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Transit union chief Thomas Murray, president of the Transport Workers Union Local 2054 rips T’s upper management

Current News - 2 hours 28 min ago

Transit union chief Thomas Murray, president of the Transport Workers Union Local 2054 rips T’s upper management
Transit union chief rips T’s upper management
http://www.bostonherald.com/business/business_markets/2015/03/transit_un...

Gerald C. Francis.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015
By:
Marie Szaniszlo

A transit union boss yesterday blasted the MBTA and its commuter rail operator, Keolis, for “paralysis at the upper-management level” that he said contributed to this winter’s breakdown of the system.

“Nobody knew what the hell was going on,” Thomas Murray, president of the Transport Workers Union Local 2054, testified before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation. “... What we saw was a paralysis at the upper-management level. Everyone was afraid to make a move.”

Murray also blamed the MBTA for buying “wrecks on wheels” and for failing to expand maintenance facilities as the system grew over the years.

“This stretches the present mechanical facilities to their limit,” he said. “The commuter rail fleet 
operates in a region where harsh winters are the norm, not the exception.”

When Keolis took over operation of the commuter rail system last July, General Manager Gerald C. Francis said it inherited a train fleet that was “old and facing serious maintenance issues” that made it ill-equipped to handle the 594 million cubic feet of snow that was eventually removed from tracks and track infrastructure.

“At one point,” he said, “we had over 100 people clearing snow day and night” — a number that Rep. Timothy R. Madden (D-Nantucket) said he considered low.

But Francis provided no specifics in terms of how Keolis planned to prevent another system breakdown next winter, other than 40 new locomotives the company expects to receive over the next year and the possible purchase of more snow-removal equipment.

Tags: Transport Workers Union Local 2054
Categories: Labor News

Will the new agreement weaken the ILWU?

Current News - 6 hours 23 min ago

Will the new agreement weaken the ILWU?
http://socialistworker.org/2015/04/01/will-the-new-deal-weaken-the-ilwu
Darrin Hoop analyzes the ILWU's tentative agreement with the West Coast shipping bosses as the deal is debated by union delegates at a meeting in San Francisco.

April 1, 2015

Containers stacked up at the Port of Long Beach

NEARLY NINE months after the contract between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the bosses Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) expired, the two sides reached a tentative agreement (TA) February 20 on a five-year deal--ending, at least until the contract is ratified or not, months of a simmering conflict between the two sides.

The details of the agreement are still being analyzed and discussed by ILWU members, but if the outlines that have emerged so far are correct, the leaders of the union came up short in critical areas. There are definite or possible concessions on arbitration and outsourcing that put future union jobs at risk, and no apparent progress in dealing with the shipping bosses' use of new technology to undermine union power.

Overall, the TA appears to continue a pattern for the ILWU leadership: Accept wage and benefit increases for current members at the expense of concessions that will undermine conditions for future dockworkers.

The ILWU-PMA contract covers approximately 12,000 A and B list dock workers in 29 ports up and down the West Coast, from San Diego to Bellingham, Washington. Another 8,000 part-time casuals work alongside them. However, they aren't registered ILWU members, and along with earning substantially less pay, they get no health care, vacation or pension benefits. Together, these workers handle around 1 million tons of cargo a day, worth $1 trillion annually.

During negotiations, the PMA, which represents 72 companies, including some of the biggest shipping lines and terminal operators in the world, accused the ILWU of engaging in "hard-timing"--an effective work slowdown that resulted, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, in an average of 25 or more container ships anchored off the Ports of Los Angeles-Long Beach each day between November and February. These two ports are the biggest in the U.S. and account for 70 percent of the West Coast's cargo volume.

Meanwhile, the PMA employed various kinds of lockouts--apparently with the idea that cutting into dockworkers' pay would get ILWU members to put pressure on union leaders to settle. In January, the PMA eliminated the night shift at various ports--over the President's Day holiday weekend in early February, it shut down all ports. Since the TA was announced, congestion at the ports has improved, though it could take months to fully resolve.

The next step of the ratification process could run through April 3 at the ILWU caucus in San Francisco, where 90 delegates from all of the regions represented by the union will meet to discuss the contract. If the caucus approves the recommendation from the ILWU International, the rank and file would vote on the TA later in April. If the caucus rejects the deal, both sides will return to the negotiating table.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

WITH ITS rich history of labor militancy dating back to the 1934 general strike in San Francisco, the ILWU remains one of the few unions in the U.S. where the rank and file recognizes its power and is able to use it to slow down the production process. Unfortunately, this consciousness among the ranks stands in contrast to a current ILWU International leadership that is a pale reflection of that radical past.

Over the last several years, led by President Bob McEllrath, the International has contained struggles like that of ILWU Local 21 in Longview, Washington, against the multinational grain conglomerate EGT Development; allowed its members to cross a port truckers' picket line in July 2014 in Los Angeles-Long Beach; and endured lockouts lasting more than a year of grain terminal workers in Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, Washington--something unheard of in the history of the union.

In the critical Longview battle, McEllrath shoved through an agreement that ended the union's historic right, dating back to the 1934 contract, to control the hiring hall. Now, for the first time in the union's history, management decides who works and who doesn't in the state-of-the-art EGT facility, and has the right to fire ILWU members. Unsurprisingly, this includes management blacklisting workers who it feels were troublemakers during the struggle.

Other concessions in the Longview deal included: a mandatory 12-hour day; elimination of union control of the "supercargo" position, the person who organizes the loading and unloading of each ship; elimination of union control of the master console job, the person who controls the flow of grain within the plant; a loss of one union job on each ship, from four positions down to three; and a management rights clause that allows supervisors to work during safety grievances, union stop-work meetings and other work stoppages.

As a whole, this contract severely weakened the ILWU's power to control its working conditions.

The ILWU justified the Longview agreement on the basis that it prevented the facility from going nonunion, which was management's open aim. Rank-and-file ILWU members took the initiatives in militant actions during the struggle, including blocking trains. Union leaders--including McEllrath--were arrested, and ILWU members and their families were harassed by law enforcement.

In making their case for the deal, ILWU officials told workers that despite the retreat from grain cargo standards, they would at least be retaining a union foothold in Longview and could push back later against the retreat.

In the context of a shrinking organized labor movement, maintaining ILWU jurisdiction over the grain jobs--in the face of a corporate giant that was out to bust the union--was a victory of sorts. EGT used scab labor from the Operating Engineers Local 701 to get the new plant up and running. If not for the tremendous push from below by ILWU Local 21 members, EGT could have established the first non-ILWU contract at a grain terminal on the West Coast since the 1930s.

Still, the concessions in Longview were a major setback for the ILWU--and, of course, the rest of the grain cargo bosses demanded that the Longview deal become the model for everywhere else.

In September 2012, Louis Dreyfus Commodities, United Grain Corp. and Columbia Grain--which together make up the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association (PNGHA)--demanded the same conditions in the Northwest Master Grain contract that covers ILWU members in Local 8 in Portland, Local 4 in Vancouver, Local 21 in Longview, Local 23 in Tacoma and Local 19 in Seattle. Over the next few months, the PNGHA locked out workers in the Vancouver grain terminals, and then in Portland.

After allowing scabs to cross their picket lines for up to a year and a half and refusing to mobilize any semblance of the mass struggle that ILWU members in Longview had organized against EGT, the ILWU leadership ultimately agreed to a contract with the PNGHA of just under four years in length that is virtually indistinguishable from the EGT contract in Longview.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THIS HISTORY is to make sense of the current TA between the ILWU and the PMA.

Some of the preliminary information about the agreement that appeared in the bosses' press, like the Journal of Commerce (JOC), makes it seem like the union won.

On wages, for example, the JOC reports, "Under the tentative agreement, the hourly wage will increase $1, retroactive to June 28, 2014. The base wage will increase by $1.50 in 2015, $1.25 in 2016, $1.50 in 2017 and $1.25 in 2018, when the straight-time wage will become $42.18 an hour. There will also be wage increases for skilled worker categories, with skilled-pay differentials ranging from 15 to 30 percent on top of the straight-time wage."

In addition, the deal is reported to include increased payments for pensions and to maintain the current excellent health care plan.

But up to the beginning of the ILWU caucus on March 30, the rank and file had yet to receive a copy of the TA from the International--so speculation about it is based on reading between the lines of JOC articles. Given the recent historic concessions given up by the ILWU in its grain contracts, it's hard to believe there isn't more bad news in the fine print--and that's exactly what has begun to emerge.

The first apparent concession deals with a radical change to the arbitration system. Under the current contract, the system is divided into four regions. The PMA appoints the arbitrators in Oakland and Portland, while the ILWU does so in Seattle/Tacoma and Los Angeles/Long Beach. The respective arbitrators immediately hear any health and safety or workplace disputes brought by the ILWU.

Though it hasn't always worked out this way, the general pattern has been that the ILWU appointed arbitrators who, more often than not, ruled in favor of the union, while the PMA choose arbitrators more likely to side with management. If either side disagrees with a ruling, it goes to the coast arbitrator in San Francisco for a final decision.

Under the TA, this system would be scrapped and replaced with a new one much more beneficial to management. Instead of a single arbitrator in each region, there will be a panel of three to hear disputes. On each panel, one member will be appointed by the ILWU and one by the PMA, and a third will be a supposedly neutral person, "who is a non-lawyer, but who is a member of either the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service or the American Arbitration Association," according to the JOC.

In effect, the union would be agreeing to cede control of arbitration rulings regarding health and safety violations or lack of proper staffing by management to the decisions of a third-party bureaucrat. This concession would almost certainly weaken the the shop floor power that makes the ILWU so strong.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THE SECOND potential major concession relates to the issue of chassis outsourcing and a possible weakening of ILWU jurisdiction over their repair and maintenance.

The chassis refers to the trailers attached to trucks that cargo containers are placed onto in order to move them in and out of the ports. According to the JOC, "The tentative agreement gives the ILWU mechanics the jurisdiction to inspect and repair non-trucker-owned chassis. 'Red-circled' terminals that have contracts with other unions such as the International Association of Machinists are also exempt from ILWU inspection and repair provision."

The devil is in the details here: The JOC report suggests the ILWU would continue to control work on "non-trucker owned" chassis, meaning those owned by shipping companies that are bound by the PMA contract. But the shipping lines have been selling off most of their chassis. For example, on March 1--after the TA was announced--three of the biggest equipment leasing companies, Direct ChassisLink Inc., Flexi-Van Leasing, and TRAC Intermodal, set up a neutral pool of 82,000 chassis they control at 12 of the 13 terminals at the Port of Los Angeles-Long Beach.

As the JOC pointed out, "There is some question as to the legality of terminals requiring that the ILWU inspect chassis before they leave the facilities, and requiring that the ILWU perform any needed repairs. The chassis-leasing companies are not PMA members, and they have no contractual relationship with the ILWU."

The TA apparently allows for both parties to petition the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) regarding this chassis language. If the FMC rules the language is illegal, the two sides will return to the negotiating table on this issue.

But it seems obvious the shipping companies outsourced their chassis to create this precise dilemma. The ILWU leadership, by agreeing to ambiguous language, is putting an important source of ILWU jobs and power in the hands of a governmental body to rule on the contract language's legality. Even if the FMC rules that it is illegal, this will put the ILWU back at the negotiating table--and with the rest of the contract settled, the union's power to demand more favorable language would be weakened.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

FOR NOW, without access to the contract, the rank and file is left to wonder exactly how all this will play out. Is the new language dealing with the arbitration system and the chassis jurisdiction question a symptom of another contract that gives up concessions?

The first major embrace of partnership with the bosses took place under legendary ILWU leader Harry Bridges, in the Modernization and Mechanization agreement in 1960 that accepted the containerization of cargo, leading to the loss of thousands of union jobs. In 2002, another agreement on technology eliminated upwards of 600 clerk jobs and allowed new technology to be implemented based on the decision of the arbitration process. Then, in 2008, the union agreed to automation language that has since led to two newly automated terminals at the Port of LA-Long Beach.

Unless there is contract language that the JOC hasn't reported on, it doesn't appear that the union made any progress in stopping the future loss of jobs through the implementation of new technology or automation.

Couple this with the concession on the arbitration system and the big question mark around the chassis outsourcing language, it seems like the union leadership agreed to wage and benefit increases for current workers at the expense of not protecting future ILWU jobs, while also weakening their power to control the production process.

The final cause for concern for rank-and-filers who want their union to move in a different direction is the unprecedented move by the International to require voting on this contract by a mail ballot. This would end the practice of members voting at the union hall after discussing the contract with their union sisters and brothers.

Coupled with the refusal by the International to distribute the contract over a month after the TA was announced, this does nothing but raise more questions about what other concessions could exist in the contract.

This week's caucus in San Francisco--and its decision about whether to ratify or reject the TA--will go some way towards determining if the ILWU grows weaker or if a new, more radical direction for the union opens up. But the real potential to chart a new course for the ILWU lies with the rank and file.

Tags: ilwuCoast ContractPMAConcession Bargaining
Categories: Labor News

Industrial Worker - Issue #1773, April 2015

IWW - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 19:21

Headlines:

  • Work: What Is It Good For?
  • Syndicalist Union Protests Migrant Worker Exploitation In Berlin
  • Eclipse The Past. Usurp The Future.

Features:

  • How I Spent My Permanent Vacation
  • The Joe Hill Centenary Takes To The Road
  • Is The Work ‘Ethic’ Really Ethical?

Download a Free PDF of this issue.

read more

Categories: Unions

Argentina: Travel chaos as transit unions strike

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Yahoo
Categories: Labor News

Rally to Save Our Pensions!

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 13:53

March 31, 2015: Stop the rush to pension cuts will be the rallying cry when retirees and active Teamsters converge on Rosemont, to ask their local officers to Say No to Pension Cuts.

The Central States Pension Fund has summoned hundreds of Teamster officials to a meeting Wednesday, April 8, where pension fund director Thomas Nyhan will report on his plans regarding possible pension cuts for some 300,000 retired and active Teamsters.

The Wisconsin Committee to Protect Pensions has called for a rally to defend Teamster retirement security to commence at 11 am outside the Rosemont Convention Center. Active and retired Teamsters from Ohio, Missouri, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, and as far as Georgia will be traveling by bus, car, and van to meet up and be heard.

"Why are we being rushed to take cuts when Central States has had over two years to get this bill passed by Congress?”, commented Bob Amsden a retired Milwaukee Local 200 freight Teamster.

All concerned retirees, active Teamsters, and retiree advocates are invited to be there and lend support. We will take our case to all the union officers attending as well as the national media.

WHAT: Rally to Defend Our Pensions. No Rush to Pension Cuts without an Independent Audit.

WHEN: 11 am CDT, Wednesday April 8.

WHERE: The Rosemont Convention Center is located at 5555 N. River Rd. in Rosemont, Illinois.

FURTHER INFORMATION: Wisconsin Committee to Protect Pensions – Bob Amsden (414) 688 -5010. Northeast Ohio Committee to Protect Pensions – Mike Walden (330) 801-1108. Cincinnati Area – Tom Krekeler (513) 324-3574. St. Louis Area – Sue Cole (314) 550-6179.  Central Ohio Committee to Protect Pensions – Whitlaw Wyatt (740) 606-4861. TDU – Pete Landon (313) 842-2600.

Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Union Busting Chicago Demo Mayor Rahm Emanuel Tries To Ban ATU Bus & Train Operators From Political Activity While Off Duty . “I’ve seen brutal attacks on working people in the last few years, but this is a new level of repulsive behavior. Rahm makes Rudy

Current News - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 12:27

Union Busting Chicago Demo Mayor Rahm Emanuel Tries To Ban ATU Bus & Train Operators From Political Activity While Off Duty . “I’ve seen brutal attacks on working people in the last few years, but this is a new level of repulsive behavior. Rahm makes Rudy Giuliani look reasonable!”
http://www.atu.org/media/releases/emanuel-cta-illegally-ban-election-tal...
EMANUEL, CTA ILLEGALLY BAN ELECTION TALK AMONG CHICAGO BUS, TRAIN OPERATORS
Chicago, IL – In an unprecedented act of political repression, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s appointees at the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) have banned CTA workers from sharing literature related to the 2015 Mayoral race.
According to the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), which represents more than 10,000 CTA employees and has endorsed Jesus “Chuy” Garcia for Mayor, CTA posted memos in bus garages and rail terminals barring employees from communications normally protected by the First Amendment. CTA’s General Counsel also penned letters warning that fines could be issued if off-duty workers handed out literature to their co-workers in non-work areas of CTA property.
On Tuesday, ATU filed a lawsuit in United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois alleging that CTA is violating the First Amendment rights of transit workers.
“We’ve seen this before in Chicago, when workers like us were told to stay quiet and stay obedient,” said ATU Local 308 President Ken Franklin. “Well Rahm is not the King of Chicago, and we will not obey. We’re not going to stand by and let him create one set of rules for him and another set for the rest of Chicago.”
“While Rahm Emanuel held a campaign press conference in a bus garage last week and shook hands with our workers, his pals at CTA headquarters threatened to punish those same workers if they even talked about the campaign!” said ATU Local 241 President Tommy Sams. “He’s essentially installed a free speech red light camera for every public workplace in the city.”
ATU International President Larry Hanley said the entire 200,000 member International Union stands with Chicago's public workforce. Hanley is demanding a national response. “I’ve seen brutal attacks on working people in the last few years, but this is a new level of repulsive behavior. Rahm makes Rudy Giuliani look reasonable!” Hanley said. “When the leader of the Democratic Party in one of America’s largest cities threatens public workers and suspends their First Amendment rights, it’s time for the national Democratic Party to step in. Today, I’m calling on the entire Democratic Party to repudiate Rahm Emanuel. No one should be let off the hook for stomping on the First Amendment, and no leader of the Democratic Party should attack workers’ basic human rights, and still be called a Democrat,"

About ATU
ATU Locals 241 and 308 represent more than 10,000 CTA workers in the City of Chicago. The Amalgamated Transit Union is the largest labor organization representing transit workers in the United States and Canada. Founded in 1892, the ATU today is comprised of over 190,000 members in 253 local unions spread across 47 states and nine provinces, including 3,000 workers at Greyhound Lines, Inc. Composed of bus drivers, light rail operators, maintenance and clerical personnel and other transit and municipal employees, the ATU works to promote transit issues and fights for the interests of its hard-working members.

Tags: atuChicagoRahm Emanuel
Categories: Labor News

Union Busting Chicago Demo Mayor Rahm Emanuel Tries To Stop ATU Bus Train Operators From Political Activity

Current News - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 12:16

Union Busting Chicago Demo Mayor Rahm Emanuel Tries To Stop ATU Bus Train Operators From Political Activity
http://www.atu.org/media/releases/emanuel-cta-illegally-ban-election-tal...
Chicago, IL – In an unprecedented act of political repression, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s appointees at the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) have banned CTA workers from sharing literature related to the 2015 Mayoral race.
According to the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), which represents more than 10,000 CTA employees and has endorsed Jesus “Chuy” Garcia for Mayor, CTA posted memos in bus garages and rail terminals barring employees from communications normally protected by the First Amendment. CTA’s General Counsel also penned letters warning that fines could be issued if off-duty workers handed out literature to their co-workers in non-work areas of CTA property.
On Tuesday, ATU filed a lawsuit in United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois alleging that CTA is violating the First Amendment rights of transit workers.
“We’ve seen this before in Chicago, when workers like us were told to stay quiet and stay obedient,” said ATU Local 308 President Ken Franklin. “Well Rahm is not the King of Chicago, and we will not obey. We’re not going to stand by and let him create one set of rules for him and another set for the rest of Chicago.”
“While Rahm Emanuel held a campaign press conference in a bus garage last week and shook hands with our workers, his pals at CTA headquarters threatened to punish those same workers if they even talked about the campaign!” said ATU Local 241 President Tommy Sams. “He’s essentially installed a free speech red light camera for every public workplace in the city.”
ATU International President Larry Hanley said the entire 200,000 member International Union stands with Chicago's public workforce. Hanley is demanding a national response. “I’ve seen brutal attacks on working people in the last few years, but this is a new level of repulsive behavior. Rahm makes Rudy Giuliani look reasonable!” Hanley said. “When the leader of the Democratic Party in one of America’s largest cities threatens public workers and suspends their First Amendment rights, it’s time for the national Democratic Party to step in. Today, I’m calling on the entire Democratic Party to repudiate Rahm Emanuel. No one should be let off the hook for stomping on the First Amendment, and no leader of the Democratic Party should attack workers’ basic human rights, and still be called a Democrat,"

About ATU
ATU Locals 241 and 308 represent more than 10,000 CTA workers in the City of Chicago. The Amalgamated Transit Union is the largest labor organization representing transit workers in the United States and Canada. Founded in 1892, the ATU today is comprised of over 190,000 members in 253 local unions spread across 47 states and nine provinces, including 3,000 workers at Greyhound Lines, Inc. Composed of bus drivers, light rail operators, maintenance and clerical personnel and other transit and municipal employees, the ATU works to promote transit issues and fights for the interests of its hard-working members.

Tags: ATU 241ChicagoRahm Emanuel
Categories: Labor News

Teamster Financial Reports are Out Today

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 08:28

March 31, 2015: The 2014 financial report of the IBT is available, as of today, as are the financial reports of nearly all Teamster local unions.

Hoffa’s salary rose to $305,759, and including his lucrative “housing allowance” he made $379,411.

To access your local’s 2014 report, just follow the instructions here.

Today is the deadline for every local, joint council, or international to file its 2014 LM-2 financial report with the U.S. Department of Labor. All U.S. locals must file a report, unless they are composed solely of public employees.

The Teamster Rank & File Education and Legal Defense Foundation (TRF) will be compiling information for hundreds of reports, and will produce an analysis for Teamster members. We know our Teamster dues are a great investment, and want to make sure that all members understand how our dues money is being used.

You can access our report compiled last year.

If you have any questions or need help getting an LM-2, please call the TDU National Office at 313-842-2600, or click here to ask a question or send us a message.

Issues: TDU UPS Freight Network
Categories: Labor News, Unions

West Coast ILWU longshore union delegates meet over contract proposal

Current News - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 08:22

West Coast ILWU longshore union delegates meet over contract proposal
http://www.presstelegram.com/social-affairs/20150330/west-coast-longshor...
By Karen Robes Meeks, Long Beach Press Telegram
POSTED: 03/30/15, 4:57 PM PDT
Select members of a West Coast dockworkers union this week will determine whether to move forward with a tentative labor contract that took nine months to reach in a protracted battle that nearly ground goods movement to a halt.

About 90 delegates of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union on Monday began meeting in San Francisco for a weeklong caucus to review a five-year tentative agreement reached last month by their bargaining team and employers.

The delegates, consisting of elected members of the rank and file, will decide whether to recommend or reject the proposal to the full membership.

If recommended by the majority of delegates, the tentative contract would be mailed to each member. Meetings would then be held at local union halls and end with a secret ballot ratification vote by the membership. A majority of the 20,000 ILWU members at 29 West Coast ports — including the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports — is needed to ratify the contract.

Details of the proposal — which was reached Feb. 20 with the help of Labor Secretary Tom Perez and a federal mediator — were not released pending ratification. Representatives with the ILWU and PMA declined to comment Monday.

But both sides have publicly said they did reach tentative contract resolutions on health benefits and jurisdictional issues related to the maintenance and repair of chassis, the wheeled metal frames needed to move cargo containers.

Much is at stake for customers and those along the supply chain.

The congestion — caused by the arrival of bigger ships carrying more cargo and uneven distribution of chassis and worsened by contentious contract talks — has been hammering West Coast ports, especially the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation’s busiest seaport complex handling 40 percent of U.S. imports.

Not helping matters were the labor talks, which created months of productivity slowdowns. The congestion left more than two dozen ships at sea, long truck lines, clogged terminals and weeks-long delays that forced customers to reroute cargo to other ports or ship products by air.

Jock O’Connell, international trade adviser for Beacon Economics, said further congestion issues could create declines in cargo regionally and displace railroad, trucking and other blue-collared jobs along the supply chain.

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“They are most at risk for getting sidelined economically,” he said.

Meanwhile, the twin ports seem to be making a dent in clearing congestion. The Marine Exchange of Southern California on Monday reported 11 container ships at anchor, waiting for a berth. This is fewer than the 28 container ships left stranded March 14.

Last week, ILWU Local 13 President Bobby Olvera reiterated to the Long Beach Harbor Commission the union’s commitment to clearing the backlog.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti stressed the importance of getting this contract approved by the rank and file.

“The Port of L.A. is the nation’s No. 1 port and a powerful driver of our regional economy, which is why we worked with dockworkers and shippers to reach this tentative agreement,” Garcetti said. “I urge a yes vote to ratify this agreement so we can make our ports the best in the world and move our economy forward.”

Contact Karen Robes Meeks at 562-714-2088.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Karen Robes Meeks
Newspaper reporter with more than a decade of experience in journalism. I cover trade and transportation. Reach the author at karen.robes@langnews.com or follow Karen on Twitter: karenmeekspt.

Tags: ILWU Coast ContractPMA
Categories: Labor News

Stakes high as ILWU caucus meets to discuss contract deal

Current News - Mon, 03/30/2015 - 17:46

Stakes high as ILWU caucus meets to discuss contract deal
http://www.joc.com/port-news/longshoreman-labor/international-longshore-...
Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor | Mar 28, 2015 6:46PM EDT

Ninety International Longshore and Warehouse Union delegates on Monday will open meetings in San Francisco that will determine the fate of U.S. West Coast ports for the next five years.

The ILWU’s coastwide caucus could last all week. Delegates will vote whether to recommend rank-and-file approval or rejection of the five-year contract the union and the Pacific Maritime Association tentatively agreed upon Feb. 20 after nine months of negotiations.

This year’s caucus is crucial for West Coast ports and customers as well as for the ILWU and PMA. If caucus delegates recommend approval, the union leadership will hold meetings in April with each port’s membership to explain details of the tentative agreement. If caucus delegates vote against approval, the ILWU and PMA must return to the bargaining table.

Reopening negotiations would stoke new fears among cargo interests at a time when the West Coast ports is starting to recover from its worst congestion since 2002, when the ports were closed for 10 days by a lockout during contract negotiations.

West Coast ports since late 2014 have been bleeding cargo, while ports on the East and Gulf coasts and in Canada have enjoyed a bonanza of shipments rerouted to avoid unrest on the West Coast.

The current diversions continue more than a decade of lost cargo opportunities at West Coast ports. The West Coast’s market share of U.S. containerized imports last year fell to 52.3 percent from 56.8 percent in 2000, according to PIERS, a JOC.com sister company now owned by IHS.

If the caucus fails to recommend approval of the tentative contract, the resulting uncertainty will undoubtedly lead to more diversion.

The proposed contract is not revolutionary. The ILWU will get pretty much everything it demanded during the protracted negotiations -- generous wage increases; continued employer-paid medical benefits, including the Cadillac tax in the Affordable Health Care Act that will take effect in 2018, and ILWU jurisdiction over chassis inspections, maintenance and repair.

A change in the contract’s arbitration system however, could result in significant changes in how day-to-day health, safety and work-rule disputes are handled at the local ports.

Grievance procedures called for a single arbitrator in each of the four port ranges -- Seattle-Tacoma, Oregon, Northern California and Southern California. The arbitrators in the Puget Sound and Los Angeles-Long Beach are nominated by the ILWU and approved by the PMA. The arbitrators in Oregon and Northern California are nominated by the PMA and approved by the ILW

This arrangement assumed that that the ILWU-nominated arbitrators would rule in favor of the union and the PMA-nominated arbitrators would rule in favor of the employers in the day-to-day disputes, and that the issues then would be appealed to a single, neutral coast arbitrator for final resolution, if necessary.

Wags on the employer side joked that having an ILWU-nominated arbitrators would hear the disputes was tantamount to walking into divorce court where the judge is your soon-to-be ex-father-in-law. In practice, it didn’t always happen that way.

During the recent negotiations, it came to light that the ILWU in Southern California wanted longtime arbitrator David Miller, a longshoreman who comes from a lineage of dockworkers, to be fired because he sometimes ruled against the union.

The tentative contract agreement calls for disputes to be settled by a three-person local arbitration panel. One member will be nominated by the ILWU, one by the PMA and one by a neutral arbitrator. The neutral arbitrator on each local panel must be a member of either the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service or the American Arbitration Association, but cannot be a lawyer.

Some opposition has arisen to the proposed new contract. Local 10 in Oakland, one of the most militant locals on the coast, appears likely to vote against approval. Local 10 frequently votes against proposed contract. After the Feb. 20 agreement was announced, the local called work stoppages to protest negotiators’ failure to win extra staffing requirements in the new agreement.

An organization called Transport Workers Solidarity Committee will hold an informational forum on Tuesday at a church across the street from the ILWU international headquarters to discuss the tentative contract. Four of the speakers are Local 10 members or retirees.

The group has been distributing flyers entitled, “Which Way for the ILWU -- Militant Unionism or Business Unionism?” The flyer includes pictures of ILWU international President Bob McEllrath and PMA President Jim McKenna with the caption, “PMA head McKenna and ILWU Pres. McElrath both get Shippers’ Award.”

Steve Zeltzer, publicity chair for the solidarity committee, on Friday accused the ILWU leadership of refusing to provide members with contract details. He also claimed that twice in recent years, ILWU leaders had attempted to suppress free speech by union critics of proposed contracts.

“We are concerned about disruption at the meeting,” he said. “We need more discussion, not less discussion.” The ILWU international headquarters did not return a JOC.com phone call.

The militancy expressed by the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee illustrates the fine line that ILWU leaders must walk. They must negotiate a contract that does not stifle trade at West Coast ports while winning support from affiliated groups and individual members who claim ILWU leadership consistently sells out to employers.

The key to eventual approval of the contract resides in Southern California, home of the largest ILWU local on the coast. Local 13 likely can determine by itself whether the tentative agreement is ratified or sent back for renegotiation. More clarity on Local 13's leanings should develop during the caucus.

Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at bmongelluzzo@joc.com and follow him on Twitter: @billmongelluzzo

Tags: ilwuTransport Workers Solidarity CommitteesolidarityPMA
Categories: Labor News

Militant ILWU faction calls for contract to be rejected

Current News - Mon, 03/30/2015 - 17:42

Militant ILWU faction calls for contract to be rejected
http://www.joc.com/port-news/longshoreman-labor/international-longshore-...

Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor | Mar 24, 2015 9:01PM EDT

If the leadership of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union is going to convince the union rank and file that the tentative contract agreement is a good deal for the general membership, the officers will have to fend off a concerted effort by militant members and retired members of the ILWU to jettison the deal.

A group that calls itself the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee will sponsor a rally at 7 p.m. Pacific time on March 31 outside of the international headquarters of the ILWU on Franklin Street in San Francisco. According to a flyer distributed by the committee, six active or retired ILWU members will address the rally.

The committee spares no words in saying that it does not support the tentative coastwide agreement that was reached on Feb. 20 by the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association. “Left unchecked, it will gut the ILWU’s coastwide power and bury the last militant union in the U.S.,” the flyer states.

The tentative five-year contract maintains full employer-paid medical benefits. Longshoremen will retire with a pension that tops out at $88,800 a year. Hourly wage increases are more generous than in other contracts dating back to the 1980s. According to the PMA, full-time longshoremen last year earned on average $147,000. The hourly wage in the last year of the contract will increase to $42.18, but many longshoremen work in jobs that pay skill or overtime differentials that increase the base wage by 15 to 30 percent.

Citing the ILWU’s “proud history of class struggle and the fight for democratic principles codified in the Ten Guiding Principles,” the solidarity committee accused the ILWU leadership of flaunting those principles, “using top-down control to direct longshore workers to cross picket lines and keep contract negotiations secret.” The ILWU headquarters declined to comment on the flyer.

The flyer plays loose with certain facts. It accuses the PMA of providing JOC.com with a copy of the contract. While the JOC in fact received a copy of the tentative contract, it was not provided by the PMA or any of its members.

The committee charges that the tentative contract gives employers “a free hand to automate without counter demands of shorter shifts tied to wage increases.” In fact, the 2002 coastwide contract gave employers the right to utilize computers and information technology at their discretion, and the 2008 contract gave employers the right to introduce automated cargo-handling equipment.

The lengthy and contentious negotiations did include demands by ILWU locals for extra manning in Northern California and a guarantee of 10 hours of pay for eight hours of work for ILWU mechanics in Southern California, but those demands were turned down in the negotiation process.

In possibly the most bitter comment in this short commentary, the flyer said the tentative agreement “follows on the tail of the concessionary grain contracts at EGT and the Northwest Grain agreements.” Some forces within the union are still livid over grain contracts in 2012-13 that were negotiated by the ILWU and grain terminals in the Pacific Northwest. The international grain companies that negotiated those contracts are not members of the PMA and the grain contracts are separate from the coastwide contract.

Since the ILWU has nowhere near the leverage over the international grain companies that it has over shipping lines, the grain contracts are considered more employer-friendly in that they make it virtually impossible for the ILWU to engage in work slowdowns that give union negotiators huge leverage in contract negotiations as well as in the handling of health, safety or work-rule claims during the life of the contract.

Jurisdiction was a sticking point in the negotiations that went on for nine months and led to massive delays up and down the coast. The tentative contract grants jurisdiction to the ILWU to inspect and repair most chassis before they leave the marine terminals, even though PMA-member shipping lines no longer own the chassis.

The tentative contract will also establish a three-member panel in each of the port regions to adjudicate the health and safety and work-rule disagreements that arise frequently on the waterfront. Instead of having just one local arbitrator in Seattle-Tacoma, Portland, Oakland and Los Angeles-Long Beach as is now the case, each panel will include a member nominated by the ILWU, one by the PMA and a third who is a member of either the Federal Mediation and Conciliation service or the American Arbitration Association.

Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at bmongelluzzo@joc.com and follow him on Twitter: @billmongelluzzo

Tags: ilwuTransport Workers Solidarity CommitteePMA
Categories: Labor News

Vietnam: Rare strike at Nike, Adidas factory

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 03/30/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: The Globe and Mail
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Somalia: Union leader escapes Somali Islamic terrorist rampage

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 03/30/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITUC
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USA: Movement to Increase McDonald’s Minimum Wage Broadens Its Tactics

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 03/30/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: NY Times
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Stakes high as ILWU caucus meets to discuss contract deal

Current News - Sun, 03/29/2015 - 15:58

Stakes high as ILWU caucus meets to discuss contract deal
http://www.joc.com/port-news/longshoreman-labor/international-longshore-...
Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor | Mar 28, 2015 6:46PM EDT

Ninety International Longshore and Warehouse Union delegates on Monday will open meetings in San Francisco that will determine the fate of U.S. West Coast ports for the next five years.

The ILWU’s coastwide caucus could last all week. Delegates will vote whether to recommend rank-and-file approval or rejection of the five-year contract the union and the Pacific Maritime Association tentatively agreed upon Feb. 20 after nine months of negotiations.

This year’s caucus is crucial for West Coast ports and customers as well as for the ILWU and PMA. If caucus delegates recommend approval, the union leadership will hold meetings in April with each port’s membership to explain details of the tentative agreement. If caucus delegates vote against approval, the ILWU and PMA must return to the bargaining table.

Reopening negotiations would stoke new fears among cargo interests at a time when the West Coast ports is starting to recover from its worst congestion since 2002, when the ports were closed for 10 days by a lockout during contract negotiations.

West Coast ports since late 2014 have been bleeding cargo, while ports on the East and Gulf coasts and in Canada have enjoyed a bonanza of shipments rerouted to avoid unrest on the West Coast.

The current diversions continue more than a decade of lost cargo opportunities at West Coast ports. The West Coast’s market share of U.S. containerized imports last year fell to 52.3 percent from 56.8 percent in 2000, according to PIERS, a JOC.com sister company now owned by IHS.

If the caucus fails to recommend approval of the tentative contract, the resulting uncertainty will undoubtedly lead to more diversion.

The proposed contract is not revolutionary. The ILWU will get pretty much everything it demanded during the protracted negotiations -- generous wage increases; continued employer-paid medical benefits, including the Cadillac tax in the Affordable Health Care Act that will take effect in 2018, and ILWU jurisdiction over chassis inspections, maintenance and repair.

A change in the contract’s arbitration system however, could result in significant changes in how day-to-day health, safety and work-rule disputes are handled at the local ports.

Grievance procedures called for a single arbitrator in each of the four port ranges -- Seattle-Tacoma, Oregon, Northern California and Southern California. The arbitrators in the Puget Sound and Los Angeles-Long Beach are nominated by the ILWU and approved by the PMA. The arbitrators in Oregon and Northern California are nominated by the PMA and approved by the ILW

This arrangement assumed that that the ILWU-nominated arbitrators would rule in favor of the union and the PMA-nominated arbitrators would rule in favor of the employers in the day-to-day disputes, and that the issues then would be appealed to a single, neutral coast arbitrator for final resolution, if necessary.

Wags on the employer side joked that having an ILWU-nominated arbitrators would hear the disputes was tantamount to walking into divorce court where the judge is your soon-to-be ex-father-in-law. In practice, it didn’t always happen that way.

During the recent negotiations, it came to light that the ILWU in Southern California wanted longtime arbitrator David Miller, a longshoreman who comes from a lineage of dockworkers, to be fired because he sometimes ruled against the union.

The tentative contract agreement calls for disputes to be settled by a three-person local arbitration panel. One member will be nominated by the ILWU, one by the PMA and one by a neutral arbitrator. The neutral arbitrator on each local panel must be a member of either the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service or the American Arbitration Association, but cannot be a lawyer.

Some opposition has arisen to the proposed new contract. Local 10 in Oakland, one of the most militant locals on the coast, appears likely to vote against approval. Local 10 frequently votes against proposed contract. After the Feb. 20 agreement was announced, the local called work stoppages to protest negotiators’ failure to win extra staffing requirements in the new agreement.

An organization called Transport Workers Solidarity Committee will hold an informational forum on Tuesday at a church across the street from the ILWU international headquarters to discuss the tentative contract. Four of the speakers are Local 10 members or retirees.

The group has been distributing flyers entitled, “Which Way for the ILWU -- Militant Unionism or Business Unionism?” The flyer includes pictures of ILWU international President Bob McEllrath and PMA President Jim McKenna with the caption, “PMA head McKenna and ILWU Pres. McElrath both get Shippers’ Award.”

Steve Zeltzer, publicity chair for the solidarity committee, on Friday accused the ILWU leadership of refusing to provide members with contract details. He also claimed that twice in recent years, ILWU leaders had attempted to suppress free speech by union critics of proposed contracts.

“We are concerned about disruption at the meeting,” he said. “We need more discussion, not less discussion.” The ILWU international headquarters did not return a JOC.com phone call.

The militancy expressed by the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee illustrates the fine line that ILWU leaders must walk. They must negotiate a contract that does not stifle trade at West Coast ports while winning support from affiliated groups and individual members who claim ILWU leadership consistently sells out to employers.

The key to eventual approval of the contract resides in Southern California, home of the largest ILWU local on the coast. Local 13 likely can determine by itself whether the tentative agreement is ratified or sent back for renegotiation. More clarity on Local 13's leanings should develop during the caucus.

Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at bmongelluzzo@joc.com and follow him on Twitter: @billmongelluzzo

Tags: IWLUTWSC
Categories: Labor News

Global: Brit TUC launch new Charter for International LGBT Solidarity

Labourstart.org News - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: TUC
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Portugal: Young people take to streets protesting poor working conditions

Labourstart.org News - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: The Global Times
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Indonesia: Was Your Seafood Caught By Slaves?

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 03/27/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: NPR
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Angry at Givebacks, Teamsters Unite to Challenge Hoffa

Current News - Fri, 03/27/2015 - 15:03

Angry at Givebacks, Teamsters Unite to Challenge Hoffa
http://labornotes.org/2015/03/angry-givebacks-teamsters-unite-challenge-...
March 26, 2015 / Alexandra Bradburyenlarge or shrink textlogin or register to comment
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Are the chickens finally coming home to roost for Teamsters brass? After the Hoffa administration forced concessions onto unwilling members, opponents are teaming up in the 2016 race. Photo: Alexandra Bradbury.

Are the chickens finally coming home to roost for Teamsters brass?

After a wave of anger at concessions the union forced onto unwilling members in its national contracts, some of President James Hoffa’s biggest opponents are teaming up to challenge him in the 2016 race.

Running on a slate called Teamsters United, Tim Sylvester and Fred Zuckerman kicked off their campaign March 14-15 with packed rallies in Queens, New York, and Worcester, Massachusetts.

“I feel good about it,” says Abel Garcia, a UPS feeder driver and second-generation Teamster in Oxnard, California. “There’s a new movement, a fresh breath of air across the country.”

Sylvester tops the ticket. He’s president of Local 804, based in Queens, which drew national attention for its militancy last year when 250 package car drivers were fired after a wildcat walkout to protest an unjust firing. The local ran a public campaign that got all the firings reversed.

To compete with the coalition’s Queens kickoff, the international sponsored an event the same morning, a few blocks away, to thank Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall for supporting the wildcatters—though in truth, Hall didn’t do much but claim credit.

Hear Tim Sylvester Speak

at the New York City Troublemakers School, a day of skill-building workshops, education, and strategy discussions to put some movement back in the labor movement.

March 28, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., The James Baldwin School, 351 W 18th St, Manhattan, $25. More details here.

Zuckerman is president of Local 89 in Louisville, Kentucky, the biggest UPS local and a center of resistance to the latest concessionary contract. He ran for vice president last time around on a rival ticket led by International Vice President Fred Gegare, a former Hoffa ally.

Package car driver Joan Elaine Miller traveled up from Philadelphia for the standing-room-only New York rally. “Our current elected officials have sadly—and we have no one but ourselves to blame—run unchecked for 17 years,” she said.

“I basically got off my butt and decided to get involved.”

WAVE OF ANGER

The opposition slate is backed by the union’s longtime reform caucus, Teamsters for a Democratic Union, which has run vigorous challenges every five years but so far hasn’t been able to topple Hoffa.

TDU-backed Tom Leedham scored at least 35 percent three elections in a row (1998, 2001, 2006). In 2011 Hoffa’s opponents scored 41 percent—split between Gegare and TDU-backed Sandy Pope.

What’s different this time: members are angrier, after having giveback contracts shoved down their throats.

“There’s no way in the world we should be giving concessions to a company that’s making $4 billion in profits annually,” Miller says. “What kind of statement is that about our union?”

Under the Teamster constitution, a national contract can only be approved once all its local supplements are ratified. In 2013, rank-and-file UPSers voted to reject 18 of 28 local supplements, covering 63 percent of members—holding up the whole national pact.

Members were angry at the deal’s givebacks, especially an increase in out-of-pocket health care costs, and its failure to address the proliferation of part-time work, coerced overtime, technological surveillance, and supervisory harassment.

The union went back to the table and improved the health care a bit—but focused greater energy on pushing members to vote yes. When Teamsters continued to hold out in some locals, international officers simply declared they had the right to impose the contract unilaterally.

Activists like Garcia took heat for having backed the vote-no effort. “I worked with the shop stewards and we put together a Central Coast stewards’ steering committee,” he said. “From Newbury Park, California, all the way to Paso Robles, we did a no vote twice. Then the contract was imposed on us and I was removed as steward.”

Teamsters outside UPS are fed up too. “Morale is terrible here,” says Jimi Richards, a road driver for YRC Freight in Atlanta.

Since 2010, members working for YRC Worldwide have endured a 15 percent wage cut and a 75 percent reduction in the company’s contribution to their pensions—while executives continue to rake in the stock options and bonuses.

“Members were duped,” Richards says. “They lied and threatened, said ‘If we don’t get this passed, we’ll close the doors.’ Come to find out they made a profit in the fourth quarter.”

BALLOT HURDLE

Rank and filers’ right to vote for their national officers is now a permanent feature of the Teamster constitution. TDU’s advocacy notched that win in a January settlement agreement that replaced the 1989 consent decree as a way to monitor for corruption and enforce member control of the union.

But getting onto the October 2016 ballot won’t be easy. The coalition slate’s first hurdle is a petition drive this summer. It takes 50,000 Teamster signatures to become an accredited candidate.

Then in early 2016, each local will elect delegates to the June convention, where a candidate must win 5 percent of delegate votes to be nominated.

That threshold is tougher than it sounds. Local officers beholden to top leaders often run unopposed for delegate. When they do face opposition, they have the edge financially and strategically. And at the convention, delegates are pressured to back incumbents.

Even so, to avoid competition, the current administration has been keen to raise the nomination threshold to 10 percent of delegates. The settlement agreement delayed the pain, keeping it at 5 percent through the 2016 and 2021 elections. But after that, delegates may vote to raise the bar.

The impending change ramps up the urgency. “It just makes it all the more important that we win this time around,” says Frank Halstead, a Los Angeles grocery warehouse worker and TDU member, “because if we don’t take advantage of this opportunity, Hoffa’s going to do everything he can to make sure we never have this chance again.”

AT THE GRASSROOTS

“I’m going to try like hell to get these people through,” says Garcia. He plans to run for delegate supporting Teamsters United, and also run again this year for principal officer of his local; last time he lost narrowly in a three-way race.

Richards says the Teamsters United campaign’s biggest obstacle will be “obviously money, at a time when a lot of us, with the pay cuts that we got, are living paycheck to paycheck.”

But challengers will get a boost from at least one improvement to the rules: a week before the 2016 election, each candidate gets a free mailing to members. In the past the cost has deterred TDU-backed candidates from mailing at all, while Hoffa has sent out multiple glossies.

And unlike the incumbents, the opposition has an activist culture. Members meet regionally and keep in touch online so they can mobilize on a dime when issues flare up.

For instance, the Cromnibus spending bill that was pushed through Congress in December contained a sneaky provision allowing cuts to the benefits of retirees in multi-employer pensions. “We found out through AARP and TDU that they were slipping that part in,” Richards says.

“We used social media to round everyone up and raise hell. Members were out on their own for six days before the [Teamsters international] came out with a statement… Congress voted it in that night.”

For Miller the challenge will be getting her co-workers in motion. “They’re all very supportive: ‘Yeah, you’re right Joan, you’re right,’” she says.

“I’m hoping to motivate them. An active union is a healthy union. A busy union is a good union.”

A version of this article appeared in Labor Notes #433, April 2015. Don't miss an issue, subscribe today.

Alexandra Bradbury is editor of Labor Notes.
al@labornotes.org
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Categories: Labor News

The “Old Left” and the Union: Don Watson of Ship Clerks Local 34

ILWU - Fri, 03/27/2015 - 12:31

From the  ILWU Oral History Project, Volume IX, Part III

  Introduction by Harvey Schwartz

Don Watson (left) with UFW leader Cesar Chavez.

This is the third article in a series featuring ILWU veterans of the “Old Left” who were once active in the American Communist Party (CP). While historians have argued for years about whether Harry Bridges was ever a Communist, not many writers have seriously explored the contributions of ILWU members who actually were in the CP. The present series addresses this oversight.

Don Watson, the focus of this month’s oral history, was a CP member between 1948 and 1956. One would be hard pressed to find a more dedicated adherent to the cause of labor. Watson retired from ship clerks Local 34 in 1993 after years of activist work for the ILWU and other unions, including the Marine Cooks and Stewards (MCS) in the early 1950s and the United Farm Workers (UFW) in the 1960s and 1970s. Today he is still helping the ILWU by assisting with the union’s lobbying program at the California state capitol.

Watson chaired the Local 34 executive board for 19 of the 24 years he served on that body. He told me he usually became chair or secretary of any labor committee he joined. Given his integrity and resolve, it is easy to understand why. In 1996 he helped set up the Copra Crane Labor Landmark Association (CCLLA) in San Francisco to preserve an outmoded waterfront device as a monument to the city’s work heritage. True to form, Watson has been the CCLLA secretary-treasurer ever since.

Don Watson has also long been an officer of the Southwest Labor Studies Association. Fittingly, this month he was given that organization’s Award for Distinguished Service to the Labor Movement for his outstanding record of combining union activism with the promotion of working class history.

I interviewed Watson in 1994 and 2004 for the Labor Archives and Research Center (LARC) at San Francisco State University. Thanks to LARC Director Susan Sherwood for releasing that oral history for use here.

DON WATSON

          Edited by Harvey Schwartz, Curator, ILWU Oral History Collection

My father, Morris Watson, was a newspaper man. In the 1920s he worked for the Omaha World Herald and the Denver Post. I was born in 1929 in Evanston, Illinois. My father had a newspaper job there with the Associated Press (AP). Soon after I was born the AP sent my father to New York, where I grew up. In New York my father was considered one of the AP’s best reporters. He covered major stories for the AP like the 1932 kidnapping of Charles A. Lindbergh’s son.

In 1933 my father read an article by the famous columnist Haywood Broun, who said he wanted to organize a newspaper reporters union. My father heeded Broun’s call and became one of the American Newspaper Guild (ANG) founders. He was also an ANG International vice-president.

During 1933 my father became the lead ANG organizer at the AP’s New York office. In retaliation the AP put him on the “lobster shift” in the middle of the night. They fired him in 1935. So the ANG filed an unfair labor practice charge under the new National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). This became one of a group of cases that went to the Supreme Court and resulted in the NLRA being declared constitutional in 1937.

My father also became involved in the New Deal’s Federal Theater Project. He directed “The Living Newspaper,” a theater group that dramatized headlines as plays. This was quite an enterprise in the mid-1930s. Late in the decade my father became active in New York’s left-wing American Labor Party. Consequently I got interested in politics and it became part of my development.

In 1942 Harry Bridges visited New York. He persuaded my father to move out to San Francisco that fall to become the founding editor of the new ILWU newspaper, The Dispatcher. I was 13 years old and Bridges was fascinating. He had this supercharged, forceful personality, was very political and liked to talk about going to sea.

I went to sea myself in the summer of 1946, the year before I graduated from high school in San Francisco. World War II had just ended and the whole world was moving on ships. The first trip I made was on a troop transport, the Marine Jumper. I was a “utility man”—a pot washer and potato peeler. That first trip I sailed as a permit man. I joined the National Union of Marine Cooks and Stewards (MCS), CIO in 1948. The AFL and the CIO were still separate rival organizations then.

I really got involved in political activity around ’48. I met people in the MCS who were Communists. I’d read the famous Communist William Z. Foster’s big book on labor, including the 1919 steel strike he’d been in. I thought Communists were good trade unionists and felt that I’d like to work along with them.

In 1948 Henry Wallace ran for president on the Progressive Party ticket. Wallace campaigned for peace with Russia and got enthusiastic support from the Left. I handed out Progressive Party leaflets, went to meetings, signed people up on petitions and did anything needed to help Wallace.

The MCS officially endorsed Wallace, but late in the campaign I noticed all these MCS members wearing Truman buttons. That didn’t seem good. On election day Harry Truman, the Democratic president, upset Thomas Dewey, the favored Republican. Unfortunately for the Left, Wallace did poorly.

I was also involved with the MCS Pre-Strike Committee in 1948. The MCS was allied with the ILWU and struck along with the longshoremen that year. President Truman slapped on an 80-day injunction to stop the strike under the new Taft-Hartley Act. I went to sea on the General Gordon during the injunction. When I got back, the strike was on. I sold the CP newspaper, The People’s World, at all the picket lines that dotted the San Francisco waterfront.

In 1950 I was at sea on the President Cleveland when the Korean War broke out. This right-wing guy named Randall called a special stewards meeting. He attacked the MCS leaders because they questioned the war, as did Bridges. I got up at the meeting and defended the MCS officers by saying they had done a lot for the people and we should listen to them.

I made two trips to the Pacific on the President Cleveland. The second time I was “screened” off the ship when the Cleveland returned to San Francisco. Screening was part of the government’s McCarthy era program of denying employment to leftist seamen and even politically moderate maritime union activists. The program was administered by the U.S. Coast Guard.

While I was disappointed, I knew that the Coast Guard had extended its screening to the Far East, but not to the area between San Francisco and Hawaii. So I got a job on the Lurline run to the Islands. After the third trip about 15 of us were screened at once. We came down the gangplank and had our pictures taken.

The Coast Guard held hearings on Sansome Street in San Francisco to review screenings. I gathered six to eight stewards to come to my hearing. Some of them vouched for me. But the Coast Guard hearing officer just went through the motions.

I got involved with the Committee Against Waterfront Screening. Even though I was young, about 21, I was elected secretary. The committee chair was Albert James, a Black longshore leader from ILWU Local 10. We held our meetings at the MCS hall in San Francisco. People from the ILWU and other maritime unions came.

I did the day-to-day work for the committee. I’ve found through the years that whenever I got on a committee I usually became chair or secretary very rapidly. Generally this happened because nobody else wanted to do the work with as much devotion as me.

The big activity we had was a daily picket line at the Coast Guard headquarters. Every day I supplied the leaflet. One I wrote in early 1951 says, “Screening since July 1950 has denied thousands of maritime workers on both coasts the right to work.” Sometimes I’d have a whole leaflet on some individual case. I also wrote about various ships cracking in two to show that the Coast Guard was spending more time screening seamen than working for safety.

We kept up our daily picketing for months. Some of the screened seamen got longshore work. The dispatchers at ILWU Local 10 would call the MCS hall when they had extra jobs. For a while we even got dispatched out of the ILWU Local 2 ship scalers hall.

In 1951 I was drafted into the Army. I was sent to Fort Ord, California, for basic training. They had these “Information and Education” sessions, really political talks. This one guy described what he called the Communist conspiracy. He had a chart of this Communist octopus that was going after our country and Harry Bridges was a major portion of his talk. And I’m just sitting there.

I didn’t discuss politics and I did all the marches and all the basic training. But that October I got a letter from the Department of Defense that contained what they called “derogatory information” about me and my parents. One charge said, “Your father is a Communist who has been active in Communist affairs since 1935.” They gave me 30 days to make a rebuttal in writing.

I went with my father to the attorneys for the ILWU and we did make a response. Part of it said, “If it is the policy of the U.S. Army to set sons against their parents, I do not intend to follow that policy.” Finally I was given a questionable “General Discharge under Honorable Conditions,” although I had done every assignment the Army gave me. Some years later, after a class-action suit, they sent me a revised “Honorable Discharge” and told me to destroy the other form.

After the Army I came back to the Bay Area and started doing the same things I was doing before I went in. Over the next two years I worked for the Independent Ironworks in Oakland, but as soon as the day was over I’d go down to the MCS hall to see what was happening. I still went to meetings and volunteered to help the seamen.

In 1950 the MCS had been expelled from the CIO for its left politics. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) called a bargaining election in 1954, but removed the MCS from the ballot because the top MCS officers didn’t comply with the non-Communist affidavits then called for under the Taft-Hartley Act. To support their officers the members voted “no union.”

A new NLRB election was called the next year and this time the ILWU stepped in to appear on the ballot. The stewards voted ILWU. However, the NLRB allowed other West Coast unlicensed seamen to vote in the same election, burying the ILWU vote. During the campaign Bob Robertson, the ILWU vice-president, asked me to help with a stewards’ edition of The Dispatcher. I put a lot of effort into it, but all was lost due to the politics of the time.

In 1955 I decided I would like to be an ILWU ship clerk. I didn’t have a strong upper body, so clerking seemed better than longshoring for me. Emmett Gilmartin, the clerks’ assistant dispatcher, gave me a permit card. This saved me because the dispatcher, Jim Roche, did not like screened seamen. But Roche was on vacation. When he returned Roche dispatched me anyway, although I was not his favorite.

There were many types of clerk jobs in the mid-1950s. Every ship had a different amount and kind of cargo. Today most of the work involves containers. But the time I’m talking about was even before the extensive use of palletized loads and lift trucks, which became the dominant features on the waterfront in the 1960s.

In unloading 1955-style the clerk told the longshoremen where to put the cargo. A ship’s crane would unload sling loads of cargo from the hatch to the dock where they would be placed on a series of four-wheel trucks. These four-wheelers were attached to a vehicle called a “bull.” The bull driver would haul the four-wheelers inside the dock where longshoremen would grab cases and put them where the clerk instructed.

At times there would be a cornucopia of goods for us to sort. We used to have piles of boxes all over Pier 29 of various sizes and types. The dock would end up looking like a Woolworth store. We had to build aisles or put small lots of cargo back-to-back or put large lots in piles. You had to figure out how much space was needed and where to put things. If you did it wrong, everybody would come down on you.

A major part of the job was receiving and delivery of cargo on and off trucks and rail cars. A clerk supervisor at the front of the dock would assign an arriving Teamster to drive to a section where he loaded or unloaded. When a clerk received cargo he counted it carefully. Then he would chalk mark the pile, including his count and the name of the loading ship.

In 1955 Jim Roche was the power in Local 34. He was the clerks’ dispatcher who did not like screened seamen. Roche didn’t like Black people either and wouldn’t dispatch them. He was a baseball fan. He was known for bringing in White ex-ballplayers and dispatching them to jobs.

An opposition faction arose around Jim Herman when Roche got sick about 1960. This was when Herman emerged into leadership. He was very articulate, lined up a following and got elected local vice-president and then president. He made some dramatic changes, like seeing that a good amount of Blacks came into the local. I was in a lunch group that supported Herman in the early 1960s.

About this time I got active politically in the California Democratic Council (CDC). I’d left the Communist Party in 1956 after Khrushchev’s famous speech criticizing Stalin was followed by the Russian invasion of Hungary. That told me the Party was not going to change. I felt relieved by my decision, which actually came when the CP wanted to advance me toward leadership. Instead I joined the Young Democrats and then the CDC. In both organizations we backed the election to public office of up and coming candidates like Phil and John Burton and Willie Brown.

Around ’62 the ILWU set up its own political group, the West Bay Legislative Committee. Bill Chester was the chair. I was elected vice-chair because they wanted a clerk in the post. In the late 1960s I ran for election to the Local 34 executive board. I made it on the second try and served for 24 years, including 19 as chair.

Jim Herman and I were both from the MCS and had fought the screening program. We also both actively supported the farm worker union movement in the 1960s and that became the basis of our relationship. In the mid-1960s Whitey Kelm and Herb Mills of Local 10 started a five-dollar-a-month club in support of the farm workers organizing drive. I’d met Dolores Huerta, the vice-president of the United Farm Workers (UFW), and had been impressed. I joined the club. It lapsed and I started it up again. Herman was very helpful and the local gave me sort of an official status.

Starting in 1967 or ’68 Local 34 had yearly Christmas collections for the UFW. As the head of this effort I’d go around to every pier on the waterfront and collect money from the clerks and longshoremen. The overwhelming majority gave. This continued into the mid-1970s. We also had a monthly labor caravan that brought food and money to the UFW headquarters in Delano, California.

I was so involved with the UFW that I became kind of an honorary farm worker. During the 1970 lettuce strike in Salinas I walked the UFW picket lines. In the early 1970s I started putting in only 800 hours a year on the waterfront. I spent most of my time helping the farm workers. I was very close to the UFW’s San Francisco boycott house and volunteered many hours there. Often I would care for Dolores Huerta’s children while she led UFW demonstrations or spoke publicly.

During the 1971 coast longshore strike Herman called for a Local 10/Local 34 Joint Longshore Strike Assistance Committee (JLSAC). He said, “I want Watson to be the secretary.” That was it. Everybody agreed and I became the secretary. While the strike was on I went to a UFW rally in Sacramento. I asked Marshall Ganz and Jim Drake, two farm worker leaders, if there was a little something they could do for our strikers. They said, “I think so.”

The next thing I knew they put together this huge caravan, which was really a payback. This long grape truck came to the San Francisco waterfront from the Central Valley. There were several trucks from Salinas. They had all this produce. Maybe 150 farm workers arrived too. They visited the Local 34 hall and then went down to Local 10. It became a giant event.

This more than anything else made my waterfront reputation.  I was the secretary of the JLSAC, and all of a sudden this help came, and it was on such a vast scale. It took hours just to unload those trucks. While I got the credit within the ILWU, the farm workers really outdid themselves. I was amazed.

Around 1975 I started doing a lot of volunteer research for the UFW legal office in Salinas. This returned me to an interest in labor history. I did research papers on fruit tramp shed workers from the 1930s to 1970 and on lettuce mechanization. I interviewed farm workers, union activists and growers and made presentations to meetings of the Southwest Labor Studies Association.

My interest in farm worker history led me to co-found the Bay Area Labor History Workshop (BALHW) in 1980 with a scholar and UFW volunteer named Margo McBane. I had little academic training and was working in isolation without much feedback. If you don’t have that, you need some kind of a forum for discussion. If you want something and there’s no organization, you go ahead and organize it yourself. That’s what I did, and the BALHW is still going strong today.

In 1978 I became the Local 34 delegate to the ILWU’s regional political arm, the Northern California District Council (NCDC).  Four years later NCDC President LeRoy King asked me to take on the job of NCDC secretary-treasurer and this broadened to include legislative lobbying at the state capitol in Sacramento. I remained with these duties until I retired in 1993.

Although I’m thankful that ILWU longshore members and retirees have good medical and pension plans, others are not so lucky. We are all facing ongoing privatization, deregulation and tax cuts, along with growing state and national deficits, all of which hurt working people. That’s why I’ve decided to continue to offer my lobbying skills to help the ILWU program in Sacramento.

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