worry about stepping on toes or hurting the feelings of one-percenters, Wall Streeters, and puffed-up business tycoons. He’s willing to stand with the working class and stay with the working class. That’s what he’s always done in Congress; that’s what he’s done on the campaign trail, and that’s why we’re supporting him for President of the United States. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Bernie Sanders!”
Sanders arrived at the podium wearing an ILWU jacket that appeared in photos and television appearances for several days. After thanking the many union and community members who attended, Sanders delivered the passionate stump speech that distinguished him as the first Presidential candidate since Franklin Roosevelt to come down hard on bankers and big business – while advocating for workers and all Americans who have been left behind as the rich have become richer and more powerful.
“We need a political revolution because one-tenth of one-percent in this country now owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent of Americans,” Sanders said.
He also struck a positive and hopeful tone, noting that “so many young people have supported our vision of social justice, economic justice, racial justice, and environmental justice.”
Sanders detailed his program for real change that included “breaking up the big banks, providing health care for all, reforming the criminal justice system and ending a corrupt political system that works for billionaires and corporations but excludes most Americans and threatens our democracy.” He concluded by noting that “real change always has come from the bottom-up, not the top-down. That’s the history of the labor movement, and that’s what our movement is about.”
Flurry of final campaigning
Sanders left San Pedro for a meeting with residents concerned about oil companies fracking in their neighborhood and held another rally before appearing as a guest on the “Real Time with Bill Maher” TV show. In the days that followed, Sanders visited California’s Central Valley before arriving at the Bay Area for a final push, including a rally in Oakland’s Oscar Grant Plaza where actor Danny Glover – introduced by Local 10 member and longtime friend Clarence Thomas – warmed up the large crowd before Sanders took the stage.
San Francisco finale
Sanders final California campaign rally was held on the eve before election day in San Francisco. With the sun setting on the Golden Gate Bridge behind him and a chilly wind buffeting thousands who gathered around him, Sanders urged activists to keep fighting for the issues raised by the campaign.
Election night & beyond
As polls closed the next day and the disappointing results came in, Sanders spoke to supporters in a large airplane hangar in Santa Monica. His address remained focused on the issues, but he also acknowledged speaking earlier that evening with President Obama and Hillary Clinton. He pivoted to focus more fire on Donald Trump, declaring that the “American people will never support a candidate who’s major theme is bigotry,” and added, “our vision is about more than defeating Trump – it’s about transforming the country.”
ILWU members in Philly
The next phase of the Presidential campaign will move to Philadelphia on July 25-28 where Democratic Party convention delegates will debate an issue platform and set rules for future elections – in addition to formally nominating the party’s candidate.
Many of the delegates will be members of labor unions who ran in little-noticed recently in each congressional district. One of those delegates is Local 23 President Dean McGrath. Another is Jeff Engels of Seattle, a member of the ILWU’s Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU) who serves as West Coast Coordinator of the International Transport Workers Federation. Joining them is Camron Pate, Local 29 leader and political activist who said she is, “excited and thrilled to be a delegate and looking forward to doing some serious work at the Philadelphia convention.” Another possible delegate is Local 63 member and SCDC President Cathy Familathe, who is a runner-up and at-large candidate for a possible delegate slot. Another alternate delegate is Local 23’s Zach Pattin.
“We’ll be travelling at our expense, but remembering all our brothers and sisters back home who want to see real change in this country, along the lines that Bernie Sanders advocated,” said Engels.
ILWU International President Bob McEllrath says he remains hopeful about the lasting impact of Bernie Sanders’ effort. “Sanders re-shuffled the deck and shook-up the political establishment, which is exactly what America needs now. He got the ball rolling, but the rest of us have to keep pushing for real change, even when it’s unpopular with those in power.”