On January 30, workers at Harbor Dental and Associates in Harbor City, CA voted overwhelmingly to be represented by ILWU Local 26. The new ILWU Local 26 Bargaining Unit consists of dental hygienists, dental assistants and receptionists. They work at the Harbor Dental facility located in a Harbor City.
This facility has been the preferred dental service provider for many Longshore families for decades. They will work with ILWU Local 26 President Luisa Gratz to get a first contract.
On March 1st, hundreds of well-wishers gathered at the Bayview Boat Club on the San Francisco waterfront to offer a final toast to Local 10 pensioner, Reg Theriault, who passed away on February 15 at the age of 89. In addition to being a longshoreman, Theriault was an accomplished author of several books on work and the working class. His most successful book was, How to Tell When You are Tired: A Brief Examination of Work. It was widely praised and won acclaim from labor writer Studs Terkel who called it “a classic.”
Theriault saw work as a basic human condition. His writing gave voice to men and women who perform manual labor. “Most of the people across the face of the earth are doing work, much of it hard work, most of the days of their lives,” wrote Theriault in How to Tell When You are Tired. “By the time most kids are big enough or old enough or educated enough to get their first job, they are already conditioned…to pass beyond liking or disliking work to accepting it as inevitable.”
His other books included, The Unmaking of the American Working Class which was recently translated into Korean and Longshoring on the San Francisco Waterfront. Many books on work and workers have been written by academics. Theriault was a working class intellectual whose perspective was informed by a lifetime of labor. He came from a family of “fruit tramps”—roving, migrant farm workers who sorted and packed fruit for shipment. After a finishing a job, his family might drive hundreds of miles overnight for a job at the next orchard or farm.
Theriault proudly served as a paratrooper during the Second World War and was witness to the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri. After the war, he attended Cal for a few years before dropping out and eventually became a longshoreman in 1959. Theriault served as Vice President of Local 10, caucus delegate and member of the negotiating committee.
He lived in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco for over 40 years. In the late 40’s to the mid-1950s he rubbed shoulders with the era’s radical writers, beatniks and free-thinkers such as Lawrence Ferlinghetti who gathered at City Lights Bookstore, Speck’s, Gino & Carlo’s and Vesuvio’s where Theriault worked as a bartender. He enjoyed diving for Abalone while camping on the Mendocino coast and learned to snow ski with his children when he was 50.
Through his books and as an officer at Local 10, Theriault spent his life fighting for safer and better working conditions, increased benefits for fellow workers and promoting the dignity and value of labor.
He is survived by his three sons, Thomas, Marcus and Raymond and three grandchildren. He was proud of all of his sons who became union members with strong work ethics.
Thousands of working-class families lined the streets of London’s East End neighborhood on March 24 to honor the passing of Britain’s most militant labor leader of his generation: Bob Crow, who died suddenly at age 52 after a suspected heart attack on March 11. For a dozen years, Crow headed the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT), where he led many strikes and made no apologies for being an avowed socialist and fighter for the working class.
Like the ILWU, the RMT and Bob Crow celebrated the power of solidarity at home and abroad. He regularly attended ILWU events, including the 2012 Convention in San Diego. International Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe attended the funeral on behalf of the ILWU.
“Bob brought so much passion and intelligence to every fight,” said Familathe. “There haven’t been many like him with his talent and commitment, which is why his loss is so stunning and sad.”
The hour-long procession from the East End to City of London Cemetery was observed by local union members, pensioners and supporters from around the world who clapped as the horse-drawn hearse carrying Crow’s casket passed, moving some to throw roses and shed tears while others sang socialist songs.
Alfonso Bahena, from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, said Mr. Crow’s legacy went far beyond Britain. “Bob Crow spoke at our Congress in Mexico City in 2010 and he was one of the most important people,” said Bahena who represented the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF). “He helped make a lot of policy for the railway workers in Brazil and South America.”
Crow’s loyalty extended to other groups in England that found him willing to support their causes, including coal miners, pensioners, and activists at the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
As the leader of the RMT, he headed many strikes including a recent walk-out by London Underground workers. His tough stance frequently provoked controversy and drew sharp criticism from politicians who resented Crow’s loyalty among workers.
Crow was a passionate supporter of the Millwall Football Club, a working-class team founded in London’s East End near the docks, with a slogan fitting for Crow as well: “No one likes us – and we don’t care.”
“Some politicians called him the most hated man in Britain,” said one woman waiting for the procession.
“But today it looks like he was the most loved.” A memorial honoring Crow’s life and values is slated for London’s May Day celebration.
Over 220 women from 80 countries gathered in New Delhi, India January 27-28 for a conference organized by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF). Representing the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU) at the conference were IBU Secretary Treasurer Terri Mast, San Francisco Regional Director Marina Secchitano and IBU member Alison Seamans. Mast is also member of the ITF Woman’s Committee and represents the ILWU on the ITF Executive Board. The conference focused on the issues facing women workers around the world. Alison Seamans and Marina Secchitano filed the report below.
The ITF held a two-day Women Transport Workers’ Conference on January 27 and 28 in New Delhi, India. The conference focused on four themes: 1) Organizing women’s transport workers to build strong unions; 2) Building alliances with organizations at the forefront of combating violence against women to strengthen ITF affiliates’ campaigns at the global and regional level; 3) Campaigning for our public services; 4) Women in Leadership, “Leading change” to grow unions. Speakers from around the globe addressed the conference on these themes. Resolutions and conclusions from the conference will be submitted to the upcoming general assembly in August 2014, in Sophia, Bulgaria.
Our Indian brothers and sisters were wonderful hosts, welcoming us all in traditional ways. At dinner the first night we were treated to beautiful and moving performances of traditional Indian dance and music. The opportunity to make personal contact with union sisters from all over the world is invaluable. Solidarity amongst only the people in our immediate area isn’t enough.
Economic concerns are global. Labor must stand together globally if we are to have any strength at all. The threats of outsourcing, privatization, insecure temporary and contracted jobs, employer retaliation for organizing, and the short sighted attempt to “fix” failing economies by decimating the living standards of workers through austerity exist worldwide.
I was both proud and disappointed that the three of us from the IBU were the only US delegates present; it’s important that those of us from more privileged (at least so far) countries come together and stand beside those who are still struggling for any sort of place in the work force.
A strong labor force depends on women’s participation at all levels. Voiceless and disempowered women cannot contribute fully to the strength of a union. We need strong, involved women to maximize our strength. This was highlighted poignantly by a sister from India Airlines who apologized that her union had not been able to focus more on the conference. Her union is in the fight of its life against the employer and government. The women members are “standing shoulder to shoulder with the men fighting for everyone’s survival.”
This is how it needs to be and women need voice, power, and a place in leadership to make that happen. Even in the developed countries, women are underrepresented in union leadership and they speak out less than the men. In other parts of the world, the situation is much worse. An injury to one is an injury to all, and in a global marketplace, powerlessness for some is powerlessness for all.
The opportunity to hear firsthand the stories of women fighting for their rights, for a voice and for an equal place in the workforce and the union was unforgettable, inspiring, shocking, heartrending and brilliant. We heard many stories from courageous women around the world.
The moderator, Diane Holland, Chair of the ITF Women Transport Workers’ Committee, began by explaining that 20 years ago the women of the ITF first won 5 seats on the executive committee in a hard fought battle. Since women are involved in the workplace they must have a voice and thus began the long journey of setting up a network for millions of women around the world.
- One of the first speakers was Indira Jaising, the first woman appointed to the position of Additional Solicitor General of India and a lifetime activist for labor, women’s rights and the homeless and marginalized. She made the following points:
- In 1975, Indian women achieved equal pay for equal work for women, and the constitution was amended to include a guarantee of the fundamental right to form a union.
- In 1992, a woman was raped by 5 men for speaking out against child marriage, and in 1997, the Supreme Court issued the “Vishaka Judgment” identifying that sexual harassment violated a fundamental right to work.
- In December 2012, a brutal gang rape of a 23 year old woman on a bus resulted in her death 15 days later. The entire country rose up in protest demanding action from the government. Four months later, in April 2013, a new law was passed guaranteeing rights for women, and prohibiting sexual harassment, with strong enforcement.
- The violence against women must end. We must build women’s economic power, remove barriers and create safety for women. Consequently unions are adding language to their labor agreements prohibiting sexual harassment on the job. It is of great importance to provide equal education and economic opportunities.
Satich Kumar Singh, Deputy Director, Center for Health and Social Justice, New Delhi stated that studies show that nearly one in every three women will be beaten, harassed or raped in her lifetime.
“Although not all men are perpetrators, most do not speak out against this violence. All men have to speak out and oppose Violence Against Women. It is one of the biggest crimes and human rights violation on earth and the responsibility of ending violence against women cannot be put on women’s shoulders alone.” His motto was that “men of quality do not fear equality.”
We heard about the abuses at Qatar Airways and the complete powerlessness of their workers. Bette Matuga told us the inspiring story of her innovative and successful campaign to fight privatization of the Port of Mombasa, preserving the good jobs that fuel the local economy.
Rebecca Crocker shared the triumphs and continuing challenges of fighting for decent treatment of London Underground cleaners. We heard stories of the India Railways and the fight for safety and decency for the women employees there who face physical attack, lack of basic sanitary facilities, and a high rate of miscarriage due to the physical impacts of the trains, amongst other problems.
We heard from women whose safety is at risk merely for belonging to a labor organization, which must be carefully hidden. We listened to the ongoing struggle for basic worker rights at DHL Turkey, and the drive to organize fisheries in Papua New Guinea. Both were successful in organizing a union with the support of the ITF and we celebrated in their victory.
These and many more stories formed the backdrop for the work of setting goals and direction to recommend to the ITF. For every story we heard there were a dozen more waiting to be told. We came
away with an informed, global perspective on the state of our unions and labor in today’s world.
The business of the convention was to set a direction and recommendations where women in labor are concerned for the ITF, and to identify opportunities for action over the next four years. The conference tackled two major issues facing women. The first is the global economic crisis, and anti-labor responses to it, including the necessity of organizing women transport workers in a market where all workers are increasingly kept in insecure temporary and contracted jobs.
Often, women are especially vulnerable to the effects of austerity measures. They are the lowest paid members of the workforce, disproportionately affected by cost saving measures, and the first affected by lay-offs.
The second issue is that of violence against women. Women face the dual challenge of being targeted for violence (both in and out of the workplace) because of their gender, and being more vulnerable to non-gender based violence in the transportation industry. In many countries, such as India, rape, murder, violence and harassment are used as a tactic to enforce the power of men over women, limit the opportunities available to women, and keep them out of the workplace.
The conference passed resolutions calling on the ITF to recognize, recruit, promote, and continue mapping women in transport jobs and union, participate in educating male colleagues about issues facing women in the workplace, provide opportunities for women via training and information, encourage solidarity from male union members, campaign against gender based violence, and support effective networks of women in transportation.
The ITF seeks to build ongoing alliances with organizations working to combat violence against women, encourage participation in the International Day to Say No to Violence Against Women on November 25, and explore ways to strengthen affiliates’ campaigns.
Austerity cuts to public services affect all women, who are the majority users of public transportation, child care and health care. Unions need to build and support strong campaigns to maintain quality public services. The conference endorsed recommendations to the ITF Congress to continue seeking input from the sectional and regional conferences and to set up a working group to produce recommendations for priority issues and targets for the next four years.
The conference finished with a rally through downtown New Delhi protesting violence against women. We marched through the busy train station and finished up with greetings and ceremonies by our sisters and brothers at the National Federation of Indian Railwaymen and the All India Railwaymen’s Federation.
We were privileged to an intense and moving performance of street theater in protest of a culture of violence against women. Several dozen young men and women performed passionately, sometimes interactively, with an audience drawn close to the performance. So what does this mean for the IBU?
We have opportunities to address these from within our own union. Codifying domestic violence leave into our bargaining agreements was raised, and is something we should look at for both women and men.
Working in an industry where physical demands are high can make pregnancy and child birth more challenging; we can make materials available to give workers more awareness of their rights and options. Social media and our website can be used to promote awareness of the issues facing women in transportation worldwide and how to support gender equality, by posting and following up on the challenges and situations we’ve been informed about at this conference, and reporting on actions we take within our own union. The IBU should recognize International Women’s Day on March 8 in a way that draws involvement from our women members. We should create awareness of women in our non-passenger industries especially. We need to evaluate what issues they face, or would face, and what would be needed to recruit more and insure they have an equal place and equal voice with men in the workplace.
We need to identify areas in our union where women workers are not well represented in leadership or are facing issues in the workplace that we should be helping with. We should support the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) campaign for a standard on gender based violence at work and campaign for US
support of a convention on gender based violence at work. Visit http://www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/stop_violence_en.pdf for more information on this. Above all we need to foster an awareness that all workers globally are in the same struggle for a decent life. We are stronger if we fight together. This was an incredible opportunity to see the solidarity of our unions and the power of our women leaders in being a part of building an International movement.
The ILWU joined other members of International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) on March 20th who organized a protest and negotiating session at the Honduran Embassy in London.
“We gathered in London for the ITF Dockers Section meeting to discuss important issues facing dockworkers around the world – including the abuse of workers at Puerto Cortés in Honduras,” said ILWU International Vice President Ray Familathe who also serves as Second Vice-Chair for the ITF Dockers Section.
A protest was organized to seek justice for Honduran dockworkers who have suffered a host of human and labor rights abuses at Puerto Cortés where global terminal operator ICTSI won a concession in September of 2012 to privately run the former public port. Union leaders have been trying – without success – to negotiate with ICTSI’s Honduran subsidiary to reach a collective bargaining agreement for port workers.
Death threats and murder
Honduran dockworker Victor Crepso, who heads the Sindicato Gremial de Trabajadores del Muelle (SGTM), faced repeated death threats and an attempt on his life, forcing Crespo to flee the country for his own protection. After Crespo fled Honduras, his father was murdered on January 27, 2014.
SGTM union members who participated in legitimate and peaceful protests in Honduras and at ICTSI’s terminal at the Port of Portland on March 4, were subsequently hunted down by Honduran police when they returned home. Some union leaders were detained and charged with crimes against the state.
In London, the ITF assembled a high-level official delegation to meet with Honduran Ambassador Romero-Martinez at his London embassy, while ILWU Vice President Familathe and other members of the ITF Dockers’ Section – representing port workers worldwide – demonstrated in front of the building.
“We called on Honduran officials to practice ‘negotiation, not intimidation,’” said Familathe.
Inside the Honduran Embassy, ITF President Paddy Crumlin; ITF Acting General Secretary Steve Cotton; ITF-affiliate SGTM President Victor Crespo; and ITF Maritime Coordinator Tomas Abrahamsson reviewed the recent history of worker abuse at Puerto Cortés.
Agreement to investigate
At the conclusion of the meeting, Ambassador Romero-Martinez promised to seek an investigation into the death threats and other abuse of trade unionists at Puerto Cortés.
Speaking on the embassy steps following the meeting, ITF President Paddy Crumlin announced: “We had a productive, open and frank conversation with the ambassador who agreed there should be an investigation into the abuse of trade union and human rights being reported in Puerto Cortés.
All of us agreed that engagement from all sides is essential if we’re to bring about an end to this situation.”
On Tuesday, March 4, workers from Puerto Cortés in Honduras who are union members belonging to the “Sindicato Gremial de Trabajadores del Muelle” (SGTM), established a picket line in front of ICTSI’s Oregon’s operation at Terminal 6 in Portland.
SGTM workers held picket signs that read, “S.G.T.M. LOCKED OUT ICTSI” and stated that they are facing murder, military repression, death threats, and anti-union attacks. ILWU workers honored the picket line in accordance with their collective bargaining agreement.
Philippines-based ICTSI is a global terminal operator that began its first U.S. venture in 2010 by leasing Terminal 6 from the Port of Portland. ICTSI is the parent company for ICTSI Oregon and Operadora Portuaria Centroamericana (OPC) in Honduras. On February 1, 2013, ICTSI was awarded a concession agreement in Puerto Cortés for 29 years. ICTSI then established OPC, which imposed a sham labor agreement that was approved by the Honduran Government and ICTSI – but never voted on or approved by a majority of port workers. ICTSI/OPC began hiring workers under the sham labor agreement in December 2013 and, over the course of the next couple months, the company fired large numbers of union supporters. This mass firing of union supporters sparked a protest on February 26, 2014. The Honduran military responded to the protest by invading the port and arresting approximately 129 workers, charging many with “terrorism” and “damaging the national economy.” Dockerworker union leader Victor Crespo had to flee the country after his family members were attacked, killing his father and injuring his mother.
International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) – the rogue Pacific Maritime Association employer operating primarily in Third World ports with one U.S. operation at Terminal 6 in the Port of Portland, OR – reported that company profits shot up 20%
in 2013 over the previous year.
The company said net revenue (profit) rose from $143.2 to $172.4 million in 2013. The company attributed their higher profits to strong revenue growth and better profit
margins at key terminals, including a new operation in Pakistan.
ICTSI is run by Enrique K. Razon, Jr., said to be ranked as the thirdrichest
tycoon in the Philippines with personal wealth estimated by Forbes Magazine at $4.2 billion dollars. Razon acquired his fortune the old-fashioned way – by inheriting the family business.
He serves as Chairman or Director of a dozen companies, and has invested in mining, oil & gas, utilities, real estate, golf courses, resorts and gambling – in addition to container terminals.
In June 2012, in response to the PMA and ILWU’s effort to seek court enforcement of the parties’ collective bargaining agreement against PMA member company ICTSI at its Terminal 6 facility in Portland, Oregon, ICTSI took the extreme and unprecedented step of suing the PMA and ILWU for alleged federal antitrust violations.
On March 24, 2014, a Federal District Court Judge dismissed ICTSI’s scurrilous antitrust claims. In his Opinion and Order, Federal Judge Michael Simon upheld the well-established statutory exemption from antitrust scrutiny of traditional union activities and acknowledged the ILWU’s legitimate interest in engaging in activities normally associated with labor disputes. The Judge also rejected ICTSI’s absurd monopoly claim and recognized the valid work preservation intent of applicable sections of the ILWU-PMA contract.
In addition to dismissing ICTSI’s antitrust claim, the Federal District Court Judge dismissed the Port of Portland’s claim that PMA and the ILWU had intentionally interfered with the Port’s contractual relationship with ICTSI and IBEW Local 48.
In February, the Puget Sound District Council (PSDC) donated $1000 to public radio station KSVR-FM in Washington State’s Skagit Valley where the radio program, “We Do The Work,” is produced. The weekly half-hour show is co-hosted by Pacific Coast Pensioner President Rich Austin.
“Our ILWU District Council understands the importance of supporting community organizations that speak to the needs of America’s working class,” said PSDC President Dan McKisson. “The folks who broadcast “We Do The Work” believe that workers are the heart and soul of our economy and culture – and that all workers deserve dignity, economic security, respect, and a decent family wage. Because our District Council shares that view, we decided to support this valuable community resource,” said McKisson.
During the next several months, KSVR will air hundreds of public announcements provided by the District Council. McKisson says the donation serves two purposes; allowing the ILWU to underwrite progressive radio programming – and getting the ILWU’s message out to the local community about efforts to help fellow workers.
“We hope other District Councils will urge their local public radio stations to carry “We Do The Work” shows each week. These programs are relevant, and speak to issues that are important to the working class.
We rarely hear these kind of ‘pork chop issues’ discussed from a working- class view on commercial stations.”
For more information about the show and how to contact your local station, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
“We Do The Work” is also carried on: WXOJ (Florence, MA) WPRR (Grand Rapids, MI) KOWA (Olympia, WA) KUGS (Bellingham, WA) KKRN (Redding, CA) W237CZ (Hudsonville, MI) WPJC (Pontiac, MI) WXPZ (Clyde Township, MI) KSVU (Upper Skagit River, WA)
When an expected 82 cruise ships arrive in San Francisco next year, most will be tied-up, secured and provisioned by ILWU members at the brand new James R. Herman Cruise Terminal on Pier 27, a $100 million-dollar, 88,000 square foot facility that will soon open for business on the city’s historic Embarcadero waterfront where the 1934 maritime strike helped establish the ILWU.
While passengers use the new terminal to check their luggage, pass through security and confirm ticketing, they’ll also have a unique chance to learn more about the waterfront and ILWU history – thanks to an effort led by ILWU Local leaders, including Local 34 President Sean Farley.
“We’re supporting a special area inside the cruise terminal that will educate the public about Jimmy Herman, the ILWU, labor unions and the working class,” says Farley who is working on the project with Former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos, ILWU Historian Harvey Schwartz and ILWU Librarian/Archivist Robin Walker.
“We have a rare chance to reach more than 200,000 visitors each year with a positive message about the ILWU – but the project needs donations for the dream to be realized,” explained Farley.
The response so far has been positive. Contributions have been received from ILWU Locals 500, 92, 63-A, 40, 14, 12 and 5, plus the Inlandboatmen’s Union National Office and IBU Puget Sound Region. Teamsters Local 350 also sent a generous donation.
Support has also come from Auxiliaries 5 and 17, and from the Columbia River Pensioner’s, Longview Pension Group, Vancouver (BC) Pensioners Club, and Vancouver Island Pensioner’s Club. Donations from individuals include: Laurence G. Bailey, Richard and Dagmar Barsch, Frank W. Best, Jon and Jeanette Borst, P. L. Boryer, Thomas and Vickie Christy, Paul and Barbara Donohue, and Delbert and Susan Green.
Donations will be used to finish the memorial inside the new terminal that will honor Jimmy Herman, who succeeded Harry Bridges as ILWU International President and served from 1977 to 1991. Herman also spent 16 years on the San Francisco Port Commission, the public agency that built the new cruise ship terminal and dedicated it in Herman’s honor.
ILWU Local 10 President Melvin Mackay noted, “This is the only cruise terminal in the world dedicated to a labor leader, and Jimmy Herman is one of our own,” Mackay urged members and locals to consider donating to the project. “This is a special opportunity to ensure the ILWU’s legacy and honor an important labor leader” he said. Tax-deductible checks can be made to: “James R. Herman Memorial Committee” c/o Local 34, 4 Berry Street, San Francisco, CA 94107.
Delegates who attended the Coast Longshore Division Caucus in San Francisco last month, provided a warm embrace to Honduran dock union leader Victor Crespo and two co-workers who addressed the Caucus on March 4.
Delegates pledged their solidarity and unanimously voted to convene the two-week Caucus in honor of Crespo’s father, who was killed by anti-union death squads in Honduras on January 27.
Before delegates left town, there was one last piece of unfinished business – a group visit to the Honduran Consulate in San Francisco on Friday, March 7th.
Around noon, a large group of delegates, pensioners and supporters gathered for a short but spirited march along San Francisco’s historic Market Street, where dockworkers and supporters had marched silently eighty years ago to honor the martyrs who were killed during the West Coast Maritime Strike on March 5, 1934 – Bloody Thursday.
When the crowd arrived at the office building housing the Honduran Consulate, marchers quickly filled the hallways, staircases and elevators that led to the Honduran Consulate on the 5th floor.
ILWU International President Bob McEllrath, Vice President Ray Familathe and Southern California Pensioners Group President Greg Mitre entered the Consulate offices and requested a meeting with the Honduran official in charge.
While members chanted outside in the hallways, McEllrath, Familathe and Mitre met with the Honduran official to explain the problems that followed ICTSI’s newly privatized terminal operation at Puerto Cortés in Honduras where union members have faced violent attacks from police, military troops and antiunion death squads. Details about Victor Crespo’s case were provided, including the recent attacks by death squads who murdered Crespo’s father and injured his mother.
“We made it clear to the consulate that these kind of attacks on workers and unions were outrageous and unacceptable, no matter where in the world they happen,” said McEllrath. After receiving assurance that the ILWU’s concerns would be immediately conveyed to top Honduran government officials, the group left the Consulate, vowing to return if necessary.
“I think we made our point,” McEllrath told the crowd of supporters who assembled outside the consulate building after the event.
“And we’ll keep pushing until there’s justice for our brothers and sisters in Honduras.